LEADER OF THE PACK Sawyer blossomed during his time with the Dharma initiative and became the born leader he never knew he could be
By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''If Jack is the Man of Science, and if John Locke is the Man of Faith, then I nominate Sawyer as Man of Heart. To hell with it: Can we just say he's the effin' man?!' Because in last night's Lost, he certainly was all that, plus a bag of Dharma chips. The kind of dude all the boys want to be; the kind of hunk that all the girls wanna get with — provided they're cool with his new slightly shorn and less stubbled look. Stepping up as leader, savior, and super-cool boyfriend — and succeeding wildly at all three — Sawyer found himself born again in the Dharma Initiative past. He seemed perfectly at home, perfectly at ease, perfectly self-realized within the confines of the trippy-hippy Utopian commune. Making the ex-con the head of Dharma security? Genius. Coupling him with fertility doc-turned-motor pool mechanic Juliet? Totally worked for me. Kudos to Josh Holloway and Elizabeth Mitchell for selling us on the best romance Lost has ever given us. Consider my membership in the Skater/SawKate/Kateyer 'shipper club resigned, chopper kiss be damned. But bliss is fleeting on Lost, and so, after Sawyer told Dharma's troubled uber-nerd Horace Goodspeed that he could barely remember the face of the girl that got away, we got the moment the entire season had been setting us up for. As Sawyer locked eyes with his former (?) fugitive dreamgirl, newly returned to the Island, I heard Sawyer's internal monologue say ''Oh, yeah. I, like, totally love you. Er, I mean, loved you. I mean: Crap!'' If they gave Emmy nominations for meaningful gazes, Holloway should start ironing his tuxedo T-shirt and best ripped jeans, because he'd be going to the ceremony.
The timing of the episode couldn't have better. As much as I dig trippy time travel puzzles and heady riffs on religion, reason, and existentialism, Lost's fifth season has very much lived inside its big old brain. ''LaFleur'' — flower in French — felt as if the show decided to open up some windows and let some fresh spring air chase away the stuffiness. I laughed, I teared up (Juliet delivered a baby! She's not the Passover angel, after all!), I got goosebumps. ''LaFleur'' reminded me that Lost is at its best when the show is an emotionally-charged adventure story that keeps its geeky mysteries in the background — not invisible at all, but rather turned away from the drama lest they overwhelm us and the story. You know: Exactly like last night's long-awaited return appearance by Four Toed Statue (Complete Edition), which loomed in the horizon, back turned to us and the castaways, standing like some Statue of Liberty scanning the horizon and beckoning lost, huddled masses to come to it shores...so Smokey can eat them. Decoding the visible details demands a Doc Jensen column of its own. But briefly: Looks Egyptian. Skirt, but no shirt — so despite the long hair, I'm thinking male. Those appear to be ankhs in the hands — symbolic of life in general and eternal life, specifically. And on the head, two pointy ears (Cat? Greyhound? Pig? Spock?) and a rectangular headpiece, like a crown or Jughead's beanie. These clues could link to any number of Egyptian deities (Bast, Set, Anubis, and Horus will be popular guesses), though given how the Island's wormhole exits into a different North Africa nation — Tunisia — I'm mulling Ba'al and Moloch, too. In that spirit, I would like to cover my ass and note that...we never actually saw that famous foot, did we? Was this really Four Toed Statue — or some monolithic companion? For now, let's stick with the general vibe the Statue gives us: The Island appears to have once been home to an ancient civilization; and that Egyptian connotation reminds us that Egyptians were fixated on the afterlife and the possibility of resurrection. Both themes were detectable in ''LaFleur.''
We got this mystery-expanding glimpse of the Statue in ''LaFleur's'' opening sequence, which picked up with the Left Behinders (Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles, and Faraday) at the end of ''This Place Is Death.'' They spotted the Statue, then — strrrrrrrrrrrrrretch — The Island slung them into 1974, with unprecedented force and a sense of finality. ''I think it's over. I think John did it,'' Juliet said. And as performed by Elizabeth Mitchell, flashing active thinking and using quiet understatement, I totally bought it.
