You know, if this episode had featured nothing but the moment where Sayid pointed out that Jack trying to kill Locke wasn't "good diplomacy" -- the latest instance this season where a character is allowed to question Jack's idiotic leadership skills -- I would have been happy with it. But "The Economist" gave us so much more: a heavy focus on the underrated Sayid (featuring maybe Naveen Andrews' best "Lost" performance to date), Hurley reluctantly going over the cliff with Locke, Faraday's experiment providing more evidence to the "time on the island moves differently" theory, Sayid and Desmond actually getting off the island, and, trippiest of all, the revelation that Flashforward Sayid is working for Ben. The distinctiveness of Michael Emerson's voice meant that this last one was obvious well before we saw Ben's face, but the moment I heard him talk, a chill went down my spine.
Like every other original character, Sayid had run out of flashback-able material, but making him one of the Oceanic Six opens up a world of possibilities for him. Sayid Jarrah, globe-trotting reluctant assassin? Sweet. Sayid Jarrah, reluctant instrument of violence for Benjamin Linus? What what what? Sayid Jarrah, lovestruck sucker who's still badass enough to kill the woman who done him wrong even with a bullet in his shoulder? Splendid work by Mr. Andrews.
So who exactly is Sayid killing on behalf of Ben, and why? In the final scene, Ben suggests Sayid wound up working for him after "the last time you thought with your heart instead of your gun" and implies that Sayid is doing this to protect his friends. Are those friends the other members of the Oceanic Six, or the people left behind on the island? Are the people on the list working with Matthew Abaddon in trying to find the island? (And, if so, how did golf course guy not immediately recognize Sayid?) And how exactly does Ben get on and off the island all the time? The photo Miles had last week looked like it was taken in the real world, and the secret closet Sayid found, full of snazzy civilian clothes, foreign currency and phony passports, suggests he comes and goes to the real world as he pleases, submarine or no submarine. I can't imagine him being considered one of the Oceanic Six -- he wasn't on the flight, after all -- so I'm assuming he gets off the island without being rescued.
In the present-day island action, Sayid again provides evidence for why he'd be a much better leader than Jack. He comes up with a plan and executes it, even after getting captured and disarmed by Locke. I'm really hoping that we spend some significant time on the freighter with Sayid, Desmond (whose joy at seeing the helicopter with Juliet was one of the episode's nicest little grace notes) and the mysterious Regina and George.
I also love how Ben totally has Locke's number ("John's loking for somebody to tell him what to do next"), though the matter of why they don't just kill or, at least, torture Ben is still a problem. (Maybe Locke had a point about not wanting to carry the guy, but why couldn't they start removing fingers instead of toes? Or, for that matter, why not take advantage of Sayid's presence to try to get some answers? Or am I forgetting Sayid trying and failing to get anything useful out of Ben back in the Henry Gale days?)
And I'll admit that I totally fell for the Hurley bluff -- even though, in retrospect, Hurley probably needs to stick with Locke through much worse than we've seen so far before he'll have something to apologize to Jack about in the future. It helped that Hurley was overflowing with genius one-liners, whether it was "Oh, awesome. The ship sent us another Sawyer." or "Yeah, I saw you break that guy's neck with that breakdancing thing you do with your legs. I think I'll hang back here."
Hell, I'm feeling so favorably inclined towards the show these days that I even enjoyed the love triangle-y scenes. The problem with the polar bear cage arc wasn't that it dealt with the triangle; it was that it dealt with the triangle to the exclusion of everything else about the show. Evangeline Lily and Josh Holloway have real chemistry, and the "Now you know what it feels like to be me" scene with Jack and Kate was both an amusing moment and the latest callback to events from seasons past. The writers' eagerness to reference old events this season isn't just a wink to continuity nerds; it gives greater emotional weight to these people and their experience together, so that when they're separated, or fighting against each other, or -- in the case of Sayid and Desmond's long helicopter ride -- getting off the island, the impact is much greater.
So, bullet point-y questions:
- How is Ben getting on and off the island? Does it involve climbing into the (maybe not so metaphorical) magic box?
- What are the ramifications of Faraday's experiment? If time moves more slowly on the island, how would it ever be possible to have a real-time sat phone conversation with someone on the freighter?
- Was Jacob's cabin absent because it only appears at night, or because it wouldn't appear before that many people?
- Do you think The Economist is someone we already know? If so, what pre-existing character would be so attached to old technology that he would use a pager?
- Was Elsa's bracelet supposed to be the same as Naomi's? And do we think the "RG" on the inscription of Naomi's bracelet is someone we know?
- Now that Miles is a prisoner of the Locke group, will the inevitable Miles/Sawyer meeting create enough sarcasm to make Professor Frink's sarcasm detector go nuclear?
Second, I'm going on vacation next week, and while I don't intend to blog very much (primarily "The Wire"), I'll try my best to at least check in briefly on next week's "Lost" episode. With only 13 episodes this season -- and with the first three being this much fun -- I don't want to miss out on too much discussion.
What did everybody else think?