By Jeff Jensen Mar 17, 2010
When Lost fans speak of ''set-up'' episodes, they're usually trying to be kind about an hour wherein nothing really happened besides moving characters emotionally and placing them geographically so they are primed and positioned for more eventful episodes to come. This wasn't that kind of set-up episode, even though it often played the part. While Queen Ilana’s beach crew cooled their heels off screen, King Crock Locke shepherded his freaked-out flock of ex-Others across The Island, first to Crazy Claire’s cozy-creepy Little Yoda Hut on the Prairie, then to Banyan Tree Creek. At one point, we got a shot where ''The Smoke-Thing'' practically played traffic cop, motioning his herd along the path like a flight attendant directing passengers off a plane after an emergency landing. (In a deleted scene, Cindy noted his technique, tried to correct him, and then got slapped silly for being ''inappropriate.'') Along the way, Locke Ness Monster diverted Secret Agent Sawyer to Hydra Island to smoke out insurgents among the Ajira passengers. Instead, Dharma's former security chief and de facto sheriff made the acquaintance of the smaller island's new regent, exiled uber-Other Charles Widmore — a little Elba for the Island's deposed Napoleon. Sawyer returned to Smokey with intel (Widmore's got goons, guns, and sonic fences) and new mysteries. (What — or who — is locked up in the submarine? Who slaughtered the Ajira 316 redshirts?) He also came back with a plan to get himself, Kate, and presumably Jin and Sun off the Island. Kate wondered: But who's going to fly the airplane? Silly rabbit! Don't you know Sawyer is all about the Watership Down? In short, ''Recon'' told us where almost everyone in the saga currently stands (and sits) in advance of significant action.
And yet, like a certain red-headed archaeologist who found great booty while digging through James Ford's sock drawer, I found much to treasure and ogle within ''Recon.'' I was riveted by the return of Sawyer to the narrative mainstage and loved the trickster, long-con storytelling; every line seemed to be possessed with double meanings, every scene seemed to be pregnant with possibilities. Emphasis on possessed. And pregnant. (I'll explain as we go.) The first line of the episode came from Island Sawyer as he burned himself on a coffee pot: ''Son of a bitch!'' Of course, those were Juliet's final words before detonating Jughead. Juliet's name was never spoken in the episode, but she haunted the proceedings via association, as did several other dead friends, including hobbity dope fiend Charlie Pace and especially fate-screwed whiz kid Daniel Faraday. In fact, I was reminded of Eloise Hawking and her snake-eating-its-tail ouroboros broach when Sideways James issued the last line of his L.A. Confidential arc as he pinned fugitive Hoodie Kate against a fence: ''Son of a bitch!'' ''Recon'' spiraled through space and time and passed through metaphorical realms of limbo and worse to tell a story about Sawyer choosing to let go of the hell in his heart and replacing it with a dream of heaven.
This ''set-up'' episode was all about set-ups, from its opening sequence fake-out that seemed to present Sideways James Ford as every bit the slutty, soul-numbed vengeance-questing criminal as his Island iteration, but then revealed himself to be a… slutty, soul-numbed vengeance-questing cop. No doubt the happy sunflower glory days of his previous life as Dharma Initiative security chief had prepared him for the gig. But alas, there was no Juliet in this sad sunflower's life, and we were made to ponder if that made all the difference. His partner seemed to think so. Miles! Detective Miles Straume, who tried to fill Jim's lonely void by setting his buddy up with a blast from Lost's freighter-folk past, Sideways Charlotte Lewis. (Apparently, no matter the world, Miles will always end up wearing a badge with Sawyer.)
In the Island world, Fake Locke scrambled to manage the suspicious and impatient personalities within his Island escape club with what seemed to me to be an interconnecting series of short cons. Strategy? I think Smokey sent Sawyer to the Widmore Zooropa — in part — to get Kate's guardian angel out of his no-hair so he could isolate her for a Claire attack, then save her from it, so he could get a chance to spin her under this thumb. His preferred tactic seems to be the very thing that Sideways James struggled to embrace in his story: emotional intimacy. UnLocke tried to bond with Kate by unlocking a little bit of himself — cryptic tidbits about his background, like semi-redacted details from his dubious dossier of his life. Who's his bad mom? What were those ''growing pains''? Smoke-Thing, who the hell are you? Cain? Abel? Are you the evil demiurge Yaldabaoth or are you the Gnostic spirit Eve-Zoe? Are you the fulfillment of my Evil Aaron theory? My benevolent Swamp-Thing theory? Or are you Hamlet? Norman Bates? Or Stephen King's Carrie? Whoooooo are you, Smokey? Who-hoo? Who-hoo? Because I REALLYWANNAKNOW…
And you know what, kids? I think I do know. Because it seemed to me that Fake Locke was pulling another con, too, one that may have revealed his true character. The episode was called ''Recon,'' which itself was a con. We were clearly supposed to assume it was short for ''reconnaissance mission.'' But ''Recon'' was also a pun for ''Re-con'' — as in ''a previously executed con, done again.'' The story flicked at all of Sawyer's classic con man stories, from ''Confidence Man'' to ''LaFleur.'' I think FrankenLocke picked one of those scams to repeat anew — and I think I'm pretty creeped out by the implications.