I also think that 1974 is when/where the castaways were always and immediately supposed to have gone when Ben turned the donkey wheel last season. They didn't because of two mistakes that required elaborate course correction: Locke not turning the wheel, and the Oceanic 6 (plus Desmond and Lapidus) leaving. From there, ''LaFluer'' toggled between separate arcs in separate time frames: 1974, which showed how the Left Behinders came into contact with The Dharma Initiative; and 1977, which revealed that the Left Behinders had seamlessly integrated into Dharma society. We shall deal with each year separately — after this slight digression:
Note how 1974-1977 = the 2005-2008 (the off-Island/Oceanic 6 years) years. I wonder if we can/should tease out that symmetry even further. The Left Behinders' Dharma drama very much echoed the O6's off-Island ordeal, complete with cover-up lie, a dead body to haul around, and a con man-turned-shepherd. (Ben = Sawyer here.)
Moreover: Have you noticed how Season 5 of Lost resembles Season 2 of Lost? Season 2 emphasized the Man of Science/Man of Faith conflict and introduced us to the Dharma Initiative mythology. Season 5: Lots of faith/reason; lots of Dharma. When you consider that Season 4 mirrored Season 3 (split group story lines; a climactic attack on the castaways; similar Coffin/''We've got to go back'' cliffhanger), what you have is a saga that's doubling back on itself.
Does this mean Season 6 will emulate Season 1? And given that we're now dealing with time travel and paradox, might Season 6 literally follow in Season 1's footprints due to some looming reboot of time? Will Season 5 culminate with an event that will alter all of Lost chronology, setting up a Season 6 that will reveal the scope of those alterations by retelling the entire saga from the very beginning? How's this for the opening sequence of next year's premiere: Jack wakes up in the jungle, right after the crash of Oceanic 815. He races around the beach, saving people, just as he did in Lost's pilot. Except this time, things are little different. Boone, Shannon, Michael, and Walt won't be there — but Miles and Faraday might. Maybe Locke will still be a paraplegic; perhaps his magic legs were a temporary gift lent to Locke so that he could accomplish what he needed to do for the Island? And all the flashbacks? The same — and yet, significantly different, too. Call it ''The Rough Draft to Final Draft Theory of Lost.''
Ending digression; commence coherent recapping in 3-2-1...
Stephen King publishes 'Lost'-cited Carrie; Watergate creates constitutional crisis, leading to Nixon's resignation; Ali beats Foreman in the ''Rumble in the Jungle''; the Lucy skeleton is found; Dr. Stanley Milgram publishes results of his controversial ''Milgram experiment,'' an inquiry into human obedience. See: The Button?
YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU... WHEN YOU TIME JUMP.
''It'' being ''dead bodies.'' We learned through Charlotte-grieving Daniel Faraday that Charlotte's corpse stayed behind in the time period she died. Professor Mumbles kept muttering: ''I'm not going to do it...'' Possibilities: 1. ''I'm not going to try to do anything to change the past to prevent Charlotte's death. That would be irresponsible. Maybe even impossible. Still! Must. Not. Even. TRY.'' (He's totally gonna try.) 2. ''I'm not going to be the boogeyman that scared Charlotte when she was a little girl! I'm a nice guy, not a bogeyman! And I'm willing to do whatever it takes to avert my bogeyman destiny, because I. Am. No. BOGEYMAN!'' (He's totally gonna go bogeyman. Did you seem him spaz when he glimpsed young Charlotte in the Dharma compound? Foreshadowing, peeps!)
ME TARZAN. YOU...JUST DO WHAT I SAY, OR I'LL SLAP YOU. OR CALL YOU NAMES.
From the get-go last night, Sawyer was the picture of sacrifice. The second he saw that well reappear — BAM! He was on it, ready to shimmy into the underworld. He was the man with the misguided beach plan, and he showed admirable restraint dealing with Miles' sarcastic derision — and admirable humility when Juliet chided him privately for his stupid idea. But publicly, she backed his plays 100%. I loved this. I loved how in 1974, she built up his heroic character — and then in 1977, he returned the favor by rebuilding hers when he called upon her to deliver that baby. ''You're going to do great. I know you are,'' he said. Mersh. Sawyer was showered with something he rarely gets: trust. And what happened? He flourished. Like a flower. LaFleur. See how this works? (BTW: How much was Juliet the ideal mate last night? She cooks! She cleans! She fixes cars and executes impromptu caesarean sections and covers your back in a gunfight and never, ever contradicts her hubby in public. Whattawoman!)
Classic Sawyer line: ''Thanks anyway, Plato.''
