As Walt Whitman’s “Song Of Myself” so adroitly put it, we all contain multitudes, embracing different tastes, different emotions, and different points of view depending on the time of day and the company we keep. But it’s different in the Lost world, where time and reality itself splinters, and people don’t so much change as they divide. Take Sawyer, for example. Though the character has definitely grown and progressed during his time on The Island, it’s fair to say that Pre-Crash Sawyer is almost an entirely different person from Post-Crash Sawyer, who himself is almost entirely different from Dharma Times Sawyer, a.k.a. Jim LaFleur.
And what of James Ford, supercop?
I’m not going to lie to you good people: I’m a Sawyer man through-and-through, and this was the first episode in weeks that I would’ve been quite happy to have run twice as long. Much like last season’s Sawyer-centric “LaFleur,” “Recon” had me laughing with glee, gasping in shock, and making notes of all the great lines and potentially significant clues as fast as my fingers could type. What can I say? This episode was good company.
Let's start in the Alterna-World, where we discover that in some ways Sawyer’s life has been unaltered by the sinking (or whatever) of The Island. His parents still died when he was a boy, and he’s still been on a worldwide hunt—including in Australia—for Anthony Cooper. He’s still a liar too: he hides his true intentions behind a devil-may-care attitude and a killer smile. But where the Sawyer of old was a con man, this James Ford is a con-man-catcher: a proud member of the LAPD Bunco Squad, working alongside his partner, Miles. (Hooray for Miles!)
Speaking strictly in terms of plot, not much actually happens in this week's flash-sideways. Miles sets Jim up on a date with his friend Charlotte (hooray for Charlotte!), who works at a museum with Miles’ dad. (And wasn’t it clever how that fairly major piece of info—that Pierre Chang is alive—was tossed off so casually.) Jim and Charlotte hit it off—and get it on—but when she stumbles across the file on Anthony Cooper in his bedroom drawer, he flips and kicks her out. Then Miles finds out Jim lied about his trip to Australia which creates a rift between him and Miles. Jim tries to patch things up with Charlotte and fails, but he has better luck later with Miles. Aside from dropping a few more old friends into the mix—like Charlie’s brother Liam asking questions about Charlie at the police station, and Kate crashing into Jim and Miles and then getting caught by them when she flees—there’s not a whole lot of incident here. But I didn’t mind a bit. James Ford and his buddy Miles, fightin’ crime? You kiddin’ me? I would watch that show every week. Call the folks at USA and tell them we’ve got a new timeslot partner for Burn Notice.
And guess what? The Island material was just as strong, because it was action-packed, and anchored to a question that Miles asks Jim in the car towards the end of their storyline. Looking at the name scrawled on top of the Cooper file, Miles asks, “Who’s Sawyer?” Throughout the island business, as Sawyer travels from place to place, making deals and making plans, that question resonates. Who is Sawyer, really? A good guy? A bad guy? Or something else entirely?
We first see him back at Claire’s camp with Jin, where they have a brief conversation about their nutty hostess before she returns, with Not-Locke and Zombie Sayid and Freaked-Out Kate and all The Temple Turncoats. Over the next 24 hours, Claire’s mania hits a full pitch and she tries to stab Kate for taking Aaron, all while Sayid watches dispassionately. Not-Locke breaks up the fight, then pulls Kate aside to explain that he’s been stoking Claire’s resentment all these years, just to give her a purpose in life. He also tells a little story—haltingly, uncertainly—about his own crazy mother, and how Kate needs to stay strong for Aaron’s sake, because now that kid’s mother is just as bonkers. (As an aside, I have to hail another excellent performance from Terry O’Quinn, who tells that story about the crazy mother with such perfect ambiguity. We don’t know whether Not-Locke’s hesitating because he fears he’s revealing too much about himself, or because he’s lying, and stealing the real Locke’s origin story. Because y’know Locke had a crazy mother too.) In the end, Claire tries to reconcile with Kate, but I’m not sure Kate’s buying Claire’s contrition. Either way, Kate’s clearly in a state of shock, and surrounded by familiar people who aren’t at all what they used to be.
