Greetings, Loyal Reader. As you know by now, loyalty was a big theme in this week's episode, and I intend to test yours just like Flocke and Widmore tested Sawyer's. I write to you from vacation this week, from not having had a chance to watch Pop-Up LOST of last week's episode, and from only one viewing of "Recon" before posting this blog (usually I watch an episode twice before writing these recaps). So I'll probably sound a little dumber than usual and be a little more scattered this week. Please forgive. If Smokey's willing to let stabs in the chest go, can you do less?


When first we met new-2004 Side-Verse Sawyer in the season premier, he was one grinning dude. Recommending to Hurley not to flash his cash around… helping Kate escape airport security (so, knowing now that he's a cop, how does this sit with you?). We even wondered if he might not have lived the same tortured past. Alas, he did, and it's what pushed him to police work, where he would be ideally placed to research the whereabouts of the original Sawyer. It doesn't appear as if he ever assumed this man's pseudonym. What I want to know is if he ever wrote his letter. I think I'm leaning towards no, as I'm starting to doubt whether Jacob ever touched any of our Losties (or presented them with a pen and the encouragement to keep writing) in this timeline.


There are, of course, two meanings of the episode's title, "Recon" for us to consider. The first obviously refers to the fake job Flocke gives Sawyer in going to Hydra Island. The second would be more along the lines of "con again," as we look at Sawyer in a rebooted way. Every week now we notice how mirrors and reflections are prevalent, and this time was no different. Sawyer, confronted with his reflection in a police station mirror at a moment of conflict, punches it. Sadly, my biggest thoughts at this time were centered around more random things like, "Can cops just decide not to be each others' partners anymore, like Miles just threatened? Was Liam showing up at the precinct looking for Charlie anything more than an Easter Egg and a way to remind us we'll probably be seeing Charlie at some point in this Side-Verse again?" Let's leave those unimportant questions aside, though, and focus on the Side-Verse Similarities/Differences…


Same: James Ford knows cons; works in a close partnership with Miles; their jobs involve "security;" he makes good use of the word "LaFleur" (gotta admit, though, this whole scene seemed contrived and all-too-Hollywood (making it all the more appropriate that this word shows up on Sawyer's coffee mug later); he is searching for the man who killed his parents; he has the same tortured past; he brings a sunflower to a woman

Different: James Ford is a cop instead of a con man; he knows the name of the man he's looking for is Anthony Cooper; he hooks up with a very-hot Charlotte (who else thought / was hoping it would be Juliet?) in another scene that was all-too-easy and all-too-Hollywood; I didn't notice any direct references to Miles having any dead-communing powers, except that Miles makes a point to remind Sawyer how he can always tell him the truth (because he knows when people are lying, like he did the first time he met Michael on the freighter?).


There wasn't too much else I got out of this timeline other than noting greater (more black-and-white, if you will) extremes of timeline sames-and-differents. Nice to see Charlotte, cool to see Liam, etc. And that's how it felt - all Easter-Eggy. But as far as gleaning answers or understanding the mythology, there wasn't too much else, except perhaps this, which could just be a HUGE clue…


Little House on the Prairie. What was weird for me is when Sawyer sat down to watch TV I didn't question this show being on, as if I was still assuming Sawyer was living in 1977 when he was happy and when this show was in its prime. Except he's not. It's 2004. How is it that James Ford's television is set to a channel where reruns of old shows like this come on? Does it have anything to do with his past? Is he stuck watching the shows that young James liked when his childhood was unfairly and cruelly ended with two gunshots? What's more, good ol' Michael Landon says things that not only comfort Sawyer about perhaps seeing his dead loves ones again someday, they quite possibly serve to tell us that we are going to see our favorite LOST characters some day on the other side (we've long discussed the sub-theme of "sides," too). The words are enough to remind James to get busy living and trying to make things right with Charlotte, but no. Won't work.


