Island to Ben: “I’ve got you right where I want you.”
A post-Denver funk and a 48-hour stomach flu have leveled us the past few days. The only upside is that we had extra time to soak in “Dead is Dead” and read up on some analysis. (Vozzek66 at DarkUFO is our new favorite “Lost” commentator.) We’re bypassing the usual episode recap in favor of some bigger-picture analysis. Mostly we just have more questions.
Ben loves Moms. Voreblog is split on whether to love Benjamin Linus or not, but one thing is clear: He has a soft spot for mothers. Saddled with guilt from being told by his father that Ben was responsible for his own mother’s death, Ben can’t bring himself to kill two mothers in this episode: first Rousseau, then Penny. He does take Rousseau’s baby, and we can clearly see that even though he shares no biological relationship with Alex, Ben feels a parental love for and obligation to Alex as he’s holding her. Since we’re discussing that scene, let’s acknowledge that
Michael Emerson is fantastic. As is Terry O’Quinn. This was Ben’s episode, but Locke played a big part too. Some of the show’s finest moments have come when these two square off, and that’s in large part thanks to the actors who play them. O’Quinn had the difficult task of playing Locke 2.0, a resurrected man with a newfound wisdom about the island. He was alternately assured, bold, smug and creepy. Emerson’s gift is in making us wonder with almost every line whether he’s telling the truth or lying. He does the latter more than the former, but it’d be a mistake to think that everything that comes out of his mouth is hogwash. Plus he can deliver deadpan lines with the best of them: “I’m assuming you’re referring to the fact that I killed you”; “This gentleman and I are taking a boat”; “Consider that my apology”; “Okay. Have a great day!”
Is Locke the smoke monster? After Ben drains the Smokey tub in his basement, he goes out on the porch and tells Sun that he “can’t control what’s going to come out of the jungle.” And then Locke appears. This continues season five’s ongoing theme of reversal and characters flip-flopping roles: Sawyer/Jack, Ben/Sayid, now Ben/Locke. Ben has bluffed Locke to eternity throughout the show, but this time when he tells Locke “you don’t have the first idea what the island wants,” Locke hits him back with “Are you sure about that?” And to us, it sure looked like Ben wasn’t sure about that anymore. Locke 2.0 has the upper hand now, which is ultimately the message Ben gets from Smokey in the form of Alex: You want to kill Locke again. But you can’t. You’ve got to follow orders. To come back to the Locke=smoke monster possibility, Locke disappears to find a way to rescue Ben when Ben finally sees Smokey emerge from the grate. Plus Locke knew to find Smokey under the temple, not in it. A far-fetched theory, granted, but it would fall in line with Locke 2.0 now having a mystical understanding of the island.
Is Desmond dead?? Erin was prepared to stop watching the show after Ben shot Desmond at the docks. (Or did he just shoot his groceries? Can a bullet go through a half gallon of milk?) Regardless, Desmond is healthy enough to punish the snot out of Ben and throw him in the water. (Erin: “Goes to show that you can’t screw with Scottish muscle.”) But here’s our biggest question from the episode: What happened next? Who pulls Ben out of the water? How does his arm end up in a sling? There was a whole lot of blood coming out of him: Did Jaws get to him? And what about poor Desmond?
Will Ben suffer Widmore’s fate? We understand now why Widmore was exiled from the island. He left a lot. He slept around with non-Other women. Probably the Others went mutiny on him after Ben defied his order to kill Rousseau and then challenged Widmore to kill Alex himself. Then on the sub dock, Ben sees Widmore off but not before Widmore tells him that Ben too will be banished one day for defying the island’s wishes to kill Rousseau. Ben tells Widmore those were his wishes, not the island’s. Widmore says, in effect, the proof is in the pudding. What to make, then, of the fact that Alex does die? Was Ben responsible for her death, as he reasons moments before his judgment with Smokey? Or was it Widmore’s intervention by sending Keamy to the island, thus a course correction that exonerates Ben? As vozzek69 points out, “This is why Ben so adamantly asked Keamy if Widmore had instructed him to kill Alex. Ben had to know if it was truly Widmore, or if it were an extension of the island’s will that just got delayed twenty-something years.” Then Widmore delivers the smackdown line, “I’ll be seeing you, boy.” Which might explain the twisted pleasure Ben obviously took in calling Widmore right before he was going to kill Penny.
CGI judgment. Michael Emerson is probably the only actor who could make us excuse the CGI cheesiness of the Smokey swirl. (We felt the same way after he turned the donkey wheel is last season’s finale.) Special effects aside, the result of Ben’s judgment seems to us to be that the island will trump Ben from here on out. Ben has schemed his way to Head Other, to being the one who turns the wheel instead of Locke, to using anyone anywhere to get what he wants … and Smokey tells him it won’t work anymore. His former whipping boy John Locke is now in charge and Ben has to take orders. Then again, Ben has always had a card up his sleeve, and his moments of weakness have often been the moments he’s still completely in charge. Has he finally been dethroned? Is this the beginning of the end for Benjamin Linus? That’s one of just several questions we want your take on. Others:
- Was Ben really surprised to learn that Jack, Sawyer, Kate et al. were Dharma-ites in 1977?
- Will Frank Lapidus throw a wrench in Ilana’s plans for island takeover?
- What lies in the shadow of the statue?
- Are the island and Smokey one-and-the-same? Or do they have separate wills?
- Were this episode’s many hairpieces bad or what?
- Why didn’t Rousseau remember Ben when she captured him in the net (season 2)?
- Is Caesar really dead?
- We now know that Widmore’s banishment happens after the Purge, so where are Sawyer et al. now? Were they there for the Purge?
- What does Ben want Desmond’s forgiveness for? (Erin took great consolation in knowing that Desmond is still alive.)
- What’s with all the Egyptian hieroglyphics in Smokey’s lair?
- Why doesn’t anyone on this show shoot twice? If we wanted to kill someone, we’d shoot them fifty-six times before assuming he was really dead. Then we’d shoot him another eighty-one times just to be sure.
- Then we’d set the body on fire and blow it up with dynamite.
- Then we’d scatter the ashes to the four corners of the earth.
- After we shot the ashes one hundred and sixty-seven times.
We await your enlightenment.