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It's In My Nature: Sayid Discovers the Truth of the Scorpion and the Frog on "Lost"

The past has a nasty way of catching up to us and no series has dwelt on that notion more regularly (or spectacularly) than Lost, which continues to use its character's past mistakes as a rubric to understanding why they make the choices they do in the present. (Or, er, time-tossed distant past, as the case may be.)

Last night's episode of Lost ("He's Our You"), written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and directed by Greg Yaitanes, centered squarely on the character of Sayid Jarrah as the audience is given a glimpse into his childhood and the events leading up to his return to the island. (Along with a simply jaw-dropping kick to the head from Zuleikha Robinson's Ilana, but more on that in a bit.)

While we've seen Sayid struggle with his nature in the past, most notably his time as the castaways' resident torturer, it's never been handled in quite such a complex fashion as it is here, folding itself inwards on the shared experiences of Sayid and Ben and some very, very bad blood between them. Could these two be more alike than they'd like to admit? Hmmm.

So crack open a Dharma beer, put on your jumpsuit, and let's discuss "He's Our You."

Sayid and Ben. Throughout the five seasons of Lost so far, Sayid has remained a tantalizingly complicated figure. On the one hand, he's proven himself to be a loyal friend to Hurley and the others but on the other, the cool heart of a killer beats in his chest. He's had to wrestle with his dark impulses since the beginning of the series and he's been the one to carry out some truly heinous acts of torture and murder. Is it in his nature? In this episode, Sayid seems to argue that you can't escape your past and the choices you've made, nor can you escape the very essence of yourself that "defines" you. For Sayid, it's the blood on his hands. We see this at a young age when Sayid doesn't hesitate to snap the chicken's neck while his older brother waffles, unable to take the creature's life.

Is it this lack of hesitation that Kelvin Inman sees in him in "One of Them"? Perhaps. Or perhaps it's the fact that Sayid is regularly called upon to carry out actions that others would shy away from. It's this quality that binds him to Benjamin Linus, a sort of compartmentalization that both share when it comes to human life. Sayid kills because it's "necessary." Whether to save his friends or save his brother from a beating, he makes the choice to snuff out the lives of others. He's a dark reflection of our own murderous impulses made into flesh. And yet he feels he needs to perform penance. Why else does he escape to Dominican Republic to help build houses for charity? Why remain in the Dharma holding cell? It's clear that his actions do weigh heavily on him, after all.

It's interesting to me that the tables should so be turned on Sayid in this week's episode, as he finds himself the unwitting prisoner of the Dharma Initiative, tortured by his counterpart in the DI (the wholly creepy Oldham), and interrogated, as it were, by twelve-year-old Benjamin Linus. And just as Ben worked his mind games on Sayid in Season Two, so too does Sayid manipulate Ben into freeing him, with the promise that he'll take him with him to the Others. But Sayid has other plans as he accepts his inner killer: they escape, Sayid knocks out Jin when he catches them along the road, and he shoots twelve-year-old Ben in cold blood, after uttering some truly heartbreaking words: "You were right about me. I am a killer."

Is the shooting payback for for all of the awful things that Ben has done to Sayid? Did Ben truly corrupt Sayid by instructing him to kill all of those men, whom he claimed wanted to harm the Oceanic Six? Perhaps. After all, Sayid did promise Ben that if they saw each other again, it would be very unpleasant for them both... and he did follow through on that promise.

Young Ben, meanwhile, is desperate to escape the oppressive atmosphere in the Dharma Initiative's camp, made all the more unpleasant by his boorish, abusive father. It's a situation that gets all the more worse when Roger Linus discovers Ben taking Sayid a sandwich and beats the holy hell out of him. Sayid claims to feel for the boy, saying that he had a difficult father as well but it all smacks of lip service, given what happens next. I knew that it would be Ben who would organize a diversion and break Sayid out of the holding cell but I never imagined that Sayid would repay the favor by shooting Ben. But, after all, he wasn't a member of the Hostiles so couldn't have taken him there. So is what Ben puts Sayid through--all of the assassinations, all of the lies, and the betrayal--pay back for what HE did to Ben as a child?

Obviously, there's no way that twelve-year-old Ben will die as it would create a rip in the space-time continuum that would likely destroy the world or the universe itself. Ben can't die because he has to lead The Purge of the Dharma Initiative and take over control of The Others and interact with the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815. But I literally gasped out loud nonetheless when Sayid pulled the trigger. The attempted murder of an unarmed child is not something you can come back from easily, so I am very intrigued to see where they take Sayid next... and how this incident further spurs Ben to follow through on his deal with Richard, which we learn happened four years earlier in 1973.

