I'd like to dedicate this week's post to one of my longtime readers, Pat Whaley. Pat, thanks so much for making LLL a part of your life, both before and after your retirement. I'd keep writing even if nobody was reading, but it's always great to hear that someone enjoys my musings. If you have some extra time on your hands, I'd love to hear your comments about the blog, the show, or just what's going on as you start the next big phase of your life. Namaste, Pat!
"He's Our You" answered more questions than it asked, though the one it asked at the end was a doozy!
Also, a bit of a correction/ retraction from last week - the producers issued a mea culpa with respect to Charlotte's age getting bolluxed up. They have admitted that they wrote the "1979" birthday based on Rebecca Mader's actual age, and Ms. Mader never saw a script with any other date. In any case, it was a mistake. We must sally forth!
You'll further notice that I skipped the visual aids this week. I was just short of time this weekend, and wanted to get this posted. I'm sure you'll all forgive my transgression :)
Finally, moreso than any other episode thus far, "He's Our You" exemplified the theme that was set up in the very first scene of the season, in which Dr. Pierre Chang scoffed at the notion that one could go back in time and kill Hitler to change history...
Sayid's story revealed! Amy gets bloodthirsty!! Sawyer tries to have his DHARMA cake and eat it too!!! All of this, plus a shocking ending, in episode 510, "He's Our You."
In one of the most "traditional" episodes of the season, this week prominently featured Sayid Jarrah, complete with a series of flashbacks that helped fill in the blanks on his story.
Sayid earns his father's respect by luring a chicken using some feed and snapping its neck, even as his older brothe stood in paralyzed horror when he had been ordered to do in Mr. Cluck. In this brief scene, we see how Sayid, to please a hard father, first showed signs of the coolly detached violence he would be able to employ as an adult.
Aside Number 1 - Credit, as always, Jeff Jensen for this observation, but this scene was the first in several parallels this episode between Sayid and the late Mr. Eko. Much like Eko, who murdered a man to save his younger brother from having to do it, Sayid here killed a chicken to help his brother escape their father's wrath. In other words, a violent adulthood was at least rooted in a somewhat noble impulse - to save a brother.
Before we leave this scene...is it just me, or could the Jarrah family have made a lot of money by having Dad serve as one of Saddam Hussein's lookalike decoys? I'm just saying...
Slickly long-haired Sayid chases down a Russian named Andropov, who offers him a wad of cash, only to have Sayid shoot him, anyway. When Sayid leaves into the cold, Russian night, he finds Ben waiting for him. Ben tells him they’re done, because Andropov was the last one – the last of Widmore's men who posed a threat to the Oceanic Six. "What do I do now?" Sayid asks, like a long-term prisoner who, upon release, realizes he's not suited to the outside world. "I suppose you should go live your life," shrugs Ben. "You’re free, Sayid."
Aside Number 2 - We now know how it was that Sayid stopped acting as Ben's hired gun. Quite simply, his project completed, the position was eliminated. We also observed the crucial difference between Ben and Sayid. For Ben, the on-again/ off-again relationship with cruel violence is like turning a light switch on and off. For Sayid, however, he needs to be debased into violence, then finds he needs to claw his way back out of it. For that matter, suddenly discovering that he's "finished" his killing spree, without any sense of revenge or justice for his wife's death, must have left Sayid feeling even more empty than when Nadya died in the first place.
Santa Domingo, Domincan Republic
We return to yellow-shirted Sayid in his Habitat for Humanity-esque mode of shanty building. He turns around one day and finds Ben standing there. "How did you find me," Sayid asks, as though the thought of his assasin life and his charity work life crashing into each other was heretofore unfathomable. "I looked," responds Ben, and with Ben, you just kind of accept that it is as simple as that. Ben tells Sayid Locke is dead – murdered as retribution for their work. "If I can find you," warns Ben, so can the people who found Locke." Ben tells him about the man in the car outside Hurley’s hospital. Ben assumes Sayid would want to kill this man because of his capabilities, his nature. What Sayid is, insists Ben, is a killer. "I’m not what you think I am," insists Sayid. "I don’t like killing." Ben responds, "well then I apologize. I was mistaken about you," which is Ben-ese for "yeah, right."
