Quite possibly my favorite episode of the season so far. I wish I could’ve watched the episode again on DVR, but Jana’s parents are here and sleeping where the tv is. So, I’m relying from memory with this. The recap builds till the end. (Let’s dive into it!)

If you don’t want to be spoiled about the latest episode of Lost, please don’t read this post. You’ve been warned. (SPOILERS AHEAD)

Certain Lost characters never disappoint when they are the focal point of a scene, storyline or episode. Ben Linus is one of those characters. It’s amazing to see where this characters has come from to where it is now. Originally, his character was only suppose to be in a few episodes. Now? He’s a key cog in the Lost mythos.

Key quote from episode, “How different would life have been”?

We start off the episode in the flash-sideways timeline. Ben, as Dr. Linus, is teaching history to high school students. He’s talking about Napoleon and how he is exiled from power late in his life. Easily, the parallel is drawn to the Ben we’ve known. That Ben rose to power, on the Island, despite his diminutive stature and seized leadership, from Charles Widmore, through a power play. Who does this mimic in history? Napoleon.

The scene changes to the teacher’s break room. Ben is talking with Leslie Arzt about not being able to properly teach. Arzt has outdated equipment, Ben has to man detention. Ben brings up the difference between being an administrator and a teacher, and how the principal is not a teacher. The principal cut down Ben by saying his History Club was only important to Ben. The principal doesn’t seem to care for the students’ well-being. And then, Locke quips from a table over that Ben should be principal because he seems to care. Arzt downplays Locke’s remark with, “So says the substitute”. (And in reality, Man In Black is a substitute Locke.) However, the seed is planted in Ben’s mind about being principal.

Regarding Locke, even if he isn’t a man of faith in the flash-sideways timeline, this is the second time he’s been a sage to someone with his words. In the season premiere it was with Jack regarding Jack’s father. Now, it’s with Ben and his role. Locke’s words have been a catalyst, in some way, with the two.

The action shifts back to the current timeline where Ben is running from the temple. He finds Ilana, Miles, Frank and Sun and tells them about the scene at the temple. Ilana wants to know about Sayid, since he’s a candidate, but Ben tells of how he murdered Dogen and Lennon. Ilana remarks how Jacob was the closest thing she had to a father. (In the Bible, Jacob is said to have had many daughters, but the only one mentioned is Dinah. I doubt there is a connection.)

Back to the flash-sideways timeline where we find Ben taking care of his father. The two seem to rue their life, and not being on the Island anymore. The irony known to the viewer is they have a loving relationship now because they aren’t on the Island. In this flash-sideways timeline, Ben seems to be doing whatever he can to provide for his father. In the current timeline, Ben loathed and murdered his father.

What’s also interesting is Ben’s dad, Roger, didn’t like being a part of the Dharma Initiative. Yet, here he is waxing nostalgic about in the flash-sideways timeline. That’s human nature, the “grass is always greener”, yet this was a key point of the episode. We never can know what might have been. This episode was showing us “what might have been”, and yet in that reality of “what might have been” the people were wondering “what might have been”. (Got that?)

The doorbell rings and Alex is there. Alex is one of Ben’s students, and a prized student. She’s wondering why the History Club is no longer meeting and how she is suppose to get extra study to help her learning. Ben agrees to meet with her at the school library early the next morning, and Alex is grateful for having a teacher like Ben. Once again, Ben has the relationships he probably always wanted in this flash-sideways timeline. A loving relationship with his dad and Alex, and yet he wonders what his life could be.

The line was spoken during the episode, “How different would life have been”? Who wonders this during the episode in varying degrees? Ben, Jack and Richard. This question also connects with the tension of fate versus free will. Because proponents of both fate and free will always ponder the thought of “what might have been” with life. (Jack wanted desperately to leave the Island, then he wanted desperately to get back to the Island. He’s realized that the grass is not greener.)

In the flash-sideways timeline, we see Benjamin tutoring Alex. It’s obvious their teacher-student relationship is deep, but apparently never crosses any boundaries. Ben is the father figure in Alex’s life, and Alex is the eager pupil who admires and respects Ben the teacher. They play the same roles in the flash-sideways timeline, except in a loving way. Alex is trying to get into Yale University, and unfortunately she needs a recommendation from the principal who is a Yale grad. She remarks that the principal is a “pervert”. Ben follows up on this and Alex says how she saw the principal having sex with the school nurse on school grounds. Alex asks Ben to not tell anyone, and Ben agrees. However, you can already see in his eyes how his mind is beginning to work so he can manipulate the situation to his benefit.

