"What if I said you could have anything in the entire world?" - the Man in Black
The offer is an alluring one, though not exactly new territory. Remember in "The Man From Tallahassee" when Ben tempted John with a seemingly imaginary magic box in which you would find whatever you desired?
Whether these Faustian bargains will lead to our characters getting what they desire is one matter, but Lost's various fan communities are certainly having their every wish fulfilled. So far in season 6, we've spent time on the romantic plots (Sawyer and Juliet's tearful farewell, Locke and Helen), advanced the mythology (the wall of numbers and candidates, the Smoke Monster), and even experienced some old-fashioned season 1-esque character bonding in the jungle. That's something for just about every Lost fan. But if anything's been missing so far, it was action.
Well, not anymore. Similar to the way "The Shape of Things to Come" (an hour of Lost that had much in common with last night's episode) greatly picked up the pace of season 4, "Sundown" gave the show a much-appreciated adrenaline shot as well as a decisive (dare I say cathartic?) end to the first third of season 6.
While many of the episode's best moments were in the last 10 minutes, I found a great deal to like throughout the entire hour of "Sundown". I'm tempted to rank this as my favorite hour of the season so far - quite an accomplishment for a Sayid episode on the heels of Jack and John episodes (which I usually prefer).
Just like last week, I'm going to jump around a bit. Let's start in the ATL (Alternate Timeline). Note: I know some people are bothered by referring to it as an "alternate" timeline because the producers don't want us to think of it as less important than the on-island stuff. I don't mean to reduce its significance by referring to it as such, I'm simply thinking of it as a reality that is "alternate" to the one we've known for five seasons. And just because Damon and Carlton insist that these are the same characters doesn't mean that reality bears out that statement.
In any case, the happenings in the ATL kept me considerably interested and entertained this week. Without further ado, Sayid and Nadia...
Sayid claims to have been in Australia on business - boring, regular business, not assassin or torturing business - but is he telling the truth? There seemed to be a hint of falseness when he mentioned it at the dinner table. Also, he later claims that his job is taking him to Toronto next, and whenever someone on Lost mentions Canada, they're lying. You can look it up on Lostpedia if you don't believe me, but there are way too many cases of this for it be a coincidence (Ethan claimed to be from Canada, Bonnie and Greta claimed to be on assignment in Canada, Anthony Cooper claimed to be from Canada, Sawyer claimed to have a Canadian business partner as part of a con, the list goes on and on).
The reason I'm troubled by what Sayid was doing in Australia is the picture of Nadia the kids found in his bag.
I couldn't find anything online to confirm it, but I'm almost positive that this is the same picture that the intelligence agents give Sayid in return for him infiltrating the terrorist cell. Did Sayid do the same thing in Australia in this reality as he did in the other? It wouldn't really make sense, because he wouldn't need the CIA's help finding Nadia. He would have to know that she was with his brother, and since he seems to have a relationship with the nephew and niece, I would suspect that he's visited before and knows where the are. Still, it's a little weird to use the same photo. Then again, photos in the ATL have been pretty weird (the one of John and Cooper sitting on John's desk was straight out of the hunting flashback scene in Deus Ex Machina, after all).
Anyway, we soon learn that Omer has bigger things to worry about than whether his wife would prefer a Jarrah who's man enough to kill chickens. Omer loaned money from somebody shady ("Sawyer! Or Gordy! Or Anthony Cooper! Or Charles Widmore! Or Mr. Paik!" every Lost fan was thinking) and is in serious danger. So he asks Sayid to channel his old Iraqi Republican Guard self and work things out for the family.
Poor Sayid. He tries to be a good person but is constantly manipulated into doing bad things in the name of supposed good. Just as Ben conned Sayid into doing his dirty work for him under the guise of protecting his friends and avenging Nadia, Sayid's brother is now conning him into cleaning up the mess he made in order to save Nadia and the kids. How guilty is Sayid of wrongdoing when so much of what he does is against his better judgment?
These questions surrounding Sayid's goodness or badness so perfectly mirrored what was happening on the island that we should switch gears for a bit.
Questions about Sayid's inner goodness have of course abounded since he first tortured Sawyer for an inhaler that Sawyer didn't actually have (and thanks to "Lighthouse", we now know it was on the floor of the Caves all along!). But even then, he only did it to help Shannon. And of course, whenever Sayid tortures someone, he mentally tortures himself by never letting go of his guilt, and then he usually gets actually, physically tortured by someone else, whether it be Rousseau, the restaurant owner in the flashbacks of "Enter 77", Oldham or Dogen.
"Why were you in handcuffs when we found you?" - Oldham
"Because I am a bad man." - Sayid
But is Sayid a bad man? Do the the things he does make him evil when he regrets them, and only did them to protect other people?
