Great episode! I think this was the perfect set up for the last three episodes of the season (one this week, then a two hour finale), as Daniel comes back to essentially pose the O6'ers with a decision that could ultimately change their lives...without further ado, let's get to it.
"I'm from the future."
Our boy Daniel is back and he's got a new plan. No longer is he lecturing on about the foolishness of trying to change the past...instead he's back to do exactly that. And his plan is an aggressive one: he first warns Dr. Chang of a "catastrophic accident" that will occur at the Swan Hatch (likely the "Incident"), then convinces Jack and Kate to escort him to the Hostiles camp. But before he can make the trek to see Richard and the Others he delivers his "old scary man" speech to little Charlotte at the ever-present swing set before getting into an all out gun fight with the increasingly agitated Radzinsky and crew in Dharmaville. Finally, just before entering the Hostiles camp, he lets Kate and Jack in on his secret plan: he wants to use Jughead to bomb the Island and prevent all the terrible things that have happened on it and to its inhabitants in the future. It's quite an agenda to take care of in 6 hours. And even though he won't be able to see out the plan himself, I think he's done enough to get the ball rolling.
So lets analyze one each of the above events one at a time to understand the motives behind Daniel's actions. First of all, it's important to note that he's not out to necessarily change everything. For example, his conversation with Chang is more of a formality than anything. After dropping the bombshell that the Swan will burst and that he is from the future, you see that Chang hesitates a bit before shrugging him off. What we should take from this is that Chang knows enough about the properties of the Island that he realizes that what Dan is saying could happen. There is enough energy below the Island that it could certainly cause some damage. Similarly, he knows that Dan could be from the future, since Chang is pretty familiar with the Orchid's theoretical time travel capabilities (not to mention that the argument that Miles was his son was pretty damn convincing - I mean, how many Asians do you know named Miles?). So when Chang finally does storm off, Dan lets him go knowing that he's said enough to make sure that he will do "what he's supposed to do" - which is to order the evacuation of at least the women and children off the Island, including Chang's wife, baby Miles, and Charlotte (which is why he covered his bases with baby Charlotte, telling her to do whatever Dr. Chang said and to leave the Island). These events actually did happened in the past, and Dan is simply making sure that they happen again. Not everyone will be spared from the Incident (or bomb explosion), but as you'll see later, getting these specific people off the Island will be extremely important as time moves on.
Now, while he takes some steps to ensure that some events happened as they always have, his foray into the Hostile's camp is to specifically change a sequence of events that were set into motion once the Incident took place. If you remember, he explains to Kate and Jack that after the Incident Dharma instituted the button to suppress the energy below the Swan hatch to prevent any future accidents. Desmond became the pusher of that button until one day he missed the deadline, causing Oceanic 815 to crash onto the Island. And because of that, the Freighter eventually brings Daniel, Miles, Charlotte, and the rest of them to the Island, which eventually kills Charlotte and so on and so forth. Daniel explains that because he and the O6 are "variables" in the overall equation (after all, they "are not supposed to be there"), they should be able to put a stop to that chain of events at this very moment by blowing up the Island before the Incident occurs. In order to do this, he needs to ask the Hostiles where they put "Jughead," the hydrogen bomb that he told them to bury in 1952. Once he has this information, he will be able to access the bomb and blow it before the Incident occurs.
Unfortunately Daniel's plan also included entering the Hostiles camp solo with a loaded gun and we all know how that ended. Not sure if he really thought that part through. But the big takeaway here is that Eloise of course unknowingly shot her son in 1977, but at the same time still encouraged him to go back to the Island in 2004 knowing that he would eventually be killed (by her, no less). So the question is - why? If we assume that Hawking sent him back so that she could personally end his mission to blow the Island and change the past, why send him back at all? Destiny or no destiny, if you didn't want Daniel to blow up the Island, why not just keep him on the piano bench at home? The dude was pretty much toast anyway, right?
