Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Flashes Before Your Eyes

My decision to omit Desmond's flash to 1996 in "Flashes Before Your Eyes" until later in the timeline has brought up a few questions and some opinions that definitely differ from mine, but I suppose that's to be expected given the circumstances.  Desmond's experiences on this show are very different from everything else we've seen, and that can definitely lead to some confusing situations.  The ambiguity surrounding what it was that we saw in "Flashes" makes it so we really don't know for sure what happened, how it relates to the rest of the show, and importantly, where it falls chronologically.

Now, there's a couple different ways to look at this, and I honestly don't know what the right answer is.  I think either way has things that lend it credibility, and things that hurt its credibility.  One way to look at it is that this whole time flash is just like any other flashback, or time flash, or whatever, meaning what we saw actually happened in 1996, and that's where it belongs in the timeline.  Commenter Henshaw compared the sequence to Locke's compass, implying that the events in "Flashes" led him to the island, and it was the island that caused his mind to flash to 1996, rinse and repeat.  And there are some compelling arguments for this idea.  For one, pretty much everything we've seen on this show regarding time travel, past events occurring, etc., has fallen under the theory "Whatever happened, happened".  So, based on that idea, this whole series of events actually happened in 1996.  There is also the fact that Desmond and Eloise recognized each other at the Lamp Post in 2007, and Desmond accused her of wasting four years of his life, so it would certainly seem like Desmond treated those events as really happening.

While I can't disagree with those points, there are other things that don't quite add up for me.  This whole idea of Desmond finding himself in a paradox, for example.  Desmond's mind flashes back to 1996, events play out, he flashes back to 2004, but those experiences in 1996 ultimately help lead him to the island.  I have a hard time with this.  In "Flashes", Desmond didn't recognize Eloise.  Her conversation with him about his destiny, the island, pushing the button, it all took him by surprise.  And yet, he has all his memories from the future.  It's not like he ended up in 1996 and didn't remember what had happened to him over the past eight years.  And yet he clearly had no memory of this conversation with Eloise happening.

Let's take a look at basic logistics, and make some small assumptions.  When we saw Charlie save Nadia from someone trying to rob her, he was standing outside, playing his guitar, singing "Wonderwall", and then it started to rain, forcing him to stop playing.  In "Flashes", we see Desmond leave Charles Widmore's office, and he sees Charlie, standing outside, playing his guitar, singing "Wonderwall".  Only it started to rain, and so Charlie had to stop playing.  Now, I don't think it's a huge stretch to say that we're meant to think that both of these scenes happen at the exact same time, only with different outcomes, because Desmond sees Charlie in one of those scenes, and recognizes him.  If what happened in "Flashes" is what really happened, then why do we have duplicate scenes with Charlie singing, only there are two different outcomes?

And why did Desmond seem so perplexed by the island, and the button when Inman rescued him in 2001?  If that conversation with Eloise really did happen to him in 1996, and she told him that pushing the button would be the only great thing he would ever do, I can't help but think that would come into play when he ended up on the island, pushing the button with Inman.  It just doesn't add up for me.

So what do I think happened to Desmond there?  Well, I thought I knew early on in Season 6, now I'm less sure, but I at least have a theory.  I was convinced at the time that "Flashes" was a flash sideways, similar to what we had seen all during Season 6.  Now that we know what the flash sideways world was, that idea doesn't work, but I still think it was something similar.  I look at Desmond's experience with the flash sideways world in "The Package".  We don't know exactly what he saw after the electromagnetic event, but he did at least see part of the flash sideways world, because we saw him tell Jack about it during the finale, although he clearly didn't understand what, exactly, it was.  But the experience seemed a lot like what happened to Desmond when he turned the key.  There was an electromagnetic event, and then Desmond woke up in a different place, a different time from where he was before.  His stay in both of these places was temporary, before he was brought back to his own place, his own time.  Now, in "The Package", we know that Desmond saw this purgatory-type place, even though he wasn't dead yet, and he was able to come back from it.  So, I like to think that it was a similar situation in "Flashes".  No, at the time the place that he saw was not the same place that we saw during all of Season 6.  But maybe that's because whatever this construct was for Desmond in 2004 was not the same as it was for him in 2007.  I like to think of what happened to Desmond as being almost a "near death" type experience.  Gets a glimpse of this place that takes place after you die, but isn't dead and is ultimately pulled back in.  Am I right?  I have absolutely no idea.  This is just one of those things that doesn't have a clear answer, so you have to theorize what it means.

