"You think you know me, but you don't. I am a good man." -SayidDude, you tried to kill Baby Hitler. You might want to reconsider that statement.
"Lost" is all about eternal struggles - good vs. evil, science vs. faith, free will vs. destiny - and fundamentally about man vs. his own nature. John Locke wants to be a big man but can't overcome his own smallness. Jack Shephard tries to fix everything and usually winds up destroying it.
And Sayid Jarrah wants to be a good man free to enjoy the love of his good woman, but instead he's always the man brought in when people need killing.
Where the last two weeks brought us alternate versions of Locke and Jack who managed to break their emotional cycles - a Locke at peace with his disability and unremarkable life, a Jack reaching out to his son in a way Christian never reached out to him - we discover that Sayid in any timeline, in any locale, at any age, is always going to be the one called upon for a bit of the ol' ultra-violence. He doesn't want it, but he can't escape it. Alt-Locke gets a wife, Alt-Jack gets a son, and Alt-Sayid gets... a chance to put a couple of bullets into Keamy? And to watch his beloved Nadia raise a family with Sayid's brother Omar - the same Omar who needed Sayid as a child to kill the chicken for him, and who needs him as an adult to take care of his Keamy problem? Oh, and he gets a bloody, non-English-speaking Jin in a freezer? Where's the fair in that?
I still feel Cuse and Lindelof made a tactical error in giving us the sliding doors timeline without telling us in advance what it is, because until we do, they have all the weight and meaning of a dream sequence. But the more we see of them, the stronger my feeling grows that we're seeing the series' epilogue in advance. It may not turn out this way, but at the moment it seems the flash-sideways are where the castaways wind up after the war with Smokey ends, as some kind of reward from one of the celestial powers going to war over the island, be it Jacob or Smokey. Smokey does seem awfully confident in the prospect of letting Sayid see Nadia again, after all.
And if that's the case, the rewards seem mixed at best. Locke gets Helen back (and gets to live, for that matter), but is back in the damn chair. Jack gets a son, but also a life that's otherwise as broken as the one he had the first go-round. Kate is free of Marshal Mars, but still a fugitive. And Sayid has Nadia in his life, but not really.
But from what we know of these characters, and of their tortured histories, maybe this is exactly what they asked Smokey and/or Jacob for. Sayid knows in either timeline that he's too much the killer to deserve Nadia, but at least this way he gets to know her, and to have a pretext to see her whenever he can stand it. Kate isn't rewarded for her return to LA like she was as one of the Oceanic Six, but she's also not in a cell and for now gets to be around Aaron's mother. Jack has a means to address his daddy issues that don't involve his actual daddy. Dogen gets his son (and his life) back. Etc., etc. Not wholly happy endings, but the best anyone may feel they deserve.
Whatever the flash-sideways mean, they definitely work better when built around the show's stronger characters/actors - Locke two weeks ago, or Sayid tonight. Again, I'm not demanding answers so much as I am entertainment, and watching Sayid kick ass in two timelines, even as both versions recognized that they're doomed to be killers, was damned entertaining. Naveen Andrews is often at his best when Sayid is at his most despairingly self-reflective, and that moment when he fixed Ben with a grin and said there wasn't time for him anymore was one of Andrews' strongest (and certainly scariest) of the series. When all you're good for is killing, and yet the monster wearing your dead friend's face says that killing is the only way to get back the woman you love, how do you deal with that? On the list of things the "Lost" characters have had to swallow, that epiphany feels particularly brutal.
It had been a while since we got to see a good Sayid fight - the last one that strongly registers for me is the one he had with original recipe Keamy in the season four finale - and we got a real corker in his broom-handled throwdown with Dogen. And in 2004, we saw him cut through Keamy's goons(*) and then Keamy himself(**), not letting himself be fooled by the man's promises to clear Sayid's brother's debt.
(*) Were they all members of his mercenary team from season four? I recognized the bald guy, but wasn't sure on the others.
(**) He was only on the show for a season, and not featured all that much in that season, but Kevin Durand always made an impression as Keamy. Lots of actors might have his sheer physical size, but there's a sense of danger (insanity?) that you can't build at the gym, you know?
And while Sayid was showing off his hand-to-hand and small arms skills, Smokey was putting on a much grander show of force, and preceding it with a good old-fashioned campaign of terror, using Sayid to whip the Temple crew into a frenzy (and then to take out Dogen and Lennon) before doing his smoke monster thing that he does so well. Sometimes, all I need from "Lost" are the simple pleasures, and a good Smokey rampage is high on that list.
Now, I'm not entirely sure what the point of the Temple characters were, other than to stand around and be cryptic for a handful of episodes before Sayid and Smokey wiped them out, but we end the episode in a much more interesting place than we began it. Smokey is building himself an army, and one that includes the crazy (Claire), the converted (Sayid), the suspicious (Kate and Jin), the fearful (Cindy and the kids) and the don't-give-a-damn (Saywer), and he's currently carrying himself like a man certain of victory. Ilana and the rest of the gang from the beach finally linked up with some other character (even if Miles is the only one to actually stick with them). If Dogen never entirely had a point, at least we're done with him and the Temple.
And since the show skipped over the Sun-centric episode we might have expected given how all the previous episodes followed the air pattern of season one, we know that Lindelof and Cuse aren't going to just give us parallel drawings of early episodes.
A much, much stronger outing than last week.
Some other thoughts:
• So how does Alt-Jin go from being detained by TSA agents at the airport to being taped up in Keamy's freezer? I'm guessing the money the TSA was so interested in was a payoff that got confiscated, and Keamy wasn't interested in any excuses.
• I'm really hoping Andrews' more pronounced British accent - both in the Temple and as Alt-Sayid - is a deliberate choice with a meaning, and not Andrews just getting his signals crossed in the final season.
• Anyone want to set the over-under on how long before Crazy Claire gets Kate alone and tries to cut Aaron's location out of her?
• I'm not exactly where Dogen ranked on the Others' corporate hierarchy relative to Ben, but the two guys clearly attended the same leadership seminar, one that involves lying and torturing when the truth upfront would be much more useful - and that then puts you in a very bad spot when you suddenly need your torture victim to trust you. The Others need a better HR rep next time out, I think.
• Jack makes a brief cameo when Sayid goes to see Nadia and his brother at the hospital, and it doesn't appear that either he or Sayid recognized each other in the way that Kate seemed to know Jack, or Jack seemed to know Desmond, in previous scenes/episodes set in the LA X timeline.
• Did I mention that I loved the Sayid/Dogen fight?
What did everybody else think?