THINGS I NOTICED - DR. LINUS
In past seasons, an episode like Dr. Linus would be considered "filler". Although it succeeded in advancing the storyline, it didn't deliver the raw action of Sundown or provide the startling answers associated with The Substitute and Lighthouse. Still, neither of those things mattered much. This week's episode was stolen away by the amazing acting of Michael Emerson, in both the ALT and on-island timelines. Things I Noticed:
Lo There Do I See The Line of My People... Back to the Beginning... Back to the Beach Camp!
Maybe Miles was right last season - walking back to the beach is the only real plan anyone in LOST every really has. The place where LOST began is also the place we've spent most of our time, and it's fast becoming the epicenter of the entire show - the wellspring from which everything and everyone has seemingly flowed. When all else fails, the 815'ers beach always becomes a convenient START point from which to regroup and re-plan, and season six is no exception.
Everbody Wants To Rule The World - Especially Napoleon
The first glimpse we got of Dr. Linus turned me off a few weeks ago. After a more thorough view, maybe I prejudged him. LAX_Linus is a likeable enough guy, with honest interests and genuine passion for all good things. Unfortunately for him, nice guys usually finish last.
Principal Reynolds is the same kickass 80's nemesis he portrayed as professor Hathaway in Real Genius (and if I remember, he was carrying on inappropriate school-based sexual relations in that movie too), and also as the annoying face-punched journalist in Die Hard. They could've also gotten the principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but I think that guy touched some children recently. Then again, so did Jacob.
Arzt is back, and it was good to see him with a semi-significant role here. He's got formaldehyde on his shirt , and I took this as a backhanded reference to the fact that island-Arzt is already dead. He's stuck in the same familiar role as always: sitting alone during lunch, far removed from the cool kids' table.
As Ben and Arzt discuss the decaying state of school affairs, Ben utters a prophetic line: "I know you've given up, but I refuse to." Later on in the episode, this ties in neatly to island-Ben's salvation. Broken, beaten, and finally ready to give up, Illana breathes new life into Benjamin Linus by forgiving his sins and accepting him into Jacob's army. In that aspect, Ben's refusal to give up here in the LAX timeline is paralleled on the island.
The most interesting part of the school scene occurs when John Locke interacts with Ben. Here in the bizarro world Locke is good, not bad. He's also ready to follow and listen to Ben, instead of asking Ben to follow him. These are more examples of role-reversals; all through the show we've seen Ben 'push' people in Jacob-like fashion to get them to do all sorts of things. Here, LAX_Locke is returning the favor.
You're Forgetting One Thing. What If?
In the land of bizarro daddy issues, Ben is caring for his father by gassing him with oxygen rather than lethal poison gas. I'd point out that this was ironic, but last week the irony police slapped me with some violations that I'm still trying to clear up.
But hey, we get our first real reference to the island here - and that's big. Roger Linus confirms what bad CGI has already told us this season: Dharma does exist (or at least did exist) in the alternate timeline. Not only that, but both Ben and his father have spent some time on the island. What made them leave is unclear, but Roger goes extra-crazy-special out of his way to pointedly wonder (aloud and for our benefit) just what life would've been like if they'd "stayed on the island".
I felt as if we, the viewers, were getting a direct message here. This type of "what if" theorizing was almost a little too pronounced, especially when it got echoed later on during Ben's brief conversation with Lapidus. Frank wonders aloud how different his life would've been if his alarm clock had gone off, and if he had actually piloted Flight 815. Ben slaps him in the face with a dose of fate, reminding him that it doesn't really matter because "the island got you anyway".
I've always had the feeling that we'd see Flight 815 crash again, and that Lapidus would be at the control wheel. This would be the corrected version of the crash, with the correct people involved. Not saying this will definitely happen, but it's been in the back of my mind for three seasons now. And Jack's line about "going back to where we started" - although yes he was also referring to the beach camp - seemed to gel nicely with the idea.
Maybe We Could Build A Fire... Sing a Few Songs!
Miles is the king of sarcasm. Lapidus is the king of zinging one-liners. Together the two of them would make a great sitcom, especially with the pad Miles can now afford after digging up Nikki and Paulo's diamonds. It was funny how fast he figured this out, and how quickly he snubbed Ben's lame offer to finally pay out on the 3.2 million dollars. Good for him.
When Miles approaches Ben with bananas and beanpods, the subject of Jacob comes up again. Here, Ben echoes what many of us have already thought: that Jacob didn't really care about being killed at all. Miles immediately corrects him however, telling Ben: "No, he cared. He was hoping he was wrong about you."
This is highly interesting, because it seems to go against the original theory of Jacob knowingly accepting his own demise. If what Miles says is true, Jacob's last words to Ben about 'having a choice' now carry a lot more weight. At the same time however, I find it difficult to believe Jacob's not still pushing Ben from beyond the grave. Through the use of Miles, maybe Jacob is allowing Ben to know his disappointment for a very specific reason. Perhaps Jacob is trying to appeal to the good within Benjamin Linus, because bringing that good back to the surface again is the only way to successfully recruit him.