Sawyer. Meanwhile, Saywer's lie is starting to fall apart at the seams. He's not helped by the confession that Oldham manages to coax out of Sayid thanks to the use of a truth serum or LSD-laced sugar cube that's crammed into his mouth. While Sayid reveals that he came to the island on Ajira Airways Flight 316 (returning there after arriving for the first time via Oceanic Flight 815) and knows about the Flame, the Pearl, and the as-yet-unbuilt Swan, he also reveals that he's from the future, which makes most of his confession rather unreliable in the eyes of the Dharma Initiative.

And poor Sawyer is in a bind: if Sayid does cave and doesn't go along with the plan, his life with the Dharma Initiative is over. Everything he's build will come tumbling down around his ears... but it has to eventually. We know that the past has a way with catching up to everyone, even LaFleur. He gives Sayid multiple opportunities to either go along with the plan or escape but Sayid doesn't take them and Sawyer reluctantly turns him over to Horace and the others for more radical interrogation. Sawyer is in a tough place and yet he's still trying to work towards the Greater Good, protect as many people as possible. If that's not the definition of a true leader, I don't know what is.

Juliet and Kate. I was glad to see that this week's episode didn't feature some sort of catty showdown between romantic rivals Juliet and Kate. Juliet believes that her life with Sawyer, "playing house," is over now that the others have returned but Sawyer claims that it's not. Still, it would be very hard for Juliet not to express some concerns about Kate's reappearance on the scene. And the way that Sawyer paused outside his home and then headed over to Kate's barrack points very much for things not being over between them. Poor Juliet is in for some rude awakening, I'm sure.

Ilana. While I wasn't sure whether I liked Ilana yet, this episode cemented my fascination with her. She's not quite a US Marshall, it would seem. Rather, she claims to be a bounty hunter tasked with bringing Sayid back to Guam in order to receive punishment for the murder of Peter Avellino in "The Economist," whom Sayid shot to death on a gold course in the Seychelles. She easily seduces him and gets him into a hotel room, which she quickly kicks him in the head with one of her hooker booted legs and points a gun at him. But who does Ilana really work for? The family of the murdered Peter Avellino, as she claims? Benjamin Linus, as Sayid suspects? Or Charles Widmore? I loved that he tried to convince her to take a different flight to Guam after seeing the rest of the Oceanic Six assembled at the gate but she refused. Did she anticipate something would happen on the flight? Did someone want Sayid on that specific flight, knowing what would happen?

Amy. I don't trust Amy at all. She claims that she wants to protect baby Ethan and that she would be sleeping with one eye open if Sayid were to remain at the barracks but she comes round to the idea of killing him WAY too quickly for my liking. Could it be that she believes that the reason Sayid is there is to take her away to the Others? After all, the last time some Hostiles were around, her husband got killed, Amy got a sack over the head, and it definitely looked like they were planning on kidnapping her? Does Amy believe that if she has Sayid executed she can avert this latest plot? And if we believe that the Others do want Amy for some reason, why? What do they have to gain by taking her specifically? And does it point to how Ethan ends up a valued member of the Others? Hmmm...

Ann Arbor. Horace meanwhile goes along with Amy's plan, as does everyone except Sawyer. After all, he wants this taken care of quickly and quietly and doesn't want to have to "call Ann Arbor," as the shrill Radzinsky suggests. So, just who is in Ann Arbor? Why Dharma headquarters, of course. After all, Gerard and Karen DeGroot started the Dharma Initiative at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1970, with some funding from the Hanso Foundation. It would make sense then that the DeGroots could still be based there now.

Lost Literary Reference of the Week: "A Separate Reality," by Carlos Castaneda, which twelve-year-old Ben gives to Sayid in his holding cell. Allegedly a non-fiction book, it's meant to be an account of a man's experiences with a sorcerer and a mind-altering plant that can let people see things. Rather like the stuff that Locke puts on Boone's head back in Season One that allows him to glimpse a possible future, no?

Best line of the evening: "A twelve-year-old Ben Linus brought me a chicken salad sandwich. How do you think I'm doing?" - Sayid

What did you think of this week's episode? How will Sayid's actions come back to haunt him and what does it mean for his relationship with the other castaways? Just where will he go now that he's stuck in 1977 and an enemy of the Dharma Initiative? Do we trust Amy at all? Discuss.

