Ben, the Smoke Monster and more island adventures. What’s not to love?
Spoilers from tonight’s episode below.
Links and miscellanea
- Items revealed in this week’s official podcast:
- Over at The Fuselage, Jorge (“Hurley”) Garcia has more or less confirmed that the mysterious woman seen in the darkness in the Christian/Sun scene a few weeks ago was a crew member. Don’t forget people, despite how carefully Lost is crafted, production errors do happen, as they do in every show.
- According to TV Guide, the code name for the season 5 finale has been determined: “The Fork in the Outlet.” Past season finale code words include “Frozen Donkey Wheel” (season 4), “The Rattlesnake in the Mailbox” (season 3) and “Challah” (season 2) and “The Bagel” (season 1).
- For whatever reason, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of new media stories or blog content about Lost this week. So I’ll take this opportunity to offer up some original content of my own. This season has utilized one of my least favorite sci-fi devices, time travel, but so far has done it fairly well. Closely scrutinizing fans have picked up on a few inconsistencies (Charlotte’s age, the Frozen Donkey Wheel’s misalignment), but for the most part, I think it’s been mostly successful. And that got me thinking, what movies or TV shows have managed to pull off time travel somewhat convincingly. Here are my nominees:
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – the time travel element at the end of the story achieves what it needs to fairly successfully, and doesn’t bother subscribing to that “can’t exist at the same place at the same time” nonsense.
- Donnie Darko – Even after watching all the DVD/website extras, I could never quite totally get the theory into my head . Still, within the context of the show, I think it worked. Even though I didn’t completely comprehend it, I still found it mind blowing.
- Back to the Future – Only the first one. By Part 2, I thought the whole thing was ridiculous. I’m not as much of a fan of this movie as a lot of people, but it told a nice story and presented very memorable characters. If nothing else, it brought us the hilarious picture of Hurley sitting and staring at his hand, wondering whether it was going to disappear now that Sayid shot Young Ben.
- Happy Accidents – This overlooked Brad Anderson movie staring Vincent D’Onofrio and Marisa Tomei is worth checking out if you haven’t seen it. It’s an unconventional romantic comedy in which D’onofrio plays a time traveler from the future and Tomei the object of his affection. Though time travel is a big element of the plot, it mostly occurs during the premise, and is dealt with throughout the story.
- Army of Darkness – Although there was never really a good reason to send Ash back to the Middle Ages, I can’t argue with the results. It’s a fine film, one of the best in the comedy-horror genre, and one that produced some of the franchises’ most memorable lines: “Think smart! Think S-Mart!” “Give me some sugar, baby!” “This is my boomstick!”
Although I can appreciate the Terminator movies as quality action fare, the time travel aspect always kind of bothers me because I don’t see how it doesn’t degenerate into an infinite regress loop. If it doesn’t work to go back and kill Sarah, John Connor’s mother, why not just go back and kill Sarah Connor’s mother? And so on, ad infinitum? I’m also one of those who think that Hiro’s time travel abilities on the TV show “Heroes” has been a major net negative for the series and the show has never adequately dealt with this issue.
- If you’re hoping to pick up the season 5 DVDs, you’ll need to wait until December 8, 2009, a painful reminder that after tonight, we only have four more episodes left until Lost returns in 2010 (!) for its final season. The DVDs will be released in both BluRay plan vanilla digital video disc.
Observations and speculations
- This episode opens with a younger, hairier, Charles Widmore riding a horse through the jungle to the Others’ camp. The others at this point (1977) are living a primitive lifestyle still, in A-frame and yurt-style tents and cooking around fires. They are also very much partial to earth tones of brown, drab and grey for their clothing.
- Richard deflects Widmore’s anger by saying, “Jacob wanted it done.” That seems to be the trump card among the Others—when in doubt, just say, “Jacob made me do it.” Widmore doesn’t question Richard about this, from which we can probably infer that Richard has access to Jacob, but Widmore may not. Richard follows this with, “The island chooses who the island chooses. You know that.” So in what respects are Jacob and the island different entities? Is Jacob a personification of the island’s spirit, or a separate being? I’m pretty sure I’ve been asking these same questions fairly regularly for the last couple of seasons.
- Widmore tells Richard right out of the gate that Richard should have let Ben die. I have to say, Widmore doesn’t come off well in this episode. In the analysis of whether he or Ben is the more evil, Ben gets points for caring about the welfare of children.
- Just to make it clear: Ben does not remember Sayid shooting him. Does that put to rest the whole “Ben knew the Oceanic survivors from when he was a boy” thoery? I think it does. I bet others will still cling to it, though.