Then of course our 2004 story ended with Kate being on the run, and captured by Sawyer, who recognizes her from 815 and the airport. Their paths cross yet again. And we wonder again at why policeman Sawyer would have so nonchalantly helped this woman escape federal Marshals and airport security.


Speaking of Kate, I thought of her most of this past week in relation to something I wrote about Richard last week:


Richard did indeed arrive on the Black Rock. In fact, he hasn't been back to that ship in all the time he's been on the island (must have some bad memories associated with it?). As speculated several postings ago, Richard was once in chains on that ship, and this would appear to be confirmed by the way he walks right up to a set of shackles and has a moment of reflection and recognizance. Of course, you don't usually chain up good and innocent men, so one has to wonder about Richard's past, and wait patiently for the Richard-centric episode we all have been anticipating for so long.


Where I was busy last week comparing how Jack and Richard had switched places, I was ignoring how similarly Richard Alpert and Kate Austen came to the island. Both strike me as good people chained up for perhaps-misunderstood or justified wrongdoings. We know that both were touched by Jacob, but also, that despite this touching neither has - as far as we know - been marked as a candidate. Jacob's touch turned Richard into not a candidate but an unaging advisor. If you continue the parallel, you could argue that this will then be Kate's fate as well. She is quite possibly the next Richard.


That is, considering she survives the assault we all know is coming from Claire. How did you interpret Claire's hand-hold of Kate just as Flocke is explaining how the Black Smoke killed everyone who failed to leave the Temple? I've talked with some who believe this was Claire in a moment of clarity from her madness reaching out to Kate in a childlike protective way. Could be. My take as I watched it, though, was more akin to something like the mafia's kiss of death, as in, the hand-hold of death. This is my last act of affection for you, Kate, before I take you down.


And sure enough, she tries, as Blankface Sayid just looks on, doing nothing. She gets her knife to Kate's throat before Flocke pulls her off and speaks to her about her "inappropriate" actions. Ask my wife, I hate this word "inappropriate." It smacks of someone who isn't your parent acting like your parent. And that's how it sounded to me here as well. Not so much like Flocke sees himself as Claire's daddy (though he probably has some traces of that left from times he assumed the form of Christian), but maybe more that he sees Claire as a child. It could be that the "sickness" has the effect of causing one to break with reality in a way that takes you back to a more childlike state of mind. Consider what we saw in this episode: Claire plays with dolls, holds people's hands, shows intense swings of emotion. Sayid views violence without acting to further or prevent it. Sawyer watches TV programs from his traumatic childhood.


We got a hint from Ben last week that "it's about the kids," and here, sure enough, EVEN THE MAN IN BLACK bares a wounded soul when confiding in Kate about how he had an unnecessarily crazy mother, one who warped his soul, and now Aaron (very key and creepy Aaron reference if you ask me) also has a crazy mother. I assume he was referring to Claire, though I couldn't be 100% sure of that. Allowing myself to think that he might just be talking about Carole Littleton gave me even more creepy vibes, knowing that's who Aaron is currently with. Either way, this brought straight to mind the "prophecy" of not letting Aaron be "raised by another." That damage would seem to have been done. Aaron's now on his third mom, and if he ever makes it back to either or both of his first two mommies, they're probably not going to just be one big happy family. Flocke seems to suggest that he and Aaron already therefore have a kinship. This is really giving me more weird Antichrist feelings every episode. I do hope I'm way off. But back to Flocke pulling Claire off of Kate - my main question in the entire episode was why it was okay for him to wipe out Jacob's bodyguards at the statue and the folks who remained at the Temple (Dogen was dead; sure this is the fact that allowed him to enter, but it's also the reason he could have just walked away. Not like anyone else there was any threat to him any longer), but it's not okay for Claire or anyone else to do any killing. Is it because he knows Kate has been touched by Jacob, so he needs to come up with a reason to give Claire because he knows that's a rule that can't be broken (maybe the same reason he didn't/couldn't kill Richard?). I never bought for a second his whole "kill-or-be-killed, and I don't want to be killed" explanation (how DO you kill him anyway? Stab him with sacred knife before he can speak? Seems like you could live a long time and find ways to prevent that), nor did I find any logic whatsoever to his reasoning of "I gave people a chance to join me, when they didn't, they obviously deserved squishing." He says Sawyer is the best liar he ever saw. I'm going with the takes-one-to-know-one theory on this, Mr. Father of Lies.


