The Economist (S4, ep. 3)

I love the Bourne movies. So exciting, so naturalistic, so effortlessly entertaining; it’s easy just to get caught up in their brutal, beautiful flow. Clearly the writers of Lost enjoy the Bourne films as well. “The Economist” has the usual pleasures – Island intrigue, vanishing cabins, hostage trading – but it also has some strange, exotic flavors. It’s one part “Lost,” one part Bourne. Even as we watch Locke tramping through the jungle we’re following future-Sayid around snowy Berlin and the sunny Seychelles, watching a man who’s always struggled with the murder in his heart reluctantly embrace the role of executioner. I really dig the way that the show has expanded its sense of place and its interest in genres.


• This is, I think, the third time that we’ve seen Sayid praying on the show.

• Naomi’s bracelet inscription reads “N, I’ll always be with you. – R.C.” The identity of R.C. has never been addressed. If I had to guess, I’d say that ‘R.C.’ was meant to be the ‘Regina’ character on the freighter, who was played by Zoe Bell (of “Deathproof” fame). It always struck me as odd that the show would hire Bell for what essentially amounted to a voice-over role. It’s less odd if you imagine that Regina was meant to be shown as Naomi’s lover/friend, but had her storyline cut to streamline things in the wake of this season’s writers’ strike.

• Whatever the Oceanic settlement was, it must have been considerable. Sayid’s playing on one swanky golf course.

• Mr. Avellino, the man Sayid kills on the golf course, hasn’t made another appearance on the show. He seems unnerved when Sayid tells him that he’s one of the Oceanic Six. Who are these people that Sayid is assassinating? Let’s talk about that.

Elsa: “My employer is an economist. He works in emerging markets.”

• Who are Sayid’s targets? Mr. Avellino, a wealthy Italian. Elsa, the seeming-attaché for a mysterious “Economist.” And what do we know about them? We know that Ben is directing the killings, that Ben is motivating Sayid to kill by invoking the safety of Sayid’s friends. We’ll eventually be told that Ben was eliminating members of Widmore’s organization.

Ben and Widmore have a vendetta going which spans continents and decades, and we know that Widmore sends the freighter to the Island, which results in the death of Ben’s daughter and Ben leaving the Island – something that he says is akin to exile (and yet he manages to make it back to the Island in Season 5, so he may have been lying about that). It makes sense then that Ben would want to avenge his daughter and ‘protect’ the Island (if that’s really what he’s doing) by killing off Widmore’s operatives. Widmore is the most obvious choice to be the mysterious ‘Economist,’ after all. He’s a powerful businessman with connections, and his people would have every reason to be wary of and/or spy on the Oceanic 6. Widmore is most likely ‘The Economist.’

But, given Ben’s penchant for lying, there’s another possibility that I’d love to be true if only to further underline what a merciless bastard he is:

During the second World War, Russian spy networks were regularly compromised by their own government in order to eliminate potential double-agents as well as to ‘purify’ the ranks. This practice was known as “rolling up a network.” It’s possible, though very unlikely, that people like Elsa and Mr. Avellino were Others – that they were working for Ben Linus off-Island. If his goal was to remove any people that could lead Widmore and his people back to the Island post-freighter, Ben could have decided to roll up his own network. We’ve seen his willingness to sacrifice his people for what he perceives as a greater good, and since one definition of an ‘Economist’ is simply “one who manages resources,” Ben could certainly qualify. After all, if Ben is this assassination-happy, why doesn’t he sic Sayid on Widmore himself? We’ve seen and heard it implied that Ben and Widmore can’t kill one another, but is there any reason why a third party couldn’t do the job? Will “the Island” not let them die?

Still, Widmore makes the most sense. It’s the simplest explanation and its what we’ve been told explicitly. I suppose I’d like a little more information on what all of this was supposed to be accomplishing. Maybe I’ve just forgotten the details?

• Back on the Island, Sayid reminds us that Naomi was carrying a picture of Desmond, meaning that she presumably knows who he is. I can’t remember if more is made of this connection. Does Desmond demand to know about Widmore?