It's clear of course where Dogen stands: Sayid is so bad that he's better off dead. According to what he tells Sayid, he's basing this off the torture test in "What Kate Does". He explains that the test weighed how much of Sayid was good and how much was bad. But I thought the test determined whether someone was "infected" or not. Does this mean that all bad people, even ones who haven't been "claimed" would fail the test? Or does being claimed simply mean that the victim becomes "evil"? I thought claiming had to do more with who was controlling a person rather than the objective quantity of good or evil in that person. The latter explanation is a little harder for me to swallow.
I really have to wonder whether Sayid would have failed the test under any circumstance, or whether he failed it because he's been brought back to life by the Man in Black and is in some way possessed like the French team and possibly Claire. This is important for trying to determine whether the Sayid who's up and walking around is the same Sayid we've always known and loved, or whether it's some sort of brainwashed evil Sayid. I know what you're thinking, "Duh! Did you even WATCH the rest of the episode? He's so brainwashed and evil!" Eh, I hear you, but I actually don't think that anything Sayid did in this episode was out of character or needed to be explained by brainwashing. And I'll make that case as events transpire.
But just to humor people who think it's really a different Sayid, I think your best evidence might be the Iraqi's current physical state. Let's take a look at him again.
It's a little difficult to notice in this picture, but if you watch the episode closely you'll see that Sayid has a red rash on his face and neck. I don't remember him getting punched in the face repeatedly and I doubt that he gets sunburned easily, so a strong case can be made that this rash is the physical manifestation of "infection". Maybe there's some other explanation, but with all the talk of infections going around, that rash is pretty conspicuous.
(Speaking of skin ailments - did ATL Nadia have scars from scalding water and burns on her arms as she does in the Main Timeline? It looked to me like she did not. I wonder, then, if she was ever tortured by Sayid or anyone else.)
Meanwhile, the Man in Black designates Claire to deliver his message to the Temple. It seems he can't go in himself, and maybe this is why:
Though it's later suggested that Dogen's existence is the only think that prevents Flocke from entering. In any case, Claire strolls right into the Temple and asks Dogen to join Flocke for a chat. Dogen wisely refuses and has Claire thrown in a pit. He then appears to reconsider his position on Sayid and recruits him for a mission to kill Flocke with a seemingly special blade.
The irony is of course that to prove he's a "good person", Sayid must do a bad thing - he must kill. And, like most of his other acts of obedient violence, stabbing Flocke doesn't accomplish anything worthwhile.
A strong emphasis is placed on speech. Dogen warns Sayid not to let Flocke - an angry man who is the very incarnation of evil, according to Dogen - say one word. A question we should be asking ourselves is whether Flocke is just a very, very persuasive talker (much like Walter/Randall Flagg, of whom my recap two weeks ago compared to the Man in Black) or if his words actually have a controlling effect (more like Saruman of The Lord of the Rings). Which way you answer that question has to do with whether you think the "infection" is real or it's a phony Others thing and Sayid is actually exercising free will. And that of course, is one of Lost's central conflicts.
Flocke explains to Sayid that Dogen was trying to trick him into getting killed once again, which actually seems like exactly what Dogen was trying to do. For recruitment purposes, Flocke has no greater ally than the Temple Others and their baseball-loving leader. They have single-handedly driven Sayid and Claire directly into the arms of the adversary, and they're certainly a contributing factor in Jin and Sawyer (possibly) going over to the perceived dark side.
Dogen's plan backfires and instead Flocke offers Sayid an opportunity. He can have anything he wants. Anything in the world. Anything at all. And what Sayid wants is Nadia (though I should mention it's conceivable that he was referring to Shannon).
As I noted in my intro, Lost has had no shortage of such offers. In addition to Jacob and MIB making theirs, the island itself has granted its visitors the things they most desperately wanted: Kate - to be free, John - to walk again, Jin and Sun - another chance at love, Sawyer - redemption, Rose and Bernard - a long, happy life together, and so on and so forth. I wonder if Jacob and MIB can grant wishes as well as the island itself, or whether the island is powerless and it's all been the doing of these entities.
Despite his rhetoric, does anyone actually believe that Flocke will restore Sayid's beloved Nadia? I don't see that happening.
Sayid, clearly still in love with Nadia, actually wants to help his brother now, but Nadia says no. She's just about the only person not encouraging Sayid to commit violence, which probably makes her the perfect romantic match for him. It's too bad that the memory of the things that he's done kept him from being with her in the ATL. I do really wonder if they shared the same history in this reality as they did in the other one.
But when Sayid utilizes his free will and makes a decision not to do something bad, destiny says differently. Omar of Widmore's mercenary team picks him up and forces him to meet with the money-lender who harmed his brother - none other than ATL Omar's mercenary team leader, Martin Christopher Keamy!
