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February 18, 2008 |

By Daniel Carlson | Lost Recaps | February 18, 2008 |

Holy hell, now this is what “Lost” is all about. The third episode of Season Four, “The Economist,” was a complex, layered installment that took the story in new directions, explored the characters, and basically burned hard and hot as a great hour of TV. A friend of mine living in Texas sent me a mildly inebriated instant-message while I was still at work Thursday evening; she’d already seen the episode and wrote, “I’m drunk and HIGH from Lost,” then told me I should prepare to “be mind BLOWN.” And damn if she wasn’t right. “The Economist” showed just how great “Lost” is at telling one story in two time frames. But the flashfowards have a fundamentally different power than the flashbacks, and it’s because the situational irony is reversed. The flashbacks allowed the castaways to work through their current issues by replaying their pasts; basically, they had the opportunity to learn from their mistakes (or give into them all over again) and change their lives. But the flashfowards cast an eye on where the characters will be, which sends the ironic and fatalistic potential of the show into the stratosphere. “Lost” used to be about how the characters’ lived shaped the events island, but now it’s about how their time on the island will change their futures. And I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but this episode managed to outdo the others this season for the sheer power of its multiple reveals and twist ending.

The episode opens with Sayid watching Jack get bitched at by Miles about Ben’s whereabouts; this is another of the many moments I find myself hoping Miles gets eaten by the smoke monster. Sayid investigates Naomi’s corpse and finds a bracelet with the inscription, “N, I’ll always be with you. R.G.” Sayid gets a stick up his ass to get things moving, and barters with Frank Lapidus for passage off the island in the chopper: If Sayid rescues Charlotte from Locke, Frank will fly Sayid back to the magical rescue ship. As if this wasn’t enough of a solid set-up for the episode — pretty much ensuring a Locke v. Sayid showdown for Charlotte’s life — the first flashforward kicks in right away, and it turns out to be a doozy. Sayid is playing golf in the Seychelles (I looked it up), basically looking pretty content with his life. His luscious man-locks have been shampooed and pulled back in a small ponytail. Another man drives up in a golf cart and watches Sayid play, at which point he makes a small wager as to who can drive the ball farther. Shooting the breeze about work, Sayid says, “I do nothing. … I was the recipient of a large sum.” Sayid cops to being one of the Oceanic Six, at which point Golf Buddy messes his shorts before taking his shot and outdistancing Sayid’s ball. Sayid attempts to pay what he owes to settle the bet, but Golf Buddy gets even more spooked and tries to book. Sayid says, “I insist, Mr. Avellino,” which frightens the man even more, since he’d never introduced himself, but before he can convert his look of panic into kinetic energy and scram, Sayid pulls a pistol from his golf bag and blows the guy away on the green. He puts the gun back in his bag, walks off, and a whole new damn chapter opens up for “Lost.” (And I know that for some of you this makes far too many chapters, in which case you should probably watch something else, like “Deal or No Deal.” Look, they’re yelling at briefcases!) In the space of just a few minutes, the show has casually revealed another member of the Oceanic Six and also shown that Sayid’s going to get into some pretty serious business once he’s off the island. He used to be a torturer for his government, but now he looks like a freelance killer. And this will color everything Sayid does on the island, because by knowing where he’ll go, we can understand more about where he is.

Sayid’s flashforward continues, though it’s not known whether this is before or after he caps Avellino: Sayid walks into a bar called Die Mauer in Berlin, clad in a sharp suit, his luscious man-locks flowing behind him in the wind of sheer awesomeness. He takes the only available seat, at a table next to a blonde. Her name is Ilsa, and they wind up hitting it off; she flirts and bites her lip, he scores a date. He tells her he’s a headhunter, and Ilsa says her employer is an economist. After he gets the digits, Sayid walks outside and calls someone on his cell phone, saying that he’s “made contact” before ditching the phone. Ilsa is pretty obviously a target, since even if we don’t know whether Avellino’s murder has happened yet, we have already seen it, and know that Sayid is/will be capable of some pretty cold-blooded stuff.