Next week on Lost ("Whatever Happened, Happened"), Kate goes to extreme lengths to save the life of twelve-year-old Ben when Jack refuses to help and she begins to tell the truth about the lie in order to protect Aaron.

Comments

Ally said…
What did I think of this episode? Sayid in leather. Best episode ever.
tony libido said…
Nice review. I felt pretty chilly about the episode last night. Some things coming back that I didn't appreciate-especially unhappy Sawyer. He's been radiant the past few episodes in his Dharma bubble. Now it's back to glower and scowl. And the mope-fest between jack and Kate took me back to earlier seasons in a not appreciated way.

Then the end, which right afterwards felt kind of empty. Because of course, young Ben is not going to die. It's a bit too early for a complete re-configuring of history (though that may be where we ultimately end up). Your point about what the act does to Sayid makes for a much more interesting scenario. And yes, not an especially hopeful scenario. I worry for him.

It feels like we're in BSG territory where things are going to get much much worse before they have even a chance at being better.
Anonymous said…
Loved last night's ep which brought up so much internal drama in Sayid. Yes, it's totally obvious that Ben12 is not dead or the series would go off the rails but it will be interesting to see what the Losties do in order to course correct and make sure he does survive. Likely next week.
rockauteur said…
Except for Sayid shooting Ben at the end, it wasn't that satisfying of an episode, mainly because there were no answered questions, no overarching mythology, no Faraday! I know that's not the point, and it was nice to get back to the core flashback narrative structure that Lost first featured... but the episode seemed slight... and I wasn't the biggest fan of Sawyer's about-face to his former gloom and doom days (hopefully he'll snap out of it and continue to be the leader... until Jack steps up).

It was a nice touch though to see Sayid tied to the tree with Saywer standing above him... a flip of when Sayid interrogated Sawyer for stealing the meds (and had him tied to a tree). Can't say Sayid didn't have it coming...
Anonymous said…
@rockauteur Things have a way of coming full circle, no? Hee hee. I also loved the role reversal of Sayid and Sawyer here though wish that it had been Sawyer himself who had to torture Sayid in the bamboo grove. That would have made it even more painful for both.

@Ally Wowza.
Anonymous said…
Very interesting episode; not as exciting as most, but it fills in some holes, and gave some more insight to the killer background of Sayid.

I liked the parallel of Ben bringing Sayid the sandwich, and his dad saying "you never brought me a sandwich", just the same way Ben says it to Juliet in the future, when she brings one to Jack.
CL said…
I wonder where Sayid's going. He can't go to the Others' camp, can he? Perhaps he'll run into Daniel Faraday. Yes...and then Daniel can tell Sayid that he screwed up and shot a kid for nothing because Ben couldn't die.
Anonymous said…
Love lana. Now, that Juliet has become a klingon, lana is my 2nd fav female character. Kate will always be my favourite because love or hate her she remains a bad ass. I did not flinch when Sayid shot Ben because I am very much in the mode of whatever happened, happened and this notion of an alternate reality is just to confuse us all. I am one of those who believes Jimbo La Fleur is slowly losing the plot. If he had let Sayid go as Sayid initially suggested we would not have got to where we got to but he wanted to have Sayid join his con and live in this fake universe that he knows and we all know is heading towards an impending doom. Please bring back Sawyer. Jim La Fleur has overstayed his welcome.
Anonymous said…
I also enjoyed the quote "No burning vans for 3 years and y'all show up for one day." - Sawyer
Page48 said…
This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.
Samantha Hunter said…
Awesome, amazing episode. So happy they are back to focusing on Sayid, my favorite character, the one who keeps me coming back, even when this show strains my patience.

My interpretation of his shooting of Ben is more tragic -- Sayid is seeing the killing of Ben as saving all of those people in the future, IMO. (It's his "purpose," his redemption -- why he is there.)

He kills (supposedly) young Ben in order to change the future that happens later, to prevent all of the evil done by Ben (and by himself, as well), not realizing that his act is probably what causes it all to happen. Perfect Greek tragedy there.

Have to argue with you on the best line. To me, it was the entire "what makes you sad" conversation at the bar. That one resonates.

And any show with Sayid in a love scene works for me, too.

One extra bit that I love on this show is how well they match up child actors with the adult -- very, very well done.

Sam
susie que said…
Yikes. I actually felt bad for Lil' Ben.

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