LOST Season Six: Dr. Linus

Benjamin Linus, our favorite bug-eyed villain, finds redemption twice in this satisfying episode: once in the Sideways world, when he relinquishes his opportunity to make a play for the principal’s office in exchange for Alex’s future at Yale; and on the Island, when his tearful conversation with Ilana curries him enough favor with her to wipe the slate clean between them. Or at least that’s the way it seems. For a couple of seasons now, we’ve watched Island Ben wrestle with the guilt of Alex’s death. In the Sideways world, we get to see him do right by his alt-reality daughter. Given the right context, it seems even Ben Linus can be a decent guy, principal blackmail attempt notwithstanding.

This episode, more than any other so far, entertained the myriad possibilities that each choice in life either affords us or closes us off from. From Ben’s father lamenting the fact that they left the Island to Jack’s death wish conversation with Alpert to Ben’s decision to come clean to Ilana to Lapidus’ confession of oversleeping, no episode in LOST’s final season has so blatantly courted this theme. In a way, these Sideways stories are meant to demonstrate how similar these characters fates are no matter the reality: Ben remains a conflicted individual in LA X-ville, albeit his personal demons have less to do with the machinations of an Island deity and are more of the garden variety — dealing with a sick father, a boss that’s a jerk, loneliness, ambition. Artz comments, and we know it to be true, “Linus, you’re a real killer!” But it’s the differences between the two Bens that speak to us most. Did you note the rich irony of the scene Ben shared with Roger, his Dad? In the Island timeline, we see Ben killing his father with poison gas; but LA X Ben changes out his father’s oxygen tank, filling his lungs with life rather than toxic fumes. (You also had to look for it, but Ben’s “mirror moment” occurred here, as he stares at the microwave while heating up his Dad’s dinner.)

The episode begins with Ben teaching his high schoolers about Elba, an Island of exile for Napoleon Bonaparte, a mercurial leader obsessed with one thing: maintaining his power. Yet, in both of his stories from “Dr. Linus”, we find Ben doing just the opposite: he relinquishes his power, first the power to blackmail the principal, then in his dialogue with Ilana. This is no small thing; Benjamin Linus has always been driven by a need to acquire knowledge for himself and withhold or appropriate that knowledge in a way that serves his interests. But laying down this power is, for Ben, a dying to self and the first step toward redemption. Perhaps this is what Jacob was hoping for all along.

Ben is also faced with two temptations in this episode, each coming from the lips of John Locke. Sideways Locke plants the first seed in Ben’s mind; “You should be the principal,” he says shyly. FLocke tempts Ben to run from Ilana and join his merry band of devotees on Hydra Island. But in the end, Ben refuses to take the bait. Again, maybe this is what Jacob was waiting for all along.

I also have to say that Jack was awesome in this episode. I’m a little surprised at how quickly Jack went full-tilt boogie into the whole Jacob-as-divine-string-puller thing; I mean, just last week, the good doc was bustin’ up Jake’s lighthouse pad. But I suppose that long look out at the ocean did Jack some good. He finally seems ready to embrace his Island destiny, whatever that is. Doc Jensen’s guess re: Jack’s destiny? That our hero will need to trek across the Island, dig up dead John Locke’s body and revive him in the Temple’s dirty baptistery of doom. Sounds groovy. Aren’t we all hoping for a John Locke resurrection at some point?

Answers (that lead to some more questions!):

  • Richard WAS, in fact, a slave on the Black Rock, as we suspected. It seems that his gift of “eternal life” was granted via Jacob’s touch. Does this mean the other “candidates” (Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Sun & Jin, etc.) can’t die, too? But what about Locke? How come he’s dead? Does it have something to do with him leaving the Island?
  • Widmore is the one coming to the Island. Or is he? That’s what we’re left to surmise, but I don’t see how Jack’s encounter at the lighthouse would’ve helped Widmore find the Island — which is the reason Jacob supposedly brought Jack to the lighthouse in the first place. At any rate, things should get plenty good with Charles back on the Island. Expect an epic confrontation with Ben in the near future.
  • Jacob hoped he was wrong about Ben. See previous comments re: what Jacob was waiting for all along. Apparently Jacob has been concerned with Ben’s redemption all along. I’m see-sawing back toward thinking Jacob really is the good guy here.
  • Jacob’s relationship with Ilana was very much like a father / daughter relationship. Ilana’s comment naturally makes me think of the Ben / Alex relationship we see in this episode. Maybe Ilana was the recipient of Jacob’s grace at some low moment; it certainly seems that she encounters him at a low point in that Russian hospital or wherever it was we first saw her.
  • The candidates have been chosen as possible replacements for Jacob, at least according to Ilana. She has been tasked with protecting either Sun or Jin or both. But it seems that MIB is trying to find a replacement, too; he pretty much offers the role to Ben in their exchange. Is he telling the truth? Doesn’t this run contrary to what he told Sawyer, that the Island didn’t need protecting? Speaking of Sawyer, it’s been too long since we’ve seen him.
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11 Responses to LOST Season Six: Dr. Linus

