Originally aired November 10, 2004
Immediately following the plane crash, one of the survivors, Sawyer, did everything he could to make himself disliked by everyone else. He scavenged the plane for supplies, which he then jealously hoarded, he leered at the women, he insulted people. He’s just an unlikeable guy. Therefore, anytime something goes wrong, everyone leaps to the logical conclusion that Sawyer is somehow involved. Something crashing around in the fuselage in the middle of the night, disrupting everyone’s sleep? Must be Sawyer. Water missing? Sawyer took it. Medicine nowhere to be found? Gots to be Sawyer.
Problem is, Sawyer’s not that one-dimensional. He just isn’t “The Bad Guy,” no matter how much everyone else on the island wants to reduce him to that very over-simplified role. Or how much he wants them to. It’s a two-way street, after all. Sawyer lets everyone believe the worst about him, encourages them to, in fact. Which, incidentally, happens to be a complete reversal of his modus operandi in his past life, where he spent all his energies convincing innocent rubes to believe the best about him. That, and trust him with all their money.
That’s right: in his pre-crash life, Sawyer was what is called a “confidence man,” or a huckster that gains a person’s confidence, only to rip them off. And his number one trick is what’s called the Romance Scam. Here’s how it works:
Step One: Get the mark in bed, and “accidentally” make your reveal. Sawyer is in bed with a comely woman, clearly in a *cough* post-coital moment. He tells her that he loves her (a sentiment she does not reciprocate) and asks what she wants right now. The woman, Jessica, looks up alarmed! Oh noes! Sawyer’s late for his meeting at 3:30!
And with that, Sawyer leaps out of bed, hastily yanking up his pants, and grabs his briefcase off the top of a wardrobe, which just happens to spill out tons and tons of cold hard cash monies. Oops! You weren’t supposed to see that, lies Sawyer.
Step Two: Explain your remarkable deal, and have her “decide” that she needs in on it. Now that he’s shown Jessica his money, Sawyer explains that the meeting he’s now very late for was about an investment — a share in an oil-drilling operation out in the Gulf of Mexico. $300,000 buys you one share, and as soon as you invest, a Government fund kicks in and triples the money in two weeks. Sawyer happens to have $140,000, and he’s off to meet a dude about contributing the other $160,000.
But then Jessica happens to have a wonderful idea completely out of nowhere, totally of her own accord: she should contribute the other $160,000, and they can split the profits 50/50. Why, Jess! What an incredible and unique idea! But wherever would you get that kind of money?
Lost note: Of course, Sawyer pulls this routine on Cassidy, in “The Long Con,” but with very different results. Cassidy, at the moment of the big “oops, you weren’t supposed to see that” suitcase reveal, laughs at him, and lets him know she’s on to him, suggesting that she’s not as vulnerable as the other women in his past. Of course, this is all a ruse, too. And eventually, Sawyer pulls The Long Con on Cassidy, stripping her of $600,000.
Step Three: Give the mark your money. That’s right, your money. Sawyer meets with Jessica and her husband, David, poor sucker. (Although, really, who is the bigger sucker here? David, whose wife is cheating on him and planning on stealing his money, or Jessica, who thinks that Sawyer is in love with her and going to split the cash with her?)
Sawyer acts all hesitant and unsure about going through with the deal with Jessica and David, but of course that’s all part of the script. David wants some clarification … Louisiana will invest 2/3rds the drilling costs? Is this some sort of loophole? Jessica urges Sawyer to show her husband the cash, which he does, but David’s still not sure, after all, he doesn’t know Sawyer from Adam. So Sawyer urges the man to keep the money overnight, so he can examine it for himself. But David’s skepticism is all over his face, so Sawyer moves his last pawn and stands up to leave. At Jessica’s urging, David asks him to wait. But, of course, Sawyer knew he would.
Lost note: We learn from “The Long Con,” that Sawyer doesn’t just happen upon his victims. Regarding Cassidy, his fellow huckster Gordy was the one who found her and fed information about her to Sawyer. Meaning, Sawyer has done his research. Like Juliet with her files on Jack and the other survivors, Sawyer knows who his victims are, even if they don’t know him.
