Flashed Before Your Eyes

The Season 3 episode, Flashes Before Your Eyes, was an absolute classic which revealed what Desmond experienced after he turned the Fail Safe switch in The Swan Station. His mental time leap to his own body in the past, living in a London flat with Penny, was initially a confusing period for Desmond whose memory of being on the Island was hard to recall.

Curiously, during the first few scenes – from the moment Desmond ‘woke up’ in the past to after his interview with Charles Widmore – there were numerous references to the Island that served to hint at what Desmond’s consciousness was already aware of about his Island future. As well as being an interesting easter egg fest, these signs also point towards intriguing ideas about the Island, Desmond, interconnections and fate. . .

First up was probably more of an Island reference to wrongfoot the viewer; Desmond lying covered in blood, dressed in clothes that look not entirely dis-similar to Dharma overalls.

Of course we come to learn that Desmond was really just wearing regular overalls and the 'blood' was just red paint. But it's clear from the outset that this 'flashback' experience is to be laced with the experiences Desmond had on the Island. Next up, Penny rushes to his aid and the eagle-eyed viewer notices something odd on the table. . .

Fancifully we'd all like to think those two items are the black and white stones, somehow present in Desmond's flat. More realistically they're just two bottle tops. Curious, however, how parallel they are placed and how they do, indeed, give the impression of being black and white stones. Whatever they are, they draw to mind the black and white stones from the skeleton cave, which brings up another reference to the Island. Next:

Desmond looks at the clock and sees the figures read 1:08. Obviously his consciousness knows all too well that 108 was the number of minutes the timer in the Swan Station reset at when the button was pushed; something Desmond had done for three years on the Island. Of course, as all Lost fans know, 108 is the sum total of 4 + 8 + 15 + 16 + 23 + 42. But you knew that already, right? (I should hope so!)


Just after Penny gives Desmond a little pep talk before his interview, and mentions something about saving the world, the microwave begins to beep in a noise not unlike the beeping noise of the Swan Station timer. You know, that button he pushed to save the world. . . By now Desmond's consciousness is becoming more and more piqued by the distant memory of his life on the Island that his 'present' world appears to be constantly reminding him of.

At Widmore's offices, Desmond speaks to the receptionist when a courier person steps up to remark, "This is for eight-fifteen."

For eight-fifteen. 4 8 15. The first three digits of the numbers. These Island references keep coming thick and fast and are going to get increasingly more overt.

In Widmore's office, there's a curious picture of a polar bear with the word 'Namaste' written in reverse along the top of it.

If the polar bear was not enough, the presence of the 'Namaste' word is massively unignorable. It's no surprise that a man of Widmore's relation and interest to the Island (as we now know) would have such an article, but it also serves as a massive prompt to Desmond's consciousness about the Island life he has lived/will live (dependent on how you look at it).

If that wasn't enough, Desmond also notices this particular item on display. . .

Widmore informs him that this yacht is linked in with the sailing race he sponsors, sowing the seeds of the plan Desmond will one day have - to win the race to win Widmore's respect and earn the right for Penny's hand in marriage. Indeed, in this same scene, Widmore also asks Desmond if he has a military background - another prompt that provokes Desmond to joining the army. Both joining the military and sailing the yacht being critical events that would shape Desmond's fate to arrive on the Island.

Lost theorists may wish to debate the idea of how much Widmore is manipulating Desmond. There's a good argument to make the case that Widmore is as fundamental in ensuring Desmond winds up on the Island as Ms. Hawking eventually is. This all depends on how much you're willing to invest in the idea that Widmore somehow has knowledge of Desmond's fate and the function he has to serve on the Island. Anyway, outside Widmore's office. . .

A certain busker going by the name of Charlie "Hieronymous" Pace is trying to earn some cash and an already-wired Desmond realises where he knows him from. What has to be remembered is that this meeting - Charlie encountering Desmond - probably didn't happen first time around (as first time around Desmond would have had no reason to speak to him). In the grand scheme of course correction it didn't change anything, of course, but it's an interesting element to consider (if you're into considering this kind of thing).

There's certainly no denying that Charlie's presence serves as a major reminder about Desmond's life on the Island, something he can no longer convince himself is just some weird, dreamy fantasy recollection. As if to underline the point:

A sudden, torrential downpour erupts. A bit like how it does back on the good old Island, in fact. Desmond even remembers it is due to happen just before it does, in fact. A bit like how good old Locke used to back on the Island!

Now convinced that his future lies on the Island, and that he has come into the past to re-live events over, he goes to the pub and tells his friend about it. And what should come on the jukebox? Ah, nothing less than 'Make Your Own Kind Of Music' by Mama Cass, the song that memorably played at the start of Season 2 when Desmond's morning routine in The Swan was interrupted by dynamite blowing 'the hatch' open.