The Sideways World
Souvenir of Hell
This prison has now become your home
A sentence you seem prepared to pay
It took a day to build the city
As I returned across the lands I'd known
I recognized the fields where I'd once played
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid
And if I built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire
—Sting, ''Fortress Around You Heart''
The name was Ford. James Ford. And only James Ford. Never Sawyer: Sideways Jim could never take the handle of the man of who destroyed his family and took away his childhood. That was one difference between Sideways James and Island Sawyer. Here was another: Detective James Ford was a horrible con man. Everyone could spot his tells. Everyone could see through his Steve McQueen cool. The grifter chick in the motel. Charlotte ''Indiana Jones'' Lewis. His partner, Miles Straume. We didn't want him to have the tragic past of his Island counterpart. We didn't want him to have the dark heart that his childhood horror show had sired. But alas, he did. He was a cop in name only. His badge, a mere means to an end. His mission was two-fold: Find the Monster. Kill him. And yet, by story's end, we were left to wonder if James would really do the deed if he got the chance. Just nurturing this hate had come at a cost. He could share his body with a woman, but not his soul. And in the eyes of his partner — his friend — he was fundamentally untrustworthy. When he got his Sideways storyline mirror scene, Ford punched the loathsome face staring back at him. What he wants is to be free and to be known, to be loved and to love — to be James LeFleur, Dharma security honcho and kick-ass Juliet boyfriend. Last week, Benjamin Linus went rummaging through Island Sawyer's tent/library and found a text by Benjamin Disraeli called ''Justice is Truth In Action.'' I prefer this other Disraeli quote for Sideways Sawyer: ''Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power.'' Now there's a motto worthy of a dollar bill.
Regardless, my guess is that Sideways Ford will get a chance to prove his moral metal when he finally tracks down Sideways Anthony Cooper at… Sideways John Locke's wedding.
I've enjoyed almost all the Sideways stories so far this season, and I've had fun deconstructing them to bits in this space each week. But thinking through ''Recon,'' I realized that looking at the forest was more valuable than examining the trees. This was a story about an authority figure — a lawman — who was working the system and abusing his position with it to pursue a self-serving, possibly evil agenda. I hope that sounds like the Man In Black to you, because it sure does to me. Until the events of ''The Incident,'' what role did he serve on the Island? Rousseau: ''Security system.'' Eko and Ben: Judge. FUN FACT! The Book of Judges in the Bible describes the series of ''Judges'' that God would appoint and task with bringing the stray sheep of Israel back into spiritual relationship with God, only to themselves fall prey to temptation and corruption and need to be removed from power and replaced. Case in point: Samson. The Book of Judges culminates with combined forces of Israel, led by the tribe of Dan, warring with the tribe of Benjamin. Ben loses. Uh-oh.
Of course, if I'm correct about the forest, than the trees become more interesting. Like Detective Ford's botched ''Pigeon Drop'' sting, when Ford told the grifter woman that the cops wanted her husband, not her. The woman was a dead ringer for Charlotte Lewis, who during her brief time on Lost was romantically linked with… Daniel Faraday. Then there was time on the clock: 8:42. Back in ''The Substitute,'' we learned that 8 = Hurley Reyes and 42 = Kwon, which could either be Jin or Sun. Interesting that as of last night's episode, Hurley and the Kwons were the only Jacob candidates who have not gotten a Sideways episode yet. BTW: Jin is the only husband on the show — even if his wedding ring is currently in Sun's pocket.
PROJECT FOR NEXT WEEK'S DOC JENSEN! Review all the Sideways stories. Can they be viewed as allegories for Smokey? In my Doc Jensen columns yesterday, I examined how Lost has been fixated with the themes of divorce and children this season, in addition to mirrors and shackles. Can these things, too, be applied to Smokey? Something to consider next week — and something I'm going to factor into my blockbuster theory that closes this column.