HEY... AREN'T YOU THE DEAD CHICK FROM 24?
Yes, she was. And she was about to become another dead girl on Lost until Super-Sawyer swooped in. The Left Behinders found newcomer Amy (Reiko Aylesworth, much missed from 24), about to be executed by two swarthy-ruffian Others who had already popped her husband, Paul. Juliet and James put the bad guys down, then got the skinny from doe-eyed Amy: They had landed in the Dharma past. Dharma was at war with ''The Hostiles'' — but there was a truce. So killing those Others was clearly going to be a problem. When she insisted that the Others be buried, I wondered: Why? Do they need to be buried? Because of some ritual or Island resurrection magic...and then it hit me that sh ewas just attempting some Watergatesque cover-up action, and I told my brain to STOP IT WITH THE THEORIZING FOR A MINUTE.
But I must duck into a rabbit hole for just a sec, because Faraday's despairing line about the propriety of changing the past stopped me cold. ''It doesn't matter what we do. Whatever happened, happened.'' Okay, I'll accept this as true. For now. But would that hypothesis become less accurate if we were to learn that whatever has happened on Lost wasn't supposed to happen? After all, according to Charles Widmore, Locke was supposed to have reached the Island many years earlier. And what happens when destiny is thwarted? Course correction, which might not be comprised of instantaneous fixes, but rather require a hit-and-miss process over time. If Locke's life and Lost's entire chronology is comprised of events that weren't supposed to happen, and if course correction is trying to fix everything that wasn't supposed to happen...well, maybe the past can be changed. Memo to Faraday: Maybe Charlotte was never supposed to die. And maybe what you're about to do in the past will facilitate another Island resurrection. Time will tell.
THE NAME'S LAFLEUR. JAMES LAFLEUR.
Amy didn't trust these Island newcomers and their fish tale about a shipwreck, so she set the sonic fence on stun and tricked them into walking into it. When Sawyer awoke in the Dharma rec room, it fell on him to save the Left Behinders with a cover story. Despite his statement earlier in the episode that ''I used to lie for a living,'' Sawyer effortlessly slid into con man mode to mask the unexplainable time travel adventure. He said his name was James LaFleur. He said he and his peeps were salvage hunters looking for the Black Rock. He said they got wrecked and now he's searching for his lost crew. We know from past Sawyer episodes that a successful lie is ''all about the details,'' and his story was full of them. It was a great bit of improvisation, and it seemed to sate Goodspeed...though I'm kinda partial to the idea that maybe Sawyer got all those details from the Island. You know, like, it magically uploaded everything he needed to know to secure his survival, just like Neo getting booted up with kung fu in The Matrix? I know. As stupid as trekking to the beach. (Why was that stupid again?)
BTW: I got nothing for you on why ''James LaFleur.'' Creole? One of my blind spots. Maybe next week.
THE RICHARD ALPERT/EYELINER JOKE
That line was genius — a classic example of Lost reflecting back the thoughts of its audience. Once again, stepping up to leadership, the newly-minted James LaFleur strode out to summit with Richard Alpert (looking more remarkably fit and debonair than ever) about the Incident At Picnic Blanket Grove, which threatened the Dharma/Others truce. (The Others do love a good torchlight meeting. See: ''The Hunting Party,'' another example of how Season 5 = Season 2.) Jim's brilliant negotiating strategy: Tell the truth. For corroboration, he dropped Jughead on him. ''Did you bury the bomb?'' Alpert glowed with recognition — but all I could think about were those eyeliner eyes. And then, epiphany! The Statue — Egyptian. The hieroglyphics in The Hatch and on The Temple — Egyptian. Weren't ancient Egyptians fond of eyeliner? That's what the movies tell me! So: Is Alpert Egyptian? FUN FACT FROM NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S WEBSITE: ''Both men and women in ancient Egypt wore a sort of eyeliner. The paint was made of minerals mixed with water, ground on palettes, and kept in tubes. It was worn for adornment and perhaps also to reduce the sun's glare.'' Don't say I never dispense useful info here!
In the end, Sawyer preserved the fragile peace accord by facilitating a fork-over of Amy's husband's body. Presumably, Alpert intended to deceive his people into thinking that he had gotten some eye-for-eye justice. Or one eye for two, as the case may be. Meeting Sawyer and knowing the time travelers had landed in '74 must have been a game-changer for Alpert: I wonder how this info will affect his war on Dharma? Does he become more reticent due to the threat of catastrophic paradox? Is that why the Island brought the castaways here — to change its outcome? A developing story line, to be sure.
