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FlashForward: Black Swan

Ned: "I was rocking leather pants. I've never rocked leather pants. It's always been one of my top three fears, along with clowns and escalators."

It was inevitable that the possibility of divine intervention would be explored, and they did it quite nicely. Was the blackout caused by God? How could that possibly be? No, it was Lloyd Simcoe and Dominic Monaghan, and Josie's crush just arrived! So what if he sounded distressingly diabolical? He's finally here!

The whole Addison's disease subplot was also very nicely done, although I found myself wanting to shake Olivia more than once. Ned seeing himself in the future as black like Oprah (black swan, ha ha) made us all think he was either lying or deranged or that he was seeing someone else's future, so good misdirection there.

Olivia was so obsessed with discounting any possible liaison she might have with Lloyd in the future that she nearly let Ned die on the table, never to fulfill his fantasy vision of being black in black leather pants. That would have been too bad. If Ned hadn't told Bryce about his flashforward, Ned would have died. But if there hadn't been a flashforward, Ned wouldn't have wound up in the hospital. It's confusing, and I can feel the twisty time travel details getting mushed up in my short term memory. With this and Lost, I might eventually need therapy.

The Nicole the babysitter subplot made me think that having too many critical events occurring in that future six month two-minute window was straining credulity, but it was still interesting that she thought she'd done something terribly wrong and was willing to die to make it right. Must have been pretty bad, Nicole.

Indio, California. (I wanted them to go to Somalia. For a moment, I thought they were going to India.) The orange-tinted chase through the trailer park had an Alias feel, but at least Demetri finally told Mark about his nonflashforward, and Mark almost certainly correctly concluded that Demetri's murder and Mark's flashforward to masked men coming for him had to be connected. It's a StepForward.

Okay. I'm confused. Did everyone in the future remember their flashforward, or was it the future that would have happened if the flashforward hadn't occurred? I've been operating on the assumption that it's the latter, but now I'm not sure. Can someone straighten me out?


— "Black Swan" is a term for a rare, high impact event (and a Dharma Station on Lost). Does Alda the blonde tango have anything to do with Simon (Dominic Monaghan)? It seems unlikely that she and her buddies knew the blackout was coming since they were on the freeway at the time.

— It's been two weeks since the crash of flight 815. I mean the blackout.

— What was that song Ned was listening to on the bus? I'm sure it must be relevant.

— Lays potato chips were disguised as Fets. I'm sure that must be some sort of clever joke that I'm not getting. I also noticed a restaurant called "Tom's Jr. Burgers" that had to be a take-off of Carl's Jr.

— And what about Customer Choice Restaurant Group? With a name like that, they have to be suspicious.

— Was the "unidentified flying meal tray" a reference to the spaceship outline that people saw in the big cloud last week?

— Loved the Jesus tee shirt. "Jesus is my Episco Pal."

— What was with the minister and the box o'crickets? Who likes crickets?


Olivia: "Wow. You really are the Shakespeare of cheesy dad humor." I've been waiting for someone to bring up Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare. And now they have.

Demetri: "So maybe it's not as sexy as dead poultry in Africa, but you gotta admit the timing's a little hinky here, Mark."

Ned: "Six months from now, I see myself and I'm this invincible, fearless black guy, like Shaft or Bryant Gumbel."

Nicole: "How do I atone for something I haven't done yet?"

Despite my total frustration with Olivia, I liked this one. In fact, this was the first episode I liked from beginning to end. Three out of four pairs of leather pants,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. What a fabulous review! Of course, I love it for these reasons:

    "So what if he sounds distressingly diabolical? He's finally here!" Exactly my thoughts.

    "It's a StepForward." We should challenge ourselves to find a way to keep this joke going at least once per review. (I'm not being sarcastic; I laughed out loud. I love puns.)

    "For a moment, I thought they were going to India." Me, too. I didn't realize they meant Indio until we got the caption on-screen. I think it was glamor-expectation-induced deafness: we expected the exotic, and got, um, Indio.

    The song was by Bjork. I think it's called "Quiet" or something like that. It's one of my favorite Bjork songs. The music on this show is good. Well, for me.