But we have miles to go first. I mean Miles Straume, who said some curious things himself in this episode. Did you catch that he has a girlfriend? Didn't say her name. Could it be... Juliet? He also said his father (Dharma film narrator Dr. Pierre Chang) worked ''at the museum'' with Charlotte. (Is Miles pals with Frank Lapidus and Faraday, too?) Too bad things ended so poorly between James and Charlotte: We could have gotten a future episode where he visited her at work and listened to Dr. Chang explain what happened to the Island. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Miles set James up with Charlotte. The chemistry worked for me, but it was still hard watching him have sexytime with anyone else but You-Know-Who, with the slight exception of You-Know-Who-2. This was surely intentional; the show wanted us to be feeling: This isn't right. This should be Juliet... although I will also accept Kate. We were nostalgic for love(s) that this James had never had — and you got the sense that James felt the same way, too. Like he was profoundly incomplete without a better half.
Their conversation was loaded. James' perception of archaeology: People ''stuck in a room somewhere, dusting off antiques.'' (We saw a locked room later in the episode in Widmore's submarine. Who could be inside?) The couple bantered about Indiana Jones. Some quick thoughts about each of the four Indy movies. Raiders of the Lost Ark: The 10 Commandments. (More later on this.) Temple of Doom: Kidnapped kids turned to slaves. (Ditto) The Last Crusade: Holy Grail; troubled, neglected father-son relationship. (Ditto) Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Troubled father-son relationship — plus interdimensional alien archaeologists with psychic powers that promise a ''gift'' of All The Answers You've Ever Wanted To Know About Everything, but then rudely blow out the villain's brain and disappear. In other words: what the producers of Lost are planning to do at exactly 11:01 PM on May 23.
They flirted about the whip. Sawyer tried to convince her he became a cop because of Bullitt. Charlotte said: More like bulls---. She didn't want the lines he gave all his other conquests. She wanted to see his heart. Sawyer gave her a peek. ''There was a moment in my life where I was either going to become a criminal or a cop,'' he said. ''So I chose a cop.'' One wonders if he might have chosen differently if a strange though saintly man showed up at his parents' funeral and offered him a touch and a pen ''Dear Sawyer'' letters... unless, of course, James' whole Sideways world exists because of that touch and pen. FUN FACT! Bullitt is a cop drama/mystery in which SPOILER ALERT! it's revealed that the bad guy, a mobster, has faked his death and disguised himself to avoid certain judgment by the courts. The film starred Steve McQueen, who also headlined The Blob, Hell Is For Heroes and Love with the Proper Stranger.
As they said on the show, ''you know what happens next.'' But in case you don't speak innuendo: hot stranger sex! Afterward, Sawyer fetched refreshment, while Charlotte searched for a T-shirt. Clever Lost. Charlotte: archeologist. What do archaeologists do? Dig up the past. What does Indiana Jonesette find buried in Ford's sock drawer? The ruins of past. The ''Sawyer'' folder, plus the wrinkled family photo. Together, a complex symbol of... the Law, broken justice, judgment/vengeance (Raiders); stolen childhood (Temple of Doom); a dark knight grail quest (The Last Crusade); a dream of family reunion that violence and ''answers'' will never fulfill (Crystal Skull). We've seen Charlotte dig one other time on Lost — the season 4 episode ''Confirmed Dead,'' in which she found a polar bear skeleton and a Hydra Station collar in the sands of Tunisia. And what happened later in ''Recon''? Island Sawyer went to Hydra Island, returned to the polar bear cage where he had been held captive, found Kate's dress, and recalled their intimacy — a pivotal turning point in his heroic journey on Lost.
Alas, Charlotte chose... poooorly in flipping through James' dossier of doom. He blew up at her. ''What did you see? What did you see?!'' Interesting choice of words in an episode wherein what was seen and unseen, what was shown and concealed, were important themes. James drove her away. The photo fell to the ground. A father. A mother. A son. Where have we seen that before?
The next day. James went to work and bumped into — of all people — Charlie's brother. Sideways Charlie had been busted for drugs following his OD on Sideways Oceanic 815; Liam was there to get more info and maybe bail him out. Perhaps Lost was telling us it had not forgotten this plot point; perhaps Lost was trying to set us up for the Charlie-evoking ending; maybe Lost was trying to underscore themes of brotherhood, relational and moral division. TBD. This led to the scene where Miles dumped James as his partner because he had lied about going down under. (Miles' paranoid credit check struck me as... well, paranoid. Not sure I bought it.) James sulked by eating microwave dinners and watching Little House on the Prairie. An inspired, perfect choice for a guy who, like the tragic hero of his favorite novel, Of Mice and Men, dreams doomed dreams of home and hearth and living off the fat of the land with family and friends. In the scene, Charles Ingalls tries to assuage his daughter's mortality angst with some Highway To Heaven touchy-feelies:
''You can spend your whole life worrying about what's going to happen. People aren't really gone when they die, because they live in memories. Memories that sustain us until we see them again.''
