I take this first passage from Jeff Jensen, who expounded upon my (ultimately innacurate) prediction for where this episode was going to take us:
''Sundown.'' The title was a Trojan horse fake out, designed to set us up for something Jin-and-Sunny, but masking something monstrous and smokey. Before last night, every episode of Lost 6.0 had been synced to every episode of Lost 1.0 (premiere, followed by Kate, Locke, and Jack eps). If the season had followed the pattern, then ''Sundown'' should have been a Jin and Sun episode (reunion!), corresponding with the season 1 episode titled ''House of the Rising Sun.'' Get it? No, sing it! Sunrise/Sunset/Sunrise/Sunset... Instead, being the super-suckers that we are, we got sabotaged: ''Sundown'' was a Sayid episode that mirrored his season 1 origin story ''Solitary.'' And just in case we didn't get the riddle, there was castaway jokester Miles sitting in Temple courtyard, passing the time playing Solitaire.
And now I'll just say it. Right from the get-go. I did not love "Sundown." Indeed, I have had a couple of nagging problems with Season 6 that I felt really came to a head this week. First, there's the flash-sideways. Don't get me wrong - I continue to have faith that, ultimately, these "alternate universe that's really the same even though it's completely inconsistent" stories will have some really cool payoff. I'm just tired of waiting for it. Think back to "Through the Looking Glass," where Lost surprised us by revealing that the flashback was actually a flash-forward. As with the flash-sideways, this was a huge shift in the narrative of the show. But unlike the flash-sideways, the trick was that there even was a trick. We thought we were watching a troubled time in Jack's past, only to learn it was his "future" that was so unpleasant. And, when we did get let in on the joke, we were able to project back to the beginning of the episode and figure out what had been going on. It was, in a nutshell, very "Sixth Sense" - in other words, a story where the twist ending worked precisely because we didn't know there was a twist to look out for.
Here, on the other hand, we've been painfully aware of the twist since the opening scene of LA X, in which Oceanic 815 took on Desmond as a passenger, didn't crash, and flew over a submerged island. The problem that I find so deeply unsatisfying, at least so far, is that we started with this twist, and, 6 hours later, it's still a twist that has yet to pay off. Even for someone like me, who paintakingly watches each scene of the series and tries to put my finger on plot points that only pay off hours later, this flash sideways world has been asking a lot. A hell of a lot. We still have no clue where it's going, or why we're watching. And, frankly, I'd like to know what it's all about, so we can go back to caring about the characters again. Sure, after 5 plus seasons, Lost gets some leeway. But if we had been asked to sit on a conundrum like this back in seasons 1 or 2, there would not have been a season 3.
But "Sundown" also had another problem. It was the first episode in a long time in which I felt betrayed by the main character. I felt as though Sayid was not acting true to himself throughout the island storyline. Granted, we've been asked to accept that this is due to his post-death/ pre-resurrection muddy water bath. But that's just plain unsatisfying. Lost, I beg of you - either let our characters operate close to being true to themselves, and leave us to piece together the mystery of why and how they deviate from those selves in subtle meaningful ways, or give us a brutally honest explanation of why the character has radically changed. Dogen's cryptic "darkness growing inside him" laments about why Sayid would be better off dead, to me, fail to satisfy the question of why Sayid is acting so not Sayid-like. I'll discuss this further down below, but to me, the turning of Sayid in the sixth episode released this season reminds me of the abrupt, overly forced turning of another popular character in the sixth episode released in his story. I refer, of course, to Anakin Skywalker. But more on that later.
Alternaverse - Sayid2
For all my vitriol above, taken alone, I really enjoyed the flash-sideways Sayid2 story. I thought it did well to really illuminate the character we've gotten to know over the past few seasons (far better than the island story served that character).
After lingering in a cab (from the airport?) Sayid2 rings a doorbell, on a house we (may) have seen before. Inside is Noor2, AKA Nadia2, Sayid2’s lady love. Only here, Nadia2 is not surprised to see Sayid2. However, what she is, surprising us, is married to Sayid2’s weenie of an older brother, and the mother of big bro’s two kids. Sayids claims he works for an oil company, translating international contracts (in Australia?) There’s clearly romantic tension between Noor2 and Sayid2, and big brother feels it, too. Nadia2, however, has been sending Sayid2 letters, but he didn’t write back. The kids find Nadia2’s picture in Sayid2’s bag, and their dad is not impressed.
