While bombs explode in the background, soldiers frantically burn and shred files. It could be the Oval Office, January 2009, but given that they're speaking Arabic and wearing the uniform of the Republic Guard, it's a lot more likely that we're getting a Sayid flashback this week.
Sure enough, there he is, being ordered to burn some files. The commanding officer is shouting morale-boosting slogans like "Stop again and I'll kill you myself!" and "We leave when I say!" Unfortunately, his Tony Robbins-esque pep talk is interrupted by U.S. soldiers busting down the door, pointing guns at the them, getting all up in they grills. Hilariously, while Sayid and the commander and some of the others get down on the floor, a couple of the soldiers continue to shred, seemingly having taken no notice whatsoever of the American army busting down the door.
One of the Americans asks who's in charge. The commander says nothing. Too bad Sayid LOOKING AT HIM gives him right away. The sergeant doesn't notice, and instead yells for the industrious paper-shredders to stop or else they're dead. One of his men actually questions that decision, so we know we're off in some kind of fantasy world here. Sayid fortunately prevents his comrades' slaughter, so the sergeant asks if he's in charge. Sayid says no, but doesn't give up his CO, saying that the commanding officer left a couple of hours ago. "Your English is good, Abdul," says the sergeant (and I briefly thought he said "Apu"), "but you're lying. And that ain't so good." He raises his rifle and smacks Sayid in the face with it.
We're in war-torn Iraq, some kind of prisoner compound, and I really would have hated to be the Hawaiian location scout for Lost looking for a place to film these scenes. Sayid's hauled out of the compound for another sergeant who has heard Sayid speaks English. "Son, we don't want to be here any more than you do. But your pal Saddam had to go marching into Kuwait..." says the sergeant, painting Gulf War I in ridiculously optimistic strokes. But what's important here is that this guy is, as it happens, also Kate's dad. Kate's dad asks if Sayid's ever done any translating. "Formally, no," says Sayid, and the sergeant chuckles. "Hell, the fact you know what 'formally' means, we're good," he says.
He says that an Apache helicopter went down in this sector two days ago, and their sources tell them the pilot was captured, and taken to the local Republican Guard intelligence commander, a man named Tariq. "He was our commanding officer!" says Sayid, who gives up info a little easily, if you ask me. Then he sort of redeems himself by lying and saying that when the bombing started, Tariq took off for Hillah, which is actually different from what he told the soldiers down at the shredding party earlier. "Hillah, huh?" says Kate's dad, and Sayid says that's right. So the sergeant motions to his men, who open a nearby garage door. "Welcome to Hillah," says Sergeant Dad, for there is Tariq. Guess they figured out who was in charge there. You got a bit of a tell, Sayid.