- We also know that Young Ben did, in fact, return to DHARMA as an undercover agent of the Others/Hostiles pre-Purge. This might facilitate Sawyer and Kate’s to return to DHARMAville; it would have been hard to explain why they took the boy into the jungle and just left him there. It’s still going to be hard to explain, but at least they won’t be blamed for his disappearance.
- If I ever murder someone just to find them alive again later, I am totally going to use the “I-knew-you’d-be-brought-back-to-life” excuse.
- Ben is lying to someone. (Of course he is, his lips keep moving.) Ben tells Locke “I knew this [Locke’s resurrection] would happen.” Yet later in the episode, he tells Sun that “dead is dead” and that nothing like this has ever happened before, that it scares the hell out of him. These different statements seem mutually exclusive to me.
- Ben claims initially that he broke the rules by returning to the island, then later admits that his guilt is over his responsibility for Alex’s death. I’d like a little clarification of what “the rules” are under these circumstances. When Ben sneaked into Widmore’s apartment in London, there was also a discussion of the “rules.”
- “We don’t even have a word for it, but I believe you call it the Monster.” This seems to rule out the possiblity that “the Monster” is the same entity as Jacob. But I still believe that they are interrelated somehow.
- So what is in the crate that the Ajira people on the Hydra Island beach were trying to move? Ilana calls it “some stuff we need to get moved.” It’s marked with Ajira markings and appears to be a cargo box from the plane.
- Ben spends a bit of time with Caesar trying to win him over and gain his allegiance over Locke. This is ultimately a pointless exercise, but you get the idea that Ben just can’t help it—like the proverbial scorpion that stings the frog, it’s just in his nature. On the other hand, he does find out about Caesar’s sawed-off shotgun from his ruse, so there’s that.
- Apparently, Ben was Ethan’s mentor who schooled him in the ways of baby stealing. I was surprised to learn that stealing Alex wasn’t the Others’ plan all along.
- In season 1, when Sayid asked Rousseau if she had ever seen other people on the island, she told him, “No, but I hear them. Out there, in the jungle. They whisper.” Rousseau did see Ben, but from that point forward, presumably, whenever she hears the whispers, she runs the other way, just as Ben tells her to. It’s interesting that Rousseau does not seem to recognize Ben as the very person who stole Alex when Ben later gets snagged in Rousseau’s net. (On the other hand, there have been several studies that have demonstrated that eyewitnesses to a very traumatic event are notoriously bad at later describing their assailants. So maybe it’s not that interesting or strange.)
- We once again get a glimpse of the music box that Sayid later fixes hfor her, the one she told him gave her comfort in the days after the Others (i.e., Ben) stole Alex.
- Ben tells Locke that the reason he didn’t just let him commit suicide is that, “You had critical information that would have died with you.” Going back to the transcript from “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” that “critical information seems to have been that Widmore and Eloise Hawking were working together.
- “Well, I just didn’t have time to just talk you back into hanging yourself, so I took a shortcut.” Classic Ben: a pragmatic ruthlessness.
- Best Locke line: “I was just looking for an apology.”
- Caesar is (was) like a middle eastern version of season 1 Jack: he’s bossy and impetuous.
- I was surprised that Ben killed Caesar. I was under the impression that Caesar was being set up to be a more important character.
- Ben, on the dock at the main island: “Well, I’ve found sometimes that friends can be significantly more dangerous than enemies, John.” There are any number of folks that Ben could have been referring to with this line.
- The role reversal between Locke and Ben in this episode is interesting. Instead of Ben being the the one with all the answers, this time it’s Locke, and Ben is confused and emotional. Locke knows why Ben wants to be judged, Locke knows where the smoke monster is, Locke has some ideas about how to get Sun and Jin back together. But for the first time, Ben looks most of the time like he’s at a loss about what to do next.
- In 1988, after Rousseau arrives on the island, the Others are still living in tents in the jungle. It wouldn’t be until 1992, after the Purge, that they movie to the DHARMAville barracks.
- Ben asks Widmore, “Is killing this baby [Alex] what Jacob wants?” You get the idea that the Others might all wear WWJW bracelets. Sooner or later, we must find out who this Jacob guy is.
- Here’s something I don’t quite understand. The DHARMA barracks were built (presumably) by the DHARMA Initiative. But we know that Ben’s house was build directly above an ancient paleolithic-era smoke-monster-summoning sinkhole. Does this mean that the DHARMA folks had some understanding of the smoke monster, or the island’s ancient secrets? It just doesn’t seem to me like the location of that house—not to mention the placement of the secret passageway behind the bookshelf—could have been a coincidence.