As Doc Jensen writes, "Nadia, his beautiful muse and inspiration for redemption... but also his unreachable standard and reminder of his damnation. In the Sideways world, Nadia doesn't complete Sayid — she negates him. She is not his constant — she is his scale. Poor Nadia. Sayid told her he didn't deserve her, and he's right: no woman should be treated like a reward for being 'a good man,' much like an unapproachable, unattainable goddess. At least, not literally."
Big bro Omer made a bad business deal – a loan shark claims he owes interest in perpetuity. Omer knows what Sayid did in the war, and begs him to convince the loan shark to leave him alone. "I know what kind of man you are," the manipulative older Jarrah says. "I’m sorry," insists Sayid, "I’m not that man anymore."
Sayid2 escorts the kids to the schoolbus. He says he has to go to Toronto for work in a few days. Nadia2 comes out of the house, desperate for Sayid2. They walk past Jack2 in the hospital. (meaning...that all the 815ers were going to cross paths, anyway? Or just that L.A. is a really small world...) Omer has a punctured lung and internal bleeding. Sayid2 clearly doubts the story that Omer was "mugged" outside his store. Nadia2 pleads, "whatever you’re thinking of doing, don’t do it. Just go home, wait for the kids, make them feel safe." Unable to deny Nadia2 anything, Sayid2 honors her wish, and she finds him at home later patching a vase, broken by a boomerang. He told the kids there was an accident, but Daddy will be fine. Nadia2 says this is Omer’s responsibility, then questions, "why did you push me towards your brother?" Sayid2 confesses that he spent the last 12 years washing his hands of all horrible things he’s done. He can’t be with her, he says, because he doesn’t deserve her.
Aside #1 - So, even though island Sayid was turned into a torturer by Kate's dad and Desmond's hatchmate, Kelvin, it turns out that, in an islandless world, Sayid2 turned out exactly the same. Is there just darkness in his character? If so, why are both versions of Sayid so convinced of their utter worthlessness? Can a person be both inherently evil, and inherently penitent?
Omar2 – (the alternaverse version of Omar from the freighter), waits for Sayid2 outside the next day, and orders him into his car. They go into the back of a restaurant, where a black-clad man makes an egg. It’s Martin Keamy2. Sayid2 seems to recognize him, but that, of course, may just be his "recognition" that this is the man terrorizing his brother. Keamy2 asks about Omer. After the initial pleasant pretenses drop, Keamy2 threatens through a smile, "your brother does owe me, and somebody’s going to pay that money. It’s a dangerous world…" Sayid2 jumps into action, attacks Omar, and uses him as a human shield, before taking out Keamy2's bodyguard. Keamy2 tries to bargain "your brother’s debt is forgiven. Just relax, and foget about it." Sayid2 responds, "I can’t," and shoots Keamy2 in the chest. Sayid2 hears someone in the meat locker. Inside, he finds…Jin2, tied up.
Aside #2 - as nifty as it occasionally is to see the island world characters, especially the dead ones, turn up in different contexts in alternaverse, the whole Keamy is a gangster and Omar is his henchman thing just felt forced. While they made fine nasty adverseraries as mercenaries, they never felt so central to the Lost mythology that I lost sleep over what would have become of these slimeballs if Widmore had no island to send them to. Their presence here, in my mind, didn't make the alternaverse more relevant. It made it more contrived.
That said, it's interesting to find Jin2 here. Is this the type of "business associate" old man Paik associates with? But if island Keamy was a mercenary, who was island Jin going to deliver the watch to? On the other hand, perhaps Keamy2 somehow kidnapped Jin2 away from his mission, meaning somehow Jins of all varieties were never meant to deliver their respective watches. Where, we wonder, is Sun2? I'm suddenly feeling cheated out of the Jin-Sun episode that we were supposed to get this week...
