Unlike most episodes, where I need a little time afterwards to "digest" everything that happened, I'm feeling pretty good about this one right off the bat because there really wasn't that much to it. Some people loved the episode (because they love Sayid, and he was front and center for the full hour) and some people hated the episode (because nothing really "happened" for the vast majority of the episode). As for me, I come down somewhere in the middle. Yes, it was good to "fill in the gaps" on Sayid's story… but nothing that was revealed was all that shocking. It was almost like those flashbacks were designed to give us exactly enough information to explain why things happened (why Sayid "quit" working for Ben, how Sayid got "arrested" by Ilana and ended up on Ajira 316) without raising any new questions or giving away any huge revelations. In some ways, those flashbacks were a bit of a letdown since they seemed like "the easy way out". Instead of Ben and Sayid having some huge falling out or fight - it was simply that Ben stopped giving Sayid orders and the two men walked away from each other. For the time being, Ilana appears to be a simple bounty hunter - not a former Other or person working for Widmore for some greater purpose. In both cases, my reaction was "okay" instead of being "holy crap!"
As for the on-Island 1977 action, Sayid seemed resigned to "give up" for the majority of the episode, not willing to work with Sawyer on his schemes to free him or come up with a cover story - which seemed pretty uncharacteristic for Sayid. It's like he was a broken man, instead of a calm, confident, hero. Aside from killing Benjamin Linus, which Sayid seems to realize is "his mission" on the
On to the analyzin'…
Widmore. For the over-analytical among us (me), one of the still-outstanding questions from Season Four has been the identity of The Economist. As the season progressed, most casual viewers probably just assumed that The Economist was Widmore, which makes total sense - but if you look closely at the details of the episode "The Economist", they actually seem to rule Widmore out as a candidate (relive the memories here: http://lost-and-gone-forever.blogspot.com/2008/02/economist-analysis.html). Later in the season, we also saw Ben visit Widmore in "The Shape of Things to Come" - before the events of "The Economist" episode took place, which even further seemed to prove Widmore was not The Economist. Long story short - it seemed like Ben and The Economist didn't know each other, when Ben and Widmore clearly have a long history. So up until this point, there was still a big question mark about this Economist. Was it a third party that we hadn't met yet? Was it someone like Jacob or Alpert?
As it turns out, the most obvious answer was the correct one - and maybe we were all looking into the details of "The Economist" a little too closely.
This week, after Sayid completes his "last kill" for Ben, Ben clearly states "that man was the last of Widmore's people" who were putting the Oceanic Six at risk, which seems to confirm that all the people who Sayid had been killing over the years were working for Widmore, who is also The Economist.
Long story short - in case anyone out there still had "Who is the Economist" on their "Outstanding Lost Questions" list, which has to be about 1000 pages long at this point, you can cross it off!
From an overall storyline timeline perspective, we've got the following:
- Ben leaves the
Islandafter turning the FDW
- Ben recruits Sayid
- Ben visits Widmore
- Sayid kills Widmore's Henchmen
- Ben determines that Sayid's work is done, and sets him free
This just seems a little strange to me, since one has to assume Widmore would just recruit new henchman - and at this point, Ben still has no idea how he's going to get back to the Island (I'm assuming Locke hasn't left the Island at the point of Ben and Sayid parting, since you have to allow enough time between this scene and Sayid starting to work with "Build Our World" in the Caribbean). It all just seems like Ben was using Sayid for the sake of using him - sure he might have been killing Widmore's men, but there wasn't an "end game" in mind - unless it was just to put himself in a advantageous position over Widmore in their "race for the Island" by taking out Widmore's resources.
The other thing that bothered me was there really wasn't some huge fallout between Sayid and Ben. Remember Sayid's impassioned plea to Hurley about "if you meet Ben, always do the opposite of what he says"? Where did that come from? To continue the overall storyline timeline perspective:
- Ben determines that Sayid's work is done, and sets him free
- Sayid goes to work in the
building homes Dominican Republic
- Locke visits Sayid
- Ben kills Locke
- Ben visits Sayid, claiming that Widmore killed Locke and is threatening Hurley
- Sayid rescues Hurley and tells him to never trust Ben
See the disconnect? Where does Sayid get off telling Hurley to "always do the opposite of what Ben says" when in fact he is doing precisely what Ben told him to do? Or is it just that Sayid hates himself for doing what Ben told him to, and wants to save Hurley from a similar fate? Either way, we never saw anything that reveals why Sayid went from happily killing the people on Ben's list to absolutely hating him and promising to kill him if he ever sees him again. Maybe that scene will happen in the future and this will all make sense, but for now, it just seems like a glaring character inconsistency for Sayid.
