The Constant is the fifth episode of the fourth season of Lost, and the seventy-seventh episode overall.
Sayid and Desmond hit a bit of turbulence on the way to the freighter, which causes Desmond to experience some unexpected side effects.
Starring: Naveen Andrews (Sayid), Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond), Jeremy Davies (Daniel), Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Michael Emerson (Ben), Matthew Fox (Jack), Jorge Garcia (Hurley), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), Yunjin Kim (Sun), Ken Leung (Miles), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), Rebecca Mader (Charlotte), Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet), Terry O'Quinn (Locke), Harold Perrineau (Michael)
- Frank is piloting the helicopter to the freighter with Sayid and Desmond onboard along with Naomi's body. Sayid asks about a sheet Frank is using as a reference and learns it's a "cheat sheet" Daniel gave to him; he must fly for 40 miles north at a bearing of 305 degrees before heading east to the freighter. Unfortunately for all of them, the heading has placed their flight path directly into a severe thunderstorm. As they make their way through severe turbulence, Desmond grips the sides of his seat tightly and finds himself laying down on a cot in a barracks for the Royal Scots Regiment of Her Majesty's Armed Forces. A sergeant musters the men out of bed for morning drills and asks Desmond why he was slow to get to his mark. Desmond informs him he had a dream of being on a helicopter in a storm. The sergeant orders his men outside and tells them they can thank Private Hume for making them do their drills in double time. While going through their drills in the rain, Private Billy tells Desmond that his dream had better been worth it. Desmond apologizes, telling Billy the dream was so vivid, but the sergeant overhears Desmond talking. He orders Desmond to tell him what was so important to talk during drills, but Desmond finds himself back in the helicopter as they're about to pass through the storm. Desmond tries to unbuckle his safety restraints, yelling at Sayid that he doesn't know who Sayid is or where he is. Desmond calms down as they make their approach to the freighter and notices a picture of himself and Penny in his hand.
Frank lands the helicopter on the freighter and two men on the freighter, Keamy and Omar, rush up to it. Keamy demands to know why Frank is back as he shouldn't have brought them to the freighter. Desmond screams at them that he doesn't know who Sayid is, and Keamy asks Frank when Desmond started behaving like that. Frank tells him Desmond was fine when they took off, but began acting strangely during the flight. Keamy tells Sayid he's going to escort Desmond to their sick bay so their doctor can take a look at him. As the men try to coax Desmond to come with them, Desmond tells them he's not supposed to be there and finds himself standing during the middle of morning drills. The sergeant takes notice of Desmond and, due to Desmond not doing crunches with the rest of the men, orders the entire group to start over by running. After morning drills, Desmond and Billy load up a cargo truck. Asked why he's acting so strangely, Desmond tells Billy that he "left" during their drills and he found himself on a boat but then ended up back in the yard. He didn't recognize anyone on the boat, but he had a photo of Penny and rushes to a pay telephone to phone her. As he fishes for change, a fellow soldier purposely runs into him in retaliation for morning drills. Desmond bends down to pick up the loose change, but finds himself on the deck of the freighter. Keamy assures Desmond that they're real and everything is really happening.
Keamy and Omar escort Desmond to the sick bay and lock him inside while they retrieve the doctor. Desmond screams at them to open the door to no avail, stopping when he hears someone beckon him. That someone is a man strapped down to a bed, Minkowski, who asks Desmond if it's happening to him too. Up on the freighter's deck, Sayid watches from afar as Keamy delivers a heated one-sided conversation to Frank and leaves for the bridge. Sayid tries to figure out what's wrong with Desmond, believing the men on the freighter already know, but Frank tells him he hasn't been told anything. Sayid also points out how they left at dusk but landed on the freighter in the middle of the day. Frank assures Sayid that he's on his side and gives him his satellite phone in exchange for Sayid's hand gun.