Step Three and a Half: Assure your lender that you’ll be getting him a good return on his investment. Sawyer meets with a frightening gentleman at a pool hall, who wonders if Sawyer has a death wish. After all, Sawyer has $160,000 of his money and apparently has left it with some other guy. All part of the plan, explains Sawyer. He’s just gaining the mark’s trust.
According to our handsome little misogynist Sawyer, women are easy to con: you sleep with them, and ta-da! They think your con is their idea. But men need to see the money and fantasize for a moment that they themselves could be an outlaw, and steal it all. Kilo’s not really interested in Sawyer’s philosophizing and jams a pool cue into Sawyer’s throat. Sawyer better bring him his money plus 50 percent by tomorrow, because he knows how to make people suffer. Ouch! and Eek!
Lost note: In “Exodus, Part 3,” Michael asks Sawyer about his motivations for wanting to be on the raft seeking rescue: “Since the day you told me you wanted on this raft, I couldn’t figure it out. Why does a guy who only cares about himself want to risk his life to save everyone else? The way I see it, there are only 2 choices you’re either a hero or you want to die.” Sheesh. Everyone’s a psychiatrist.
Step Four: Retrieve your ill-gotten fortune! Or not. Sawyer is at a lovely plantation-style home, sealing the deal. Sawyer shuts a briefcase full o’ monies and assures the couple that they’ll be getting their money back in triple a week from now. The husband half-jokingly asks if Sawyer’s going to skip town with their money, and Jessica admonishes her husband: after all, Sawyer left all his money with them — they could have left town with it.
But before Sawyer can get out the door, a small boy, about 6 or 7 years old, comes into the room, all blond and bleary-eyed, and asks his mother to read a story to him. Sawyer can’t take his eyes off the kid, until finally, the husband asks if something’s wrong.
Deal’s off! snaps Sawyer. I’m a’ walkin’. The couple is furious, and Jessica yells at Sawyer that this isn’t how it’s supposed to work, which isn’t exactly what her husband was expecting to hear. So, Sawyer leaves the home and the couple to their fighting and probably the end of their marriage.
Boy. I bet that guy with the pool cue is gonna be maaaaaad.
Sawyer has that effect on people. Take for instance how he gets along with folks on the island:
Like Kate. Here she is, minding her own bidness, carrying some bananas along the beach when she notices a pile of clothes and a copy of Watership Down. She glances up to get an eyeful of a whole lotta Sawyer emerging from the sea in the buff, like the birth of Aphrodite, minus the clamshell and cherubs.
Sawyer approaches her with that wolf-like grin, shameless and completely pantless. Kate suggests that the water must be cold (“Shrinkage” being the unspoken joke here), and Sawyer suggests that Kate warm him up. Sure know how to make a girl feel special, snips Kate before she stomps off.
Having had a refreshing dip in the ocean and a good leer at Kate, Sawyer heads back to his stash only to find Boone, the little water thief, rooting around in it. Not a good plan, Boone.
Sayid has woken up after someone bashed him on the head just as he was about to triangulate the French transmission signal, plus one gash on his noggin, minus one transceiver. And he ain’t happy. Jack stitches him up as Sayid glowers and grumbles about finding the man who did this. That’s when Shannon and a bloodied Boone hobble into camp yelling for help. What happened? demands Jack. Sawyer happened, that’s what.
Poor Dr. Jack. The clinic’s barely opened for the day, and he’s already up to patient No. 2, Boone, who claims that Sawyer just jumped him. Well, sorta. It seems that Shannon has The Asthma, and she’s run out of inhalers. Boone noticed that Sawyer has been reading a copy of Watership Down, which just happens to be Boone’s, which he just happened to pack in his suitcase, which just happened to be where the rest of Shannon’s inhalers were packed. Sawyer has Watership Down, ergo, Sawyer has the inhalers.