James was moved off the couch by Pa's words. I don't know if he was trying to escape the existential agita they produced or if they inspired him to some carpe diem. Either way, it led him to Charlotte's door for a late night booty call. She mocked his ''sad sunflower'' and told him to get lost. This seemed to take him aback — or perhaps startle him awake. He had lost his partner. Now, he had lost his mojo with women. No more charmed life magic-word salvation. No more sexual escapism. No more ''La Fleur.'' He put the flower down on her doorstep — a plea for forgiveness; a RIP gesture to his old self — and took a leap of faith: he sought out Miles and entrusted him with secret. He gave him his Sawyer folder. He told him he'd been hunting Cooper since he got out of the Academy and confessed his pain and corruption. Sawyer's vendetta was not unlike the dream of vengeance Fake Locke gave Claire: it was something that held his world together, gave it meaning, gave him purpose. Also see: the long con that Sawyer pulled in ''The Long Con'': creating a false nemesis to rally a community to order. Ford's epiphany: that's living in fear; that's living a lie, not real life. I think he was also afraid he'd lose his soul if he went through with the murders — and lose any chance of seeing his family again. Hence, when Miles asked him why he was confessing to him. Sawyer replied: ''Because I knew you'd try to talk me out of it.''
Perhaps Charlotte Staples Lewis' literary namesake, CS Lewis, sums up Ford's Sideways arc the best. From The Great Divorce: ''I do not think that all those who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists of being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop' into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit-by-bit, with ‘backwards mutters of dissevering power' — or else not. It is still ‘either-or.' If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth), we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell.''
By giving up his Sawyer file — his souvenir of hell — to his partner-confessor-priest Miles, James seemed to put himself on a highway to heaven. He also seemed to put him on a collision course with destiny. At that moment, Hoodie Kate careened into his car. He ran her down and pinned her up against a gate, an ironic reversal of their caged-heat Hydra lovemaking. No matter what world he's in, James Ford is always getting set up with Kate — and always gets one chance to nail her against some bars. Somehow. Son of a bitch.
Kate's hoodie was conspicuous. In the episode ''The Long Con,'' the big twist — SPOILER ALERT! — was that Charlie had assisted Sawyer in his fake-crisis, fear-cultivating, gun-grabbing power coup. Charlie, wearing a hoodie, revealed that the only reason why he partnered with Sawyer was to humiliate Locke, who had humiliated him episodes earlier. Fittingly, ''Recon'' re-teamed redeemed outlaw lovers Sawyer and Kate (now playing the Charlie role) in a bid to subvert Fake Locke and Nautilus away from the Island. They better hurry. As it happens, I think there was another reading of Little House on The Prairie we were meant to find. Did you know that there was a two-part episode of Prairie called ''The Lost Ones''? In those episodes, two siblings watch their parents die in a horrible accident. Now orphans, they yearn to stay with Charles, but he can't afford them. The kids wind up with a man who says he'll protect them... but he winds up abusing them and using them as slaves. Which brings us to...
This Island Earth!
Looking for to save my save my soul
Looking in the places where no flowers grow
Looking for to fill that God shaped hole
Don't be angry, don't be sad,
Don't sit cryin' over good things you've had,
There's a girl right next to you
And she's just waiting for something you do.
Well, there's a rose in a fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can't be with the one you love
Love the one you're with
My theory that the 18 hours of Lost 6.0 are analogous to the long weekend of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection is holding. ''Recon'' — which took place the day after ''Sundown''/Good Friday — conformed to the part of the Easter story known as The Harrowing of Hell, wherein Christ descended into the underworld. Some traditions say Jesus confronted Satan; others say he liberated captives, especially prophets, leaders, and ''holy fathers'' of the faith whom God had exiled to Hades because of Original Sin. The word ''harrowing'' comes from a Greek word pertaining to a military mission — you know, like a ''recon.'' The ''Hydra'' in Hydra Island pertains to a six-headed female snake demon that guards the entrance of Hades. And what did we spy on Hydra Island last night? Cages. Dead people. And the former ''holy father''/chief prophet/leader of The Others, the exiled Charles Widmore.
