Things I Noticed - He's Our You
For the first time this season, I voted an episode just 'Okay'. He's Our You offered up little in the way of new stuff or excitement - at least up until the last 30 seconds. No sarcasm from Sawyer, no comedy by Hurley - even the 'confrontation' between Kate and Juliet was as nondescript as the lunchroom scene. The end was hugely important though (and I'm going to tell you why). Hey, they can't all be winners. Things I Noticed:
As LOST's record player spins in circles, Sayid is killing a chicken to save his brother from having to do it. This directly parallels The 23rd Psalm, where Eko does the same thing for Yemi but on a much larger scale. We're seeing this flashback for a reason: apparently Sayid's neck-snapping career begins at a very early age. Killing doesn't bother him, and the story goes to great lengths to rub our nose in it. In fact, the whole episode is geared toward showing us exactly how Sayid is forged and tempered into a heartless killing machine... the writers have 40+ minutes to really, really convince us of this if they want to pull off the cold-blooded shooting of an innocent kid.
But in reality, it's not the viewers who really need the convincing: it's Sayid. And as this episode unfolds, it quickly becomes obvious that Sayid's hunting down and killing of Widmore's golfing buddies never really meant Jack or Squat in the grand scheme of things. Not only were these killings unnecessary, they might not even have been related to anything other than planting the seeds of murder deep within Sayid's brain. More on that at the end.
Horace's Split Ends - Bad Dharma Shampoo or a Whole New Timeline?
Horace & Radzinsky's good-cop/bad-cop routine falls woefully short in light of Sayid's badass defiant nature, and I think we all can agree that the 2007 hair care products have given the Iraqi a distinct cosmetic advantage. A three-inch pair of wire cutters just isn't cutting it, and Sayid's not talking. Later on not even Sawyer can get Sayid to play ball... much like Desmond storming out of the Lamppost, Sayid is thoroughly done playing ball. The island could toss him a perfect spiral and Sayid would impassively watch it bounce off his chest to fall at his feet.
It's hard for Sawyer to understand Sayid's unwillingness to jump into the new act of this play. Jack, Kate, and Hurley all eagerly donned their Dharma costumes and immediately started rehearsing their lines. Sayid however, is totally done. Unarguably, he's had the worst off-island time of all the O6. After Nadia's death, Ben provided fuel for Sayid's rage with a bunch of killing missions that gave him, if nothing else, a sense of purpose. Once Ben took that purpose away, Sayid numbly atoned for the terrible things in his life by trying to build something for once instead of destroying it. And now the island has taken that away from him as well... sucking him back in, forcing him to wake up to swaying bamboo trees and an all new cast of bullshit people and bullshit mysteries that it expects him to now play along with. Understandably, Sayid's position is simple: Fuck That.
But now put yourself in Sawyer's shoes. He has no idea what happened to his friends off-island, and he's even more clueless as to why they'd ever intentionally come back. Yet after 3+ months of hell, Sawyer gets to settle down and spend 3+ years living an actual life. Without having to con or grift or search for his father's killer, Sawyer's enjoyed having things and doing things that most people take for granted. Most important of all, by now he's spent 10x as much time with the Dharma Initiative as he has with his 815 friends. This is a hard concept for us to grasp, because as viewers it's been exactly the opposite for us.
It's Juliet though, that really hits the nail on the head this episode: their fairy tale is coming to an end. Dharma is only a temporary dream to wake up from: there's a man behind a curtain somewhere pulling on levers of happiness and contentment. Sawyer and Juliet were never really responsible for building and establishing anything. They're nothing more than actors in the island's big show, playing this part in their cute little Dharma jumpsuits until the curtain closes (on Season 5?) for intermission. Then it's time for a set and a wardrobe change, because once everyone gets back with their popcorn the final act begins.
Rusty the Rickshaw Driver is a Total Dick
Ben's dad becomes a lot easier to gas to death as we watch him Slam young Ben's head into the bars of Sayid's cell. "You never brought me a sandwich" - more time echoes, as this is the same line Ben gave Juliet back when she was bringing Jack all those great lunches in S3. As Roger the Workman spills Sayid's meal all over his freshly mopped floor, I wondered if there wasn't a key or a lockpick stuffed between the lettuce and the tomato.
I've taken a lot of heat for the sympathy I have towards Ben's character, but nothing we've seen so far has been as bad as this. Roger's fathering skills suck like crazy, and CPS is a long way off. Ben's only escape is through the sonic fence, into the arms of the Richard and the hostiles who have already promised him salvation if only he can wait. Ben's blind willingness to help Sayid any way he can, even through the creative techniques of motorized arson, demonstrate just how desperate he is to leave this life behind. Flash-forward several years - and a few hundred more beatings - to an adult Benjamin Linus sitting in that Dharma Van, and now the whole toxic gas thing becomes a bit more understandable. Not that I condone genocide here... I'm just saying Ben's been through a hell of a lot by that point.
