Why You Gotta Go and F*ck With the Program?
The episode opens in Tikrit, Iraq, following the character-centric model of progressive flashbacks that haven't been used much recently. A brawny older man drags his son out of a house and leads him to a chicken coop, telling the boy it's time to become a man and kill some bird. The boy, who makes the same frowny and possibly pants-wetting face the whole scene, says he doesn't want to, but the dad hands him a cleaver and walks away. A younger boy approaches from behind and places his hand on the shoulder of the apprehensive older boy in one of those weird moments of child acting that probably reads a lot better on the page. The younger boy produces some seed, lures a chicken into his grasp, and snaps its neck in a way that would inspire others parents to maybe take their kid to a counselor. The young boy hands the dead chicken to the older one just as the father returns, praising the elder child for finally having the stones to kill. "It wasn't me," the boy protests, and the father's attention shifts to his other son. "Well, at least one of you will be a man," he says. This guy is like freaking Joe McCoy. He looks at the young boy and says, "Well done, Sayid." The little boy's face never betrays any emotion.
Cut to 1977, where Sayid is still in his cell in the Barracks' security station. Phil, who apparently needed something to do to make himself even creepier, is polishing a gun while keeping an eye on the monitor bank in the main room when Baby Ben walks in with one of those weirdly shaped six-sided cafeteria trays you see in schools, and this one's complete with a lunch. (I admit that referring to him as Baby Ben is probably too cute by half, for which I can be nothing but sorry, but this is the first time in the show's run that a character is so clearly existing in two time frames, at two drastically different ages, and interacting at the same "time" [presentation-wise] with the main characters. So the nickname is going to help keep things a lot straighter.) Baby Ben tells Phil he's got another sandwich for the prisoner -- "chicken salad this time" -- but Phil says the guy isn't eating anything they bring him, and that they shouldn't waste effort on a Hostile anyway. "That doesn't mean he's not hungry," Baby Ben says, heading into the cell area. He delivers to Sayid a sandwich and a paperback copy of Carlos Castaneda's A Separate Reality, then decides to try playing in the big leagues a little. "Did Richard send you?" Baby Ben asks Sayid, hoping that the one representative of the Hostiles/Others that he knows has also been the one behind Sayid's appearance. Sayid nods toward the security camera, but the boy tells him it's just video, no audio. Baby Ben goes on to tell Sayid that he met Richard four years ago in the jungle and expressed his desire to leave the DHARMA camp, and was told to be patient. "And if you're patient, too," Baby Ben says, "I think I can help you." Man, this kid has been eerie his whole life.
Second flashback: In Moscow, a man frantically bursts into his apartment and begins rifling through a closet to reach a safe, pausing only to bolt the door. By the time he gets the safe open, the door to the room slams open as Sayid walks in, luscious man-locks flowing behind him. Sayid looks like he could be the After model for Garnier Fructis. The other guy starts yelling frantically in Russian, waving stacks of money at Sayid as he begs for his life. Sayid cuts the man off with two quick shots to the chest, dropping him instantly. Sayid walks away and strolls down the nighttime street like he's Anton Chigurh, eventually coming to an empty lot where he meets Ben, who is wearing a hat that can only be described as dashing. "Where to now?" Sayid asks, but Ben replies, "Nowhere. You're done." Sayid is a little stunned at the news, but Ben says that Andropov, the man Sayid just murdered, was "the last one" who needed to be taken care of and who posed a threat to Sayid's friends. Ben starts to walk away, but Sayid huffily demands some kind of explanation after all the killing he's done. Ben shifts the blame for the murders right back onto Sayid, saying that Sayid was the one who asked for the list of names in the first place, but that there is now "no one else in Widmore's organization that we need to go after." I believe this is the first overt mention that the people Sayid has been killing for/with Ben have been associates of Charles Widmore. Sayid wonders in a kind of daze, "What do I do now?" Ben tells him to go live his life and that he's "free," and with that, he walks away. The flashback is an interesting one because it's in the future and in Sayid's past, and that enjoyable sense of dichotomy runs through all of the episode's off-island moments.
