"Some people are just suppose to suffer. That's why the Red Sox will never win the damn series."-Christian Shephard-
LOST, Season One, Episode 16, Outlaws zeroes in on the outlaw life of one rough-edged rascal named James "Sawyer" Ford. With his scowl traipsing about the island and his humorous battle with a nearby boar, it all seems personal, which makes sense because a lot of what motivates Sawyer is personal. He's so damaged he takes everything that way.
Sawyer is the loveable rogue with a swagger and yet despite his bad boy reputation there is something infinitely likeable about the handsome bloke.
The question Outlaws begs is whether or not Sawyer truly is one? Is he the killing kind? By all accounts, despite a seemingly impenetrable, walled-up personality, there's a sense that there is a likeable lad in there or as suggested earlier in Confidence Man and here, a young boy hiding inside of a lot of pain. It's all part of Sawyer's mask and general defense. Outlaws serves up Sawyer's second fully featured back story since Confidence Man here.
Highlight: Once again, the humor of Sawyer's many quips and his outrageously personal confrontation with the island boar lifts the episode in spots from an otherwise dark set of events.
And while on the hunt Sawyer is joined by Kate where the two play an entertaining game of I NEVER around a campfire. The scene really underscores how damaged Sawyer is and how much of his behavior is about defense mechanisms and masking pain and suffering. It's even clear there is a part of Sawyer that he himself is none too enthused about.
This is further highlighted by an unexpectedly powerful, soul-searching encounter in Sawyer's flash back story with Jack's father Christian Shephard while the two sit at a bar in Australia. It's another gem of character dialogue that illustrates why LOST was head and shoulders above the rest of the competition.
The episode sinks even deeper and darker as Sawyer continues to compound his suffering at gun point in what is a truly sad and disturbing scene that speaks to Sawyer's ignorance and how pain and suffering can blind us all to the truth. Sawyer is hardly an outlaw.
But it's the end of Outlaws that pulls it all together making it yet another LOST gem filled with character moments and complicated subtext.
We celebrate in Sawyer's decision regarding the boar at the end of the hunt. He even hands back his gun to Jack, self-appointed keeper of handguns. We think Sawyer is coming around. He's less of a rascal than he puts on. He seems to be interested in shedding the perception he's some kind of outlaw.
But in the final moment Jack references the Boston Red Sox and the very quote that his father mentioned over a beer to Sawyer prior to the plane crash. Christian Shephard shared some liberating, forgiving and loving feelings regarding Jack with Sawyer, a complete stranger.
We always think our secrets are safe with strangers. But here two men are brought together by fate.
These revelations are precisely why Jack remains haunted by his father as glimpsed in Episode 4, Walkabout (here) and covered more extensively in Episode 5, White Rabbit (here). This haunting of Jack's mind runs directly contrary to the idea of the Tabula Rasa or that as Jack suggested to Kate in Episode 3 of the same name (here) they could all just start anew. Our pasts, like it or not, continue to haunt us and the island appears to channel that energy with an almost supernatural dimension.
Jack needed to move on from his father in White Rabbit. He was desperate to do so. With the plane crash and his father's body missing and the ghost of his father haunting him Jack simply cannot let go of the man. Yet here is this opportunity to help Jack let go presented to Sawyer. All of it in Sawyer's hands.
Sawyer puts that connection together. Here's Sawyer's chance to make a connection with Jack, bridge the distance between them when Jack asks Sawyer why he would ask him about his father.
What is Sawyer's response? Sawyer opts not to share the things he knows about Jack's dad's feelings and walks away. Once again, Sawyer, like all of the castaways, underscores the complexity of his true nature as a man, a man, the summation of his experience, as philosopher John Locke would remind us. Sawyer like the others is never one note and again the writing here in Outlaws reminds us why LOST was so damn smart and intelligent as character television. The more we try to figure out Sawyer, like the more we try to figure out LOST, the less it sometimes seems we know. Yet Sawyer's inclination to guard himself and withhold and guard information and recoil back to a place of self-preservation are entirely within character. Yet there is progress in Sawyer's growth here in the outstanding Outlaws. Sawyer though is entirely sympathetic, and like many others from Oceanic Flight 815, sometimes, seems fittingly lost.
Notable Guest: Robert Patrick (The X-Files, Terminator 2: Judgment Day).
Writer: Drew Goddard (The Martian, The Cabin In The Woods).
Director: Jack Bender.
Footnote: As a Boston Red Sox fan it's worth noting Jack's father mentions to Sawyer that some people are meant to suffer like fans of the Red Sox who would never win the World Series ("that's why the Red Sox will never win the damn series"). The Red Sox did win the world series in 2004, four months before this episode aired. The Red Sox reference would later be revisited in Season Three.