Ilana. Last week we seemed to confirm that Ilana and Caesar did not know each other pre-flight (since Caesar called her "lady" after the crash, instead of "Ilana"). This week, we learned more about her identity - she's a bounty hunter, hired by the family of Peter Avellino (the guy Sayid killed on the golf course last season)… at least that's what she thinks. Here is where there are three distinct schools of thought:
- Ilana was truly hired by the Avellino family, and the fact that this just happened to put Sayid on Ajira 316 proves that it was "fate" or "destiny" that he end up back on the Island.
- Ilana thinks she was hired by the Avellino family, but was really hired by Ben - who was pretending to be the Avellino family. Ben is ensuring that Sayid ends up on Ajira 316, rather than it being a question of fate.
- Ilana knows she is working for Widmore, but is using the Avellino family story as a cover to hide her true allegiances. This opens the door for Ilana to suddenly become an agent for Widmore who made her way back to the Island… thus helping him "find the Island".
Looking at the history of Lost, the first scenario seems the most likely. After countless conspiracy theories over the first two seasons, we eventually found out that it was "fate" that Oceanic 815 crashed on the Island (not some pre-planned event). Although some still have elaborate schemes to the contrary, it seems like it was "destiny" that our Survivors ended up on Oceanic 815 in the first place. Sayid ending up on Ajira 316 - and back on the Island - could follow the same logic, where we come up with conspiracy theories and logical ways to explain it… but in the end, it comes down to fate.
The second scenario removes this "mystical element" from the explanation, and is easily explained. Ben would know the names of the people he killed, and has the wealth to hire Ilana for the job under false pretenses. Also, what are the odds that the Avellinos are one of the less than 175,000 people who live on Guam? It seems a little convenient that someone murdered in the Seychelles (population 82,000) would have family in Guam. Out of the 6.7 billion people in the world, it's like two needles in a haystack.
The third scenario is definitely the most fun, but also the kind of scenario that Lost nerds like me come up with in hopes of everything having deeper meanings and shocking twists. If there really is a "war" coming for the Island, I have to assume that Widmore will be involved… and unless he finds the Island again, how is that going to happen? There's a million other ways that Widmore could enter the picture, but having Ilana be the one to pull him back to the Island makes her character infinitely more interesting and important - and not another Nikki / Paulo throwaway-type character.
So what's it going to be? I'm hoping for the third scenario… but if I was a betting man, I'd go with the first. Prove me wrong, Lost writers!
Sawyer. Poor Sawyer. First he tried to "play house" with Kate in Dharmaville (unsuccessfully). Then he succeeds in "playing house" with Juliet, builds a nice comfortable life for the two of them, and finally seems to find peace and happiness… and then along come our Ajira 316 Survivors and suddenly his cover is nearly blown, burning buses are running into buildings, and Juliet seems to be questioning their love. It's pretty ironic actually. Locke left the Island and pleaded the Oceanic Six to return to the Island to "save the other Survivors" - but from the moment Locke left, things have gotten significantly better for those Survivors to the point where things were going pretty great. Granted, they're living a lie in 1977, but you can't tell me that they haven't been happier on-Island than the Oceanic Six have been off-Island. When our Ajira 316 Survivors showed up, Sawyer's first instinct was to get them assimilated into the Dharma culture, not "figure out how to get off the Island or back to 2008". Clearly, he's found something on the Island that he never found off-Island - an honest "normal" life. You could argue that it's nothing more than "playing house" - it's fake, it's temporary, and it's inevitably going to end (by the Purge if nothing else), but I can't help but feel bad that Sawyer's happy world is quickly coming crashing down.
Ben. Last but not least, we have our good friend Benjamin Linus. Speaking of feeling bad, it's pretty cruel how the writers have done their best to make the audience feel sorry for Ben - dead mother, abusive father, miserable on the Island, nerdy-looking, shot by an Iraqi - when we all know that he will grow up to be a conniving, murderous, two-timing, still nerdy-looking guy. Which means at the end of the episode, I didn't feel any remorse for an innocent kid who just wanted to belong getting shot point blank in the chest - part of me wanted to cheer, part of me simply said "it's not going to stick. Whatever happened, happened."