Back/up in 1977, Sayid is definitely not free, and he's still just sitting in his cell when Horace and Radzinsky walk in. As Radzinsky opens the cell door, Sayid sees that Horace is fidgeting with a pair of shears. It would be too obvious for Horace to hurt Sayid right away, so he doesn't, instead using the clippers to cut Sayid's plastic handcuffs. Sayid thanks Horace for the favor, but he shuts back up when Horace asks what Sayid's name is and what he was doing in the jungle. Radzinsky, who's really just raring to go and already annoying, pipes up and tells Horace to ask Sayid about the model, but the boss man cuts him off. Horace turns back to Sayid and says he figures the handcuffs mean that Sayid was in trouble with the Hostiles, or that it's part of a ruse that will allow Sayid to spy on the DHARMA people and infiltrate their camp. Sayid still doesn't say a thing, so Horace hunkers down and decides to take things up a notch, telling Sayid he's got an hour to reconsider talking before events proceed to the "next level." Having been a professional torturer in the Republican Guard, Sayid is understandably not too shaken by this, but it's still good to know Horace can get tough.
Over at Sawyer and Juliet's, Sawyer walks into the kitchen to find bacon burning on the stove and Juliet staring absentmindedly out the front window. "What's on the TV?" he asks as he approaches her, following her gaze to see Jack and Kate across the courtyard. Juliet asks Sawyer if what they have is over, and she even refers to it as "playing house," saying she "never actually thought they'd come back." Sawyer actually looks surprised and worried that Juliet brought the issue up as soon as she did, but he tells her that even though their old friends have returned, nothing has changed. He misses what would have been a good opportunity to reassure her that he loves her -- something quick along the lines of choosing her and not just settling for her -- but he doesn't, and I can only assume it's because he will eventually break her heart and he needs to be imbued with as much viewer goodwill as possible to coast past that, which means he has to stop with the clear declarations of affection. Anyway, she steers the conversation to Sayid, wondering what happens if he tells the DHARMA people who he really is, but Sawyer tells her he's got everything under control. Just then there's a knock at the door, and Sawyer opens it to reveal Horace, who says the prisoner isn't talking and that Horace is "going to have to let Oldham do his thing." Sawyer panics a little and asks for a chance to talk to the prisoner before Oldham is let loose, and though Horace doesn't think it'll go anywhere, he agrees.
Next thing you know, Sawyer is bounding down the steps of the security station and through the double doors, telling Phil to take his lunch as he moves toward the cell area. Phil, standing, asks if Sawyer is heading back there alone, but Sawyer tells Phil to go to lunch already, which he does. In the cell room, Sawyer asks Sayid how he's doing, and Sayid sticks the landing when he deadpans, "A 12-year-old Ben Linus brought me a chicken salad sandwich. How do you think I'm doing?" Sayid asks how Sawyer can live with Baby Ben running around, but Sawyer says he doesn't have a choice, and that Sayid himself might be singing a different tune after "three years of living in the '70s." Sawyer unlocks the door and enters the cell, briefly apologizing to Sayid as he does so, then headbutts him. Sayid is rocked back but soon straightens up and grabs Sawyer's collar and gets ready to fight back, but Sawyer explains that he needed to hit Sayid to make it look like he beat a confession out of him. Sawyer says the cover story will be that Sayid was a Hostile who wanted to defect and was prepared to offer intel on the Others in exchange for asylum. Sayid isn't down with the plan, but Sawyer says he can't just let Sayid go. "These people trust me," Sawyer says, and it's fascinating to see how deep he's gone in three years. He's still totally on the side of his friends, but he's also far more calculating than before an unwilling to give up what he admits to Sayid is a "pretty good" life he's built. Sawyer says Sayid can either go with the plan or be out on his own, but Sayid calls his bluff: "Then I guess I'm on my own."
Over at the caf, an apron-clad Hurley brings Jack and Kate a couple plates of waffles and ham, complete with dipping sauces. So, okay. Hurley asks if there's news about Sayid, but Jack says he talked to Sawyer and was told to let the problem alone so Sawyer could handle it. Kate says she'll make a run at Juliet, but Hurley says if Sawyer wasn't talking, Juliet probably won't either. It's obvious where this is going and how it will play out, but Hurley, that big lummox, doesn't know how to stop himself. He explains to Kate that Sawyer and Juliet are together, clarifying, "They live together, like, not as roommates." Then the dude actually twists the knife a little by adding, "You know, together like you guys were? I thought it was kind of obvious. I mean, who couldn't see that coming?" For a guy whose flashbacks revealed him to be existing on the fringe of the social strata, you'd think he would have developed a certain sensitivity in re: romantic relationships, but I guess not. Jack stops Hurley from swallowing his entire leg, and as Hurley realizes that he broke some news in a pretty unfortunate way, he excuses himself to go make more waffles. Kate asks Jack if he knew about Sawyer and Juliet, and he says he totally heard it from Kacy in 7th but wasn't sure until he saw Sawyer give Juliet a homecoming mum. Bummer!
