We go back to when Desmond and Sayid took off in the helicopter with the non-drunk Nick Nolte to head back to the freighter. They run into some turbulence, not helped by the fact Desmond wigs out while flashbacking to his stint in the Scottish army in 1996. What's strange is that Desmond's consciousness seems to be switching back and forth between the two Desmonds, and it's Military Desmond who is the real Desmond, and he thinks Island Desmond is a dream. Island Desmond doesn't recognize Sayid or even know where he is.
Sayid's confused because they left the island at dusk but arrived in the middle of the day after only a short flight. He calls Jack on the island, where it's been almost two days since the helicopter left. Daniel and Charlotte (especially Charlotte) are really cagey about what's going on, but Daniel tells Island Desmond via the satellite phone that the next time he switches back to Military Desmond, to look him up at Oxford, and to tell him to set the machine for 2.343 and to oscillate at 11 megahertz. And if that doesn't work, Military Desmond is to say, "I know about Eloise." See, sometimes people can get quite confused on their way to or from the island, especially if they've had some exposure to electromagnetism.
Military Desmond does as he's told, and finds younger Oxford Daniel is quite the professorial douchebag. Nevertheless, after passing on the message, Daniel thinks Desmond might very well be from the future, and, using the settings, points his machine at a little mouse named Eloise. The numbers Desmond provide get Eloise's consciousness "unstuck" in time, and allows her to quickly run a complicated maze that Daniel hasn't taught her to run yet. I think it's a bit of a leap to go from "mouse quickly runs maze" to "my time-travel experiment is a success!" Especially when Eloise the mouse dies of a brain aneurysm before too long. Daniel figures flipping back and forth between two time periods is plenty tough on the old grey matter, so he tells Military Desmond that Island Desmond better have an anchor (a metaphorical one, as opposed to the freighter's anchor).
So in 1996, Desmond harasses ex-girlfriend Penny (after meeting with Mr. Widmore at an auction that drops a ton of episode callbacks) into giving him her new phone number. He promises he won't call her today, or tomorrow, but in eight years, on Dec. 24, 2004. Penny, pissed that Desmond's calling her today, apparently thinks, "Right, I hope he's STILL STALKING ME EIGHT YEARS FROM NOW," and gives him her phone number. He's going to need that, if he's to avoid winding up like Minkowski, whom we finally meet on the freighter, not long before he shuffles off this mortal coil after flipping back and forth one too many times.
As we know, things have changed between Desmond and Penny in the intervening eight years, and she's thrilled to hear from him, and they have a tearful (and, to be honest, quite tear-jerking) conversation, despite Desmond looking more and more like Jimmy Fallon as Barry Effin' Gibb.
So: time-travel. Perhaps Desmond in 2027 should be sending a T-1000 to the island to look after the Lostaways.
Previously, on Lost, a bunch of stuff happened with Kate that doesn't have squat to do with this week's episode. But two episodes ago on Lost, Desmond and Sayid took off in Frank's helicopter in an attempt to get to the freighter.
Speaking of that helicopter, here it is, flying over the beautiful blue ocean once again. Frank has a note taped to the...dashboard? Yeah, that works, I'll call it the dashboard. Anyway, the note reads "40 miles N @ 305." (Oddly enough, the next line reads "7 K east." Isn't mixing metric and patriotic American measurements what got a space ship blown up a few years ago?) Also, just in case Frank gets confused, he has a little diagram to remind himself of which way is north, south, east, and west. Nick Nolte should get one of those -- it might keep him from driving on the wrong side of the highway. Sayid asks Frank what the drawing is, and Frank tells him it's something Daniel drew for him -- which makes the compass drawing a little more reasonable. Sayid is worried that Frank doesn't know where the boat is, but Frank tells him to relax. They keep flying on the same heading -- unfortunately, that heading is taking them right into a storm cloud. Sayid asks why Frank is flying into the storm instead of around it. Frank tells him to shut up and let him fly. Desmond is ignoring all of this, just looking at the picture of him and Penny. Sayid reminds us all that Charlie spoke with Penny and she told him she wasn't the one who sent the boat. Sayid asks what Desmond expects to find on the boat. Desmond: "Answers." He clearly doesn't know what show he's on. Surprisingly, flying directly into a storm cloud turns out to be not so fun -- the chopper gets tossed around, and Frank struggles to keep it on course. He tells his passengers to hold on, and Desmond grips the side of his seat.
Cut to Desmond, gripping the side of a cot as lights are turned on and a drill sergeant starts screaming at a bunch of soldiers to get out of bed and stand at attention. Desmond is clean-shaven, and looking pretty hot. (I know you care about these things.) Desmond, looking confused, is the last guy to stand at attention, and the drill sergeant calls him out by name for his slowness. Desmond explains that he was having a dream in which he was flying on a helicopter in a storm. (I'll leave out all the time he shouts "Sir," and all the times the drill sergeant is a dick.) The drill sergeant tells the soldiers that they're all going to be punished for Desmond's slowness.