Carlos Castaneda’s book A Separate Reality tells the purportedly true story of Castaneda’s apprenticeship under the Yaqui mystic Don Juan Matus, from whom he learned—with the help of psychedelics—to “see” the secret energies that flow through the universe. “A Separate Reality” is also a fair description of where our Lost-aways find themselves at this point in the show’s fifth season. Just last year, we saw Sayid prompted by circumstance to work as an assassin for Ben, until something happened that led him to rebuke Mr. Linus and atone for his sins by building houses for the poor in Santo Domingo. And tonight, Sayid found himself back in 1977, being offered the chance for another alliance with Ben Linus—the junior version. “If you’re patient… I think I can help you,” Lil’ Ben says to Sayid. Should Sayid partner up with a sociopath yet again, so that can he get himself free of the Dharma Initiative’s not-so-groovy prison? Or should he, y’know, shoot the little bastard?
But wait! Don’t answer until you hear a little more about the title of this week’s episode: “He’s Our You.” The “he” in question is a DI creep named Oldham, who lives in a tent where he plays vintage jazz on an old Victrola and indulges in the odd bit of doping and torture, when called upon. Because despite all that “namaste” crap that the Dharma folk spout to new recruits, those hippies are some violent dudes and dudettes, when pushed. (Or perhaps even when not.) With LaFleur telling Sayid that he’s “on his own,” it’s possible that Lil’ Ben is our man’s last, best hope.
Or maybe Sayid has no hope. Maybe he was born without hope. Maybe he was destined to be a killer, then destined to die on an mysterious island somewhere in the not-so-distant past, to “pay for what he’s done.” Much like Season Three’s “Greatest Hits,” “He’s Our You” was about filling in the gaps in one character’s backstory, while underlining his importance to the larger narrative, and using him to shore up some key themes. I didn’t find “He’s Our You” nearly as emotionally charged as “Greatest Hits.” In fact, I thought the scene with Oldham wavered between nail-biting and silly, and I found this episode’s moving-the-pieces business to be a little less entertaining than last week’s. (Personal taste I’m sure; I kind of like the “hang out” episodes. Also, I would’ve liked to have seen more of Sayid’s youth, which is largely uncharted territory on this show.) But I thought “He’s Our You” was one of the most intriguing episodes of the season thus far from a philosophical perspective, and one that clarified the stakes for all our favorite time-travelers.
And as for that last shot? Um, whoa.
But back to that in a minute. First, let’s reflect on what we learned about Sayid tonight. We learned that a boy in Tikrit, he killed a chicken, in order to take the heat off his less murder-inclined brother. (Shades of Mr. Eko’s backstory, yes?) And we learned that after ceasing his brief employment as Ben Linus’ gun-for-hire, he returned to L.A. after Ben informed him that John Locke had been murdered, and that Sayid’s services were required to get “retribution.” When Sayid protested that he prefers not to kill, Ben reminded him that killing is what he’s best at. And hey… Ben would know. He’s seen it with his own eyes, starting when he was twelve.
As for the lingering question of how Sayid ended up handcuffed by Ilana and escorted onto Ajira 316, that was answered tonight as well. Ilana is working for (or claims she’s working for, or believes she’s working for) the family of that guy Sayid iced on the golf course at the start of “The Economist,” last season, and after hitting on Sayid at a bar, she turned the tables on him and got him Guam-bound. And once Sayid arrived on the island (most definitely not Guam, as Frank Lapidus would be the first to tell you), he remained in captivity with the Dharmans, where he got to have a few chats with sandwich-bearing Hostile-in-training Ben, and see how Ben’s father Roger—“a hard man”—treated his son.
One would think that Sayid would have some sympathy for Ben, since his own father was kind of a jerk too. Not to mention the fact that the people who are supposed to be his friends are sitting in a room listening to people debate whether Sayid should be killed (and they’re raising their hand, to make it unanimous).
Much of “He’s Our You” was about that old standby Lost theme: Who do you trust? It was there in the minor scenes, like Hurley bringing dipping sauces to Kate and Jack’s table, and letting a startled Kate know that LaFleur and Juliet are, “You know ‘together’ … like you guys were?” And it was there in the big scenes, like LaFleur confessing to Sayid that he likes his new life, and doesn’t need anyone “messing up all we got here.”
But the big themes of “He’s Our You”—the weighty ones that I’ll be tossing around in the days to come, and contemplating during my second viewing—have to do with matters of choice and purpose. When I said that this episode “clarified the stakes” I was thinking of poor distraught Juliet, looking at Jack and Kate out her window and muttering, “It’s over, isn’t it?” She knows that it’s only a matter of time before she and her man will be traipsing through the jungle, dodging bullets and looking for time machines or spaceships or some other freaky game-changer. It’s because of this that LaFleyr tells Sayid that he “ain’t got a choice” about keeping him in jail until Sayid decides to play along with his plan.
