"There's a man in the jungle about a mile south of here by the outer wall.  He sent me back here to give you a message.  He wants you to know that Jacob is dead.  And because he's gone, none of you have to stay here any longer.  You're free.  The man that I met is leaving the Island forever.  Those of you who want to go with him should leave the Temple and join him.  You have until sundown to decide."

"What happens at sundown if we stay?"

"You die."

I'm looking at my Twitter feed right now as I gear up to write this week's recap, and the reaction to this season as a whole seems to be slowly but surely dividing "Lost" fandom.  There's a rift developing among fans that's as pronounced as the one developing on the Island, and it's interesting to see why people are checking out and suddenly proclaiming themselves to be upset.

First, I'm going to revise the way I've been doing these recaps, because I think I was falling into a bad habit of simply writing a transcription of what happened, instead of offering up any analysis or speculation, and that's the fun of a show like "Lost" in the first place.  One of you complained about it in the comments section last week, and then several of you also e-mailed me about it, and I think you're right.  We'll discuss what happened, but at this point, with only ten episodes to go after this, there's an endgame coming into focus that is absolutely worth discussing.

This week's episode, "Sundown," was written by Paul Zbyszewski and Graham Roland, and by putting Sayid front and center, several of the threads that are in play this season seem to have come together at once.  The "previously on 'Lost'" scenes just ran through all of Sayid's scenes so far this year.  He gets shot by Ben's father, they try to revive him in the spring, he wakes up, he gets tortured, Dogen tries to poison him, and then Jack explains why.

In TIMELINE A, we see Sayid in Los Angeles, showing up at Nadia's house.  He's a little nervous and shy outside, then works up the nerve to go to the door.  She lets him in, and we get the first kick in the guts of the episode as her kids come running out and greet him as "Uncle Sayid."  Turns out, she's married to Omar, Sayid's brother.  He owns a couple of dry cleaning stores, while Sayid works for an oil company, traveling around the world to translate contracts.  We can see that there's a strong tension between Sayid and Nadia, though, and that Omar's aware of it.

In TIMELINE B, Sayid confronts Dogen, asking him for answers about why he was tortured.  Dogen explains that the machine they hooked him up to was a scale to measure the balance of good and evil in people, and that Sayid was tipped the wrong way.  As Dogen says, "I think it would be best if you were dead."  That leads to a serious throwdown between the two of them, and it's nice to finally see someone who can handle Sayid pretty easily in a fight.  So easily that he ends up with a knife at Sayid's throat.  The only thing that stops him from cutting said throat is a baseball that rolls off the table, getting Dogen's attention.  He spares Sayid and orders him to leave the Temple and never return.

Out in the jungle, Claire and AlternaLocke put their plan in motion.  He tells her to go inside, and she asks why it has to be her and not him or Sawyer or Jin, which implies that they're all on the same team now.  He tells her that she has to be the one, and she says, "If I go in there, I need to know you're going to do what you said.  I want my son back."

This is important, because it sets into motion an idea that the rest of the episode underlines, one that finally explains the split timelines in a way that suggests that there's a method to the madness this season, and that what we've been seeing so far has a real purpose.  Nothing was reset.... or at least, nothing was reset by the detonation of the bomb.

Claire asks AlternaLocke, "Are you going to hurt them?"

"Only the ones who won't listen," he responds, and that gives way to LOST.  And then the first commercial break.  That set-up for the episode contains pretty much everything that plays out for the rest of the hour.

TIMELINE A plays out with Sayid dealing with his brother and Nadia and his obvious attraction to her.  Omar's got some problems that he needs Sayid to help him with, and he explains that he took out a loan to open his second store, but not from a bank.  Now he's being shaken down by the person who gave him the money, and he wants Sayid to take care of things for him.  Sayid doesn't want to, though.  He tells his brother, "I'm not that man anymore."  Omar ends up in the hospital, though, and when Sayid considers going after the people who did it, Nadia asks him not to.  They discuss Sayid's feelings for her, and she asks why he pushed her towards Omar in the first place.  He explains that he needs to somehow make up for all the terrible things he's done in his life, and that he doesn't feel like he deserves her.

When he does finally come face to face with the person who hurt Omar, it turns out to be none other than Keamy (Kevin Durand), who appears to be a gangster in this version of things.  Sayid ends up killing Keamy and all of his men, and discovering that they had a hostage locked in the freezer.  Who?  Jin, with signs of having been roughed up and, as he tells Sayid in the last moment we see from this timeline this week, "No English."