But let's bring it full circle.  I've stated my case of what I think "Flashes" is, so what does that mean for the timeline?  Well, it's actually a little tough.  I likened the sequence to what we saw in "The Package", and yet, I will be placing all of the sideways world at the end of the show, but I'm putting Desmond's experience in "Flashes" directly after he turns the key.  However, I can't justify sticking "Flashes" at the end of the show, because that just doesn't work, and taking Desmond's flash sideways from "The Package" and putting it right after the elctromagnetic event, but leaving the rest of the flash sideways at the end of the show, that just doesn't seem right either.  So yeah, basically I'm saying I don't have a great answer to this conundrum, but for me, I feel like this is the best way to handle it.  I don't expect everyone to agree with me, because I don't think there's a truly right answer here.  But I at least wanted to let everyone know where I'm coming from, and why I did this the way that I did.

I am certainly always open to other possibilities that I didn't think of, because I would love nothing more than there to be a concrete "this goes here because of this" explanation, so feel free to leave any comments you might have below.


  1. No comment, just a compliment. I am astounded at the work you are putting into this. Also you really do a great job of editing.

    Major respect to you.

  2. I agree with Rolf and also think you are making the complete exact right decision. Chronologically, since this is what we are doing, Desmond first experiences the flashbacks after the key turn. This is chronologically sound for him, and since like you said, it's a duplicate, putting it in the "original" timeline would be just untrue.

    My only thought is that you could intersplice it between when - and I haven't seen the episode in a while but I believe he comes back to the "real world" between the events - when his consciousness goes back and forth. It might be almost the entire episode as it was portrayed, but I think you should do it as Desmond experiences it himself. But you are absolutely right in not putting it in the end with the other flash-sidewayses.

  3. Just one comment, if you look at the scene's carefully enough you see that charlie's memory of it raining while singing wonderwall, was infact a completely different day, most notable example of this is the fact that he is not wearing the same clothes, just the same jacket.

    The creators put the scene in there to intentionally confuse us and make us wonder what was happening.

    So although I REALLY think that Flashes should have been put into the 1996 episode, or whenever it was,... You dont see me spending countless hours of My life editing together 120 hours of television for others to enjoy, so I won't complain. Thanks for this, its really cool.

    OH!! and suggestion! YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY CONSIDER PUTTING THE MOBISODES AKA THE MISSING PIECES into this! The creators have stated that its all completely Canon and were to be treated as Legit "Mini-Episodes" to hold us over through the long break that year,

  4. I posted a link to the official Lost podcast which discussions Flashes Before Your Eyes and Damon & Carlton say its a time travel event pretty definitively.

    I also just wanna run through a few points in the spirit of discussion. I'll try to match the order you bring them up in your post.

    1. If I remember right, there is nothing in Flashes Before Your Eyes to indicate Desmond has full memories of his life after 1996. He doesn't recognize Charlie, Eliose, or anyone else because at this point in his personal timeline he never met any of them. So all of that would take him by surprise. This was a different kind of time travel then what he experienced in The Constant. There is nothing that indicates he retains his memories of the island or else, well, he wouldn't have left the relationship with Penny or carried out his meeting with Whidmore like he did.

    2. I agree with the above poster that the Charlie saving Nadia and Charlie singing in the rain near Des are different events in different locations. Since Des lives England and the Charlie/Nadia event was in LA IIRC.