My only thought is that Eloise sent him back because she realized that the past did in fact need to be changed. She finally figured out that all of the shit that the Others and Widmore had been feeding her was bullshit and that maybe the world would be a better place if the Island didn't exist at all. I mean, look at how she originally defined the word "destiny." She explained to little Daniel that destiny meant that if someone has a special gift that it has to be nurtured. But that's not what destiny means at all! Destiny is the idea that the world runs on a predetermined, inevitable course of events. And if that were the case, she didn't need to push Daniel to use his talents, because he would have eventually done so anyways. Similarly, she wouldn't have had to push Desmond to travel to the Island and push the button (as she did in "Flashes Before your Eyes") because he would have been "destined" to do so. All of these Other/time coach people continually talk about "course correction" and "destiny" but then can't just sit back and let those events inevitably run their course. Instead, they shape them.
So I think that at some point after Daniel fries his brain, Eloise realizes that all her talk is BS and that the past needs to be changed. And while I'm sure she would have liked to avoid it, she still needed to send Daniel back there because otherwise no one else would have been able to tell Jack - our once fearless leader - the master plan. This could also explain why Eloise sends Jack and company back on Ajira 316. She needed to be sure that before Daniel was shot he passed the necessary information to Jack - the one person who has yet to find his "purpose" upon his return to the Island. Well Jack, meet your reason for returning...it's to carry out Daniel's plan and blow up the Island. (Quick note - next week's episode is called "Follow the Leader" - yet another reference to Jack and his new found purpose).
You may be asking, "what the hell will happen to everyone in the future if the Island is blasted in 1977?" And that's a good question....hell, even Eloise doesn't know ("for the first time in a long time, I don't know what's going to happen next.") Of course she doesn't, because she helped Daniel change the past...for better or worse. One theory is that if we assume that the O6 get back to the present time before any bombs go off, they live in some sort of a alternative ("separate") reality on the remains of the now mostly decimated Island in 2007. You see, they didn't necessarily change their future, they only changed the future for those that were truly living in time of 1977. Remember, the O6, Juliet, Miles, and Daniel were in their own present, meaning they had lived their lives in full up to that point (and did not revert to who they were in 1977 upon the flash). But if you look at it from the 1977 perspective, baby Miles was hopefully evacuated on that sub and grew up to a totally new future, a future that did not include a trip back to the Island years later. It's for this reason that it was so important to convince Chang to evacuate some of the Dharma folks, because if baby Miles perishes on the Island, well, then so does adult Miles. (The same works for Charlotte - if she is evacuated her life is essentially saved because her trip back to the Island on the Frieghter will never happened. It can be argued that this is the underlying reason for Daniel's plan.) Similarly, if the chain of events that started with the Incident never happens, then the Losties never crash on Oceanic 815. They simply get on the flight in Australia and land in LA. They never meet, and they never get Lost. Unless of course, I've got it all wrong, and destiny WAS right and the inevitable happens. The plane crashes after all, but this time without an magnetic pulse to draw it to the Island it crashes sinks to the Ocean floor...killing everyone. I know that Widmore claims that he placed the wreckage there...but he's been known to lie before, right?
To be sure, there are a lot of holes in the above theory. But what Season 5 comes down to is whether or not Jack and company decide to change the past or not. We've been told all season "whatever happened, happened," but it's clear now that our Losties hold the keys to making that change if they choose to do so. It's free will versus destiny, and the season's conclusion will ride on that decision. To be honest, I really don't know what's going to happen and I couldn't be happier to that fact. What I think we can expect is a hell of a season finale, but at the same time a huge cliffhanger that will be causing us to pull our hair out for 7 months before the final season begins.
-Many folks noticed the issue of "Wired" on Daniel's couch when Widmore went to visit him. Indeed, the cover had some very relevant headlines scattered across it ("The Impossible Gets Real!", "The Super Power Issue", "Time Travel!"), but I think the real reason it was included was to subconsciously plug this month's issue of Wired (May), which is guest edited by the show's own JJ Abrams. Pretty smooth, if you ask me....and I recommend you pick it up - it is dubbed the "Mystery Issue" and has some pretty cool articles.
-When Daniel visits Charlotte at the swing set she is eating a chocolate bar and says, "mommy says no chocolate before dinner" (or something like that). This is the same thing she says before dying in Daniel's arms years later. Obviously her consciousness was skipping, but it's interesting to note that in both "times" the last face she saw was Daniel's.
Alright, I think I thoroughly confused myself through this post so I'll turn it over to you guys to tell me where I went wrong. I think (hope) that some of these questions will be answered in this week's show and then I look forward to a great 2 hour finale next week! Till then!