Still - this event is really pushing Faraday's theory about being unable to change the past to the test. I know a lot of people have commented that this seems to take away the notion of free will, since it seems like everything is pre-destined to happen, and there's nothing you can do would change it - but I think it's important to realize that "whatever happened, happened" only applies to the time travelers in the past - they're the ones who are in the wrong place in the space-time continuum, and are therefore "handcuffed" by the repercussions of their actions. In 1977, members of Dharma could do whatever they wanted. Likewise, our Survivors in 1977 still have free will and can die or affect the other time-traveling Survivors, they just can't interact with the events of 1977 enough to change the outcome… if that makes sense. So once our Survivors return to 2008, everything will once again be up for grabs. The future will be unwritten, just like the theme song to The Hills.
But for now, we're in the past. This story has already been told, and our Survivors are somewhat just "experiencing it" firsthand. So even though Sayid has always shot Ben, it has always just been a part of Ben's life that makes him the man we know in 2008.
I can see two possible ways that the shooting of Benjamin Linus will play out:
- He's magically fine. Although we know that the Island doesn’t let people die until they're supposed to, this is a little different because we actually saw the bullet make a hole in Ben's body, as opposed to a gun not firing (Michael). It's also different than what happened when Ben shot Locke, since this bullet was to the heart, instead of in the side (conveniently close to where a scar from kidney surgery might be). I would have a hard time believing that Ben is just going to sit up, have no blood pouring out of him, and be like "huh, apparently I'm invincible". Lost may have time travel and smoke monsters, but this would be absurd to the point where I might have to pretend Season Five never happened.
- Ben is injured, but survives. Hard to believe since Sayid is a trained assassin, but it would set the stage for a pretty great storyline where Jack and Juliet have to save the life of Benjamin Linus. The bullet could have missed Ben's vital organs, allowing Juliet or Jack to remove it, patch him up, and eventually bring him back to health. The great thing about this theory is that it could give us an explanation to the "she looks just like him" comment that the Others made about Juliet when she first arrived on the Island. I would think that if she is able to save him, Ben would be eternally grateful to this mysterious woman - and if he happened to find a woman who looked just like her twenty years later, he would have an affinity towards her. Ah, puppy love.
As I've mentioned before, I think this season ends with "The Incident", which sends our Survivors back to 2008. From the perspective of Dharma, our Survivors must just "disappear", I suppose. But still, Dharma will remember them - they'll know their names, their habits, and their history. However, after the Purge Benjamin Linus is going to be one of the few people left on the Island with this intimate knowledge of characters like Jack, Juliet, Sawyer, and Sayid. He's going to "know" them before they ever arrive on the Island, and know what they did to him in his youth - both good and bad. As I said before, this has to be a huge advantage to Ben, and explains how he is so easily able to manipulate our Survivors and stay one step ahead of them. Because technically, he doesn't just know their past, he knows their future! He knows what they will become… or is it that he helps mold who they become? Crazy time travel chicken and the egg discussions!
After this episode, the relationship between Sayid and Ben becomes far more interesting. So - Sayid shoots Ben in 1977 and tortures him in 2004… almost killing him twice. I wonder if Ben sent Sayid on missions around the world killing random people not to weaken Widmore… but just to mess with Sayid and put him through the same pain and torture that he has caused Ben? I mean, taking that many lives has to weigh on you, right? That could explain the sudden ending of their killing spree. Ben just figured he'd put Sayid through enough, and things were even now.
Probably not, but this puts Sayid right up there with Locke and Alpert in terms of "most layered relationship with Ben" of any characters on the show, making their scenes all the more interesting from here on out.
Note: I did go back and review the Sayid / Ben scenes from inside the Swan Hatch in Season Two. There's no real obvious "hints" of their prior relationship, mostly because Ben is uber-mysterious and creepy to everyone equally… although his frightened screams when he first saw Sayid while caught in CFL's trap could be interpreted as "oh crap, not this Iraqi again! He shot me in the heart the first time!"
What's next for Ben's character? As I mentioned in the Instant Reactions, I think his miraculous recovery from a should-be fatal gunshot will certainly pique the interest of the Others (once they find out about it), and might even make them start thinking "Huh, the Island doesn't want him to die. Maybe he's special?" which has to be a great argument when Ben eventually runs for the position of "Leader of the Others". The problem is that there is still a lot of time between this episode and the Purge, which means we're probably not going to see that gradual acceptance into the Others happen. Based on the timeline and episodes remaining, we've probably got no more than a week or two left in 1977, which means we might leave Ben as a kid recovering from a gunshot wound, left to wonder about what exactly happened in the next few years leading up to the Purge.
PS - I definitely think Ben was the one to light the Dharma van on fire, creating the distraction needed to free Sayid.
PPS - No, Ben's Dad wasn't inside that flaming Dharma van - he dies via poisonous gas in a Dharma van on the day of the Purge, remember?
…and I think that's all for this week. Discuss!