Lost: Confidence Man   Rewatch 
April 6, 2023 8:49 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Sawyer runs a con.

S1E8: Confidence Man (Lostpedia | transcript): air date 10th November 2004 • writer Damon Lindelof • director Tucker Gates • days 9-10 on the island • Sawyer flashbacks

Hell of a book; it’s about bunnies • you weren’t exactly supposed to see that • when we get rescued, right • Shannon’s inhalers • commie share-fest in cave-town • triple your money • nobody’s that disgusting • I know who you are and I know what you done • it’s about time, cowboy • the only Australian who loves peanut butter • just give me ten minutes with him • fat guy hoarding the food, is that what you think? • unfortunately for us both, you’re wrong • women are easy; husbands need to touch the money • baby, I am tied to a tree in a jungle of mystery • don’t, man; I’m telling you don’t • deal’s off • you want to be hated • your name’s not Sawyer, is it? • Sun’s eucalyptus • Charlie’s peanut butter * Sayid’s leaving • worse things to fear than what’s in the jungle * non-Hurley music montage

Therese Odell, Houston Chronicle: Sawyer takes the money and runs. Sometimes.
[covers this episode, but spoilers for future events throughout]
Sawyer’s con, the Romance Scam, preys on the absolute worst in people; both their willingness to deceive and cheat their spouses, and their greed. However, the con also depends on a good human quality: people’s ability to trust. Sawyer builds their trust in him through his charm and sexuality. And whatever apprehensions they may have about the deal, despite his charm, Sawyer knows will be overcome by their greed. It’s an interesting reversal: Sawyer makes people believe the best in him all the while believing in the worst in his victims.

On the island, Sawyer reverses this. He constantly tries to make people believe the worst in him, he strives to make people dislike him and not trust him. When Kate challenges this version of Sawyer, when she suggests that even Sawyer has enough humanity in him to not be withholding medication from someone for a stupid kiss, Sawyer presents her with the letter to try to convince Kate that he is a bad man. That he is Sawyer. He’s trying to con her, and play on her distrust. But just as the con in the flashback failed, Sawyer’s con on Kate fails, because she never believes his lie.
Robin Pierson, The TV Critic.org: Lost Episode 8 - Confidence Man
It makes Sawyer that much more interesting when we learn that he is guilty of the crimes he has spent his whole life trying to avenge. It helps us see his aggressive behavior as a desire not to be liked. After all, if he has become the man he hates, then he deserves to be hated. If he gets Kate’s sympathy and pity, then the real Sawyer might deserve those feelings too. And that is something Sawyer can’t accept. At the end of the episode he refuses to burn the letter, in his heart he is still determined to find the man who is responsible for his parent’s demise.

It’s a great story, complex and clever, but it wouldn’t have worked without the right actor. Sawyer gives the best performance of the season so far here, commanding the stage every time he is on screen. He looks very much the part of a confidence man and there is an intensity to his performance that he never lets up on.
Myles McNutt, AV Club: Lost (Classic): “The Moth”/“Confidence Man”
Sayid knocks Sawyer out, ties him to a tree, and then uses bamboo under his fingernails to torture information out of him. It’s an intense scene to watch, and a meaningful one for Sayid as a character: after it’s done, he realizes that he’s become the very thing he didn’t want to be. It mirrors the tragedy of Sawyer’s path in life, in which he swore he would one day face down the confidence man who ruined his family and then discovered one day all he had to do was stare in the mirror at the man he had himself become. In Sayid’s case, he had tried to put his past behind him, but the stresses of starting a new community and the uncertainty surrounding their future led him to fall back on who he was before, sending him off on his own into the jungle to try to better learn about the island and himself.
Rewatch companion: THE STORM: A Lost Rewatch Podcast - S1, E8: "Confidence Man" with Kristin Russo
Neil Miller: “Third flashback, you’re, like, completely, ‘Sawyer's the most evil person on the show’, because at that point, he’s being tied up and tortured and he still isn’t doing anything. And then it isn’t until he tells Jack that he would let him bleed out and die, which is basically towards the end of the episode, that we get to see the conclusion of the flashback sequence where he leaves the money with the kid. All of which I think is: that’s a good flashback story, and it’s interwoven to make a good hour of television. But if you put those two stories together, it feels like the monologue about the note with the child and the flashback conclusion happened too close together to have enough time to breathe.

So, like, by the time that I'm trying to be, like, ‘I wonder why you gave up for the kid’: I don't think my mind jumped ahead like Kate’s did to ‘he’s the kid in the letter’. By the time I have that, I don’t have enough time to process it. It's not like a ‘don't tell me what I can’t do’ Locke reveal where I'm making the connection in my mind. Instead, Sawyer literally tells me what his hurt is. And then, like, yells at Kate to not feel sorry for him, which is such on the nose writing for an episode that was building to a climax that maybe didn't need him to explain all of the note. That monologue jumps out at me for being like, you could have given Josh Holloway less to work with than a huge monologue. And they didn’t.”

Joanna Robinson: “I think they underestimate him, and I think that, uh, they’ll figure that out eventually. With him — quickly, I think, with him — and some other actors, they'll be like, oh, we can give them barely anything and they could just sell it with a look. You know what I mean? And that’s like, Josh Holloway is an actor who is so perfectly suited to the role of Sawyer. He’s so perfect for this role that A, he’s had a hard time finding like a great role after. And B, it just becomes this seamless marriage of actor and role. You just have to barely give him anything at all and he could just make a whole meal out of it.”

Dave Gonzalez: “This episode is one of the first ones — I mean, all of them sort of just twist the dial a little bit to change our perception. Like, I feel like our perception of Sawyer is more of a slow roll. And this, I don't know if I necessarily think that they mean to make you like Sawyer by the end of the episode. You’re just, you have more questions. Like, I walk away from this episode with more questions about: what’s Sawyer's whole deal? How did he get away from the now very dangerous debt that he appears to have created by walking out on that deal? How does he end up on the plane? Stuff like that. I think that this episode doesn't make Sawyer likable so much as it just makes him more interesting. Which this character needed, otherwise he was just going to be the douchebag.”

“You can play games all you want, but I know there's a human being in there somewhere.”

posted by We had a deal, Kyle (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Currently streaming in the US on Hulu (subscription) and Freevee (free with ads); in the UK on Disney+; and available for purchase just about everywhere. Next episode will post Saturday.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:49 AM on April 6, 2023

I feel like this is the one where it clicks into place: oh, they're all broken in some way that the flashbacks elucidate.

Also, the first flashbacks that don't end immediately previous to the flight + crash; very much setting an expectation that they will revisit Sawyer's story in subsequent flashback episodes. (This is also implicit in the previous Kate flashbacks which deliberately don't answer the "what did Kate do?" question, and of the Jack flashbacks which dangle the "after what you did" implication that Jack was entangled in his father's decline; but the Sawyer flashbacks make the "more to come" explicit.)

Clunky moment: there's no particular reason for Sun to send Michael out to look for eucalyptus -- which he may not have been able to identify, especially in translation -- rather than to go herself, no? other than to set up tension between Michael and Jin.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:38 AM on April 13, 2023

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