Meanwhile, Sayid is still hanging out in his cell when Roger the janitor, Ben's father, comes in and begins to mop. Roger takes a break and tells Sayid he must've been pretty dumb to get captured, but Sayid points out that at least he's not mopping up after them. Roger, who gives up after one insult, tells Sayid that he might not find it so funny when Oldham gets through with him. Roger turns back to his trusty bucket and mop when Baby Ben appears in the doorway with another sandwich. The kid freezes in terror as Roger asks for an explanation, and he says he's just there to bring Roger some food. Roger calls shenanigans on Baby Ben's story, taking the tray from him and grabbing him by the arm. Sayid hops out of his bunk as Roger shoves the boy against the bars, asking him to confess that the sandwich was really for the prisoner. Baby Ben owns up to it as Roger roughs him up a little more before telling him to go home, shoving him away. Roger turns back to Sayid and stares him down, as if asserting dominance over his son is somehow a total burn on Sayid, and then Roger throws the plate of food against the wall, which is stupid because it's his job to clean that stuff up in the first place. He slams the door and leaves Sayid alone.
Third flashback: Sayid is working with the Build Our World organization in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He's going about his work when he stops as if he senses something, and he turns to see Ben standing nearby. "How did you find me?" Sayid asks. "I looked," Ben replies, which is probably simpler than admitting he monitors the Oceanic Six and recently had a homicidal run-in with John Locke. Ben instead tells Sayid that Locke is dead and that he suspects it was murder done in "retribution" for the assassinations Ben and Sayid were carrying out. Ben says that the people who killed Locke are currently monitoring Hurley's mental institution, just waiting for Ben or Sayid to show up. Sayid balks at Ben's suggestion that Sayid enjoyed his killing days and would want to resume them, but Ben says, "You're capable of things that most other men aren't. ... It's in your nature. It's what you are. You're a killer, Sayid." Sayid says Ben has the wrong idea, and Ben offers a hollow apology, saying he was "mistaken," before walking away.
Back on the island, Horace, Radzinsky, and Sawyer go to retrieve Sayid. Entering his cell with a group, Sawyer gives him one last chance to speak up, but Sayid stays silent. Sawyer shakes his head in sad resignation, then hits Sayid with a tazer shot that knocks him to the ground. "Take him to Oldham," Sawyer says, and the others pick Sayid up and cuff him. A few minutes later, they take one of the blue vans out to the jungle and proceed to march Sayid down a path toward a clearing in which someone has pitched a big, ratty tent. To make things even creepier, there's a phonograph on a table outside that's playing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby," an old song from the 1920s, which I think we'll all agree is easily the eeriest music you could hope to hear while being escorted through the woods to a torture session. It's so otherworldly and kind of refined and just unsettling. (It's why playing BioShock late at night scares the piss out of me.) The group arrives at the tent, and Horace calls out, "Oldham! Hey man, are we ready?" The flap parts to reveal a tiny, unassuming guy in rapist glasses. Oldham stops the record and prepares some of his tools, and Sayid asks Sawyer, "Who is that man?" Sawyer simply replies, "He's our you." Oldham returns with a sugar cube on a small tray and a dropper containing an unknown liquid. He puts a few drops on the cube and tries to feed it to Sayid, who refuses. "Better put him in the restraints," Oldham says, and Sayid is forcefully led to a nearby tree and cuffed, arms out, to the leather straps encircling the twin trunks. Oldham has Phil and Radzinsky open Sayid's mouth as he shoves the sugar cube in and forces Sayid to eat it, which so far seems way less painful than the bamboo and finger work Sayid has shown to be his own personal torture trademarks. Oldham tells Sayid his struggles against the straps are pointless: "One thing's for sure friend," he says. "You will tell us the truth."
Fourth flashback: Showdown at the Long Beach marina, where Sayid is watching Ben explain to Sun and Jack that he can take them to someone nearby who can tell them how to get back to the island. Sayid bails on the whole situation and heads to a bar where he starts downing glasses of McCutcheon in a way that's probably ill-advised give the way the market's behaving. A woman sidles up, revealing herself to be Ilana, who is probably just hours from arresting Sayid, since he's wearing the shirt he will wear when led in handcuffs through the airport to meet Ajira 316. Ilana keeps chatting with Sayid as she orders a ribeye, bloody (ew), and Sayid asks if she's a professional. She tells him she's not a prostitute but was just drawn to him because he looked sad, and she likes sad men. Sayid -- who's just sitting there like he is indeed part fish; the part with the hook in it -- plays right along as she scoots one seat closer. They engage in an expositional and honestly slightly boring conversation that really just lets Ilana tell Sayid she assumes he's said because he's given up his purpose in life, which is a totally stupid line that would only work in a bar but drives home the emotional journey Sayid is on and hints that he will, come episode's end, re-embrace what he perceives to be his destiny.
