Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thoughts on LOST: Dr. Linus

Back from vacation, trying desperately to get this recap up before the next episode...

First of all, serious kudos go out to Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the writers of this episode. This was a wonderful script, and there is so much subtext in almost every line of dialogue, especially in Ben's X timeline. They certainly gave me a lot to work with this week, so this may be a little long. :-)

Oh, and it was directed by...Mario Van Peebles!?!?! Talk about random!

OK, let's get to it...

- In the very first lines of this episode, we hear what the theme will be...Ilana asks an obviously shaken Ben, "Where's Jarrah", and Ben responds with, "I'm fine. Thank you." His feelings are hurt. Just like when he confronted Jacob..."What about ME?"

Ben craves power, obviously, but he also craves respect...a sense of belonging...relevance....and, most of all, a family. I think the longing for power actually stems from the fact that he never felt like he belonged WITH anybody, so instead he chose a path that would FORCE people to accept him. And, like many people who are basically insecure, the sarcasm and caustic wit are a coping mechanism. "He was standing over their bodies with a bloody dagger, so yeah...I'm pretty sure".

- The Ben-as-Napoleon comparison we can derive from the scene in the classroom is interesting. "What was truly devastating to him was his loss of power...without his power, he might just as well have been dead".

This recap may have a tendency to just be a list of quotes, but that's how much I loved the script. Although, the "It was on the Island that everything changed...that everything became clear" line may have been a little on-the-nose.

- One of the things I loved the most about this episode was how well the X timeline fit with what has gone on and continues to go on in the Island timeline. Here, the Principal basically takes on the persona of Jacob/Smokey...he's making decisions that affect Ben's life, but the reasons are all "above his paygrade". Ben is expected to just accept the decisions and act as directed, and don't bother asking questions. Sound familiar?

Then the Principal also picks up the theme of the night..."This club isn't for them. It's for you. It makes you feel needed".

And once again, Ben isn't getting the respect he thinks he deserves: "It's Dr. Linus, actually"....after the Principal has already walked away.

- Arzt is covered in...formaldehyde. Get it? Cuz he's DEAD!!!

- How much did I love the fact that Locke was there to push Ben along on his power play? Terry O'Quinn is so awesome that it was hard to really tell what the motivations were...does he really believe in Ben's capabilities, or was he just playing him and pushing him towards the moral conundrum we see later? I'm really hoping it's the former...if it's the latter, then I think that means that there is some "Smokey-ness" to the X-Locke. And I don't like that.

Ooo...or maybe some "Jacob-ness"? That's better....hmmmm.

- Back on the Island...nice callback that Ilana knew about Miles's talents, since they were recruiting him off-Island.

- "Jacob was the closest thing I ever had to a father". Man, we better get some Jacob-Ilana backstory at some point...remember in the finale last season that he visited her in the hospital when she had some massive injuries, and wore gloves so that she wouldn't be "touched"? So, I don't think she's a candidate...I wonder if she's like Richard and never ages? She did call him "Richardus" when they first met. I just hope we get to see her story.

- Miles is so awesome he can get the Line of the Night Award with only two syllables: "Uh-Oh".

- Back in the X-timeline a really touching scene between Ben and his dad. Interesting...did Jughead somehow change Roger's personality, or was it just getting off the Island when they did that kept him from being such a monster? Because this was a far cry from the abusive father who celebrated his son's birthday by getting drunk and accusing him of murdering his mother.

- Couple of other little tidbits from this conversation...Ben and his father DID still live on the Island at some point, and the Dharma Initiative still not only existed but had a base of operations on the Island, as well. I guess we kind of knew the second part, based on what we saw of the underwater Island and its surroundings in LA X.

- Mentioned it earlier, but nice touch by the writers having Ben "gassing" his father again, but this time with life-giving oxygen rather than the poison he gave him in "Man Behind the Curtain".

- ALEX! This was awesome...I loved seeing her again, and Ben's obvious affection for her was really sweet, and only borderline creepy.

But...why is Danielle Rousseau living in Los Angeles? I wonder if we're ever going to get an explanation on some of these little questions about the X timeline, like why Locke is in a wheelchair, etc.

- OK...are they ever going to give Yunjin Kim anything to do as Sun rather than ask, "Where's my husband? Have you seen my husband?" over and over? The reunion needs to happen toute de suite, because that's getting annoying.

- Six candidates left, huh? Is she still counting Locke? Sayid? Or...are they the OCEANIC 6, which would make one of them....Aaron.

- OK, so Richard pops out of nowhere, interrupting Hurley's desperate attempts to stall Jack on his way back to the Temple, and tells them they "wouldn't believe it" if he told them where he had been. So...where was he? In the X timeline, maybe?

