Now that the time jumps are over (for the moment), the story has become far more streamlined. This episode concerns itself less with a particular character and more with the new status quo, and for some, that will present an unwelcome perspective. For others, this is a chance to sit back and breathe a little, even if the tension is still high.
Sawyer always had the potential to be in command, but for most of his time on the island, he was too wrapped up in his own issues to have the insight and confidence to usurp Jack or Locke. Even so, he regularly challenged their assumptions and authority, and bristled when his advice was ignored. The current situation has given Sawyer three years of experience as a leader, and he's become used to being the one in charge.
It seems a bit unnecessarily harsh when Sawyer gives Jack a bit of perspective. Sawyer knows Jack well enough to know that Jack would push to take control over the situation, and Sawyer can't allow that. Sawyer has spent three years setting himself and the rest of the Oceanic Tribe as trusted members of the Dharma Initiative, and he can't allow Jack or any of the Oceanic Six to shatter that illusion. In essence, Sawyer is pulling off his most impressive con yet, but for all the right reasons, and it's paramount that Jack understand that.
Had Sayid been picked up with Jack, Kate, and Hurley, this might have been Sawyer's final word. But Sayid's status as a "Hostile" is likely to be the catalyst for a lot of grief for Sawyer. To keep up the ruse, he may be forced to treat Sayid like the enemy, or send him packing. There's no realistic way to bring him into the fold, now that other members of Dharma view him as a threat. But that pragmatic choice will very likely put him at odds with the new arrivals, and it's unlikely that the tension will go unnoticed. Phil, in particular, seems to already have his suspicions.
This is unfortunate, because Sawyer's relatively pleasant life is about to unravel, and it's not clear how he will react to that. Kate's presence is already causing a bit of tension for Juliet, and it seems almost inevitable that both Jack and Kate will challenge (actively or passively) the Dharma lovebirds and their previously content relationship. These plot threads have been tedious in the past, but if they can be handled well, it should only add to the existing intensity.
In the meantime, a few interesting questions were answered. Daniel hasn't been seen because he's not around the Barracks. That could mean that he's working on the Orchid, which would make sense, given the beginning of "Because You Left". Alternatively, he could be working Radzinsky on the preliminary planning for the Swan Station. (And wasn't it nice to see that continuity?) The overwhelming impression is that the Dharma arc is leading directly to the Oceanic Tribe's involvement in "the incident", which takes place shortly after the Swan becomes operational.
In the previous review, there was a mistake regarding the potential timing for Ben's arrival on the island. Logically speaking, Ben was already there for at least a few years. Sure enough, creepy little Ben steps into the thick of things by speaking with Sayid. It's going to be interesting to look back at earlier seasons and determine if and when there were subtle indications that Ben already knew about certain survivors of Oceanic 815. Sayid is likely to be careful, but if one thing is true about Ben, it's that he's unusually perceptive. With both Richard and Ben encountering members of the Oceanic Tribe "out of time", the tapestry gets a lot more complicated. (And one might wonder if that picture from 1977 tipped anyone off as well.)
Back in the future, other minor questions are addressed. It's now clear how Ben was injured (as seen in "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham"), and it was confirmed that Frank and Sun were the "pilot and woman" who left with one of the outriggers. The round figure of "thirty years earlier" works if the Ajira Tribe was on Hydra Island in 2008.
The appearance of Christian Shephard was a surprise, but it does fit his more active role of late. Christian was involved in whatever happened with Claire, in getting Ben to move the island, and getting Locke to repair Ben's mistake. Now he seems to be setting Frank and Sun on a new adventure, presumably back into the past. (Of course, that's supposition, but it fits the theme of the season thus far.) Whether he's an agent for Jacob or Jacob himself in the flesh of Christian Shephard, it's a sign that Jacob is taking an active role in the fate of the island.
This is essentially the mid-point of the season, so this is designed to set the stage for the second half and start building the momentum towards the finale. The current arc promises to tie up even more loose ends, and it's always good to get more clarification on the Dharma Initiative.