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Lost Recap: The Convoluted Con

Cripes, another solid episode. What if, like Crazy Claire, I need something to hate? I guess there's always The Marriage Ref.

I particularly loved that for once there was no knock-you-on-the-head sentimental resolution to this flash sideways. Sure, Cop Sawyer learned to open up, with the help of Michael Landon (best intra-media moment ever), but it wasn't overwhelming, and mainly, we just got pure-grade Sawyer, using his con man wiles for good instead of evil and brushing up against a whole series of odd changes in the timeline. I still have no idea what the timeline is, but I didn't mind so much.

Meanwhile, on the island, Terry O'Quinn is absolutely killing it in this new character β€” neglected inner smoke child, master puppeteer, evil group therapist! Tina Fey is working for Widmore. And Sawyer's plan actually makes sense. Unless he's conning Kate, too, and hey, I'm onboard for that.

The recap ...

Sawyer brews tea for a panicky Jin, who is unnerved that Sawyer's on Team Locke. They make a deal: If Sun shows up, Sawyer won't leave without her. Then the Lockies drift into camp, dazed and confused, except for Kate, who makes a beeline for Sawyer.

Cue the lustful fantasies of Skate fans everywhere! In the alterna-timeline, naked Kate calls Sawyer Jimmy, says he's unbelievable — but it's not Kate, just someone who stole her hair. Sawyer drops a suitcase of cash, con-man style. His mark doesn't fall for it: She pulls a gun, calls him Dimples, and reveals that she's married to a con man and knows a "pigeon drop" when she sees one. "How stupid do you think I am?" "Pretty damn stupid, lady." This is a police setup, he explains. She calls his bluff and he says the code word: LeFleur.

Whoa, Sawyer IS a cop, complete with buddy-movie partner — Miles. "Surprise," Sawyer tells her, dangling a badge over his magnificent mile-wide chest. Can cops really sleep with their targets? I predict epic application levels for the LAPD this year.

LOST LOGO, I HAVE HIGH HOPES!

Claire packs a crazy kit, then gives her squirrel baby a nuzzle. "What is that?" asks Kate. "It's all I had," growls Claire. Locke delivers a motivational lecture, admitting to his followers that the black smoke killed everyone, leaving out the fact that he is the black smoke. Then he comforts the children — "You're with me now and I promise I'm going to take care of you" — while terrifying me.

Kate and Sawyer consult. Is he with Smocke? He claims he's not with anyone.

In the Sawyersky and Hutch timeline, Sawyer cold-calls an "Anthony Cooper" and lies to his partner. Who is setting him up on a date. Does Sawyer want to die alone?

On the island, as Locke herds his minions to a new camp, Sawyer gets shirty. Smocke takes him to the beach to confide that (a) he's the Smoke Monster and (b) he had to kill those people. "It's either kill or be killed. And I don't want to be killed."

He deputizes Sawyer to boat out to Hydra Island and do "recon." Smocke's not concerned about Sawyer's safety, since he's such a kick-ass liar. "Why am I doing this again?" Sawyer asks. To get off the island, says Smocke — clearly a con man, so why should Sawyer believe him? He either does or doesn't, furrowing his brow.

A Glad ad runs, featuring the little boy John Lithgow tried to bury in cement on Dexter last season. I'm irrationally relieved to see him looking well.

Cop Sawyer seeks his blind date, archaeologist Charlotte, who looks fetch. They banter: Yes, she's exactly like Indiana Jones. "You got a whip?" "Maybe." Dirty giggle. "Why'd you become a cop?" He name-drops Bullitt, then admits he got to a point in his life where he would either be a criminal or a cop. He chose cop.

There's seriously hot eye contact and he asks, "What?" and she says, "You know what" and lord, this is the best date ever, as it leads right back to Sawyer's exposed chest. Charlotte asks to borrow a T-shirt and while riffling through the drawers (and finding Watership Down), she locates a family photo — and a binder of news clippings, showing James's tragic history. Furious, he kicks her out. Dude, find a better hiding place.

On the island, Sawyer gazes at the Cages of Skate Sex. He clutches some flowered fabric — Kate's dress. Anti-Kate types and the Ghost of Juliet groan in fury.