Sawyer: “Ready to give us a name, Gizmo?”

• Sawyer’s nicknames: the gifts that keep on giving. Ben’s resemblance to a Mogwi is actually pretty striking (and hilarious). I wonder how the actor feels about being called out on that resemblance. I imagine his Best Supporting Actor Emmy helps to dull any psychic pain.

Every kid will want a bloody Ben Linus doll for Christmas.

Ben: “John’s looking for someone to tell him what to do next.”

• Locke takes his group of castaway defectors to find “Jacob’s” cabin, but finds nothing except for the line of gray ash on the ground where the cabin ought to be. This could be significant or not – it’s difficult to tell. After all, we don’t know whether the cabin has moved around on the Island prior to Locke first visiting it. It’s possible that it’s always moving (and that’s some nifty symmetry between the cabin and the Island if that’s the case – an Island that’s always moving which contains a cabin that’s always moving). After all, Hurley comes across it in two different locations during his spooky night-walk.

If we accept that the line of ash represents some sort of ‘binding circle’ which holds the cabin (and its occupant(s)) in one place, then that circle has apparently been broken in some way. Did Locke break it when he first visited? Has something broken the line since then?

• Locke’s entire attitude is changing. He’s becoming more and more Ben-like.

• The Economist makes Elsa carry a pager because he’s ‘very old-fashioned,’ or so she claims. There are a number of good reasons for The Economist to insist on using a pager, old-fashioned-ness aside. For one, pagers aren’t susceptible to ‘network overload’ in times of emergency or crisis. They are also much more reliable in areas where mobile phone service is small or non-existent. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, pager signals are broadcast either nationally or globally and because of this there is no way for someone to attempt to intercept the signal and track the location of the recipient. Encrypted messages can be more easily sent. In other words, the pager is a perfect communication device if you happen to work in espionage.

Daniel: “This is not good.”

• Daniel’s rocket experiment reveals some information about the Island that’s pretty heavy, as Marty McFly would say. There is a difference of thirty-one minutes between the time that the rocket should have reached the Island (as recorded on a timer attached to the rocket itself, as well as by the freighter’s equipment) and the time that the rocket actually arrived on the Island (as recorded by Daniel’s on-Island instruments). Fascinating stuff, and I wish I had the sort of scientific mind capable of really dissecting it. Instead, I’ll make a half-assed stab at it and ask for your comments.

We know that keeping to a specific directional bearing is important when going from the Island to the freighter or vice versa. We know that if you don’t adhere to those bearings, bad things can happen to your head (more on this when we get there in the show). We also know that when objects pass from the freighter to the Island, there are major distortions in the perception of time. In this case, it took thirty-one minutes more than it ‘should’ have for the rocket to hit the Island. However – and this is important – we’ll see in a future episode that objects can also appear on the Island before they have left the freighter.

All of this suggests that there is some kind of field, bubble, or wall surrounding the Island, and that this bubble distorts time in varying ways. Given the information we’ve received about the Island, its possible to infer that this bubble is composed of/powered by/ electromagnetic energy, and that the Island may be “generating” this field around itself.

Great Hurley Line: “Oh. Awesome. The ship sent us another Sawyer.”

• Behind Ben’s bookshelf, Sayid finds a saferoom containing changes of clothing, different currencies, and international passports – everything an international super-spy could need. The discovery of this room suggests a few possibilities: (1) Ben has been making trips off-Island to conduct some mysterious business – like Widmore, he may have begun setting up a life for himself in the ‘real world.’ If so, he’s guilty of the sin for which Widmore was exiled; (2) Ben has been preparing for a future event – one in which he’ll need new identities and fast untraceable cash. This could be in the event he was ever forced to leave the Island – a ‘retirement plan’ of sorts. It could also be the case that Ben has future knowledge of a time where he’ll be forced to leave the Island. We know that the Others constructed a runway for the Season 5 Ajira flight back in Season 3, so we know that Ben has access to some knowledge of future events. How extensive is that knowledge? Is Ben’s safe-room meant to prepare him for what he knows is coming – his voluntary turning of the wheel and his off-Island murderthon?