    WhyMe, does your explanation from last week about Self-Consistency still work?

  2. Thanks, Josie.

    Too late for the review, but I just noticed that the second episode was called "White to Play." Black and white, like the stones and the backgammon game board on Lost.

  3. I also thought they were going to India.

    Did anyone else think the person drowning Nicole in the future was the priest she just visited? It might explain why he was acting so incredibly bizarre towards her (he saw himself doing it in his own flash). Or maybe he's just a weirdo. Between the T-shirts and the crickets it could totally be the latter.

    I, of course, thought that Mr. Ned was dreaming in his flash, and was kind of disappointed when it turned out he wasn't. I wanted some support for my "Gabrielle Union was dreaming" theory. :)

    Billie, I think Mark already knew about Demetri's non-flashforward. He shared it with him in the pilot. What Mark didn't know was that Demetri found out he's going to be murdered.

    I think your question about whether they saw the future or the future without the flashforward is still a mystery at this point. You'd think that since they seemed to experience their feelings and such, they would know that they were aware of the flashforwards coming true (if that makes any sense). I'm starting to wonder if Mark's flash is some kind of set up for the men in black. That he knows they are coming because of the flash and is waiting for them. But then, why wouldn't he know this (that he was expecting and waiting for them) in the present? Nicole knew she felt she deserved to die. It is very confusing.

    I didn't like this one as much as you. I'm still not really hooked on this show. I'm interested in the concept, but not really liking a lot of the execution so far. The ep had a great ending, but I got a little sleepy part way through this one.

  4. Grate catch with the priest Jess. I just though he was a really bad priest.

    Self-Consistency still holds. The white-black dude story was circular. As Billie said he was sick because of the flash forward and then he was saved by the flash forward. Which one comes first? None of them - its just a circular story with no beginning or end.
    Or another possible circular story, Nicole the babysitter felt she deserved being murdered because in her flash-forward she felt she deserved being murdered. That would be just sad.

    But I don't think this is our case. Mark's board is confusing - it's illogical. If he knew he could affect the past by his board wouldn't he write the answers to the most important questions on it? And if he did, wouldn't these answers be a bit off since no one is perfect?

    I agree with Billie's first impression. We are seeing a different future, one that has not been affected by the flash forward.

  5. I’m in complete agreement, Billie. This was much better than last week and the best episodes since the pilot. Loved the opening sequence with the entire park blacking out in slow-mo, the bus crashing into the pond and Bjork on the soundtrack. Brilliant.

    Watching Nicole’s vision I’m sure the man drowning her was the same priest she visited and I’m wondering is she actually being drowned or, perhaps, baptised? These flashes are brief glimpses of future lacking the context need to understand them fully. It’s possible that many have misinterpreted what they saw and are simply taking them at face value.

    Not surprised that that Lloyd and Josie’s crush are possible bad guys. They’re both British and are by definition alone bound to be villainous.

  6. Mark said: "Not surprised that that Lloyd and Josie’s crush are possible bad guys. They’re both British and are by definition alone bound to be villainous."

    Much like Americans on Doctor Who and Torchwood. :)

  7. I also thought the man in Nicole's flashforward looked like the priest, but the scene as it played resembled more of a horror movie "crazy priest murders young girl in pseudo baptism" than the real thing. His complete disregard for a parishioner in need was also suspicious.

    The only hink in the theory that the FFs are the future as it would have occured without the FFs is Mark. In his FF, he was trying to solve the mystery of the mass blackout/FFs--so his completely depends on the FFs actually happening.

    Oh, and Zoe's, too (can't remember the name of Gina Torres' character). She saw herself as mother to a little boy who was orphaned because of the blackout.

    I have to conclude that the FFs are the future that results from experiencing the blackout/FF. Of course, the writers of the show will probably disagree. That happens to me all the time with Lost.


  8. In his vision, Mark sees the board he uses to investigate the Flashforward, so I took it to mean this is a future in which the Flashforward took place. I don't think his vision would make much sense otherwise... Unless he was investigating a parallel reality with Walter Bishop.