Ben goes to Arzt to leverage him to do the dirty work in his power play to become the principal. While in this flash-sideways timeline he isn’t as smooth in his manipulation, he gets the job done. He cuts a deal with Arzt, like he did numerous times in the current timeline when he was the leader on the Island. (With Locke, Jack, Juliet, Mikhail and more.) Arzt’s line about Ben being a killer was spot on. While the principal wasn’t literally going to be killed, you have to be cold-blooded to go through with the deed Ben was planning. This story in the flash-sideways timeline was showing the birth of cold-blooded Ben.

Back to the current timeline where Jack and Hurley come across Richard. Richard leads them to the Black Rock. He tells them that Jacob gave him a gift, but also tells Hurley that he shouldn’t listen to him. He then tells them that he wants to die, but he can’t kill himself since Jacob touched him. (Which adds an interesting dynamic to Ben murdering Locke before Locke attempted suicide. Locke wouldn’t have been able to kill himself, and it’s possible that Ben interrupting the attempted suicide was because Locke had been touched by Jacob. The irony being Ben ultimately killed Locke.)

Richard feels he is cursed now. He use to think that everything happened for a reason, and thus he devoted his life to Jacob. He was told he would get answers, he would understand his purpose. Once Jacob died, though, he thought he had wasted the past 150 years in this devotion. He wanted to be set free from his gift/curse through death. (Who else wants to be set free? Man In Black.) While Richard doesn’t say it explicitly, his monologue begs the question of “how different life would’ve been” if he hadn’t chosen this path.

Richard wants Hurley or Jack to kill him, and Jack agrees to do so. Jack lights a stick of dynamite and then says he wants to talk. Whether it be due to Richard’s crisis of faith, or needing time to think, Jack has started to come around to the idea that there is a purpose to their lives. That Jacob has been watching them for a reason. He doesn’t know why, but he doesn’t need to. He knows it’s for something bigger, and that’s why he knows they won’t die. Jack’s leap of faith, and they don’t die. The wick goes out on the dynamite, and Richard appears to be a believer again. Richard has found the new leader of the Island, in Jack, and asks him, “You’ve got all the answers, now what”? And Jack responds that they’ll go back to where they started. (A connection with a loop? They are repeating this again? Or, is it like Jacob said in that it only ends once, everything else is progress.)

Back where it started, the beach, we find Ilana, Sun, Miles, Frank and Ben. Ben is digging his own grave due to Miles revealing that Ben murdered Jacob. This enrages Ilana and she wants Ben dead. While Ben digs his grave he tries to get Miles to help him by bribing him. Miles says he wants the diamonds that are buried with Nikki and Paulo. How would he know about the diamonds? Well, I’m guessing he heard from Nikki and Paulo since they are buried at the cemetery. What’s more interesting is Miles tells Ben that Jacob was hoping he was wrong about Ben until his death. For what reason? Was it not fate? Did Jacob hope Ben would choose of his own free will to not kill him?

Go back to the season five finale, the opening scene with Jacob and Man In Black.

JACOB: I take it you’re here because of the ship.
MAN IN BLACK: I am. How did they find the Island?
JACOB: You’ll have to ask them when they get here.
MAN IN BLACK: I don’t have to ask. You brought them here. Still trying to prove me wrong, aren’t you?
JACOB: You are wrong.
MAN IN BLACK: Am I? They come. They fight. They destroy. They corrupt. It always ends the same.
JACOB: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress.

What if Jacob was hoping Ben wouldn’t kill him? What if that would have been “it only ends once” that Jacob talks about? What if part of “they fight, destroy and corrupt” is that they kill the protector of the Island? They always kill the Jacob figure. (They kill their savior.) It’s why Jacob hoped he was wrong about Ben. He knew what had happened before, and hoped that progress had been made to where they wouldn’t kill the Island’s protector.

What else could this be? I’ll go with another The Matrix reference again. At the end of The Matrix Reloaded, we find out that there had been multiple Matrixes from The Architect. (The Architect could easily be Man In Black.) Each time, The One (Neo) is suppose to reset The Matrix so it can start the loop again. However, in this version of it, Neo chooses not to continue the infinite loop of the Matrix. He thus starts the course to bring about its end.

Back to the Island where Ben is almost done digging his grave. He’s visited by Man In Black who tells him he’s gathering a group to leave the Island, but someone needs to be in charge of the Island. This intrigues Ben because he is no longer exiled from power, and retains what he believes to be his. It’s another Faustian deal that Man In Black attempts to strike. What I think Man In Black isn’t saying is that Ben would be replacing him in this deal.

