Whatever Happened Course Corrects

All right. Let’s do this. Let’s grapple with the ending of Season 5. Strap in for the long haul, take a deep breath – this one’s a mindblower.

Juliet sets the bomb off, is what happened, right when the electromagnetic anomaly is going haywire. One of the potential results of this, as Jack is hoping for, is that The Swan Station will be destroyed and thus he and the rest of the Oceanic 815 passengers will never crash on the Island in 2004 when Desmond fails to press the button.

Alternatively, as Miles suggested, the setting off of Jughead at The Swan Station may have been the very thing that created ‘the incident’ and, in effect, is what necessitates the requirement to push the button in the first place – technically creating the circumstances by which Oceanic 815 crashes on the Island.

Of course, Jack and everyone else could have all just been blown to ashen pieces in a nuclear explosion. That’s another possibility. But I think that seems unlikely. The electromagnetic event taking place probably prevented that. We'll scratch annihilation off the list of possibilities.

As of the end of Season 5, these were the questions we were faced with and, on balance, it seemed that the likeliest explanation was the idea that the blowing up of Jughead facilitated the requirement to ‘push the button’ in The Swan. That’s the one that works out easiest to figure.

And then Comic-Con came along. Shit like this came along:

Hurley in an advert for McCluck’s, apparently in a version of the world where he never crashed on an Island. There was also a news report about Kate having never killed her father, and instead being on the run for accidentally killing someone else. We were being presented with an alternate timeline, one where events before and after the crash of Oceanic 815 don’t match up with what we understand them to have been.

(I have speculated previously, in the post Re-Written History, about the idea of this alternate reality being used on the show as a form of new narrative convention to replace flashbacks/flashforwards. I’m not disregarding that idea, but here I’ll try and run with something else.)

So what are we to think? That the destruction of The Swan did alter the course of history? Is that what Season 6 is going to ask us to accept? It’s not likely because a) it would annoy people to just erase five seasons worth of story, b) the paradox of Jack crashing on an Island to prevent the crash that brought him there will induce a nosebleed in all of us and c) there’s people in 2007 who are already there thirty years after the events at The Swan who could not be there without the crash of Oceanic 815.

It’s time to employ some good old handcrafted diagrams to explain the matter, and elaborate on a potential way out of this mess, but first to just clarify just how much of a mess it is.

Here’s the timeline of events just before Jughead gets set off, as accords to the ‘whatever happened, happened’ theory of time.

(Click image to enlarge)

Here the future has informed the past. Jack and co went back in time to create 'the incident' that would lead to The Swan and the computer and the System Failure. This apparently always happened and, whilst it may create frustrating causality paradoxes, it’s a thread we can follow. Jack and the rest went back in time to 1977 and there got involved in events that culminated in ‘the incident’ occurring. (Where Jack and co go to from here is another matter, but eventually we have to believe they return to 2007.)

Now let’s look at this timeline if Jack is successful at changing history.

(Click image to enlarge)

I think we can agree: it’s a mess. Changing the past by coming from the future means the future cannot exist so how could it have informed the past? Paradox. So now this is where alternate timelines and parallel universes step in, potentially. (I’m playing devil’s advocate here for a while, so just go with me.)

How about a parallel timeline being the potential timeline of events? I’ll use Jack’s life as an example to show how it works.

(Click image to enlarge)

Fundamentally we've got a timeline where Jack is born and gets to the Island, and one where he never does. Problematically we can see that the two timelines don’t actually interact. They can’t. Jack effectively destroys his Island timeline and it’s just the other timeline, the one that has nothing to do with the Island, that remains. That’s all well and good in theory, but then makes absolutely no sense when we consider the likes of Sun and ‘Locke’ (as Nameless) on the Island in 2007. They would be erased with Jack’s Island Timeline, and that makes no sense.

So, I’m ruling out a parallel universe.

