Let me see if I understand: Desmond ended up on the island because he broke up with Penny and then entered the sailing race to show up her scotch-hoarding father. Then it was three years of stationary-bike riding and obedient button pushing, et cetera, et cetera. Right up until the day Desmond turned the fail-safe key and the Hatch blew up. Then, he traveled back in time and was offered another chance not to break up with Penny, enter a sailing race, and get shipwrecked. What's to keep a guy from choosing Door #2, a.k.a. the option where you don't live alone underground for three years? Oh, right: Everyone could die if he doesn't.
I can see why Desmond was unnerved by the woman who wouldn't sell him the ring — she was also pretty creepy in that Nicole Kidman film called...The Others. I'm positive I still don't understand what Desmond's ''secret'' tells us about how time works on the island. At first, the whole thing seemed a bit nonsensical. The white-haired woman pointed out the man in the red shoes to illustrate determinism — he was going to die; the question was simply when and how. Yet she told Desmond that if he didn't find his way to the island and push that button every 108 minutes, ''every one of us will be dead.'' So Desmond must have had the ability to not do these things: free will. Thanks to a quick Wikipedia refresher course on philosopher David Hume, however, it all makes sense. Kinda. Basically, Hume's theory of compatibilism posits that free will and determinism both exist, and that what we do with our lives is essentially the result of these two concepts butting against each other. In other words, things are going all Sophie's World on us: Desmond Hume is living one of David Hume's theories.
Compatibilism aside, I simply enjoyed Desmond's flash. (I'm not certain yet whether is was a flashback or not.) It gave Henry Ian Cusick a chance to do so much more than just brood and generally not explain himself. And the twist at the end — when we learned that Desmond had been trying to save Charlie, not Claire, from imminent death — was excellent and unexpected. And here I thought we were going to spend this episode hearing Locke go on about how the island killed Mr. Eko. (Not that I have anything against Mr. Eko; I'm just not ready to revisit the whole polar-bear thing yet.)
I think it's clear, however, that Charlie cannot die. You're with me, right? The balance on the island would be completely upset. Claire needs a partner, Hurley needs a buddy, we all need to see backstories where a character sings Oasis songs. It just wouldn't be the same without Charlie. Desmond must know this, and that's why he's fighting to save Charlie's life rather than accept defeat or, as it were, determinism. But none of this is up to us TV Watchers...or is it?
What do you think? Can you find any significance in the name of the scotch: MacCutcheon? Like Desmond, is Juliet also privy to glimpses of the future (such as her ex getting hit by the bus)? Is the white-haired woman the first ''outside'' person (i.e., not one of the future castaways) who has betrayed knowledge of the island in a backstory (or simul-story) sequence? Did Claire always have bangs? Is Alan Dale the only actor who's allowed to play rich SOBs on TV? And who else is excited about (maybe) finding out what happened to the children next week?