Amy agreed to surrender Paul, but not before plucking off his symbolically-loaded Ankh necklace. Why are these Dharma people even here? Are they just trying to drop out of society? Are they searching for eternal life? Oh, another time. Sawyer's heroism dazzled Horace Goodspeed (well played by Doug Hutchinson), whose scraggly hippy hair reminded me of a certain flickering Island entity who likes to rock the chair and rock 'da house. (Remember: Horace did build that cabin for himself and his ''missus.'') And so, the Dharma mathematician/chief administrator offers ''LaFleur'' and his ''crew'' a two-week pass on the Dharma funny farm — this after Horace (yes, as in the Egyptian God) told Sawyer that he couldn't stay because ''he's not Dharma material.'' Maybe he saw in his heart the killer who choked Cooper and blew away a man he thought was Cooper. Sooner or later, James Ford will have to atone for that.
Juliet wanted nothing to do with the Dharma vacation package. She wanted to get on the Dharma sub and get away from Baby Killing Island. But... it's 1974 on the mainland?! ''It's not a reason not to go,'' Juliet said. But Sawyer batted his eyelashes, turned up the rakish Southern charm, and convinced her to stay in hope that John Locke would truly show up. ''Come on. All I'm asking for is two weeks.'' And somehow, two weeks turned into three years. It'll be interesting to see if Lost will give us the backstory on that, or ask us to roll with it. And I will.
'Star Wars' premieres, beginning its march to destiny: Inspiring 'Lost' theories; the BBC airs ''Alternative 3,'' a hoax documentary about scientists building a commune on Mars and the moon; the Senate begins hearings to investigate Project MKULTRA, a black op devoted to developing mind control techniques; the Apple II — the same computer used in The Hatch to push the button — is introduced.
THE THREE YEARS LATER TIME JUMP: DIDN'T THEY DO THIS ON BATTLESTAR GALACTICA?
Almost. At the end of BSG's second season, the Best Show Nobody Is Ever Going To Watch No Matter How Much They Beg (And Anyway It's Too Late) pulled a memorable one-year later time leap after the Adama's rag-tag refugees decided to bag their Earth quest and make do on a harsh rock they called New Caprica. Natch, the Cylons hunted them down, bringing hardship to their hard but happy home. How much you wanna bet Jack, Kate, Hurley and co. wind up becoming Cylons in this equation? Jack Shepherd will likely assume the role of Odysseus, trying to rouse his crew from their lotus-induced tranquility and make them move on, by any means necessary. But from Sawyer's perspective, the prospect may be as welcome as marauding toasters. We shall see.
WHY ELIZABETH MITCHELL IS A GREAT ACTRESS (1977 Edition)
Her face after helping Amy give birth. The emotions that she brought to the forefront in that much-too-quick scene: just floored me. Her terror over possibly facilitating more Island-baby death broke my heart — and made my mind spin. Interesting how her thought process on that has evolved to a place where she blames herself for those infants, like she has some kind of Island curse. But Sawyer brought up a provocative idea: Maybe the Island's anti-baby policy was inspired by an event that has not occurred yet. Provocative. Then again, that Dharma internist said they usually do all their baby deliveries on the mainland. My challenge to you: Give me a theory that makes Sawyer's logic work. JeffJensenEW@aol.com is how to reach me directly...if you dare.
DHARMA DAYS, DAZED AND CONFUSED: WHAT HAPPENED TO HORACE'S FIRST WIFE?
What can we conclude about Dharma life from 1974-1977? For starters: mucho nooky. In the fields. In the Dharma security command center. In Sawliet's bed. The society struck me as a well-oiled machine. Their thriving compound was an integrated Utilitarian haven, a place where meaning and satisfaction can be found by playing an assigned and useful role. The sandwiches looked yummy. And there were flowers. Beautiful, blooming daisy to be plucked and given to your true love to complete a romantic dinner. ''I love you,'' Juliet. I was expecting a Han Solo-esque quip from Sawyer (''I know''), but as he has done all season, the new, improved Sawyer bared himself: ''I love you, too.'' Again, I sigh: Mersh. Remember how the Island cured Rose's cancer and allowed Locke to flourish physically and spiritually; and remember Locke, Jack and all the Oceanic 6 basically disintegrated as people the longer they spent away from the Island. ''This place is death''? Well, sometimes. But other times, this place can be life — but it requires peace of character and being locked into your intended destiny. And right now, Sawyer is groovin'.