Back on Hell Island, Sayid shows everyone that Naomi was packing the photo of Desmond and Penny, so Juliet decides to hoof it to the beach to retrieve Desmond, even though she admits it’ll take a couple hours. It’s a throwaway line, but another great way to slow the pace down and make the viewer realize that nothing on the island happens quickly; the castaways are limited by sunlight and water, and time stretches forever. Sayid and Miles set off to get Charlotte; Miles acts like a douche and asks for his gun back, and Sayid ignores him. Kate walks over to Jack and bats her eyes in an attempt to get him to let her go on Sayid’s rescue mission, and Jack actually accepts. Kate asks if Jack doesn’t trust Sayid, but Jack says it’s Locke who’s the problem. Kate, not unreasonably, asks him, “What’s to prevent him from doing to me what he did to Naomi?” Jack takes a beat and says, “Sawyer won’t let him.” This is a damn fine exchange, and a premium example of the chess game Jack and Locke are playing with their fellow castaways for control of the group’s fate. Jack doesn’t pretend to beat around the bush with Kate or reassure her with empty platitudes. He simply fesses up to knowing how he’s playing people off each other, banking on Sawyer’s love for Kate to keep her safe. And she doesn’t argue.

Meanwhile, the Lockies are hiking through the jungle to find Jacob’s Ghost Cabin, but when they get to the strip of ash that acts as a marker for the cabin’s location, it’s not there. Locke shakes it off and keeps everyone moving, but he and Hurley butt heads about Charlotte: Hurley wants to let her go, but Locke gets all up in his fries and says, “Right now, Hugo, I’m making the decisions. Is that gonna be a problem for you?” At this point, I’m pretty sure Locke would kill Barnard and make Rose watch if it meant finding out the mysteries of the island.

Second flashforward: Sayid shows up at Ilsa’s hotel room/apartment/love nest, decked out in a tuxedo, his luscious man-locks groomed with the kind of care impossible to maintain on Hell Island. It’s their fifth date, and they have a mini-DTR by the door when she asks Sayid why he’s stayed in Berlin for so long, and she says she hopes he’s been staying for her. Sayid says, “The job I’m on is proving harder to accomplish than I’d thought,” which you’d think would at least raise some kind of flag for Ilsa, but no. They go off to the opera, presumably doing their best to ignore the awkward silence.

Back on the island, Daniel gathers equipment from the helicopter and performs an experiment in coordination with the ship: He radios someone named Regina and asks her to lock on to his beacon and fire the payload, but after a tense countdown sequence in which Regina’s voice announces the rocket’s impending touchdown, nothing happens. Regina says the package has landed at Daniel’s location, but Daniel scans the skies and doesn’t see a thing. “That’s weird,” Regina says. “That is far more than weird,” Daniel replies, which is true. Apparently there’s some kind of distortion around the island that somehow delayed the package, but Daniel’s at a loss. Later on, Jack and Frank talk baseball, allowing Jack to marvel that the Red Sox actually did win the 2004 World Series, as well as folding in some chronological exposition when Jack says, “I can’t believe it’s been 100 days since I’ve seen a game.” Daniel looks up to see the rocket finally coming down; the payload slams to earth next to the chopper, and Daniel cracks it open to retrieve a stopwatch from inside. Because we’ve all seen Back to the Future, watching Daniel compare the stopwatch from the rocket and the one he (apparently) started when the rocket was launched is a little anticlimactic, but still, it’s a fun moment. Daniel examines the clocks and finds that they’re 31 minutes off, meaning (a) the rocket has been missing for half an hour or (b) it was launched from the future. Regardless, 31 is the sum of 15 and 16, which are two of the series of numbers that won Hurley the lottery and were carved on the hatch and had to be entered into the machine that made the sky turn purple and are basically bad news. Daniel is understandably perturbed, but just then, Juliet returns with Desmond.

Sayid, Kate, and Miles reach the Barracks — aka the Others’ weird little village — only to find it deserted, with no sign of Locke or anyone else. They explore one of the houses and find Hurley gagged and locked up in a closet. “They left me!” he says when rescued. Once freed, Hurley rambles about Locke going nuts, at which point Miles says to him, “Where the hell did they go, tubby?” Hurley shakes his head and says, “Awesome, the ship sent us another Sawyer.” I should point out once more that I wouldn’t complain if Miles was shot by Rousseau, or raped by a polar bear, or just generally beaten by the rest of the castaways. Hurley says that Locke et al. were heading by Ben’s house, so they all head over to search for clues. Sayid finds a secret passage leading to a panic room filled with Ben’s suits, various passports, and cash. One of Ben’s passports lists him as Dean Moriarty; Ben has a sense of humor and likes the modern classics. But in the next moment, the ambush is sprung. Sawyer walks in on Kate and attempts to quiet her, but she shouts for Sayid, who rushes out and finds himself staring down the barrel of Locke’s pistol. “Good job, Hugo,” Locke says to a despondent Hurley as Sayid finally figures out the whole thing was a sting. “Sorry, dude,” Hurley says. But the gimmick works because Hurley and Locke’s confrontation was established earlier in the episode when the argued about Charlotte, making the set-up as effective on the viewer as it was on Sayid and Kate. Damn sneaky Hurley.