  1. Jenna says:

    I loved this episode. Not going to lie, I shed some tears when Ben cried out, “He’s the only one that will have me,” and Ilana extended such grace to him. After that, when we see Ben pick up the nameplate in the principal’s office, I was so disappointed that he chose power over Alex again. Then – much to my surprise – he hadn’t! And the tears came once more. With such beautiful scenes of redemption being shown, Jacob has to be good. He just has to!

    And yes, I want to see some more Sawyer!

    • Jason says:

      That exchange between Ben and Ilana was awesome. I love Ben’s desperation, the way he moved us with that statement, “He’s the only one that will have me.” I guess I was a little surprised at Ilana’s terse, “I’ll have you.” And then she just turns and walks away. But the whole movement was just awesome.

      At least it looks like we’ll finally see Sawyer again next week, based on the previews.

  2. Dylan says:

    It seems like both the island story and the flash-sideways story this season are a test of our characters’ morality. The flash-sideways are a test on a smaller “average Joe,” scale while the island is a test in a more grandiose meta-narrative scale. But the decisions they make on the smaller scale are then played out on the large scale. So Ben chooses good by letting go of power to “save” Alex, and then on the island lets go of the power offered by Flocke to join Illana. Sayid chooses evil and kills Keamy needlessly and thus on the island chooses the evil side and kills Dogan and Lennon. Jack chooses to quit trying to fix his relationship with his son and gets over his issues, and on the island he finally gets over his issues and becomes a man of faith.

    Locke and Kate are a little more difficult to explain, but you get the idea. I like these tests on morality because it’s almost like the show is saying that what WE do here in the real world matters. Our choices for good and evil in real life have real consequences and are every bit as important as the grand stories that we’ve heard through our lives. I’m reminded of the last chapter on C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” where the main character sees the actions people make on earth being played out on a great chess board, leading to who they will be throughout eternity. So in Lost, the island is like the chess board showing the true morality of our characters in this grand scale. Which makes the Spanish chess promo before the season make more sense.

    • Jason says:

      Dylan, you’re brilliant. I completely agree with your assessment of the small scale / large scale morality motif. The only problem is that Locke’s Sideways story doesn’t fit in here, since Locke is dead. Maybe his story was more of a narrative necessity — plus it kept the Season 1 flashback sequence in tact. But Locke’s story notwithstanding, I like the way you’re thinking here. And great tie in with the Spanish promo. That Radiohead song is one of my favorites. Good stuff.

  3. Dylan says:

    Also that was a big reveal that Jacob was hoping that Ben wouldn’t kill him. I was under the impression until this episode that Jacob wanted Ben to kill him.

  4. Adam Ellis says:

    Jason,
    Have you seen this: http://bit.ly/9uDt7q
    Chris Seay (who wrote “The Gospel According To LOST” is videoblogging about each episode. I thought you might enjoy it.
    AE

  5. Tara says:

    I wonder if Sideways Locke is actually FLOCK in real time??

  6. Dylan says:

    Darlton finally returned with a podcast this week and it was really interesting. We learned that:

    We will learn where the palet of food came from in season 2’s “Lockdown,” but we will not learn from the actual show. What does that mean? Are they making another video game?

    We will learn more about the volcano on the island that was referenced in Ben’s first backstory. However, we will NOT learn any more on his friend Annie. She was just meant to provide insight into Ben’s relationship with Juliet.

    Kate not being listed as a candidate in the cave could possibly be an attempt by Jacob to misdirect MIB.

    Jacob’s death is what makes MIB stuck in Locke’s form, but he was free to take other forms before that.

    Vincent is the only character promised to survive Lost.

    Kate’s excuse for not lactating was that Aaron drank coconut milk.

  7. Jason says:

    Yeah, I’ve been waiting for a new podcast for a couple of weeks now, so it was good to hear from them. I know they’ve been busy writing the finale and all, but we need more regular podcasting!

    I know some people have been waiting for Annie to make another appearance as if she holds the key to understanding Ben’s motives, etc. But I’m glad we can finally put that piece of minutiae behind us. And the coconut milk, well…no comment.

    I think Kate might end up being more significant than any of the others. Why else the misdirection? But has the misdirection worked? I still can’t read Smokey’s face at the end of Sundown when he saw Kate walking out of the Temple. Does he know about her or not?

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