Aside Number 3 - we now know how house-building Sayid ended up back on the killing spree and rescuing Hugo. I gotta say, Ben is a master manipulator. Of course, his ability to, not to mention apparent glee over, pushing Sayid's buttons is explained partially at the end of the episode. As for Sayid...the poor guy really does want to believe his better nature is who he is. But then there's Ben Linus, who, like his father, seems capable of motivating Sayid to be the worst he can be, with but a few words, or a look. If it's that easy, then perhaps Ben is right, and this is who Sayid really is?
A further parallel between Sayid and Eko is seen here. Both men had tried to redeem themselves from their violent pasts by embracing identities that let them minister to those less fortunate - Eko actually became the priest he had pretended to be, and Sayid actually became a man dedicated to building housing for the poor. Yet both men also found themselves compelled on multiple occasions to return to violence by virtue of their involvement in flight 815...Long Beach, California
Back at Slip 23, Sayid leaves the confrontation between Sun and Ben, and goes to a bar. He’s drinking McCutcheon, the over-priced scotch of choice for Charles Widmore and James "Sawyer" Ford. Next to him is Ilana, who orders the rib eye, bloody. He asks if she’s a professional (meaning "the oldest profession). Warning sign - she's not offended; she says she just thought he looked sad. She slides over. The small talk is pretty awesome - Sayid says he's between jobs, and he did "the only thing I was ever good at." "Why quit," she asks. "I’m trying to change," he responds (as Yoda would say, "no, try not! Do, or do not. There is no 'try'.") She knows why he’s sad – "when you’re that good at something, there will always be people who will tempt you to stay the same." It's a foregone conclusion where this is headed - to a steamy rendezvous in a hotel room. As he unzips her boot, she kicks him several times, then holds him at gunpoint. She's a bounty hunter, hired by the family of the man he killed on that golf course in the Seychelles to bring him to Guam.
Aside Number 4 - another question answered, i.e., what was Sayid doing in handcuffs at the airport? I'm not entirely sure how a bounty hunter gets a badge that she can flash to airport security that they'd be cool with (unless, of course, it's a fake, which, honestly, is a pretty brazen thing to do).
The question remains - was Ilana really hired by the family of that guy Sayid shot last season, or did Ben have something to do with it? I think Ilana can be trusted on this point. After all, per Ben, Sayid's victims were part of Widmore's "organization." And Widmore, like Ben, seemed to believe it was necessary for the Oceanic Six to return to the island. Surely he did not rise to his position of prominence by trusting ineffectual doofuses like John Locke to accomplish everything for him? No, Widmore would have had a backup plan. Ilana, I think, was plan B. The question is whether she knows it or not.At the airport, Sayid sees the other Sixers, and asks if Ilana’s sure they’re going to Guam. Nervously, he asks if they can get the next plane, and says he’s superstitious about flying. No dice - Ilana's instructions were very specific (see my prior aside - Widmore clearly had access to the same data as Eloise Hawking, which said Ajira 316 would go through the island's zone of influence). Once on board, he sees Ben. He asks if Ilana is working for Benjamin Linus. "Who’s Benjamin Linus," she asks (and her ignorance seems believable enough that I believe she does not have more intel on why she's been asked to take Sayid on this flight). Sayid calls Ben lots of names, including "a monster responsible for genocide." "Why would I work for someone like that," asks Ilana. Sayid frowns, "I did."
Aside Number 5 - and there we have it - "genocide." Mass murder, sure, but Sayid's choice of words is the hook to bring us back to the big question - if you could go back in time, could you, and should you, kill Hitler to change history? For me, this was when the episode's ending became apparent (though I'd figured something similar would happen since last week's coming attractions).