All except Sawyer, that is. Shortly after Not-Locke returns, Sawyer corners him and asks about what happened back at The Temple, to which Not-Locke replies in front of everyone, “The black smoke killed them,” before privately confessing to Sawyer, “I’m the smoke-thing.” Not-Locke reveals another little bit of humanity when he excuses his slaughter, telling Sawyer, “It’s kill or be killed… and I don’t want to be killed.” He also asks a favor: he wants Sawyer to take a boat over to Hydra Island, to see if there are any Ajira survivors still over there and if the coast is clear for their traveling party to head over there and get the airplane back up and running. He says he knows Sawyer’s the man for the job, because he's a con-man, and can make up any story he needs to stay alive.
I loved the interactions between Sawyer and Not-Locke: the way the former is brazen enough to speak his mind to a rampaging smoke monster, and the way the latter absently says, “I forgive you,” as though those were magic words that allow him to keep dealing with this irreverent whelp. I also loved that “Recon” kicks into several higher gears once Sawyer arrives on Hydra, and first wanders around his old polar bear cage—where Kate’s dress still hangs, forlornly—before spotting a pile of dead Ajira passengers and meeting a woman named Zoe who claims to be the sole remaining survivor.
Only she’s not who she says she is. (Naturally… this is a Sawyer story, after all.) Zoe’s an agent of Charles Widmore, who calls Sawyer into his sub to make a deal. Sawyer, adopting the same flippant tone that he takes with Smokey, tells Widmore that he’ll gladly bring the beast over to be killed or contained by Widmore’s little sonic pylon thingies, so long as his own people remain safe and Widmore gets them off The Island. Widmore agrees, but then Sawyer rows back to Not-Locke and spills everything he knows, including the deal he made. And then he tells Kate his real plan: let these two yahoos fight it out while he and Kate swipe the sub and take their leave. Ironic, isn’t it, how Sawyer is working his greatest con by telling everybody the truth?
As the episode ends, we still don’t know whether Sawyer’s good or bad in the grand scheme of things. He’s just Sawyer, looking out for himself. “It’s sad how little you really know,” Widmore says to Sawyer when they talk about who’s responsible for all the dead Ajira folks. But what made “Recon” such a great episode for me is that like Sawyer, we don’t have to know what’s really going on to be excited or delighted. There’s a person we know. Call him James Ford or Sawyer or LaFleur or The World’s Forgotten Boy… whatever the monicker, he’s an easy man to root for.
-No “previously on” tonight. I don’t know why, but I always take that as a good sign when that happens. It’s like the producers are saying, “You don’t need to prep. Just sit back and enjoy.”
-Terrific opening of the flash-sideways, with Jim doing the whole “pigeon-drop” routine again, in front of a woman who thinks she has the advantage. She pulls a gun and says, “Here’s the thing, Dimples,” before he speaks the code-word that brings in his back-up, guns drawn. That code word? “LaFleur.” This episode had me at “LaFleur.”
-Squirrel-Baby looks a little like Alf.
-Can that Ajira plane really fly off Hydra? Is there enough runway for it? I’m going to assume not, and I’m going to assume that we’re not really supposed to believe otherwise.
-Jim has a nice night alone: frozen dinners and beer and Little House. (A pointed episode too, in which Pa reminds Laura that life is about “laughing and loving each other” and that “people aren’t really gone when they die.”)
-So many great exhchanges tonight:
Charlotte: Why did you become a cop?
Jim: Ever seen Bullitt?
Jim: Then I won’t bore you with an explanation.
Zoe: What plane did you come on?
Sawyer: Long story.
Kate: That’s very insightful coming from a dead man.
Not-Locke: Nobody’s perfect.
Widmore: How do I know I can trust you?