Back on the island, Sayid is tripping balls out in the woods, still lashed to the tree at Oldham's. The DHARMA torture expert steps up and begins to question Sayid, who answers every question honestly and with no trace of remorse. That truth serum really hit home. Sayid tells them his name, that he's not a Hostile, and that he took Ajira 316 to get back to the island because he'd already left, having previously been there when Oceanic 815 crashed. "Ask Sawyer," Sayid says with a small nod in Sawyer's direction, freezing Sawyer in his little pacing circle. Oldham asks who Sawyer is, but Radzinsky helps out by shouting, "Who cares? Ask him about the Flame!" Horace again tells Radzinsky to can it, but Sayid is already going on with what he knows about the stations on the island, and his admissions freak Horace out. He says he knows the Flame was for communication, the Pearl for observing other stations, and the Swan was to study electromagnetism. As soon as Sayid mentions the still-unbuilt Swan station, Radzinsky really starts to blow his top, and Sayid also predicts their mass death and reveals he is from the future. But of course, even though Horace looks more than willing to at least hear Sayid out -- the guy does seem to know what he's talking about -- Oldham shrugs and says, "Maybe I should have used half a dropper." Sayid starts to laugh like Christian Bateman listening to Huey Lewis as he tells Oldham he used "exactly enough." You think a guy in Sayid's line of work would have built up an immunity to
iocaine powder truth serums, but I guess not.
Over at the motor pool, Juliet is showing Kate around and having her own awkward little afternoon. Juliet brings up her relationship with Sawyer, and Kate says she knows, and Juliet says it's a relief she didn't have to be the one to break the news since she didn't know how to do it without sounding like she was telling Kate to "stay away." The boys pull up in the van and escort Sayid back to the security station, and Sawyer looks over to see his ex and his current girlfriend talking, and his face is a completely understandable mask of worry and confusion. Later that evening, Horace leads a small group meeting in his living room to decide Sayid's fate. Radzinsky, of course, wants to kill him and quarter him and put his head on a pike and send one limb to each corner of the island, but Sawyer maintains they need to consider letting him live instead of resorting to murder like the Hostiles would. "Since we did we start acting like them? We're civilized," Sawyer says. Radzinsky sticks to his guns, even when Sawyer addresses him as Stu, which now makes me think that Radzinsky is Disco Stu in disguise. Radzinsky pushes Horace, saying, "Either you make a decision, or I call Ann Arbor and they make it for us." There you have it: The DHARMA Initiative is based in Michigan! Somebody go find the headquarters. Amy speaks up and says that Radzinsky is right, and that she won't be able to sleep at night without worrying that Sayid will eat her new baby. Horace sighs and puts the issue to a vote, and everyone in the room except Sawyer raises their hand in favor of "Radzinsky's solution." (The nameless extra sitting next to Radzinsky does him some A-level acting, too, making a "You know what, I am on board" face before nodding and raising his hand. It's like the guy learned to act watching "Saved by the Bell.") Horace turns to Sawyer and says, "I would really like to say it's unanimous." Sawyer grudgingly raises his hand and condemns Sayid.
Fifth flashback: Sayid and Ilana are making out like crazy as they shove through the door of her hotel room. Yada yada yada, he tosses her onto the bed and she gives him some weird series of Sonya Blade kicks, disables him, and draws her gun. She tells Sayid she was hired by the family of Peter Avellino -- the guy Sayid shot dead on a golf course in last season's "The Economist" -- to bring Sayid to Guam. So, that's how that went down.
