LOST 6.6: I Put the Ball Back in Your Court
- Thursday, March 11, 2010
Once upon a time, Benjamin Linus was asked by Michael Dawson, "Who are you people?" He was told, "We're the good guys, Michael," and we all wondered how this show was ever going to convince us of such a preposterous idea. What kind of flipped-out storytelling would the next several seasons require where we would actually pull for Ben, feel for Ben, come close to believing that he really did have some better higher purpose to all the lies, deaths, and schemes?
I'm not saying we're completely to that point, but through this excellent episode titled "Dr. Linus," Ben would appear to have exorcised several of his demons. His higher calling of serving the island had previously been poisoned by his thirst for power. His previous acts of sacrifice had been wrong-minded. Now, instead, he is making more appropriate sacrifices, those along the lines of surrendering a prime parking spot, or tending to his infirm father - the kind of sacrifices that allow him to hold his head high, rather than hang it in shame.
And now on the island, thanks to one act of sympathetic forgiveness and acceptance by Ilana, it would seem Ben is able to join the right side, put down the power, and be a part of something again.
After last week's dark turn at "Sundown," we stepped back into the light of day and a less heavy, more redemptive story. Let's take a look at it section-by-section...
We had already learned that Benjamin Linus was a European History teacher at a school in Southern California where John Locke worked as a substitute. At that time, I wrote about him:
"I like to think he gravitated to European History to appease his Machiavellian and Napoleonic tendencies, and as a nod to the show's Christo-religious and existentialist themes."
So how giddy was I to see both Napoleon and Machiavelli referenced in this episode? Ben himself teaches a class on Napoleon's exile to the island of Elba, "where everything became clear." It was there that Napoleon realized that his title of Emperor meant nothing without the power that had previously accompanied it. "He might as well have been dead." This is a theme we've discussed in several recent recaps, particularly in regards to Sayid and Claire, who arguably would have been "better off dead." Will the same come to be true of Ben? Or will he find greater purpose to rise above feeling "like more of a loser than" the burnouts he supervises in detention?
How cool that Ben shares so much in common with Arzt -- teachers at the same school, both with doctorates, both teaching below their standing, both malcontents. But where Arzt has given up hope, Ben never will. Chalk that up as one of his better traits, and the antithesis of his tragic flaw. It's the quality that will redeem him in the end.
Also cool that substitute Locke is the one who puts in Ben's mind that things could really change for the better if he were principal. "If the man in charge doesn't care, could be time for a change." Of course, this also creeped me out, since it's essentially the same words that Flocke used to get Ben to kill Jacob, who Ben also thought "didn't care" (but we learn he did).
Roger Linus is alive, but not exactly well. The biggest reveal of the episode for me was that he and Ben did indeed join Dharma and lived on the island, but at some point they left. It couldn't have been in the evacuation on the day of the Incident, because by that time Ben was already recovering from his reverse-baptism salvation in the Others' camp, and Roger was running around shooting Iraqis. So when did they leave, and what prompted it? Roger seems to regret having done so, thinking his son could have become great with just a bit more Dharma tutilege. We also must ask whether young Ben ever went off into the woods and met Richard.
In this timeline, not only did Ben not kill his father, but instead of making him inhale a canister of toxic gas, he dutifully and lovingly replaces his canister of oxygen.
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