He’s Our You (S5, ep. 10)
Ben: “You’re a killer, Sayid.”
• Sayid’s childhood flashback (his first) mirrors Eko’s experience of killing to help his brother (if you were feeling punny, you could say that it echoes Eko’s tale). It also serves to illustrate that Sayid has always been “capable of things that most other men aren’t,” as Ben Linus will comment later in the episode.
Ben: “Brought you a sandwich. And a book. I read it twice. It’s good.”
• The book that Ben brings to Sayid is “A Separate Reality,” by Carlos Castaneda. An allegedly “non-fictional” account of the author’s experiences as an apprentice to a mystic (possibly mirrored in the Ben/Richard relationship), it involves the expansion of consciousness (very appropriate for Lost) through, among other methods, the use of psychotropic mushrooms (very appropriate for Dharma). Castaneda is allegedly taught to “see” the energy of the universe, something that seems potentially connected to the electromagnetic energies saturating the Island. Could Walt “see” this energy? Could Ben?
• According to Ben, it’s been four years since he met Richard in the jungle and asked to join the Others.
• Let’s talk again about the way that Sayid’s capture here mirrors Ben’s capture in Season 2:
In the Season 2 episode, “One of Them” (the episode that first introduces Ben Linus), Sayid tries to stop Rousseau from shooting Ben. In “He’s Our You,” Sayid shoots Ben. In Season 2, Ben is caught in Rousseau’s net, and Sayid frees him. In S5, Sayid is caught in a Dharma cell, and Ben frees him. In S2, Ben is an Other pretending to be a castaway. In S5, Sayid is a castaway pretending to be an Other. In S2, Sayid is the interrogator. In S5, Sayid is interrogated. In S2, Locke brings Ben “The Brothers Karamazov” to read in his Swan “cell.” In S5, Ben brings Sayid “A Separate Reality” to read in his Dharma cell. Both episodes deal with an isolated community that reacts to an external threat by capturing an “Other,” and both episodes “mirror” each other in that they present reflected versions of the same basic event/problem.
That’s very, very cool, and it ties in nicely with the ideas of Others and Othering which Lost has been playing with since Season 2. I’ve talked about these concepts in past columns, and will feature them more heavily, with detailed analysis and examples, in my shamelessly-self-promotional book. It also evokes the idea of events being cyclical – of actions repeating, looping if you will. In mirroring these episodes, Lost illustrates a cycle of violence that continues to perpetuate through decades. Is this an intentional motif? Are the writers doing this on purpose? If so, this show is truly novel-esque in its density. If not, the mirroring nonetheless remains, and remains admirable for the way it echoes themes the show is already more explicitly exploring.
• The name of the building where Sayid assassinates a mysterious Russian (he’s apparently one of Widmore’s people, though we only have Ben’s word on this, so, grain of salt and all) translates to “Oldham Pharmaceuticals.” Oldham is the Other who will interrogate Sayid later on in this episode, and from what we can see, the character is a chemist. Is this just a cute detail hidden away for giggles-sake? Or are we meant to infer that the same Oldham who we see on the Island founded a pharmaceuticals company in Russia? I’m guessing it’s the former, obviously. Also kinda nifty: the building number is 32, but we see it backward through frosted glass. 32 written “backward” is 23 – one of The Numbers.
• The end of Ben and Sayid’s bloody partnership felt deeply unsatisfying to me the first time I watched Season 5, but on rewatch I’m surprised to find that I’m much more open to it. More than anything, what seems to have turned Sayid against Ben is Ben’s observation that Sayid enjoys killing; that the act of murder comes more easily to him than to other men. That observation runs directly counter to what Sayid has struggled to believe about himself – that he is NOT a killer, and that he can change his figurative spots. If Sayid recognizes truth in what Ben says, it means that he’s been living a lie, and that he is essentially (in his own eyes at any rate) a very bad man. That’s a good reason to come to loathe someone.
• It’s never confirmed, but given what we see in this episode, it’s possible to infer that Ben’s opinion of Sayid is the result of having been shot as a boy by our favorite Iraqi.
• Sayid’s refusal to talk to Horace makes no sense from a self-preservation standpoint. Horace all but gives Sayid a ‘get out of jail free’ card when he asks Sayid if he’s in trouble with his people and tells him that if this is the case then he’s inclined to help Sayid. So why does Sayid maintain his silence? It’s possible that he’s already decided to kill young Ben and so he is, in the words of Harper, Others psychiatrist, “exactly where he wants to be.” It’s also possible that Sayid wants to be punished. What we see in this episode shows us that Sayid becomes convinced of the truth of adult Ben’s words.