In the sick bay, Minkowski has entered a catatonic state but snaps out of it, telling Desmond he was just on a ferris wheel. The doctor, Ray, enters. Minkowski tries to tell the doctor, Ray, that he isn't crazy as Desmond is experiencing it too. Minkowski is adamant that it's going to happen to everyone else on the freighter as soon as they head to the island, but Ray sedates him. Ray starts his examination of Desmond and asks him for the last thing he remembers, and Desmond finds himself picking up his loose change in the rain. He phones Penelope, but she isn't very happy to hear from him as he broke up with her and then joined the army. He tries to explain that something is happening to him and, as he has two days leave starting that night, wants to see her. Penelope tells him that's not possible as she's moving and doesn't want him to call her again. Desmond pleads with her and finds himself being examined by Ray who wants to know if he just "experienced" something. Before Desmond can answer, Frank enters the room with Sayid as they have Daniel on the phone and he wants to talk to Desmond. Ray refuses to allow Daniel to talk to Desmond and activates an alarm. Sayid shuts and tries to block the door as Desmond speaks to Daniel. He asks Desmond for what year he thinks it is—1996—and his location in that time period—Glasgow. When it happens again, Daniel wants Desmond to get on a train, go to Oxford University, and find him at the Queens College Physics Department. He needs to tell Daniel to set the device to 2.342 at 11 hertz, and if those numbers don't convince him then tell him he knows about Eloise. Keamy and the other people on the freighter break into the room and wrestle the satellite phone away from Desmond who finds himself slumped inside the pay telephone booth.
Desmond travels to Oxford University and tracks down Daniel. Daniel doesn't believe Desmond, thinking his colleagues are playing a poorly thought-out prank on him, but stops when he hears the settings for his device and that Desmond knows Eloise. Desmond is ushered to Daniel's laboratory which contains pieces of equipment and a large maze for mice. Daniel is told his future self didn't remember their present meeting, which he finds incredulous. Desmond asks if the all the equipment in the room is there to change the future, but Daniel tells him the future can't be changed. Daniel puts on a vest to protect himself from the radiation, assuring Desmond that he doesn't need a vest as it's only needed due to prolonged exposure as he performs the experiment upwards of twenty times a day. Desmond points out that Daniel has nothing to protect his head, but Daniel shrugs the comment off. A mouse, Eloise, is placed inside the maze and Daniel sets his equipment to the numbers Desmond gave him. If they're correct, the machine will unstick Eloise in time like Desmond. The machine is activated, turns off, and Eloise successfully navigates the maze in one go. The machine worked as Daniel had only finished the maze that morning and was going to teach Eloise to navigate it an hour from then. Her consciousness was transported into the future where she had learned to run the maze, then came back to the present and allowed her to run it then. Not seeing how this is helping him, Desmond tries to explain to Daniel that he wasn't sent back by him and only knows that he ends up on an island. Desmond finds himself on the freighter as the satellite phone is taken from him by Keamy. The alarm is turned off as Frank tries to defuse the situation, but Keamy and Ray are not in the mood for Frank's explanations. Omar takes Frank outside as the captain wants to speak with him, and Sayid and Desmond are locked inside the sick bay.
Minkowski comes to, introducing himself to Sayid and Desmond as the freighter's communications officer. Every so often he would get an indicator for an incoming call he was under strict orders never to answer. The calls were from Penelope Widmore. Desmond slowly wakes up in Daniel's laboratory and learns he was unconscious for almost 75 minutes. He tells Daniel he was only in the future for 5 minutes. Working out the equations on his blackboard, Daniel believes the progression in Desmond's case is exponential; it's harder and harder for his consciousness to jump back after he jump. Eloise is dead, blood running from her nose. Daniel believes she died from a brain aneurysm. The effects seem to vary from case to case, but there's a chance the same fate may be in store for Desmond. Daniel believes Eloise's brain short-circuited from the jumps, that she couldn't tell which was which as she had no anchor. An anchor would be something familiar in both times. Every equation needs stability, something known, a constant. If Desmond wants to stop the jumps, he needs to find something familiar, something he really cares about, in the future that is also in 1996. Desmond realizes his constant is Penelope and tries calling her, but the number is disconnected.