    3. As for why Desmond didn't put everything together regarding the button, the hatch, all of that jazz earlier, it's possible that the explosion from the hatch and the blow he takes to the head induced amnesia.

    4. I still believe what we saw in The Package and what Desmond managed to glimpse in the sideways was simply another case of time travel. To the future. The sideways despite being a step on the road to the afterlife is still the future. And since Desmond travels through time via consciousness movement rather then physically this gels with all of his previous time travel experiences including the one in Flashes before Your Eyes.

    So, if you take what Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse, Executive Producers say, Flashes Before Your Eyes is indeed a time travel event. However I need to revise my own theory a little.

    Desmond turns the key, his mind travels to 1996 and plays out the events of Flashes Before Your Eyes, gets hit with the bat and his mind travels back to the present on the island. Just like the flashes in the Constant but in reverse, with the present Desmond traveling back to 1996 and reliving the experience. Why didn't he retain full memories? I suspect that is due to the high intensity of Electromagnetic Energy he was exposed to. Which, actually, is collaborated later in "The Package", where Desmond time travels to the latest point in his timeline but doesn't remember the island stuff until.

    So, considering that I believe it's Present Desmond who time travels, back to 1996 and has this experience, I figure it does make sense to have it after the key turning, since the Podcast suggest that things may or may not have went down exactly like they did the uh, "first time" this happened but things like amnesia and selective memory seem to be an example of the universe "course correcting" and the differences are only possible because the rules don't apply to Des.

    But I think we can at least put to rest what is is with statements from Darlton, the guys who wrote the show, saying "This is time travel". It certainly happened, as we see Desmond and Eliose refer to this encounter.

  5. Oh, and also. Thanks much for putting all this together, its an awesome watch.

  6. Just, the key here is that "Time is not linear". If time is a record, Desmond is the needle, and flashes of white light just put him on a different song.

  7. @Rob Rose - Good find pointing out the differences in Charlie's appearance in the two episodes, didn't notice that. And worry not, all of the Mobisodes will be included in the episodes at the time they occur in the timeline.

    @Henshaw Hasselpuffs - You and I are probably at an impasse on most of our differences, which is fine, but I did want to touch on the podcast that you brought up. I didn't initially respond to the podcast comments mostly because they aren't exactly the most reliable sources of information.

    As an example, Damon and Carlton spent a ton of time on their podcasts in Season Six talking about the Flash Sideways world, and bringing up how at the end of Season Five, we were left with the big question of whether or not the bomb went off, if the plan worked as Jack planned, etc. And they would constantly infer that the Sideways world was almost another universe where perhaps the Incident did work, and the hatch didn't exist, and the plane didn't crash, and so on. They did this because they were trying to give us misinformation so that they could swerve us like they wanted in the finale.

    Their podcasts are highly entertaining, and sometimes are filled with small nuggets of information, but by and large they're just there for them to crack jokes, entertain us, and be purposely vague regarding any actual questions that pertain to the show. So because of that, I tend to not lend a ton of credibility to anything they may have said on one of their podcast episodes.

  8. @Mike Maloney

    Fair enough, thanks again for putting this together though. Highly enjoyable.

  9. i'm loving the flashbacks at this point. It's clear you put alot of work into this. I like how you weave together a few stories at a time from different episodes. I won't ask how you do it because you are doing it well, but congratulations on this!

  10. One possible explanation as to why Desmond didn't knew about the button and all that when he arrived on the island, and didn't recognize Charlie/Eloise later on is because he forgot(!) the scenes of "flashes before your eyes", only to remember(!) them 8 years later after turning the key, which makes this a flashback. However I can see where you are coming from with the current position of the scenes, and I don't disagree with that choice. If it were up to me, I'd have put that scene in 1996. But then, it wasn't up to me, it was up to you.

  11. I think that, as the end of the show reveals, "Whatever Happened, Happened."

    This means that what Desmond experienced in "Flashes" is ALWAYS what had ORIGINALLY happened. He didn't change anything. Sure, he was "special," but that "specialness" did not translate to any "alterations" in the timeline.