Sayid, meanwhile, thinks that he too is without a choice. “You’re capable of things that others are not,” an older Ben Linus tells him in Santo Domingo, echoing something Sayid’s father once said. In the mid-'00s, after Sayid had shot and killed a Russian for his boss, Ben (sporting a stylish chapeau) told him that he'd completed the list of Widmore’s men who needed assassinatin’, which touched off an existential crisis. What is Sayid’s purpose, if he has no mission? Then when he meets the young Ben, he realizes what that purpose must be. So after Ben helps him escape by torching a Dharma van, Sayid sucker-punches Jin in the jungle, takes his gun, and shoots Lil’ Ben square in the heart. End of episode. (Like I said… whoa.)
I’m sure we’ll be dealing with repercussions of this shocking twist next week, so I’ll save any thoughts until all the facts are in. For now, I have to admit that I find it interesting that Sayid is really the only one of the original Oceanic folks who has a clear vision of what he wants—nay, needs—to do. Sawyer’s just trying to maintain the status quo, while Jin’s at a loss without Sun, and Jack and Kate and Hurley are waiting to figure out why it was so damned important that they return to the island (and in 1977, no less). If I had to find an alternate quote to title this episode besides “He’s Our You,” I’d go with what Sayid says to Ben when Ben tells him he’s “done.” Sayid stares at this man he hates, who has given him a purpose in life for so long, and says, forlornly, “What do I do now?”
I mean, that’s the big question isn’t it?
-Chicken salad this time!
-Did everyone else tense up and then breathe a huge sigh of relief when the doped-up Sayid said, “Ask Sawyer,” and Horace asked, “Who’s Sawyer?” Thanks, pulled-out-of-thin-air Cajun alias!
-By the way, Oldham was played by William Sanderson, whom I interviewed for Random Roles two weeks ago, before I knew he was going to be on Lost. He was a great interview subject, but now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t know to ask any Lost questions.
-Meta comment: Doesn’t it seem like the treatment of Sayid in these last couple of episodes kind of parallels the way the character has been treated in the series as a whole lately? Maybe it’s because I’m a big Sayid fan—I thought “The Economist” was one of Season Four’s unassailable classics—but it seems to me that he’s been distressingly underutilized over the past few seasons. It’s as though the writers finish breaking down the storyline for any given episode and then say, “Oh crap, Sayid!” (That character's messing up everything they got there.) I just hope that this episode wasn’t like “Greatest Hits” in another way: being the beginning of the end for one of the Lost orginals.
-Should I be writing it as “DHARMA,” instead of “Dharma?” It is an acronym, after all.
-“Three years with no burning buses. Y’all are back for one day….”
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-In a roundabout way, Sayid actually did what Ben employed him to do in 2007. He exacted revenge for the murder of John Locke.
-I don’t need to see every character interaction that may have happened off-screen, but I am curious as to how and when Sayid found out that Ben let Alex get killed. He wasn’t there at the time.
-I think we’re starting to get that what Ben once called “Jacob’s List” may have been just a list of the people Ben himself met back in the mid-‘70s. (Or maybe the people Ben needs to keep tabs on in order to keep the timeline straight?) But here’s what I’m still wondering: How do the seized Tailies fit in? And the children? I’m starting to get the feeling that we’re going to get some answers to those questions by the end of this season, setting up the next.
-“Since when did we start acting like them?” LaFleur asks. That’s a darn good question. Is it the island’s influence?
-Just as the Dharma Initiative came to the island and became kind of hostile, did The Hostiles get too soft once they moved into the barracks? Every time we’ve seen them in the past, Richard’s people are living in the wild, roughing it in tents and temples. But under Ben’s guidance, they were cooking ham dinners and holding book club meetings. Is that really what the island demanded? Or did it want someone more like Locke: a dude who can hunt you a boar if you need one.
-Why “The Swan” exactly? I did some digging this week looking for good theories as to why the DI chose that name, but I couldn’t find much beyond some associations with Greek myth. What theories am I missing?
-Radzinsky threatens to “call Ann Arbor.” Do you think we’ll get to see Dharma HQ at some point this season? And maybe meet the DeGroots?
-As LaFleur approached Kate’s bugalow, the scene was shot from afar, creating a sense that he was being watched. Which, after the shifty-eyed reaction of Phil to Jack last week, may just be the case.
-I don’t even want to begin to speculate on whether Ben is actually dead, or if he’ll be resurrected, or if the timeline has been altered, or any of that. Answers will come soon enough, I’m sure. But I’m also sure that you folks want to speculate on it. So the floor is yours.
Some things I noticed when I re-watched last week’s episode (and which some of y’all caught already):
-When Ilana rouses from the 316 crash, she mutters “Sarah,” which is the name of Jack’s ex-wife (and a character whose story probably hasn’t been told in full, given that the mysteries of who fathered her child and why she had Christian’s number in her cell phone still haven’t been resolved). UPDATE: Apparently, it was "Jarrah," not "Sarah." My mistake. (I still want to know about Sarah's kid though.)-When Jack is waiting for Sawyer to come back and pick him and the rest of the A3 up, he taps his watch. Did it stop, as some part of byproduct of relativity?-I had assumed that back in “The Little Prince,” Sawyer led his people around the island on Sun and Frank’s boat. But the shore where they found the boat is not where Sun and Frank came ashore. Unless they later boated around the island themselves, the boat Sawyer took was rowed to the beach by someone else.