By Jeff Jensen Mar 10, 2010
Even as a mild-mannered teacher, Ben had the urge to be the one in control. And Arzt was ready to help him... for a price All AboutLost
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There was a moment back in the most polarizing episode of Lost's most turbulent season when the Island's god of lies told the truth about the way he works. No, I'm not talking about His Royal Smokeyness, FrankenLockenstein, although the confession sure fits him, too. I speak of Benjamin Linus, the Little Napoleon of the Others — or, in the spirit of last night's very special back-to-school edition of Lost, the devious Tracy Flick of Craphole Island High 90666. The episode was ''Expose,'' a.k.a .the Nikki and Paulo vs. the Spiders episode, and the moment of truth came when Juliet asked Ben how he intended to get Jack to operate on his tumor-choked spine. ''Same way I get anybody to do anything. I find out what he's emotionally invested in and I exploit it,'' Ben said, sounding sadly resigned about his own nefarious nature, as if his conniving character was innate and immutable, or at least fixed and unchangeable. In the divine election of all possible worlds (''divine election'' being a fancy theological term of predestination), Ben Linus is forever doomed to manifest as some Machiavellian devil, some power-grabbing Brutus, some Jesus-betraying Judas, no matter the reality, no matter the world. Right?
Wrong. In ''Dr. Linus,'' Ben Linus was exposed as a soul who only has himself to blame for his woe-is-me bad self, whose corrupt nature is an accumulation of freely made choices. Which also means that Ben is also fully capable of resisting evil and selecting virtue, as well. His Sideways story was the proof. We were presented with a new version of Ben that was a truly decent man — a smart, idealistic teacher who cared for his students; a devoted son who cared for his ailing father, Roger Linus — but also one who yearned for a grander station in life. Dude had a doctorate! He was owed! On Planet Sideways, Doc Linus was presented with the opportunity to tricky-Dick his way to higher office, albeit at the expense of sweet, innocent Sideways Alex. But in his defining moment, Ben's conscience got the best of him, and he was a better man for it. Sorry, Arzt: those new lab aprons will have to wait.
On the Island, Ben the Dethroned seemed set to pay for his sins and abuses of power after Ilana smoked out his Jacob-stabbing secret and sentenced him to death for killing her beloved godfather. Then the Man In Black showed up and made him an offer he seemingly couldn't refuse: restored Island rule in the future in exchange for his loyal service in the present as part of his Hydra Family gang. Ben made a choice. He bolted. Ilana chased. Ben got himself a gun and was about to put a Bada-Bing in Jacob's girl the way he blew away Caesar the Whodat? last season. But then Ben made another choice: He bared his soul. He told the truth about killing Jacob, shared his rage over feeling betrayed by his Island god and his shame for choosing Island power over his daughter, and then offered this heartbreaking explanation for why he was joining Mr. Evil Incarnate (Allegedly): ''Because he's the only one that will have me!'' Then Ilana did something that left Ben gobsmacked: She forgave him. ''I'll have you,'' she said, and walked away. Ben shuffled after her, as if sucked in by the undertow of her grace. He came to the outskirts of the Beach camp, then stopped and considered his options. Stay and serve in this humble little patch of heaven, or join Devil Locke and coldly play for a shot at living the ''Vida La Vida'' once again. You always have a choice. This time, Ben made the right one — fulfilling, perhaps, Jacob's dying thought hope that Ben had the capacity for change. Has Ben the flip-flop artist truly embraced redemption? If so, would his redemption have been possible without Jacob's death? If so, did Jacob know that when he offered his chest for Ben to puncture? And so we debate like theologians.
This was a good episode. For fans starved for ''answers'' the way Hurley craved for cheese curds last night, ''Dr. Linus'' offered a plate of appetizers — salty-yummy scooplets of Richard Alpert, Black Rock, Jacob, Charles Widmore — in advance of more substantial courses that now appear imminent. Meanwhile, the Sideways story was played like a rich, full metaphor for Ben's Island arc and a kind of veiled, Roman-à-clef theory for almost all of Lost. On the whole, I was intellectually stimulated by yet another complex sketch of nature/nurture psychology and redemption dynamics, and I must admit my geeky heart was microwaved to soggy mush by the (partial) castaway reunion at the beach (The Beach! At last, the Beach!), complete with slo-mo montage and Michael Giacchino strings, to boot.