    Regarding Nicole, I really like the baptism theory. Mine is that associates of the masked men in Mark's vision will torture her for the whereabouts of his family. Being human, she'll eventually give up their location, which is why she'll feel guilty (even though it's not really her fault, poor thing). No longer having any need for her, they'll then drown her, though it's worth noting she isn't dead yet in the vision, so hopefully someone will come rescue her in time.

    Interestingly, I actually had the opposite reaction to the situation with Olivia. She was being very stubborn, but I completely agree with her that a medical diagnosis should not be based on a phenomenon that no one understands yet. Medicine is a science, and if Bryce had focused on the medical evidence to make his case (even if he did notice it because of the Flashforward) instead of shouting, "Vision, vision, vision, my beautiful vision!", maybe she would have been more open-minded. It's a good sign, though, that different viewers would have different reactions to the argument. Surely, that means the sequence was a success.

    I wish I could say the same about the Mark/Demetri subplot. Should someone who just freed a Nazi be so petulant and condescending regarding following someone else's lead? Gee, I'm sorry atempting to stop terrorists and illegal arms dealers is so beneath you, Agent Benford.

  9. The thing about Mark seeing the board in his FF does of course suggest that it's the future after the FF, not the future that would have been without it. But as has been said several times, if everyone in the future knows when the FF will occur, why hasn't anyone written a message to their past selves? *Someone* would have, wouldn't they?

  10. I just realized that we may be working from a false assumption: that the blackout and the FFs are a singular event. What if they're not? What if the bad British villains only caused the blackout, and the FFs are from an entirely different source?

    That would mean that the board related only to Mark's investigation of the blackout, which still would have been a major worldwide catastrophe. That would also account for why no one in their FFs seemed to be anticipating the FFs: they saw the future of the blackout, but not the future of the FFs.

    When they go to Somalia, which I'm sure they will, will they discover that none of the people who blacked out had a FF?


  11. I think what you bring up, Billie, is an obligatory plot contrivance if one's going to do circular time travel/vision on a global scale, which is, I suspect, why it's usually been avoided. It only works when you have a restricted number of characters because you can limit their reactions in a believable way.

    If I had a so-so vision in which I had black hair, I would automatically dye it purple just to mess with the space-time continuum. I'm just built that way, and surely other people across the globe are too.

    So the questions are: If the visions show an alternate future devoid of flashforwards, how can the series justify showing Mark investigating a phenomenon that didn't occur in his reality (Anonymous' two-event theory solves that, though)? Furthermore, how can it lead to a satisfying resolution when so many of the puzzles are based on the ambiguity of the visions, since an alternate future would mean the characters would never reach that scene in the vision to begin with?

    Alternately, if we are dealing with a circular story, how can the show justify not a single person in the entire world deliberately defying fate? How is it everyone in the visions is going about their day as usual when the date of the flashforward has been so firmly established? Surely, they'd be throwing big Flashforward parties in the streets on that day, a lot of religious folk would be at church, a number of newscasters would be reporting on Flashforward day itself (thus providing crucial leads for Mark's team), etc.

    Either path requires an awful lot of suspension of disbelief, maybe too much even, which is why I'm still not invested in the series. I am, however, inclined to believe the circular story idea more, if only because I have found characters (especially the FBI team) tend to behave for the convenience of the plot rather than in accordance with anything that was firmly established in their personalities (another reason why I'm still on the fence about the show). Hopefully, I'll be pleasantly surprised in the end, and everything will make sense.

  12. Good call on the priest. I thought it was probably someone we've met, but had no clue who.

    I have an ongoing theory about time travel stories and maybe it can explain some of the odd things in the visions (I don't actually think it's what's happening in the show, but I thought I should share)

    What if there are actually 3 (or more) timelines instead of just two (ff/no-ff)?
    In the first, there is no blackout, no flashforward, everyone just lives their lives.

    In the second, the flashforward happens and everyone sees the future of the first timeline. In this case the flashforwards don't help much. No one seems to be aware they are being seen from the past because the future is not happening as they saw. (After all, the blackouts must have changed what happened a lot)

    In the third, people see future #2 in their flashforward. So, some of the future stuff happens, some is prevented.