James: “How you doin’?”
Great Sayid Line: “A twelve-year-old Ben Linus brought me a chicken salad sandwich. How do you think I’m doing?”
• Roger Linus continues to earn overtime in his position as “Worst Dharma Daddy.”
• Ben tells Sayid that John Locke was probably murdered by Widmore’s people in retribution for the “work” that they were doing, but we know this isn’t true. In point of fact, we know that Ben killed Locke.
This brings up the question of whether Widmore has been a threat to the O6 at all. We know that Widmore has known where to find Sayid for some time, and that despite this, Sayid remains alive. We also know that Hurley was incarcerated in a mental institution, and that if Widmore’s man wanted to kill him, it surely wouldn’t have been very difficult – and yet Hurley was not killed. Neither was Sun, who approaches Widmore directly. The only castaway who has been physically attacked off-Island is Sayid – and we don’t even know for sure if it was Widmore who was responsible.
In other words, if Widmore wants to kill the O6 he’s being the world’s laziest man about it. So is it possible that Ben has entirely invented the Widmore threat to the O6? That he’s been using Sayid solely to eliminate Widmore’s threat to Ben’s interests?
Oldham: “Don’t be afraid. Just turn your mind off. Let it take effect.”
• Here’s the thing: I really like the choice to have Oldham be a psychedelic version of Sayid – someone who extracts information through drugs and mental manipulation. I especially like the choice to paint him as a kind of Shaman, complete with teepee. It’s very fitting for the time period we’re in, and it nicely emphasizes Lost’s interest in altered consciousness and mysticism (the real Richard Alpert probably had a teepee just like Oldham’s when he was young). It also contrasts nicely with Sayid’s brute use of force in his own interrogations. As presented, Oldham’s a character I’d have loved to have seen more of (and once again I’m wishing this season were 22 episodes, not 16).
But referring to the character as a psycho, and raising our dramatic expectations for the character only to subvert them when we meet him has the effect of confusing me as an audience member. Waitasecond, I think to myself. I thought he was a psycho? Why is he an aw-shucks southern dude in a teepee with an LSD fixation? Why is the information I was given not lining up with what I’m seeing?
Because I’m an “apologist,” I’m able to imagine that Sayid caught Oldham on a good day, or that Oldham’s psychosis is unrelated to his job as drug-assisted interrogator (because, realistically, how often would this guy need to perform this particular function? He’s got to be doing other stuff for Dharma, and I assume that he’s in part responsible for helping to mix the chemicals in The Tempest), or that James was trying to get Sayid to cooperate by exaggerating the threat to Sayid. Your mileage may vary, as it should.
Sayid: “And if I see you again, it’ll be extremely unpleasant for us both.”
• Easily the weirdest SNAFU of the season in terms of dialogue. Want to get nerdy for a moment? Okay, then!
When Kate, Jack, Sun, Ben and Sayid meet at the docks during the events of “This Place Is Death,” Sayid refers to both Jack and Ben and clearly says “And if I see either of you again, it’ll be extremely unpleasant for all of us.” If only the first portion of the line had changed I’d say it was an editing decision to put the focus squarely on the animosity between Sayid and Ben, since that’s the focus of this episode. It’d be kind of awkward, but I’d understand the motivation. However, it’s clear that Naveen Andrews was filmed twice during the dock scene, and in one version he claims it will be unpleasant for ALL of us, while in the other he states it will be unpleasant for BOTH of us. That’s an intentional change in spoken dialogue, requiring two separate pieces of footage.
What’s it mean? It could mean that the show filmed both versions because they weren’t sure whether Sayid should address Jack and Ben, or just Ben. If that was the case, then they may have simply picked the wrong footage when they assembled this episode. But that’s odd on a lot of levels. Why wouldn’t they have been sure? Yes, this season contains mistakes, but this seems like a mistake you’d have to almost consciously make, doesn’t it?
So what’s another explanation? Recall the picture frames we saw in Miles’ first flashback. When Miles goes up the stairs to confront a ‘ghost,’ the frames are wooden. When he comes back down, they’re some kind of metal. One photo (of a boy who looks like a young Eko) is clearly shown during both shots, confirming that the frames around the pictures have changed, but the pictures themselves remain.
Is it possible that Sayid’s change in dialogue is related to this? Are we seeing slightly different possible variations to indicate where time has been altered? Where the “frame” has changed, but the picture remains the same? Or is this evidence of a parallel world?