Which brings us to the end of the flashbacks, and, I think, to the end of Sayid Jarrah's backstory. We've seen his childhood, how he the CIA turned him into a Jack Bauer type figure, how he embraced that role in the Republican Guard until it put him at odds with his love for Nadya, how he helped her escape, only to be prompted by the CIA to run an undercover op on a would-be terrorist in Australia, how he tried to fly from Sydney to Los Angeles to find Nadya. We saw how he eventually did find her after his rescue as an Oceanic Sixer, how she was killed 9 months later, how Ben used his grief from her death to turn Sayid into an assasin, how Sayid was then turned loose to live his life, and how he willingly returned to violence to help a friend, only to be dragged onto Ajira 316. Yup, I'd say we know Sayid's story cold at this point.DHARMAville, 1977
Young Ben brings Sayid a chicken salad sandwich, and gives him a copy of A Separate Reality, which Ben says he's read twice.
Aside Number 6 - I can't pretend to have read the book, so I won't discuss what it may or may not be about. But the title, alone, calls to mind the recurring question - what happens if you try to change the past?
Ben asks Sayid if Richard sent him. Sayid notes the camera, but Ben points out there's no microphone. Ben tells Sayid about his running away 4 years ago. Ben says he’s been patient since then. "If you’re patient, too, I think I can help you."
Aside Number 7 - this was big for those keeping score on the timeline - we now know the events of "The Man Behind the Curtain" took place about one year before the events of "LaFleur," or in 1973. Which was the year I was born. Which is cool, but only if you're me.
Minkowski and Horace come for Sayid. Horace cuts off Sayid's plastic cuffs. Radzinsky wants Horace to ask Sayid what he knows about the Swan model, but Horace shuts him up. Horace asks about the cuffs, and surmises either Sayid had a problem with his people, or he's a spy, trying to infiltrate DHARMA. Sayid stays quiet. Horace gives him an hour. If he doesn’t talk, this will be taken to the next level.
Aside Number 8 - Having spent a couple of episodes with Minkowski, I gotta say, I wouldn't be surprised if Kelvin actually blasted his head off, rather than it being a suicide. The guy's a real tool, and super annoying.
Sawyer takes bacon off the stove. Juliet forgot she'd put there. She looks distracted. He sees she’s watching Kate. Juliet asks if they’re over, through playing house. She is scared since they’re back – what if Sayid talks, and tells DHARMA who he is? Sayid won’t talk, Sawyer reassures her. Horace shows up, saying Sayid’s a problem, and he needs to have Oldham “do his thing on him.” Jim asks to have a go at him before that “psychopath.” Jim dismisses Phil, then goes in to see Sayid.
Alone with Sayid, Sawyer asks how he's doing. In one of Sayid's best lines in the series, in responds, "a 12-year-old Ben linus brought me a chicken salad sandwich. How do you think I feel?" Abruptly, Sawyer head butts Sayid. He says he needs to fake the signs of an interrogation. Jim gives him a choice – cooperate, or he’s on his own. “Then I guess I’m on my own," retorts Sayid.
Aside Number 9. At this point, my wife gave me a WTF look, and asked why Sayid isn't cooperating. I'd already suspected what he was up to, but, regardless, after 4 and a half seasons, I've learned, sometimes you have to trust Lost to reveal characters' motivations later that at first seem confusing.
Hurley brings breakfast to Jack and Kate, and urges them to try the dipping sauces. He asks what’s happening with Sayid. Jack tells them what Sawyer told him. Kate suggests she talk to Juliet. Hurley sees the problem – they’re together, like you were together? Jack sends Hurley off, and he goes to make waffles. Kate asks if Jack knew. He says yeah.
Aside Number 10 - Jack really contributed nothing to this episode. As for Kate, her moments were rare, but they were well-played.
Roger Linus comes in to clean around Sayid. He says he can’t figure out how Sayid got caught. "How dumb are you?" he asks. Snidely, Sayid responds, "and yet you’re the one who mops up after me." Roger sees Ben, who pretends he was bringing a swandwich to his loving pop. Roger, sensing a lie, smacks Ben against the bars, and gets a confession that the sandwich was for Sayid. He sends Ben off. Sayid sees this, and takes note.
Aside Number 11 - At this point, my prediction for the ending wavered a bit. Clearly, we were meant to see a connection between young Sayid and young Ben, both bullied into antisocial behavior by hard fathers. Could Sayid's plan have been to be Ben's much-needed father figure?
