Boone going through Sawyer’s stash. Next thing you know, Boone’s bleeding, being helped back to camp. “What happened?” Boone: “Sawyer.” Sawyer, the only one who has seemed to horde property, the only one who has claimed property that isn’t personally useful, is now using violence to protect his plunder. A familiar story to any civilized culture: claiming possession of things that either already had a claim or were in a commons, then using force to keep it. This perpetuates the confusion between assets and income that allows unsustainable practices like economic growth to be pursued as a matter of ideology.
Sawyer’s letter seems to reveal that he seduced and conned a woman and that she and her husband were then killed as a result. And someone wants Sawyer dead. The price of deception is death and loss — and for those who experience that death and loss and don’t know another way to cope, they will want to perpetrate more of the same on those who caused it for them. A vicious cycle. But the vicious cycle is even more vicious, as we will learn, because of a further deception Sawyer is carrying out around this letter.
Shannon’s asthma acting up. The initial response, supported by doctor Jack: drugs, the medical solution, the pharmaaceutical fix.
Sawyer keeps flashing back to the con, in which he pretends to have things he didn’t really have — the seed money, the opportunity to make more money. He uses them — the illusion of them — so that others will give him something. A direct parallel to the asthma inhalers which, we will learn, Sawyer doesn’t actually have. Yet another deception we will only learn about later.
Shannon’s asthma is attacking. Boone insists she needs the inhaler, but Jack insists it’s anxiety for the most part. She breathes in through the nose as he instructs. It works. Hurley thinks it was like a Jedi moment. Was it an “old Jedi mind trick”? If so, then the Jedi aren’t as magical and special as they seemed, because this kind of mind trick is available to anyone. What’s most amazing is that something available to everyone should be used so seldom that it seems amazing.
Sayid says he will get the medicine from Sawyer. Torture. Sawyer is the enemy, the other, less than human, otherwise Sayid couldn’t do it.
Sawyer lets the torture go on, lets them go on thinking that he has the asthma medicine. Jack: “It doesn’t have to be this way.” Sawyer: “Yeah, it does.” After the torture is heightened and Sawyer reveals nothing, Jack wonders about him, “What the hell is wrong with you?” Sawyer only gives in when Sayid threatens to cut out his eye, but he will only tell Kate — why?
Flashback begins with someone asking him, “Do you want to die?” We learn the seed money wasn’t his in the first place, it was just fronted for the con. Sawyer is threatened with torture. Has Sawyer been tortured before? Reached his limits with torture before?
As a condition of telling where the inhalers are, Sawyer insists on a kiss from Kate, just as he’d asked for earlier. “You’re just not seeing the big picture here, Freckles,” he says, wondering if she’d let the girl suffocate because she won’t give him a kiss. She does it, and he immediately lets her know that he doesn’t have the inhalers, that the reason they’d all suspected him, the book — that had been packed with the medicine but that he was now reading — had simply washed up on shore. Why would he put himself through the torture when he didn’t have what they were after? Perhaps the kiss was the goal of the con — a moment of love and connection, even if false and superficial. More likely, it is power itself. He hordes goods, holds sway over those who want things from him. Others show leadership, but Sawyer is an alpha male, and he is doing his best to create an alternate power structure, one in which he can be top dog. If he is willing to endure torture to “withhold” goods he doesn’t even have, what will he be willing to do in the service of his actual possessions? On one hand, this is the true madness of hierarchy. On the other hand, it is, sadly, extremely effective in convincing others to bow to its power.
Sayid loses his temper when he finds out that Sawyer was lying. He believes it’s been lies all along and that Sawyer doesn’t want off the island. Sayid believes Sawyer must have broken the transceiver. They fight and he stabs Sawyer. Is this conflict, is this wound, justified, or is it the result of yet more assumptions and people letting their emotions get the better of them when they’d be better off keeping themselves in check?
Michael brings eucalyptus to Sun as she asked, Jin is up in arms about it, but nothing comes of it. Sun’s power in the relationship is increasing here on the island, where they are immune from so many cultural conventions that previously impacted them. Sun goes to Shannon with the plant.
Jack is holding Sawyer’s wound, keeping pressure on to keep him from bleeding to death. Sawyer says to Jack, “Let go, I know you want to…. If the tables were turned, I’d watch you die.” Does Sawyer actually have a death wish? Does he really want to die?
Flashback to the couple Sawyer was conning. He sees their kid, and we think now more than ever that this is the couple that will die as a result of the con, that this is the kid who writes the letter threatening to kill Sawyer. But he calls off the deal when he sees the kid. Our assumptions were wrong. We’ve been conned by Sawyer — and the writers — into thinking we understood the letter. The man we now know as Sawyer was once a kid, likely no more threatening than the kid we just saw — he has only become who he is now through profound trauma.
On the island, Sawyer wakes up, arm wound treated. Kate says he’s lucky to be alive — possibly little solace to someone who may have a death wish. While he slept, Kate examined the letter, wondering why he’d beat up Boone instead of just saying that he didn’t have the medication — does he simply want to be hated by everyone? Closer inspection tells her the letter is old — he was the kid, the letter written by him to someone whose con led to the death of his own parents. His name isn’t Sawyer. Sawyer was the con man, but then, as Sawyer says, “How’s that for tragedy? I became the man I was hunting. I became Sawyer.” In some sense, it was his only option — his only role model for survival given that his parents died, a role model that forces him to hurt others so that he can live. He wants nothing more now than to hurt the one who hurt him, so see the real Sawyer pay for what he did, to force the real Sawyer to feel the regret he seemed to lack. Perhaps this is why Sawyer wanted Jack to let go of the wound, so that he could know there’d be at least one person having to live with the conscious knowledge of having hurt him.
Sun applied the eucalyptus on Shannon’s chest. Jack realizes what it is and laughs. “Smart, Jack.” He seems embarrassed not to have thought to look for it himself in the island jungle. He thanks Sun, and all seems well. She has used her knowledge and talent, contributed to the group in ways nobody realized she could have, and all while making use of what was on hand, no lamenting what was “missing,” what they were unable to access from off-island.
Sayid decides he can’t stay. “I’ve worse things to fear than what’s in the jungle. What I did today, what I almost did, I swore to do never again. If I can’t keep that promise, I’ve no right to be here.” Sawyer seems successful at continuing to cut off parts of himself from conscious experience — the part that is deeply hurt by his parents’ death, a part which he perhaps feels would consume him if its feelings were permitted expression. Likewise, the parts of him that must regret the impact he’s had on all his marks, the subjects of his cons. Sayid had to squash himself in similar ways throughout the course of his previous torture work, but he obviously wasn’t successful at keeping it up. The shame and regret were powerful enough that he allowed them to be conscious and decided not to torture again. Would Sayid be leaving if the torture of Sawyer had “worked out?” Unknown. But Sawyer’s deception is a blessing in disguise for Sayid. When Sayid realizes the torture was for nothing, that it was only carried out because of Sawyer’s insanity, Sayid seems to recognize that insanity breeds more of the same. Sawyer may still want to live like that, but Sayid does not. Sayid, who knows his most profound fears are inside as opposed to out in the jungle, who wants to stop participating in vicious cycles, goes off to his own walkabout.
Sawyer almost lights the letter on fire with his lighter. But he doesn’t. He can’t shake his past. He’s still attached to it. He’s going to remain so for quite some time.