Still, when all is said and done, Keamy/Omar notwithstanding, I liked the alterna-story this week. I just wish these segments, in general, would start to demonstrate their relevance to the overall show. Of course, there is a chance this one did, but we'll get to that in a moment...
Island - Sayid
Sayid demands answers from Dogen, why he was branded, poked, prodded, electrocuted, etc.. Dogen explains that in every person there is a balance, between good and evil and Sayid’s balance came out on the wrong side (tellingly, he said "wrong," and not "evil"…). A kick-ass martial arts fight breaks out after Dogen says Sayid would be better off dead. At a pause in the action, Sayid insists he's a good man, and the test must have been wrong. The fight resumes. As they fight, Dogen’s baseball bounces off the table, then comes to a bizarrely abrupt halt, catching Dogen's eye. Dogen could have killed Sayid, but instead banishes him from the Temple, eyeing the baseball closely.
Aside #3 - the question here is whether or not the pool itself, or Sayid's own character, resulted in his failure of the test. The implication is certainly that the pool submersion caused it. But hasn't the whole point of Sayid's character always been about whether he was redeemable, or just too dark and evil in his actions to ever forgive himself, or be forgiven?
But what's with Sayid's insistence that he's good? Just a few hours earlier, he insisted he was going to Hell for all he's done in his life. For cryin' out loud, the man shot an 11-year-old! This profession of goodness was the first time I felt Sayid truly acted out of character in the episode. I couldn't help but wonder if this was the effect of the spring, bad writing, or both.
Meanwhile, Flocke and Claire eye the temple from outside. Claire wonders why he doesn’t send in Jin or Sawyer. Flocke says if he could do it himself, he wouldn’t have asked her. Claire says she wants her son back if she does what he asks. “I always do what I say.” Claire, suddenly concerned, asks, "you gonna hurt them?" Flocke, sounding magnanimous when he's actually being incredibly menacing, responds, "only the ones who won’t listen."
As Sayid prepares to leave, Miles sees him, and tells him he was dead for 2 hours, and that the Others didn’t revive him, and were just as surprised to see him wake up. "Whatever brought you back," Miles says, "it wasn’t them."
Aside #4 - if Sayid is still himself in any way, Miles may have just doomed the Temple Others. Perhaps if Sayid felt he owed them something, he might have spared them later in the episode. Now, these are just a bunch of creepy people who tried to kill him.
Claire enters the courtyard, and confronts Dogen. "He wants to see you," she says, and it's clear Dogen knows who she means. Dogen refuses to go out, since outside of the protection of the Temple, he'd be killed. "Maybe," Claire suggests helpfully, "you should send someone he won’t kill." Dogen, never one to miss an opportunity to over-react, orders Claire be gaken to "the hole." He asks for Jack and Hurley, but Lennon tells him they’re gone. Dogen tells Sayid things have changed, and he no longer needs him to lave. Rather, he gives him a bizarre dagger, a sort of island Excalibur, and tells him to kill Flocke, who he says will take the form of someone he knows, who recently died. Dogen calls Flocke an angry man, trapped for years, but free now that Jacob is gone. He won’t stop, says Dogen, until he destroys all life on the island. Smokey, says Dogen, is Evil incarnate. "If you allow him to speak," warns the funky samurai, "it’s already too late." "Since I’ve been here," protests Sayid, "I’ve been drowned, beaten and tortured at your hands. Why would I do anything you ask?" Dogen's response is, frankly, a little too trusting. "You said that there is still good in your soul. Now prove it."
Sayid finds Kate out in the jungle. He says he’s not sure if he’s leaving. He tells her to ask Miles what she missed. She goes back into the Temple. Miles asks her, "Saywer sent you packing, huh? I thought about going after him, too, but he’d just berate me until I turned around." Miles tells her about Claire, and how she was acting all weird.
Aside #5 Kate's big quest is about to be complete. Or is it...