How about we go with a tangential alternate reality? A version of reality that is created when a timeline splits at some critical juncture. This sounds like high-concept daftness, but Lost has actually introduced us to this idea several times, particularly during Season 3 with Desmond’s visions and Charlie’s death.

In effect, Desmond had visions of Charlie drowning in an attempt to rescue Claire. Desmond intervened. (The universe split away from that future reality.) Desmond then had visions of Charlie slipping on rocks trying to catch a bird and dying. Desmond prevented this from happening. (The universe split away into a new version of the future.) Desmond, and us viewers, then saw Charlie receive an arrow through the throat and die. Desmond stepped in and stopped it, and so that future was averted and a tangential one where Charlie eventually drowns in The Looking Glass emerged.

So Lost had already presented us with the idea of a particular reality being averted to be replaced by a new one. Jack blowing up The Swan Station could, in effect, be the same concept applied to a larger scale. Let’s try and slot that into the timeline diagram and see how it looks.

(Click image to enlarge)

The detonation of The Swan Station, in this example, completely erases the whole Island timeline, paradox and all. Therefore the Jack that gets born is the Jack that goes on to not crash on the Island and there is, nor ever was, another Jack. That entire timeline simply ceases to exist.

Again, inherently defiant against this idea are Sun and Fake Locke in 2007. We can be absolutely certain that this timeline doesn’t get erased, right? With the death of Jacob and his “they are coming” statement, it’s a plotline that is immutable for sure. Which therefore makes the idea of a tangential plotline, of a change in history, surely impossible.

And yet there’s still this:

Good news is that I have a not one but TWO ideas how this could all still play out on the show (aside from my ‘alternaflash’ theory of a previous post, which actually makes three!).

First one is as simple as it is confusing. Using my tangent timeline diagram, I could suggest that Ajira 316 didn’t crash in the original timeline.

(Click image to enlarge)

If you’re anything like me you’ll find that idea messy. Why would Ajira 316 set off from one timeline and then jump to the other? Furthermore, how would they explain that on the show? (Get Faraday in from this new tangent timeline to draw a diagram perhaps?) I mean, principally, it’s no more implausible than why Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sayid would be zapped off a plane and into 1977 – but I still think Lost would struggle to sell this idea. Maybe they have already started laying the foundations, though. The Whispers. 'Dead' Charlie that appeared to Hurley, amongst others. Perhaps not ghostly voices and apparitions, but iterations of a tangent timeline infringing upon the timeline we are seeing.

I don't love this option, believe me, but you just can't dismiss it I'm afraid. But how about a different option?

Let’s take the point already illustrated by Charlie and Desmond’s flashes. See, despite the fact that Desmond intervened and prevented Charlie’s death on numerous occasions the fact of the matter is Charlie still died.

No matter how many possible futures were averted, the outcome was eventually the same. Charlie died. Course correction, of course, is the established explanation for this. So how could this apply to Jack, Jughead and The Swan Station? Well, I am thinking the moment of detonation, and the bright white light, may have produced a situation for the likes of Jack and Kate and Hurley not unlike what Desmond experienced when he turned the Fail Safe.

Desmond turned the Fail Safe and then awoke in his own past with faint awareness of his time on the Island. Slowly he began to remember where he had come from until, with a bat to the head, his consciousness was snapped back to the Island ‘present’. Course correction, see. Even your consciousness can flee to a different time and course correction will catch up with you.

Back to The Swan, and Jughead, and the explosion and the white light. What if this 'incident' had the curious effect of transporting Jack’s consciousness to a timeline - a tangent timeline - where he hadn’t crashed on the Island? Like how Desmond awoke in London, Jack could find himself in a different time with little memory of his time on the Island? Same goes for Hurley. For Kate.

Naturally this would allow Lost the TV show to have some fun with both the characters and us in presenting a world where they never went to the Island. However, as soon as those memories started trickling back – like they did with Desmond – then they would find themselves returning back to their original timeline, back on the Island. Course correction. Gets there in the end and puts everything pretty much back in its place.

