Oh, Sayid. You've done a very bad thing-or is it a very good thing? Oh, Lost, you've messed with my mind yet again. Spoilers ahoy!
Despite a few awkward moments (*cough*love triangle*cough*), "He's Our You" was a bang-up episode, to say the least.
I think I was about young Ben's age when I read A Separate Reality, the second installment of Carlos Castaneda's purportedly nonfiction account of his time with the Yaqui shaman Don Juan. In it, Castaneda again goes on a hallucinogenic voyage and comes back with a deeper understanding of himself and his relationship to the world.
Similarly, this week, our man Sayid fights his "birthright" until his experience with Oldham's home-cooked truth serum both reveals his purpose on the island and allows him to accept what he is: a killer. Accepting this is what allows him to shoot a child - and no matter how evil adult Ben grows up to be, in 1977, he's still a child, and a battered one at that.
If Sayid is a natural born bad man, a young boy who was able to wring chicken necks without pause grown to a man who guns down other men with nary a blink, then child Ben is similarly evil from the get-go, and killing him is perhaps the only ethical thing to do. Or is it? And how can child Ben be dead when grownup Ben is busy wreaking havoc?
About that early scene of young Sayid stepping in to wring the chicken's neck: I'm pretty sure that if you grow up in an agrarian culture and chicken is what's for dinner, you can't be squeamish about getting it from farmyard to plate whether you're male or female. Refusing to kill a chicken under those circumstances seems less an indication of manhood than of future veganism. Anyway, we move from Sayid's past to his present, stuck in a Dharma jail cell in 1977. Young Ben brings him a sandwich and A Separate Reality. He wants to know if Sayid knows Richard Alpert, who he met when he ran away four years ago and wanted to join the hostiles. If Sayid is patient, Ben can help him.
Horace also wants to know if Sayid is a hostile - or, as Radzinsky suspects, a spy. When Sayid won't talk, Horace agrees to let Sawyer have a turn with him before they bring in "that psychopath," Oldham. "A 12-year-old Ben Linus brought me a chicken-salad sandwich, how do you think I feel," Sayid responds to Sawyer's inquiry.
(Which brings up a question: isn't Ben supposed to be older than 12 in 1977? I believe somebody here said he was supposed to be born in 1961. On the other hand, does it really make a difference whether Ben is 12 or 16, or is this just another example of how difficult it must be to keep the timelines straight on this show?)
But Sayid refuses to play along with Sawyer's plan of action; he's not going to "confess" in exchange for being allowed to live in Dharmaville. Nor will Sawyer let Sayid go - he's got responsibilities now, the Dharmavillagers trust him, he's found his purpose on the island. Jin, too, appears to have bought into the Dharma lifestyle: when he comes across runaway Sayid in the jungle, he can't let him go without calling Sawyer first. I imagine these won't be the last examples we see of friction between the new arrivals, who as yet have no allegiance to the Dharma Initiative, and the more complacent group who have been working side by side with them for three years.
Enter the fabulous Oldham, with his sugar cube of truth. I love the mild-mannered yet menacing nature of the pharmacologist, and Sawyer's brief explanation to Sayid: "he's our you." The truth serum works, and Sayid spills everything including Sawyer's name. Luckily, Radzinsky's impatience draws attention away from this, as does his freakout when Sayid explains that the as-yet-unbuilt Swan is an electromagnetic station. Sayid also mentions the incident and the fact that they all will die, but when he says he's from the future, they assume he's been given too much serum. "Oops," says Oldham.
Now that they have extracted information from Sayid, the Dharma-ites vote to execute him ("even the new mom" notes Sawyer). When Sawyer argues to the contrary, Radzinsky threatens to call the home office in Ann Arbor. After some prodding from Horace, Sawyer raises his hand to make it unanimous. Then he hightails it over to the jail and tries to liberate Sayid.
But now that he knows his purpose on the island, Sayid refuses to leave. Sawyer, in turn, seeks out Kate and asks why they came back to the island. Before she can answer, a flaming, driverless Dharma van careens into the compound, leading to perhaps my favorite line of the night: Sawyer's disgusted, "Three years, no burning buses, y'all are back for one day …"
Meanwhile, Ben visits Sayid. If he lets him out, will Sayid take him to his people? "That's why I'm here," says Sayid. The two of them escape to the jungle, where they are almost run over by Jin's van. Sayid tells Jin that Sawyer let him out, but when Jin insists on confirming this with Sawyer, Sayid flips him and takes his gun. Then he tells Ben that he was right after all, "I am a killer," and shoots the bespectacled tween. Oddly, I had less trouble watching Ben get shot, than I did the scenes of his humiliation and injury at the hands of his awful father.
Throughout the episode, as Sayid sits in jail, we see flashbacks of how he spent the last three years off the island. He kills a Russian, who Ben explains is the last one in Widmore's organization who threatened Sayid's friends. (Lostpedia reports that the Cyrillic words visible above the door when Sayid exits the apartment building after the killing read "Oldham Pharmaceuticals.") Now Sayid is "free" to live his life.
He is building houses for charity-and not coincidentally a life for himself that doesn't involve killing - when Ben tracks him down in San Domingo. He tells Sayid that John Locke is dead ("I think someone murdered him," Ben deadpans), perhaps in retribution for what he and Sayid have done. These same killers are waiting outside Hugo's asylum, says Ben, implying that Sayid needs to pick up his gun and hurry right over there.
But Sayid doesn't like killing, and so begins a conversation that only ends with Sayid's final words to young Ben before he plugs him. "It's in your nature, it's what you are. You're a killer, Sayid," the adult Ben tells him. When Sayid protests that he's not what Ben thinks he is, Ben replies, "I was mistaken about you." Of course, Ben knows he's not mistaken at all. Here time gets a little Moebius-strippy: Adult Ben already knows that Sayid shot him. Is Sayid a killer by nature, or does Ben's foreknowledge allow him to manipulate, exploit, and, ahem, nurture him into one? Despite Sayid's revelation under the influence of Oldham's acid, killing a chicken for dinner does not necessarily lead to a life as a hit man, unless you've got Ben Linus to urge you along.
We also learn how Sayid winds up on Ajira 316. Ilana is a bounty hunter, hired by the family of the man Sayid killed on the golf course last year. She seduces Sayid, but before he can get her boots off, she arrests him. He will face justice in Guam, where the man's family is based.
Also this week: Kate finds out Sawyer and Juliet are "more than roommates," but the two make nice. At least Juliet does; I'm not sure about Kate's motives. The less said about that whole plotline, the better, but in all fairness, the smoldering glances and love triangle - quadrangle? - were really kept to a minimum, and for that I'm grateful.