Sawyer's hellacious odyssey to hell and back began inside something that passed for a tomb: The Grim Garden Grotto of Claire Gone Mad. There, Sawyer played nurse to wounded Jin, who winced as they waited for Crazy Rabbi Locke to come back from Temple. Jin said that FLocke was nuts and they had to scram. Sawyer said he was aligned with FLocke but vowed to get both Jin and Sun off the Island. And with that, Sawyer's ''every man for himself'' pity party/selfishness began to crumble. But speaking of hobbled Jin... FUN FACT! The legend of the Fisher King — the guardian of the Holy Grail, or enchanted spring — holds that there are two custodians at any one time. There is a king, and there is a knight. Sometimes they are father and son. For some reason, the natural order of things requires the Fisher King to have an infirmity that makes him incapable of moving. He has an injury to his leg, foot, or groin. The job of the Grail Knight is to heal the Fisher King. But alas, Grail Knights are known to get distracted by selfishness or missions of vengeance and neglect their duty to the Fisher King. When this happens, the kingdom becomes infertile. No flowers; no babies. Oh, and the abode where the king and knight live pops in and out of reality, at different times and places. One more thing? The Fisher King is called the Fisher King because he fishes. A lot. Mostly to pass the boring-ass time guarding the grail. THEORY! Jacob was the Fisher King. Smokey was his knight. Smokey became disenchanted, neglected his duties, wanted out, conspired to kill the Fisher King to earn that freedom.
Fake Locke brought his Temple exodus to Claire's hovel. Have FLocke and Claire been living together? If so, what's been the sleeping arrangement? If so... ewwww! FLocke gave a short speech, trying to assuage anxieties and terror of... well, himself. He squatted so he could look the kids Alex and Emma in the eye. ''I know what happened back there was really scary,'' he said, referring to the Temple massacre. ''But it's over, and I promise I'm going to take care of you.'' I thought: Uh-oh. I then thought: Little House, ''The Lost Ones.'' And then I remembered something else — another occasion when a castaway got eye-to-eye with a child and promised that he wasn't a bogeyman and he'd do anything in his power to change the tragic destiny that awaited her. I speak of the moment when Daniel Faraday returned from Dharma HQ in Ann Arbor, Michigan, following a prolonged absence and initiated Project: Jughead, but not before making those outrageous promises to Charlotte.
Before beginning FLocke's (death?) march across the Island, Claire said a tender goodbye to her sick substitute for her creepy kid, that weird skeletal whatchamacallit that she kept in a crib. The Abominable Faux Baby — skull, button eyes, stuffed animal fur — totally looked to me like the infant version of Frank the Apocalyptic Bunny Suit Monster from Donnie Darko. (Those who know Donnie Darko well have seen many Lost parallels in the movie, i.e. plane crash, time travel, and alt reality interpretations; we shall investigate at another time.) Kate stepped inside Claire's mad world. She saw Claire's creepy fake creepy kid. Her eyeballs barfed. Kate: ''What is that?'' All-kinds-of-wrong Claire looked at Kate with eyes full of tears and fears. ''It was all I had,'' she said. Chilling. Sad. And if you asked me to compile a list of my 20 most favorite scenes in Lost ever, this would be on there.
I'd also use Abominable Faux Bunny as one more proof that Fake Locke really is some kind rotten apple, because he surely must have indulged this f'd up fantasy. I appeal again to The Great Divorce, which gives us a scene where a mother is denied entrance into heaven because she has no desire for God or truthful living. For her, belief in ''God'' is just the means to an end — to be reunited with her young son, who had died 10 years before. Her idolatrous relationship to the memory of her boy is such that she never packed away his old room and refused to move out of the house, despite the wishes of her husband and daughter. She is told that her morbid fixations are ''the wrong way to deal with sorrow.'' The mother snaps: ''You are heartless. Everyone is pitiless. The past was all I had.'' This is why the Anti-Locke is the Anti-Christ: He keeps the castaways shackled to the past, to their demons, to their infernal affairs; he's using the castaways as means to an end. And worst of all: it appears he sincerely thinks he's doing right by them.
But at least he's being polite about it. Smokey demonstrated himself to be a stickler for manners, demanding tact from his followers but showering them courtesies, empathy, and apologies as needed. As the Monster mushed his lemmings across the Island toward a multi-night stay at Banyan Tree Cove, Sawyer dared to quiz him publicly about his intentions. When and how are we leaving this damn rock!? A flustered FLocke asked Sawyer for a sidebar conversation away from the Others and chastised him. When Sawyer said he was sorry (quite sarcastically), FLocke actually accepted the apology. Later, when Claire tried to kill Kate, FLocke sincerely apologized for her behavior and took responsibility for it. I love this Monster, whose ethics condone mass murder and deicide but require that people follow Robert's Rules of Order in his presence! And please: no name-calling, either!
