This week's installment of Lost was the Ben-centric "Dr. Linus." For me, this was one of the better episodes of this final season, but kind of odd. It was weird, even though there was some important information given and some major character development, I felt the episode was...I don't know....breezy, simple. I'm not sure that makes any sense, but hopefully I can describe this feeling better below. Here are my thoughts on "Dr. Linus":
*Isn't it amazing how this show has been able to take such an evil, reviled, spiteful, manipulative character, and made him sympathetic? You'd be hard pressed to find any regular Lost viewer who didn't get a bit of a smile cross his or her face when Ben opened his front door and Alex was standing there. I loved the idea that the Sideways timeline gave Ben the opportunity to have a fulfilling relationship with his "daughter." This paralleled his on-Island story perfectly, as it was his confession of shame in sacrificing Alex to keep his power over the Island that led to his salvation.
*There was some other great stuff in the Sideways plot as well. Keeping true to the motif of the other Sideways stories we've seen, Ben studied his reflection in the microwave glass. We also had Ben changing his father's oxygen tank -- giving him life-saving gas, instead of the poisonous gas he used to kill his father on the Island. Of most importance though, was Ben's attempt to be the master manipulator he is on the Island. However, like Jack, Locke and Kate, Sideways Ben was a "better" person. This Ben has compassion. This Ben is willing to sacrifice his ambition on behalf of others (both Alex and his father). Unlike on the Island, when given the choice, Sideways Ben chose Alex over his chance at power, the thing Island Ben admits is his greatest desire.
*Of course, this all plays in to Ben's story on the Island. If you had told me, even a week ago, that Ben would turn down an opportunity to rule over the Island, I wouldn't have believed you. We knew he felt very sorry for allowing Alex to die, but as he had the opportunity to choose which side he wanted to go with (Smokey or Jacob), he chose the side that really offered him nothing but forgiveness. This would seem inherently out of character for Ben, but you know what? I believed it. Credit should be given to the writers and, obviously, Michael Emerson for making this transformation possible. The question that remains, for me at least, is what does Ben want now? He has turned down the Island, and he can't get his daughter back, so what does he want? Further, in whatever he is seeking, will Ben still be the old Ben insofar as he will manipulate, lie and steal to reach his desired outcome? I sure as hell hope so; I hope they haven't completely neutered the character we have all come to know and love.
*Someone else who has chosen Jacob is Jack. How intense was that scene in The Black Rock? Very intense! And I loved it. Jack's explanation for his seeming death wish was revealing (and exactly what Jacob was aiming at when he had Hurley show Jack the Lighthouse). After his staring-at-the-sea meditation time, Jack has realized that there truly is some higher power working in his life, even if that power is a white-tuniced, sandal-wearing weaver. The Man of Science has become a Man of Faith, and trusted that he would not meet his demise via dynamite because Jacob had larger plans for him. I took his almost maniacal expression and laugh not as signs of a mad man, but as a pressure release. Jack has fought so hard for most of the series against his destiny, but with his hissy fit in the Lighthouse and his staring down of the dynamite, Jack has finally released his doubt and inner turmoil. We have seen "activated" Jack in the past, most recently when he was leading the group to detonate Jughead. This is when the character, and the actor, are at their best. I look forward to seeing a directed and motivated Jack for the rest of the series.
*While Jack has been motivated by Jacob, there is at least one person on the Island who would love nothing more than stab the Man in White over and over again, Richard. It turns out that his eternal life was a "gift" granted by Jacob in return for faith in Jacob's master plan. Now that Jacob is dead, and Richard still has no idea what that plan was, he wants to shake loose his (im)mortal coil. I have found it fascinating to watch Richard completely unravel this season. He was always the man with all the answers, but since Jacob has died and Smokey is running rampant, Richard, admittedly, can't understand what his world has become. His falling apart allows for someone else to step into his role as leader of the Island denizens. Since he has all of the answers now, it must be Jack.
*Lost has great direction in general, but there was a fantastic bi of directing I noticed in this episode. When Sideways Ben is told he has to monitor detention, he is in a too-big-for-him sweater with his shoulders sloped forward. He has been debased and embarrassed; he is as low as he can be as he has no power and does not control his fate (as it regards his job). At the end of the episode, when Jack sizes up Ben at the Beach, Ben assumes the same physical stance, with his shirt baggy and brown with blood and dirt. Again, Ben has been debased, forced to grovel; he is as low as he can be as he has no power and does not control his fate (as it regards his life on the Island). Just a nice piece of bookended direction. Also, check out again the lighting in the principal's office when he counters Ben's accusations with his threat against Alex's chances at Yale. The bright sunlight, along with Ben's haircut and glasses, gave Ben a look of insignificance. He is washed out, and the shadows make his face look very small and withdrawn. He is a man defeated. Great stuff,if you care about this sort of thing.
*Is Widmore on his way to meet Smokey? He didn't want to stop to address the folks on the Beach, so he must be meeting up with the Man in Black on Hydra Island, right?
*Why would Smokey rally his army over at Hydra Island? Is that the only place Widmore can dock his submarine?
*We got an answer to why Ilana collected Jacob's ashes: so Miles could find out how Jacob died.
*Speaking if Ilana, I really hope we get a backstory on her. How did Jacob come into her life, and what did he do that he became like a father to her. Further, how did she end up in all of the bandages we saw her in in "The Incident?"
*Are we to believe no one else on the beach heard Smokey arrive with his "tikatikatika" and wind blowing? And since when did he have telekenesis that he could unlock Ben's leash with just a thought?
*I assumed that in the Sideways timeline, the Island sunk in 1977 when Jughead was detonated. This was the proverbial fork in the road that split off the Sideways timeline. We know Dharma went to the Island, because we saw Dharmaville on the sunk Island. But we learned in the episode that Ben and his father were on the Island at some point. But in the "real" timeline, Young Ben and his father were still on the Island at the time of The Incident. So, when did the timelines splinter? This is hurting my brain.
*I'm not sure if you knew, but Sun has to find her husband. Just wanted to make sure you realized that.
*Where the &!%$ is Sawyer? Seriously, he hasn't been on the show for the last three episodes. Hope Josh Holloway enjoyed the vacation.
*Nice callback to Nikki and Paolo with Miles calling them jabronis and digging up their diamonds.
*Others have pointed it out, but there was another nice callback to Hurley not being able to get exploded Arzt out of his shirt when Arzt couldn't get formaldehyde out of his shirt.
Once again, nothing from my preview post was addressed. Kate and Sawyer were nowhere to be found, and we learned nothing about the effects of Sayid's stabbing of Smokey. Nor did we learn what the Jacobins' plan is to defeat the Big Bad. It's a good thing I'm not a weatherman, as I am terrible at the prediction business.
OK, that's what I've got for this week. Again, I thought it was a good episode with some interesting plot revelations and character developments. Next week's episode is entitled "Recon," and will, finally, be a Sawyer episode. I already notice that "recon" has two potential meanings. Recon as short for reconnaissance, meaning the gathering of information on the enemy. Or, it could be read as re-con, meaning to con again. Could it be, as I and others have speculated, that Sawyer is pulling his hardest and most important con on Smokey? I guess we'll find out on Tuesday. If you'd like full recaps and some more in-depth analysis, be sure to check out DocArzt, Jay and Jack, Doc Jensen, and Erika's input. I'll be back early next week with my preview for "Recon."