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Lost: "The Economist"

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Lost

"The Economist"

Season 4, Episode 3


I wanted to send you all a Lost valentine this week, but I couldn't decide whether to go with Desmond saying, "I See Love In Your Future" or Sayid saying, "Life Without You Is Torture." (Conspicuously absent: Mr. Friendly saying, "You're Not My Type.") Anyway, card or not, know that I love you all dearly, and am ready to share with you that which is most important to our relationship: Lost chat.

Isn't it funny how something as simple as a change from flashbacks to flash-forwards changes the whole rhythm of watching Lost? By the middle of the third season, waiting to see whether it was going to be "a Locke episode" or "a Jack episode" had long since ceased to be a thrill in and of itself. But tonight I was genuinely anxious to see whose post-island life we were going to learn about.

Answer: Sayid. Or as he appeared in the flash-forward: "Sayid The Avenger: International Assassin And All-Around Sexpot." When first we see him off the island, Sayid is duffing his way across an exclusive golf course, waiting for his target: an affable Frenchman who starts to panic when he realizes that Sayid is one of "The Oceanic Six." (And rightfully so, since Sayid immediately plugs him with a pistol. I guess he doesn't like it when people try to play through.) Later, he travels to Berlin and cozies up with Elsa, a seemingly trusting young woman whom Sayid woos and beds–apparently over a fairly long period of time–in order to get closer to her employer, "an economist" whom Sayid means to murder because he's "on the list." Instead, he has to gun down Elsa, who was only using him to find out who his employer is. At the end of the episode, bleeding from a bullet lodged in his chest, Sayid stumbles into a kennel to have the bullet extracted by his handler, whom we all know better as….

Well, first let's back up, to the place we're flash-forwarding from. Back on the island, Sayid is still at the center of the action. Determined to get to the freighter sooner rather than later, Sayid makes a deal with the freighties' pilot, Frank, to catch a ride on his helicopter in exchange for retrieving the anthropologist Charlotte from the clutches of Locke and his reluctant disciples. Sayid, Kate, and my new favorite character Miles travel back to The Others' barracks–as the Lost engineers once again make good use of the big island playset that they built for us last season–where they're ambushed by Locke's crew thanks to a good piece of decoying by Hurley. More on the implications of that in a moment.

Meanwhile, back at the 'copter, while Jack waits for Juliette to return from the beach with Desmond–retrieved in order to find out why dead freightie Naomi was carrying a picture of the wry Scot around–fidgety physicist Daniel Faraday performs an experiment with the help of his shipmate, The Voice Of Zoë Bell. He sets up a beacon and asks her to send a small guided missile towards it, but the missile arrives roughly half an hour after it's supposed to. More on that in a moment too.

Outside of the facts of what's happening in the island present and the off-island future, there are really two things going on in "The Economist." First off, the ramifications of our original castaways' split are starting to be felt. We've got Kate imprisoned by her former lover Sawyer at the barracks, and Hurley having to deceive his friends in order to prove his loyalty to Locke–even though he's already dismayed about Locke's decision to take prisoners. The title of this episode comes from the occupation of Elsa's boss, but the whole episode is really about our heroes pulling out their charts and graphs to do a little cost-benefit analysis. They'll make deals with devils if that's what it takes to get what they want, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the big final reveal of Sayid's off-island employer: none other than Benjamin Linus, who in the episode's final scene lays a long line of jive about why Sayid needs to get back to killing in his name as soon as possible.

The other major point to ponder in "The Economist" is the result of Daniel's experiment. (Which shakes him up so much that he makes extra-sure to tell Frank that when he flies off the island, "Stay on the same bearing, no matter what.") For a while now, Lost theorists have speculated that time moves slower on the island, and this strange game of rockets-and-beacons seems to be a confirmation of that. Though only 80 nautical miles offshore, the boat is apparently located 31 minutes in the future. (Unless I'm missing something here, which is highly likely; I'm sure y'all will let me know.)

Then again, time may be moving differently off the island too–at least in a metaphorical sense. How patient does Sayid have to be in order to get the information he needs from Elsa? By the time he kills her, they're already talking about "love" and making plans for their future. Their relationship has a whole arc that takes place during the three scenes we see of them: the one where they meet and flirt, the one where they go on a date, and the one where they try to kill each other. I guess what I'm saying is that for Sayid and the rest of the Oceanic 815 survivors, if there's something you want–that you really want–then you must be willing to live lifetimes while you wait.

Grade: A

Stray observations:

-Speaking of making people wait, like a good little Lost-freak I finally took the time this week to catch up with the between-season "mobisodes," and found them interesting primarily for what amounts to their tacit rebuke to the "give me answers now!" crowd. Most of these little two-minute interludes–with the major exception of the final one, "So It Begins," which is pretty cool–merely fill in pieces of the story that we already know, as in the mobisode that takes us back to the previously unseen moment when Juliette tells Jack that she's still working for Ben, and helping him identify the pregnant women in camp. Had this scene actually happened on the show, it would've given us the exact same information we later got when Juliette's deception was revealed by our heroes, but it would've been far less dramatic. Lost's delay tactics may not always make sense from the perspective of "realism," but by and large they make for more interesting storytelling.

-When Kate tells the left-behind Jack that "now you know how I felt" all those times he told her to stay at camp, he pops off a good line: "Does that mean I should wait 20 minutes and go anyway?"

-Another good line, from Hurley, in response to being called "Tubby" by Miles: "Oh. Awesome. The ship sent us another Sawyer."

-Is it too late to hope for a spinoff series about the adventures of Miles and Sayid?

And now some stray clues/theories to kick around:

-Apparently Hurley wasn't just imagining the moving cabin back in Season Four's first episode. When Locke leads them to where Jacob's cabin should be, it's long gone. (Who wants to bet that at night it sprouts chicken legs and walks away?)

-First there was "Jacob's list," and now there's another list that Ben's attending to: the list of people that Sayid is supposed to kill.

-The inscription on Naomi's bracelet: "N, I'll always be with you, RC." Anyone want to guess who "RC" is? Or why Elsa had a similar-looking bracelet on when Sayid shot her?

-Sayid thought he was pretty slick when he brought Charlotte back to Frank as agreed, while leaving Miles behind with Locke (as not agreed). But did he pay attention to what Frank promised he'd do in return? "I will take you off this island," Frank very carefully said. He didn't say he'd go to the freighter.

-Crazy-ass theory time: Is the reason why all the women die in childbirth on the island because their nine-month gestation period produces babies that have developed in "off-island time," and are thus too large to proceed safely down the birth canal? Speaking as a father, I'll just say to that prospect...Ewwwww.