Purpose? Well, it would offer some dramatic thrills to kick off the new season. And, like Desmond learned (or perhaps re-learned) how much he loved Penny by visiting his past, perhaps the likes of Jack and Kate might have that time to learn what their lives would be like without the Island and come to realise just how much the place means to them, and how much it has given to them.

Which makes it a bit like It’s A Wonderful Life. But on an Island.

And then what? Then they just wake up back in 2007, with the likes of Sun and the Ajira crew and fake Locke and Ben, and the whole show can come together into some form of climax? Yeah, something like that. Perhaps with the added benefit, like Desmond, that Jack and Kate and Hurley and Sayid now have the capacity to receive flashes of the future. That ought to make them a force for Nameless to reckon with. . .

They are coming, after all.


Corellian said...

I definitely wouldn´t mind your last theory, as long as, when Kate returns to the Island, she's dressed the same way Desmond was when he did...ehaUEhaUHea...

Synchromystic Librarian said...

ding ding, i think you have a winner

Anonymous said...

Will Sayid appear dying in the new time line?

Anonymous said...

What of Juliet? She wakes up after falling off a ladder in a pool of red paint? Mud? What?

Anonymous said...

Its a Wonderful Life is my favorite film. I would welcome the Capra hommage.

neoloki said...

This is definately going in the right direction. I believe they will use some kind of tangent universe, because, as you have pointed out, it is a way to explore dead characters, mind frak the audience, get everybody back to 2007, etc, al. while still preserving WHH through course correction. I might be a situation where the tangent universe created by the Jughead explosion becomes a false or bad time line that needs to be collapsed in order to get everybody back in the same time frame and thwart MIB's plans for the Island.

I don't know how exactly it is going to work but the possibility that TPTB will use a tangent universe seems more and more likely with all the evidence we are being presented with.

AngeloComet said...

Neoloki - I think the tangent, or parallel universe, if it even exists, HAS to be temporary as we know the current timeline continues into 2007, where Fake Locke and Sun and Jacob and Nameless and Ajira are all convened.

Weirdly I keep thinking about the end of The Matrix Reloaded. Where Neo collapsed and then woke up in the next film in the Mobil (read: Limbo) train station for a temporary period out of the action before he was brought back into the main frame again. I suspect a similar conceit - of a limbo-like halfway stage - to occur for our time-travelling Losties until they return to 2007 for the showdown.

Corellian - I look forward to a similar situation arising with Hurley. Hubba hubba! One for the ladies, methinks!

Anonymous(es) - Will Sayid die? No way. Will Juliet die? Yes way.

Reasoning? Juliet was on last gasp breath territory when she detonated the bomb, and in some screwy psuedo-scientific way she will have been considered too close to the blast point to survive.

Dramatically-speaking she also had her final moment - a goodbye with Sawyer and a final heroic act. Which in turn suggests to me that Sayid has not been given a proper send-off and will therefore survive - perhaps because Jacob touched him and the bullet will no more prove fatal than that time Locke was shot. Island healing powers might come into play.

Corellian said...

Well, who knows...drammtically-speaking, Jin should be fraking dead...ahahhaah....

But I also don´t see Juliet surviving the explosion...

neoloki said...

Maybe you guys have already talked about this and I am pretty sure it has been discussed elsewhere and without being to redundant, what are the chances we have already been watching an ALT. What if everything we have seen since Ajira 316 crash landed on Alcatraz island during the end of 2007 is already an ALT and this specifically could be the loop-hole MIB created. So, a Tangent time line is created from Jughead to sync up with the ALT of 2007. So, once we see the flashes on Ajira and the plane goes through the event window that Eloise talks about at The Lamppost, we hear the numbers being broadcast, MIB's loophole is created and the Hurley and Kate videos at Comic-Con are now the past for this time line. With this in mind, The Incident becomes, not the Jughead explosion, but the death of Jacob which is THE EVENT that merges the two tangential time lines back into one true time line thus giving us the real Locke back and preserving the last 5 seasons of Lost.
The problem I can't quite wrap my mind around is Sun, Frank and Ben remembering the crash of flight 815. I think that pretty much does this theory in but I thought I would throw it out there anyway.

