I’d been waiting for a Sawyer-centric episode this season because I believed it would provide good grounds upon which to gain a foothold in understanding the Alternate Timeline. Why was Sawyer so important in this respect? Because he was the only character that we have seen Jacob touch before ‘the incident’ in 1977.
In essence, this could have meant that Sawyer was the only person in both timelines that had been touched by Jacob. Everyone else – Kate and Jack and the rest – in the Alternate Timeline were existing in a world where Jacob almost surely had no guiding hand because the tangent Alternate Timeline stemmed from a point before Jacob intervened to guide them to the Island (and what we were seeing then, arguably, is the people they would have been for better or for worse). After Recon, however, I am now fairly convinced that Sawyer in the Alternate Timeline was never touched by Jacob. Indeed, in this timeline Sawyer doesn’t even go by the name Sawyer at all.
What are we to make of this? Well, the finer points about how Jacob’s touch doesn’t exist in this Alternate Timeline is a debate you could turn your brain inside out trying to fathom. I shan’t bother with that, rather I’ll deal with the broad view: The Alternate Timeline is a world where Jacob has exerted no influence (at the very least on our candidate Losties, but potentially on no one – suggesting this is a completely Jacobless world).
This is an idea I’ve been kicking around in my thoughts for a few episodes. The fact that the Island is a part of the Alternate Timeline does pull me away from casting Jacob completely out of the Alternate Timeline picture. We know Ben and Roger were once there, for example. Miles in this episode remarks that his father works in a musuem - but you have to figure that Miles was still more than likely born on the Island. The finer details probably don't need to be puzzled over; I am now fairly firm in the belief that Jacob definitely is not a part of the candidates’ lives (or the lives the candidates interacted with, such as Miles and Charlotte) in the Alternate Timeline and this is the entire point of it.
What does this mean then? Actually, it gives me good grounds to form a basis about the Island and what it means. Slowly, over the course of Season 6, episode by episode we have been seeing various characters on-Island and in the Alt-Timeline and slowly that has allowed us to compare and contrast to begin to reach conclusions. Fundamentally, I believe the Alt-Timeline lets us see the person as a lesser version of who they really are – it was Jacob and the Island that allowed the real person’s character to flourish and present itself.
In fast and loose terms, Jack was a man struggling to be a father to his son in the Alt-Timeline. He was a good man under tough circumstances. Who is he on the Island? The same, only larger-scale. Struggling to be a true leader under incredibly tough circumstances.
It’s as though, through the Alternate Timeline, we are getting a glimpse at the person Jacob knew was there and the potential for the person they could be on the Island. He just had to bring them to the Island to test his theory – just like he had brought many people before. Candidate after candidate. The whole point of the show Lost we are watching is that this group – the Oceanic 815 people – they’re going to be the ones that finally prove him right.
Consider Sayid. In the Alternate Timeline he was a tempered version of his torturer nature, struggling to be a good man even at the cost of himself (with Nadia). Even in that timeline his murderous impulse could not be suppressed. On the Island, this was further emphasised.
Sayid sat idly back and watched girl-on-girl action whilst Claire deviated from nervously reaching for Kate’s hand to turning on her with a knife before deciding she’d done right with Aaron and liked Kate again. I didn’t really like what went on with Claire’s character this episode so I’ll put it down to a slight aberration and move on.
In the Alternate Timeline Ben proved to be a better ‘father figure’ to Alex in forsaking his own lust for power for her. He didn’t quite manage as much on the Island but, eventually, a humble man emerged out of his tormented lost soul as Ilana showed him pity. That man, the man that Jacob hoped existed, was there inside him. In short: Ben is a good guy in both timelines - the Island provoked extremes.
In this light, what happened to Locke was even more tragic. The Alt-Timeline showed a good man at peace with his limitations and finding happiness. It was Nameless that fundamentally got to him and corrupted him. The Locke on the Island, the one that looked into the Black Smoke and saw a hopeful white light, got suckered in and used entirely.
Is there anyone still making a claim that Nameless is a potential good guy who's just misunderstood? I'm not. But the trick with Nameless is he believes he's got just cause for doing what he does - and that what makes him so charming and beguiling and, well, believable. Like all good con men, Nameless is incredibly convincing because he tells people what they want to hear and provides what they need. There was a great deal of irony when he told Sawyer – just before he sent him to the Hydra Island – that he was the best liar he had ever met!
Sawyer’s reconnaissance mission (the ‘recon’ of the title, but you all knew that, right? as well as it being a play on ‘re-con’, as in a confidence trick redone) was an intriguing sidequest. Did Nameless know what Sawyer would find over there? Or was it purely coincidental that he went over there and ran into Widmore? Me, I think Nameless sported a look of surprise when Sawyer told him about what he had found on Hydra Island which leads me to think he got a lot more than he expected.
What did Nameless send Sawyer over to Hydra Island for then? At the very least, I think, it was to get him out of the way. Note how he pulled Sawyer away from the group when he was becoming a voice of dissent? That’s one reason. Also, with Sawyer out of the frame for a while, Nameless could make some time with Kate and start drawing her into his circle. To her credit she wasn't easily-swayed (again, makes me still think she's hidden-candidate material!).
