The Long Con (S2 ep. 13)

SAWYER: I’m not a good person, Charlie. Never did a good thing in my life.

Why should we change who we are? If we decide that we’d like to change, how can we know that it’s possible? The difficulty of rising up, of transcending your past self while acknowledging it, is front and center in this season, and Sawyer’s next flashbackapalooza puts renewed emphasis on that difficulty.

While The Long Con is a well-done 40-some-odd-minutes worth of television, it just wasn’t all that exciting for me on re-watch. I suspect this has to do with my now being aware of the episode’s twist, which made the lead up interesting to watch from an analytical perspective, but didn’t exactly kick my tires and light my fires, so to speak.

Overall, I’m ready for things to start picking up. And honestly, most of that impatience comes from knowing just how close I am to seeing Mr. Henry Gale make his first appearance on the show. I can’t lie – I was tempted to skip right over this episode and go straight to the next. That’s how profound an influence Michael Emerson has had over my experience with the show. See? It’s not even his episode, and already I’m writing about him.


• John and Jack open the episode, back once again in the claustrophobic quarters of the Swan. Issues of trust spring up all over the place in “The Long Con” and the episode throws one out at us right away. Jack doesn’t appear to trust John alone with the combination to the gun/heroin closet (what will they store there next? Thai hookers?), but it becomes clear that John shouldn’t really trust Jack with that combination either.

The bonds that the castaways spent Season 1 creating are fraying, tensions are rising, and the only people that they can truly blame for this are themselves.

• Locke suggests that Jack ought to put the medicine in the closet as well, and Jack’s reaction is telling. He’s so contemptuous toward Locke that he treats the suggestion like its some bizarre edict, instead of what it is – a helpful suggestion. Again there’s the growing sense of discomfort between these two. Locke appears to appreciate the fact of their mounting tension, but he’s increasingly less interested in dealing with it.

SAWYER: Well, well, now look who had to relocate to the suburbs. Ain’t that just like a woman? She keeps the house and you get the cheap-ass apartment. Man, I thought these people hated me, but I’ve got to hand it to you — stealing a baby, trying to drown it — now, that’s a new low. You even made Locke take a swing at you. Hell, that’s like getting Gandhi to beat his kids.

Thanks to Sawyer, who appears to have resumed his position as Smartass Commentator and All-Around Provocateur, the audience gets a pithy summary of just how far Charlie’s fallen. We also get an interesting, if off-base, observation about Locke: John may be some kind of Island mystic, but he’s no man of peace and that’s established more and more firmly as the seasons progress.

Additionally, we get some third-party confirmation regarding what Charlie’s baptism attempts looked like to the castaways. I commented in the column for “Fire + Water” that it appeared as though Charlie were (albeit unconsciously) attempting to drown Aaron. Sawyer got that impression too, and we should assume that some, if not most, of the other castaways are thinking the same thing.

• Every time Sawyer takes his shirt off it’s a boon to a friend of mine. This show is good to its female fans. Now, where’s Evangeline Lily in a bra, Lost?

• Sawyer’s taken ‘his’ medications back from Jack, and he appears to be reasserting his initial, dickish, territorial side in general. He’s getting his Ayn Rand on, if you will.

Why is this? Well, to the extent that Season 2 focuses on relapse, regression, and refusal to change, we’re seeing that play out again in Sawyer’s story. His motivation for becoming the Pack Rat King again seems rooted in his disappointment over the swift way in which the castaways went through his stuff when he left the Island via Mike’s boat.

Cassidy: “Show me what you do – what you really do.”
Sawyer: “And what do I do?”
Cassidy: “Show me how to con people, Sawyer.”

Sawyer’s flashback in “The Long Con” begins exactly like his first season flashback, right down to the bedside patter and the faulty briefcase. But Lost throws something of a curveball at us as the mark in question – Cassidy Phillips – sees right through his con and wants Sawyer to show her how to con.

Cassidy will come to have increasing significance in the lives of Sawyer, Kate and Jack. She’s played by Kim Dickens, also known for her work on Deadwood as Joanie Stubbs. Lost casts a lot of Deadwood alumni, and if you’ve never watched it, or you’ve attempted it and been turned away by its thickets of thorny, ornery language, I urge you to give it another shot. But, y’know, after you’re done with the rewatch.

• I’m a fan of Kate attempting to read an article to Sawyer on the ‘10 ways to tell if he’s a sensitive man.’

Great Hurley Line: “Hey, man. You gonna put the lime in the coconut and drink ‘em both up?”

Hurley and Sayid’s interaction in this episode helps to remind us that all is not well in Sayid’s world. Shannon’s death shook him badly, and his emotional state is not dissimilar from where he ends up in Season 5, yet another mirror between the two seasons.

• We find out via Ana Lucia that Jack secured the gun closet combination from Locke for the purpose of outfitting their nascent army. Trust is a tough commodity to come by on the Island these days. Ana Lucia claims that no one wants to join their Other-killing party because everyone is feeling ‘too safe.’ That’s a pretty specious position to take, given how many of the Others have killed castaways, versus how many of the castaways have killed Others.

JACK: Do you remember anything?
SUN: I was working in my garden when Vincent ran up. Then it started raining and there was a bag over my head and I was being dragged.