1977: Sayid is once again in his cell. Sawyer walks in and instructs Sayid to hit him in the face, take his keys, and make his escape. "I appreciate the offer," Sayid says, "but I'm fine right here." Sayid says he's had a change of heart, explaining that ever since he got raptured back to the island, his life has felt devoid of purpose, a purpose Sayid now claims to be able to recapture. Sawyer walks away and heads to Kate's to ask her if she also has some kind of grand design in coming back to the island, and the scene is every bit as revealing and frustrating as can be. Kate says she doesn't know why everyone else came back, but she's definitely got a reason she wants to be on the island. Which, well, yeah, that's kind of implied. Kate doesn't get any further because just then, a blue DHARMA van comes rolling through camp, unmanned and on fire. It takes down a couple fences and crashed into one of the buildings, and before long DHARMA folks are running around trying to put out the growing fire, with Sawyer leading the charge. He opens up some water valves and starts ordering people around, having them roll out the hoses and start taming the fire. Jack walks up and asks what happened, and Sawyer gets the best line of the episode: "Three years, no burning buses. But y'all are back for one day..." and he takes off. Sawyer radios Phil for assistance, who's still down in security, and as Phil grabs his rifle and runs off, a hoodie-clad Baby Ben appears in the doorway and slips into the main room before heading to Sayid's cell area. Baby Ben opens the door to see Sayid standing in his cell like Hannibal frakking Lecter, and Sayid asks what happened to the boy's glasses. Baby Ben's frames are broken, and he's got a black eye. The boy admits it happened because he brought Sayid the sandwich, and Sayid says that his own father was a hard-driving bastard as well. "I really hate it here," Baby Ben says. "If I let you out, will you take me with you?" It appears that the young Ben might have been the one who engineered the flaming van just to distract everyone and spring Sayid, which is pretty diabolical for a young teen. Sayid says that he will take Baby Ben with him when he escapes. "That's why I'm here," he says.
Final flashback: Ilana is leading Sayid through the airport, where he winds up spotting the rest of the Oceanic Six even though they don't see him. Each progressive sighting unnerves him a little more, and he asks Ilana if they can catch the next plane to Guam instead. He's already starting to put together the likelihood that the plane won't make it there based on its passengers, but Ilana tells him to man up. On the plane, Ilana offers a small apology that Sayid has to stay cuffed, and at that moment Ben comes bounding up the aisle, sharing a moment of shocked recognition when he sees Sayid before Hurley gets up and starts flailing about and yelling that Ben shouldn't be there. Sayid asks Ilana if she's working for Ben Linus, but she says she doesn't know the name. He rattles off a laundry list of Ben's character flaws and criminal history, and when Ilana asks why she'd want to work for a guy that evil, Sayid just shrugs defeatedly and says, "I did."
Back on the island, Baby Ben gets the keys and frees Sayid from his cell. They slip out and are soon running through the jungle. Crossing the road, they see a blue van approaching, and Ben falls into the trees like a dope. Sayid doubles back and hides with the kid, signaling him to be quiet. The van stops and Jin hops out, exploring the area with a flashlight, but Sayid climbs out of his hiding spot when he sees the familiar face. Sayid goes with the original cover story, that he was released by Sawyer when his life was in danger, and Sayid tells Jin he needs to keep moving if he wants to stay safe. Jin, reluctant about the whole thing, says he needs to talk to Sawyer first, but Sayid flips Jin over and knocks him out before taking his gun. "Whoa," Baby Ben says, emerging from the trees with a grin. "Where'd you learn to do that?" The boy says they need to keep going, but Sayid just stays on his knees, wrestling with what he's about to do and everything he's done before. "You were right about me. I am a killer," Sayid says, raising the gun and firing a single shot into the boy's chest. The young Ben slowly collapses to the ground, pitching forward, lying still. Sayid weeps quietly before shaking it off and getting to his feet, breaking into a run as he heads into the night.
And that's the episode. Like I said, the fun of this one is wondering how it will play out for Ben when he becomes an adult. It seems likely, and indeed pretty cool, that the grown Ben remembered Sayid when they met again on the island and wound up using him as a killing tool off the island in part because of what he'd learned of the man when he was just a boy. Also, where Avellino and the others that Sayid killed actually associates of Widmore's, or was Ben just doing some personal housecleaning? And if they were Widmore's people, in what capacity could they hurt the castaways? Will Sayid now try to survive on his own, or will he seek out or be caught by the Others? Does he find Faraday or Rose or Bernard (who have to still be alive)? How does Baby Ben survive the shooting? He can't die, because (a) the instant he did, everything else would change and the castaways might not even be there any more, and (b) Faraday and his mom were both pretty adamant that you can't push the universe too much one way or the other, and that you can only affect the past if it already happened or was meant to happen. So Baby Ben's survival is a foregone conclusion, right? And finally, just what kind of shady office is sitting in Michigan and running the world?
Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.