Been wrapping my brain around a few things all week long. First off, it appears there are only two episodes left this season since they're counting the two-hour season finale as two episodes (Part I & Part II). That sucks, but the good news is that this week's episode, "Follow The Leader," is RICHARD CENTRIC! WOO HOO! About damn time!
Secondly, as Carly (and Missie through e-mail pointed out to me), Eloise is definitely not Charlie's grandmother. Charles may be his grandfather, but he certainly has hinted that Penny may not be his biological daughter after all. Perhaps he took her from someone the same way Ben took Alex? That would be.. poetic, perhaps?
Now some thoughts on the episode itself:
1) Eloise and Daniel
All this season I've wondered what Eloise's motivations were. She forced Desmond to end up on the Island, even when he had a chance to change things. She helped the O6 (and Ben) get back to the Island, even though she had to know they'd end up in the past (I wonder if she knew Ben and Sun would end up in the present day). And lastly, she worked her whole life to make sure her son ended up on a path that would take him back in time to be shot at her own hand.
I have to think that if she thought she had any chance of changing things, she would have taken it. Thus she seemed to have been working all this time to preserve the time loop and the events of the past, a thought that, up until he returned from Ann Arbor, Daniel would have shared with her. But whatever research Daniel conducted in Ann Arbor, made him change his mind. Thus now Jack and company are going to try to change things, even though I think they're going to fail (and that that failure directly results in the Incident).
So who's right? Eloise or Daniel? It's possible they both are - most people can't change the future, but a few of them (like Desmond) can.
2) Where do we go from here?
So will happen post-incident? If they can't change the future, the Incident will happen and we move on from there. In this scenario, they may end up trying to preserve the time loop with their present day selves, much like Eloise did with Daniel. That would be a kind of sad ending.
But if they can change the future, I'm betting they will end up changing it for the worse (i.e. catastrophically) and end up in Season 6 trying to change it back. That would be kind of fun. Furthermore, let's say they do change the future catastrophically, but Desmond isn't affected.
In other words, you get kind of a Back to the Future, Part II dark alternate future where Kate's in jail, Sawyer's dead, Jack's a druggie and Hurley's insane. But Desmond wakes up in this alternate future, not only without Penny and Charlie, but with a complete memory of the old time line (also known as the Bishop effect)! He's freaked out and desperate to get back to the old time line, back to his previous life. So what does he do? He gets as much of the old band back together as he can and manages to convince them to help him get back to the Island. Once there, he changes things back, even though it means some of his friends (Charlie, Daniel) will die. I kinda like that idea too.
3) If the time line changed, what would happen to everyone?
Grub Street commented on this in the comments of the review. Assuming a non-catastrophic future, what would everyone's lives look like if the Incident never took place? Two things to think about here - Off-Island and On-Island:
The Incident takes place in 1977. However, because of the time travel several events that took place in the past wouldn't happen, most notably Daniel telling Richard to bury the Jughead bomb. If Daniel doesn't make that trip, there's a decent chance the bomb could explode in the 1950's instead. Now that could end up creating our catastrophic future. It also could be why Eloise was so fixed on making sure Daniel stayed on his path. Perhaps you can change the future, but if you do, it'll be worse than not changing it.
But let's say that even without Daniel the bomb gets buried and everything's okay, what happens next? Eloise never shoots Daniel, who probably goes on to become a classical pianist.
Ben and Richard could still Purge the DI (even though Ben never gets shot by Sayid), kidnap Alex and banish Charles. But Locke never meets Richard, who never expects him to appear and Ethan is never born as Sawyer's not around to save Amy.
But DHARMA might be a bit stronger on the Island without the Incident. The computer and button aren't needed, so Kelvin is also never needed in the Swan (and possibly not recruited). Also, if the Incident is the reason pregnant women keep dying on the Island, it's possible Ben never recruits Juliet (he might not be quite as evil without being shot by Sayid as well). Desmond may still crash on the Island, but perhaps he's killed by the Others instead of ending up in the Hatch. Alternatively he could decide to simply marry Penny the first time. And lastly, of course, with no button for Desmond to push, Flight 815 never crashes.
In present day, it's likely the Others would be living quite peacefully on the Island with limited problems.
Presumably, all the Losties lives would continue on the course they were on when they boarded the plane. As of last episode, none of the time travelers have met up with their younger counterparts, so there would be no rewriting of history in that regard. All their lives should be exactly the same right up to the moment they get on Flight 815, which would then touch down safely in L.A.
Everyone who died on the Island would be alive: Boone & Shannon, Arzt, Frogurt, Eko, Ana-Lucia, Libby, Charlie, Claire (presumably), Michael, even Nikki & Paolo. Jack would head back to L.A. and have his dad's funeral. Kate would go to jail. Locke would remain paralyzed, go back to box company, if he didn't commit suicide first. Rose would die of cancer. Sayid and Nadia would likely meet and get married. Sawyer would probably end up in jail too. Charlie would still be a druggie, washed-up musician. Sun and Jin would probably end up getting a divorce, thanks to Sun's father (either that or one or both of them would end up dead). Hurley would still be unlucky and rich (of course, it's possible with Hurley that he never hears the Numbers if anything happened to the Radio Tower and Leonard never heard them).
Claire's the most interesting question. Who was the family in L.A. who was going to adopt Aaron in L.A.? Was it Jack's mom? Someone from DHARMA? Or, as I suspect, if one of the time travelers arranged for Claire to get on Flight 815, does she even board the plane at all if history is changed? Perhaps the Australian family adopts Aaron instead since she'd probably have fewer reservations?
Overall, I think everyone would be fairly miserable, except for Sayid and Daniel (who's probably alive and happy his mom didn't drive him to be a scientist). The Island, if nothing else, gave everyone a blank slate and, with the exception of those who died, probably improved their lives. If the show ends with time being re-written without the Incident, it might make for a very sad ending to the show, especially since none of the Losties would ever get to know each other.
Anyhoo, just three more hours this season. Enjoy the show Wednesday! Review up Thursday morning! :)