Simple stuff, really, but it serves as important counterpoint to what is happening in TIMELINE B on the Island.  Claire surrenders herself to the Others and tells Dogen that "he" wants to see him outside.  Dogen says he's not leaving the Temple because he knows what will happen if he does.  Claire is put into the hole while they figure out what to do, and Dogen tells Lennon to find Jack and Hurley, not realizing they're missing.  Dogen is forced to ask Sayid to do something for him, offering the task up as a chance at redemption.  He wants Sayid to take a ceremonial knife out into the jungle to kill AlternaLocke, and before he sends him out to face him, Dogen warns that Sayid has to stab him before he says a word.

Sayid fails.  Badly.  AlternaLocke gets off a "Hello, Sayid," before Sayid plunges the knife into his chest.  The knife does absolutely nothing to him.  Instead of freaking out and attacking, AlternaLocke hands the knife back to him and says he'd like Sayid to carry a message back to the Temple for him.  Sayid is suspicious, sure he's being played in some way, but AlternaLocke says it's just a message.  "What if I told you you could have anything you want?"

Sayid shrugs off the offer by saying, "The only thing I ever wanted died in my arms.  And I'll never see it again."

"What if you could?"

And that exchange is where I think "Lost" has just shown its cards.  See, if you're going to make a deal with the devil, that deal is going to have to be pretty damn attractive.  You'd have to be offered something you really desperately desire.  Something like, say, your missing child.  Or the woman you loved who is dead now.  But when you make that deal, even if you get the thing you want, you may not get exactly what you thought you were going to get.  Like maybe that woman would be alive again... but married to your brother.  Just as a for instance.

What if that's what we're seeing in what I've been calling TIMELINE A?  What if this season started with the Losties onboard that plane, all of them having made a deal that sends them back to the lives that they were supposed to be living?  But because that deal is imperfect, what if little things have changed, little things that start to add up to a very different life indeed?

Sayid takes the deal.  We know that because he walks back into the Temple and delivers the message that you can read at the top of this week's recap.  Lennon and Dogen warn everyone not to listen to Sayid's message, but it does exactly what it's supposed to do.  It freaks everyone out, and many of them flee, even as Kate returns to the Temple and is reunited with Claire.  She tells her how she took Aaron off the Island so he'd be safe, and how she returned to rescue Claire, leading to Claire's creepiest line since her return:  "I'm not the one that needs to be rescued.  He's coming, Kate.  He's coming and they can't stop him."

Sayid goes to return Dogen's knife to him and finds him by the spring, where he's got that baseball in his hand, considering it.  He knows already that Sayid let AlternaLocke talk to him.  Sayid asks Dogen why he didn't kill him when he had the chance, and Dogen's answer only further confirms what I'm thinking about the show and the alternate timelines.

He tells a story about his past, before he came to the Island.  He worked in Osaka as a banker, and one day, after a celebration over a promotion at work, he went to pick his son up from basketball practice, still drunk.  While driving him home, there was an accident, and they ended up at the hospital.  Dogen was fine, but his son's life was hanging by a thread.  That's when Jacob appeared to him and said he could save the boy's life, but in return, Dogen would have to agree to go to the Island to help keep it safe.  The boy would live, but Dogen would never see him again.  Sounds like the deals Jacob makes are just as difficult to live with as the deals that AlternaLocke offers.

Sundown arrives, and the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.  Sayid grabs Dogen and drowns him in the spring.  When Lennon runs in and sees what's happened, he freaks out.  "He was the only thing keeping it out! You let it in!"

"I know," Sayid answers, just before he slashes Lennon's throat, leaving both of the main Others we've met this season dead, and opening the door for the Smoke Monster to come rampaging into the Temple, leaving dead bodies everywhere.  It's crazy.  People scatter.  Kate goes running back to try and help Claire, but ends up hiding in the hole with her while the Smoke Monster barrels by overhead  like the Wrath of God at the end of "Raiders Of The Lost Ark."  Miles tries to hide and ends up face to face with Frank, Ben, Ilana, and Sun.  Miles asks Sun if she saw Jin, since he's around and alive, and before they can deal with that information, Ilana finds a secret room, leading the group inside just in time to avoid the Smoke Monster.

Outside, Sayid rejoins Locke, who is back in human form, along with Claire and a deeply disturbed Kate, who isn't sure what's going on.  She goes with them, off into the jungle, as the episode ends, and it appears that there's no going back.  Smokey's plan appears to have worked beautifully.

I'm amazed at how people are upset at "all the new characters" this season, since the show demonstrated clearly this week that those new characters are expendable.  This show is still about the Oceanic 815 survivors and the reasons they're on the Island, and the choices they've made in their lives.  It's just that the game isn't what we originally thought it was.

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