Keamy is really great. Maybe it's just me, but Kevin Durand does a terrific job in this role (both the ATL and MTL versions). Keamy is one of the few Lost characters who totally scares me. He's so off-kilter, so wildly cold and cruel. Too bad MIB can't change forms. John Locke makes sense for the recruitment phase, but once that's over I would choose to appear as Keamy if I was a disembodied cloud of smoke.
This version of Keamy is just as menacing, though he makes some good eggs (Lostpedia informs me that this is a reference to Eggtown - really?). He also wants money from Sayid's brother, leaving Sayid little choice but to grab Omar's gun and kill them both along with a nameless thug. Nadia didn't want him to do it, but it was necessary to protect her and the kids. This is Sayid's constant contradiction.
Locked in the freezer, Sayid stumbles across one of the episode's most exciting plot developments - Keamy has been holding Jin prisoner! This raises all sorts of intriguing possibilities. Jin is working for Mr. Paik, and we know that Keamy has worked for Charles Widmore, and we know that the two are semi-connected. Maybe Jin is being held prisoner due to a feud between the two? If you take a close look at the screencaps, I'm pretty sure that Keamy is wearing the gold watch that Jin was supposed to deliver.
I don't think Keamy is definitely dead. For one thing, he could still play a role if Jin's ATL storyline has to do with Widmore. Also, a fight between Keamy and Sayid on the island resulted in Keamy being shot, and he ended up surviving it that time, so maybe he will again.
The long-awaited reunion between Kate and Claire was a little underwhelming for me, and maybe the night's weakest moment. Just like Jin, Kate doesn't really lay out the Aaron situation to Claire very well. At the very least, she should have mentioned that Claire's mom is no longer in a coma and is taking care of Aaron. That might have put the Aussie at ease a bit more.
At first I thought that the giant hole was the only reason Claire didn't immediately kill Kate, but once she's within striking distance, no murder takes place, so maybe Evil Claire is all talk, no action.
The nameless redshirt Others have never seemed particularly loyal to their masters when faced with an actual challenge to that authority. Ben spent the majority of season 3 trying to stay in power, and Flocke quickly convinced Richard's group on the beach in "Follow the Leader" that they shouldn't take orders from Jacob without meeting him. So it was no surprise to me that many of the Others (I don't know what percent - it's impossible to tell how many of these people there actually are since it changes based on the show's needs) defected without hesitation.
Still, this is a little strange. Why was it so easy for them to renounce Jacob and leave the Temple that was their home for so long? I really do wonder how much the average Other knows about Jacob or the island. How devoutly do they believe in this weird cult religion they've been following? Evidently, not very. Maybe the Others are more like the 815 survivors than we previously thought. They can't leave the island, even if they want to, they've long since given up on asking questions because people like Dogen, Richard and Ben don't give out answers, and all they want to do now is survive as best they can.
The only background Others we really care about at this point, though, are Cindy, Zach and Emma, who all leave to join Flocke. I was a little disappointed that Cindy made it out alive, not because I have anything against her, but because I really need her to die a senseless, violent death for the sake of my advancement in the Lost Fantasy League (and then for Pierre Chang to become a series regular - come on, Dharma Man!).
Speaking of the LFL, Miles (who is on my team and has had me worried for weeks now) actually got something of a reprieve last night, but I was very worried about him right until the end, just because of all the shunning he's been getting from the other Losties. When he asks Sayid if they should leave the Temple, he's completely blown off, and Sayid heads to return the Master Sword to its owner inside the Temple of Time, who is unfortunately Dogen rather than Princess Zelda.
We are then treated to the closest thing we'll probably ever get to a flashback for Dogen. The man simply explains how he came to be on the island. A former banker in Japan, Dogen had too much to drink and was in a car accident with his 12-year-old son. Remember that we've actually met this son before - he was with his father at David Shephard's concert. It was implied that, like David, he had a musical gift and was also a "candidate" of sorts.
Dogen implies that his son was killed but doesn't actually say so. Jacob then came to see him and promised that his son would live, but Dogen had to work for Jacob and never see his son again (which closely reminded me of Ben's deal with Juliet to save her sister - doesn't that seem so long ago?). If the boy was seriously injured but not quite dead, Jacob could probably have brought him to the Spring in the Temple to save him. But I found myself thinking that if the boy was actually dead, maybe Jacob meant he would save him by setting into motion a chain of events that would lead to an alternate reality where his son was still alive.
Actually, maybe that will be the ultimate manner of wish fulfillment: everything the Losties desire, we will see them gain it in the ATL.
Dogen's story seems to win the sympathy of Sayid, who says, "Jacob drives a hard bargain." This was an episode about hard bargains - about difficult choices and desperate hopes for distant second chances. Sure, it's free will, but does free will really matter when one choice is so undesirable? Does Sayid really have a choice to do the things he does if he believes not doing them will harm the people he cares about?
