JULIET: It’s very stressful being an Other.
Season One introduced the audience to the very first member of the Others, Ethan Rom (whose name doubled as an anagram for Other Man). As each season has progressed, the Others have become less mysterious, but they have become more human and more complicated at the same time. The sixth episode of Season Four, The Other Woman, centers around the story’s most prominent female member of the Others, Juliet Burke. Of course, the title also refers to the more common use of the term, as Juliet becomes ‘the other woman,’ in a stuggling marriage. The episode began by presenting a straightforward love triangle between Juliet, Goodwin, and his wife Harper. In the initial scenes, this story did not appear to offer any new perspective on the familiar love triangle stories. Steadily, though, The Other Woman morphed from an episode about those two female romantic rivals, into the strange story of Ben's struggle to wrestle Juliet’s attention away from Goodwin. With each successive flashback, the episode shifted its focus away from the Other woman, Juliet, and onto the central Other man, Ben.
Previous Lost episodes have explored just about every possible permutation of romantic entanglements. Here is a brief rundown of all of the different triangles and quadrangles at play on the show:
• Boone, Shannon, and Sayid
• Jin, Sun, and Jae Lee/Michael
• Michael, Susan, and Ryan
• Jack, Kate, and Sawyer
• Kate, Jack, and Ana-Lucia/Juliet
• Sarah, Jack, and Gabriella
• Mystery Man, Sarah, and Jack
• Charlie, Claire, and Locke
• Hurley, Libby, and Frogurt
• Nadia, Sayid, and Shannon/Elsa
• Paulo, Nikki, and Zuckerman’s Diamonds
• Harper, Goodwin, and Juliet/Ana-Lucia
• Ben, Juliet, and Goodwin
• Ben, Juliet, and Jack
In future episodes, we should expect to see further exploration of these relationships, as well as a few new ones. A quick glance at this list reveals that, whenever a rivalry emerges, there is always one definitive way to end the conflict once and for all: kill one of the participants. Ben used this own fool-proof solution to eliminate his competition, and the show’s writers seem to prefer this method in other istances as well. Boone, Shannon, Susan, Jae Lee, Ana-Lucia, Libby, Paulo, Nikki, Charlie, Elsa, and Goodwin all suffered premature deaths. This pattern might not bode very well for the chances of survival for the remaining characters on that list. The hearts of many of those characters (and their fans) might suffer the same fate as poor Goodwin’s heart.
Although critical reception for The Other Woman has been lukewarm, the episode added a great deal of depth to events of previous episodes. Ben’s famous words from Two for the Road (“You’re the killer!”) take on a whole new meaning after the revelation of Ben’s guiding influence in the death of Goodwin. Perhaps this murder might have played a major role in Ben's capture in Season Two, either as a self-imposed penance, or as a set-up by Juliet. Juliet already had plenty of reasons to hate Ben in Season Three, and now her plots to kill him and her efforts to escape hold even greater dramatic weight. When Locke destroyed the submarine in The Man From Tallahassee, he also did Ben a much bigger favor than it seemed at the time, by once again keeping Juliet in Ben's possession. Finally, Juliet’s defection at the end of Season Three now parallels his betrayal by Alex, as these two objects of his obsession both sabotaged his interests in favor of their own loyalties. The girl he raised as his daughter and the woman he desired as his lover both deceived him, and in doing so caused the rest of his followers to abandon him. It should be no mystery as to why Ben wanted so desperately needs to recruit Locke to his cause: he needs a new possession.
While traditional love triangles serve as a major theme throughout this episode, The Other Woman also explores perhaps the oldest love triangle of all: the Oedipus complex. The founder of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, introduced the theory of the Oedipus complex, which consists of two parts: hateful desire to kill and usurp the parent of the same sex, and sexual attraction to the parent of the opposite sex. (Oedipus was the name of a tragic figure from Greek mythology who inadvertently murdered his father and married his mother.) The Man Behind the Curtain already established Ben’s murderous hatred of his father, and now the latest epsiode hints at Ben’s twisted affection for his mother, through the proxy of Juliet. Juliet's therapist comments on the probable source of Ben's infatuation with Juliet. Harper mentions: “Of course he likes you. You look just like her.” Many viewers have guessed that this other woman might be the mysterious Annie from Ben’s childhood. Any amateur psychotherapist, though, will tell you that Ben’s issues probably stem from events even further back in his life. While there is little to no information available about Annie, she too may have served as the previous stand-in for Ben's mother. Juliet not only looks remarkably similar to Emily Linus, but Ben even appears to be breaking her in as a maternal figure, as he commends her work with Zack and Emma. With Juliet, Ben sought to share the type of relationship that he could never experience with his absent mother.