Sawyer returns with an armed escort, and gives Sayid one more chance. Sayid says nothing, so Sawyer zaps him with a stun gun. Sawyer, Horace, Phil and Radzinsky then take Sayid into the jungle, to a teepee where music is playing. This is Oldham’s place. Sayid asks Sawyer who Oldham is. “He’s our you,” responds Sawyer, ominiously (and hence, the title of the episode). Oldham drops a chemical on a sugar cube. "Better put him in the restraints," he cautions the DHARMA-ites. Radzinsky and Phil cuff Sayid, crucifix style, to a tree, and you can practically hear the banjo music playing. Oldham assures Sayid the restraints are for his protection – there are side effects. The cube is put in his mouth. Oldham assures him he’ll tell the truth, which worries Sawyer.
Aside Number 12 - DHARMA may have had more of a dark side than its utopian ideals suggested, but if Oldham's twitch-inducing truth serum is the closest they come to Sayid's tactics, they're a bunch of pussy cats. No wonder the purge was so effective!
The chemicals take effect. Sayid confesses his name. He was in handcuffs, he says, because he’s a bad man. In a stream of consciousness reminiscent of Hurley's confession earlier this season to his mother, Sayid spills the beans. He’s not a hostile. He came on a plane – Ajira flight 316, "and that’s how I returned to the island." He recalls his whole history. He says for confirmation, they can ask Sawyer. Who’s Sawyer, the DHARMA folk wonder? Radzinsky, never one to leave an idea alone, demands to hear what Sayid knows about the DHARMA stations. Sayid tells them about the Flame and the Pearl, then mentions what the Swan will be for, until there will be an "incident," at which point. Radzkinsky freaks out that the Hostiles know about the Swan. Sayid tells them they are all going to die. He says the Hostiles are going to kill them. He knows this, he says, because he’s from the future. "Maybe I should have used half the dropper," wonders Oldham. Sayid, laughing like the Joker, gives his second best line of the series – "you used exactly enough."
Aside Number 13 - At first blush, I was confused as to why the first assumption was that time travel meant Sayid had resisted the truth serum. After all, we know the Orchid station had already been built, since Faraday was there during construction. But then I recalled, only a few people know what the Orchid was for. Recall that in the orientation film, Chang/ Hallowax apologizes to Orchid stationees for previously lying to them, their colleagues and their loved ones by saying the Orchid was a botanical research station. The time travel aspect was need to know, only. And, apparently, Horace (DHARMA's purported leader), and Radzinsky (who was designing other DHARMA stations) did not need to know.
Juliet gives Kate a motor pool tour. Kate admits Hurley told her about Sawyer. Juliet, relieved, says, "I wasn’t quite sure how to do it without it sounding like I was telling you to stay away." They see Sayid get brought back. Jim gives a worried look to Juliet.
A meeting is called. Horace asks what to do with Sayid. Not missing a beat, Radzkinsky says to kill him. Horace says he needs more time. Radzinsky reiterates, "either we make a decision, or I call Ann Arbor, and they make the decision for us."
Aside Number 14 - Whoa, really? The DeGroots and the other hippie/ utiopian scientists at the University of Michigan are that bloodthirsty? I had figured it's one thing for the in-the-field DHARMAites to arm themselves and act all "law of the jungle," but the notion that the so-called idealists at Ann Arbor would accede to executing a prisoner calls to question just what DHARMA was really about.
Amy pleads, for the safety of the children, they need to kill Sayid. How will they feel safe with him around? Horace, his wife having spoken, sighs, then agrees to a vote. The group votes in favor of Radzinsky’s solution – all except LaFleur. Horace wants to say it’s unanimous. Jim puts up his hand, too, and looks down.
Sawyer goes into Sayid’s cell. He tells Sayid to hit him and overpower him to escape. Sayid refuses. "When I woke up in the jungle, and realized I was back," said Sayid, "I felt there was a purpose. Now I know exactly why I’m here." Sawyer tells him he’s out of his mind, but leaves him there. Sawyer goes home, then deviates to Kate’s house.