    This logic could go on forever (My theory for many time travel movies/books/series is that eventually the timeline stabilizes and we land on a 'Whatever Happened, Happened' type of story), but since in the flashforward no one appeared to be aware they were being seen, I think the story is set on timeline 3.

    The theory about Blackout and ff being different events is very interesting... I haven't thought of that. But then there must be a good explanation why two very weird events are happening at exactly the same time.

  13. Another thing is the picture of the Doll in the first episode. The picture could not have been taken if they wouldn't have experienced the FF in which the picture is seen.

    KAM's theory doesn't hold - no FF+blackout no doll. And like Demitri said there is no way the whole world wont defy fate, even by accident.

    I think that this brings us back to the Multi universe theory. Maybe what they saw was a possible future, and each round of the time loop the FF changes.

  14. During a drunken study session years ago for a SciFi lit course, my peers and I came up with 4 possibilities for time travel without the messiness of paradox. One is that time travel doesn't exist--or only exists in forward motion. Two is the Oedipus theory; that is, what you do when you travel into the past actually causes the future to happen as it's supposed to. For that to work, you have to accept the idea that time is not linear.

    The third was the Spiderweb theory, which also encompasses the idea of a multiverse. Every time someone--let's call her Billie--travels back in time, a new timeline is created and the old one continues unaffected. When Billie travels back into the future, she must travel along the new timeline. Thus the spiderweb: mutliple timelines playing out in all directions.

    The last, which will date me terribly, is the Tape Recorder theory. When you record over another recording, the original recording doesn't just vanish. It existed; it's just something replaces it. That's why Billie can travel back in time and accidentally kill her father before she's conceived--her conception did happen, it was real, it's just a new future is now recording over it.

    I haven't yet figured out which way the show is going, but I agree that it seems the people in the future are unaware of the FFs. Of course, there is no guarantee the explanation will be logical. If it isn't, though, I'm going to be seriously annoyed.

    I think my theory still holds, though. The investigation that led to the doll picture was an investigation of the blackout. Mark might have had that crime scene photo on his FF board to remind him of Mystery Dude Who Didn't Lose Consciousness and Made a Phone Call in the Creepy Doll Factory.

    I could also explain Ned. Olivia resisted the Addison's diagnosis because the evidence came from a FF. In a future with no FF, she might have been more aware that his calm was unnatural and ordered more tests before slicing him open. Addison's can be caught in an MRI.

    Right now there simply isn't enough evidence, but the debate sure is fun! It's nice to read so many interesting and plausible perspectives. This actually makes the show more compelling for me.


  15. Someone said that if everyone knows the date of the two minute window, why didn't anyone write themselves a message from the future, and then stare at it during the two minute window, so that their past self would see the message?

    I mean if I knew that a moment six months from now would be seen by my past self, I'd look up six months of lottery numbers, write them down, and then come the two minutes I'd stare at the note.

    I can think of one dead certain way of checking to see if the FF are set in stone or not. Find someone who had a vision, and who has had their vision confirmed by another (like that Nazi guy), point a gun at their head and pull the trigger repeatedly. Now, if the future is set, you will not be able to kill them, otherwise they would have had no vision because you were going to kill them. But then if that were the case, you wouldn't have selected them to shoot in the first place, meaning they wouldn't die at your hands, meaning they would have had a vision, meaning you would have picked them ... you have a grandfather paradox IF the visions are set in stone.

    If the future can be changed however, then you should be able to shoot and kill someone who had a vision.

    The alternative is that you can try and shoot someone who had a vision, but would be unable to as random variables will prevent you from doing so. Someone might stop you, for example. If you were testing this, you'd have to get everyone around you to let you and agree not to interfere. Then, the only thing I could think of that would prevent you shooting the test person is the gun jamming (remember the Red Dwarf episode with Cassandra?). I suppose you could always switch to knifing them - knives tend not to jam or foul up. Still, that's a pretty brutal way to test it out and a lot of people would object (which is why I'd suggest trying it out on that Nazi guy they let walk free - there might be fewer objections to quitely shooting him).


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