However, I do agree that the Tangent time line will be brief, maybe 3 or 4 episodes at most. Much else to cover on Lost and too late in the game to get distracted by an ALT.

Fred said...

I got the impression from the first film of Pierre Chang that the Incident had to do with someone using the computer for purposes other than intended--that is after the station was built. But to the all-knowing time correction, I guess it doesn't matter--Incident is Incident, no matter when it happened.

Also, this could lead to Adam and Eve: Juliet and Sayid. Both seem done for, and if they died during the explosion, Richard may have collected their bodies and put them into the caves. That's why he says he saw them all die (Richard's information, as we saw with Locke, is not all too accurate).

AngeloComet said...

Fred - I was under the impression that Chang (or Marvin Candle, as he was in the film) warned against using the computer for communication purposes purely to preserve the sanctity of the experiment they were conducting.

In short, he didn't want the unwitting Dharma workers contacting someone in, say, The Pearl and working out that pushing the button was an observed test of sorts.

Jack also remarked that Adam and Eve had the decomposition state of around 60 years. That's not gospel, of course, but it does seem wide of the thirty years it would be if it were Juliet and Sayid.

Interesting to bring up Richard's remark about how they all died, though. The only solid conclusion I can draw is that Richard will never see the likes of Jack or Kate again, perhaps until 2007 - thereby confirming for him they died in the Swan Station 'incident'.

Fred said...

@Angelocomet: Yes Marvin Candle did warn against using the computer for communications, but if you look at the episode, "Orientation" (transcript of the film from LOSTpedia), he says: "Not long after the experiments began, however, there was an incident. And since that time the following protocol has been observed: every 108 minutes the button must be pushed." This indicates the following timeline:
(1) Swan built and experiments underway.
(2) Incident (whatever that was)
(3) Protocol formulated (push button 108 minutes, and, by the way, don't email).
It's the phrase, "not long AFTER the experiments began . . . " suggesting the timeline we (the audience) saw in Season 5 differs from Candle's recounting. But that's not unusual, as Rousseau has a different account of her arrival on the island compared to what we saw.
If we assunme both Rousseau's earlier account is correct, and the Incident occured after the Swan was built, then what we saw in Season 5 is what . . .? A different timeline (as in one of your diagrams)? I am always concerned we have made the logical leap that Juliet setting off the bomb IS the Incident. Could there be more than one Incident on different timelines? Oh, man, how messy is that?

AngeloComet said...

Fred: They called the episode 'the incident'. There's wrongfooting an audience and just plain lying to them if the Jughead Juliet bomb wasn't it!

Liking your evidence from the Orientation film. I totally get your point and, frankly, don't have a counterargument save for this - it might not be the truth.

I mean, he lies right at the top when he calls himself Marvin Candle! Deceit is evidently not a problem for these films so I'm wary about taking them as granted.

Whilst we're on the subject though, who believes that the injury we witnessed Pierre Chang sustain to his arm during 'the incident' is the reason why he had a false arm in The Swan video?

Only that happened in 1977. . . and I am reasonably sure the other videos we saw were filmed after that time. . .?

So either the timelines ARE muddled now, or we STILL don't know how Chang lost his arm!

neoloki said...

I don't think that is a detailed enough description to say when exactly the incident occurred. The experiments could have started at the orchid since the properties are similar to the swan. and you have to give some room for continuity error given the distance between season.

Also, the communication warning had to do with sharing information and people not connected with dharma or low level dharma workers receiving them. A reprocussion from the '77ers infiltrating Dharma.

neoloki said...

bad grammar sorry

Fred said...

