When my husband got home from band practice last night, I had good and bad news for him. Last night's episode of Lost was the best in a long time, I told him, maybe one of the best ever—but, alas, our VCR didn't record it. (I know, we don't have TiVo, we live in the dark ages.) "The Constant" was a return to first- or second-season form: fast paced, entertaining, and enlightening. When it threatened to end on a note veering into soap opera territory, it came roaring back with one of those great Twilight Zone surprise twist endings that make Lost, when it's good, so very good. Let's get down to spoilers and discussion after the jump.

There are four reasons I liked this episode so much: (1) Desmond is one of my favorite characters. Yes, his looks and accent are part of it, but there's something about his everyday humanity that really appeals. He's stuck in the middle of something he doesn't understand—first the hatch and all that it entailed, now time-travel—yet he tries his best to stay on an even keel. He doesn't need to be a hero, like Jack, or a shaman, like Locke—or fall prey to sanctimony as they have. Last night Des nearly lost his marbles, but who can blame him? By the way, the quick cuts between 1996 and 2004 were almost too much, but I think the editing really helped viewers experience Desmond's extreme disorientation.

(2) I love time-travel stories (the BBC's awesome Life on Mars, for example). It makes perfect sense, given my love of history. I mean who doesn't want to get in the time machine and go see what the dinosaurs looked like or solve a historical mystery? Of course, literature and movies have proven that such travels are fraught with difficulty and danger, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like getting caught in an erratic loop between 1996 and 2004. (Though given a choice, I'll take 1996, for completely shallow reasons pertaining to age and weight.)

(3) This episode cemented my fondness for the "absent-minded professor," Daniel Faraday. I think he's the most appealing and interesting of the new characters—not surprising given he's the guy who seems to know most about what's actually happening on the island in a physical/scientific sense.

(4) I think "The Constant" is about as contained an episode as you're going to get with Lost (barring the reviled-by-some "Exposé"). The story had a beginning, middle, and end, the latter of which provided a bit of closure instead of a cliffhanger. Now, I like cliffhangers just fine, but I think we all can agree that too many of them = too many unanswered questions = viewer frustration and burnout.

A few more observations:

  • I want to believe that this episode explains Desmond's presence in the military prison back in season two's "Live Together, Die Alone," i.e., he went AWOL to find Daniel Faraday, but I think the timeline might be off.
  • Still haven't seen hide nor hair of either Michael or Ben's Double (time-traveling Ben?), both of whom have been theorized as Ben's possible shipboard mole. Granted, we haven't been much past the sick bay yet—and George Minkowski says Sayid and Desmond have "a friend" on board.
  • Minkowski's having the same time-travel issues as Desmond. Of course, the big question here is whether or not he's really dead. If you die in one of your, um, timeslots do you die in the other as well?
  • How cool is it that Penny's evil dad is bidding on the only known artifact of The Black Rock: the first-mate's journal, owned by the family of Tovar Hanso? (Though I have to wonder how Desmond knew to find him at the auction ... big suspension of disbelief required here.)
  • Really happy that Desmond and Penny reconnected. (Does this mean I'm a shipper?)
  • Love the idea of having a constant to keep you grounded and avoid time-travel freakout. Isn't that what we all want anyway?