Aside Number 15 - Jeff Jensen seems to fault Sawyer for his compromised morality, saying the real hero would have stood up to the rest of DHARMA. But I see nothing wrong with Sawyer's efforts to both save Sayid, and give the impression that he still belonged in the leadership group. It's one to sacrifice a comfortable way of life because the only other option is to allow a terrible thing to happen. It's another when, like Sawyer, you can think of alternatives that both avoid the evil you know is wrong and preserve your hard-won happiness. Does anyone disagree?
Sawyer asks Kate why they came back. She says she doesn’t know about the others, but she knows why she did. Suddenly, a flaming DHARMA bus drives through the barracks area, and into a house. A fire brigade is assembled, and Jack comes to help. Sawyer calls everyone to building 15. Phil leaves the detention center door open and goes to help. Ben slips in, in a hood. His glasses are broken, for having brought the sandwich. Ben Sayid he really hates it there. "If I let you out, will you take me with you, to your people?" Sayid says yes, he will, and "that’s why I’m here."
Aside Number 16 - again, the implication here is that Sayid truly wants to help young Ben and guide him in a different direction. Of course, given that Ben just set in motion a particularly reckless bit of arson to spring Sayid, perhaps little Linus is already too far gone...
Ben leads Sayid out. They run through the jungle. A DHARMA bus drives by, then stops. Sayid gets Ben to wait. Out steps Jin. He asks Sayid how he got out. He says Sawyer let him go. An alert goes out, but Sayid says the others don’t know Saywe released him. As Jin is about to radio Sawyer for confirmation, Sayid knocks him out, and takes Jin’s gun. He says, almost under his breath, "you were right about me, I am a killer." Then he shoots young Ben square in the chest, and cries, even as Ben falls face down on the ground.
Which brings us back to the big theme - if you were able to travel back and time, could you kill Hitler, and should you? Arson notwithstanding, Ben the child had done nothing deserving of an assasination. Clearly, to Sayid, there was absolutely no question as to the morally proper thing to do - Ben, he knew, would grow to unleash so much evil on the world, the math was just plain simple. Kill this one child, and save dozens if not more lives later. And yet, is this actually the right thing to do?
For that matter, is it even effective to try? Consider Faraday's time-travel theory, which is also the title of next week's episode - "Whatever Happened, Happened." Sure, Ben looked pretty dead, but we've seen the island heal and even resurrect lost causes before. (And, to echo a discussion I had with my friend Aviva this week, what kind of professional killer doesn't go for head shots, or confirm his victim is dead)? Anyone care to lay down odds that Ben, indeed survives? For that matter, could this very moment, where Sayid tried to kill Ben to keep him from becoming a monster, actually be the event that pushes Ben over the edge? Consider, he trusted Sayid to be his savior, one of the "hostiles" he so desperately wanted to join. He secured Sayid's freedom, only to get shot and left for dead. Yeah, that's the kind of thing that can really warp an already emotionally-scarred victim of parental abuse.
And consider this - could it be the whole reason Ben so seemed to relish turning Sayid into his violent stooge in the "future" is because he remembers what happened in his childhood, because, again, "whatever happened, happened?" In a sense, in trying to change the course of history, I think we'll discover that Sayid actually caused it to transpire.
Another thought about the consequences of Sayid's actions. As far as DHARMA is concerned, Sayid is a "hostile." Could the arson that led to his escape, coupled with is trying to kill a DHARMA kid, be what ends the truce, and leads to the very same truce that Sayid accused Ben of bringing about?
One final thought (and this is about a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 of spoilers, so you can stop reading now if you're worried)....
....okay, so the buzz has been that there will be a major death before the end of the season on Lost. Right now, I have to think it will be Sayid. As I mentioned above, his story seems to have been told. He was both redeemed, and then subsequently pulled back to darkness. His story arc seems very, very reminiscent of Eko's - childhood marked by violence, which continued into adulthood, until circumstances caused him to renounce his ways, followed by momentarily being at peace, only to fully embrace the darker aspects of his life when put to a test. Refusing to apologize for his nature got Eko killed by Smoky. Will Sayid suffer the same fate, now that he, tearfully, acknowledged that deep down, he is a killer? Or will that tear be enough of a sign of remorse to, in the end, save him? Right now, knowing that someone will die this season, my money would have to be on Sayid.
So, until next week, on "Whatever Happened, Happened," Namaste.