@Angelocomet: I get your frustration with the possibility we have all been deceived by episode titles. I also find its downright nearly impossible to identify to whom a title may apply. Take "The Little Prince": is it Aaron, Jin, or even anyone else, or just a reference to Rousseau's boat name.
The point you made about later videos by Chang showing his arm as functional, leads to even a worse scenario--we've been dupped into believing what we saw was Chang's arm being crushed. What if it was only injured? Stupid idea, but so many things in LOST seem to change slightly (the first time we see something, it's slightly different from the second time--continuity error?). Didn't Rousseau say Montand lost his arm near the Black Rock, only to lose it going into the Temple? (not a continuity error).
I agree with you, we've just not been given the big picture.

neoloki said...

I still hold to the fact that the Incident was as much of Jacob being killed as it was The Swan explosion. TPTB are none to use loaded titles that have more than one meaning. I don't see it as being deceived. The Little Prince is a perfect example; Yes it is meant to refer to Rousseu's boat specifically but also Aaron.
She never said where Montand lost his arm just that he did. Oh, yeah she said it happened in The Dark Territory, but how big is it and could The Temple be included with-in. we don't really know.
Much of the continuity error come from the creative process and writing a show over the course of 10 years. It is not like writing a novel where you can polish everything.

Synchromystic Librarian said...

i think the incident was Radz drilling into the exotic matter (or is it dark matter, i get those confused)

i don't think Chang knows about Jacob and also Ben stabbed Jacob in 2007 islandtime (i suppose at least, LOL) long after the DI purge

Synchromystic Librarian said...

the DI would have been doing experiments before Radz drilled and hence before Swan was built to try to figure out how to access/harness/handle the stuff

Synchromystic Librarian said...

Chang made the video "before" Jack & Co were "there" to drop jughead so i feel Miles was wrong saying Jack and Co "caused" the incident since it happened long "before" Jack & Co ended up in their 1977 islandtime

Jack & Co 2004 islandtime happened before Jack & Co 1977 islandtime

neoloki said...

when I mentioned the title also refers to jacob being killed I am talking from the perspective of the writers and not Chang. The Incident is a word that could be refering to something other than the Jughead explosion.

Synchromystic Librarian said...

ah! neoloki you just mean The Incident as the title of the episode, ok

but i still think the episode title The Incident just means Radz drilling which i think is the exact same incident Chang mentions in the orientation video

anyway, back to the diagrams, in all of them i think you need to add a 2nd 1977 timeline since when Jack & Co go back in time to 1977 it is a different 1977 timeline than the 1977 timeline when Chang made the video

so really there are at least 3 base island 1977 - 2004 timelines

1977-2004 island with no 815 crash

1977-2004 with 815 crash

1977-2004 with Jack & Co in 1977

then 2 316 timelines (a with 316 crash and without 316 crash) branches off the middle timeline

the 3rd timeline is extended to 2007 to include the 2007 316 crash

Synchromystic Librarian said...

in the 1977 - 2004 - 2007 parallel timeline diagram they interact with jack boarding 815

neoloki said...

"i think you need to add a 2nd 1977 timeline since when Jack & Co go back in time to 1977 it is a different 1977 timeline than the 1977 timeline when Chang made the video"

I am assuming this is just conjecture, because we really don't have enough evidence yet to say that for sure.

I am going with WHH here and that they always went back in time.

My time line is:

Time line A.... The first 5 seasons of Lost and the true time line.

Time line B... expands out of the Jugnead explosion creating a Tangent universe that threatens the existence of Time Line A. In Time Line B we have the Comic-con videos and things as they pretty much were except for small details in the characters lives. They are the same people with the same faults, but flight 815 never crashed.

Time Line B is eventually destroyed depositing the 77ers into Time Line A around the time of Jacobs death or maybe even directly back onto Ajira 316.

