Sunday, July 24, 2011

LOST Redux: S3E04 Every Man for Himself

(At the request of a reader, I will be reposting old editions of my LOST column as they no longer appear on the internet. I will not be making any edits to them, so please be aware that they represent a moment and time--my thoughts and analysis after watching an episode's initial airing.)

You wanna talk about being conned? I do. I was originally going to start this edition of the Midside with the quote from Of Mice and Men that Prince Ben cited. Earlier, I finished the rough draft of a paper I was assigned, found the quote, and pasted it at the top of this document. Then I went to class and got conned. No, I wasn’t conned at class. I was conned after class.

Well, to be fair, it’s been more of a long con. For a few weeks now, the Clemson Tigers have been literally running over opponents and running up the score. This past weekend they won their homecoming game 31-7 over a then highly ranked Georgia Tech team. Tonight, Thursday night, the rug was pulled out from under my feet. Defending their home turf, Virginia Tech used a simplistic game plan to dismantle Clemson 31-7 and expose their untalented quarterback Will Proctor for what he is, a fraud. You see, Proctor has been hiding behind a two headed running back monster acting like a big shot the way Prince Ben and The Good Guys have been hiding on that smaller island acting like big shots. I know exactly how Sawyer felt at the end of the episode. How about I tell you?


It’s time to say it. I know you don’t want to, but I will. Why will I? Because what I do is say what you’re thinking, but won’t say. Why? Because I take the risks. Because I don’t care if you don’t like me. Because…oh, alright, I’ll say it already.

The flashbacks have lost their steam. Out of the first four flashbacks this season, only Jack’s was decent. When I say Jack has the best anything out of any group, especially when the group includes Sawyer, you know I’m serious. I’ve wondered aloud several times when the flashback technique would stop working and I reluctantly admit that it now may be that time. Jin and Sun’s, Locke’s, and Sawyer’s flashbacks have all felt like they were tacked onto their respective episodes.

The first season’s flashbacks were easy. The writers had the basic idea of the twists they wanted to reveal behind the characters and the directions they wanted to take the characters in. Season two’s flashbacks were a bit more difficult. The writers had to come up with ways to further the flashbacks that had already aired, yet stay original. The challenge the writer’s face this season is much more immense. They have to create compelling flashbacks that keep us as interested as much as the story on the island. So far this season, they are failing.

The question I ask now is, are the flashbacks an integral part of the island’s mystery? I have supposed in the past that we are seeing the characters’ pasts as they are being scanned by the smoke monster. The evidence I point to is the images inside the smoke as Eko stood face to, um, smoke with it. I still believe the writers are using this technique because it is an essential aspect of the mystery of LOST. Thusly, they’re facing a tough task. It’s too early to give up on the technique as only 12.5% of the total episodes this season have had bad flashbacks, so I challenge them. I’ll even be gracious and give them the next two episodes off. When the last 18 episodes start airing February 7th, I want to see some damn good flashbacks.

This section isn’t about flashbacks in general though. This section is about the specific character’s flashback from the previous episode. That character is the best character on LOST, Sawyer.

It wasn’t very surprising to see Sawyer in jail. You had to figure that at one point, through all his cons, someone had to catch him and press charges. I know I hold him in a special reverence, but no one is perfect, even Sawyer. What I didn’t expect, however, was for the person who pressed charges to be Cassidy. Here is exactly where my critique of the flashbacks so far this season comes in. Why not let corpses stay dead? Is it really believable that Cassidy would be the one to turn Sawyer in? I don’t know if Sawyer would have slipped up that much with her that she would know his real name to be able to track him. Or did she track him through his alias of Sawyer? If so, did she find him and organize a sting operation with the police who then figured out his real name? The only other option that I can think of is that other con man that Sawyer ate with at the diner tracked down Cassidy and together they tracked down Sawyer. I would think doing so would be risky for that con man though, as Sawyer could expose him.