Sayid is locked into the weird rec room with Ben, while Sawyer and Kate have a heart-to-heart back in the bedroom. Sawyer asks Kate what’s so special back in the real world, but she tells him they can’t just “play house” on the island. Sawyer makes puppy eyes at her and growls, “Why don’t we find out?” I kind of miss mean Sawyer. In the other room, Locke apologizes to Sayid for the theatrics of the set-up. Sayid asks to be released and to take Charlotte back with him, but Locke says Ben has a man on the boat already. Ben of course refuses to play along, at which point Sayid says, “The day I start trusting him is the day I would have sold my soul.” Locke asks Sayid, “Why would I give you Charlotte for nothing?” Sayid just smiles and says he’s already got a deal in mind.

Flashforward: Sayid and Ilsa are in bed, Sayid holding her like he’s a child, his luscious man-locks flowing like water to the bed below him. Ilsa pesters him again about the job he never talks about, but Sayid brushes her off. She keeps at it, even dropping the L-word to show how vulnerable she is and to get him to open up, and it works. Sayid says he’ll tell her whatever she wants to know, but then, Ilsa’s beeper goes off: It’s her boss, the economist, and he’s come to town. Ilsa gets dresses to leave, and Sayid, prompted by guilt and affection and the fact that he’s probably never gotten over Shannon’s brutal death, tells Ilsa that she has to leave Berlin because people are going to start asking questions about what happened to her boss. Ilsa panics and realizes it’s been about her boss all along. “His name is on a list,” Sayid tells her. “The man you’re working for is not an economist.” Ilsa, however, is way more wily than Sayid had bargained for: She emerges from the bathroom with a gun and shoots Sayid in the shoulder. She then, being a pretty stupid assassin, goes back into the bathroom, out of a direct line of sight with Sayid, calling someone on the phone to complain that he was supposed to page her earlier. “He’s not going to give up the name now,” she says, “why should I keep him alive?” It’s an awesome reveal, again done in such a quick and ruthless manner that it takes a moment to set in that the whole affair was a mutual con; each was trying to reach out and kill the other’s boss. Sayid chunks a paperweight at the mirror Ilsa’s been using to keep an eye on him, grabs his gun from his jacket, and plugs her in the gut once she comes around the corner. It’s Ilsa’s own damn fault for not checking him for weapons, too. Sayid crawls over to her, holds her, and cries. She’s wearing a bracelet similar to the one on Naomi’s wrist; what this means, I do not know.

Back on Hell Island, Desmond and Frank have tense words about the Penny photo, but Frank stonewalls him. Sayid comes over the ridge with Charlotte, telling Jack that Kate decided to stay with Locke, which is a killer line because you can see the pain and disbelief flit across Jack’s face when the news hits home. Sayid tells Frank that he bartered Miles for Charlotte, which doesn’t upset Frank too much; he, like everyone, hates Miles. Daniel warns Frank that he needs to follow the same exact bearing they used coming in when he takes off for the ship, though he doesn’t bother to explain the space-time continuum hijinks that have been happening. Frank, Sayid, and Desmond take off in the chopper, bound for the ship.

Final flashfoward, and the one that rivals “Through the Looking Glass” for pure jaw-dropping effect: Sayid, bleeding from the gunshot wound Ilsa gave him, stumbles into a vet’s office after hours. An unseen man begins to tend Sayid’s wound while asking about the assignment. Sayid says Ilsa is dead, adding that the only reason she hadn’t killed him was because she wanted to know the name of Sayid’s employer. The camera cuts to reveal that the doctor, Sayid’s employer, is none other than Ben himself. Ben at this point begins speaking in his normal register; he had been talking in a lower monotone to delay the reveal until the camera cut, which is a weird little continuity quirk, but whatever. “These people don’t deserve our sympathies,” Ben chides Sayid, before telling him he has another name for Sayid to track down. Ben is evidently assembling a Munich-style takedown of the people who’ve done him wrong, and for reasons I can only guess at, he’s got Sayid doing the dirty work. Ben reminds Sayid that the work he’s doing is helping to protect his friends. When Sayid says of his targets, “They know I’m after them now,” Ben just stares at him and says, “Good.”

Damn. The retroactive irony of the episode — namely Sayid’s claim that trusting Ben, as he comes to do, would be to sell his soul — is only outdone by the amazing questions raised: How did Ben get off the island? What could have happened that would convince Sayid to be his trigger man? How are Sayid’s contract killings protecting his friends? Just … damn. This one blew me away.

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.

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