The conversation between Nameless and Kate felt like fertile ground for seeding future truths about Nameless. His remarks about having a crazy mother, about growing pains that he is still working through – it was all too oblique to be purely about manipulating Kate (though there was a bit of that going on, naturally!). Nameless also told Sawyer that he didn’t want to die and it seemed very pointed.
Pointed to what? I don’t know. We just don’t know on how big a scale we are supposed to consider Jacob and Nameless – whether they are uniquely mortal men caught up in an epic game between each other with an indefinite lifespan, or if they are more on a par with Godlike status. I’m veering more towards the former rather than the latter but, whatever the truth, it’s the basket within which Lost has put most of its eggs so let’s hope for a satisfying explanation before the end.
Meanwhile, over on Hydra Island. . .
. . . Sawyer quickly saw through ‘survivor’ Zoe. Realising she was part of a larger group, and sensing she wanted to get over to the mainland to conduct a little recon of her own (“How many people did you say were with you?” “Do you all have guns?”), he handed himself over for a meet ‘n’ greet with their leader.
Widmore, evidently, is setting up a defensive stronghold on Hydra Island. Busily erecting mobile Black Smoke Proof sonic fence perimeter I think it’s fair to say that he’s not come to the Island to become best friends with Nameless.
What we don’t know is whether Widmore has come to the Island to fight for the side of Jacob, or whether he’s simply come to fight for the Island for himself. I believed him when he said he and his people were not responsible for the deaths of all the Ajira people. (I suspect Nameless went over there and did all that – remember he once told Alpert that those were people that needed to be dealt with? I wonder if he didn't just send Sawyer over to make sure he hadn't missed any.)
After Widmore was no doubt manipulated during his previous tenure on the Island I reckon he’s looking to make reparations. (I hope he’s got a good explanation about how he looked after Locke when he came back in The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham, mind!) I’m not sure Jacob would wholly endorse coming to the Island with gun-toting personnel either, though – so if Widmore is part of Team Jacob I can’t help but wonder if he’s acting on his own initiative rather than following further instructions.
Who or what is behind the locked door on the submarine?
I’ll keep this simple. I think it’s Desmond. I’m either right or wrong.
Sawyer’s big agenda was revealed by the end of the episode to purely be one of playing Nameless and Widmore against each other and in the middle of the skirmish sneak off and make his escape. Old Sawyer, the every man for himself Sawyer, would have plotted this without involving anyone else. However, New Sawyer makes promises to never let Jin leave without Sun and to also take Kate with him. He's come a long way but I am getting a distinct vibe of sacrifice on the horizon for Sawyer. . .
We’ll see how that goes.
On-Island Sawyer is very much more the man he wanted to be than the Alternate Timeline James Ford. He remarked to Charlotte that, at the point where he could have gone one way or another, good guy or bad guy, he went to the side of the law rather than working against it. Trouble was that the ‘real Sawyer’ inside of him still wanted to exist, to right the past wrongs. Ostensibly, Alternate Timeline James Ford was a lesser version of Sawyer on-Island.
On-Island, Sawyer’s a top class con man and liar. In the Alternate Timeline Miles knows he’s keeping something secret, Charlotte sees through his tired chat-up façade. Sawyer on-Island wanders in with a sloppy grin and a sunflower to see Juliet and it’s idyllic. In the Alternate Timeline the sunflower-routine is weak and almost scornfully derided by Charlotte with, “You blew it.”
James Ford knows it, too. In some ways his ‘inner-Sawyer’ was dying to come through. He pointed Charlotte towards the drawer that housed his big secret because he wanted to catch her looking. Deep down, he wanted her to see it – maybe so he could talk about it, or so he could throw her out for not being, say, Juliet. When he looked at his reflection in the mirror his response was to punch it, frustrated at what he was seeing.
See, in Alternate Timeline world, reflections have been a symbolic element. They’ve been much-discussed so I won’t labour the point (but I will encourage you to keep your eyes peeled for the next episode for Alt-Timeline reflections and see what you make of them). Consider Jack; looking in mirrors he has seen a cut on his neck and a scar from an operation he doesn’t remember – truth of another timeline reflected back. Locke was looking in the mirror when he made the decision to call Jack about spinal surgery – seeing the man that wanted to reach out to the ‘man of faith’. Sayid, when reflected in the glass of the door before Nadia answered, had a face half-obscured in darkness and, significantly, he didn’t look at himself (literally not facing up to his own self).
James Ford looked at his reflection in the Alternate Timeline and saw Sawyer. It was a taunting reflection; the man that could hunt down Anthony Cooper and exact revenge and be the man he wanted to be. The difference is James Ford never had Jacob’s guiding hand, leading him to the Island – the place where he could be his true self. Again, it's pertinent that Sawyer actually exacted his revenge on the Island when he killed Anthony Cooper - it was the place he got to be who he really was.
I’ve said it before, that the Island serves as a form of ‘proving ground’ for people to find their true natures. Perhaps it’s the very nature of the Island that makes it such a fine place for Jacob and Nameless to have staged this battle between themselves. It won’t be that simple, of course. Like the Alternate Timeline, it’s close to the truth but not quite hitting the mark. Like the truth watered-down. It’s on the Island where the real truth lies, and we’re getting closer and closer to finding out precisely what that is.