    Damon Lindelof once suggested as much in an interview:

    "And the coolest thing about consciousness time travel is, you know, you're sort of a slave to your memory. So if Desmond travels back in time and he remembers that a certain team beat another team in a football game, and then something different happens, **we're hinting at the idea that the future has changed, when in fact he just remembered it wrong, which is kinda cool for us.**"

    As it regards "course correction," I'd heavily suggest that the Charlie's repeated brushes with death were not the true "course correction." Not at all. Instead, Desmond's "flashes" were a form of "course correction," allowing Charlie to survive until a critical moment, upon which the entire timeline depends.

    Consider also: 1. Desmond no longer has any more flashes after Charlie dies. 2. Charlie was a musician, and feasibly the only one who could have decoded the jammer without knowing the numerical sequence.

    More on this: http://ow.ly/dupN0

    In the end, I think we learn that Desmond's "specialness" and the concept of "course correction" are FULLY compatible with "Whatever Happened, Happened." Hawking new about Desmond and where to intercept him in no small part due to her recovery of Daniel's journal after she kills him.

    There is only one timeline. The only place where things actually get wonky is in the flash-sideways, in which everyone lives a different number of "days" before arriving at the church.

    1. Thanks for the great post Matthew, this is always a fun episode to try and break down and figure out how it fits into the greater narrative.

      I love the theory, and I think it makes a lot of sense. I also really like the link to the universe course correcting in regards to Charlie, that's good stuff.

      However, at the end of the day, there's still the matter of Eloise talking to Desmond about the pushing of the button. They discussed that in "Flashes", which supposedly took place in the past, but then Desmond seemingly has no recollection of the conversation at all once he comes to the island (And while I don't remember every conversation I've ever had, I think I'd remember a conversation like that discussing my destiny and what I'll do in the future). That's always been the sticking point for me. It just doesn't make sense to me that that whole series of events actually happened in 1996 and then Desmond forgets what he was told when he ends up on the island.

      That's why I've been a proponent of it being more of a flash sideways than anything.

      But like I said, I like the theory and the breakdown on the message board.

      And I don't worry too much about the different number of days in the flash sideways, it's all in some imaginary place after everyone has died anyways, why should they be constrained by some limitation like the passing of a day? :)

  12. Also, another poster pointed out that Charlie playing "Wonderwall" in "Flashes" was a different event than what we see in Greatest Hits.

    Charlie is in a different location and wearing different clothing. It's a different instance of him busking the same song.

    Charlie in "Flashes": http://ow.ly/duqBg
    Charlie in "Greatest Hits": http://ow.ly/duqP5

  13. I would suggest that since it's a chronological edit, 1996 is 1996 regardless of what version we see. We learn later that the rules don't apply to Desmond, so they shouldn't apply to his scenes either. Especially considering Desmond has the events of The Constant happen immediately afterward, we know strange things are happening to his consciousness. So why doesn't he remember the conversation with Eloise? Because he experienced another mind-altering time travel event immediately afterward. Besides, if it never happened and it's a different timeline, how did Eloise get there in the first place? Furthermore, why would she care about what happens in the alternate timeline if it doesn't affect the real future and ends shortly after?

  14. Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, the most important point is we were only presented one version of this in the show...the modified version. Omitting it from the timeline in 1996 leaves a gap in Desmond's life, and isn't the whole point of this project to show people's lives in chronological order? Just because it is the slightly modified version with future Desmond's consciousness doesn't make it wrong. He doesn't manage to change anything significant (still breaks up with Penny) and he wouldn't remember Eloise Hawking and stuff because it was his future consciousness taking over. But again, even if that doesn't sit well with you the fact that there is no original version to portray and you leave a big gap in Desmond's story should be reason enough to include it. Otherwise you're missing the point of the chronology.

    1. Well, the point of the project is to put the events of the show in chronological order. If I don't consider Desmond's flash to have actually happened in 1996, then it shouldn't go there. Whether or not it provides a gap in Desmond's life isn't the question I'm asking here.