Not everything worked for me, though. I hate to begrudge genuine humor in Lost, but I felt Ben's Sideways story could have been a smidge better if played a little more straight. (Put another way: I am not exactly the most ardent patron of the Arzt.) A great scene for Richard Alpert in the Black Rock was overshadowed — literally — by a distracting lighting choice, a self-conscious use of chiaroscuro that may have been a go-for-Baroque attempt at communing with Caravaggio's ''The Incredulity of Saint Thomas'' that Lost referenced last year in ''316'' but... well, see, now I'm talking myself into loving that strange scene. Ditto: Jack's leap of faith with the dynamite stick, which left me debating between ''Totally genius!'' and ''Totally ridiculous!'' And how about finding another way to bring Fake Locke into a scene than having characters looking frantically about as they hear the tikatikatikatika while the camera pans over to Smocke popping out of the bush behind them with a smug smirk on his face?
Translation: It's time for Ferris Sawyer's Multi-Episode Day Off to come to close. Seriously.
Nitpicking concluded. Your scorn? Bring it. Your agreement? Not necessary. I hope we can all agree that bugs aside, ''Dr. Linus'' gave us stuff to ponder and moments to savor. And so we take out our textbooks and begin the lesson.
The Sideways World
No Child Left Behind
''None of this would have happened if Mr. McAllister hadn't meddled the way he did. He should have just accepted things as they are instead of trying to interfere with destiny. You see, you can't interfere with destiny. That's why it's destiny. And if you try to interfere, the same thing's going to happen anyway, and you'll just suffer.'' — Tracy Flick, Election
''Just follow your heart. That's what I do.''— Napoleon Dynamite
There was a funny moment at the start of Ben's Island story line when he stumbled into Ilana's company, or rather, glommed on to them, as a lost soul always on the make for somewhere to belong is wont to do. Like a stray searching for a home, like a parasite in need of a host, like that creepy Orphan chick in Orphan. Ilana — sensitive, inquisitive Ilana — immediately asked Ben about... Sayid. Ben was stung. ''I'm fine, thank you,'' Ben said sarcastically. It was a primo Linus snark, but it was a window into his wounded heart, too. Benjamin Linus: unappreciated, unloved, and unwanted. He has spent most of his entire misbegotten existence hustling to secure and maintain a toe hold in the world, improvising his relevance and significance to the narrative of life that he worries would otherwise neglect him and forget him and leave him behind. When the cosmos is that indifferent to you, you might gas a village, too. Ah, they were just stupid hippies, anyway.
Sideways Ben was similarly afflicted, but less severely so. I was struck by his relationship with his father. They lived together in a humble home. They dined on microwave (organic) turkey dinner meals. They grieved broken ideals and unrealized dreams. We learned they had been on the Island as members of the Dharma Initiative — but they had left, before the Island had sunk. ''This isn't the life I wanted for you, Ben. I wanted so much more,'' Roger wheezed. ''Imagine how different our lives would have been if we had stayed.'' (Cut to: Roger Linus throwing a Dharma beer can at his boy's head and berating him for the thousandth time for killing his true love during child birth.) (An extremely little known fact: the subtitle to the season 3 classic ''The Man Behind The Curtain'' was actually ''Very, very loosely based on the novel Push by Sapphire.'') Sideways Roger presented himself as a sad old soul who viewed his son as an underachieving talent but only blamed his own bad parenting choices for Ben's fate. An improvement over Island world Roger? Yes. But I was left to wonder what it must have been like for Sideways Ben to grow up burdened by his father's ambition for him. Regardless, we saw the result: Ben the Overeducated, Overqualified High School Teacher, dogged by enough feelings of inadequacy to deem himself a loser. I got the sense Ben saw his father clearly — clearly enough to feel a little resentment, but not so much that he hated him, or, like, wanted to drive him out into the jungle and gas him to death. In a clever flick at ''The Man Behind The Curtain,'' we got a scene where the Good Son changed his ailing father's oxygen tank and doted on his comfort. Bottom line: Sideways Ben was more like Florence Nightingale, less like Heinrich Himmler.
THEORY REVISION ALERT!
Categories: Sideways Island Sinkage; Parallel World Historical Discrepancies.
