A young adult Ben with bad hair, unexpected shootings, potentially crazy castaways, and that mysterious smoke monster were at the heart of this week’s episode. We took a break from the Dharma era, and instead focused on the modern era happenings on the Island, as well as some glimpses into Ben’s past as Alex’s father and Charles Widmore’s adversary. Based on the new information we have about Ben and the Island, there are some interesting ideas to discuss.
- In Ben’s flashbacks, we see him as a young adult (with the aforementioned bad hair, and not looking young at all – why couldn’t they cast a younger actor who resembles Ben?). He and Ethan sneak up on Rousseau’s tent, hold her at gun point, and take her baby, Alex. Ben tells Rousseau that if she wants her child to live, she’ll never try to find them, and she’ll run the other way whenever she hears whispers. Back at the Others’ camp, we learn that Widmore had ordered Ben to kill Rousseau, so he isn’t pleased that Ben not only let Rousseau live, but that he brought a baby back with him. Charles wanted Ben to kill it, but Ben adamantly refused, saying that it was a child, not an it. Perhaps Ben and Charles’ main conflict with one another stems from this moment. If Ben’s one decent trait is his love for children, then he would despise Charles for suggesting such a thing as exterminating a child. Perhaps the entire Others’ camp lost respect for Charles in that moment, since they have always shown a reverence for children.
- Ben tries to regain Locke’s trust – a difficult task since he killed him – by agreeing to go face the potential wrath of the Smoke Monster with him. As a show of good faith, he shoots and kills leader wannabe Ceasar. (Didn’t see that coming!) Once they arrive at Ben’s old house on the main island, they run into Frank and Sun, who are surprised to learn that Locke is alive again. Frank opts to return to the other island, while Locke, Ben, and Sun go in search of the Others’ Temple. When they get there, Locke and Ben crawl into a series of tunnels that run beneath the Temple, so that Ben can be judged by the Smoke Monster. And so he is judged. His life with Alex flashes before his eyes, including the horrible moment when he chose to let her die rather than leave the Island. Because of his genuine remorse, Smoky forgives him, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the hook. Alex appears to him, and she’s not too happy. She warns him not to kill Locke again, but instead to do everything that Locke says. It looks like the Island has put Locke in charge now and made Ben one of his minions.
- Meanwhile, Frank returns to the other Island and finds that things are spiraling out of control. Ilana and some other guys found a stash of guns and are obsessed with the question “What lies in the shadow of the statue?” They knock Frank out as they decide to take him with them, wherever they are going.
Ben’s Quest for Power
- In a flashback, we saw Charles and Ben meet for the first time, when Ben was a child recovering from whatever healed him in the Others’ Temple. He told Charles he didn’t want to go back to the Dharma Initiative. Charles tells him, “Just because you’re living with them, doesn’t mean you can’t be one of us.” We can assume that Ben returned to the Dharma camp shortly after this, and stayed there until the time came for the purge. This flashback showed us that Charles was never happy about Ben becoming an Other. He protested to Richard, even though he knows “the Island chooses who it chooses.” So from the beginning, Ben and Charles were at odds with one another. This flashback also reminded us that Ben always wanted to be with the more powerful Others, rather than with the Dharmaites. Somewhere along the way, this desire to belong to a mysterious group evolved into a consuming lust for power.
- Ben finally attained his position of power with the Others when Charles is banished, presumably for “leaving the island regularly,” “having a daughter with an outsider” (that answers the question of whether or not Penny ever lived on the Island), breaking the rules, and being selfish. Doesn’t sound like the kind of leader the Island would want. Then again, most of those things describe Ben as we know him. Ben claims he “would do anything to protect this Island.” Charles points out that Ben wasn’t willing to kill Alex to protect the Island. So as Charles leaves, Ben is left with the looming question of whether or not the Island wanted Ben to kill her, or if it was Charles that wanted her dead. Charles’ prediction actually does come true: that if the Island wanted her dead, then one day she will be dead, and Ben will be the one being banished. “You cannot fight the inevitable.” Of course, it’s easy to see why Ben blames Charles for Alex’s death. He could easily believe that Charles sent the commandos to the Island to finally follow through on the order to kill Alex, which would be a case of Charles manipulating Ben. And so it comes back to a power struggle between these two men. Charles, still embittered over his banishment, forces Ben to leave the Island, which leaves them both in a situation where they are clamoring to be the first one back to reclaim their position. Looks like it won’t matter now, though, since Locke is the new king of the castle.
- Ben’s constant manipulation of those around him is all part of his quest to maintain control, and to attain, keep, or regain his position as someone who has power over the Island’s inhabitants and who can speak for the Island. We have seen this power struggle time and again. Ben vs. his father, Ben vs. Charles, Ben vs. Jack, Ben vs. Locke. In this week’s episode, Ben told Locke what he thought he needed to hear, that he returned to the Island “to be judged,” and that he killed him because he knew that he would come back alive on the Island. He was lying in at least two ways in that conversation: 1) He didn’t want to be judged for killing Locke; he wanted to be judged for causing Alex’s death. 2) He didn’t consider that the Island would actually bring Locke back to life. He later tells Sun that he’s scared to death that Locke is alive because he didn’t know the Island was capable of resurrection. That leads me to believe that a dead Locke was simply his ticket back to the Island.