Meanwhile, Back at the Cool Kid Lunch Table...
There were three main points to shooting the cool kid lunch table scene, and I'm going to tell you what they were. First and most obvious, it was so Hurley and Jack could tell Kate about the Sawyer/Juliet hookup. Second, we needed to see that the new Chef logo on Hurley's jumpsuit completely destroys the piss out of any and all other Dharma logos. Last and probably missed by most, the absolutely INSANE afro on the dude in the background working the food service line... I haven't seen such a magnificent specimen since the Eddie Gordo/Tiger Jackson costume from Tekken 5. Bravo, makeup artists. Bravo.
Why Kate Came Back - New and Improved Version
At this point, I care as much about the love quadrangle as Kate does about the Dharma motorpool ratchet set. It's played itself wayyyy out, and Kate's character has ping-ponged one too many times for me. As the number of remaining episodes starts winding down, I feel like I'm getting greedy with the time. I would much rather see it spent on really cool, wow-type stuff than on Sawyer/Jack/Kate/Juliet all lamenting over lost love, and pining for past relationships that might have been.
Even worse, Kate's conversation with Sawyer should be enough to piss us all off. "I don't know why the others came back... I only know why I did". Oh yeah? Really? Allow me to help her out with this one:
If the island hadn't wanted them back, would Kate have been happy to keep playing house with Jack and Aaron? YES. And if Ben hadn't sent lawyers knocking on Kate's door, would she have been content just continuing to live with Aaron in her new digs? YES. And if Kate seeing everyone brought together at the docks hadn't slapped her in the face with reality... if Ben's words to her hadn't not-so-subtly reminded Kate that she was living in a fantasy world that would eventually fly apart... would she have kept and stayed with her son instead of giving him up (presumably) to Claire's mom? YES. But all of these things happened. They happened due to forces beyond Kate's control - beyond any of the O6's control. Once Kate saw that the island would continue to place Aaron in danger, she gave him up - which, while admirable, had nothing to do with her love for Sawyer. It was then, and ONLY then, that Kate stepped onto that Ajira flight. More than anyone else, Kate had clung to her off-island life with both hands and even her teeth. She was practically dragged back to the island by one word: inevitability. Yet when she finally gets there, she has the brass balls to stare Sawyer calmly in the face and tell him she came back for HIM???
Alright, the truth is she never really said that. YET. But if Ben's flaming van hadn't gone rolling by, what is it you think Kate would have said? Discuss.
Oldham (I just couldn't think of a clever title here...)
We've seen many, many record players throughout LOST, but none as antique as Oldham's Victrola. This means something, and I think it's a not-so-subtle clue as to how this creepy new character is in keeping with the island's ancient ways. He's living very oldskool, deeper in the jungle, dwelling in a tepee with no electricity far from the civilized Dharma compound. He's using old methods and listening to old music on an old recording device, and he even has 'old' in his name. Go figure.
I think the closer you get to the island's spiritual roots, the more attuned you are to it's true nature. Even more important, the deeper into subconscious a character's mind can journey, the closer they get to achieving the island's true enlightenment. All throughout LOST, the island has spoken most directly and pointedly to those who have been unconscious, semi-conscious, or drugged out of their minds. Boone tripping out on Locke's magic paste... Eko's dreams of Yemi while half-conscious... Locke using his sweat-tent to commune with the island. Last season I pointed out how Jack even took a nice trip to see dad after being knocked out during his appendectomy. These things are highly important, which is why it wasn't all that surprising to me when Oldham whipped up something that sent Sayid into a state of semi-consciousness.
SIDE NOTE: If this kind of stuff intrigues you, check out this post from Karen's LOST blog: Her overall thoughts on dreams, illusions, and the importance of the characters regularly being unconscious mirror a lot of my own. Although she and I also disagree on some things too, I think she's definitely on the right track with the whole idea she puts forward here. As she says, everyone is always being told to "Wake up". It's much more than just a recurring theme, by now it's a mantra.
Back to Oldham. Awesome casting job - creepy as hell. I think he shoved a stick of butter in Sayid's mouth. I also couldn't believe that a non-handcuffed Sayid couldn't whip the shit out of Radzinsky and that little nerd Phil. We've seen him fight the mighty Keamy and kick unholy ass with drug-tipped darts sticking out of his neck... yet they somehow force his arms up against that tree? Alright, fine - I'll go with it.
Once drugged, Sayid starts spouting "the truth", which was hilarious because I'd already been wondering what Sawyer was so worried about in the first place. The truth is so far out there, no one would believe it anyway. Sawyer could let Sayid say pretty much anything he wanted, there was no real reason to shut him up. We're also meant to believe that Sawyer's concern for keeping his new life together is overriding his allegiance to his old friends (or at least the previews made it seem that way). I don't think that's true. This episode Sawyer did everything he possibly could to save Sayid, first trying to bring him into his fold and then offering to let him escape. The previews for this week's episode were deceiving - they always have been a little sketchy, but I think lately ABC's chopping of these scenes and pairing them with dramatically misleading dialogue is tantamount to almost blatant lying.
