Lost answered an all-important question last night (disco, punk, or Tony Orlando & Dawn?) when it showed us how Sawyer and crew spent the mid-1970s - the second time around. Let's dance, after the cut.
I admit it: I was punk'd by last week's "next on Lost" (yeah, I know I shouldn't trust them) into thinking that "LaFleur" was going to be a very special Sawyer-Kate-Jack episode of "As the Island Turns."
So I was pleasantly surprised when last night's episode turned out to be anything but - at least until the last 60 seconds. If Locke disappointed me last week because I wanted him to be the action hero I remembered instead of the lost soul he became, then this week Juliet exceeded all my expectations in the opposite direction, having evolved from her early appearances as a limp rag into a gun-toting, van-fixing, healthy-baby-delivering mensch.
It's been a long time, too, since we've had a Sawyer-centric episode (season three, for the record). I forgot just how nicely he cleans up. The frequent back-and-forth cuts between 1974 and 1977 were a bit disorienting, but on the whole I liked this episode a lot; it's not the season's best or worst, but a very solid hour nonetheless. The first scene in 1977 is up there with my favorites: the reel-to-reel tape deck, Phil and Jerry (a shout out to Lesh and Garcia) in Dharma jumpsuits whiling away their hours on polar-bear patrol with brownies and illicit visitors, and, after they panic, the great reveal that Sawyer has come full circle, from con man to fear-inducing authority figure. The island has done him good, as I suspect we'll see it does for the reanimated Locke as well.
When last we saw the criminal with a heart of gold, he was holding a rope to nowhere. Now, he, Juliet, Miles and Jin realize how very far back in the island's history they've been punted when they notice the enormous four-toed statute—last seen in ruins, now showing no sign of decay—looming above them. It's holding an ankh, an ancient Egyptian symbol of life and/or life everlasting; it also appears on Paul's necklace. Since they are behind it, its face remains hidden.
Could it be Sawyer (did his barefoot trek through the jungle lead to the loss of a toe?) or Locke (what about last week's lingering shots of his toes poking out of his cast? I counted five, but some apparently saw four) or … Richard? Those Egyptian gods were awfully fond of lining their eyes with kohl, too. On the other hand, those ears definitely look more animal than human . . . maybe it's just part of the Egyptian pantheon. Horus, perhaps—though falcons don't have external ears at all.
Just as they are digesting the sight, Locke resets the wheel and initiates a final enormous time flash. The good news is that this stops their headaches and nosebleeds; the bad news is that now they're stuck, seemingly permanently, in 1974. They reunite with a distraught Daniel, but Charlotte's body has "moved on" or maybe just back to the small child she appears to have been that year. There's some discussion out there whether Ben's prior statement that Char was born in 1979 was based on faulty information, i.e., a mother fudging her daughter's on-island past by creating a new birthplace and date, or a continuity error. I suspect trying to keep the multiple timelines straight for multiple characters is a writer's nightmare, and I also won't be surprised if the birth date is later exposed as a piece of deliberate disinformation-or that the little girl Dan sees is just a red-headed herring, and isn't Charlotte at all.
They set out for the beach, with Sawyer the de facto leader. He steadfastly maintains that they will wait, as long as it takes, for Locke to return, and that when he does the beach will the first place he looks for them.
But they are sidetracked when they hear a rifle shot followed by a woman's cries and pleas. Two men are placing a bag over a woman's head, while a man's body lies on the ground. Miles confirms with Daniel that "we don't get involved, right," but Dan just shrugs and says "whatever happened, happened." Charlotte's death appears to have driven home for him the seemingly inescapable fact that the universe will course correct no matter what they do or do not do.
Chivalrous Sawyer doesn't care about possible repercussions down the line, and rushes in to save her. Luckily, sharp-shooting Juliet has his back and saves him first. The woman introduces herself as Amy, the dead man was her husband, Paul, and Sawyer (with help from Juliet) has just invalidated "the truce." She insists that they must bring Paul's body back with them, and bury the other two. Even though Sawyer explains that he and his friends were shipwrecked on their way from Tahiti, Amy remains suspicious. When they come to the sonic fence, she only pretends to turn it off. She strolls blithely through because she's wearing earplugs, but Sawyer and crew are rendered unconscious.
Sawyer wakes up on a couch at the Barracks. "How's your head?" asks Horace Goodspeed, a line that will volley back later. Sawyer's con-man instincts kick in, as he brilliantly uses his experience and knowledge of the island to create a new, plausible identity for himself. He's James LaFleur, their ship was caught in a storm; it was a salvage vessel, and they were searching for the Black Rock. Horace is firm: only members of the Dharma Initiative can stay, and Sawyer/LaFleur is "not Dharma material." Ha!
Before Sawyer can explain to the rest of them that they are on the next sub out of town, the lights flash and rifle-toting Dharma members hustle them to safety. But it's only a torch-bearing Richard, who demands to see Horace about the broken truce. (By the way, if all it takes is a decent pair of earplugs to cheat the sonic fence, no wonder it doesn't keep Richard and his people out.)
Before the heavy ordnance is called in, Sawyer offers to talk to "your buddy in the eyeliner out there" (loved the shout out to everybody who's ever wondered "does he or doesn't he" about Nestor Carbonell), and he's loaded for bear: Did Richard bury the bomb called Jughead? Does he remember Locke? "I'm waiting for him to come back," confides Sawyer. I wouldn't be surprised if Richard interprets this remark as another indication that Locke is a godlike figure who will return or be reborn, though after his visit to Young Locke he might be less inclined to believe it. A seemingly shocked Richard agrees the truce hasn't been broke, per se, but asks for the return of Paul's body, perhaps to show his people that blood has been spilled on the other side as well (aka "justice").
In gratitude for defusing the situation, Horace allows Sawyer two weeks on the island. Sawyer, in turn, talks an initially unwilling Juliet to stay with him for the same amount of time. Next thing we know, it's three years later. Horace is passed out at the pylons; and Amy, pregnant with his child, is in labor, prematurely-all women are supposed to leave the island to give birth. (When we first met Horace in "The Man Behind the Curtain," he was married to Olivia. What happened to her?)
Sawyer's in charge: when the intern can't handle a breech birth, he retrieves Juliet from the motor pool, and convinces her to deliver the baby, even though all her experiences doing so on the island have ended in tragedy. A healthy boy is born. Then we see why Juliet is still on the island: she and Sawyer are an item. They seem sincerely happy, and for once I am rooting for a couple on Lost. But then Jin, who has been searching the island grid-by-grid for Locke, calls. He's found Hurley, Jack, and Kate, whose eyes, as she steps out of the van, lock with Sawyer's and-please, show, don't let's go there.
One of last night's big questions is that of Young Ben's whereabouts, if indeed he and his father were living on the island in the 1974-77 timeframe, that is-and if they're not, they have to be arriving soon, given adult Ben's age (roughly 40-ish) and the fact that he was about 10 years old when he arrived. Speaking of Ben, did he anticipate he would return to the island in a flash, not a crash, i.e., has he landed in the year he was aiming for? And why, assuming that she is off in the outrigger with Frank Lapidus, didn't Sun land in 1977 with Hurley, Kate, and Jack?