In my opinion, that was the best episode of LOST ever.
Despite the fact that I was exhausted after an awesome and exciting day of seeing the next President of the United States speak in Fort Worth, I watched the episode twice, back to back.
It reminded me of a few things, first, of the books Slaughterhouse Five and The Time Traveler's Wife, and also of the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the episode entitled All Good Things. In each of those stories, a character is unstuck from time. The Time Traveler's Wife, however, isn't as good a comparison, despite being an outstanding book, because the character actually travels through time in body as well as mind. In the other two stories, and in this episode as well, the character only travels through time with their consciousness.
In the series finale of TNG (Star Trek fans understood that), Captain Picard is unstuck from time, experiencing things in three different time periods. As the episode progresses, he recognizes a time anomaly that is constant in all three periods. It isn't until he confronts that anomaly that he is able to return to the "present day" and time reverts to normal for him. I also think it's fitting that Star Trek is referenced in this way in LOST, since series creator, J.J. Abrams is writing and directing the new Star Trek movie.
Billy Pilgrim, the main character in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, isn't so lucky as Desmond and Picard. He remains unstuck from time throughout the entire story. What's interesting about Vonnegut's book is that a main character in the book is Sci Fi writer Kilgore Trout, who is the book version of Kurt Vonnegut. In Phillip K. Dick's Valis, which Locke gave to Benry Gale to read last week, one of the main characters is Horselover Fat, the book version of Phillip K. Dick. Not sure if that connection is intended or important, but it certainly was interesting to me.
Another side note, a few weeks ago when I talked about the second episode introducing the Freighter folk, I mentioned that Jeremy Davies was in the outstanding film Million Dollar Hotel. His character in that movie is in love with a women named Eloise, also the name of the mouse in this episode.
Back to the episode, although the helicopter only takes a small amount of time to reach the freighter from the Island, it seems longer to those still on the Island. And that time difference is far greater then the 31 minutes we were shown earlier. This leads me to believe that time runs completely differently on the Island as it does off of it. In other words, on the Island, time is not a constant.
Minkowski, the real one, not the episode one, is famous because he realized and defined time's role in our world, the fourth dimension to our three dimensional beings. Therefore it remains constant in how we see it. We can't relate to time as it truly is, since as three dimension beings we can only see the part of it that intersects with our world. Just as a picture on a piece of paper would have no understanding of depth. It would understand height and width as they truly were (being an understandable part of their two dimensional world) but wouldn't fully grasp depth, the third dimension. Somehow, the Island isn't part of the three dimensional world that we're used to, and therefore time doesn't work the way that we're used to it working.
In the episode, Minkowski dies, I think, because the ideas that he represents (i.e. the theories posited by his namesake) are no longer valid.
Until Next Time, I'm going to think on this more, and probably watch the episode again, and I wouldn't be surprised if I have some more thoughts on this episode. As I said, I think this was the greatest episode of LOST ever.