In any case, the whole truth serum scene with Oldham had good storytelling and a cool feel to it that might've saved the episode. I especially liked Horace's reaction to Sayid's words that they were "all going to die" (another recurring phrase). He seemed to take this prophecy a little more seriously than everyone else, especially with Radzinsky focused soley on his top secret plans for the Swan hatch. As a leader Horace seems pretty smart, and as someone dealing with both Oldham and Richard he's got to be at least a little bit versed in the oddities of the island. This might be why he didn't shrug off Sayid's words so quickly.
No... I Need Him to Want to Do It
So Ben notices this dude stalking Hurley outside Santa Rosa Mental Hospital for several days. Does he get out the high-powered rifle he used to drill holes in Abaddon? Nah. Instead he puts on a suit and flies to South America so that Sayid can take care of it. Seem a little strange and unnecessary? Not if your Benjamin Linus.
Every single solitary thing Ben does has its own unique purpose, and in this case, a multi-purpose. Ben's mention of the man stalking Hurley not only served to bring Sayid back to California for the upcoming Ajira flight, it also reinforced the kill-crazy mental programming that Ben just spent three years driving into Sayid's skull. Ben played on Sayid's loyalty to his friends, saying juuuuuust enough before walking away to know that Sayid would come back to help protect Hugo. In the process, Ben also knew Sayid's killing of that man, and subsequent dishwasher-assisted killing of various other bad guys, would freshen up Sayid's (not-so) self-imposed notion of being a killer... just in case building houses in the Dominican Republic had made him forget about it. On top of this, it would also cause him to despise Ben even more than he did the last time, which is exactly what Ben wanted.
I'll even go as far as to say the guy watching Hurley was one of Ben's own men, put there for this very purpose, sacrificed to get Sayid (and Hurley) to that dockside meeting. Hurley never made it, but the island got him to the plane anyway. The second piece of trouble Ben had was that he pushed Sayid a little too far - he'd caused him to do so much in the way of killing that Sayid angrily walked away from that dock instead of agreeing to go back to the island. Ben overdid it here. He corrected that mistake by hiring Illana to get Sayid on that plane, and in handcuffs to boot. More than anyone, Ben knows Sayid. He knows his weakness with women, and he knows that a little sex and a little MacCuthcheon's whisky would be the best way of getting him on the Ajira flight. Whether or not Illana understands she's working for Ben or truly believes she's working for the family of the dude Sayid killed on the golf course remains to be seen, but if I had to guess I'd pick the latter.
So what do we have? We have Ben sending Sayid all over the world to kill people for three straight years. Did these people really matter? Did their deaths really keep Sayid's friends safe? Shit no. I'm even sketchy on them being related to Widmore at all, but if so I'm sure Ben was just playing fun games inside Charles Widmore's head. The deaths of these men meant nothing in the grand scheme of things other to reinforce one thing that I've always said: Sayid Jarrah is an absolute death-magnet.
Then we have Ben reminding Sayid that he's a killer... telling him that he's a killer... over and over, beating it into his skull. We also have Sayid driven to an intense hatred for Ben and a complete mistrust in him by the time he gets on the Ajira airways flight. Add all of this together and what do you get?
Alright, I've built it up enough: Ben wanted Sayid to go back to the past and shoot him. He fine-tuned Sayid into enough of a killing machine and instilled enough hatred in his heart for him so that Ben knew he would shoot even a young child version of himself. Yeah, I know it's crazy. I know it's out there. But if you examine this episode and really delve into why Ben spent so much off-island time honing Sayid into the killing tool he's now become... it makes a lot of sense.
Notice I said 'shoot him' and not 'kill him'. I'm pretty sure young Benjamin Linus will live. But I think Sayid shooting Ben is going to have serious repercussions on the 1977 timeline that might result in big changes to the way things originally would've played out. Maybe Ben getting shot in 1977 will somehow delay or prevent him from joining the hostiles? Maybe the purge will be avoided? I won't pretend to know those answers, but somehow 2007 Ben understands that getting shot in the past will cause ripples through time that will change things in a direction favorable to his master plan. And I'll leave it at that.
One more thing though. If you believe in what I just said above, and if you believe the purge isn't going to happen (at least not in the way it originally occurred), then did Ben really commit genocide? The first time around, did he really kill all those people? Or did he always know, somehow, that once he solved the equation that would result in the end game of LOST, that all the things that happened all those other times would become null and void? In the end, maybe only one song can really be played on the island's record player. And Ben knows which song that is.
(I hope it's a Manowar song)