An interesting and unexpected episode involving Ben Linus, a study in contrasts.
Spoilers from tonight’s episode and more after the break.
Links and miscellanea
- If you haven’t seen this already, Michael Emerson is wonderfully creepy as a corrections bureaucrat in this prison training video from 1992:
- Another Lost Slapdown video:
- I was pleased to see Michael Giacchino win an Academy Award for his Up score. Throughout the series of Lost, Giacchino has made the show so much better; his music is integral to the experience.
- There’s a new contest aimed at fans: create a promo for the series finale and it could be used by ABC.
- io9 has a piece on Damon Lindelof’s Twitter-based responses to fans concerned about how the series will wrap itself up.
- DK is publishing a Lost Encyclopedia, which can be preordered now. I’m doubtful. I can’t see it being any better than the one we already have, and will probably be a whole lot worse.
- More from Cuse and Lindelof at TV Guide, including this key quote from Damon about the sideways flashes: “People are saying [they] don’t need these stories and all we can say is they’re absolutely 100 percent necessary to tell the story of Lost, and hopefully by the end of the season it will be more obvious as to why.”
- And finally, this Flickr set contains some … um, interesting … Lost fan art, including renditions of the cast as Na’vi.
Observations and speculations
- As the episode opens, Ben is running from the Temple, where he has seen a murderous Sayid, and attempting to catch up to Ilana and Team Jacob. Ben’s position is precarious, as it has been since late last season. It’s not clear how he escaped the Temple, other than that Smokie apparently didn’t want him dead.
- Ilana shares something typical of a Jacob disciple: she doesn’t really know much about what’s going on. When Sun says to Ilana, “You said it was safe at the Temple,” she replies, “That’s what I was told.”
- Ilana and her crew head back to the Beach at Ben’s suggestion.
- In the LA-X universe, Dr. Ben Linus, European History teacher extraordinaire is teaching a class about Napoleon and, more specifically, his exile on the island of Elba. This calls to mind the famous palindrome, “Able was I ere I saw Elba.” In Ben’s words, “It was on this island that everything changed. That everything finally became clear. … What was truly devastating to him was the loss of his power.” LA-X Ben is talking about Island Ben with insightful accuracy.
- LA-X Ben is plagued by an uncaring bureaucrat of a principal. If Principal Reynolds looks familiar it could be because he’s played by William Atherton, who might be most remembered as the guy who shut off the power grid in Ghostbusters. More on-topic, there’s also a nice little inside joke buried in his IMDb profile. Atherton had a guest-starring role on “Nash Bridges” in an episode called “Key Witness” written by none other than Carlton Cuse. His character’s name? Yep, Dr. Linus.
- In the scene where Principal Reynolds is telling Dr. Linus about needing to cover detention, there is a mural on the wall fo the high school courtyard that says, “United we Stand, Divided we Fall,” perhaps an allusion to the season 2 finale, “Live Together, Die Alone.”
- LA-X Ben is the sort of person who eats grocery store sushi kept in the refrigerator with his name written on the package in Sharpie. He’s also the type of a person who might willingly socialize with Leslie Arzt. Recall that Arzt was always a science teacher, even in the Island universe. It won’t be long before Arzt has as much screen time in season 6 than he had in season 1, pre-blown-to-bits.
- Real (LA-X) Locke to LA-X Ben: “Maybe you should be the principal. It sounds like you care about this place. And if the man in charge doesn’t, maybe you should make a change.” This parallels the conversation that Not-Locke and Island Ben have later in the episode, in which Not-Locke suggests that Ben ought to be the one left in charge of the island after he leaves.
- On the island, hiking through the jungle by torchlight (a favorite pastime of Island inhabitants), Ben has totally lost his lying mojo. Ilana is onto him and he doesn’t do a very convincing job of convincing her that it was Smokie who killed Jacob. This leads to Ilana pulling out her satchel of Jacob remains and having Miles do his thing. Miles, always caustic, throws Ben’s line about Sayid back in his face, “Well he was standing over Jacob’s body with a bloody dagger so, yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
- Ilana tells Ben, “Jacob was the closest thing I ever had to a father.” Apparently, Ilana’s father figure is distant, manipulative and cryptic. Her chances of having a healthy relationship seem dim. Throughout this scene, Ilana’s face is lit in half light/half dark, evoking the black/white theme that has carried the film and perhaps suggesting that Ilana is in a state of moral ambiguity at this point.
- The beach, of course, is ruins. There are still pieces of the Oceanic fuselage visible, and even a few lean-tos.
- Meanwhile, in LA-X, Ben is making a microwave dinner for his father, now an invalid. (There’s no way he could throw a football over that mountain in this state.) As Ben changes his father’s oxygen tank, we’re reminded that Island Ben was responsible for gassing all the DHARMA people and killing his father.
- Roger Linus tells Ben that it was because he wanted something better for his son that he signed up for the DHARMA Initiative in the first place. “Imagine how different our lives would have been if we’d stayed.” Of course, we don’t have to imagine.
- Alex Rousseau shows up at Ben’s door, except that in LA-X, she’s his star high school student. Like on the Island, he clearly has a lot of affection for her.
- Back on the Island, Ilana reveals to Sun that she has been tasked with protecting Kwon, though no one bothered to tell her which one. One of them is a candidate to replace Jacob. She also tells Sun that there are “only six [candidates] left.” Presumably, the candidates at this point are Jack, Hurley, Sun or Jin, Sayid, Sawyer and one other—possibly Kate, though her status is in question. I suppose there’s still a chance that Vincent, too, is a candidate. At least, I hope so.