Analysis: Until last night, it had been safe to assume that both the Island and Sideways worlds shared the same history until 1977, which is when the time-traveling castaways detonated Jughead. But the Linus men of the Sideways world blew up that thinking. I took the story to mean that Sideways Roger and Ben left the Island prior to its sinking. But Island Roger and Ben were still on the Island when Juliet banged the bomb. Implication: If the two worlds share a common history, the fork in the road is sometime before 1977. Rebooted Theory: The divergence begins on that fateful night when some phantom stranger struck John Locke's teenage mother, causing her to give birth three months early. That phantom stranger? I'm saying it's Charles Widmore.
Sideways Ben was a history teacher. Fitting for a man forever fighting for a place in history, and whose Island iteration may have been stalling the flow of destiny, if not meddling with it and making a mess of it, all in order to keep and preserve his Island good thing. He only ever succeeded in manufacturing suffering — for himself, his daughter, the Others, the castaways, and more. Through Teacher Ben, we got historical citations that I dare to now apply to Lost lore. We got a reference to Napoleon in exile on Elba, neutered by the loss of his power. Island Ben would later link himself to the reference. But Charles Widmore and Smokey also fit into Napoleon's pantaloons. After all, Napoleon ultimately escaped from his Island prison and reclaimed France (if only for 100 days) — and both Widmore and Smokey are exiles wanting to get back to their respective kingdoms/homes. (Something to also think about: after Napoleon got booted out of power again, he was exiled to another, less desirable island, Saint Helena, where he would die of stomach cancer/ulcer/poisoning. Foreshadowing for Smokey or Widmore's final fate?) (I'm telling you, that knife Sayid stabbed Smokey with last week? Dogen poisoned it.) (And didn't Alex last night mention she was nursing a stomach ache while the principal and the nurse were... you know... ''doing it''?) Dr. Linus also spoke of the East India Trading Company, the powerful British business entity that was established to execute trade with India, but wound up ruling much of it. And we recall that Ben has long alleged that all Widmore wants to do is exploit the Island for his material gain... although I personally suspect what Widmore wants most the Island is to use it to cheat death.
Ben's Sideways story mirrored his entire Island arc and even suggested many possibilities for the entire saga. You might even say Ben's parallel world yarn works as a theory of Lost. Let's bunker down in that conspicuously labeled REFERENCE section of the high school library and cross-reference the Sideways story with what we know about the greater epic, beginning with...
THE HIGH SCHOOL
The first several scenes of the Sideways story line emphasized the sad state of Ben's school. It was struggling to fulfill its educational mission, hit hard by ''budget cuts'' and ''crises'' that were ''above the pay grade'' of the school's administrators and teachers. This expression of our once glorious public school system was deeply imperiled.
The Island is like a school — a school for the soul. A place for people to learn and improve; a place where mistakes can be made without fear of failure, and instead be learning opportunities. But the Island is dying. Because it is a mystical/spiritual/mythical place, because it is an ideal, it exists only as long as we believe in it. But science and catastrophe and war and cynicism and reality television have rocked our faith and interest, thus weakening the Island's power. Or maybe it's not our fault at all! Maybe the Island has shrunk from view and gone awry because its owner is a proverbial absentee landlord, and the managers he installs to run the joint routinely suck or become corrupt. Yes! Let's blame them! And let's start with...
We knew he was going to be a big meanie the second we saw he was being played by William Atherton, the very fine character actor famed for playing pricks in movies like Die Hard, Ghostbusters, and my favorite of the bunch, Real Genius. (Essay time! 300 words on the relevance of those titles to Lost. Go! Seriously! GO!) Ben painted him out to be a heretic soulless political player who had lost sight of priorities and values. ''Principal Reynolds is an administrator. He's not a teacher,'' Ben said. ''He's forgotten what the public school system is about... taking care of the kids. That's what important.'' By contrast, Dr. Linus positioned himself to be as idealistic as his Charlie Brown namesake. After Arzt dismissively told Ben to ''keep dreamin','' Linus replied as ''I know you've given up but I refuse to.'' All this said, it should be noted that the story gave us no reason to believe Reynolds was some unenlightened, uninspired Enemy of Education. (You know, besides that whole thing about cheating on his wife and boinking the school nurse on campus.)