Anyway you look at it, this flashback devalued the flashback of The Long Con. Either Sawyer didn’t con Cassidy as well as we were led to believe or he really did love her. I refuse to believe the latter because Sawyer never having been in love is such a crux of his character, so I am forced to believe the former. The problem is that believing the former belittles Sawyer. Apparently, he can con everyone except for Cassidy. Oh, and The Good Guys who admit he is a good con man, but say they’re better. Yes, this entire episode weakened Sawyer.

To be fair, Sawyer wasn’t completely weakened. The only reason the con worked was because they used Kate against him. Prince Ben even reminded Sawyer of his weakness and then threw the Of Mice and Men quote back in his face. It doesn’t bother me that Sawyer was conned because of Kate. He is a hopeless romantic. What bothers me is the way Kate acted towards him. I’ll leave that rant for the next section though.

To return to the flashbacks, why do the writers feel the need to continually establish Sawyer as a good guy? Am I so biased that I always see him as a good guy when the rest of the audience doesn’t? He conned his way out of prison and then gave the money he earned through that con to a daughter he might not have through an anonymous bank account. I’m sure it occurred to Sawyer that Cassidy might be trying to con him back. Maybe she wasn’t conning him and actually loves him (Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain women) and was trying to trap him in a relationship. Whatever was going on, are we supposed to believe Sawyer thought Cassidy was acting in earnest and thus he has a daughter? If he does have a daughter, the whole plotline feels forced to show that Sawyer has a good heart by setting up the bank account for the daughter he’ll never meet. I have one more question. If he doesn’t have a daughter and she’s the only one who can ever access the account (I’m sure Sawyer would put that restriction on the account to keep the money out of Cassidy’s hands), does the money wallow in bank purgatory for eternity?

On a final note, did the flashbacks feel shorter than usual to anyone else? I don’t mean the length of the individual flashbacks. I mean the total length of all the flashbacks. Usually, it feels like the flashbacks are half the episode. The last three weeks, I’ve felt like the flashbacks are getting shorter. Maybe I’m confused because the point of Sawyer’s flashback didn’t really align with any cathartic moment in the episode the way the majority of the flashbacks do.


Now is the proper time to rant on Kate and how annoying her little “I love you”/“I only said that so he would stop hitting you” tap dance is. Kate, you run. If you didn’t love Sawyer, you would have left him behind to die in the cage. Instead, you climbed back into your cage and quoted Jack to Sawyer’s face. Talk about a double whammy. First, you deny your love for the guy to his face. Then, you quote the one guy who opposes him politically on the island as rationalization for that recanting. I can understand not wanting to show weakness and protecting yourself, but grabbing someone’s heart and squeezing it? That’s just cruel.

Before anyone gets on their high horse and starts defending Kate, I know what you’re going to say. Yes, in The Long Con, Sawyer did show a complete disregard for Kate’s feelings as he conned all the 815ers. However, I would contend that there is a large difference between disregarding someone’s feelings and openly attacking them. The best defense you could take is to say that Sawyer has never admitted to Kate’s face that he loves her, so she doesn’t believe he loves her. Thus she is protecting herself.

And to cut off the other horse at the pass, Kate does not love Jack. She repeated “live together, die alone” because she admires that aspect of Jack because it is the opposite of her weakness. She runs. Jack sticks his hands into situations, literally, and doesn’t let go. This time, she has found something she wants and is sticking around. In a way, Sawyer should be both hurt and flattered by Kate’s actions. To quote Monty from Waiting, “Women, they’re so fucking wily.”

The other loving couple of the show I need to talk about is Jack and Juliet. I will, however, leave that for the last section of the column, as that dynamic entails a discussion of the Good Guys and their intentions, goals, and origins.

How about that new guy, Barry Darsow? Alright, I don’t really know his name, but he was playing golf and Barry Darsow was a wrestler on WCW Saturday Night who had a golfer gimmick back in the day. The reason I note this guy being a golfer is that he had no other defining characteristics. He seemed to want to be witty, but that’s Sawyer’s turf. Oh, he’s also Hispanic. Maybe he’s a replacement for Ana Lucia AND Shannon. Only problem is, they had vaginas.

