Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

January 31, 2012

Back to the Island 2.13 – The Long Con

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 12:25 am

I was planning to post something unrelated to Lost, but the blog entry I was working on has run a bit long. Tomorrow, perhaps. In the meantime, here’s one of the highlight episodes of the second season.

Back to the Island 2.13 – The Long Con

“A tiger doesn’t change his stripes, James. You’re a con man, just like me. And it’s not what you do. It’s what you are.” – Gordy

Summary: Sun is attacked in the jungle. At first it looks like the Others have broken the truce but suspicion spreads that it’s an inside job. It is. Sawyer steals all the guns.

The Best Bit: An episode where it’s better by far not to know the title before viewing, the Island and flashback sequences both concern a confidence trick orchestrated by Sawyer. The mechanics of each are elegant, relying on the victims’ nature – fearful, greedy, bored, paranoid – to steer them just where con artist Sawyer wants them to go. Both paint a fascinating picture of the chameleonic Sawyer before arriving at the same conclusion – that he is ruthlessly amoral and will manipulate anyone to achieve his goals. That’s certainly what he wants everyone on the Island to think.

The Worst Bit: Ugh. Charlie is Sawyer’s unseen accomplice, attacking Sun and following Locke to the gun stash. Part of his motivation – revenge on Locke for not believing him about the drugs and punching the crap out of him – is reasonable and, frankly, warranted. But I have a hard time swallowing the idea that he would agree to commit aggravated assault on a completely innocent woman (outside a desperate heroin-withdrawal scenario, which is unlikely given our understanding from ‘Fire + Water’ that he is still clean). It’s another step in his moral degeneration that seems unearned and feels unconvincing. His oddly resolute cowardice – “Sun can never know what I did to her” – hits the right note, but I can’t buy the leap it took to get there in the first place.

The Mythology: Not much here – the Other-attack is a fake. But Kate’s mother Diane makes a flashback appearance as a waitress in the diner where Sawyer meets his partner Gordy. Oh, and at the end Hurley makes a joke about picking up radio signals from another time. It seems slightly gratuitous in context – even allowing for the fact that it’s geek-savant Hurley making the joke – but in retrospect it’s blatant.

The Literature: Locke is alphabetising the Swan Station library shelves, including a copy of  An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. It’s about a Civil War gentleman who is tricked by a Union spy into sabotaging a bridge controlled by the Confederates, whom he supports. The Confederates hang him from the bridge. He frees himself and escapes back to his family, but – spoiler alert for a 120 year old twist ending – it all happens in his imagination in the instant before his neck breaks in the noose. Presumably it is the motif of the malicious trickster fooling an enemy into betraying his own interests which is relevant here, rather than the earliest known example of what is now properly regarded as the most stupid cheating twist imaginable.

Hurley is seen reading a manuscript called Bad Twin, but seeing as that’s a reference to a Lost promotional tie-in novel, I won’t count it here. I might, if I’d read it but I haven’t. I daresay it’s out of print now.

The Episode: I’ve watched ‘The Long Con’ at least a few times before I came to review it. This is the first time I can remember enjoying it without the feeling that the Charlie revelation ruined it for me. I’m still faintly appalled about the direction his character is taking at this point – or rather, the clumsy, half-arsed bet-each-way depiction of it. I’m all for good characters turning bad through cruel misunderstandings and poor choices, but Charlie’s fall from grace continues to irk me. Frankly I think it would have made more sense for Sun herself to have been the accomplice, but maybe I’m just over-invested in Charlie. Oh well, can’t have the redemption without the fall, so I guess we’ll have to endure a bit more of this yet.

My irritation with the Charlie thing (I’m still banging on about that, am I?) obviously blinded me to the virtues of the rest of the episode. I had expected not to enjoy it, Sawyer being the most over-exposed member of the cast after Jack and Kate. But where their episodes this season sought to smooth out the kinks in the audience’s relationship with them, ‘The Long Con’ manages to turn Sawyer into an even more complex and intriguing character. We already know that the sarcastic bastardry is mostly an act to mask deep sadness and directionless rage. The willingness to sacrifice his relationships in order to achieve his ends adds to the Sawyer mystery rather than reducing it. If not for its flawed participation in the character assassination of Charlie, ‘The Long Con’ would be another perfect 10 – but let’s call it a hard-hearted, cold-blooded nine.


  1. I would give it a “6” or a “7”. There were some aspects of Sawyer’s con that I found improbable. There was nothing mysterious about Sawyer’s behavior in this episode. He behaved in his usual, childish way; whenever he is angry at someone and wants revenge. And there were no real consequences – plot wise – from Sawyer’s con in future episodes.

    Comment by Rosie — February 24, 2012 @ 9:35 am

  2. Hi Rosie – welcome back. I disagree at least about the part about Sawyer’s motives. To me it’s pretty clear that while he is indulging his petty streak (which I will grant is a long one) his ultimate purpose is to take the heat out of Jack’s plans to train an army. Sawyer’s instinct is to slide through with as little friction as possible and to never be put in a position where he might have to choose a side or stand up for something (as later happens to him, with predictably awful consequences). He doesn’t steal the guns because he wants control. He steals them because he had a pathological aversion to being controlled.

    It is true that nothing much ever comes of it though. Although this conversation does remind me that I planned to carefully track where the gun that features in the final episode of season two came from. I’ll keep that in mind.

    Comment by lexifab — February 24, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

  3. Why would Sawyer go through so much trouble to “take the heat out of Jack’s plans to train an army”? I saw nothing in Sawyer’s personality back in mid-Season 2 that he would go through so much trouble for such a goal.

    He steals them because he had a pathological aversion to being controlled.

    He stole the guns because Jack pissed him off. I’m sorry, but I can’t agree with your assessment of Sawyer’s personality in this episode.

    Comment by Rosie — April 14, 2012 @ 9:43 am

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