Originally Posted by "Spectrum"
..That no one seems to have made much of the fact that, unless I'm way off base here, he's trying to save them right back.
Seriously. He's already saved them at least once that we've directly seen, and possibly more times that we're not aware of. By convincing Orochimaru and Kabuto so thoroughly that he's cut any and all bonds to his former team, he may have very well spared their lives. The only reason Orochimaru has been so casual and unconcerned in his dealings with Team Yamato so far is because he knows their attempt at saving Sasuke is futile. If he had even the slightest inkling otherwise, I really doubt he'd have just left them there unharmed in the chapter before last. And considering the shape our team (and especially our protaganist) is currently in, the fact that Oro let them go may just have kept this manga from ending prematurely.
Of course, this begs the question--is his confidence in Sasuke's apathy toward his former teammates misplaced? On the surface, it doesn't seem like it. In this latest chapter, there wasn't much in his expression to suggest lingering feelings for his old teammates... there's not much emotion there at all, in fact. And back in 301, Sasuke certainly didn't seem to give a rat's ass whether or not Naruto still cared about him. "I only have one brother... the one I want to kill." Not particularly nolstalgic, and he said it convincingly enough that it's easy to see why Oro and Kabuto believe him.
But you know... Orochimaru and Kabuto weren't at the Valley of the End. And feh, you can say all you want about 2.5 years with Oro being enough to fuck up anyone's personality, but you know what? Sasuke sure hasn't changed much so far. His attitude is exactly the same as what we saw back in chapter 238. His style is the same (yes to Uchiha fans, no to Oto headbands, and no eyeshadow or nailpolish, thanks very much), his mannerisms (love how he was just chilling out like the cocky bastard he is when we first saw him in 300), his temper (poor Sai), and even what we've seen so far of his jutsu. (Not that he's ever been partial to genjutsu, but it's interesting that the first technique we saw was Sharingan-related rather than something to do with snakes.) So far, there's just about nothing to suggest that he's let Oro remold his personality as he sees fit. And really, why the hell would he? Sasuke's one of the most stubbornly independent characters in the show, and for all of his flaws and insecurities, I think he's about as likely to let Orochimaru brainwash him as Naruto would be.
That's not to say that he hasn't changed at all--he's obviously not the same person he was back in his Konoha days, and we knew that even before the timeskip. He's much more focused on revenge now, and I do think what Sakura and Naruto are attempting right now is pretty damn near futile. Sasuke's got other plans--he's not ready or willing to come back to Konoha yet. But neither is he about to turn his back on his teammates. To believe that he really no longer cares about Naruto or Sakura, or cares what happens to them, would be a mistake, and it's one that I think Orochimaru has made.
I fully expect Sasuke to behave as dispassionately and mercilessly as he ever has toward Naruto and the rest in the next chapter, and perhaps even fight them (it's likely, even, especially if Oro shows up). But I absolutely believe it won't be because he doesn't care... but rather because he does. Because he knows that unless he's made to see that he's wrong, Naruto will continue trying to save him until he either succeeds, or dies trying. And for all that he's shown to the contrary, I'd bet anything that Sasuke still feels that bond as strongly as Naruto, and he doesn't want to see Naruto get himself killed over him.
That's why I'm personally both anticipating chapter 307, and dreading it. I have a pretty sure feeling that after all of the unflinching determination and optimism Naruto's shown over the past arc, he's in for a major disappointment, perhaps even disillusionment at long last. I really don't think Sasuke's coming back with them just yet. He's not looking to be rescued, he just wants Naruto and Sakura to stay out of it and worry about their own problems for once in their lives. But in a way, he's protecting them just as much as they're trying to protect him.