Nonetheless, there were signs of huge, debilitating ruptures forming in the Dharma edifice, beginning with the simple fact that they were at war with ''the hostile indigenous people'' of the Island. (Is Lost about to lay a Native America/colonist allegory on us? Hmmm...) The patch on Horace's Dharma suit was the Arrow. This is the station that Dr. Marvin Candle was recording the orientation film for in the season premiere. The Arrow's function: Spy on the Hostiles. So much for peace, love, and understanding. Another story line to keep our eyes on: Imploding Horace. We saw him blowing up trees with dynamite out near the Flame. He was sloshed — and Horace never gets sloshed. Sawyer and Miles raced out to retrieve their strong and fearless leader before anyone saw him not so strong and not so fearless. And once again, this season's theme of suspect leadership was renewed.
What set Horace off? Finding the ankh necklace of Amy's dead hubby; apparently, Horace and the widow had married sometime in the past three years, and more, were expecting a child, which arrived two weeks early in this episode. A boy. Congratulations, unhappy parents. And now let the guessing game of ''Who will this baby will grow up to be on Lost?'' commence. My bet: Newcomer Caesar.
Sawyer's story about forgetting Kate's face seemed to ease Horace's angst over being able to trust in Amy's love for him. Is three years really enough to get over someone? ''Absolutely,'' Sawyer said. But clearly we were meant to wonder if a deeper trouble is roiling Goodspeed's soul. We know from the season 3 episode ''The Man Behind The Curtain'' that Horace and a woman who was his significant other, Olivia, aided Roger Linus during Ben's unexpected, woodsy birth. (So many preemies on the show. That can't be a coincidence.) That off-Island event occurred in the early sixties. We also know Roger and son migrated to the Island at the invitation of the Goodspeeds when he was a boy. Judging from Ben's age, his Island arrival date was probably in the early seventies. So where is Olivia? Did she get killed during some Hostile attack? Did she leave Horace? Is it possible Horace's timeline/destiny has been altered because of time travel shenanigans, leaving him feeling empty and lost?
One other odd glitch, intentional or otherwise. Last season, we learned from Ben that Charlotte was born on July 2, 1979. But there she was, looking 3-4ish, skipping across the Dharma playfield and waving at scary man Faraday. What up? Is time changing? Or just the writers doing some of their ''course correcting'' due to the needs of their story?
And yes, there's a more burning question: WHERE IS YOUNG DHARMA BEN?
I sensed a divided heart within Sawyer. Part of him is committed to keeping up the salvage vessel ruse and waiting ''as long as it takes'' for Locke and the O6 to return. But I also wonder if he's just keeping up a strong, tirelessly optimistic front for the sake of Sun-yearning (and now English-speaking adroit) Jin. But even the faithful hubby was beginning to wonder how long is too long to wait. Might he have his eye on a Dharma hottie, too? Those nightshifts inside the Dharma security station can get awfully cold and lonely, and there are only so many pot brownies one man can eat (and Geronimo Jackson to listen to) to number the pain.
As for Sawyer, part of him must be feeling, ''You know, if they never show up, I'm good with that. At least, until that Purge thing happens. That might be bad...'' Regardless, the Dharma daydream evaporated with the long-awaited call from Jin. Out there in the North Valley, as he arrived for his rendezvous with fate, I found myself (sniff, sniff) sad for Sawyer, because it seems to me that this paradise he has gained is about to be taken away from with the arrival of old, forgotten friends, who may have different designs and plans for him, however well-intentioned. But I don't think Sawyer will submit so easily to Jack's will. Do you?
One final thought: You know my Season 5 = Season 2 theory? Check this out: Episode 5.08 (''LaFleur'') corresponds with episode 2.08 (''Collision''). The final scene of that sophomore season outing? The much-anticipated Island meeting between Jack and his intended love interest, Ana Lucia, which was played out in the form of...an extended, silent gaze across yards of distance. Coincidence?
You have thoughts. You have opinions. You no doubt have complaints. So go for it. There's no Lost next week — but I'll be back on Wednesday with my usual Doc Jensen.