Ben, by the "Numbers": Although he was not, as he claims, born on the island, Benjamin Linus (played by Michael Emerson) has been there an awfully long time. His mother, Emily, and his father, Roger, went hiking in Oregon when she was pregnant with him and something went wrong; Ben was born prematurely and his mother died during labor. Roger never forgave Ben for it. An unhappy alcoholic, Roger was recruited to work for the Dharma Initiative by Horace, the man who picked up the ill-fated family immediately after Ben's birth. Ben and his father traveled by submarine to the island when Ben was a child, and he started to experience the mysteries of the island at an early age. After growing up unhappy among the Dharma Initiative faithfuls, as a young man, Ben joined the "Hostiles" (later known as the Others). He was a participant in the "Purge" (mass murder) of the Dharma employees; he was directly responsible for gassing his father (both of Ben's parents died on his birthday). At some point, Ben became the leader of the Others and began recruiting residents from the outside world (including Juliet).
Things Got Interesting When....: Ben was a captive of Rousseau when we first met him; protesting his innocence, he became Sayid's captive in the Hatch. He held fast to the story that he was Henry Gale from Minnesota, who'd crashed on the island while ballooning around the world. "Henry" and Locke soon begin to establish a bond. Ben even went so far as to draw a map to the balloon crash site; it was only after the grave there was exhumed that the crash survivors learned for certain that their captive was not who he claimed to be.
'Tis Better to Have Loved and Gotten Lost?: His female followers have shown, at times, unwavering devotion and burning rage toward him, but Ben is not romantically involved with any of them. His one true love may have been Annie, the girl he befriended as a boy, while still under the care of the Dharma Initiative.
Six Degrees of Serialization: There are a number of still unexplained connections between Ben and Locke; they have a similar deep understanding of the island's powers, and Locke is the only person other than Ben who is able to communicate with Jacob, the unseen force "calling the shots" for the Others. Ben and Locke are fundamentally on the same side; they want to keep everyone on the island and away from the outside world. Also, not only did they both bring about the death of their fathers, but both of their mothers were named Emily.
Ben's Season 3 Story: The tables had turned by the beginning of last season, as Ben had Jack, Sawyer and Kate captive in the Others' complex. But he desperately needed Jack's help, and offered to let Jack go home if he removed the tumor on his spine. Jack completed the surgery, but only after ensuring Kate and Sawyer's escape. As Ben was recovering, Locke broke into his home and blew up the Others' submarine; Ben subsequently brought Locke to see Jacob and then shot Locke in the mass Dharma grave. After learning that Jack and his group were heading to the radio tower to contact Naomi's boat, Ben confronted them and was captured by Jack.
How Ben Has Us Puzzled: Ben remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Lying is his stock in trade; he tells both the crash survivors and his own people story after story that turn out to be completely false or only partially true. So how much does Ben really know about the island, about what's really going on? His relationship with his "daughter," Alex, is also still unexplained — how did Ben first encounter Rousseau, and how did he end up with her daughter in his care?
Our Wild Prediction: Ben's fate is inextricably connected to Locke's, and he can't stand that Locke threatens his status as island-prophet. Ben will go even further off the deep end, and although we know that Jack and Kate and whoever else were rescued, Ben would never have left; his life is the island.
Get the Ultimate 2008 Sci-Fi Preview in the new issue of TV Guide, on newsstands now. Plus: More on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Try four risk-free issues of TV Guide now!
Send your comments on this feature to firstname.lastname@example.org.