Desmond rushes out of Daniel's laboratory and down a stairwell, slumping against a wall and then is helped up by Sayid in the sick bay. He pleads for Sayid's help in contacting Penelope, but Minkowski informs them someone sabotaged the freighter's communications equipment two days ago. He offers to take them to the radio room and is freed. Sayid wonders how they'll get out of the locked sick bay, but Minkowski points out that door is unlocked and ajar; someone on the boat is helping them. Minkowski's nose is bleeding and Desmond gives him a tissue to stop it. Sayid tells them the corridor is clear and Desmond comes to inside the stairwell. Not knowing there whereabouts of Penelope, Desmond has only one other option available and heads to an auction. The auctioneer gives a brief history of the lost Black Rock and its only recovered artifact, the journal of the ship's first mate, which is the object being auctioned. Bidding begins at £150,000 by Charles Widmore, who eventually wins the journal at a price of £380,000. With the auction over, Charles Widmore gets up to leave and sees Desmond waiting for him. The two speak in the men's restroom where Widmore learns of Desmond's need to contact Penelope. Widmore states there was a time Penelope would have married Desmond if he had asked her, but is glad Desmond's cowardice won out instead. Desmond asks Widmore why he hates him. Widmore tells Desmond it's not he who hates him, but Penelope. He gives Penelope's new address to Desmond and leaves. Widmore left the sink running and Desmond reaches to turn the faucet off, but finds himself in the sick bay.
The trio carefully make their way down the corridor to the radio room. Minkowski tells them that they had been anchored in the ocean and bored out of their minds while they waited for orders. So he and another crew member, Brandon, took the ship's tender out so they could catch a glimpse of the island, but Brandon began acting crazy and they had to turn around. Brandon's dead. The trio make it the radio room where Minkowski passes out while speaking. Sayid begins work on jury-rigging a telephone. Desmond notices a 2004 calendar on the wall—it's December 24, 2004 — and his nose begins to bleed. Minkowski wakes up and goes into shock, saying that he can't get back. He dies.
Desmond regains consciousness on the floor of the restroom, the sink overflowing onto the floor. Using the address provided by Widmore, Desmond finds Penelope at her new place. He asks for her new phone number as he made a mistake, but Penelope doesn't want to listen to him. After pleading to her, Penelope relents and lets him inside so he can say his word. He tells her he'll need to call her in 8 years time, that he knows he's ruined things but, if there's any part of her that still believes in them, she'll give him her number. Penelope wonders what's stopping him from calling her the following day, but Desmond promises he won't call her for 8 more years until it's December 24, 2004. Penelope gives Desmond her number on the condition he leaves. Tossed out of her place, Desmond pleads to her not to change the number and to be there on December 24, 2004, and wakes up inside the radio room. With Penelope's number fresh in his mind, Desmond recounts it to Sayid who is finished patching the phone up to a battery. The call is placed and Penelope picks up. His consciousness back in place, Desmond remembers everything and tells Penny he's been on an island for the last 3 years. Penny tells him she's been searching for him over that period, that she knows about the island. She talked to Charlie and that's how she knew Desmond was still alive. Desmond tells Penny he loves her and always has. Penny promises to find Desmond as the battery dies and the phone cuts off.
- At the beach camp, Jack questions Charlotte and Daniel as to how they haven't heard from the helicopter when they've been gone for over a day. Charlotte claims to not know anything, but Juliet points out that she's not worried. Charlotte gets defensive with Juliet but, much to Charlotte's chagrin, Daniel suggests they just tell them. He tells the two that their perception of how long their friends have been gone is not necessarily how long they've actually been gone. They'll be fine as long as Frank stays on the bearings he gave him. If they didn't, then there will be "side effects."
Later the group receive a call on the satellite phone from Sayid on the freighter. They're informed that Desmond no longer recognizes Sayid and doesn't seem to know where he is; a "side effect" Daniel mentioned. Daniel asks them if Desmond has been recently exposed to high levels of radiation or electromagnetism. They don't know why, but some people get a little "confused" when they go to or from the island. Daniel is put in touch with Desmond and learns that Desmond believes the year is 1996 and he was just outside of Glasgow. When it happens again to Desmond, Daniel tells him to head to Oxford University and find him at the Queens College Physics Department. Off the phone, Daniel rummages through his pack to find his diary, otherwise he won't believe Desmond. Jack asks him why Desmond thinks it's 1996, but Daniel doesn't know as it's unpredictable; the split could be a couple of hours or sometimes it's years. Finding his diary, Daniel gets back on the phone and tells Desmond to tell him in 1996 to set the device to 2.342 at 11 hertz. If those numbers don't convince him, then tell him he knows about Eloise.