I said I hope I'm wrong about any Damien/Omen type theories about Aaron. Not like it hasn't happened before, me being wrong. Just last week I rejoiced over having nailed Dr. Linus's bent toward Napoleon and Machiavelli, so this week I must do the reverse and mention how wrong I was in assuming in multiple past recaps that Jin had joined the Dark Side. And I love that the reason I am wrong boils down to the one factor that is the real and true wildcard in all major stories, the one anomaly that can not be explained in the Matrix, the one weakness that Voldemort can not foresee in the Harry Potter series, and the one inexplicability that atheistic philosophies can not account for: love. Jin's love for Sun gives him purpose beyond joining any side or group that doesn't have as it's main objective the reunification of those who belong together but have been split apart. Good for him.


When Sawyer gets to Hydra Island, we get an answer about what happened to the remaining Ajira 316 survivors who were not: Flashed out to 1977 (Hurley, Jack, Kate, Sayid), part of our group that traveled to the main island (Ben, Sun, Lapidus), part of Jacob's crew of bodyguards (Ilana, Bram, their cronies), already killed (Cesar). I mean, there were others on that plane as well. What happened to them? Well, they were unimportant to the plot, see, and a great inconvenice / plot hole to leave sitting there, so… I know - the Smoke Monster crept over to that island at some point when he wasn't killing people on the main island and squished them all into jelly. Or not. Really, we don't know what happened, since the only story we get on this is from new character Zoe (I understand that this introduction of what was seemingly another tangential character with so little time left frustrated many of you), who turns out to simply be one of Charles Widmore's soldiers. Did Widmore's group perhaps kill the 316 survivors and tell Sawyer a tale that they knew would cause him to think of Smokey?


What side is Widmore on anyway? We can still make a case for any of the following:


Jacob's Side: Jacob told Hurley he was trying to bring someone to the island; Widmore would seem to suggest to Sawyer (without actually saying so, Sawyer just assumes) that he wants to fight it out with Smokey; Widmore had previously told Locke that if Locke did not return to the island, the wrong side would win (well, Locke DIDN'T return to the island); Widmore's crew set up an anti-Smokey Sonic Fence Jr. kit.

Smokey's Side: See that last point about what Widmore told Locke. Perhaps instead, Widmore knew that Locke had to die, and that Locke needed to return to the island DEAD… or the wrong side would win; Widmore has been associated with Abaddon (angel of death); Widmore has shown up with a vehicle of transport, and MIB's primary goal is getting off the island.

His Own Side: I like this one least of all, because I don't like this 3-sidedness, even though I admit I think the story, just like Myst, will come down to a third choice of choosing to believe neither of the warring "brothers," but instead trust to a third possibility that neither of them are any good and they both are lying. I also have an idea that the theology of the show may just be set up to take us into philosophical territory "Beyond Good and Evil" (apologies to Nietzsche) where another choice becomes clear in a rejection of what had previously been considered the only two; the one scene I did catch of the previous week's Pop-Up LOST told us that "Widmore will do anything in his power to possess the island."


