Warning, nothing but spoilers ahead.

I usually love Desmond-centric episodes of “Lost,” but this one didn’t really do it for me. That might sound like blasphemy, based on all the raves for the episode that I’ve been reading online. In the past, Desmond stories have been, almost exclusively, epic tales of romance, of a love that crosses time and space. I didn’t quite get that this time, even though all the pieces were there. It seemed like more of a set-up episode. Which is fine, but with just five episodes left before the finale, I’d like a little less setup and a little more resolution. And I’m getting a little impatient. (Even though I know all my questions won’t ultimately be answered, and I’m going to have to settle for what they give me.)

That being said, I liked how it laid out some intriguing plot points. I think we got our first indication of what’s going on with the parallel timeline, and I think I’ll appreciate the episode more in retrospect, once it’s all revealed.

The big “aha!” moment for me came when Eloise (Widmore in this reality, not Hawking, hmmm) hissed to Desmond that he wasn’t ready, to stop looking for whatever he was looking for and that his awareness of Penny was “in violation” of  . . . . something. Sounds to me like Eloise is not only aware of the parallel timeline, but knows the rules of how it works, and probably how it was created and what its purpose is. Could she have picked up Daniel’s notebook on the island after Jack and the Losties time-traveled away? Is she in cahoots with the Man In Black? Or Jacob? Is she somehow communicating to Island Widmore, and Alt-Desmond’s increasing awareness of another reality is why Island Widmore orders the test sped up? I have no clue. But she’s somehow the key to all this. I think the revelation that she knows is a reassuring sign that the show is on track, that there is an answer to this, and we’re beginning the endgame.

Here’s a theory: Alt-Widmore and Alt-Eloise both know about the parallel timeline and Desmond’s role as the key figure in it (however that may be). In this timeline, instead of forbidding Desmond from being with Penny (which didn’t work and caused all kinds of island mayhem in the real world), Alt-Widmore cozies up to him, playing the father figure and lavishing him with praise and prestige and basically doing anything that will keep Desmond happy and content. And away from Penny, who he doesn’t even know exists (and if Alt-Widmore and Alt-Eloise have their way, never will). Kinda a keep-your-enemies-closer type of thing. But Daniel pops this plan by sharing his “imaginary time” suspicious.

Although . . . . are Eloise and Widmore actually on opposing sides? If Eloise intended to keep Desmond far from Daniel and Penny, why would Widmore have him babysit Charlie and then break the news to Eloise in person? It’s almost like Widmore was forcing something to happen.

We also got a major reveal as to the parallel timeline: It’s not an epilogue, it’s not heaven . . . . it seems to be an actual alternate reality, a tangent in time where all the Losties have their wishes fulfilled, sorta. Everyone has gotten something they dreamed of, but at the sacrifice of something else. Desmond has Widmore’s approval, but not Penny. Charlie has his band, but not Claire. Daniel has a music career, but not Charlotte. The love of Sayid’s life is alive, but not with him. They’re leading the lives they thought they wanted, yet are now missing the one thing that made their lives worth living. Be careful what you wish for . . . .

Other random thoughts:

— In the alt-world, is Eloise trying to keep Desmond away from the island in an effort to make sure her son, Daniel, isn’t killed? In this timeline, she still would have killed Daniel on the island in 1977 (Right? Since that happened before the nuke?). But what if she figured out if she changed the future enough, Daniel would never go to the island in the first place? Desmond was the catalyst for all the Losties’ adventures. Without him — and he’s also Daniel’s constant — her son becomes a musician and lives safely in L.A. I don’t know how you could change the past by changing the future though. That’s where I start to get a nosebleed.

— Of course, who are the ones pushing Desmond to see the other reality? Daniel and Charlie, who both died in the real world. Maybe they know (or somehow feel) they’re supposed to be dead and time needs to be mended. “What happened, happened,” right?

— The power of love. All you need is love. As Charlie says, “consciousness-altering love.” The message in the alt-world seems to be a life without true love isn’t worth living. Cute sentiment, but if that’s the secret to everything that’s happened, I’m going to feel more than a little bit cheated. I’m hoping the meaning of the past six seasons is a little deeper than a song title.

— I liked the re-introduction of science to the island. The series has always pitted science vs. faith, and after spending the first half of the season seeing the island’s spiritual, mythological side, it’s refreshing to see the theoretical, scientific side. The two sides co-exist in modern society, so I don’t see why they can’t play equally important roles on the island.

— Nice creepy moment with Charlie stuck in the sinking car and Desmond flashing to the “Not Penny’s boat” moment. Seems like near-death experiences allow you to see the other reality — Charlie saw Claire as he was choking on the heroin, and maybe that explains Juliet’s last words: “It worked.”

— Nice to see Minkowski appear as Desmond’s limo driver. Remember him? He was the radio operator on the freighter who died from the effects of getting too close to the island without a constant. Once a Widmore henchman, always a Widmore henchman.

— Did anyone else notice the painting in Widmore’s office? It was a scale, with black rocks and white rocks in balance. Hmmmm.

— So the island must not have sank immediately after the nuclear explosion in 1977. There are too many people alive in the alt-reality who were on the island then. Or maybe that timeline began before 1977, though I don’t understand how that could have happened.

— Is Widmore planning on sending Desmond back in time, perhaps to push the button or something that will prevent the two realities from bleeding together and destroying everything? Desmond would have to give up Penny and his son in one life so that the Alt-Penny (and his potential son) in the other life could live. Yeah, that’d be quite a sacrifice.

— Hmmm, think Desmond and Penny will bump into Sawyer and Juliet at the coffee shop?