- Inside Ben’s house, there’s a game of risk laid out and a couple of plates on a table. This is the game that Locke, Hurley and Sawyer were playing in episode 4.9, “The Shape of Things to Come.” (Hurley’s lines from that scene: “We’re all gonna die. This is exactly what he wants–to fight amongst ourselves. You’re making a big mistake, dude.”) This was the same day that the Freighter people arrived at the barracks and Keamy kills Alex. That was also the last day that Ben was in his house.
- When Sun tells Ben that the “crazy old man” is named “Christian,” Ben seems to recognize the name.
- A few of the books on Ben’s bookshelf: Roots, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Flowers for Algernon.
- Lapidus’ best line: “As long as a dead guy says there’s a reason, then I guess everything is gonna be peachy.”
- Ben’s usual method of summoning the smoke monster is by flushing its toilet, apparently. Gross.
- We see Ben pushing Alex on the swingset in the barracks. This is the same swingset that Sayid is later handcuffed to after he’s captured by the Others, and where he tells Alex that she looks like her mother.
- We see Widmore being marched onto the sub by armed men. From the dialog, we learn that he’s being banished. This is different than how we were led to believe Widmore left the island. In “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” it was implied that maybe Widmore turned the Frozen Donkey Wheel and found himself in the Tunisian Sahara, and that this is how Widmore knew where the island’s “exit” was located. I guess not.
- Ben explains that Widmore broke the “rules” by 1) leaving the island regularly; and 2) having a child with an outsider.
- “Dead is dead. You don’t get to come back from that. Not even here.” What does this mean? Locke really seems to be Locke, not some smokey apparition. As he tells Sun, “I assure you, I’m the same man I’ve always been.” He was definitely dead, and now he’s back. Why?
- Ben tells Sun, “What’s about to come out of that jungle is something I can’t control.” Then, right on cue, out walks Locke, and Ben is proven correct. Ben can no longer control Locke.
- Finally, we know that Ben did try to kill Penny, but was unsuccessful.
- Penny and Desmond’s boat is called “Our Mutual Friend.” Recall that Desmond had a copy of the Dickens novel (Dickens’ last novel, in fact) A Mutual Friend that he intended to be the last book he reads before he dies. Penny had hidden a love letter in the book, hoping that Desmond would find it.
- John leads Ben and Sun to the outer wall of the Temple, then tells Ben that they’re not going to go in the Temple, but go under it. Ben seems genuinely frightened. This looks to be the same spot that Rousseaus cohorts ventured into.
- When Ben shoots Desmond, the bullet hits a carton of milk and Desmond is knocked backward, but is apparently unharmed. The scene reminded me of the Manchurian Candidate, in which a character is killed when a bullet from a pistol hits a milk carton, but passes through into the man’s chest. Of course, we know from Ms. Hawking that the island is not done with Desmond yet.
- Back at Hydra Beach a redshirt tells Lapidus that Ilana and “three of the others” found guns and said they are in charge now. When Lapidus goes to investigate, Ilana cryptically asks him “What lies in the shadow of the statue?” It’s like a riddle, or a secret code. Naturally, Lapidus has no idea what she’s talking about. It reminds me a little bit of the “What did one snowman tell the other snowman?” riddle that Desmond asks when the survivors finally open the Hatch. So what does lie in the shadow of the statue? The Temple? Why is Ilana asking this question? Is she deranged like Rousseau’s team became deranged? And what does Ilana mean when she says, “Get everyone else, tell them it’s time.” This scene was probably the most intriguing and mysterious of the entire episode for me.
- Under the Temple there are square columns with the same sort of pseudo-Egyptian markings that we saw when the Hatch’s clock ran down and were also on the stone door behind Ben’s bookshelf. Finally, there’s an alter with a carved mural above it that looks to me like the Egyptian god Anubis sitting in front of the smoke monster (represented by zig-zagging lines).
- I’m almost entirely certain now that the infamous four-toed statue is Anubis. The jackal-headed Egyptian god is significant in the Book of the Dead for his role in the “weighing of the heart” ceremony in which the dead are judged. Thematically, it makes sense that this would be the mural above the alter where the smoke monster would make his judgment.
- The judgment scene focused entirely on Alex, exactly as Ben thought it would. Of all the bad things Ben’s done, and all the people he’s killed, the Monster only seems interested in Alex, his adopted child who was born on the island.
- Alex, or some apparition of Alex appears and tells Ben to do whatever Locke tells him to do or else she/he/it will “hunt you down and destroy you.” Alex also tells Ben that she knows that he’s “already planning to kill John again.”
- Ben’s final line: “It let me live.” He doesn’t seem overjoyed.
This was a great episode, and unexpected in a lot of ways. It provide all the answers I was hoping (especially about what the Monster is and who the Walking Dead are), but it was still pretty great.
What did you think? Did this episode prompt any new theories, or did it, in true Lost fashion, just raise more questions.