Say it... Say it...
Sun again fulfills her obligatory 10-second dialogue, this time talking to Illana. We get a fairly big answer here, as Illana tells us that a candidate's role is to replace Jacob. "What does that mean?" Sun asks. "Sorry, not this episode", Illana tells her.
Illana is as confused about 'Kwon' as we are. Whether the name of the candidate 42 refers to Sun or Jin, Illana explains she plans to protect them both. How she'll do this with a single rifle is beyond me, but maybe she's got a sick dagger buried somewhere that we don't know about.
I also found it interesting that Illana said there were "six candidates left". She already knows John Locke is dead AND occupied by the man in black, which would leave five at most. It left me wondering if Illana knew of a sixth candidate, and whether or not that candidate was Kate.
From our standpoint, replacing Jacob's role seems to be a piss-poor job. Maybe Illana doesn't see it that way, which is why she talks about it so openly. Later on this episode, we see the MIB talking about enlisting a replacement as well. So does the island need two replacements? A ying and a yang? Or are Jacob and the MIB really just two halves of the same entity, waging an internal, Tyler Durden-like war of fate vs. free will? Great question. But sorry, not this episode.
There Are Two Types of People In This World. Those Who Have Guns... And Those Who Dig
Illana's insistence that Ben dig his own grave was very Clint Eastwood. Ben's compliance was an unmistakable indication that he's utterly broken. No longer do I think that Ben 'still has a plan' - I guess I've been wrong about that. Right now the only thing up Ben's sleeve is a sweaty, dirt-covered arm.
Ben's only redemption at this point lies in the fact that he himself was pushed and manipulated into the very role he's played. Benjamin Linus never chose to be leader, and unlike Napoleon maybe he never really wanted it. The metamorphosis he underwent at the temple came while he was an unconscious child, with no choice given to him whatsoever. He usurped power from Charles Widmore out of necessity, in an effort to raise a daughter who Widmore admittedly would rather see dead. Unknowingly, Ben's upbringing as a Dharma-brat also influenced his decision to move everyone to the barracks... a decision, in hindsight, that would disconnect him from the island at the most fundamental of levels.
String all of these things together, and the sum total of Ben's existance has been engineered since childhood. He's been given very few choices, other than the one he himself later points out: the death of Alex. Ben confesses to choosing the island over the life of his daughter, and honestly admits to his mistake. His pain and sorrow are genuine, and so is his regret.
You Wanna Walk Your Baby Nuts Around The Block, You Won't Make It To The Corner!
In the alternate/sideways/simultaneous universe, Dr. Linus is thinking of making a power-play much, much bigger than himself. He's about to bite off a lot more than he can chew, yet he still has the balls to go through with it. The 'big nuts' portion of Ben's personality seems to be bred straight into him, regardless of whether he stayed on the island or left.
The thing is, Ben had principal Reynolds by the balls and we all know it. I couldn't buy into the whole "If you blackmail me I'll crush Alex's college dreams" storyline, because Dr. Linus could've included him not doing that as a stipulation of the blackmail (hey, isnt that what blackmail's all about!?) It was a weak counter-ploy that shouldn't have held any weight, especially since Ben could've written Alex his own letter of recommendation once he assumed Reynold's position.
Although It didn't make any sense, the principal's counter-move was obviously there to further the motif of Ben making the correct choices in both the ALT and on-island storylines. He's destined to look out for Alex's best interests in a fatherly way no matter what universe he's in, but once again he's still not her true father. LAX_Ben selflessly chooses Alex over himself, correcting his one big on-island mistake. It also seemed as if he recognized her at one point, in the same deja-vu way we've seen in past episodes.
Poor Arzt is the same little player caught in a much bigger game, not allowed to sit at the cool kids' table. And all the guy wanted was a parking spot and some aprons. Damn.
Like I've Always Told You, You Put Your Mind to it, You Can Accomplish Anything
Cyborg... vampire... when it comes to Richard Alpert, Hurley is hilariously covering all the bases. In the last few weeks Richard has been stripped of all semblance of power or control. He's been reduced to a man with a great many answers and very little reason to continue on, and that makes him highly interesting to us... and to Jack, too.
Not sure about the rest of you, but every time I see the Black Rock I pee in my pants a little bit. Just sayin. As Richard reflects thoughtfully on that one set of leg irons, it's becoming more and more obvious that his backstory involves the slave ship in some way... and that getting a more in-depth glimpse of his past history is not far off.
Richard looked a little surprised at seeing the dynamite. Maybe he just wasn't expecting it to still be there. He flipped around and juggled it to show us that he couldn't be responsible for his own demise, which means one of two things: either Richard is a sick maniac, or he knows the gifts associated with Jacob's touch extend even beyond Jacob's own apparent demise.
"I can't kill myself", Richard tells us. It doesn't explain his agelessness, but it does explain a lot of other things we've seen these past years. Namely, it tells us why Jack couldn't kill himself on the sixth street bridge. It tells us why Locke couldn't hang himself in that hotel room, and ended up needing some help from Ben. Maybe it even suggests that Michael was touched by Jacob at one point too, because his repeated attempts at suicide in season four were all thwarted.