The Others' former majordomo was forced to abdicate by Ben for violating one of the many rules Island magistrates must abide by if they wish to hold office. His offense: allegedly sneaking off the Island and knocking up some mainland honey, presumably Penelope Widmore's mother. We don't have confirmation that he was still romantically linked with Island consort Eloise Hawking at the time of his indiscretion, but we presume that to be the case. Still, was Widmore really such a bad Island caretaker? Not if you asked him. ''You might find this difficult to understand, Benjamin, but every decision I've made has been about protecting this Island.'' Widmore said these words to Ben during their defining conflict:
HISTORY CLASS VS. DETENTION
Reynolds ordered Ben to execute detention duty for a week. Ben balked. Doing detention would mean he'd have to pull the plug on history club, and Ben thought that would be a horrible idea. Cutbacks were bad enough. But to deny the kids the investment of time from teacher who wish to freely give it? For shame! The kids, Reynolds! Think of the kids! But the principal scoffed. Facilitating history club
with only five members, including Alex Rousseau
was a waste of precious resources. Besides, history club wasn't about the kids, Reynolds said. ''It's for you. It helps you feel needed.'' Ouch! And true. Regardless, Ben went rogue and began tutoring Alex privately — to help her, to spite Reynolds, and to exert his will. During their sessions, Alex tipped Ben off to Reynolds' unethical sexual conduct with the intense glee of a gossip girl. Ben's reaction was interesting. He seemed genuinely appalled, as if Reynolds' conduct was heretically offensive to high-minded ideals. But he also saw an opportunity for a power play, too. The idealist became a revolutionary.
THE BEN/WIDMORE CONFLICT OVER ALEX
Shortly after Rousseau had finished off the rest of her fellow French scientists and given birth to Baby Alex, Chief Executive Other Widmore ordered Ben to ''exterminate'' both of them from the Island. He coldly dismissed baby Alex as an ''it,'' as if she were an animal that would just be a drain on Island resources that needed to be devoted elsewhere. Yep: definitely sounds like a guy that ain't about ''taking care of the kids.'' So Ben balked. He couldn't bring himself to murder. Ben clearly had developed a different vision for how the Others should be managing the Island and living their lives. Widmore dismissed Ben's ''idealism'' as sentimental and self-serving — about him needing to feel needed. But he didn't stop Ben from taking on the project of raising Alex alone. Ben's victory inspired him to dream bigger. And when he uncovered the truth about Widmore's off-Island slick willying, he staged his coup and forced him into exile. He also moved the nomadic Others out of the wild and into Dharmaville. But Ben's dream of settling down and playing house — modifying Others culture in such a way to service and fulfill his own desires and needs — was surely antithetical to the Others' true purpose, and was most likely what earned the Others' their baby-making curse from the Island/Jacob. Richard Alpert said as much when he encouraged Locke to make a play for Ben's job. ''Ben has been wasting our time with novelties like fertility problems,'' Richard said. ''We're looking for someone to remind us that we're here for more important reasons.'' Of course, Richard had himself to blame for his Ben problem, which brings us to...
Ben needed help to remove Reynolds from office and enlisted Arzt, who leveraged his unique expertise to get Ben the inside intel he needed to blackmail the principal. In exchange, the science teacher wanted better lab equipment, new aprons, and a better parking spot.
Alpert undoubtedly helped Ben with his insurrection. Why? What did he get in return? (Besides a Dharma purge.) I'm hoping future episodes will tell the tale. But Ben had another ally in his revolution — the person who actually planted in him the seed of regime change dreams. And that would be...
While Ben and Arzt ate lunch and griped about Reynolds, it was the Substitute who spoke up and encouraged Ben to act on his dissatisfaction. ''Maybe you should be principal. It just sounds like you care about this place,'' Locke said. ''And if the man in charge doesn't, then maybe it's time for a change.'' When Ben wondered who, if anyone, would listen to someone like him, Locke raised his hand and flashed either his warm smile or mischievous, baiting one. ''I'm listening,'' he said. I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING! I have no doubt the burning question that'll be making the rounds in the Lost fan culture is going to be this: Is Sideways Locke actually...
THE MAN IN BLACK/SMOKEY/FAKE LOCKE...
