"Because, Sayid, to put it simply: you're capable of things that most other men aren't. Every choice you've made in your life -- whether it was to murder or to torture -- it hasn't really been a choice at all, has it? It's in your nature. It's what you are. You're a killer, Sayid." -Ben"He's Our You" was, in many ways, our first old-school "Lost" episode of the season. Where most other episodes have either featured lots of time travel, or two distinct storylines involving characters on the island versus those in the real world, this reverts to the original model of a story on the island where one character's struggle (in this case, Sayid's) is illuminated by flashbacks from their life on the mainland.
Of course, the show and its characters have been through enough changes that we could get a relatively traditional episode where the flashbacks all take place after the crash of Oceanic 815, while the "present-day" scenes are in 1977, but this was structured similarly to a first season episode, down to the potentially stunning moment at the end, when Sayid calmly put a bullet in the chest of 12-year-old Ben Linus and staggered off through the jungle.
How stunning that moment was, and how impressed I was by "He's Our You," will depend on a couple of things that we won't know for another week at the earliest. First, and most obvious, is whether Sayid was able to disprove Faraday's closed-loop theory of time travel by killing someone we know to be alive 30 years in the future. The second is whether there's anything more to tell about Ben and Sayid's falling-out on the mainland.
Let's talk about the "death" of young master Linus first. If Faraday is right that the past can't be changed by anyone but Desmond, than Ben's very much alive, and the show doesn't even have to stretch that much to explain it. We have plenty of past evidence (Locke and Christian's resurrections, Michael's failed suicide attempts) that the island has the power to raise the dead and/or prevent the deaths of people it has a use for. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see, early next week, young Ben getting up in amazement, then reveling in the realization that he was "special" and chosen by the island for some great purpose. And if the closed loop then keeps spinning, then the Ben who "meets" Sayid in season two remembers him well as the man who tried to kill him, and when he calls Sayid a killer in Santo Domingo, he's only throwing Sayid's own 30-year-old words back in his face.
But just for argument's sake -- and so far everything that's happened this season supports the closed-loop, "12 Monkeys" model, so I'm just having fun here -- what if Dan is wrong? What if Sayid really did kill Ben as a boy? Does the adult Ben lying in the Hydra infirmary in 2007 suddenly vanish? Does he become a walking paradox? Are we going to deal with the creation of multiple, alternate timelines, where everything the Lostaways do back in the Dharma years creates a new parallel universe, each slightly different from the one before?
The latter scenario seems to fly in the face of what Cuse and Lindelof were saying before the season began -- that if the future or past can be changed, if mistakes can be corrected through time travel, then they feel the audience can't get invested in anything the characters do. (The converse of that, of course, is that if the closed-loop theory is true, then nothing the characters are doing this season, or maybe in the life of the series, matters, because it's what they were always destined to do.)
So I'm going to assume for now that young Ben dusts himself off soon and goes running to tell his eyeliner-wearing pal Richard about his brush with death. And Sayid won't have to live with the guilt of having metaphorically killed Hitler in the cradle, or even with the moral conflict of seeing Ben be abused by his father, an abuse that no doubt helped turn him into the monster Sayid knows all too well.
And that leaves me with the more vexing question: is that really all there is to their schism in the present?
Sayid's scenes with Hurley bridging the end of last season with the start of this one implied that Sayid discovered Ben had significantly betrayed him, or tricked him, or in some other way so thoroughly violated his trust that Sayid would warn Hurley to always do the opposite of what Ben says. From what we know of Ben, that's sound advice under any circumstances, but Sayid acted as if Ben had gone beyond even his usual evil machinations, or that Sayid had uncovered incontrovertible proof that Ben had played him. But all we saw here was Ben discarding Sayid after he killed all of the men allegedly loyal to Widmore -- not that we yet know who they really were and whether they posed any kind of threat to the Oceanic Six -- followed by Sayid trying to ease his killer's guilt by building houses in Santo Domingo. That doesn't seem to track with what the previous episodes implied, and if that's all there is, I feel let down. Yes, Ben has screwed the Lostaways over six ways from Sunday, but for Sayid to feel such hate for him -- to feel the need to kill him as a boy, before he's ever done anything to anyone -- he has to feel a bone-deep hatred for adult Ben, and being turned into a hired gun doesn't seem like remotely enough motivation to me.
Maybe there are other pieces to the puzzle, but if so, we're not going the episode should have more strongly implied that they were missing. And since we still need to find out how Hurley, Kate and possibly Sun wound up on Ajira 316 -- not to mention what happened to Ben at the marina and whether Desmond and Penny are okay (please please please please please) -- I doubt there's going to be an opportunity to loop back to Sayid's backstory anytime soon.
Still, it's always fun to watch Sayid run around with his license to kill, and be suave, and to suffer torture if need be, particularly with the introduction of Oldham, the Dharma bunch's own interrogation expert, and the "he" of the episode's title. William Sanderson is at least the fourth "Deadwood" alum to turn up on "Lost" (after Kim Dickens as Sawyer's baby mama Cassidy, Robin Weigert as Juliet's sister Rachel and Paula Malcomson as murdered Other Colleen Pickett), and he made a quick and memorable impression. I suspected that Sayid would wind up simply telling Horace the truth and being disbelieved, but it was still a great sequence, alternately disturbing and funny (just as Sayid found it).
Meanwhile, after dominating the last few episodes, Sawyer takes a bit of a backseat. He's still prominent, trying to work around the Dharma folk to save Sayid, while also dealing with the complication of his ex-girlfriend turning up just as he had gotten used to his new special lady(*), but "He's Our You" was a reminder that the series hadn't suddenly turned into "Everybody Loves LaFleur."
(*) Quick straw poll: I know there are (or were) Kate/Sawyer fans, but after the last few episodes, how many people actually want Sawyer to leave Juliet for Freckles? And how many people groaned when Sawyer turned left from his front door to try to catch up with Kate?
Some other thoughts on "He's Our You":
• Some of you complained last week that, upon returning to the island, the characters are once again doing a terrible job of sharing information. Last week, Kate, Hurley and Jack somehow hung around on a cliff with Jin for 20 minutes without telling him his wife was on their plane, and here Jack and Kate apparently spent the night in the same bungalow without Kate mentioning that their respective exes shacked up while they were gone.
• Have we ever seen the adult Ben use the move he was so impressed to see Sayid use to take down Jin?
• Am I the only one who briefly wondered if the much-talked-about Oldham would turn out to be Faraday?
• The more I see of Radzinsky, the more I begin to wonder if he actually committed suicide in the Swan, or if Inman blew his partner's brains out just to shut him up.
• Radzinsky makes a reference to calling Ann Arbor for guidance on what to do with Sayid. Lostpedia tells me that Dharma co-founders the DeGroots attended the University of Michigan.
• Who wants to begin analyzing the meaning of Ben trying to give Sayid a copy of Carlos Castaneda's "A Separate Reality"? Should we take that as a sign that Sayid might have actually killed Ben?
As always, let me remind you of two basic rules around here: 1)No spoilers (which includes the previews for next week, interviews, things you've read/heard elsewhere, etc.), and 2)Make an effort to read all the comments before yours so you're not repeating a point that's already been made as if you're the first person in the world who ever had this thought. If you can't exercise the proper level of restraint and/or consideration for others, your comment's getting deleted.
With that in mind, what did everybody else think?