In any case, the real story here is the new badass Jack. Unlike Richard, post-lighthouse Jack IS a sick maniac. His little sit-down over a stick of lit dynamite even had indestructible Hurley running for the hills, but in this poker game Jack was 100% certain he was holding the nuts. As far as Jack was concerned, the whole scenario wasn't even a gamble. When Richard asks "What if you're wrong?", Jack replies cooly and uncaringly with the simple phrase: "I'm not."
Go back and listen to the way Jack says those two words. He's so unfailingly confident, it's kinda scary. We've never seen Jack like this before. New Jack is way past maybe's or what if's. He's completely and unequivocally sure of his indestructibility, even though he doesn't know what his role is just yet. That's what he wants from Richard right now: the ultimate answer. Jack is no longer fighting the reasons why he was brought to the island, he finally wants to know what it is that he's supposed to do.
Your Overconfidence Is Your Weakness
Flocke has played the last few episodes pretty flawlessly. Aside from tripping over that root and throwing his little Johnny Locke tantrum, everything he's set out to accomplish has fallen snugly into place. Yet here, as he approaches a miserable Benjamin Linus (at a time in his life when he's weak and helpless, might I add...), smokey goes about things all wrong. It's right here, right now, that the dark man makes a pretty big mistake.
After using the Force to pop his leg irons like a Jedi, Flocke totally had Ben with "We're all gonna blow this taco stand". He completely lost him however, with "But hey, someone's gotta stay behind. You're cool with that, right?"
Perhaps it's because Ben was so far disconnected from the island's roots (again, the barracks), or maybe it's because the MIB just assumes every leader of The Others is as inherently power-hungry as Charles Widmore... but it turns out the dark man doesn't really know Benjamin Linus. Because of this, he mistakenly assumes Ben's greatest wish is to rule the island. Just as Sawyer's biggest desire was to leave, and Sayid's only wish was to be with Nadia again, the dark man approached Ben offering the one thing he figured a deposed leader would certainly want most: to regain his power.
Ben however, never truly relished his rule. He was a great leader and master manipulator, but his real motivations were never grounded in obtaining and keeping his power. Although he obedientlyfollowed what he thought were Jacob's orders, Ben was constantly distracted by his own inclinations. His fruitless attempt to solve the fertility problem was (according to Richard) never in line with the island's interests, and the raising of Alex as his daughter was for Ben's own personal reasons.
The dark man releases Ben, gives him access to a weapon, and then presents him with what he believes to be an easy choice. Ultimately however, Ben resists. He chooses to come clean and admit his sins, even if it means being shot or banned from the good guys' group. By laying down his rifle and "explaining" to Illana, he ends up being surprisingly absolved by her. In what becomes a fantastic, awesome scene, both Illana and Ben tearfully come to the realization that they have an awful lot in common.
The dark-shirted man loses Ben here, and that's important. Ben becomes the first person to resist the MIB's siren-like call, and Illana's forgiveness places him squarely on team Jacob. There's a definite momentum shift here, and the impact is probably felt a little harder when contrasted against the dark gloom of last week's episode. Ben's future role may still be uncertain, but if I had to choose up sides for an island game of kickball, I'd say Benjamin Linus would probably be one of my top five picks.
Anything That We Want to Know, From Just a Beginner to a Pro, You Need a Montage... Montage!
The beach camp is a sacred place for us, and with very good reason. It represents the origins of the show we love so much, and memories of a more mysterious yet simpler time. It makes sense that LOST would begin and end in the same place, especially with all the circle and loop references scattered throughout the show. So when everyone ended up back here, including Jack and Hurley (and even Richard?) - it wasn't all that shocking. Cue dramatic montage, and bring on the hugging.
Standing just outside the circle of trust, Richard and Ben are the newcomers. They're fallen defenders of the island who've finally come to the realization that everyone's been pretty much on the same team all along. The sides are being chosen up very quickly, and they'd better be... because here comes the periscope of Widmore's sneaky sub. What havoc will he wreak? What shenanigans will he be up to? Not really sure, but having been off-island for so long he'd better be damned good at playing catch up.
Okay, here's a guess: Widmore will unknowingly end up following the wrong side. As leader of The Others, let's assume he'd been doing Jacob's will (or thought he was) for the entire time he was on the island. But what if he was actually listening to the MIB, without even realizing it? What if he were taking baby-killing direction not from Jacob, but from his nemesis instead?
Knowing what we know now, Widmore's words to John Locke about the upcoming war now contain a more sinister connotation: "If you're not back there, the wrong side will win". It's as if he knew (or was coached) that John Locke's body was necessary to the dark man's ultimate plan. In a way, Widmore participated in the MIB's long con, whether he knew it or not.
My section titles were all movie quotes this week, so I'll leave you with two more. These are from Memento, and in the world of LOST I think they very much apply:
Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts.
We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are.
See you next week,
THINGS I NOTICED - DR. LINUS