In his ''private'' talk with Sawyer, FLocke had another one of those moments where his eyes shifted nervously about, as if trying to figure out what half-truth or lie or button-pushing blah blah blah to say next... except this week, thanks to the shading of the Sawyer content, I was made to wonder if FLocke's uncertainty was really all about not knowing if he can trust these people with his true self. He rolled the dice with Sawyer. He said he was the Smoke-Thing. He said he killed the Temple loyalists because they viewed him as a threat. He said it was kill or be killed. ''And I don't want to be killed!'' There was something so earnest and plaintive and even childlike about FLocke's declaration. It was certainly a sentiment Sawyer could sympathize/empathize with, and so we must wonder if that's exactly why the Monster said it. But it also sounded to me like the pained bleating of someone we all know who tried very, very hard not to get killed, and failed. Or did he?
When Sawyer continued to press Smokey for details on the escape plan, FLocke decided to give his prickly irritant something to do. He told him to go to Hydra Island. He told him there were some enemies in the Ajira camp. He told him to smoke out the baddies, and he told him that he had total faith in him because Sawyer was ''the best liar he had ever seen.'' Sawyer looked stung. Despite the undercover life of his Dharma days, Sawyer the Con Man was a guise he had retired years ago, thanks to Juliet. Not that he would try putting it back on, anyway. When FLocke brought him to the beach and showed him the panoramic view of Hydra Island, I wondered if Sawyer was recalling the humiliation he endured during the season 3 episode ''Every Man For Himself,'' when he was made to learn during his Hydra incarceration that that the folks who run the Island were superior tricksters than himself. He knew he didn't have a chance of fooling FLocke with a con. So he decided to execute his task in a manner that defied UnLocke's view of him: he told the truth almost every step of the way.
Almost immediately upon arriving on Hydra Island, Sawyer found himself at the polar bear cages where he had once dined on fish biscuits, received a brutal beat down by Ben, and got busy with Kate. The sight of the cages knotted his guts. He found Kate's dress — the one that Ben made her wear to breakfast with him on the beach. Sawyer picked up the dress. He felt the dress. Memories surely must have flooded his mind. What did this moment mean for Sawyer? The pessimist might say: heartbreak, pain, despair, damnation. The optimist might say: renewal; resurrection; reconstitution. The affair of the polar bear cage was a turning point for Sawyer. This wasn't miserable-con-man sex. This was heart-full-of-love sex! Maybe it didn't mean much to Kate. But it definitely meant something to him. He loved her. He wanted her to love him. He chased after her. She would never have said ''I do.'' Still, he sacrificed himself for her, and when he thought she had died, he was heartbroken... but he grieved the loss, thanks to some help from John Locke, and after watching her help Claire give birth to Aaron during one of his time flashes, Sawyer let go of her, without letting go of what he gained. He recognized he needed someone — someone who would love him, and better, someone that he could love. He found that someone in Juliet. They were never formally married, but they lived like it, happy and content in the same Dharmaville home that he had once wanted to make with Kate. But then Juliet was taken away from him, and Sawyer became a man destroyed. Abandoned, he convinced himself he was meant to be alone. Enter FLocke, the King of Pain, the exploiter of sadness, who took advantage and recruited him to his fold. Several weeks ago, I insisted that Sawyer was the one playing FLocke, not the other way around. If that wasn't true then, it was true now. Standing in his old cage, Sawyer recalled the moment everything began to change for him — the moment when he began to change, into a lover, a hero, and even if he never wore the ring, a husband. He remembered his redemption. He remembered a vision of heaven to guide him out of hell. He continued on to...
The plane, slightly jackknifed off the make-shift runway, resembling a proud, gleaming Pegasus waiting to be mounted and flown away. (Frank Lapidus! Paging Frank Lapidus! Your purpose in the season 6 narrative just arrived!) Then, the Hydraville Massacre. Sawyer followed a swath of trail formed by the drag of dead bodies to a pile of corpses hidden in the underbrush. Insects swarmed. He gagged, nauseated. Who killed these people? My chief suspect is Smokey. He's demonstrated a proclivity for mass murder; see: the Temple. His motive? Among many options, including some kind of vampiric binge on human souls for some kind of demonic power-boost? I think Smokey killed these folks just so Sawyer would find them. Just like Ben wanted Jack to watch Kate and Sawyer hump in the cage to break and control him, I think Smokey wanted Sawyer to see the pile of death to better manage the threat Sawyer represents. The message Smokey was trying to impart: Don't f--- with me. You know Kate? You know your friends? You know all those people I took out of the Temple, including those little kids? I'll kill ‘em. Especially the kids. I'll kill ‘em all if you get in my way. And we are reminded: Thou shall not steal. And we remember why bad men kidnap kids: extortion.
