"It's how I like to run things. I think. I'm sure that doesn't mean that much to you, because back when you were calling the shots, you pretty much just reacted. See, you didn't think, Jack, and as I recall, a lot of people ended up dead." -SawyerGod, can we just stay in the '70s for the rest of the series?
I've been loving this season overall, but "LaFleur" and now "Namaste" feel like a cut above the rest, because the 1977 version of Sawyer may be the most appealing version of any character in "Lost" history. The three years in the Dharma Initiative has mellowed him and given him time to mature. He's the Sawyer we know (still tossing out nicknames, still chesty with Jack), but he's smarter, and sneakier, and every bit the leader that Jack mistakenly believed himself to be, and that Sawyer himself never believed he could be. When he dresses down Jack and says he's going to find a way to get Sayid out of his present predicament, I believe him. Sawyer-as-LaFleur just puts a damn smile on my face and leaves it there for the rest of the hour.
With Sawyer and his group now well-acclimated to life in the Initiative, "Namaste" was about culture shock, both for the four Ocean Six'ers cast back into the '70s, and for Sun and the other Ajira 316 folk who didn't travel through time.(*)
(*) And if there was any doubt that Caesar and the gang were on Alcatraz sometime after the freighter blew up, there shouldn't be anymore. We see Frank land on the runway that was being built during the season three polar bear cage arc, Ben knows where the outriggers are kept, and New Otherton is still as wrecked as it was after Keamy's forces blew threw and then got thrashed by Smokey. And, of course, we got the series' trademark whiplash sound effect (connoting a shift time) when we cut from the Dharma action to our first glimpse of Sun on the beach. Oh, yeah, and Christian implied that Sun had a long way to travel to find her man.
Entertaining as it was to see Jack have to dance to Sawyer's tune, and even to half-acknowledge that they're better off with our resident reader in charge, Kate does raise a good point while she's waiting with Jack and Hurley on the cliff: what the hell do they do now? Locke told them they had to come back to the island to stop the time shifts, but they had already stopped by the time they got there -- and in the wrong decade, at that. This is not going at all to plan, and my one fear about the situation is that Lindelof and Cuse are showing Sawyer to be so awesome just so they can take away his happiness and coolness. We can already see here the awkwardness when he's around Kate, and Juliet can see it, too -- her play-acting with Kate at the orientation center had a chilliness to it that goes beyond pretending to be a stranger. I don't want to see Sawyer's relatively perfect world fall apart, but the way "Lost" works, is there any way that it won't?
Certainly, introducing Sayid to the kid version of Ben Linus isn't going to make things easier. Sooner or later, Sayid's going to get out of that cage, and sooner or later we're going to find out more about Ben and Sayid's falling-out circa 2006, and Sayid hasn't spent a whole lot of time listening to Dan Faraday's theories about how the past can't be changed. He may try to kill that kid, and even though he can't succeed, he'd no doubt mess up Sawyer's situation.
And there's still the larger issue of what Ben's going to do with the Hostiles 15 years from now, which Hurley brings up on the magic bus ride to the Dharma village. Sawyer has no interest in that -- he's here to protect his friends from 2004 and only them, plus he's been an unwilling student of Professor Faraday -- but surely we're not going to spend all this time in the golden age of the Initiative without getting a different perspective on the fall.
I don't know that I buy the theory that episodes that take place solely on the island are automatically better than ones that split their focus (in recent vintage, "The Constant" and "Jughead" were pretty wonderful even though we spent a lot of time in both following Desmond in the real world), but these episodes have felt more focused than a number of the ones preceding them, even as the cast remains separated in two eras. I can't wait to see what's next.
Some other thoughts:
• After getting a few brief glimpses last time of Jin after his English language immersion course with the Dharma folks, here we get the full treatment, and you can see how much more comfortable Daniel Dae Kim is finally getting to work in his native tongue, and not just using pidgin English. Not that he was ever bad in the show's earlier years, but there was a level of assertiveness to his performance tonight that I haven't seen from him before in this role, as if he was finally getting to act without that huge weight he's been lugging around for four-plus years.
• If the name Radzinsky (the guy running The Flame and building the scale model of The Swan, aka the hatch) sounds familiar, it's because Kelvin spent a lot of time telling Desmond about him during the flashbacks in the season two finale, "Live Together, Die Alone." He had been Kelvin's partner at The Swan before Desmond, and painted the map of all the Dharma stations on the blast doors. Assuming that one of The Others didn't assume Radzinsky's name after the purge, then The Swan was still technically under Dharma control in the 21st century, which might help explain why Dharma planes were still doing supply drops after the Oceanic 815 crash.
• When Jack asks if Faraday's with them, Saywer shakes his head and says "not anymore. Something tells me Charlotte and her mom left the island by 1977. And while we're on the subject of unseen people whom Jack and company left behind in 2005, it's time for my regular query about the whereabouts of Rose, Bernard and Vincent.
• Getting back to Dan, one thing I neglected to discuss in my "LaFleur" review was how Sawyer only wound up in charge of this group after Locke went down the well and Dan lost his mind following Charlotte's death. Those two had more or less been tag-teaming as the leader during the time-skipping, due to Dan's scientific expertise and John's mystic connection to the island. But when the island stopped moving, Locke was gone and Dan was incapable of taking care of himself, let alone anyone else, and so the mantle was passed to a reluctant Sawyer again.
• I caught "The Muppet Show" on one of The Flame monitors. Were any of the others showing '70s TV?
• Christian sometimes comes off as menacing even when he's being friendly -- coming back from the dead and acting as the island's spokesman will do that to you -- but am I being a naive Jin/Sun fan in reading him as having more benevolent intentions when he interacted with Sun and Frank?
• Those of you who guessed that Amy and Horace's baby would be Ethan win the pool.
• We don't get to spend much time with the other Ajira 316 passengers, or get more clues about whether Caesar knows more about the island than he's telling or is just this plane's equivalent of Sayid, but I did catch another familiar face in the crowd. When Caesar's arguing with Frank over going to investigate the nearby buildings, we see Brad Henke, late of "October Road" but forever Ungalow from "Going to California" to me.
What did everybody else think?