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FlashForward: The Gift

“What you call cheating, I call finding a way to change the game.”

How do you win a game when the only rule is fate and the only outcome is foreordained? You change the players. We got our first glimpse of the possibility of hope—that is, the possibility of change—but that hope came at a huge price. It’s a LeapForward in the philosophical implications of the flashforwards.

And yes, that’s also a pun.

Special Agent Al couldn’t handle the possibility that he would cause a terrible tragedy, purely by accident. No Minority Report self-certainty for him: how can you plan to avoid an accident? SA Al was almost one of the ghosts, those people who didn’t have a flashforward. Only his was more complex: he knew that he’d done something awful, and for him that knowledge was a fate worse than death. His suicide was sort-of bravely self-sacrificing, except that by dying he proved that the future can be changed, which makes his suicide pointless. When he was on the ledge, I did worry that he was going to fall right onto Celia’s car in some sort of course-correction. Then I realized I was thinking of the wrong show.

Joseph Fiennes has been a bit over the top for me so far, but when he hugged Olivia I felt all the emotions he must be feeling: despair over the loss of his friend, and great hope for the possibility that his marriage didn’t need to fall apart. The ghosts didn’t have that hope, which turned them all into S&M goths. Is that really the effect of hopelessness? Eyeliner and leather?

I felt an awful lot of sparkage between Nicole the babysitter/candy striper and Dr. Bryce, but Bryce didn’t: he’s still fixated on his maybe-Japanese future girlfriend. This is a different type of hopelessness: he’s unable to see the pretty girl in front of him because he’s so fixated on the one he doesn’t have. In other lovey-dovey news, Demetri finally put all his cards on the table for fiancé Zoey, but she called his bluff. She chose hope. And hope is what Al gave his coworkers with his act of despair.

Speaking of hope, I’m starting to feel like a rube. Every week, I hope for Dominic Monaghan, only to be thrown crumbs. This week, the crumb was a shot of him staring intently at a laptop. I hope he’s at least drawing a good paycheck, and I hope that we’ll get more of him being evil and British soon.

Our symbol of the week was the boat that Celia’s sons were playing with: we’re adrift on the sea of fate, battered about by forces more powerful than we can control. We can go with the flow, we can force our galley slaves to row us against the wind, but we’re still just one tiny ship in the ocean of life. Or something silly like that.


• Did the MI-6 lady say that Prince is dead? Ah, no. Print is dead. I certainly hope that Prince survived the flashforward.

• Demetri: ‘Is that a cardigan?’
Al: ‘I was going for average Joe.’
Mark: ‘Back off. That jacket? Ridiculous.’
Demetri: ‘Says the FBI agent in the police t-shirt.’ Demetri gets the best lines. Did you know he was in Harold and Kumar?

• Was Aaron’s daughter pursuing Hajis? People going on hajj (or hadj)? In other words, was she pursuing pilgrims? I certainly hope not. Even the medieval crusaders were better than that.

• The ghosts sounded more like drones when they responded to an alarm by walking in lockstep while muttering ‘Reynaud, Reynaud.’ Perhaps that is the effect of having a Cylon as your leader.

• Reynaud/Jeff experienced an infinite pit of nothingness and indifference, a Nietzschean abyss. I thought that the ‘ghosts’ didn’t have flashes of any kind—seeing a nothing is different from seeing nothing. Right?

• I’m not sure what to say about Aaron’s daughter showing up just when he’d begun to make peace with the possibility that his flashforward wasn’t going to come true. But I’m excited to see what they make of it.

• ‘The Gift’ was the title of a Buffy episode that dealt with a similar quandary in a similar way.

3.5 out of 4 Callum Keith Rennies.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Are you saying you didn't know John Cho was in Harold & Kumar until *now*?? Every week, I keep hoping for a Kal Penn cameo... :-)

  2. Great review :)
    Have anyone else seen a parallelism between Agent Al and the bird that crushed into the window in the flashforward?
    I think in some way they might be connected, because of way the british lady (what was her name?) said about feeling powerless and sad about the bird.
    Its just a random thought that crossed my mind while seeing the episode.
    By the way I also thought that he was going to fall right onto Celia’s car...

  3. This is the episode I've been waiting for. I didn't even bother commenting on last week's, because I was seriously starting to wonder why I was even watching the show anymore. It was getting damn depressing watching them all walk about like morose victims of an unchangeable fate when they weren't even trying to do anything about it. Mark could at least try to put things on the board in a different spot!

    But this week, Al finally did something about it. As soon as I saw Al enjoying his dirty rice and beer (?), I knew he was going to take his own life. It was tragic and heartbreaking, but I'm so glad the writers finally let the audience and the characters know that the future may not be set in stone. Al's sacrifice really was a gift, especially for Mark and Demetri. Celia may still not make it to April 29th, but the circumstances of whatever befalls her have been irrevocably changed, which means there is hope for Mark, Olivia, and Demetri.

    I'm so disturbed by the idea that people were expecting Al to fall on Celia (which I've read numerous places). It was such a powerful and wonderful scene, and something like that would have completely ruined it. I see why people would think that, but I'm very glad the thought never entered my head because it would have taken something away from that moment.

    Josie, I love that your review for an episode that made me cry actually made me laugh several times. I particularly enjoyed your comments about leather and eyeliner, and the difference between seeing nothing and seeing nothing. :)

    BTW, Dom appeared to be fixated on at a beaded bracelet that had the name Annabelle on it. Not really the laptop. Still just a crumb, but slightly more intriguing than you suggest.

    Great episode. The first one I've truly enjoyed since the beginning.

