Another goosebumpy episode of Lost! "Dr. Linus" is all about Ben and the complicated path he's led on and off the island. There's also a focus on the life and death of several characters, leadership, solved mysteries, plus a bunch of fun Easter eggs.
Naturally, there's no way I can speak freely without revealing spoilers, so to get chatting, just
- We get to see the sideways reality life of Ben Linus, who's the history teacher at the same high school where Locke is a sub, last seen in the episode "The Substitute." Spurred on by the injustice of budget cuts and having to supervise detention, Ben laments his situation until Locke encourages him to go for the principal job. You can see the same flicker of ruthless ambition in his eyes we see on the island when Locke mentions leadership.
- At his home in LA, Ben is a very decent human being who's taking care of his sickly father. It's in stark contrast that he cares for Roger so tenderly, when on the island, he wanted to kill him (even more ironic is that instead of gassing his own dad to death, he changes out his oxygen tanks). Their relationship is also different in that Roger seems to never have blamed the death of Ben's mother on Ben; instead, he wishes Ben had a better life. He also mentions that they left the Dharma Initiative (but why?) and is the first person of two to wonder how different their life would be (the other is Lapidus).
- Back on the island, Ben reunites with the group of Ilana, Miles, Sun, and Lapidus after fleeing Sayid and the temple. It's the wrong move, as Ilana makes Miles use his "power" to find out how Jacob died. Immediately, Miles sees that it was Ben who killed Jacob, declaring it aloud and putting Ben at the top of Ilana's you-know-what list. She is pissed, and decides that an apt punishment is for Ben to dig his own grave. You know, Ben did some crappy stuff in his life, but . . . wow. We learn more about Ilana besides the fact that she thought of Jacob as a father figure: she reveals that her job is to protect the candidates, letting Sun know she may be one — unless it's that other Kwon, Jin.
- Someone else familiar plays an important part in Ben's sideways life: Alex! As the only nerd who cares about history club (I kid), the happy, healthy teen still shares a bond with Ben as his prize pupil. Butterflies: she was never separated from her mother, Rousseau, residing with the hardworking single mom. As Alex worries about getting into her dream college, she gives Ben the weapon he needs to get the principal job: gossip. Remember that decency in Ben I mentioned before? It goes into hiding as he figures out a way to get the top job — just blackmail Principal Reynolds into leaving.
- Jack and Hurley, in the meantime, are meandering back to the temple. Richard runs into them and tricks them into following him to the Black Rock. His ulterior motive? He wants to die. Not only does he want death by dynamite, but he also wants some help: he can't kill himself, he says, because Jacob touched him. Look at that, a mystery solved! That's why Jack failed in all his suicide attempts back in season three. So besides Jack and Richard, Kate, Sawyer, Sayid, Hurley, Jin, Sun, and Locke had all been touched and would also be/have been similarly unable to kill themselves. With this info, Jack gets all crazy-eyed and lights Richard's dynamite, thinking they'll survive it — and they do. It's a rare show of faith for the doctor — pretty significant for the famed man of science.
- In LA, Ben tries to blackmail Principal Reynolds into quitting, but he immediately pulls out his trump card: Alex (though I'm kind of unsure how the principal knew they were that close). If he steps down, he's also sabotaging Alex's chances at Yale. Cut to Ben back on the island, and Bad Locke shows up, freeing Ben from grave-digging duty. He makes a run for it, and once Ilana catches up, he takes his chance to explain himself (explain himself? Ben has totally gone soft. The old Ben just would have shot her and run). Anyway, he has a heart-to-heart with Ilana, rifles poised, and emotionally confesses his regret for choosing the island over Alex. Cut back to LA: he chooses Alex. Giving up the chance to lead means a lot about Ben's core character; the man in the sideways world is a good person. Maybe the man on the island isn't too far off either; after his speech, Ilana lets him come back to the beach, no death required.
- Reunited and it feels so good! Richard, Jack, and Hurley make it to the beach and find some old friends. I melted when Sun and Hurley get all huggy and everyone slow-mos into brief happiness. I kind of love these twisted happy endings Lost gives us sometimes. The twist here is that someone is lurking underwater, having spied them: Widmore, inside a submarine.
Other fun stuff:
- Ben is teaching his students about Napoleon, the petite world leader who lost his power, the most important thing to him. It's obviously a comparison to Ben, who seeks power so tenaciously. Not to mention that the first Napoleon reference is Elba, another island.
- When Ben is tutoring Alex, the ship in the image for the East India Trading Company looks a lot like the Black Rock.
- The books and magazines Ben finds in a tent on the beach are Sawyer's dirty magazines and The Chosen, about two boys from different worlds, and a book called Benjamin Disraeli: Justice Is Truth in Action.
- Oh, and I also guffawed when Miles mentions the most forgettable characters in Lost history, Nikki and Paolo. After "listening" to them, he nabs their buried diamonds, apparently.
What did you think of this week's episode? Do you think Ben deserved to be killed, or do you think he somehow redeemed himself?