We know that Widmore has something under heavy guard, lock-and-key on his sub. What could it be? Another big MacGuffin or Deus Ex Machina, no doubt? Some doomsday device? We've already seen a nuclear warhead and a cargo hold full of C-4 and an island station with more poison gas than I've been experiencing during this Man-Cation in a mansion filled with 14 dudes who have eaten too much steak and bean dip. Please tell me this new WMD is going to be cooler and more original than any of those. Similarly, something has been bugging me about Flocke for a long time that I never could put my finger on until my astute co-worker Kelly Good mentioned it in a Facebook posting yesterday - why does Flocke carry that backpack everywhere? What could he possibly have in it? What does he possibly need? Survival gear? He's a SMOKE MONSTER (something he even comes clear about to Sawyer, though not entirely to the rest of his followers). Oh, and about those followers…


Last week, I pondered the following:


Flocke's group is hanging out on Hydra Island. Why there? Are there still some 316 survivors hanging out over there? I wonder how he is planning to leave the island? Or why leaving the island requires MIB to have followers? Doesn't that seem a little strange? "I'm gathering a group to leave the island," he tells Ben. We can only assume that these followers are somehow a requirement for him to be able to leave, but why? How? What will he do with them once he leaves?


This week we were presented with some more material on which to build theories to answer these questions. We are reminded both directly and indirectly that there are now two mass-transport vehicles over on Hydra - a submarine and an airplane (good luck getting that plane turned around in the sand and fueled up and directed down that jungle runway). Oh, and Sawyer's escape plan? Kate reminds him he can't fly the plane… oh, but he can pilot a sub? Now, I do love the mirroring of how Locke once blew up the sub, but now, the weirdo in his skin is likely going to attempt to steal it to get his way off the island… but I still can't fathom what he's going to do when and if he succeeds. Go into business? Reunite with his family? Come on. At least the reason for needing followers to get off the island is perhaps becoming more clear - that is, he's probably going to have to fight his way off through Team Jacob and Team Widmore. So a few pawns, maybe a rook and a bishop too, will come in handy.


This Flocke character sure drones on and on about protecting people, even little Zach and Emma (lose the Teddy Bear, Zach), and giving people answers, though he really never does much. He gives more truth than we've been accustomed to, but it's often half or three-quarters truth, and it's usually only spoken with an aim to motivate people to certain behaviors, understandings, or tasks. I question his loyalty despite (because of?) his ongoing pledges of it. In a show where we explored loyalty (Jin to Sun, Sawyer and Miles as cop partners, Widmore to the island, Smokey to his followers, Sawyer - as always - to no side but himself and maybe his friends (like Kate, who he might be thinking fondly of again after finding her old delicious sun dress in their Love Cage)), there is also disloyalty, which is usually a punishable offense. But we also must consider what is going on when individuals or groups give off the perception of loyalty to a group, cause, or system of beliefs. Perception of loyalty usually boils down to one thing: Selfishness. Personal motives that actually stand opposed to the best interests of the group to which you are pledging or offering fealty.


The most interesting part of the episode for me was the idea that the MIB has a mother. Ummmm… okay… Well, let's say for a second he does. He has, after all, told us he's a man. A mother assumes a father. It also suggests the possibility of siblings. Is Jacob perhaps his brother? Did they perhaps have different mothers? Are they perhaps less like Jacob & Esau of biblical fame, and more like Jacob's father Isaac and his half-brother Ishmael, whose mother Hagar was cast out by Isaac's mother Sarah? The enmity between these two Sons of Abraham continues to this day in the conflicts between Jews and Muslims. Or is the connection to MIB's mother more mythological? I think back to the time Ben went to be judged in the caverns below the Temple wall, and found the hieroglyphic panel that showed what looked like the Smoke Monster gathering before the Egyptian god Anubis. Does this story go back that far? I wracked my brain and spent maybe 15 minutes looking up references to stories in mythological traditions about a Crazy Mother whose son went on to have never ending strife with a mirror image opposite number (either a brother or twin or some other kind of foil), and couldn't come up with one, but I'm sure it's an archetype to be found somewhere in fiction or mythology, so if you come up with something cool, let me know. I'll continue to ponder the question, and hopefully have more on it next week, when we get the Richard-centric episode we've all waited for.


Until then, the magic word is LaFleur (lit. the Flower).