With ‘The Long Con’ we get further confirmation that Vincent, Canine Harbinger of Doom (C.H.O.D.?), is the Steven Seagal of golden retrievers – marking the castaways for death (or in this case, injury). I’ve been joking about this for a while now, but there’s such a weirdly consistent pattern emerging here that it’s starting to freak me out. Vincent appears to Sun at her garden, and then vanishes into the tall grass. Second later, thunder rumbles, rain begins to pour, and poor Sun gets a bag over the head and a beating. Vincent: Lord Of Evil!

• This episode reinforces a pretty consistent pattern – the threats posed to the castaways typically originate from within. It’s not as though the Others are a bunch of pacifists that just want to be left alone, but the hard truth of the matter is that most of the damage done to the 815ers comes courtesy of one another.

Cassidy: “Those necklaces are junk, Sawyer. A five year old could tell that.”
Sawyer: “They ain’t gonna be looking at the necklaces. They’re gonna be looking at the price tags. It’s all in the details, Dimples.”

Get it? No?

Sawyer: “It’s all in the details. And they’re wrong.”

How about now?

One thing I did enjoy about this episode: how the flashback tells us what’s happening on the Island. We’re watching Sawyer run the same basic con he ran with Cassidy, only Charlie’s his covert partner for this job. Jack and Locke watch each other (the pricetags) when they should be watching Sawyer (the cheap, shoddy, redneck necklace).

• At the diner where Sawyer meets his partner, Gordy, he places his order with Kate’s mother.

• Gordy is played by Kevin Dunn, a solid and seemingly-always-employed character actor. You’ve seen him in such fine fare as ‘Dave’ (best Kevin Kline film ever that’s not ‘A Fish Called Wanda’? Discuss), ‘I Heart Huckabees’ and ‘Chaplin.’ You’ve also seen him in ‘Transformers,’ but no one’s perfect.

• Locke searches for something in the books at the Swan Station, and one of those books is “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge,” by Ambrose Bierce. It’s a terrific story, well worth reading. According to Kurt Vonnegut, if you haven’t read it you’re a ‘twerp’ (and what a wonderful word that is), so check it out. I’m not sure what relevance, if any, the story has as far as Lost goes. If the show turns out to be the deathbed fever dream of Jack I am going to be pissed off. What is Locke looking for?

JACK: John, where are they? You moved the guns. Where are they? We had an agreement.
LOCKE: An agreement that you were about to violate, Jack. [People are gathering, watching the argument.] Yes, I moved the guns.
JACK: Where? Where? Where, John?
LOCKE: Oh, are you going to start handing them out? How many? Who gets them? How much time before there’s an accident? Another accident. I made a mistake teaching Michael how to shoot and now he’s… He could be dead for all I know — and that, that was my fault. I take responsibility for that and so, yes, I’m taking responsibility for the guns, too.

Those are some good questions, Locke. The sort of questions any burgeoning community should be asking themselves. But here’s a question for (non-existent) you: Why are you now ‘taking responsibility’ for teaching Michael to shoot? I thought Michael had his own path to follow? Are you starting to doubt that? How much, really, are you starting to doubt in general?

SAWYER: That’s right, Jack. He’s as stupid as you are. You were so busy worrying about each other you never even saw me coming, did you?

Sawyer’s speech to Jack and Locke is all kinds of great. It gets to the heart of their conflict in a direct and cutting manner, commenting on their overall relationship, and it speaks to this episode’s events directly, setting up a dynamic that promises to be more electric than the general feeling of malaise and discontent that’s been hovering over the beach encampment like so much psychic smog.

Hurley reads the manuscript to ‘Bad Twin’ by Gary Troup, which was later published as an actual novel that I have never read. Season 2 is, in many respects, the ‘Bad Twin’ to Season 1, and many characters on this show are, in one sense or another, a kind of twin to other characters (see: Jack/Locke, Locke/Eko, Jack/Ana Lucia, Ben/Widmore, Jacob/MiB as examples).

Sayid approaches Hurley with the radio that Hurley offered him earlier in the episode, and he seems to have made a little bit of peace with himself, because he shows Hurley that he’s been fiddling with the radio. They pick up a Glenn Miller song on the bandwidth, and have this outstanding, prophetic little exchange:

HURLEY: Whoa, you hear how clear that is? It’s got to be close, right?
SAYID: Radio waves at this frequency bounce off the ionosphere. They can travel thousands of miles. It could be coming from anywhere.
HURLEY: Or, anytime. — Just kidding, dude.

Hurley, you are truly a Wise Fool. It should be noted that the choice of Glenn Miller is interesting, not only for the fact that it establishes the idea of the Island moving through time so early on in the show’s run, but also because Glenn Miller went missing in 1944 while flying to entertain US troops in France. The plane and his body were never found.

• Please tell me that we’ve reached the nadir of Charlie’s Long, Pitch-black Night Of The Soul. I don’t want to see his character acting this way. Dominic Monaghan is extraordinary in his performance, selling every moment of rage and insecurity and shame. The combination is sort of nauseating for me, the kind of viewer that gets emotionally involved with characters that I know aren’t real.

The first time through I thought Charlie’s motivation (to humiliate Locke) was weak sauce. This time through I’m finding that it feels far more organic. Do I like seeing Charlie go to sociopathic places? No. Do I think it’s largely true to his character’s arc (despite the melodramatic touches/feeling)? Yes I do. What do you think?

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