      For example, I've had numerous people ask me where the clip is of Charlie getting the piano for Christmas. Everyone remembers seeing it, it was an event that did, in fact, happen in Charlie's life. When he was a kid he received a piano for Christmas. However, the scene that we saw actually took place in a dream Charlie had. While that event, getting the piano, happened whenever, let's say the 1980s, it was a part of a dream that we saw, and that dream occurred in 2004. Therefore, that's where the dream goes. When it happened.

      Based on my opinion, same thing applies in this situation. Yes, in Flashes Before Your Eyes, we see things happen that did actually occur in 1996. Yes, Desmond still breaks up with Penny, yes, Desmond was at a bar with his friend and watched an incredible comeback in a soccer match. However, since I believe that the experience as a whole, the sum of the events, including his interactions with Eloise Hawking, the discussion of the pushing of the button, all of this, did NOT happen in 1996, and instead was more of a "flash sideways" that allowed him to interact with this post-life construct, then it makes no sense at all for me to put the events in 1996.

      So it does matter which side of the debate I'm on. Really, if anything I should be criticized for not putting this clip at the end of the show with the other flash sideways scenes, since that's what I believe. I would have if I could have figured out a logical way to do it.

      I just have to disagree with this idea that the point of the project is to show everyone's lives in chronological order. That's not what this is for. This project is to show events when the occurred in chronological order. I don't believe Desmond actually flashed back to 1996, therefore the clips from "Flashes" don't go in 1996, whether or not there were things that he did in "Flashes" that he actually did in 1996. Hope that makes sense.

    2. Having read all replies in this thread, I have to say I side with Mike. Great logic, as good as it's going to get, IMHO.

      Not everything in this series can add up perfectly, anyway. I see a lot of reaching to make the dots connect. I can live with this explanation. It's one of the only ways I can live with Eloise knowing about the guy with red shoes.

    3. You never know, she may be a Jedi. Maybe that's what Damon & Carlton were trying to tell us by having Hurley rewrite the Star Wars movies for George Lucas. :)

  15. I know I'm late to the party but I just found this site & couldn't believe it was still up on Facebook. Great work putting this edit together. Just finished watching the island events of S1, and find it so much more interesting when it's not intercut with introductory flashbacks.

    I'm under no illusion that my point of view should or even could make you change your edit of FBYE, but I gotta say my piece anyway, just for myself if nothing else, & hopefully including some points that haven't been brought up yet.

    Using real-world logic to solve this will not work. For example, "I would remember that conversation if I was him" is not a valid argument. The rules of the show are all that matter. And "the rules don't apply to Desmond" doesn't negate this. What happens to him is consistent with the shows rules, which allow for plot conveniences such as Desmond's tolerance of insane amounts of electromagnetism.

    One thing I noticed that hasn't been discussed is the way Desmond's electromagnetic events/consciousness time travel experiences are depicted in the show similarly to flashbacks/forwards, but because Desmond experiences the past differently than normal, they are actual events that he only remembers after his first electromagnetic experience in FBYE, just like when he only remembered Daniel telling him to find Eloise after he was off the island. These experiences are shared with others off the island who confirm that they really happened the way we see them (e.g. Penny). These are different from dreams (e.g. John, Charlie), ghosts (e.g. Michael, Jacob), hallucinations (e.g. John, Hurley), & fuzzy memories (e.g. Claire), which are personal experiences that are filmed uniquely and/or stated to be what they are.