This is all it takes for Jack to go stomping into Sawyer’s tent and start tearing through Sawyer’s things, interrupting Sawyer’s letter-reading. To which, unsurprisingly, Sawyer takes exception. Jack accuses Sawyer of beating up on a kid who was just trying to help his sister, but Sawyer begs to differ. He was protecting his belongings from a thief. But this irritates Jack even more, and he demands to know what makes this stuff Sawyer’s. Sawyer and Jack engage in a lively political economics discussion: private ownership versus commie share-fest. (Or, if you are Jack: the virtues of “Every Man for Himself” versus the “Live Together, Die Alone” approach.) But, as these discussions often do, the conversation quickly escalates to near-violence until Kate arrives and stops the men from coming to blows.
Lost note: It’s not an important point, certainly, but I thought it was interesting that reading materials seem to be shared on the island. Not only does Sawyer have Boone’s copy of Watership Down, but Walt’s comic book, we learn in “Exodus, Part 3,” originally belonged to Hurley. What does it mean? Nothing, probably, short of the fact that the island has indeed reverted the survivors to a form of “primitive communism.” A “commie share-fest” as Sawyer describes.
Jack is FUMING and tells Kate that he wants to kill Sawyer. When she asks why he hasn’t yet, Jack growls that they haven’t become savages. Not yet. Kate offers to talk to Sawyer, explaining that Sawyer says they have a connection. To which Jack rolls his eyes.
Sawyer is chopping wood when Kate finds him (the name Sawyer, somewhat obviously, means “one who saws wood”). Kate asks him what it is that he wants in exchange for the inhalers. What do I want? A kiss. But Kate scoffs. She notes that she doesn’t believe that Sawyer is so disgusting as to withhold medication from a woman for a measly kiss. Furthermore, Kate knows that there’s something human inside of Sawyer — she’s seen the way he reads that letter over and over again. Sawyer, furious with Kate’s presumptuousness, hands her the letter and demands that she read it, so that she knows just what kind of person he is:
Dear Mr. Sawyer, you don’t know who I am but I know who you are and I know what you done. You had sex with my mother and then you stole my dad’s money all away. So he got angry and he killed my mother and then he killed himself, too. All I know is your name. But one of these days I’m going to find you and I’m going to give you this letter so you’ll remember what you done to me. You killed my parents Mr. Sawyer.
Sawyer’s such a bad bad terrible man! How could he do such a bad bad terrible thing!
Kate reads the letter with a mixture of sadness and disgust, and Sawyer glares at her. How ’bout that kiss? Yeah, Sawyer didn’t think so.
Sayid, in the meantime, is still investigating just who it was that smacked him upside the head, and he questions Locke. Locke’s alibi is boar prep, but he suggests that whoever it was that attacked Sayid must not want to get off the island, they must be profiting from being here. And just to make sure that Sayid understands that he’s talking about Sawyer, Locke mentions that it’s obvious that the two men share a certain animosity. And as much as Sayid wants to blame Sawyer, he can’t, as Sawyer set off the flare moments before Sayid was beaten like a piñata. Ahh … but he could have crafted a slow fuse with a cigarette … Why, Sawyer smokes! And that’s all the evidence Sayid needs to wallop on Sawyer. Locke contributes one of his knives to the cause. Thanks, Locke!
Lost note: Locke, of course, is the Sayid-head-basher. But note that Locke never lies in his exchange with Sayid. Locke tells him that at sundown he was skinning a boar, which he was, he just made a detour to brain Sayid. He tells Sayid that whoever it was that did it must not want off the island: Locke doesn’t want off the island. Locke tells Sayid that whoever it was must be profiting from being on the island: Locke’s use of his legs has returned, who has profited more? Sayid just leaped to his own conclusions based on half-information, and landed exactly where Locke wanted him to: Sawyer is to blame.
Dr. Jack’s Island Clinic is treating patient No. 3 of the day: Shannon and her asthma. Right on cue, Shannon’s turning all blue, and Jack’s yelling at her to WORK WITH HIM (helpful, Jack) and to BREATHE. And that’s when Sawyer saunters into camp to grab some water. Bad timing, dude. Jack punches Sawyer a few times while Sawyer taunts him, and encourages him to hit him again. But Shannon is still in rough shape, so Jack returns to yelling at her to CALM DOWN and BREATHE and that she’s PANICKING.
