I've been doing some thinking about what the "frozen donkey wheel" just might be, and have some ideas and thoughts.
If we look at the big shocking (and secret) last scenes of the previous seasons, we have (with their codewords):
- Season 1, "The Bagel": Walt is kidnapped by the Others. I'd also toss in blowing open the hatch and Jack and Locke peering down the hole.
- Season 2, "The Challah": The guys in the mountain research station discover the island and call Penny Widmore.
- Season 3, "The (Rattle)Snake in the Mailbox": The scenes with Jack are actually a flash-forward (not a flashback) and Jack and Kate are off the island.
In all three of these, the effect was to expand the scope of the story by adding in a new possibility: the hatch; the island search; people off the island. Note that in *none* of these were the basic rules of the show changed. It's not a dream, there weren't any magic events, it wasn't a virtual reality.
What this means for Season 4, I think, is that the "frozen donkey wheel" isn't anything that changes the rules. We won't see everyone die or come back from the dead, it won't be revealed that it's all a dream or virtual reality, the island won't travel through time, and no one will be frozen in time. What we'll get is a storytelling surprise that changes our understanding of what is going to happen or could happen, with the story and rules as we've seen them so far.
Based on this theory here's some of my ideas related to the "frozen donkey wheel", ranked from smaller scale (and more likely) to larger scale (and less likely):
- Sawyer appears at Kate's house in the future scenes.
In the flash-forward, Sawyer manages to get off the island (perhaps like Ben did in 2005) and makes his way to Kate's house. He shows up at her door and tells her they need to go back to the island. They kiss (the much-gossiped-about "big kiss"). Perhaps he says he came back because he loves her.
I like this one. It tells us that Sawyer is alive, that people on the island are alive, and that they need help. It makes Kate break the conditions of her plea bargain from the court case. It helps with the redemption of Jack, but at the price of Sawyer and Kate being together.
- The story jumps to present day.
The main storyline jumps to today (2007/2008). Either the Oceanic Six are preparing to go back to the island, or on their way back, or have gone back. The events intervening years (from 2005 to current day) would be told in flashback during Season 5.
A fun one that plays around with continuing a non-linear narrative. It's mainly an extension of the previous concept, with the addition of jumping farther forward. If they wanted to get even crazier, they could jump to the true end of the story (all conflict settled, everyone off the island) then work backwards from there.
- We go waaaaay back and Charles Widmore is revealed to have been on the Black Rock.
The last scene is a sailing ship stuck in a fierce storm, being driven into an island by a giant wave. Once it crashes, the crew looks to the captain for leadership. The captain is Magnus Hanso, but we know him as Charles Widmore.
This would be interesting, as it would give evidence for Widmore's claim to the island and his statement that Ben can't hurt him. This would be a little more magical because how could Widmore be that old? Well, that's the island healing power. The crew of the Black Rock could be the original Others. Would Richard be there? Maybe.
- Someone is shown actually transporting off the island.
Wonder how Ben got to Tunisia? Wonder no more. We get to see someone transport off the island. Maybe Sawyer.
Fun, but doesn't seem too shocking. I think the audience pretty much assumes some sort of transport can happen, given Ben's appearance in the desert.
- Everyone dies.
In some sort of future scene, everyone dies. So sad. But it does show us an ending and make us wonder "how did this happen?"
Mmmmeh. I have a tough time with the "kill everyone off" ending. I'm doubting this one.
- Some sort of physical time travel or time sticking occurs.
The island moves backward or forward in time, or is revealed to be stuck in time.
While there is some evidence to bolster the "stuck in time" theory (doctor death), I'm not a fan of this one. I think there's other ways to handle things without resorting to what is essentially magic.
- We learn what the smoke monster is.
Yeah, right. Like that's going to happen. Besides, the smoke monster is the souls of all the people who have died on the island. That's my story and I'm sticking with it!
We'll know by the end of the month. Until then, one just has to keep looking for clues. This week's episode should move between the freighter and the cabin.