LOST Recap: Episode 5.01 – Because You Left
Lost: Season Five just arrived via Amazon (thanks, Bezos!). I’ll be re-watching the season in anticipation of the launch of the sixth and final year of the show. I didn’t spring for the Blu-ray (I don’t have a player) or the Special Season Five Dharma Initiative Orientation Kit box set, so I’m relying solely on standard DVD. I did hear that the Blu-Ray has excellent special features, notably the Lost University Feature.
Lostpedia is the consummate source for all Lost information, but sadly they lack any concise summary. Rather than attempting to summarize the plot in great detail, I’m going to simply link to Lostpedia’s summary and give my base thoughts on Episode 5-01, Because You Left. For past LOST Recaps, visit the dedicated page here.
The episode opens, appropriately, with a skipping record in a setting that is reminiscent of Juliet’s introduction at the start of Season 3. We join Dr. Pierre Chang (the infamous face of the Dharma Initiative orientation videos as Dr. Marvin Candle) as he wakes and prepares for a day of filming. He is interrupted by workers from the Orchid station who report on an accident. At the site we get our first glimpse into time travel as Daniel Faraday walks by.
The core of the episodes sets us up from where we were last year, when Ben Linus subverted Widmore’s telmarines by moving the island. The Oceanic Six have escaped to the mainland, but those left on the island remain in perpetual flux, jumping through time on the island. The core of the camp survivors remain by a now disappeared campsite, while Daniel, Charlotte, Juliet and Sawyer search out the Swan station. Locke, meanwhile, travels on his own, spotting Eko’s brother’s plane as it crashes, encountering Ethan Rom and then receiving a cryptic message from Richard Alpert.
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Daniel is the central character of the episode and we really are introduced to the space-time science, although in sufficiently fuzzy detail so as to not lose it based on complexity or pure falsehoods. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief, but Daniel’s simplistic explanation works (for our purposes) that the time on the island for the plane’s survivors (plus Juliet, for some reason) has become as a skipping LP on a player — jumping from spot to spot. Unfortunately for the survivors, each skip is a moment closer to killing them through the same madness and bloody noses that dropped Minkowski.
For as efficiently as the on-island action establishes back story, the off-island action moves the plot forward. Jack, convinced by Locke and solidified by Linus, understands that they should not have left the island. Furthermore, he somewhat tacitly accepts the idea that he must rally the Oceanic Six for a return to the island. We see Kate (startled by a visit from attorneys), Hugo and Sayid (who “rescues” Hugo from the insane asylum), and Sun (who encounters Widmore as an ally of sorts) as they begin their voyages toward their fate in Los Angeles.
Most importantly, we see the Desmond has been drug into action… stirred by a past encounter with time-traveling Daniel, who encourages him to seek out Faraday’s mother in order to save those on the island. With that mission, Desmond prepares to set off for Oxford over Penelope’s objections. In that encounter, Daniel explains that space-time and the rules of the time-traveling paradox don’t apply to him. Only Desmond can save the island.
What attracts me most to the episode, aside from its strong set-up for the season, is the concept of playing within the bounds of the time-space paradox. There are a few ways to address the time-space paradox — which functionally says that time-travel is impossible because one would alter the past from whence they came upon interacting with it, thereby initiating a temporal butterfly effect. This is brought up throughout pop-culture, perhaps no more effectively (ironically) than in the original Back to the Future, where Marty McFly has to ensure his future by making his mother fall in love with his father after Marty spoils their chemistry in the past.
My two favorite physical solutions to the paradox issue are the Novikov self-consistency principle (which states that, on a physical level, no paradoxes could develop and that coincidence must turn out consistent solutions, no matter how strange) and the Everett many-worlds theory (which argues that time travel could be explained by developing a jumping to parallel universe in time travel, thereby eliminating any paradox which would exist in the original universe).
I personally prefer the concept of the many-worlds theory (both from a astrophysics perspective and a sci-fi, suspension of disbelief level), but Lost appears to have gone with Novikov. Daniel explains that the past cannot be changed. This is a constant theme we saw with Charlie’s death and Desmond’s conscious time travel. He could alter the present reality, but the end result was always the same, ending with self-consistency. Of course, Novikov does not intend his principle to extend to the complex. It’s meant for the theoretical small matter or atomic time travel that may actually be possible. It is not meant for grand scale, complex time travel which the theoretical physicists have not yet been able to work out.
This also brings me back to one of my favorite current topics: the Large Hadron Collider. Like the American super-conducting super-collider, the LHC has been fraught with difficulties in operation, which some attribute to the potential time-traveling of Higgs boson particles created by the LHC and the SCSC. Some scientists argue (as I hope to describe in a later post), that the Higgs boson particles may be traveling back in time and preventing the machine from operating under conditions in which they may be created (thereby wiping out their existence). This self destruction is explained by arguing that the Higgs boson is so abhorrent to the universe that it is structured so as to prevent their formation and the paradoxes of their time travel. The paradox is worked out and made consistent by the use, essentially, of a delete key.
And that, my friends, is the beauty of Lost. A simple TV show, launched six years ago, from whence you can draw and take so many a tangent. Not since James Joyce has a work of art so challenged its readers. And I like my fellow dedicatees ape Molly Bloom in saying “yes I said yes I will Yes.”