Well, friends, real life intervened last week, preventing me from doling out some wisodm on “Dr. Linus” so here is a quick 250-word take.
In short, I really enjoyed it. Though some of the parallels between Island Ben and Sideways Ben were just a little on the nose (the Napoleon Elba scene in particular), I just bought into the whole deconstruction of the Ben Linus mythology. As events have unfolded, it’s become increasingly clear that might not been a large part of the Island’s plan. He had to scam his way into a position of power by pushing Charles out and he had to slink back to the Island aboard the Ajira flight even though It was explained that those who turned the wheel were never allowed back.
Ergo, Ben was forced to make the same choice in the sideways world that he was on the Island, choosing between Alex’s livelihood and his own advancement. This time, he made the moral decision, hearkening back to the Alternate stories of Locke, Jack and (to some extent) Kate, which provided the show’s characters with something of a happy ending that may not have been possible.
That left Island Ben fully exposed, quite literally digging his own grave. He was given a choice between taking Locke up on his offer to look after the Island once he’d gone or taking up with the Ilana/Sun/Miles/Frank camp. And for once in his life, Ben seemed totally vulnerable and totally willing to allow himself to be part of a community. Of course, there is always the lingering question of his true intentions, but I was certainly sold for the moment.
On that note, we move to “Recon”, a Sawyer-centric romp which was similar in theme to “Dr. Linus” in that it took everything we perceived to be a true about Sawyer and flipped the script a bit, presenting the character with the same internal dilemma in a different light.
Re-con, as in, to con again
We appeared headed for a carbon copy of the season 1 outing “Confidence Man”, wherein we were first introduced to Sawyer’s life as a dangerous grifter, hell-bent on revenge. Well, it was same story, different medium last night, as the alternate universe found Sawyer logging time on the other side of the law, yet still pursuing the same ghost of a man who ruined his life.
I like the sort of hard-boiled cop movie type of vibe I was getting from the Sideways story, exploring the notion that cop and criminal are actually two parts of the same psyche. As he described it himself, he arrived at a point where he had to choose one or the other. I think it’s pretty clear that that moment was shortly after his parents funeral, when he began writing the letter to the real Sawyer (Anthony Cooper, whom Sawyer was still doggedly pursuing). In the standard timeline his pen began to run out of ink before Jacob’s intervening. Are we then to assume that Jacob just didn’t show up this time around?
The Sawyer/Charlotte interlude was a little out of place and was juuuuust teetering on the edge of being filler, but I really appreciated it as sort of a microcosm of where the stakes are at this season. Here are two characters who had largely nothing to do with each other, save for some season 5 time-travelling escapades, just going at it like dogs in heat and sharing really sentimental and emotionally loaded exchanges. It was freaky and weird really tickled me in an odd way.
“It’s sad really, how little you actually know”
Those are the words of the Island’s newest inhabitant, Charles Widmore. He intercepted Sawyer on a Recon mission by the Locke-ness Monster. I think stuff like this really allows Sawyer to shine. While the Monster was busy trying to sell his escape plan to the rest of his followers, while carefully not revealing the whole truth (you noticed that he said “the black smoke killed them” while failing to mention the was, in fact, the black smoke right?), Sawyer made it clear that he’s not as gullible as the rest of them and went to work for the Monster. Then it seemed like he was working against the Monster, selling him out to Widmore. Then he seemed to be on Team Smokey once more, alerting him to the subterfuge he was running on Widmore. Just when you thought the double-agenting was all over, Sawyer revealed to a downtrodden Kate (we’ll get to her) that he was, as usual, looking out for number one. He plans to fly the coop via the Widmore sub while the two ominous entities settle their own stuff.
I was reminded of the season 2 outing “The Long Con”, in which Sawyer, thinking about a million steps ahead of both Jack and Locke, telling the Island’s local alpha males, “You were so busy worrying about each other you never even saw me coming, did you?” We appear to be closing the loop on this aspect of Sawyer’s personality. And it would be sheer negligence forget Sawyer’s thematically-loaded closing line in that episode: “I’m not a good person, Charlie. Never did a good thing in my life.” Sawyer’s moral compass has always been just a little off-kilter as he more often than not has his own interests at the forefront of his mind, but he feels confident enough in this plan to involve Kate, providing a pleasant companion to the Sideways cliffhanger.
A boy’s best friend is his mother
For being so Sawyer-heavy, I thought we got a nice little dollop of advancement in the whole Kate/Claire/Aaron problem. The most puzzling scene was the one in which the Monster confided in Kate that he once had a crazy mother, who was largely to blame for him having turned out the way he did. The Norman Bates-esque soliloquy was meant to ease Kate’s thoughts about Claire having tried to off her, and Locke seemed to imply that Claire was becoming a problem that would soon need to be dealt with. Lost has always been a show relying heavily on daddy issues and it’s somewhat intriguing to have the tables turned onto the maternal side in this anything-goes final season. It also opens the door for the notion that the crazy mother the monster is speaking of is actually Claire herself, and that the Monster is actually an unstuck in time Aaron. Too much? Alright let’s move on.
And how about that Kate? I gave her a lot of flack for what is undoubtedly the season’s lowlight “What Kate Does”. But, I thought Evangeline Lilly did a stupendous job communicating Kate’s overwhelming sense of hopelessness and defeat. Bear in mind she traveled back to the Island to reunite Claire with her baby and pretty much everything has gone completely wrong since she arrived. She wasn’t in many scenes, but I was completely sold on all of her brooding, self doubt. Well played, Evie.
- I was a big fan of Miles and Sawyer continuing their buddy cop dynamic originally formed in the Dharma era as security detail in a much more literal sense in the Sideways universe. Miles is such a great foil with almost anyone, but particularly Sawyer. I suspect there will be no Miles episode this season, which is sad, but he’s been used quite well in such limited time.
- We got another look at Claire’s disgusting skull/pelt baby thing. Again, it’s not entirely clear that we’ll be given a whole episode on Claire’s exploits this season, but that one prop says so much about how far off the deep end she’s gone since the Oceanic Six split town. That said, I’d be cool if we never saw that grotesque abomination ever again. Skin=crawling. Ugh.
- Sideways Sawyer is still an old softie for “Little House”. The particular scene he was watching, wherein Pa tells Laura that people aren’t really gone when they’re dead, would seem to give creedence to the notion that the flashsideways stories represent a sort of reincarnation for the castaways after they are done with whatever is going to happen on the Island.
- Next week appears to be Richard-centric. In a related story, this will be the longest week of my life.
So, how do you feel about Sawyer’s zig-zaggy, tenuous allegiances? What’s your read on the flashsideways storytelling technique at this point? Did anyone else think Liz Lemon was on the Island for a split second? You know the drill, sound off!