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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Televangelist: 'Lost' Season 6, Episode 7

click to enlarge Do you know where I can get some toxic gas?
  • Do you know where I can get some toxic gas?

Had my cohorts and I participated in a "Lost" fantasy football-style draft this year, I had already planned to take Ben Linus as my number one pick.  On a scale of badassery he is matched only by Sayid, evokes pathos not seen since Desmond's heyday finding Penny through time, and once had a mystery to him that only Richard still trumps.  Yet this season Ben has been quiet - neutered, almost, from his usual scheming and backstabbing and backwards attempts at redemption.  Still, the one thing a Ben-centric episode always brings to the table is answers.  After all, besides Richard, Jacob and Smokey, Ben is the character who has inhabited the island the longest.  Much of our journey as curious viewers has come through tagging along with Ben - through Ben (alias Henry Gale) we learned about the Others, about Dharma (most of whom Ben killed in the Purge), about the significance of all the stations, about Jacob (falsely at first, but then as an actual man ... that Ben killed), and who killed Jeremy Bentham (... Ben).  He convinced the Oceanic 6 to return to the island, he cooks delicious ham, and always preferred Juliet to Kate.  What more do you need to know?

In their discussion of "Lost" last week, Slate.com scribes postulated that the reason most viewers (Your Correspondent included) have not been able to really appreciate and commit themselves to this season yet is because for us, the tangible questions have been answered. We know what the cash register sound is - it's Smokey!  We know, more or less, the significance of the numbers; we know what's in the hatch; we've seen Jacob; we know Dharma's entire history; we've traveled through time and seen most of the cast killed off in the process.  We know why we saw GhostClaire and GhostChristian.  The remaining questions -- what is the island?  Why were these people chosen?  Who are Jacob and Smokey, and why do we need to care? -- are esoteric at this point, unable to be answered easily without giving away the final clues.  And with nine episodes to go, that's an awful lot of time to sit around pondering the Big Picture without anything to show for it.

But that's what makes last night's episode, "Dr. Linus," exemplary (and in my estimation, the best episode this season so far).  Not only did the flash sideways stand on its own as a perfectly acceptably parallel vignette (with two caveats, discussed below), in which Ben does not just stumble into making the right choices in his life, but struggles to do so.  Though we all assumed Ben would indeed allow Alex her glowing recommendation at the sake of his promotion, with Ben you just can never tell.  The opening discussion of Napoleon and Elba was a nice segue into Ben's own loss of power both on the island and in his alt-timeline.  We also learned that the island existed and, presumably, sank after Ben and his father Roger left it (before, evidently, Richard "took Ben's innocence," and Ben killed everybody).

This season has given a few nuggets to the longtime fans here and there - mentioning Shannon's inhaler or other relics from past seasons (like seeing Boone on the plane and finding Adam and Eve in the jungle) - but "Dr. Linus" produced the mother load (given a roll call below).  The episode engaged fans emotionally (see: Ben's final Emmy-deserving speech of redemption to Ilana), as well as cerebrally (Richard almost told us something!), and with some fine doses of humor to boot.  The flash-sideways nicely paralleled island happenings of the present and of yore (Hey remember Artz?  And there's that dynamite! ... that Rousseau lead them to!  Hey there's Alex in the flash-sideways!)

Despite the suggestion by the promos that Ben might face his death this week (luckily he didn't, in either timeline), he has lived to guide us another day.  For now I only have four words left for you: WIDMORE IN A SUBMARINE.

Next Week: Another lousy promo. Honestly ABC, why even bother? It's a Sawyer-ep next week, so let's hope it has nothing to do with Skate-Jate moony eyes or my review next week will be simply, "GTFO."

Musings and Miscellanea:

  • The caveats about Ben's flash sideways mentioned above have everything to do with Alex:  I can't reason why Rousseau would be in LA, but it doesn't make almost any sense to me.  The second part of that is that Ben and Alex's teacher-student relationship is weirdly close and full of attraction, admit it.  If you didn't know she was his adopted daughter in another life, wouldn't you have supported them getting it on?
  • The pop-up video episode before the new one has actually been handy this season - for one, I'd forgotten that  Widmore knew about the "war" on the island and said the wrong side would win if they didn't go back (which made it even sweeter when Widmore himself appeared at the end - a shout out to my friend Harrison for predicting this).
  • Jack, who is mostly a tool in this episode with his utter insolence towards everybody, did start to win me back with his Crazy Eyes over letting the TNT fizzle out.  I also can't wait for the Richard episode - I'm told he will be letting us know what exactly the island is in the next episode or two.
  • Great wordplay: (re: Dogen) "Sayid killed him - he was standing over his body with a bloody dagger so, yeah, I'm pretty sure" - Ben.  (re: Jacob) "Linus killed him - he was standing over his body with a bloody dagger so, yeah, I'm pretty sure" - Miles.
  • Is anyone else starting to hate Jacob?  Not only does every flash-sideways make it clear that the lives of the Islanders would have been better off without him, but Ben's speech about Alex and choosing the Island (and Jacob) over her was heartbreaking.
  • Reference Roll Call:  Nicki and Paolo!!, the diamonds, Artz, dynamite, Rousseau, Alex, Ben's father, the Black Rock ...
  • Anybody want to discuss how Ben, after visiting the Temple as a child, might be an agent of Smokey? And that's why Jacob had forsaken him?
  • Daddy Issues Tuesday, with your host: Ilana! Is there any female on the show who doesn't have Daddy issues?  Most of the men do, too - it's like an inversion of the Disney "dead mother" motif.
  • I loved the cheesy cut of Timeline B Ben saying "Shall we return to the high seas?" as a segue to the Island timeline.
  • Finally, to quote an email from fellow "Lost" fan and friend Dekalb, " I normally don't read through the "Lost" press releases because it can only spoil things, but I did look at this week's.  Guest director, none other than solo himself.  Mario Van Peebles."

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