Just look at that come hither stare . . . Who knew history teachers could be so sexy?
WARNING: This recap might not be particularly snarky. After all, I am in love (with Benjamin Linus!). And one of the side effects of falling in love is a complete loss of one’s sense of humor . . .
Who would have thought that the most uplifting, feel-good, episode of the entire Lost series, thus far, would belong to a character that will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the best television villians of all time? For all those women out there (myself included) who have always dreamed of roping in and taming a bad boy, this episode was the ultimate fantasy come true. If Michael Emerson does not win an Emmy for his performance in “Mr. Linus,” the entire Academy of Television Arts and Sciences deserves to suffer the wrath of Smokey!
And when it comes to the Emmys, Smokey does NOT mess around!
But in order to truly understand the full extent of Benjamin Linus’s current redemption, both in flash-sideways world, and in real time, we should probably go back and revisit the single worst moment in the character’s entire life: the death of his adoptive daughter, Alex Rousseau.
At the time, Benjamin Linus and his band of Others were living at the island Barracks. Things were going peachy for Ben, until his nemesis, Charles Widmore, sent over his head minion, Army Drill Sergeant from Hell, Martin Keamy, to ensure Ben’s surrender and departure from the island. By way of collateral, Keamy kidnapped Ben’s adoptive teenage daughter Alex, and brought her to Ben’s house with a gun to her head. Keamy told Ben to either surrender immediately or watch his daughter die. Ben thought Keamy was bluffing, and stayed put. He wasn’t.
A Principal Without Principles . . .
Back in flash-sideways world, Ben and his father left the island, presumably before all the sh*t hit the fan down there. Now Ben is a reluctant European History teacher at a high school, desperately seeking more excitement from his humdrum life. In his opening scene, Ben teaches his students about Napoleon’s exhile to Elba, an obvious metaphor for Ben’s own meteoric rise and fall as “The Chosen” One on Lost island.
I love when Lost gets all “literary” on us. You can bet that this episode’s shout out to the above-referenced book (apparently the castaways on-Island library offers both this tome and porn), will send hard core Losties racing to their nearest bookstores in search of clues . . .
“Elba was where Napoleon faced his greatest test. Exhile wasn’t the worst of his fate. It was the truly devastating loss of power. Sure, they allowed him to keep the title of emperor. But without his power, everything was meaningless. He might as well have been dead,” Dr. Linus tellingly, instructs.
Flash Sideways Ben’s only joy comes from being able to run the school’s History Club, and tutor its student members, especially Alex Rousseau (who, in this timeline, is a precocious teen with aspirations to attend Yale). That is until the school principal cancels the club, citing “budget cuts.” (Really? How “expensive” is some lame club where all students do is get together and talk about history?)
When Ben vents his frustrations to his colleagues, former Flight 815er Doc Arzt and new “Substitute” John Locke, the latter suggests that Ben take on the principal position for himself. The opportunity to do this arises, when Alex admits to Ben that she saw the Principal engaged in illicit activity with one of the school nurses. With Doc Arzt’s help, Ben hacks into the Principal’s computer and finds e-mails implicating the Principal in the aforementioned naughty conduct.
Ben confronts the Principal with aims to blackmail him and usurp his position. However, the Principal warns Ben that, if he does this, the former will take revenge on Alex (just as Keamy did — on a significantly smaller scale, of course) by single-handedly ruining the young girl’s chances of attending the principal’s alma mater, Yale. This time, Ben chooses Alex. As a result, he doesn’t get to be principal . . . but at least he gets his History Club back?
And thus, our Flash-Sideways World Ben has redeemed himself. Something Flash-Sideways Sayid was unable to do last week . . .
Ben and Team Jacob, BFF (Best Friends Forever For Now)
If last week’s Lost episode focused on Smokey and his dastardly team of crazies, this week’s episode spotlighted the above-referenced opposing team, led by Ilana, the Candidate Bodyguard.
“And Iiiiiiiiii, eeeee iiiii, will always love Jacccob!”
(Yeah, I’m not really a fan of Ilana’s, so far. The character is a bit like the above song, only one-note, and a highly annoying one at that.)
When Miles “I Communicate with Dead People” (or, in this case, Dead Ash) Straum conveniently leaks to Ilana that Ben killed her “father figure” Jacob, she gets a little pissed off at our boy. So pissed off, in fact, that she chains his leg to a stake and forces him to dig his own grave.
Speaking of death wishes, Richard Alpert, he of the guy liner and the never-aging face . . .
finds himself exhausted, from a life of serving Jacob, and always looking so damn pretty day in and day out. His solution, therefore, is to off himself, a la Bill Murrary in Groundhog Day.
Yeah, it didn’t work for him either . . .
Apparently, one of the rules of Lost island, is that, if you are Jacob’s candidate, you can’t end your own life. Someone else has to do it for you. I guess this would explain why former candidate Michael Dawson couldn’t shoot himself in the episode “Meet Kevin Johnson” but was able to die later when the submarine he was on exploded.
Richard Alpert must have watched “Meet Kevin Johnson,” because he commandeers Jack and Hurley to light his ass on fire with a stick of dynamite. Hurley bails on the plan, but Jack stays and sets the dynamite aflame. Jack tells Richard that both of them are meant to be on this island . . . alive. Therefore, he is certain that the stick of dynamite will not explode. He is right . . .
Meet Jack Shephard – Man of Science Man of Faith
While Jack and Richard are busy NOT blowing themselves to smithereens, Smokey is visiting Ben, offering him a means to escape Ilana’s clutches and join the Darkside.
Smokey tries to entice Ben, by offering him the opportunity to govern the island once again. After all, just like Napoleon, Island Ben has always been a man driven by power. Ben takes Locke’s advice and makes a break for it. But he soon finds himself at a standoff with a Ilana.
Instead of shooting her, as old Ben would likely have done without so much of a thought, a tearful Ben explains to Ilana how his anger over sacrificing his daughter to serve Jacob and the island, ultimately, caused him to kill Jacob, an action he deeply regrets.
When Ilana asks Ben why he has chosen Team Smokey, Ben admits that Smokey is “the only one who will have him.”
The line is one of the most endearing of the evening, as it paints Ben as an outsider – one who, deep down, just wants to have friends. Ilana must have agreed with me, because, instead of simply letting Ben go, she replies, “I’ll have you.”
(Don’t you be taking Ben from me, Ilana! He’s MINE now! All MINE!)
At the episode’s conclusion, Jack, Hurley, and Richard, reunite with Ilana, Sun, Lapidus, Miles, and, of course, Ben. And thus, Team Jacob is born.
Team Jacob is definitely the underdog in this matchup. After all, there are no supernatural powers in this group (not aging is cool and all, but it doesn’t really help you in a fight, unless your opponent is one of the Golden Girls . . )
Yet, my money is still on Team Jacob. I think they will be the Cinderella story of the season. How about you?
Oh, and I almost forgot, in the last few seconds of the episode, something EVIL made its way through the ocean toward the Losties . . .
No, not that. It was just Charles Widmore in a submarine. Still, pretty scary, no?
Well, that’s all she wrote, Lost fans. What did you think? Are you ready to start the Michael Emerson Emmy campaign with me? Is your money also on Team Jacob for winning the Lost ultimate showdown? Do you think Charles Widmore will fight for Team Smokey, or does he have his own agenda to accomplish on Lost island?
Only time (travel) will tell . . .