In the flash-sideways timeline, Ben goes into the principal’s office and presents him with the evidence of the principal’s adulterous affair. Ben makes a play for the principal’s job, and it appears that the principal agrees to the terms. The coup is nearly complete, but then the principal plays his card. Alex. He says if Ben takes the principal’s position, that he would ruin Alex’s career. He can do this since he is a Yale grad and she has asked him for a recommendation in her Yale application process. Would Ben sacrifice Alex for what he deemed the greater good in getting the principal’s job? For his own power? No. In the current timeline Ben sacrificed Alex for himself. He does the opposite in the flash-sideways timeline. Ben sacrifices himself, so-to-speak, for Alex. He gives up power, where in the current timeline he had always been doing everything to keep it.

In keeping with the Napoleon themes, Alex was Ben’s “Waterloo”. Alex’s demise, in the current timeline, led to Ben’s downfall. In the flash-sideways timeline, Alex’s rise prevented Ben from being the principal. (The leader of the school, you could say.) Napoleon was French, and Rousseau is French. (Which makes Alex of French descent.)

The current timeline, Ben escapes and appears to be headed to the Hydra Station where Man In Black is. Ilana tries to capture him, but Ben manages to have her at gun point. Instead of killing her, he shows his brokenness and tries to explain why he killed Jacob. He had sacrificed everything he had, including Alex, for (he thinks) Jacob. What did it gain him? Nothing, and that’s why he killed Jacob. He said he can never forgive himself and that he’s leaving. Ilana asks why he’s going with him (Man In Black), and Ben says a great line. “He’s the only one that will have me”. Ben’s heartfelt words move Ilana and she says that they’ll have him. She walks away, back to the beach. In a sense, she’s forgiven Ben. (Which is what Jacob would’ve wanted probably.) Ben follows her, and doesn’t go along with Man In Black.

At this point, Jack, Hurley and Richard enter into the camp and people rejoice. Richard and Ben stand afar from the group. Jack steps aside to look at Ben, who looks downcast and beaten. He doesn’t have any of the intimidation he use to wield. He who once was “the man behind the curtain” is a shadow of that. He may have the name, but like Napoleon in exile he has no power.

And then, the setup for next week’s episode. A submarine appears with Widmore in it. Will Widmore still have an axe to grind with Ben, or will he put aside their differences for the greater good of the Island?

Fate versus free will. Sacrifice versus selfishness. The grass is greener. Ben has chosen to not accept his apparent fate of evil and choose to follow good. He has also chosen to not sacrifice others for himself. He isn’t wondering about what life could be, but focused in on the life that is. Ben has changed. And, at this moment where he has changed he will immediately be put to the test by Widmore’s appearance.
It’s easy to get focused in on “how life could be different”, and whether or not our life is by design or our own free will. I think people waste energy on “what could be” instead of addressing the life they find themselves living. We can’t know how life could be different. We aren’t omniscient. Only God is. People of faith trust in God to lead them in life, despite circumstances that make no sense. This is what so many on Lost are battling with now. Can they continue to have faith despite the apparent evil and absurdity of their circumstances? The one man who has come to grips with this is Jack, the former man of science.

Quick hitters

  • Yale University is home to many secret societies, including the famous Skull and Bones. You could say that the Island is a secret society.
  • Will we find out more about the end of Dharma in the flash-sideways timeline?
  • Whatever happened to Annie?
  • How was Jacob like a father to Ilana?
  • The book that was highlighted on the beach is The Chosen. (I read this in high school.) It’s a story of two Jewish boys, their friendship and they lives they choose to pursue. One is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps as a religious leader, a tzadik, despite the boy not wanting to be this. The other boy wants to be a rabbi and is a buffer between the father and son.
  • If Jacob was hoping he was wrong about Ben, why was Ben allowed to be a leader on the Island?
  • Richard is taking his cues from Jack now. He’s served Widmore, Ben, Locke and now Jack.
  • Let’s hope the upcoming war between Jacob’s followers and Man In Black’s followers isn’t a letdown like the season one finale of Heroes which had massive build up for nothing.
  • What will become of Richard and Ben’s relationship?
  • Still believing that Jack is the candidate. Not bad for a character that was supposed to be killed off in the Pilot episode originally.

Thanks for reading another recap of my Lost ramblings. Like I said, I wasn’t able to rewatch some of the scenes, so I hope I’m not missing anything. You can read past recaps by clicking on the Lost Recap label. Also, DontTellMeWhatICantDo.com has all my Lost related blog posts.

Time to sleep.

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