• We learn that Ilana approached Sayid in a swanky bar, and that Sayid favors MacCutcheon scotch when he’s lonely and sad. MacCutcheon is the drink that Charles Widmore poured himself when he denied Desmond permission to marry his daughter. According to Widmore, one sip was worth more than Desmond could make in a month. I suddenly understand Widmore’s disapproval. If a glass of MacCutcheon is $120 at a bar, a fact we learn here, then a sip should be worth something like $30. Desmond was apparently one broke-ass mofo.
• All griping about Oldham’s introduction aside, Sayid’s interrogation scene is fantastic. When he tells the group to “ask Sawyer,” there’s a palpable crackle of tension. Naveen Andrews is rarely given the chance to play silly/goofy on this show, and he’s very good at it here, but he keeps it grounded.
• The scene in which Dharma’s inner circle votes on whether to kill Sayid is good stuff. Again, ideas about “Othering,” about demonizing another group, underlie the drama. It’s potentially interesting that Amy implores the group to “think about the children.” On one level, this is the sort of real-world motivation that people who are inclined to want to hurt Other people often invoke. When issues of good and evil, morality and immorality, “us” and “Other” arise, it’s always children who are lifted as shields. On another level, this is interesting because of who the child in question is: its Ethan, who was successfully born on the Island.
• James’s reluctant vote illustrates just how genuinely he’s now tied to the Dharma community, but his subsequent attempt to let Sayid escape affirms that his true loyalty still lies with the castaways. Again, notice just how much James has changed. In the first episode of this series, he accused Sayid of being a terrorist.
Radzinsky: “Horace, you’ve got to call for a vote. Either we make a decision, or I call Ann Arbor…and they make it for us.”
• Ann Arbor gets its first mention on the show. Ann Arbor, Michigan is the home of the University of Michigan, and the residence of Gerald and Karen DeGroot, the founders of Dharma. Presumably, this means that Ann Arbor oversees the operations on the Island and can dictate certain policies.
Sayid: “You’re a bounty hunter?”
Ilana: “Doesn’t matter what I am. You’re going to answer for what you’ve done.”
• Sayid has the worst luck with women of any man I’ve ever seen. Nadia and Sharon are both violently killed in front of him, and Elsa and Ilana both turn guns on him. If ever someone needed to be matched on 29 levels of compatibility, it’s Mr. Jarrah.
Ilana claims to be working for the family of Peter Avelino, the man we saw Sayid shoot on a golf course. She also claims she’s taking him to Guam to face justice. How much of this is true? Maybe all of it. We know that Jacob came to Ilana in Russian hospital and asked her to do something for him, but we don’t know what that ‘something’ was. It’s possible that he asked her to capture Sayid and bring him to the Island, that he somehow knew that Sayid would not come of his own free will. But that seems curiously aggressive and proactive to me, so let’s also consider that Jacob simply knew that Ilana would go after Sayid and bring him to Guam to face Avelino’s family, and that he asked her to be on a specific flight. Oddly, this presumably means that Ilana would have been working for the family of one of Widmore’s associates. Does this indicate that Widmore is on Jacob’s “side”?
• Even as a kid, Ben is some kind of Machiavellian Supervillian. He steals a Dharma van by himself, lights it on fire, and sends it cruising straight into Dharma-ville like a member of the Weather Underground. Then he slips into the security station, fakes out a guard, and frees Sayid. All he needs now is henchmen, which he’ll receive in spades when he ascends to lead the Others.
Sayid: “I am a killer.”
• Young Ben frees Sayid, who shoots the boy in the chest and runs off into the night. A shocking ending for sure (even if we assumed that Ben had to end up living via “whatever happened, happened”), and one with mammoth implications. Sayid is the cause of his own suffering – he “creates” the Ben we know through his actions, turning a scared, abused boy into something more mysterious. It’s his bullet that sends young Ben into the Temple and I think we can safely assume that whatever happened inside altered Ben Linus forever, even if only in the healing of him.
Because, unless Ben was struck by convenient amnesia, he’s going to remember the man who shot him, right?
And Sayid’s actions here make me wonder whether we’ve just seen how different choices by an individual might change the course of time. Sayid is given several chances in “He’s Our You.” He can join Dharma, he can escape and flee into the jungle. Instead, he chooses to stay. On one level, he “had” to stay because “whatever happened, happened.” But if the castaways are stuck in a loop – a loop that’s been created artificially through the actions of determined former Island residents like Hawking and Widmore, perhaps – then its possible that they’ve needed to make different decisions in order to escape it. In order to break the cycle of violence, to break the ouroboros, they need to let go of what’s past (literally and figuratively in this case) to make it right.
Pure speculation, of course. Hey! Less than a week to go!
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