- In the next scene, half-asleep Hurley is mumbling about cheese curds. Not sure what that’s about.
- Richard Alpert appears in the jungle and pretends to lead Hurley and Jack to the Temple, but really guides him to the Black Rock. Jack: “Where did you come from?” Richard: “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Richard was probably answering that question obliquely by taking Jack to the Black Rock, where he came from. We now have almost positive proof that Richard arrived on the island aboard the Black Rock, probably as a prisoner, given the wistful way Richard looked at the shackles in the ships brig, and given Not-Locke’s comment earlier that, “It’s nice to see you without your chains.”
- Back at the Beach, Ben is looking through Sawyer’s stash of reading materials, which includes both a magazine called “Booty Babes” (“with bouncing beautiful buns”&dmash;clearly alliteration is a priority to the editor), Benjamin Disraeli‘s Justice and Truth in Action (a book that is apparently rare, because Google doesn’t turn up much), and a copy of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen.
- Lapidus to Ben: “Imagine how different my life would be if that alarm had gone off” and he had flown Oceanic 815. This is an echo of LA-X Roger Linus’s comment about how their lives would have been different if they had stayed on the island. Ben, “The island still got you in the end, didn’t it?”
- Anyone remember where we saw that bamboo shovel before? Presumably, we saw the Oceanic survivors use it, possibly to dig other graves in the graveyard.
- In LA-X, Dr. Linus quizzes Alex about her upcoming European History AP exam, and mentions the East India Trading Company, with a book open depicting a ship that looks an awful lot like the Black Rock. Incedentally, the answer to Dr. Linus’ question is that the Charter Act of 1813 extended the Company’s control of all parts of India except Punjab, Sindh and Nepal (according to Wiki).
- Alex provides Dr. Linus with some salacious information about Principal Reynolds, presenting us with the question of whether LA-X Ben would use this information the same way Island Ben would use it—exploitation and manipulation. And he does, kind of, but not with the ruthlessness that we’ve come to expect from Ben.
- Island Ben tries to get Miles to free him by promising Miles the $3.2 million that Miles asked for when he and Ben first met on the island. Miles lets Ben know that if he wanted to, he could just swipe the diamonds that were buried with Nikki and Paolo. Later, we see Miles holding one of the diamonds. We know that Miles is not above using his gift for monetary gain, as we learned from his flashbacks.
- Miles tells Ben that “right up until the second the knife went through [Jacob’s] heart, he was hoping he was wrong about you.” Interesting.
- On the way to the Black Rock Richard explains that he doesn’t age because “Jacob gave me a gift.” This was perhaps the biggest reveal of the episode (though it’s been hinted at for a while): once Jacob touches you, you can’t kill yourself, and perhaps can’t be killed either (except possibly by another candidate?). This may mean that Jack, Hurley, Kate, Sawyer, Sun and Jin cannot die. (Perhaps this explains how Jin miraculously survived the freighter explosion.) Richard cannot even kill himself.
- Jacob is a cruel guy. He made Richard wait hundreds of years until the “time was right” for Jacob to tell him about his plan, and that time never came.
- The bit with the dynamite on the barrel was a nice bit of storytelling. Nothing moves the incident along like a burning fuse.
- Jack tells Richard, “We go back to where we started,” which apparently means the Beach, the arrival point on the island.
- Not-Locke shows up and frees Ben from Ilana’s make-shift shackles, using some sort of Smoke Monster Fu. He tells Ben that he doesn’t want Ben to die, but instead wants him to be in charge of the Island after he leaves. Not-Locke tells Ben where to go to find a gun and tells him to not resist shooting Ilana, because she wouldn’t hesitate to kill him.
- LA-X Ben tries to blackmail Principal Reynolds, but is faced with the choice of sacrificing Alex to get what he wants. This is a direct contrast to Island Ben’s actions which contributed to Alex’s death, which is specifically referred to in the next scene in case anyone doesn’t remember. (If LA-X Ben was more ruthless, he would have asked for the job and the letter of recommendation for Alex, but apparently, LA-X Ben just isn’t there yet.)
- I didn’t quite buy it when Ilana forgave Ben. I kept expecting her to shoot kill Ben as soon as she got a chance. But Emerson did a hell of an acting job in that scene. And good acting by Zuleikha Robinson as well.
- There’s a fairly lengthy scene at the end of the episode heavy on music and featuring shots of quiet moments, followed by a reunion of friends. It seems like we used to get scenes like this a lot in the first few seasons, but haven’t had one in a while. A bit boring, really. But we do get something else we used to get often at the end of these scenes: a surprise development. Here, it’s the arrival of Charles Widmore in a sub. Nice. It will be interesting to see which side he’s playing on, which team he is aligned with. Probalby not Team Jacob, though that’s not at all a given, I don’t think.
For a Ben episode, this was awfully, I don’t know, introspective and sweet. We got a few key revelations that were not earth-shattering, but were interesting none the less. I was glad that Ben didn’t get killed (before the episode began, I was putting the odds of a Linus death at about 50/50), because he remains one of my favorite characters, even if he’s much less interesting than he’s been in the past.
Thoughts and impressions? Did you like it? Did I miss anything significant?