Eventually, Shannon gains control of her breathing, but not before everyone has been witness to her attack. Sayid included who asks Jack what will happen if she doesn’t get her inhaler back from Sawyer. Nothing good, my friend. Sayid throws around his Iraqi Republican Guard credentials — they have ways to make people talk, you know. And Jack gives Sayid his approval to spend some quality time with Sawyer.
Jack and Sayid storm into a napping Sawyer’s tent, punch him squarely in the face and then drag him off into the jungle as a horrified Kate watches. Jack and Sayid tie Sawyer to a tree, wake him up and begin the super-happy-fun-time! Jack assures Sawyer that as soon as he tells them where Shannon’s inhalers are, they’ll stop. Um, stop what? And that’s when Sawyer notices Sayid and his collection of very very pointy sticks. Jack tries again: it doesn’t have to be this way, Sawyer. Yeah, it does, he replies.
Sayid, in the meantime, does what every good torturer does first: shows Sawyer the implements he will use on Sawyer. Blah blah, bamboo shoots, blah, they used reeds in Iraq, blah, fingernails.
Sayid begins shoving the bamboo reeds under Sawyer’s fingernails as promised, and at first, Sawyer’s all tough-guy bravado — that all you got, so on and so forth. But before too long he’s screaming out in pain, to Jack’s horror. Jack yells at Sayid to stop but Sawyer urges Sayid on, that is until Sayid whips out Locke’s knife and offers to do an eyectomy on Sawyer unless he starts talking and fast. Fine, agrees Saywer. But I’ll only talk to her … Kate.
Kate arrives only to have Sawyer demand that kiss from her again, and when she balks, Sawyer urges Kate to see the big picture — it’s only a kiss, and she saves a woman’s life. Kate agrees and kisses him. And BOY HOWDY does she kiss him.
Kisses him like she means it. For a long time. Big big kiss we’re talking about here. And when she pulls away, Sawyer has news for her: he doesn’t have the inhalers. Never did. HA-HA. So Kate takes her turn at punching Sawyer (everyone else has today, why not her?), and stomps off to inform Jack and Sayid.
Sayid doesn’t take this well at all, and he heads back into the jungle to attack Sawyer some more. Sawyer, however, has slipped out of his ropes and manages to hold his own with Sayid as they FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT. That is until Locke’s handy boar-stabber and eye-remover accidentally goes right into Sawyer’s arm (ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch). Jack removes the knife, notes that it hit an artery. He holds the wound to staunch the bleeding while yelling at Sayid to go get his backpack from the caves.
Which Sayid does, covered in Sawyer’s blood. Upon seeing Sayid, Boone demands to know whose blood is all over him, and Sayid, not having a lot of time for chit-chat, tells him it’s Sawyer’s. Boone’s irritated that no one told him they were going after Sawyer, and seems all ready to leave Shannon to join in on the fun. But Shannon begs Boone to stay with her, so he does. (For now. *cough* Foreshadowing. *cough*)
Lost note 1: As noted in “House of the Rising Sun,” Boone says exactly what Sun asks Jin — “Whose blood is that?” And in both instances, the people being asked this question are A. covered in someone else’s blood, and B. doing it indirectly on behalf of the person asking the question. (Although you could argue that Sayid is covered in Sawyer’s blood on Shannon’s behalf really, but, you know, close enough.)
While they wait for Sayid to return, Sawyer is still being mouthy as he bleeds to death, urging, demanding that Jack let go of his wound. Sawyer blurts out that he and Kate kissed, so he has nothing else to live for, and promises Jack that if the tables were turned, he’d let Jack bleed out.
But despite all this, Jack obviously doesn’t, because Sawyer wakes up on the beach tanned and bandaged. Kate goes on to tell Sawyer that she just couldn’t figure out why he beat up Boone rather than just tell the truth about not having the inhalers, it was almost like he wanted to be hated and tortured. And so she read and read and then reread the letter that Sawyer keeps with him. But that didn’t give her any more answers.