Throughout his Others reign, Ben insisted he was hearing the voice of Jacob and heeding his will. He justified everything by putting it all on his Island god. But the time has come to begin wondering how attuned to Jacob that Ben has been — if he's been attuned to him at all. In our real world, there are those who claim to know God and hear God's voice in their lives, but they could be wrong. Doesn't mean there isn't a God, just that God ain't talking to them. I suspect Ben is one of those people. ''What about you?'' Jacob asked Ben last season. It sounded so dismissive. But Jacob could have also been challenging Ben on his self-deception, or basically saying, ''I'm sorry. Do I know you?'' Ben's either been faking his rapport with Jacob, or (and this is my theory) the supernatural entity that's been speaking to him all along has been the Man In Black. Ben thought he was serving Jacob the Christ, but he was most likely the victim of a long con perpetrated by a snake oil-selling false messiah, Smokenstein the Anti-Christ, who was just using Ben in his master plan to escape the Island and live anew as a man in a separate reality, one with no Island and no Jacob to trap him: the Sideways world.
Sideways Ben didn't go through with his blackmail plot. Or at least, not all of it. He got far enough to throw incriminating emails in Reynolds' face and demand that Reynolds quit and leverage his clout to install Ben in the job. (One wonders if Island Ben made Charles Widmore do the same — recommend him to the post Ben was forcing him to vacate.) Reynolds in turn threatened to ''torch'' Alex's chances at getting into Yale and thus destroy her future, just as Widmore sent his goons to ''torch'' the Island and kill Alex unless Ben bent to his will. Ben chose the Island over his daughter and both he and his girl paid dearly the choice. Sideways Ben made a different selection. He backed off his demands for Reynolds' position, and instead ''negotiated'' to shore up the humble station he already occupied, one that allowed him to live out the values and ideals he believed in, budget cuts and higher orders and crises and heartless administrators be damned. In other words: no detention. He took pride in watching Alex walk away toward promising future. And when Arzt complained about getting screwed, Ben compensated him by sacrificing his parking spot. That's Sideways Ben for you. A giver.
We were left to wonder why Ben chose as he did. As a historian, Ben probably is familiar with the phrase from George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Maybe Sideways Ben was able to avoid duplicating the fate of his Island world counterpart because of some genetic or past life memory bubbled into his consciousness. Maybe he gleaned a lesson or two about power, priorities, regret and responsibility from what his otherworld avatar had learned in the trial-and-error spiritual classroom of the Island. Maybe that info radiated into his brain via the reflection he saw of himself in the window of his microwave as he was zapping organic turkey for his father. Or maybe not. Maybe Sideways Ben is simply made of slightly better stuff and slightly better experiences — a well-meaning if flawed father; exposure to the well-meaning if flawed idealistic culture of the Dharma Initiative; and surely more. Either way, this version of Benjamin Linus found redemption by following his heart. In the words of Napoleon: GOSH!
+++ INTERMISSION: A BRIEF WORD ABOUT ADULTERY
Last week, I suggested that Lost 6.0 was akin to The Decalogue, famed director Krzysztof Kieslowski's series of one-hour films meditating on the Ten Commandments. Last week being the fifth episode of the season, we got a meditation on the Fifth Commandment, Thou Shall Not Kill. ''Dr. Linus'' was the sixth episode of the season, and the Sixth Commandment is Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery. What did we get? A story about Ben blackmailing a guy for cheating on his wife. Okay, that's not really what ''Dr. Linus'' was about. But it was about fidelity, about remaining faithful to your beliefs and values and ideals even if they don't get you what you want in the moment or even what you want most; it was about what happens when all those convictions get tested and challenged and seemingly proven useless, foolish, and wrong. And what does happen? Well, for some, there is chaos, despair, and the feeling that their whole world has been blown up and annihilated. Yep: sucks to be them. And last night, suckage reigned on....
This Island Earth!
The Hurt Locker
''It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are and of how much we must depend upon the Master of the Universe.''