Sayid takes a canteen from his bag. He hears a strange wind, (reminiscent of, yet oddly than the whispers that greeted him when he fled Rousseau back in "Solitary,") and everything around him rustles. The wind stops, and out steps Flocke, who immediately says, "Hello Sayid." Sayid stabs him in the chest, but Flocke pulls out the dagger, bloodless. With a wry smile, Flocke asks, "now why’d you go and do that?" Sayid looks truly afraid. Flocke, realizing he's already won, smiles. "You want it back? Take it, I won’t bite." Sayid asks, "what are you?" "You seem to have some sort of idea," suggests Flocke. "What did they tell you?" Sayid tells Flocke about the whole "Evil, incarnate" thing. Flocke says Dogen knew Sayid would have no chance, and believed Flocke would kill him. "Shame on you," Flocke half scolds, "for being talked into it so easily." Flocke asks Sayid to deliver a message for him, and entices him with the promise that, if he does it, he can have "anything you wanted, anything in the entire world." Sayid responds that the only thing he ever wanted died in his arms, "and I’ll never see her again." Flocke, seeming quite genuine, asks, "what if you could?" Bingo. He has him.
Aside #6 - And there's that whole Anakin moment. Where the promise, coming from someone he has no reason to trust, of saving his lost love from death's clutches so they could be together suddenly robs him of his judgment and cynicism, and turns him to the dark side. If this truly was Sayid's downfall, it was too fast, too abrupt. I never envisioned Mr. Jarrah would have a happy ending on Lost. But I did think he would die redeeming himself. Instead, he went all "henceforth you shall be known as Darth Vader." I didn't buy it in Revenge of the Sith, and I didn't buy it now.
So was it just the effect of the muddy spring? If so, why bother resurrecting him in the first place? And isn't that a cheap cop-out? Sayid's character arc deserved better. Even if he does complete the Vader parallel and ends up dying in a heroic moment of self-sacrifice, I'm truly disappointed by this turn for his character.
This does also beg the question of how exactly Flocke will deliver on his promise of reuniting Sayid with Nadia? The most likely prospect involves sending Sayid to alternaverse. Which would be cool, and would be part of reuniting the two seemingly disparate worlds. But the cruel trick is that Sayid doesn't feel worthy of Nadia in that other world. And, again, it would be nice to see some link between the worlds, already. And even nicer to know why a cynic like Sayid would buy the patently impossible offering of a clearly evil being...
Sayid returns to find Dogen by the water. Sayid walks past him, and announces Flocke's message to the Others. – Jacob is dead, so nobody has to stay. They’re all free. Flocke is leaving the island forever. Those who want to join him, leave by sundown. Cindy asks what happens at Sundown. "You die."
Kate finds Lennon, and demands to be led to Claire. He leads her to the hole - an actual hole -where Claire sings "Catch a Falling Star" to herself. Claire asks if she was captured too? Kate assures her the Others don’t have Aaron. "I took him," she explains, not knowing that Claire planned to kill her if this were the case. Claire is not pleased. "I’m not the one who needs to be rescued, Kate," Claire says menacingly. "He’s coming, Kate, he’s coming and they can’t stop him."
Lennon tells Sayid he created a panic, and a number of people are leaving. Cindy leaves with the kids, and a number of Others. Sayid shows Miles the dagger, and says he has to return it.
Dogen continues to contemplate the baseball when Sayid finds him by the spring. "You let him talk to you," accuses Dogen. "I stabbed him, then I let him talk to me," corrects Sayid.
Aside #7 - really? Did the words "hello, Sayid" somehow give Flocke power over death? And how on Earth was he supposed to have prevented that? It's this kind of illogical mumbo-jumbo that is making Season 6 largely strain at the limits of suspension of disbelief Lost has earned.
"That’s twice you tried to have someone else kill me," accuses Sayid. Dogen says he was a businessman in Osaka, at a bank. He was promoted, and his associates took him out to celebrate. He drank too much. Every Friday he picked his son up from baseball. There was an accident. He survived, but his son wouldn’t have. In the hospital, Jacob came to him. He said he could save his son’s life, but Dogenwould have to come to the island, and he could never see his boy again. "Jacob drives a hard bargain," scoffs Sayid. "I take it man outside offered you a similar bargain," answers Dogen. "Yes," is Sayid's terse response.