It wasn’t until she looked at the postmark on the envelope that she finally got it: Sawyer didn’t receive the letter, Sawyer wrote the letter. He’s the kid whose father killed his mother! He’s the one whose family was torn apart by a con! Why, in fact, his name isn’t even Sawyer!
Sawyer confirms that he took the real Sawyer’s name when he pulled his first con in a moment of desperation at 19. He needed money, so he found a pretty lady with a dumb husband and a lot of money, and took them for what he could. You see? He became the thing that he hated most. He became Sawyer! Now get out of his tent! RAR!
But what about Shannon, you ask? Sun, with Michael’s help (and Jin’s angry disapproval) found some eucalyptus and created a paste for her that helped her breathe. Ta-da! Problem solved! Thanks for nothing, Dr. Torture!
Intercut through all of this is a minor storyline wherein Charlie tries to convince Claire to move to the caves for her own safety, but Claire’s not having it. She wants to be on the beach when rescue arrives.
So Charlie cuts her a deal; if he can find the one thing she misses the most from the outside world — peanut butter — she has to move to the caves. Charlie tries valiantly to find this peanut butter (and insults poor Hurley in the process), until he eventually returns to the beach and begins packing Claire’s items for her. She can’t believe that he was successful, and he tells her that there was a small problem: all he could find was extra-creamy. Charlie then presents Claire with an empty glass jar, sticks his finger in it, and enjoys a big glob of imaginary extra-creamy peanut butter.
But Claire is charmed by the gesture and enjoys it with him, and yet somehow Hurley gets labeled the “crazy” person on the island. Whatevah.
Lost note: Here’s a question, maybe a little silly, but this is between friends, right? Claire eventually does get that jar of peanut butter in season two when they discover the hatch provisions. Again, Charlie asks Hurley for the peanut butter, and initially Hurley is reluctant to give it up, but he does. So Claire gets the thing that she wanted most. Eventually.
Is this another example of the island as “magic box” at work? I mean, because if it were me, and I later found out that this “magic box” had the potential to do things like conjure up Locke’s dad, and that I could have totally made my wish an epidural for when I gave birth, but instead I wasted my wish on a jar of peanut butter, I’d be SO MAD.
But we’re not quite done yet! Sayid heads down the beach with a bunch of his stuff, with only Kate to say goodbye to him. He’s going to walk the shore to map the island or something? ‘Cuz he feels bad about what he did to Sawyer? ‘Cuz he said he’d never do something like that again? ‘Cuz it makes him feel all dirty inside? But then he did it? So now he’s going to leave. K! BYE!
But we’re still not done! We have to have our Montage of Lyrical Significance. This week it’s to the song “I Shall Not Walk Alone,” by the Blind Boys of Alabama. In the M.L.S., Shannon recovers from her asthma attack. Sawyer thinks about setting his Letter of Childhood Heartbreak on fire, but then stops himself. And Sayid walks down the beach by himself. All the while the following lyrics play: “Friend of mine, What can’t you spare, I know sometimes, It gets cold in there, When my legs no longer carry, And the warm wind chills my bones, I just reach for mother Mary, And I shall not walk alone.” And see? It’s ironic? Because, Sayid? Totally walking alone. Also, fun note: “I just reach for mother Mary.” Sawyer’s mother’s name was Mary! Whaddya know?!
Here’s a question for you: in general, which do you prefer — the flashbacks or the island events? And don’t cop out and say something politic like “I like them both equally;” that’s boring. Which do you really prefer? Me? I think I have to admit that I like the flashbacks more (And predictably, Mr. T prefers the island events. Go figure.). The reason I ask is that I think it reveals which you also prefer: plot or character. If you like the island events, you like plot-heavy storytelling. And if you like the flashbacks more, you are interested in character development.
And this episode is nothing if not a long exercise in character development. This episode could alternatively be entitled “Why Sawyer is Such a Jerk.” So who is Sawyer? Well, for starters, he’s not even on the island (at least not yet). In fact, if you want to get all technicals about it, Sawyer doesn’t exist. After all, both James Ford and “Anthony Cooper” (if that is his actual name) both use Sawyer as an alias for their con. Sawyer, regardless of who is using that name at the time, is a conman. Sawyer is a liar and a lie. Sawyer is a con.