Freud warned that any individual who fails to resolve these parental issues might suffer from any number of nueroses. The most dangerous result of the complex is the failure to develop a superego, the part of the psyche that makes judgments about right and wrong. Ben is not the first Lost character to demonstrate such a conflict (see also: Confidence Man and The Brig), but he is the only character to embrace both poles of the Oedipus conflict so thoroughly. Not surprisingly, Ben also ranks as the character with the most underdeveloped superego. Ben makes decisions purely to serve his self-interest, without adhering to any notions of moral duty.
For the most part, Ben has been clever enough to conceal the extent to which pure selfishness motivates his actions. In the episode’s final flashback scene, though, Ben delivers an impassioned speech that reveals the depths of his obsession with Juliet and with himself: “Why? You’re asking me why? After everything I’ve done to get you here, after everything I’ve done to keep you here, how could you possibly not understand … that you’re MINE!” In many ways, Ben’s obsessive relationship with Juliet parallels his broader relationship with the Island. He could have addressed that speech to the island just as easily as to Juliet. Ultimately, he does not care about Juliet and The Island, but his Juliet and his Island. Beginning with his parental relations, Ben never learned to love anything other than himself, and this degree of obsession is the closest approximation he can understand. Although Ben professes to care for the interests of others and the island, he only cares about them in relation to his own desires.
Beyond these romantic rivalries and Oedipal conflicts, The Other Woman also introduces another, even larger, ‘love triangle’ of sorts to consider between Ben, the Island, and Charles Widmore. In this episode, Ben discloses to Locke that the man who commissioned the Freighter crew, the man who has been searching for Ben and the Island, is none other than the famous Charles Widmore. Ben claims: “Charles Widmore wants to exploit this island and he’ll do anything in his power to possess it.” (Does this description sound like anyone else we know?) In the future, expect to find many other interesting similarities between Ben and Widmore, the two men most obsessed with controlling the island for themselves. Locke’s influence also might morph this triangle into a quadrangle, and he might be the one person who truly loves the island itself rather than one who desires it as means to an end.
As always with Ben, it is very difficult to judge which things he said were true and which were self-serving lies. However, fans should feel almost positive that Widmore’s motivation in his search is more than an economic one. Locke accepted that weak explanation very quickly, because Ben phrased it in such a (Cooper-esque) way to appeal to Locke’s vanity: “How many people do you think would come out here to see you?”. Charles Widmore already owns more than enough money to last his lifetime, so it seems improbable that he would go to such lengths for such a risky investment. I would expect that Widmore is searching for something intangible, the elusive quality of greatness and immortality. Like the General MacCutcheon of whom he once spoke, Widmore needs to find his own crowning achievement. Sharing the island’s abilities with the world would cement him in a legacy as one of the greatest men ever to live. Ben falsely presents this conflict as a struggle between 'the good guy and the bad guys.' In all likelihood, Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore both seek to use the island to achieve some altruistic ends, but both men ultimately hold selfish reasons for doing so, and both employ evil means to achieve those ends.
In an important stage of this battle between Ben and Widmore, the primary on-island plot of The Other Woman focused on yet another Dharma station, the Tempest. Goodwin refers to the Tempest as a power station, but the the station itself served as a Ben's source of military and political power rather than electrical power. The Tempest, which uses a massive tidal wave as its logo, houses chemicals that can kill every person on the island with the flip of a switch. (One point of confusion in this plotline seems to be: why did Charlotte and Daniel try to complete their mission in secret? Most likely, they did not trust Juliet, one of Ben’s operatives in their midst. As it turns out, they had good reason to fear her.) As Charlotte reminds us, Benjamin Linus used this weapon years ago to usurp control of the Island from the Dharma Initivative, and he probably would have used it again if his situation became desperate. Ben’s famous claim that “Every single living person on this island will be killed,” now appears to be a threat rather than a prophecy.
The introduction to this new station also serves as a literary allusion to William Shakespeare’s final play, The Tempest. Shakespeare’s The Tempest ranks as perhaps the most seminal version of the deserted island stories common throughout literature. Much like Lost itself, the story of The Tempest involves a group of characters who crash on a deserted island, and then come into conflict with supernatural forces and a group of other inhabitants. Prospero, the powerful man in control of this island, serves as the central character of this drama. Ben almost certainly provides an analogue to Prospero. Prospero uses his magic, as well as his skills of manipulation, to keep his daughter Miranda, his servant Caliban, and an invisible spirit Ariel all under his control. Eventually, after a complicated power struggle among different parties, Prospero chooses to release all of his subjects from bondage, and all of the characters sail away from the island to return happily to civilization.
