Namaste, y'all! Wednesday's episode of Lost tells the story of Ben's atonement for his many sins, but one in particular: causing the death of his "daughter," Alex. We learn how Alex parted company with her mother, Danielle Rousseau, and came to live with Ben, what caused the bad blood between Ben and Widmore and what exactly the good ol' smoke monster considers a fair punishment for Ben's ethically dubious nature — and how that punishment affects the newly resurrected John Locke. As usual, I've shuffled the narrative for easier deciphering.
In Ye Olde Hostiletown, circa 1977
A dashing fellow with flowing locks arrives on horseback, and he has a bone to pick with Richard Alpert, and it's not about his choice of eyeliner, but the fact that the Hostiles are currently convalescing young Benjamin Linus, a member of the Dharma Initiative. Alpert silences his protests with a "Jacob wanted it done," which always seems to work. Lord Silkylocks introduces himself to the boy — who doesn't want to go back to live with his dad — as Charles Widmore. Thump!
Some years later — it's hard to judge the year by the possum Michael Emerson is sporting on his noggin — we see Ben and a bloodthirsty young Ethan Rom (hey, why is his last name Rom and not Goodspeed? And why is he running Hostile errands with Ben? Is this post-Purge?) spying on poor, crazy Danielle Rousseau. Ben confronts her, and is startled to learn that she has a baby. He takes the baby without blinking an eye and warns her to run the other way every time she hears whispers. No wonder Danielle is more unhinged than Desmond's hatch door.
Ben brings Alex back to Hostiletown, where Widmore (Alan Dale with similarly giggle-inducing fake hair) is upset because Ben didn't kill Danielle and "it" (aka Alex). "It's not an it; this is a child," Ben says, insisting that Jacob doesn't want her dead.
Flash-forward a bit and Ben (whose coif now resembles an oily chinchilla pelt) is pushing a 9-ish-year-old Alex on a swing. He heads over to the dock to see Widmore off on his last journey off the island via submarine. Ben exposits that Widmore brought his banishment on himself, as he left the island regularly and had a daughter with an outsider, thus breaking the rules. "I'll sacrifice anything for this island," foreshadows Ben. When Widmore reminds him that he wouldn't kill Alex for the island, Ben snips, "You're the one who wanted her dead, not the island." "If the island wants her dead, she'll be dead," Widmore snips right back. "You cannot fight the inevitable." This whole conversation has much more resonance by the episode's conclusion, but for now it's just a pissing contest, with no winners.
In 2007, at the marina
Ben calls Widmore and tells him he's going to kill Penny. In short order, he shoots Desmond and puts Penny in his gun's sights. In a nice echo of his previous baby-stealing scene, Ben's resolve is shaken by the revelation that Penny and Desmond have a baby too. But instead of stealing Charlie (sniff), Desmond comes out of nowhere and tackles Ben, beats the crap out of him and throws him into the murky, fuel-stained ocean. America exhales, comforted by the knowledge that DesPen has lived to charm us another day.
In 2007, on the island
When Locke greets Ben as he regains consciousness after the crash of Ajira 316, Ben appears relieved, excited even. He claims to have known that Locke would be resurrected. Uh-huh… He also tells Locke that he returned to the island to be judged by "the monster" (aka Smokey) for having broken the island's rules by leaving.
A creepy, smiley Ben greets Ilana on the beach, offering to help her and the other survivors with their post-crash labor. "Have a great day," he chirps. Shudder. He corners Caesar and plants the idea that Locke is crazy and that he might have already been on the island since nobody remembers him from the plane. This is Ben at his best; he is a gifted puppetmaster… for now anyway.
Locke finds Ben sorting through his old office, where we see him tenderly examine a photograph of him and Alex. Locke wants to talk about "the elephant in the room" — namely, that time that Ben killed him. Ben does a little soft-shoe, humming a familiar ditty about getting the others back to the island and his death bringing them all together. It's a song we've heard before, and Ben knows it. "Well, I just didn't have time to talk you back into hanging yourself," he sums up.
Born-Again Locke is a changed man, and his authoritativeness is pretty damn refreshing, no? He's like a white Shaft. "Who's the baldy man of whom all the Hostiles are a fan? Locke!" (Shut yo' mouth, Mickey…) He wants an apology from Ben, and he also wants a front-row seat for when Ben is judged by Smokey. But to do that, they have to convince the prickly Caesar that they need to take a boat over to Funhouse Island. Needless to say, he's not nuts about the idea, but Ben shoots him. (Caesar is all: "Et tu, Linus?") So, that solves that. I was surprised to see Caesar kick it so soon (if he is indeed dead); I was intrigued by what that character had in store for us. "Consider that my apology," Ben says flatly.
Ben and Locke reach the main island. "Home, sweet home," says Ben, perhaps a bit too wistfully for his character. Ben reports that Sun and Lapidus preceded them on this journey. Locke teases Ben about not having any friends like it's recess and Ben is all: Friends can be more dangerous than enemies. Overall, they're a humorous pairing, as they dodge and parry for dominance like the Olympic fencing team.
They shuffle off to New Otherton, since Ben needs to go to his old house to summon Smokey. Along the way, Locke lets Ben know that he knows why Ben wants to be judged: for his role in Alex's murder. Ben is clearly irritated by Locke's newfound omniscience. Arriving at Casa de Linus, they discover that someone, a silhouetted woman, is in Alex's old room. Obviously, it's Sun and Lapidus. They show Ben the picture of the Oceanic 6 in the 1977 Dharma photo, and tell them that a man named Christian told them if Sun ever wanted to see Jin again, she was to wait for John Locke.