Oh yeah, how about Desmond Christ? This episode he predicted that a lightening bolt would hit Claire’s tent and prevented it with a makeshift lightening rod he built with a golf club. Due to his action, he enlisted a new apostle. Does this mean we’re going to end up with The Book of Hugo and The Book of Charles? Eko is going to be so mad.


The Good Guys are really starting to piss me off. I mean really really. First off, if they’re good guys, why do they need to lie so much? I understand that we’re in this new era of secularism in American society and LOST is playing off of that conception to shroud the show in mystery. I understand that we’re not supposed to know who is good or who is bad. That ambiguity is what keeps many people from hating John Locke. However, my gripe is that if you have the truth, you should never have to lie. So if they have the truth, why are they lying so much? Why does Prince Ben take pride in the fact that they are better con men than Sawyer?

Are our heroes so stupid that they wouldn’t know the truth if they were told it? Is that stupidity why the Good Guys go to such great lengths to keep the 815ers in the dark on the main island? Also, if the Good Guys are alone on that island all the time, why do they need to be such good con men AND how do they keep their skills so polished? Any skill lessens over time if not practiced. I don’t have first hand practice with conning, but it can’t be that different.

Oh, and if they were that worried about Sayid, Sun, and Jin finding them using the sailboat, why didn’t Desmond find them on the sailboat when he was floating on the ocean for the entirety of season two? If not Desmond, why didn’t the Tailies find them when they crashed into the water on the other side of the island? Did nobody bother to look behind them and say, “Hey, look a smaller island!” Or is that why and how so many of the Tailies were captured so quickly, the Good Guys had easy access to them?

Which reminds me, if all these people and children are kidnapped, where are they? If the Good Guys are so good, why do they need to keep people in cages and play psychological games to break them? If they have a fertility doctor, why do they need children? If they knew the doctor they had was a fertility doctor, why did they let her operate and not ask Jack to begin with? Or did they know Colleen was already dead and brought Jack in to make him feel bad about the girl dying and thus con him? If Juliet is only conning Jack, what is the point of all the romantic tension and sympathy glances between them? Most importantly, what’s the point of her lame name if she isn’t going to fall in love with Jack?

Speaking of doctors, if that mysterious person has a tumor on his spine, why doesn’t he go to the island and get healed like everyone else does? Or does the island only heal certain people?

Oh, and here’s the best one: If they’re the Good Guys, where are the Bad Guys? For it to be relevant to note that they are the Good Guys, there must be some perceived evil force they are fighting. Are they fighting the evil Hanso Foundation? If so, am I so wrong for wanting the Hanso Foundation to kick their asses? They stand on this little island and stare at and scare at people on a bigger island for what purpose, personal enjoyment? Maybe the island is the perceived evil and that’s why the guy with the tumor on his spine won’t go there. He knows if he does the island won’t heal him. My theory of the island being a supernatural force would it would make the most sense if the Good Guys were fighting the island.

In closing, I make the following statement. If the writers twist the story so we’re supposed to have sympathy for the Good Guys, they may make a grave mistake. I don’t know if it’s possible to have sympathy for Prince Ben and Company after all their antics. Juliet may be reconcilable, but we all know what happens at the end of her story. I’ve always thought Jack would die eventually anyway.


-Whew, a lot of ranting tonight. It’s been a long week and sometimes you need to get it all out. Thank for coming along on the ride. Sometimes there’s more than a few bumps in the Midside.

-For your enjoyment, here’s the quote Prince Ben spoke to Sawyer:

“A guy needs somebody - to be near him. A guy goes nuts if he ain't got nobody. Don't make no difference who the guy is, long's he's with you. I tell ya, I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he gets sick,” Of Mice and Men

It describes Sawyer pretty well, but I prefer to quote the Smashing Pumpkins:

“Despite all my rage am I still just a rat in a cage…And I still believe that I cannot be saved.”

And if you disagree with my choice, well, then I quote another great writer:

“Shut up, you’re wrong.”

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