Sawyer: Same way I know I can trust you.
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-A few weeks ago I mocked (lovingly, I assure you) EW’s Jeff Jensen for his wild theorizing, but I thought he had some astute observations in this week’s pre-episode post, in which he wrote about divorce as a driving theme on the show, linking it to the odd Juliet-as-a-girl scene in “The Incident” and to multiple episodes this season. It’s a relevant point tonight, too: the potential divorce in question being between Jim and Miles.
-Smokey asks Kate, “Have you ever had an enemy?” That appears to be the way he understands the world and how to thrive in it: by nurturing hate for an adversary. Without that, what reason do you have to go on? And if that is his philosophy, then what does The Man In Black have now that Jacob is gone?
-The woman Jim works the sting on in the opening scene is married to a con-man. Do you think we’ll ever meet her husband?
-Do you think we’ll ever meet Miles’ girlfriend?
-Call-back city: “So you want to die alone?”
-On James Ford’s dresser: Watership Down and a book about Lancelot. In the interest of getting this post up quicker, I’ll let you guys kick around the Lancelot reference.
-Not only do we get a mirror shot in the Alterna-world, but Jim actually punches the mirror. He really hates that mirror.
-Sawyer wants to leave the island on Widmore’s sub, which plays into the theme of second chances. Last season, Sawyer failed twice to hop on a sub and leave when he had the chance. Will he succeed this time?
-You know what might end up being the central episode of this whole damn series when all is said and done? “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” Remember how Desmond returned to the world before he went to The Island, and how Mrs. Hawking told him he had to snap out of it and resume his responsibility? Two other relevant tidbits about “Flashes Before Your Eyes:” Desmond throws the engagement ring he bought for Penny into the Thames, just as Sawyer throws the ring he bought for Juliet into the water. And when Desmond wakes back up on The Island, his head still hurts from being whacked with the cricket bat right before he flashed—much as Jack still bears wounds and scars from his Island life in the Alterna-world. Not only am I going to predict (tentatively, of course) that the “flash-sideways” will resolve in much the same way they did for Desmond, with Hawking or someone similar shocking the Alterna-815ers back to “reality,” but I also predict—as many of you already have—that this resolution has already occurred, and that the season-opening scene at the imploded hatch takes place after our gang has given up their other lives and jumped back. I could be way off here, but that’s my sense of things. After all, it can’t just be a coincidence that The Hatch was the site of two of these reality-splits. (By the way, if I’m just repeating a theory that some of you have already espoused, I apologize. I do read the comment section extensively every week, but it’s hard to keep track of everything that’s been proposed.)
So I re-watched “Dr. Linus,” chastened by all the praise I read for the episode elsewhere. And I have to say… I liked it more. (I even bumped it up to a “B+.”) I still can’t excuse some of the groaner dialogue, and though many of you explained away the “recommendation letter” contrivance, I still think it’s a lazy bit of either/or plotting. But I'd previously failed to focus on "Dr. Linus" as a heartening answer-episode to “Sundown.” The previous episode was chillingly bleak, with its depiction of unchanging characters guided strictly by fate, while “Dr. Linus” pulled back to show that free will actually does exist (at least for those who choose to embrace it). The difference between Jacob and The Man In Black is getting clearer: the former allows people to join if they choose, the latter says “join or die.” I’m still not convinced that they’re not both ultimately just manipulators, but there are contrasts. And I have to give it up once again for the two best scenes in “Dr. Linus:” the Jack/Richard dynamite scene (some of Matthew Fox’s best acting on the series to date), and the final reunion. I mentioned Ilana in that scene, but there’s so much else going on: Richard walking on the beach among a group of people he barely knows, Ben standing alone… when Lost is really cooking, it takes everything we’ve learned over the past six years and distills it into a single facial expression or pose. That’s what a show with this kind of ambition and mythological underpinning can accomplish. I should remember to appreciate that while I still can. The end is nigh.