I have been thinking maybe Jacob will be able to use this Tangent universe to change certain things. To counter MIB's loop-hole and bring Locke back into the game because he is important to the Island. Going back to Widmores comment during the Jeremy Bentham episode that Locke has to be on the Island for the war to be won. Most die hard WHH people have always thought Desmond would be the exception to the rule, but maybe it is Jacob and he will use Time Line B to change the future.

AngeloComet said...

I agree with Neoloki about their being only one timeline so far.

What I mean is, if after the crash on the beach the Oceanic people had started digging around in the sand they may have just eventually unearthed some arrows with burnt ends.

That would be the same arrows that would one day in the past, but THEIR future, rain down on them as flaming arrows.

I believe this comprehension of the timeline is what the creators have repeatedly hammered home.

So in principle when Sawyer chanced across the moment Claire gave birth to Aaron, he was technically there in Season One. The camera just didn't poke through the trees and point him out to us the same way Kate and Claire never noticed him. We've only come to learn during Season 5 about how some of these events we've seen were effected or witnessed by the people we knew further down the. . . ahem. . . line.

Anonymous said...

he he, judging by the amount of comments in response to your latest blog entry the writers have once again shown how easily they can, ahem.... push our buttons.

From about season 3 I began to realise that the success of the show was not only down to the writers imagination but the fertile imagination of the viewer.

neoloki said...

I don't know if that ahem means lie, but I am assuming so.

I am finding it quite interesting that the people who were proclaimed WHH followers (I still think WHH is the case and a tangent time line does not contradict this) at the end of season 5 only have one argument for the comic-con videos. Damon/Carlton are lieing. No other logic. The trust us comment is totally dismissed. The fact that they were shown at a fan appreciation event is discarded. The fact that the videos probably cost ABC hundreds of thousands of dollars just to fool the audience, dismissed. The fact that Lost has never shown a video at comic-con that didn't relate in a thematic way to the new season, dismissed. Finally, the debate was already raging across the internet without the videos thrown into the mix.

What is most galling is that you can lay out a theory that incorporates a tangent time line and uses WHH as the glue, so that it all fits together nicely and bridge the two camps, but they will still say WHH. It makes me think they don't really understand the concept.

Correct me if I am wrong anonymous.

JacksEyes said...

Adopting your temporary timeline logic, in S6E1 "LA X", maybe Jack and Kate (and the rest) will land in LA. J & K meet, but don't yet know each other. As the episode progresses they start to remember, eventually realising that they loved each other! Then there is the kiss, in LA. LA X!

Anonymous said...

Hi neoloki

I was just making a general observation about the show and was certainly not trying to tell you that you are wrong. :-)

ps. the 'ahem...push our buttons' was just a reference to plot twists/entering numbers at the hatch.

neoloki said...

I apologize. Very sorry I jumped to a conclusion. I was recently having a discussion with someone over on Darkufo that was difficult to say the least. I guess I carried it over.

Greg Tramel said...

i 150% agree that the Comic (long)Con can't be outright dismissed as lies

and i 150% agree tangent timelines HAVE to be a factor due to the videos as well as other season 5 events

now we just have to agree on where/when the tangent(s) sprout from

playing devil's advocate,

so when 815 crashed in 2004 Jack & Kate had their minds erased with the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind machine of the 1977 island incident

when she 1st came to the island in 2001 Juliet's mind was erased of the 1974-77 time she spent in DI

Corellian said...

Totally unrelated to the post, but I was watching an advertisement of Lost on tv here, where they say that the lunchbox that Kate was trying to steal and that Jacob buys for her is the same that she unburries (wow, does this word even exist?) on a flashback at season one...

Hahaha, totally bizarre..I would have never noticed that...

AngeloComet said...

I knew that lunchbox had a little too much significance focused on it during that episode! Makes me wanna go back to that episode (Whatever The Case May Be) and check it out!