If I had my druthers, this is where I'd give you another 1,000 words about how (Dead Bodies + Flies) X (Graven Idols + False Messiah thematics) = Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a frequent Lost reference, in which rival camps of kids go savage, and the false god they have made out of a pig's head, the Lord of the Flies, rules them all like a golden calf. Amid those 1,000 words, I would pose this question: Who's the real ''Lord of the Flies'' on Lost? Smokey? Charles Widmore? Jacob? I would probably conclude by settling upon Smokey, but then hit you with this twist ending: I would say that Lost's fixation with Lord of the Flies is actually a coded reference to the play The Flies by Jean Paul Sartre, an ironic retelling of an old Greek myth suffused with the writer's existentialist philosophy (see: Nausea; Being and Nothingness; No Exit), in which a human hero takes it upon himself to restore mankind's free will and liberate people from the tyranny of malicious gods and the fallacy of original sin, which Sartre symbolized in the form of flies. Maybe next week.
Sawyer heard rustling in the bushes and found a woman named Zoe hiding in the brush. She claimed to be an Ajira survivor. Zoe, Greek for ''life,'' was played by Sheila Kelly, whose most famous credit was L.A. Law. Perhaps Sideways Sawyer would have been seduced by her charms, but not Island Sawyer. She asked too many questions. And Sawyer answered all of them truthfully, until she asked about the guns. He smelled a con — or maybe he remembered ''The Long Con.'' He called her bluff. The lady whistled. Goons appeared, and Sawyer was beaten. ''Is your name really even Zoe?'' he asked. She replied, ''Is your name really Sawyer?'' The answer is no. In a story that was all about reminding James Ford who he really was, the answer should have been: ''LaFleur. James LaFleur.''
Sawyer got another reminder of that when Zoe and co. walked him across the plank to Widmore's submarine. Another dagger to the heart: the last time he boarded a submarine, he and Juliet were being deported by Dharma back to the United States to continue their happily ever after away from the Island. Nonetheless, Sawyer bravely climbed down into the lion's den. On his way to see New Sheriff In Town Charles Widmore, Sawyer walked past the fiery furnaces that powered the vessel — and stopped at a locked room. He called it out. He was told: Mind your own business. I remembered how Anthony Cooper had been brought to the Island via sub by the Others — and how John Locke had tricked Sawyer into killing him. FUN FACT! A ''locked room mystery'' is perhaps the oldest identified genre of mystery fiction. The oldest ''locked room mystery'' on record: ''Bel and the Dragon,'' an apocryphal Biblical text, in which a famous prophet debunked a false god by... sprinkling a perimeter of ash around a room. The name of this prophet? Daniel.
Sawyer met Widmore. In the process, Chuck let slip that his bespectacled associate's name was Zoe. Zoe! But where's his old Gnostic Acheron queen, Eloise Hawking? Nowhere to be found. Does Widmore regain his Others throne with Zoe as his consort? TBD. Widmore chided Sawyer for ''just how little'' he understood about what was really going on. I don't know about that. As Sawyer peered into Widmore's eyes and told him he knew that they both knew that John Locke was not Locke, I wondered if Sawyer was also trying to tell Widmore that he knew exactly who Fake Locke really was. They struck a bargain. Sawyer would bring Fake Locke to him so they could duke it out on the beach. In exchange: safety for the friends in his boat and a ride home. Widmore agreed. And now we debate: Who will Sawyer choose for his boat? It's going to be the Raft all over again! THEORY: Remember that time travel moment from season 5 that's never been explained, when Sawyer and co. were fired upon by another raft in the distance? They returned some shots, but flashed away before they could figure out who was shooting at them? Here's your answer, kids: It's going to be Sawyer's boat, paddling over Zooropa with his selected sub friends. Will there be casualties? Talk about a past coming back to haunt you...
Sawyer went back to Fake Locke. Sawyer called him out. FLocke didn't really need him to do recon on Hydra, did he? Nope. Sawyer told him about the dead bodies. FLocke tried to act shocked. That's terrible! Then came the true test: Would Sawyer spin or spill everything he knew? Answer: spill. He basically told FLocke the whole truth about what had happened between him and Widmore. FLocke seemed to be surprised when Sawyer disclosed that Widmore was over there, but I wasn't 100% sure it was genuine. Regardless, the Monster beamed with pride as Sawyer told him everything, and said, ''I appreciate your loyalty.'' Then again, maybe it was the knowing smile of two chess players that had dueled to a stalemate. FLocke wanted him out of the way for a little bit so he could work on Kate — and wanted him to see the cost of betrayal. Sawyer was transparent about what he wanted — and about his clear understanding about where all of this is heading, which is a showdown between Smokey and Widmore. And in tacitly acknowledging that understanding, Sawyer was also telling the Man In Black what he wasn't willing to do for him:
Kill his father.