Meanwhile, Kate attempts to bond with Sayid, now a depressive zombie. An unhelpful one, too, when Claire attacks Kate with a knife. Smocke pulls her off, explaining Kate did what she had to do, but Claire is flipping out, so Smocke slugs her. "This is completely inappropriate," he sniffs, an Evil Emily Post. It's so hard to find good minions.

Sawyer arrives at the Ajira plane, only to gag: There's a pile of corpses. Footsteps! Pursuit — a nerdly brunette with glasses. "I'm the only one left," gasps Tina Fey with cleavage.

In the police station, Sawyer passes Liam, searching for Charlie. Then Miles slams him into a locker. Why did he lie about his trip to Australia? "It's none of your damn business," huffs Sawyer. Miles quits. Sawyer punches a mirror.

Back on the island, Tina Fey introduces herself as Zoe. She dragged the bodies out of the sun, she says, all frizzy and helpless. Sawyer says he'll take her back to the island.

Kate weeps. Locke apologizes for having misled Claire into believing the Others had her baby. "Claire was devastated without Aaron. She needed something to keep her going, so I gave her something to hate." Never hire Evil as a therapist. "Very insightful, coming from a dead man." "Well, nobody's perfect." He promises he'll keep Kate safe and offers to lead her to Sawyer, then gives another shivery flash of a smile.

Zoe Fey peppers Sawyer with questions: Any guns, where's the pilot? He's suspicious, and asks a few back. Then pulls a gun. "You're good, but not that good." She whistles. A gang of soldiers appears. Sawyer drops his weapon. "Is your name even Zoe?" "Is yours Sawyer?" "All right, you got me," he deadpans. "Take me to your leader."

As with Sawyer, Smocke leads Kate to the beach. "I know what you're feeling, Kate. I know what you're going through." He knows because his mom was crazy, just like Locke's. A long time ago, he says, he had a mother, she was very disturbed, and as a result, he had some ... growing pains. He's still trying to work it out.

Anyway, his point: Now Aaron has a crazy mother, too.

Zoe's minions march Sawyer to the sub. "Get in, he's waiting for you," says Tina.

In "Hill Street Sawyer," Sawyer grabs a beer and pizza a microwave dinner, then settle in for Little House on the Prairie, a great callback to season one. Inspired by a beautiful Michael Landon speech about not giving in to fear, "laughin' and lovin' each other and knowing that people aren't really gone when they die," he brings a sunflower to Charlotte's door.

Refreshingly, she isn't impressed. "I don't know if you're lonely or guilty or completely mad," she says, telling him he blew it. He leaves the sunflower at the door.

On the island, Sawyer meets with Widmore on the sub. Sawyer offers a deal: He'll tell Smokey he didn't find anybody, then deliver him to Widmore. In exchange, Widmore gets Sawyer off the island, with his people. "How do I know I can trust you?" "Same way I know I can trust you."

In a burst of either hormones or deception, Claire apologizes to Kate, then tearily thanks her for taking care of Aaron.

When Sawyer comes ashore, he tells Locke the truth — pile o' corpses, Widmore's there setting up pylons. He describes the deal. "I appreciate your loyalty," smiles Locke.

On "Law & Sawyer," Sawyer approaches Miles and confesses his sad family history. "He was a grifter, a con man. I've been hunting him down since the day I left the academy." He'd chased a lead to Australia, then got the name Anthony Cooper. "When I find the right one, I'm gonna kill him." He knew Miles would try to talk him out of it ...

And then suddenly they're sideswiped by a car and chase down the escapee. "Sumbitch," says Sawyer, gazing at Freckles the fugitive, same chick he let escape at the airport.

On the island, Sawyer and Kate sit by the fire. She asks why he's running errands for Smocke. He explains that he's gonna let the two sides fight it out, and while they're distracted, "you and me are getting out of here." She grins. And they ain't takin' the plane, they're taking the sub. Next week, Richard's backstory!

What We Know Now:
• Widmore, Zoe, and crew are on the Hydra.
• Smocke had a crazy mother.
• Michael Landon is a better shrink than Smocke.

The Wha? Factor:
• Who is Smokey's mother? It's not Rousseau. Could it be Claire? Wait: Libby?
• In the alterna-timeline, Sawyer's parents died when he was 9. In the original, it was 8. Discuss.
• Who is in that locked room on the sub? My guess: Desmond.

Photo: Mario Perez/ABC