The Chosen by Chaim Potok
''I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could have been out for tricks or treats. Halloween is over, and I missed it! You blockhead. You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle. I didn't get a chance to go out for tricks or treats. And it was all your fault. I'll sue! What a fool I was! I could have had candy apples and gum and cookies and money and all sorts of things, but no, I had to listen to you. You blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick or treats come only once a year. And I missed it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead. YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!'' — Sally Brown to Linus Van Pelt, It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie BrownIn my recap of ''Sundown'' last week, I proposed that the Island portion of Lost 6.0 will take place over three full days, using the Biblical template of Christ's long Easter weekend trip to hell and back. The first six hours of the season took us through the dark night of Good Friday, which means that ''Dr. Linus'' brought us to Saturday morning. On Saturday, as Jesus assayed the Harrowing in the underworld, his disciples on Earth were presumably freaking out, feeling a little bit like Sally Brown, I'm sure. The Island story in ''Dr. Linus'' focused on three disciples of Jacob who processed their grief and despair and anger over his death in different ways. Richard wanted to die. Ilana wanted vengeance. Ben, as usual, just wanted to survive, by any means necessary. All three were on the precipice of making dark, damning choices to resolve their agita. Instead, they each chose something different, and found themselves stumbling into something totally unexpected: hope.
ILANA AND BEN
She called Jacob the closest thing she ever had to a father. Which means only one thing for certain: Jacob wasn't her real father. He could have been her father in the God sense of father — a supernatural entity responsible for her existence and purpose. Maybe it's more of a Godfather thing; she could be Jacob's consigliore (like Tom Hagen, a Ben-esque stray/outsider taken off the street and groomed into a top assistant), maybe his Luca Brasi. We have a few missing years on the Island — the three years between when the castaways began time traveling (late 2004/early 2005) and 2007. We also know that Ilana spent some time in the hospital with bandages wrapped around her face and Jacob visited her and tasked her anew with a mission. How did she get injured? I'm guessing she was on the Island during those missing three years fighting a battle that went badly, possible trying to keep Smokey bottled up. She is now charged with protecting the candidates to replace Jacob. Don't ask her what it means: she doesn't know or isn't telling us. She was asked how many were left, she said six. Was she counting John Locke? Fake Locke? Jin and Sun twice?
Ilana asked Miles to work his magic and chat up Jacob's ashes. We had been led to believe last year that Miles doesn't speak with cremated bodies, but he could have been lying back then. She discovered Ben had murdered Jacob, then did nothing about it until reaching the beach camp. Everyone got to work. Ben scavenged through Sawyer's tent finding two books, The Chosen and another sporting Benjamin Disraeli's name and famous quote ''Justice is truth in action'' on the cover. On, a porn rag, too, all about the butt. Headline: ''Getting to the bottom if it!'' (''The things people bring to read on an airplane....'') Ben perked up when Frank Lapidus explain that he was supposed to have flown Oceanic 815, but had overslept. Frank floated the question: How might have things been different? Again, we are left to wonder: Are the SIdeways stories resolving that mystery? If not, what are the Sideways?
Ilana quietly stripped the camp of cables and locks and then abruptly, violently put a gun to Ben's head and marched him out to Boone Hill and made him dig his own grave. She was going to shoot him dead in it — shades of ''Man Behind The Curtain,'' which ended with Ben shooting Locke (seemingly) dead into the mass grave of dead Dharma members.
While Ilana brooded and nibbled on mangoes, Fake Locke appeared to Ben and made him one of his Faustian offers: future management of the Island. I couldn't tell if Smokey was being sincere; this promise would be the easiest to keep, but I was kinda getting the sense — or maybe just making the assumption — that the Monster had no desire to see the Island continue existing. Fake Locke's screen time here was about equal to the amount of time Sideways Locke got with Sideways Ben. He also presented to Ben as a sympathetic, supportive ally. Ben's survival instinct — and Somebody Wants Me!! instinct — kicked in. He ran to where Smocke had said he'd find a rifle. He got the drop on Ilana, but instead of shooting her, he was suddenly overwhelmed by a desire to explain himself — as if realizing for the first time what he really wanted: to be known, understood, and not rejected, even though he was about to reveal his ugliest inner bits. His confession was part self-laceration, part rage against the Jacob/Island machine: ''I watched my daughter Alex die in front of me and it was my fault. I had a chance to save her. I chose the Island over her. All in the name of Jacob. I sacrificed everything for him, and he didn't even care. I stabbed him. I was so angry. Confused. I was terrified I was about to lose the only thing that ever happened to me, my power. But the thing that really mattered was already gone. ...I can never forgive myself.''