At this stage the point, I feel, is well made: Desmond's life was rife with Island references long before he ever got there. But I must remark on two other bits of business that were present in this episode that hold significance in the Lost universe. A football game was playing on the television, but it's the advertisement hoardings that are of particular interest. You might have to click on the images to enlarge them and see clearly, but this first has adverts for Apollo chocolate and the television programme Expose!

This next one advertises McCluck's chicken and Oceanic airlines. Again, click to enlarge.

None of these things are massively symbolic of anything but they do, I feel, serve to further highlight the notion that there is a Lost-universe to which all the major characters belong, and Desmond, before he ever got to the Island, was well-wrapped up in it.

So, as this episode Flashes Before Your Eyes demostrates, Desmond's life before the Island was utterly littered with references to his Island future - almost as though it was his destiny to be there. There's a larger theory to be made about this, one that takes in all of the cross-referencing meetings and overlapping lives of characters that got to the Island to consider the idea of an enormous Jacob-spun tapestry at work, interweaving all events and people inextricably together.

But that's a really large theory and here I just wanted a bit of a rundown of the easter egg visual issues that were present in this particular episode. I think I got them all, but if you know better then please let me know.

Lastly, as a personal confession, even I thought there was a reference in the episode to the Lost universe that turned out to not be true. I honestly believed that when Desmond stepped out of Widmore's offices, just before he encountered Charlie busking, the news stand behind him had the words 'Mars Agent' written on it - as a reference to Agent Mars, Edward Mars, the man that caught and transported Kate on Oceanic 815.

I really thought that was a curious example of the Lost world infringing on Desmond's history. Only, as it turned out, this is what the news stand actually looked like.

It doesn't say Mars Agent. I could have sworn it did, before I went back and checked for this post, but it actually says, rather more logically, 'News Agent'. Truth will out, I suppose, but this particular fact certainly made this episode just a tad less exciting than it used to be for me. . . It's still good, mind, it's just not as good!


Anonymous said...

Hieronymus = Hume's irony

AngeloComet said...

Very nice, Anonymous!

Personally I'd always toyed around with variations around 'heroin', what with it being Charlie's middle name.

Hieronymous = Heroin (Addicts) Anonymous!

Your anagram works better, though. (In that it actually works!)

Anonymous said...

I give this episode and the episode 'The Constant' full credit for re-introducing books and reading into my life. I hadn't picked up a book that wasn't related to my work life in some way in around five years. While discussing these episodes on a lost forum I was told how close the storylines are to Slaughterhouse Five. A damn good read and made me realise how much I'd missed reading just for the pleasure of it.

Anonymous said...

I am loath to leave comments on sites, but I need to let you know that it makes my day when you post a new installment on your blog. I miss lost-theories.com, and I am so grateful that you have this LOST place. Please keep up the good work of driving me to dig deeper into the show. Case in point, I never noticed the adverts during the football game – excellent catch.

On the flip side, I think the two objects on the table when Des falls while painting are beer bottle caps. They are props intended to show he’s been drinking.

AngeloComet said...

Book-Reader Anonymous: I too read Slaughterhouse Five as a result of watching The Constant. I rather enjoyed it, though it did have a much more humourous take on the matter of mind time travel than poor Desmond made of it.

Complimentary Anonymous: Thank you very much. Glad you made the comment-break to be so nice. The next few posts will force you to think as deep about Lost as your poor brain will tolerate, I promise.

(And you're right about the bottle caps, much as I wish it really were the stones!)

Corellian said...

The advertises on the soccer game are one of those things that makes Lost what Lost is.

It´s such a kind of detail that 95% of the viewers won´t ever notice, and that has absolutely no influence at all in any level of the plot, but that fits so perfectly...

StayPuft said...

Corellian hits the nail on the head right there!

All the show needed was a football match to portray its point, but the creative guys in Lost went the extra mile, just for us eagle-eyed fans. Just for us.

And that non-essential reward for putting so much enthusiasm into watching the show is rewarded.

I'll be surprised if they'll be another show quit like Lost for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Hey AC, hope all is well, great post here, I always learn something new when I visit your site.

With regards to Hieronymous, I love both the Hume's Irony and the Heroin Anonymous interpretations...I was always under the impression it had something to do with the artist Hieronymous Bosch, who is mostly known for his triptych 'The Garden Of Earthly Delights', which looks a lot like the Losties caught between good and evil in a magical paradise. Check it out, it's pretty interesting and seems to be thematically relevant.
Hope all is well.

Corellian said...

Was wathcing Par Avion...

interesting comment from Mikahil:

- The man who brought me here, who brought all of us here...he is a magnificent man...

- If Ben is so magnificent, then why did he needed one of us to save him?

- Ben? Ben is not... *stops talking*

Interesting observation, specially now that we know that Jacob indeed has direct influence on bringing people to the Island...

AngeloComet said...

That's a really good spot, Corellian. (Love it when re-watches unearth something new!)