  4. They strongly hinted that Al was going to die right from the beginning of the episode, and yes, the dirty rice was like a suicide note. I didn't think he would hit Celia; it didn't even occur to me. I was pretty sure they were ready to tell us that the future could be changed. Although it seems to me that with the entire world being involved and all those people contributing to Mosaic and how much time has passed, *someone else* with a verifiable FF vision would have died by this time.

    Demetri has an immense, gorgeous apartment. In Los Angeles. Is he a millionaire on the side?

    Nice review, Josie. You always make me laugh out loud.

  5. Just FYI, haji is a slang (I think derogatory) term for Arabs/Muslims among soldiers.

  6. I didn't expect Al to fall on Celia, either, because he chose a spot to fall where there weren't any cars or even people. Al didn't seem like the kind of person who would take a chance on hurting someone else, so I'm sure he chose his method and jump point with care.

    I felt grossed out yet vindicated when I saw that Aaron's daughter's leg had been blown off--I knew the DNA had to have come from a missing limb. But why did she show up in LA? In Aaron's FF, it looked as if she had been held captive. Did her captors' FFs cause them to let her go?

    And I have a feeling Demetri is contributing only nominal rent--I imagine private defense attorney Zoey is bringing in the lion's share of their income. When you compare that apartment to Al's sad little apartment, it became clear. It also made the scene when Al eats his dirty rice alone even more poignant.

    I was moved by his sacrifice (which is how I see it--more than a suicide), but if someone wanted to test the validity of the FFs, couldn't someone have shot the Nazi? The death reminded me of a quote from the documentary on the bombing of Hiroshima, White Light Black Rain. A survivor was recounting how her sister chose to kill herself rather than endure the pain of living. She said she realized then that there are two kinds of courage: "The courage to live, and the courage to die."


  7. Andre, I didn't realize he was Harold until about episode three or four...when I looked him up on imdb. Yes, pathetic. And a Kumar cameo would be fabulous, especially as Kal Penn evidently isn't going to work for Obama.

    Anon, it's good--no, it's better, but not good--to know they weren't chasing down actual pilgrims.

    Jess, when you said 'Mark could at least put the board in a different spot!' I burst out laughing. Coffee on the laptop laughing. Thank you.

  8. Actually, I said he could put the *things* on the board in a different spot, but putting the whole board in a different spot would be a swell idea, too! (Now *I* can't stop laughing! Sorry about the laptop.)

    But seriously, it makes no sense to me that he wouldn't try such a thing. All he did was burn the friendship bracelet from his daughter. Is it really that hard to put the picture of the doll head on the right side of the board instead of the left? Is he afraid that he won't be able to solve the mystery if he changes things up? Even at the possible cost of his sobriety and his marriage? Do the characters think minor changes are pointless and only something as drastic as killing oneself will be sufficient to avert a potentially negative future? As Billie said, why is something like this only happening now, this late in the game?

    Things like that just drive me nuts on this show.

  9. It always worries me when the fans are two steps ahead of the writers on a show. They're the professionals, aren't they? I know we're smart :), but they're supposed to be several steps ahead of us.

  10. Sadly, All I have to add is...
    Prince, really? :)

  11. The question now is, what the hell are those flashforwards? They are obviously not what's going to happen. Did they come from another universe? (in the quantum sense)

    The idea that anything can change is a bit of a disappointment for me. I for one don't care about the flashforwards anymore. Since the writers can change anything at any time (and as a result, should), whatever comes true is completely random. That whole sense of impending doom is gone. What remains is 24 in slow motion. We have to get the baddies who caused the flashforwards in 24 weeks! ;)

    Unless they change the rules again. Maybe there will be more flashforwards that show some things will apparently not change. A bit like Johnny's visions in The Dead Zone, which are very hard to decipher and even harder to prevent.

  12. @Remco

    Remember the episode when Dominic Monaghan's character discusses Schrödinger's cat to land the girl on the train.

    I think that was the biggest clue to the validity of the FF's. Gough's suicide is simply IMO the finality that indeed the FF's aren't sealed in cement.

  13. I have to disagree. I'm not a physicist, but here is how I understand it:

    The Schrödinger's cat experiment tells us that quantum mechanics can have an effect on larger objects than atoms (such as killing cats). Basically you let the fate of a radioactive atom (which falls apart completely randomly) decide whether to kill a cat.

    One interpretation of this experiment is that as long as you haven't observed the fate of the cat, the cat is both alive and dead, and everything in between (these are the infinite amount of universes). But once you observe, you become entangled with the cat, and its fate is sealed. You lock into one universe. (Another interpretation is that the cat observes itself and dies immediately if killed.)

    If we count the flashforwards as real observations, then we should be locked in a group of universes where those visions are possible. Everything we saw should be fixed. Everything we didn't see is still variable.

    In Lost, the same thing is happening. Everything we already knew is fixed. All the things we don't know are variable. Except for the whole nuking the island which is supposed to push them out of that universe and make everything possible.

    But I think it has now been established on FlashForward that the visions are not of this universe. Or at least that they don't lock us into a universe (which is almost the same thing). Maybe we could explain that away as "they don't entangle us because they haven't happened yet". ;)

  14. Hey Remco,

    Good explanation, but in my opinion you are correct to a point. The entanglement is always broken when an observation occurs, if a future is know then it is not fixed because we already observed it.

    Say we look at the cat and not the atom. Therefore we observed part of the system - part of the wave function - and then closed the box again.

    If the cat is dead - the cat's future is fixed but the state of the system is unknown - i.e. the atom's state is unknown (maybe the cat was just old?). If the cat is alive - the future is completely unknown.


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