Maybe he couldn't — but surprisingly, she could. Or maybe she decided life would be better — and grieving would be just a little easier — if she let go of the anger. He was floored. It was like he had experienced a new emotion he had never known existed. I might call it ''Amazing Grace.'' Saved, the once-lost, now-found wretch made the first of two heroic choices that represent the proper response to such a gift. The first: renouncing evil. Ben became the first person this season to turn down a FrankenLocke bargain. That's going to have consequences. The second: sacrifice. He entered the beach camp and offered Sun his help putting up the tarp, just as his Sideways version would have easily, effortlessly offered assistance to one of his students. Sun looked at him with eyes that said, What the hell got into you, Guy Who Wanted To Use Me As Breeding Stock In Season 3? Please, Sun: Let's not resort to name-calling. Call him Linus. Dr. Linus perhaps...
JACK, HURLEY, AND RICHARD
Everything about this arc seemed loaded with meaning. Hurley waking up in the field of flowers reminded me of the poppy sequence in The Wizard of Oz. Jack wanting to get moving toward whatever destiny awaited him while Hurley wanted to eat first — reminders that Hurley is gripped by hunger when he's anxious and Jack defers food until his deeper yearnings are sated. They then fought over the right path back to the Temple. Hurley was either going to take the long way or the wrong way, while Jack wanted to go directly back the way they came. It was hard to hear the line and not think Lost was saying something about its two-track, parallel world structure. Then Richard showed up and offered a third path. Jack followed. When Hurley asked if Richard could be trusted, Jack said, ''At least he's not stallin'.'' It was another wink at the audience in an episode full of them. Combined with the line about Napoleon's Elba being the place where ''everything became clear,'' I wondered if Lost was addressing anyone griping about the pace of ''answers'' and saying, Don't worry. Trust us. Okay?
Ironically, then, Richard's path ended with... a lie. He took them to the Black Rock, which was not where he said was taking them, although it was where we've been wanting Alpert to go for a couple years now as we've wondered if the ageless Others came to the Island via the slave ship. (Another reading of Richard's third way as a metaphor for Lost's storytelling: We won't lead you astray, but we're not going the way you expect. We'll be doing this ''answer'' thing our way. ‘Kay?)
But I remain suspicious of Jack. When we last saw him, he was furious over the Lighthouse revelations. Now, after a long gaze out over the beach, it seemed Jack had thought over a few things and was totally activated to chase after all of the Island's magic white rabbits — whether they look like his father or wear eyeliner — and see where they lead. Does Jack want to know Jacob's purpose so he can faithfully fulfill it... or so he can angrily subvert it? He crackles with so much crazy mania, it's hard to know if he's a true believer or a great deceiver. Is it possible the title of the episode hints at an even more provocative possibility: that Ben, a.k.a. ''Dr. Linus,'' has replaced Dr. Shephard as the story's hero, while Jack has replaced Ben as its villain? Consider that sentimental slow-mo reunion sequence that ended the episode. We saw everyone in their huts and tents — including Miles, inspecting the diamonds he purloined from Nikki and Paulo's grave (all $8 million of it? No going dutch on coffee with him!) — as Jack, Hurley and Richard approached. This moment was staged to deliberately echo the scene from the season 3 episode ''One Of Us,'' when Jack, Kate, and Sayid returned from New Otherton, bringing Juliet with them. When the beach crew saw her, the happy-huggy moment abruptly ended, and everyone gave her the stink-eye (especially, ironically, Sawyer) — just like Jack and Ben traded suspicious looks in last night's episode. We learned at the very end of ''One Of Us'' that newbie Juliet was indeed shady; she had been sent by Ben to spy on the camp. (The moment was mirrored, I think, by having ''Dr. Linus'' end with Widmore's submarine spying on the castaways.)
Why might Jack be so angry? Oh, I don't know. The same reason Sally Brown was so angry after spending all night in a pumpkin patch with Linus Van Pelt waiting for transcendent revelation to arrive. This Island thing — Jacob, Ben, everything — has made a big mess of his life, and he wants someone to take responsibility for it. He wants payback. Sally's cry is his cry: ''YOU OWE ME RESTITUTION!''
Of course, back in season 3, Juliet and Jack were nurturing heroic double-crosses. Still, at this point in the season, I'm looking inside Jack's heart, and wondering which way his scales are tilting. Will he be replacing Jacob by season's end... or Smokey?