Which brings us to FLocke's conversation with Kate. It took place after Claire's assault. Claire had the advantage. She was going to drive a knife into her throat. She was going to unleash all her Aaron rage on the woman who had taken him. Kate appealed to Sayid for help. Sayid sat there stupefied. Zombified. Almost zapped of will or initiative. Something was wrong with him, he said. My guess: It's the magic knife Dogen gave him to stab FLocke. It's all but neutralized Sayid's usefulness to FLocke. That utility? Killing. The title of this section, ''Infernal Affairs,'' refers to a section of hell in Buddhism reserved for people who kill their fathers, mothers, and enlightened beings. In this section of hell you don't stay forever — but you have to work to earn enough Enlightenment and Dharma to leave. One wonders if Sayid is frozen and gripped by an experience of penance; maybe his will/soul has been temporarily diverted to the Sideways world to work things out.
After peeling Claire off of Kate and slapping her into submission (an act of violence that even stunned Kate) and parking her in a time out, FLocke found Kate sitting in a refuge of banyan trees. He explained himself. He confessed he had duped Claire into believing The Others had Aaron. He explained he needed to give her anger to give her purpose, to pull her out of what was likely suicidal despair. Kate asked where Sawyer had gone. He brought her the beach and offered her a view of Hydra Island. Again, he searched for the right words to say, for whatever reason… and then told her story about his mother:
''My mother was crazy. Long time ago before I looked like this, I had a mother just like everyone. She was a very disturbed woman. And as a result of that, I had some growing pains. Problems that I'm still trying to work my way through. Problems that could have been avoided if things had been different.''
Kate wanted to know: Why was FLocke telling her this?
. ''Because Aaron has a crazy mother, too.''
We were left to wonder what exactly Kate was supposed to make of that story, and what she actually took away from it. To me, it sounded like FLocke was trying to convince Kate that Claire was an unfit mother. To me, it sounded like he wanted Kate to move off the dream of reuniting Clair and Aaron. To me, it sounded like he wanted Kate to think about saving Aaron from Claire lest he become a scary super-monster like FLocke. To me, it sounded like FLocke was… setting Kate up to murder Claire.
Time will tell what really happened in that moment. If I'm right, though, let's hope that she resists the manipulation, just like Sawyer resisted Fake Locke bid to Brig him. By ''Brig,'' I mean ''The Brig,'' the season 3 episode where con man Sawyer was conned by John Locke to follow him to another iconic Island prison locale, the Black Rock, and do what he couldn't do himself: murder his father, Anthony Cooper, the con man that Sawyer had vowed to kill. This was the real re-con of ''Recon'' — Fake Locke's bid to get Sawyer to commit patricide one more time by killing Charles Widmore. Which is all to say, meet the Man Behind The (Smokey) Mask:
Not the Daniel Faraday who was shot and killed by his crazy mother in 1977. And not the fetal Daniel Faraday who was growing inside his pregnant mother when she shot and killed adult Daniel Faraday back in 1977. I’m saying: It’s a freaky fusion of both, a disembodied mutant hybrid soul, essentially left behind on the Island as a consequence of the Jughead time reboot that also rebooted pregnant Eloise Hawking. It’s possible that this entity may have been grafted onto an eternal supernatural being that has lived on the Island performing some great spiritual function that it has now tired of. Or it could just be a feral supernatural force that’s been left to develop and grow haphazardly on its own, possessed by the dream of one day becoming a real human being again. Either way, Smokey Faraday is all kinds of wrong — and I think that’s why his father, Charles Widmore, has come to the Island. To take responsibility for his own Abominable Faux Son, and put it/him out of its/his misery. What does Charles have locked up in his submarine? A secret weapon. A weapon more powerful than the dream of vengeance that possessed Sawyer and Claire for so long: It’s the toxic brew of guilt and love, damnation and redemption. Her name was Theresa Spencer. She’s the woman that Daniel Faraday once loved, but whose mind he broke as a result of his time travel experiments that his psycho mom spurred him toward, a woman that Charles Widmore kept alive on his own dime for years, just so he could use her for this very moment.
I’m thinking Sawyer called it: Son of a bitch.
But I could be wrong.
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