    Desmond's first electromagnetic event, shown in FBYE, establishes the rules of his consciousness time travel (e.g. that he can't change the past), so it is the same kind of event as those we agree actually happen in "The Constant" & "The Package" because it prepares us to understand what we see in those later episodes. His premonitions about Charlie & the freighter are somewhat different, but they're still the effects of the hatch explosion on him. You doubt the reality of what we're shown when Eloise knows about the death of the man wearing red shoes because of the improbability of her knowing something like that, but you don't doubt how Desmond is able to know that he'll call Penny eight years before he does, which, regardless of whether what we're shown is the actual event, still happened before Desmond gets to the island & Penny confirms it. Another example is Desmond knowing about Daniel's machine when they meet at Oxford. The failsafe event isn't comparable to John's sweat lodge experience either. In that case, the island showing John what to do was represented by Boone, who John recognized. As you stated, Desmond didn't recognize Eloise. This is an inconsistency on your part, not the show. Both Eloise & Desmond have a special role that they didn't ask for regarding the future, which they are given unique access to, whether by science or magic (which can't be sorted using real world logic).

    As far as Desmond's memory retention, Daniel's introduction clarifies Desmond's experience when his consciousness time travels. Daniel suffers from memory loss due to radiation from his experiments. His attachment to Desmond provides a narrative link between their experiences, which fills in the gaps of why Desmond has temporary memory of future events he doesn't understand before they happen. It's only momentary, after which he returns to ignorance. Their time on the island brings both their memory full-circle, which Daniel is told is a type of healing. It's really just a combination of manipulation by Charles/Eloise & something similar to Jack's need to return to the island because his life doesn't feel right until he does.

  16. I've also just discovered this and think it's an amazing and epic job by Mike! However I have to side against him on 'Flashes' being placed in 2004 rather than 1996. Mike says this above:

    "However, at the end of the day, there's still the matter of Eloise talking to Desmond about the pushing of the button. They discussed that in "Flashes", which supposedly took place in the past, but then Desmond seemingly has no recollection of the conversation at all once he comes to the island (And while I don't remember every conversation I've ever had, I think I'd remember a conversation like that discussing my destiny and what I'll do in the future). That's always been the sticking point for me. It just doesn't make sense to me that that whole series of events actually happened in 1996 and then Desmond forgets what he was told when he ends up on the island."

    But this is precisely what happens to Desmond in 'Jughead' when Daniel tells him to 'go visit my mother' outside the hatch circa 2002, and Desmond *completely forgets about it* until 2007 when he's on a boat with Penny and their son. This is also what happens to Desmond's memories of why he went and asked Penny for her phone number in 'The Constant'. Desmond *always* had that conversation with Eloise about the button, he just didn't remember it until after turning the failsafe key.

    Didn't Desmond keep wondering for years where he was going to be on Christmas Eve 2004 and why he'd need to phone Penny? No, because after his consciousness travelled back to the freighter, his 90s self forgot all about it. Just like in 'Flashes' when his consciousness travelled back to the jungle post-hatch explosion, his 90s self forgot all about the Eloise conversation.

    Desmond is special, his mind either blacks out these events or fills them in with vagueness that he doesn't question. From the perspective of 90s Desmond, the events in 'Flashes' were basically less severe occurrences of the ones in 'The Constant'.

    So Desmond's born, he grows up, he becomes a monk, he meets Penny. Then there are the events in 'Flashes' where he starts experiencing a weird sense of deja vu, he meets Eloise, breaks up with Penny, and comes out of the whole thing not really remembering specifics. Some time later, he goes through another series of events, but this time instead of just feeling a bit of a deja vu, he's CONVINCED he's lived this is all before, and is actually on a freighter on Christmas Day 2004 and needs Penny's number, so he gets it. Again he comes out of that feeling like he blacked out and probably very confused. But he doesn't see Penny again so the topic of why he needed her number never comes up. Then everything that happens takes him to the island, and to turning the failsafe key, at which point he FLASHES back to meeting Eloise and Penny and thinks he's changing things, but in fact just realises that's how they always happened (represented by the analogy of him thinking the football result was different this time around, but actually he just remembered it wrong - the Eloise conversation isn't different this time around, he just remembered it wrong).

    1. Awesome comment. I really like the idea of Desmond's consciousness basically traveling through time in "Jughead" which allows him to experience these events as his 2007 self without affecting the memory of his past self. Makes total sense, I guess I've just never thought about it in those plain terms before.