• One of the passports is in the name of “Dean Moriarty.” Everyone’s pointed this out. Dean Moriarty was a character in Kerouac’s “On The Road,” and Professor Moriarty was Sherlock Holmes’ greatest adversary.

• Locke’s “trap” makes no sense to me. Why would you tie Hurley up and put him in a closet in the back of a house in order to lure people to a specific place? And why would Hurley go along with it the way he does while voicing the sorts of complaints he was voicing for real earlier in the episode?

• Why does Kate want to get off the Island? On rewatch, I’m thinking that it’s because she’s preparing to face her accusers, shoring up the show’s consistent theme of facing the past and embracing it in order to redefine and free yourself. Of all the Oceanic 6, Kate’s the one who comes closest to being healthy, well-adjusted and happy once she’s off the Island. At least until Ben’s creepy lawyers show up.

• Can anyone make out what’s hanging on Ben’s wall? It looks like a map or even a star chart. I can’t tell, and my googling powers are failing me.

• Elsa’s bracelet is apparently not the same kind worn by Naomi, just similar.

Sayid: “His name is on a list.”

• Sayid has passed through the Looking Glass. He’s now an Other – working for Ben and following lists just as Goodwin and Ethan did in Seasons 1 and 2.

Sayid: “The man you’re working for is not an Economist.”

• The reversal in this scene is fantastic. I genuinely didn’t see it coming. Counting Elsa, that’s three tragic romances in a row for our favorite Iraqi – all of them related to/directly involving the Island. No wonder Sayid ends up wanting to shoot Ben.

• Watching Sayid leave the Island is bitter-sweet. He has work to do, and a long, bloody road ahead. I’m looking forward to seeing Michael again, and to rewatching the effects of the electromagnetic bubble on the crew of the freighter.

Ben: “These people don’t deserve our sympathies.”

A terrific ending. I love that Ben’s apparent cover in Berlin is “Bug-eyed, Creepy Veterinarian.” I’m surprised by just how great I’m finding Season Four to be, so far. It’s a different animal, and the show as a whole feels fresh, new, but still familiar. Onward to Eggtown!


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Missed a column? Catch up here:

Season 4

• Confirmed Dead (S4 ep. 2)
• The Beginning of The End (S4 ep. 1)

Season 3

• Through The Looking Glass (S3 ep. 22 & 23)
• Greatest Hits (S3 ep. 21)
• The Man behind The Curtain (S3 ep. 20)
• The Brig (S3 ep. 19)
• D.O.C. (S3 ep. 18)
• Catch 22 (S3 ep. 17)
• One of Us (S3 ep. 16)
• Left Behind (S3 ep. 15)
• Exposé (S3 ep. 14)
• The Man from Tallahasse (S3 ep. 13)
• Par Avion (S3 ep. 12)
• Enter 77 (S3 ep. 11)
• Tricia Tanaka is Dead (S3 ep. 10)
• Stranger in a Strange Land (S3 ep. 09)
• Flashes before your Eyes (S3 ep. 08)
• Not In Portland (S3 ep. 07)
• I Do (S3 ep. 06)
• The Cost of Living (S3 ep. 05)
• Every Man for himself (S3 ep. 04)
• Further Instructions (S3 ep. 03)
• The Glass Ballerina (S3 ep. 02)
• Season 3 Premiere

Season 2

Season 2 finale
• Three Minutes (S2 ep. 22)
• ? (S2 ep. 21)
• Two for The Road (S2 ep. 20)
• S.O.S. (S2 ep. 19)
• Dave (S2 ep. 18)
• Lockdown (S2 ep. 17)
• The Whole Truth (S2 ep. 16)
• Maternity Leave (S2 ep. 15)
One of Them (S2 ep. 14)
The Long Con (S2 ep. 13)
Fire + Water (S2 ep. 12)
The Hunting Party (S2 ep 11)
The 23rd Psalm (S2, ep. 10)
What Kate Did (S2, ep. 9)
Collision (S2, ep. 8)
The Other 48 Days (S2, ep. 7)