Analysis: 4.3 The Economist

It's fitting this episode was entitled The Economist. What this episode presented above all things was an economy of information. Give and take. Show and tell. Lost, as a show, drip-feeding hints and clues on a need-to-know basis; enough to keep you hungry, but nowhere near enough to get you full. Take Naomi's bracelet, for example.

'N. I'll always be with you. R.G.'

I had a quick check. Do you know how many Lost characters, major and minor, since the beginning of the show there have been that have initials matching R.G.? The answer is precisely none. It's a fair bet to say that R.G. will turn out to be the Economist - the arch-mastermind seeking to unravel the mystery of the Island - but we probably haven't met them yet. Unless it's someone we have met that changes their name. Either way, the point is the same: there's simply no way to know. Drip-drip the information, but a tight economy dictates just enough is saved up and kept stashed away.

I have to say, though, I'm getting worried. I worry that Lost, my favourite T.V. show ever, is losing the plot. I think of Miles and his ghostbuster antics in the previous episode and I think of the fact that Jacob's cabin apparently definitely can move (so why oh why did Ben have a camera fixed on it in the Hydra Station!? Has Ben's circle of ash power spell been broken now Locke is taking over!?). And then here comes this business with Dan and the time delay experiment, and I get more worried.

What Dan proved with his experiment was that something fired off the Island and coming onto the Island somehow 'loses' 31 minutes. With the drip-drip of information, this was a major drop. We can rationalise this as Einstein's Relativity theory portraying the effects of gravity on time and motion. We can rationalise this as time moving at a different rate on-Island than it does off (a theory I've always hated, but I also hate the idea of ghosts in Lost yet Miles kind of messes that up; what I hate in Lost and what goes in Lost aren't one and the same). Point is, we can rationalise it - but neither conclusively nor easily. And that worries me. I think of Frank Lapidus' remark about Dan Faraday - about what Dan says going over his head and way over his head - and I worry this may prove more ironic than we realise. Drip-drip. Those Lost writers have never let me down yet, right?

I presume that to avoid the time delay problem you have to ensure you maintain a fixed bearing when travelling to and from the Island. Dan Faraday seemed to think so. He forcefully directed Frank to keep the same bearing before he piloted Sayid, Desmond and a surely-not-really-dead Naomi away on the helicopter. And I remember Michael was told to keep his bearing of 325 by Ben (I'll come to him). And the Looking Glass emitted a sonar ping to guide the submarine in, presumably by a fixed point. So the point seems clear. To avoid this. . .

. . . ensure that you stick to the correct bearing. (The inference here being that the 'time snag' factor of 31 minutes incurred when crossing into the Island's territory ruptured Oceanic 815 - but this does make me wonder what the purpose of Desmond not pressing the button in a timely fashion was. . .)

Someone who apparently knows a lot more about travelling to and from the Island than he previously divulged is one Mr. Benjamin Linus. Or, as his passport has it, Dean Moriarty. (Seriously, why does every name have to have connotations?) Dean Moriarty, in case you hadn't found this out already, is the name of Moriarty's (arch nemesis of Sherlock Holmes) grandson and a character in a Jack Kerouac book called On The Road. Given the travelling inference, the latter appears most appropriate.

The clear conclusion to be drawn is that Ben has been secretly leaving the Island and travelling under various identities. In keeping with previous thought processes of mine, this holds together the idea that Ben went covering up the massacre of the Dharma Initiative to the outside authorities. Maybe he set up Mittelos Bioscience as a front company. Probably he got up to all kinds of other things (drip-drip-drip) we've yet to learn. He kept this secret because he didn't want his people aware that he could leave the Island. (If the place was so perfect, he wouldn't leave - and if there were other means to leave then he could not keep The Others in place.) Still, as nefarious as all this appears, Ben is consistently showing himself to be a guy that does one thing: defend the Island. Even in the future, off-Island, he's still doing it. . .

That put-on deep voice was fooling no one. The Big Reveal was that Ben is off-Island in the future and he's not part of the Oceanic 6. But he's still defending the Island and he's recruited Sayid to do the dirty work in taking out key opponents. (The opponents being a vague faction; the leader will most likely turn out to be R.G/The Economist but Matthew Abaddon has been the presented front man so far. I anticipate Paik and Widmore's incorporation, too.) Interesting how Sayid was concerned that 'they' would know, following the death of Elsa, that he was after 'them'. I mean, hadn't we seen Sayid kill one of 'them' already, at the start, on the golf course?
Maybe I'm flat out wrong - but I think the golf course scene took place after the rest of the flashforward scenes. Maybe I'm flat out wrong - but I think that makes better chronological sense. If they can monkey around with ghostbusters and time discrepancies then a little flashforward juggling is no big thing. Everything you thought you could trust just isn't trustworthy anymore.
Hurley turned out to be a snake in the grass! (Don't worry, he'll feel bad for this and other stuff he's yet to do later.) And what about Sawyer? Am I the only one that has found this Island-loving Sawyer to be utterly jarring? Unless that guy is playing his own secret confidence trick I'm not loving the direction he's taking. But, like this episode as a whole, I may be worried but I'm keeping the faith. Maybe, just maybe, this will be one of those episodes we get to come back to after the fact and delight in the economy of information it drip-fed us without ever letting the whole truth flood out. I hope so.

One last point. Nadia. Sayid's 'true love', who he was searching for, who was out there in the world whilst he was on the Island. If Nadia is sincerely the woman Sayid's heart belongs to then he's fairly free and easy with his love in the interim.

Sayid appeared to genuinely fall in love with Elsa during The Economist - and he's done as much before on the Island with Shannon.

Both Elsa and Shannon, by the way, ended up shot dead. But what are we to make of Sayid? That his professed love for Nadia was not as grand or heartfelt as he made out? Or that, in flashforward territory, Nadia's fate has proven bleak? I don't think so. I think Nadia lives and, eventually, she and Sayid may be requited. All this business with love Sayid becomes embroiled in is a clear sign that, despite Ben crowing "need I remind you the last time you thought with your heart instead of your gun" Sayid has not changed completely. What has perhaps been overlooked about Sayid is his deeply loving nature. Maybe he falls in love too easily - but it's better than never falling in love at all. For a torturer like Sayid, lovelessness would render him truly lost.

Let's hope he's not quite sold all of his tortured soul just yet. Whilst Ben's sniping comment suggests Sayid is a key part in the 'Island situation' the Oceanic 6 are keeping secret it's Sayid's heartfelt compassion that stops him being a monster. He's working for Ben to keep people safe. He's paying penance for whatever he did. Given Hurley's sense of regret, and Jack's cries of "We have to go back," it's becoming apparent that the Oceanic 6 have all played a terrible part in the fate of their remaining Oceanic passengers. Whilst we watch that play out, I guess we'll be drip-fed drama concerned with whether or not they manage to redeem themselves for it.

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