It's then that Born-Again Locke makes his entrance, without much fanfare, for now anyway.
Lapidus, who isn't quite as well-versed in the island's mysterious ways, speaks for the audience and points out how cuckoo it would be to follow Ben and Locke, and suggests that Sun return to the crash site with him. "If you leave with him, you'll never see your husband again," Locke says, apropos of nothing. (How does he know?) Lapidus is leaving, with or without Sun. Sun opts to stay.
So Sun joins them on Operation Smokehouse. "Better get to it then!" Locke chirps. Into the walk-in closet of doom he goes, where he lights a lamp and crawls through a passageway. In a muddy pool of water, Ben turns a handle and it is drained. "I'll be outside," he says to nobody in particular.
Ben re-emerges, but John has wandered off. Sun thinks that Jack must have lied about Locke being dead, but Ben assures her that he was. "Trust me; I'm sure," he says. He admits to her that he had no idea if he would be resurrected. "I've seen [the island] heal the sick, but never once has it done this. Dead is dead; you don't get to come back from that," he says with significant weight. He says that John being alive scares the hell out of him.
They hear a noise, and he tells Sun to go inside. "What's about to come out of that jungle is something I can't control," he warns. But — hardy-har-har — it's Locke. Again, this line's real potency comes later.
Ben and Locke quibble about how long Smokey is going to take to wreak havoc on their lives. Ben claims he only knows how to summon Smokey; he doesn't know where it lives. "I do," says Locke, which really burns Ben's biscuits. So off they go. Locke is vague on how he knows where Smokey lives, and this annoys Ben, which Locke clearly relishes. "You don't like having to ask questions you don't know the answers to, blindly following someone in the hopes that they'll lead you to whatever it is you're looking for," John orates. Ben agrees. "Now you know what it was like to be me," John says, underscoring his post-death transformation.
Locke brings them to the temple, but they're not going inside; they're going under it. Before Ben descends the rabbit hole though, he tells Sun: "If you ever get off this island, find Desmond Hume and tell him I said I was sorry." He doesn't specify why, and in the original order of the episode, we haven't seen how things turn out at the marina, so this line was especially chilling.
Lapidus returns to the other survivors of 316, and is greeted with this question from Ilana: "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" Since Lapidus has no earthly idea what she's talking about, Ilana, ever the bounty hunter, knocks him out. "Get everyone else, and tie him up – he's coming with us," she instructs, implying that 315 might have been staffed with undercover operatives of a yet-to-be-determined mission, on the orders of a yet-to-be-revealed leader. Widmore? One of the Oceanic 6? Who?
Meanwhile, underground, Ben tells Locke that he's right; he's being judged for killing Alex by making the wrong choice. "I appreciate you showing me the way, but I think I can take it from here," Ben says, attempting to assert some semblance of autonomy. As if on cue, the floor falls out from underneath him, Indiana Jones-style, depositing him into an ominous, further subterranean compartment. The ruin-like walls are lined with hieroglyphics, including one that appears to show Smokey consulting a jackal-headed man not unlike the silhouette of the giant statue Sawyer and Co. saw a few weeks back.
Ben approaches what looks like an altar. His torch goes out, and Smokey starts pouring into the room from a perforated tile in the floor. It surrounds him, and we hear that familiar clicking noise. All around him, Ben sees scenes from his life with Alex, ending with her shocking death. The smoke recedes; his torch reignites, and for a second, I'm all like: WTF? That's it?!
"Hi, Daddy," Alex says, as she emerges from the shadows with a knowing smile. Zoinks! She appears to be a little off, in that way that manifestations of the dead often do. A clearly awed Ben says, "It was all my fault." "I know," Alex the Not-So-Friendly Ghost replies, slamming him up against a column. She barks that she knows that he's planning to kill John again. And she wants him to know that he is not to do that, lest he incur the wrath of Smokey. But there's more! Alex instructs Ben to obey everything John Locke says. Ben agrees to this incredible, karmic kick in the Hacky Sacks, slumps over and starts to cry. And then she's gone.
Ben emerges from his Smokey-induced haze and rejoins John. "What happened?" Locke asks. "It let me live," he reports. Thump? Although Smokey's little display was quite impressive, and would surely scare the bejesus out of most mere mortals, a question is nonetheless raised: Since we're talking about Ben here, I wonder: Will he heed Alex's warning? After all, the man already thinks he's untouchable. It would be very much in character for Ben to think he knows better. Or does this development mark an abrupt, permanent shift in Ben's journey – and in the power dynamic between him and Locke?
So what did you think of "Dead Is Dead"? Speaking of, is dead dead for Caesar? What do you think Ilana's mission is? How will Sun, Ben and Locke reunite with the groovy chicks and dudes of the Dharma Initiative? Will Ben obey Alex/Smokey? Are Penny and Desmond as unharmed as they appeared to be? And who's gonna die by season's end?
Hurley discovers that Miles can talk to dead people! Everyone on the island has a purpose! Is Miles on some kind of a secret mission? Why is Miles sharing secret whispery time with Dr. Chang? Radzinsky shoots at Miles!
Catch up with full episodes of Lost in our Online Video Guide