Aside from Propsero, the individual characters in The Tempest do not correspond very directly to the characters on Lost. Prospero’s three reluctant subordinates (Miranda, Caliban, and Ariel) remain on the island unwillingly under Prospero’s control, a trait shared by Juliet, in addition to Alex (and perhaps even Jacob). This allusion to The Tempest most likely serves as a reference to shared thematic elements in the two works rather than common character arcs. Political power struggles, utopia and dystopia, science and magic, freedom and imprisonment all play key roles in Shakespeare’s play as well as in Lost. For instance, in Act Two of the play, the character Gonzalo describes a vision of the island that should sound familiar to Lost viewers: "And were the king on't, what would I do? [...] All things in common nature should produce / Without sweat or endeavour: treason, felony, / Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine, / Would I not have; but nature should bring forth, / Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance, / To feed my innocent people." Gonzalo's companions quickly point out to him the contradiction of his dream: one in which everyone else is free and equal, and yet he himself is king.
In The Other Woman, John Locke continues to struggle with the same contradictions exposed by the words of Gonzalo. The new interactions between Ben and Locke serve to deepen many of the political undertones of Season Four. By his natural inclinations, Locke would like to lead a free, utopian society, but Ben manages to persuade Locke that he can only achieve his ends through autocratic means. In a continuation of his manipulations, Ben plants new seeds of paranoia into Locke’s head: “Has the revolution begun? Well, you’re the leader now. I know it’s a tough position, especially with all of those people constantly second-guessing your decisions. And it always starts out so innocently, doesn’t it? A question here, a comment there. Then if you’re not careful, you’ll find you have a full-blown insurrection on your hands”. Ben would prefer to have Locke believe that anyone in a leadership position will inevitably face these types of insurrections. In reality, though, only the leaders of certain types of regimes will encounter these types of difficulties.
The works of Locke's namesake, the British political philosopher John Locke, offer a great deal of insight into the actual forces that lead to a revolution. Among many of his other contributions to political philosophy, Locke developed his own theory of the social contract, which argued that political power derives from the consent of the people.
"Freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power vested in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, when the rule prescribes not, and not to be subject to the inconstant, unknown, arbitrary will of another man."
As a corollary, John Locke developed the idea of the right of revolution. Under certain conditions defined by natural law, the people have not only the right but the responsibility to overthrow a corrupt government:
"Whenever the legislators endeavour to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence." John Locke's Second Treatise of Government (1690)
Whatever lingering doubts remain about Ben’s true intentions, his treatment of Juliet and Goodwin in this episode should provide yet another confirmation that Ben uses his power to serve his own benefit rather than the interests of his people. John Locke would agree that, by taking Goodwin's life and Juliet's freedom, Ben placed himself in a state of war against his people. Ben’s regime meets all of the requirements necessary to apply Locke’s right of revolution. In fact, his entire regime seems to be based on the concept of making everyone ‘subject to the inconstant, unknown, arbitrary will of another man.’ During Juliet’s flashbacks, Ben gives a strange indication of his leadership style, with the quote: “Who are we to question who’s on a list and who’s not?” Regardless of whether Ben is following Jacob's orders or his own orders, his actions violate the natural order. Ben now seems to be leading Locke on a path toward this same dismissive style of authority. Our John Locke was once the man who protested, “Who are we to tell anyone what they can or can’t do?”. At this point in the story, we can only hope that the character John Locke will eventually return to these principles of the philosopher John Locke.
Much like Locke, Juliet ranks as one of the strongest-willed characters on the show, even though she continues to show a fatal weakness for the power of Ben Linus. Juliet has tried to remove Ben from her life many times in the past, both by escape attempts and by an attempt on his life. Each time, she has failed. She now adopts a defeatist attitude, by stating with feeble certainty that “Ben is going to win” this war. Sayid’s flash-forward in The Economist guarantees that Benjamin Linus will remain an integral player in the story for the foreseeable future. Perhaps Ben eventually will cede his power willingly, much like Prospero of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Personally, I don't expect that Ben will ever love anything enough to set it free. I would expect that Ben’s fate on Lost will more closely parallel the fate of any other despot who violates the tenets of John Locke’s vision of the social contract. Locke, Jack, Sawyer, Sayid, and now Widmore all seem like strong candidates to cleanse the island of Ben’s influence. Will any of these characters possess the strength, the determination, and the acumen to finish the job?
In Juliet’s first ever scene on Lost, she expressed her identification with Stephen King’s Carrie, a story of an abused girl’s struggle to break free and exact revenge on her tormentors. Early in the episode, Harper explained to Juliet exactly how she could end all of her problems: “by pointing the gun and pulling the trigger”. Of course, she needs to stop taking orders from Ben and take matters into her own hands. After watching The Other Woman, I can think of no more fitting end to his reign than for Juliet Burke to commit an ‘act of free will,’ and overthrow the island’s cruel tyrant once and for all.
Article by Luhks