- It was disturbing to see Ben manipulate Ceasar, making him think that Locke was no more than a crazy man who was already on the Island when they arrived. And then, he handily eliminated this marginal threat to his leadership by stealing Caesar’s gun and killing him, right in front of everyone. That was unexpected and jolting. Never has Ben been so obvious with his evil deeds. Usually he acts in secrecy.
Ben’s Weakness: A Fatherly Love for Children
- Ben may be evil, and he may have an obsession with obtaining power, but his one soft spot is his love for his adopted child, Alex. Perhaps because of his own troubled childhood, he feels a need to protect and nurture other children. When he confronted Rousseau in her tent and saw the baby, all thoughts of completing his mission to kill her vanished, and his focus turned to Alex, and claiming her as his own daughter. Based on what we know of their relationship, it seems that he raised her in a loving home, kept her safe, and genuinely loved her. Everything was just peachy until Ben’s two worlds collided: Island leader and doting father. When forced to choose between saving his daughter’s life and leaving his position of power on the Island forever, he made the regretable decision to let her die. Now he feels great remorse for that decision, and it cost him everything: he lost his daughter – the one person he truly cared about other than himself, and he lost his place of importance on the Island.
- Ben’s paternal feelings for children also prevented him from carrying out his threat to kill Penny, out of revenge for Alex’s death. He makes a cruel phone call to Charles, telling him that he’s about to kill Penny, and then has no qualms about shooting Desmond, who is unloading groceries from a car. But, when he has Penny trapped, he hesitates because little Charlie comes out on deck. That was a tense moment, but thankfully Ben’s soft spot for kids won out over his desire for revenge over his adversary. That moment of hesitation was enough time for Desmond to tackle Ben, break his arm, pummel him with his full strength, and throw him like a sack of potatoes into the water. Hooray, Desmond! (It’s no wonder Ben asked Sun to deliver a message to Desmond that he is sorry. How horrible that he was about to kill Penny right in front of him.) It’s interesting that Ben felt justified in his attempt to kill Penny because, as he told her, “Your father is a really terrible human being.” In his mind, Charles is a worse person than he is because he entertains the thought of killing children. In the end, Ben can’t pull the trigger (even if Desmond hadn’t attacked him) because in doing so, he would become just the sort of heartless monster he sees Charles as.
- In the end, it was Ben’s remorse for the trauma he caused Desmond and Penny, and for his responsibility for Alex’s death, that made the Smoke Monster spare his life.
The Smoke Monster
- Our first clue that Ben had lost his status as a powerful Island leader was when he failed to summon the Smoke Monster. Apparently all it used to take was draining the pool of murky water in the secret passageway beneath his house and muttering, “I’ll be outside.” Didn’t work this time. Instead, Locke suggested that they go to the Smoke Monster.
- Ben’s journey into the bowels of the Temple brought him to an ancient wall painting that showed a wolf-person kneeling before the Smoke Monster. He catches on and kneels before a grate, from which the Smoke Monster emerges and treats him to a “This is your life” montage. He experiences the excruciating pain of his choice to let Alex die. Amidst his tears, the Smoke Monster dissipates, leaving him with his guilt, and a visit from Alex.
- It seems clear that this isn’t actually Alex paying a visit from the Great Beyond, but the Smoke Monster appearing in a form that Ben will most respond to. This is similar to when it appeared to Mr. Eko as his brother. So it is Smoky who warns Ben that it already knows he’s planning to kill Locke again, and says that if he so much as touches him, “I will hunt you down and destroy you.” Smoky’s not messing around! In addition, Ben is instructed to listen to every word John Locke says and follow his leadership.
- So in one way, Ben came out of his encounter in a positive way – “It let me live.” On the other hand, he has failed in his quest to regain a place of importance on the Island, and he’ll have to continue living with his guilt over Alex’s death.
Locke – The New Leader
- It seems like death made Locke wise up. He doesn’t believe anything that Ben says, but has instead started telling him what’s going to happen.
- Locke also tells Sun that he has some ideas for how to find Jin. Might he pay Jacob a visit, or go turn the wheel again?
- Now that Locke is calling the shots, we’ll get to watch Ben squirm.
The Crazies from Flight 316
- “What lies in the shadow of the statue?” – Um, excuse me?
- Ilana seems to be the new queen of crazy, taking over Rousseau’s old position. Apparently, she is leading the other castaways on some mission to discover whatever lies in the shadow of the statue. I’m guessing she’s talking about the big foot, which is all that remains of the Egyptian looking statue that once stood tall over the Island? Could the answer to that question be “The Temple?” If she is leading a group to the Temple, perhaps it will play a pivotal role in the reunion of the 1970s castaways and the modern-day ones. Or, maybe Ilana and her comrades have been inflicted with the same sickness as Rousseau’s team, in which case Frank is in trouble, since the next phase would involve them killing each other off.
- Whether or not Ilana is headed for the Temple, it seems clear that it will eventually play a crucial role, just as the Hatch did in season two.
- All signs point to the origin of the Others as an ancient civilization, or maybe even something extraterrestrial. Whatever the case, the Temple is a source of healing, as it is where Richard took young Ben to be healed. It also seems to be where someone can “become” an Other. Maybe the Smoke Monster does some hocus pocus to mark you for life.
- I know all this Temple, ancient civilization, smoke monster stuff is too weird for some people, but I’m still loving every minute!