How One Lost Episode Solidified Sawyer as TV’s Greatest Antihero
Sawyer was a controversial figure from the very start, but he reached shocking lows in Season 2.
TV history is full of great antiheroes. Tony Soprano. Walter White. Don Draper. Larry David. But perhaps the greatest antihero in television comes from one of the most divisive shows of all time. We’re talking, of course, about Lost. And the character in question is none other than James “Sawyer” Ford.
Played Josh Holloway, Sawyer was a controversial figure from the very start. While most of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 tried to work together to survive, Sawyer hoarded food and medicine. In other words, he was a jerk. But in Lost Season 2 Episode 13, “The Long Con,” he became a villain.
Released on February 8, 2006, “The Long Con” is the show’s third Sawyer episode and the only one in Season 2. Its flashback scenes tell a pretty standard, if complex, story. We watch as Sawyer “fails” to con a woman, then pretends to fall in love with her, only to finally steal her money after all. It’s the classic Sawyer fans already knew and loved (and hated). However, it’s the story that plays out on the island that redefines the character.
After returning from his ill-fated adventures on the raft, Sawyer is disappointed to learn that everyone has raided his stash. He decides to get even by taking control of the group’s coveted weapons supply and finds an unlikely ally in Charlie, who’s been ostracized after being outed as an addict.
Like the long con that gives this episode his name, Sawyer’s scheme is complex and hard to follow. It involves playing Jack and Locke against each other while using Charlie to cause panic on the island. In a particularly dark moment, Charlie fakes a failed kidnapping of Sun to exacerbate fears of the Others.
When Jack makes a move to get the guns in response, Locke decides to preemptively move them. Sawyer sends Charlie to follow Locke and then proceeds to steal the guns for himself. At the end of the episode, Sawyer proclaims himself the new sheriff, but stops short of outing Charlie or revealing how he pulled off his deception.
“The Long Con” represents a thematic low point for Sawyer, and it would take several seasons for the character to evolve from villain to antihero to regular old hero. It wasn’t until he was kidnapped by the actual Others and thrown in a cage that we really started to sympathize with Sawyer. And it wasn’t until he traveled back in time and became “LaFleur” that we saw the man James Ford could actually be in the right circumstances.
Like so many facets of Lost, Sawyer breaks the mold. He’s not just an antihero. He’s so much more. And this one episode was a dark, first step in setting the character on that unexpected journey to the light.