But just as Sayid seemed to make peace with who he truly is at the end of "He's Our You" when he shot young Ben, he does so again, seizing Dogen, throwing him into the Spring and drowning him. As Dogen dies, the baseball - his son's baseball, evidently - slips from his hand and floats to the surface of the water. It was a very intriguing image that made me think that Dogen's son wasn't saved until that moment. Maybe part of Dogen's deal with Jacob was that the samurai would have to die before his son's life would be secure. I can't reason through why Jacob would have wanted Dogen to die, though, as it ends up resulting in the Temple massacre. Then again, Jacob clearly saw the massacre coming a mile away and did nothing to prevent it, only working to save the two people he absolutely needed. Is this really the good guy?
In any case, Lennon lasts about ten seconds longer than his master before Sayid slits his throat and tosses him into the Spring like a piece of trash. He would have to be dead before he hit the water, though, in order to stay dead, wouldn't he? The healing Spring isn't exactly the best place to leave the dying bodies of your enemies. If the Spring is truly broken (which it probably is) it won't matter, but there's definitely a chance that either Dogen or Lennon won't stay dead for long.
Then comes the hour's greatest irony - Benjamin Linus appears to rescue Sayid. This is absolutely brilliant storytelling. Ben confronts Sayid, the man who captured and tortured him in 2004, who then joined forces with him shortly after they both left the island. Sayid killed for Ben to avenge Nadia's death and to protect his friends, eventually returning to the island 30 years in the past to once again meet Ben for the first time, a younger Ben who hadn't yet become a monster. Sayid shot him with the intention of killing him and preventing his dark future, but instead only guaranteed that it would happen the same way. Ben was healed of his gunshot wound in the Spring, the very Spring that Dogen later drowned Sayid in, the same Spring at which Sayid now sits, overlooking the men he has murdered in it for a chance at saving Nadia. And there stands Ben, promising a chance to escape, but it's as if he's saying there's still time left to change it all, to fix everything, for goodness to prevail. "Not for me," Sayid answers, a slightly demonic look about him.
This look, in addition to the weird rash, is pretty much the only thing that led me to believe Sayid is possessed or not actually Sayid. Everything he did this episode could be explained without an "infection" explanation. The point of his ATL flashes was to remind us that Sayid is willing to kill people in an instant if it means protecting Nadia. Sayid murdering Dogen and Lennon - who had repeatedly harmed, lied and attempted to kill him - in order to have a chance at Flocke restoring Nadia in some way, made perfect sense to me even without a brainwashing explanation.
If the Dharma Initiative, the 815 survivors, and the Others are the three major groups of people we've come to know over the past 109 hours of Lost, we have now witnessed the systematic destruction of all three of those groups. While it's more difficult to emotionally connect with the deaths of the Others than it was with the DI during the Purge or Losties after the flaming arrow attack, I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for these hopelessly confused and manipulated people as the Smoke Monster tore them apart.
Kate and Miles begin fleeing together but are quickly separated. I thought this was absolutely going to be the end for Miles. When he trapped himself in that room and there was banging on the other side of the door, I really thought it was over for him. So when Ilana busted through the door, I was totally shocked and relieved. And if memory serves me right, Miles and Ilana have never met, meaning the fact that Ilana clearly recognized or knew of him is significant. Perhaps he's on some list of Jacob's after all.
Frank, Sun and Ben are there, too, and Miles quickly confirms for Sun that she's just about the only person who hasn't run into Jin yet. I'm thinking the Sun and Jin reunion can't be more than a few hours away.
As this group - possibly the only group of definitively good guys left, other than Hurley and possibly Jack - leaves the Temple, another stands proudly in its wake. And as a super-creepy, super-effective version of Claire and Aaron's favorite song, "Catch A Falling Star", commenses, Sayid, Claire and Kate meet up with Flocke and his recruits (where are Sawyer and Jin, I wonder? Oh, and Richard, for that matter?). Sayid and Claire are happy to be with him and definitely bad. Kate, though, was totally a fish out of water. She had no idea what was going on.
But to her credit, Flocke didn't seem to quite know what to do with her, either. The look he gave her said one of two things to me.
1) "Eh, she's already crossed off, so I don't really care about her. Whatever!"
2) "What? Kate! I forgot all about her/never even knew about her! She has been totally neglected in my cosmic battle with Jacob!"
I think the producers are really messing with us on the whole Kate thing this season. We'll have to wait to see what significance she ends up having, if any.
Will those who have cast their lot with the Man in Black reap the rewards he has promised each and every one of them? Or will loyalty to Jacob prove to be the best course of action, despite his track record of wasting the lives of his followers as if they hardly mattered? Or will some new alternative present itself that escapes the rigid "two sides" dichotomy into which Lost always tries to fit itself?
A hard bargain, indeed.
Until next week, thanks for reading.
- Robby "Robz888"