Aside # 8 - So what we've learned the past 2 weeks is that Jacob really is a heartless, manipulative jerk, right? It seems in a world where Jacob didn't interfere, Dogen never was in danger of losing his son, and indeed the kid grew into a teenage piano prodigy. But when Jacob "helps," it seems to be only to clean up a mess we have to assume he created himself, much the way Flocke accused him of in "The Substitute."
"It is Sundown," Dogen points out. "Will you choose to stay or go?" Sayid responds, "I’d like to stay," then abruptly grabs Dogen and flings him into the spring, holding him down. Dogen’s grip releases on the baseball, and Sayid leaves him floating. Lennon comes in and sees what happened. "He was the only thing keeping it out," Lennon freaks. "You idiot, you just let it in." As the smokey rata-tata sound goes off, Sayid slices Lennon’s throat. "I know." Lennon, too, falls in the water.
Aside #9 - I can't help but wonder if Dogen and Lennon will also be resurrected by the spring. If so, perhaps Sayid knew that would happen, and this was his way of secretly undermining his new master?
Smokey erupts in. Kate grabs Miles, and says they have to run. Smokey starts doing serious damage. They split up. Miles slips into the tunnels, and Kate goes back for Claire. Miles tries to block the door, but Ilana comes in. Lapidus follows. Ilana tries to stop Ben from getting Sayid, but Ben runs. Kate tries to save Claire, but Claire says it would be safter in the hole. Kate jumps in, just as Smokey roars over. Ben finds Sayid over the bodies in the spring. "Come on," urges Ben. "I know a way out of here. C’mon there’s still time." "Not for me," Sayid smiles creepily.
Miles asks Sun where Jin is, and let’s her know he’s alive. Ilana looks along the glyphs, then finds the one Hurley had eyed. It opens a door (now we know how Hurley escaped). She directs everyone in. The wall closes behind them as Smokey goes by.
Aside #10. So, if we're picking "teams," it looks like Ilana, Ben, Sun and Frank (and presumably Jack and Hurley) are on one side...
Sayid goes back to the courtyard. Claire and Kate emerge. The Others are dead, as a creepy version of "Catch a Falling Star" plays. Kate grabs a gun. Sayid and Cliare step outside to Flocke and his new Others recruits (who look suspiciously like extra from Pirates of the Caribbean). Flocke nods to Claire, who nods back. Kate comes out and sees Flocke, who regards her, then steps away. Sayid is clearly part of this group. But is Kate? What about Jin? Or Sawyer? They're with them. But are they with them?
Parting shots from Doc Jensen:
Did Dogen’s knife make a difference? I say it did. I think Dogen may have misled Sayid about what he needed to do. Maybe that ’'Don’t let him speak!’' caveat was just a way to make sure Sayid struck quickly, before he could be talked out of it. So I think the knife did something to UnLocke. Was the knife tipped with poison? Poison synthesized from Dogen’s herbs of death? Or perhaps the effect will be different — a diminishment of Smokey’s raw power; a destabilization of UnLocke’s John Locke form, forcing him to give it up. But my REAL theory? It’s going to make Fake Locke tell the truth. I think that’s why he couldn’t hide that look of shiftiness right before he promised the world to Sayid.
Sayid, Claire, and Kate The final moment, with the trio of castaways slowly tip toeing through the carnage on the way to join Fake Locke and his new tribe of liberated and free home-seeking believers was one of the creepiest moments Lost has ever given us. The music cue of ’'Catch A Falling Star’'? Perfect. What did you make of the look on Fake Locke’s face at the end as he saw Kate join his band of peeps? Was that ’'Wow! An unexpected bonus!’' or ’'Uh-oh. Trouble’'? I think the latter. I think he’s worried that Kate will break the psychic hold that he has on Claire. Could it be that Squirrel Nut’s sundowning is essential to the Monster’s current corporeal form? TBD.
Next week, in the Ben-centric "Dr. Linus," the previews promise us Ben's demise. Which of course means it won't happen. Ben episodes tend to be strong episodes, so I'm hoping some of my gripes from this week are put to rest. Two weeks later, says Kristen Dos Santos, we'll get a Richard-centered episode, in which we'll learn what the island really is. Anyway, until "Dr. Linus," Namaste.