And Sawyer’s con, the Romance Scam, preys on the absolute worst in people; both their willingness to deceive and cheat their spouses, and their greed. However, the con also depends on a good human quality: people’s ability to trust. Sawyer builds their trust in him through his charm and sex. And whatever apprehensions they may have about the deal, despite his charm, Sawyer knows will be overcome by their greed. It’s an interesting reversal: Sawyer makes people believe the best in him all the while believing in the worst in his victims.
On the island, Sawyer reverses this. He constantly tries to make people believe the worst in him, he strives to make people dislike him and not trust him. When Kate challenges this version of Sawyer, when she suggests that even Sawyer has enough humanity in him to not be withholding medication from someone for a stupid kiss, Sawyer presents her with the letter to try to convince Kate that he is a bad man. That he is Sawyer. He’s trying to con her, and play on her distrust.
But just as the con in the flashback failed, Sawyer’s con on Kate fails, because she never believes his lie. What’s interesting is that Sawyer attempts to manipulate Kate into believing that he is someone he is not, by revealing himself entirely to her. He exposes himself to her figuratively with the letter, and literally at the beginning of the episode when he emerges naked from the ocean.
Like Locke with Sayid, Sawyer never lies to Kate, he just attempts to twist the truth. However, Kate knows that Sawyer is more human than he likes to pretend, and she pushes through his manipulation to see the real truth in the truth that he has given her. If that makes any sense at all.
Pretending: Sawyer off the island pretends that he’s a trustworthy guy who will make his marks rich. Sawyer on the island pretends that he is a monster whom no one should trust. But there’s still even more pretending going on in both situations: Sawyer pretends to the couple off-island that he will deliver $480,000 in a week, in exchange for $160,000. On the island, Sawyer pretends that he will deliver the inhalers, in exchange for a kiss. But the inhalers are no more in Sawyer’s possession than the money. They simply don’t exist. Just like the peanut butter that Charlie offers Claire. Or the “nature people” costumes that the Others wear. It’s all pretend. As pretend as “Sawyer” is.
Sawyer is merely a name, an identity, a role. It’s a role that James Ford assumed at 19, and has hated himself forever since, because it was the role that destroyed his family and home as a child. And this is why Sawyer deliberately antagonizes the rest of the people on the island. It’s all about transference.
Transference is a phenomenon in psychology characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings for one person to another. One definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood.” Another definition is “the redirection of feelings and desires and esp. of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.” Still another definition is “a reproduction of emotions relating to repressed experiences, esp. of childhood, and the substitution of another person . . . for the original object of the repressed impulses.”
Like in “The Moth” when Charlie transferred his feelings about Liam onto Jack. Or, Dave, Hurley’s imaginary friend who urges Hurley to keep eating, is the subject onto whom Hurley transferred his feelings about his father who abandoned him. In fact, in “What Kate Did,” Hurley brings up the term “transference” to Jack when he finds Jack chopping some wood:
HURLEY: So, you’re like, mad at him?
JACK [laughing]: Why would I be mad at Sawyer?
HURLEY: Maybe because he’s the one that always comes down here and chops wood, and now you are? It’s like, transference.
JACK: What are you a shrink now?
HURLEY: Well, that’s what they call it in the mental hospital.
As Jack does the things that Sawyer does when Jack’s upset with him, James Ford fills the shoes of the man he hates the most. (Interesting that this was this episode that we first see Sawyer chopping wood, no?) And because James Ford has become that which he most hates, he seeks out the pain, the hate, the torture that he thinks the real Sawyer deserves. Poor, poor complicated “Sawyer.”
Speaking of torture, Mr. T? What’cha got for us this week?
Mr. T’s Lost Blog:
Some people need a little torture.
Yeah, great. Thanks. The opinions expressed by Mr. T do not necessarily represent the opinions of Mrs. T. Please feel free to direct all angry political responses to the Justice Department, and/or the current Administration. Thanks!
Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu and IMDb.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.