After they're cut off, Daniel flips through the pages of his diary alone. He finally finds the page he's looking for which contains a notation: "If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant."
- Flashback: Desmond
See above. Desmond's "flashback" involves his flashes back to 1996.
- Who sabotaged the freighter's communications equipment?
- Who helped Sayid and Desmond get out of the sick bay?
- Why would Daniel need Desmond as his constant?
- Having found his constant, have Desmond's flashes stopped?
- Why did Charles Widmore want the Black Rock journal?
- The helicopter's flight seems to take longer than expected because time on the island is not in sync with time off the island. (4x04 - Eggtown)
The Cursed Numbers
- Desmond's consciousness travels 8 years back and forth in time.
- The sergeant gives his men 4 minutes to get outside for drills.
- The helicopter's tail number contains the numbers 8 and 42.
- Daniel tells Desmond to set the device to 2.342. 23 and 42 are two of the numbers.
- The Black Rock journal is lot 2342. 23 and 42 are two of the numbers.
- Penny's new address is at 423 Cheyne Walk. 4, 23 and 42 are three of the numbers.
- There are 4 yellow X's on the freighter's calendar.
- Bearings: Frank is told to follow a bearing of 305. In "Live Together, Die Alone", Ben tells Michael to follow a bearing of 325.
- Fast learner: Daniel must have taught Eloise how to run through the maze between the time when Desmond flashed away and before Eloise's death, which occurred while Desmond was still out. Minus Eloise's own flashbacks and the time Daniel spent doing calculations on the board, this means that either Eloise learned it in less than 75 minutes, or that the writers have created one of the time travel paradoxes they are wishing to avoid.
- Sayid and Desmond reach the freighter.
- Desmond becomes unstuck in time until he finds his constant. He contacts Penelope briefly.
- 3x22 - Through the Looking Glass: Penny tells Desmond she talked to Charlie and that's how she knew he was still alive. In "Through the Looking Glass", Charlie deactivated the jamming equipment in The Looking Glass and received a transmission from Penny.
- Freighter: The freighter is called the Kahana.
- Inflation and Exchange: Charles Widmore wins the Black Rock journal for £380,000 in 1996. Taking inflation into account, that price is roughly £514,134 today (February 2008). According to today's exchange rate (February 2008), that would amount to roughly $1,021,603 USD.
- Dickens: After Charles Widmore wins his auction, the next item up pertains to Charles Dickens. Dickens is Desmond's favorite author.
Behind the Scenes
- Location, Location, Location: The Royal Scots Regiment military camp, including the interior shot of the barracks, was filmed at a Hawaii Army National Guard installation inside Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu. The exterior shots of Oxford University were filmed at St. Andrew's Priory in Honolulu. Scenes of the freighter at sea were filmed 10-15 minutes offshore of Barber's Point on the leeward side of O'ahu.
- Oops: When Frank is talking to Sayid about Daniel's "cheat sheet", the sheet is shown in two close-up shots. The sheet in those two shots are similar in appearance, but can be seen to be two individual sheets when viewed together. In 1996, London telephone numbers were seven digits only, but Penny gave an eight digit number to Desmond.
- Missing in Action: Emilie de Ravin, Michael Emerson, Josh Holloway, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Ken Leung, Evangeline Lilly, Terry O'Quinn, Harold Perrineau, Jr., Jorge Garcia are credited but do not appear.
Allusions and References
- VALIS: In VALIS, the novels main character is exposed to a pink laser which provides him with knowledge perceived to be from God. In this episode Daniel uses a pink laser on Eloise to unstick her in time. VALIS was also the novel Locke brings to Ben in "Eggtown".
- Slaughterhouse-Five: Slaughterhouse-Five is a 1969 novel by Kurt Vonnegut which shares many similarities to Desmond's experiences with time. In this episode Desmond has a friend named Billy in the Royal Scots, and Desmond learns he's become unstuck in time. In Slaughterhouse-Five, the main character is Billy Pilgrim. The narration of the novel regarding Billy Pilgrim begins: "Listen. Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time." In the novel Billy explains that time is structured and events cannot be changed. In this episode Daniel explains to Desmond that you cannot change the future.