Or was he just referring to the whole, "I've been running through the jungle trying to avoid the Smoke Monster, who now looks like your dead friend John Locke, and who also, by the way, killed Jacob, and now has your buddy Sawyer as a first lieutenant"....thing?

Good news is, we are supposed to FINALLY get a Richard Alpert episode sometime in the next couple of weeks. That ought to be a DOOZY.

- Nice little conversation between Ben and Frank, where Frank finally tells us why he didn't pilot the original flight 815....he overslept.

So, does that mean he "overslept" in the X timeline as well? Because that was still Capt. Norris that we heard on the intercom in LA X.

And, as Ben said...the Island still got him in the end. More Destiny vs. Free Will fodder...

- Dude...Ilana is PISSED.

- Back to the X timeline, and Ben and Alex's tutoring session: East India Trading Company, huh? Wonder if their fleet included a ship known as "The Black Rock"?

- When Alex told Ben about the Principal's inappropriate "relations" with the school nurse, I thought the look on Ben's face was jealousy...and thought that maybe the nurse was someone he had a crush on, but was too meek to act on it. Then I remembered that Juliet has a medical background, and my mind started racing.....

NAH. That look wasn't jealousy. That was just opportunism.

- So, after the rewatch, I can see that Ben was only trying to buy time by agreeing to dig his own grave...like he told Miles: "I'm not in a big hurry".

- HA!!! Miles has been talking to Nikki and Paolo! That's awesome. "Couple of jabronies.."

- I have said all along that it looked like Jacob didn't even try to defend himself against Ben in the Temple...obviously Ben noticed it, too.

But, according to Miles, it wasn't because he WANTED to die. It was because he still held out hope that Ben could change...that he could be redeemed.

I think that is the crux of the argument between Jacob and his adversary...Jacob believes that man can change, and that there is good in all of us, while the Man in Black takes a much more pessimistic view of human nature.

By the way...are we ever going to get a name for the Man in Black? There are people who believe that the fact that we haven't yet might mean that Jacob and the MIB are actually two sides of the same entity...that they are BOTH, in fact, Jacob. I don't necessarily believe that...just throwing it out there.

- Hurley's list of options for what Alpert is....it's as least as good as anything I've come up with. Time traveler? Cyborg? Vampire?

- "Jacob gave me a gift". I don't think that worked out for Richard quite like he wanted. Man, I can't wait for his episode.

- Richard is now disillusioned and angry...and I don't blame him. Like he said, he has given literal CENTURIES of loyalty to Jacob, because he believed him when he said he had a plan. But now...Jacob is dead. What's the plan now?

Sounds like this particular disciple is heading down the Emmaus Road...

- Man, Arzt is pretty much a blowhard no matter what timeline we're in, isn't he?

- At this point, my guess is that Richard was almost definitely a slave on The Black Rock...based on Smocke's remark that it was "good to see him out of those chains" and the way he was transfixed by those same chains here.

And he knows the dynamite is unstable. But, as Hurley said, "So did Dr. Arzt...and I was wiping him out of my shirt two days later".

Hee. And nice callback to the "formaldehyde" thing, too.

- Richard confirms why Michael, Jack, and whomever else could not kill themselves...because Jacob had "touched" them.

But...they can obviously be killed by other people, right? Ben killed Locke, after all...but then what to make of Widmore and Ben's conversation in Widmore's room, when they both seemingly acknowledged that they couldn't kill each other? Or the fact that Ben also seemingly killed Jacob himself?

Maybe they can't be killed until Jacob is "done" with them, and Richard doesn't know that? Charlie was a candidate at some point, but after he contacted Penny and warned Desmond about the freighter, he could die. Michael came back and blew up the freighter, and then he could die. Maybe Locke fulfilled his "purpose" by turning the wheel and stopping the Island from it's time-tripping?

I'm just guessing...I sure wish I had a copy of the rule book.

- Richard: I devoted my life, longer than you can possibly imagine, in service of a man who told me that everything was happening for a reason, that he had a plan, plan that I was a part of, when the time was right that he'd share it with me, and now that man's gone so...why do I want to die? Because I just found out my entire life had no purpose.

Man...I can't wait for the Richard episode.

- Can I mention again how much I am loving the New Jack? Other than him smashing the mirrors, I've been digging him ever since they made it to the Temple and he started bossing around the Temple guards, swallowing poison pills just to prove a point, etc, etc.

My new favorite Jack moment of the season so far? He lights the fuse to Richard's dynamite, pulls up a seat, and says..."Let's talk".


- So, has Jack now become the Man of Faith? He has now totally bought into the idea that Jacob brought him here for a reason, and that Jacob will protect him if it means having that purpose fulfilled.

Oh, and my other favorite Jack moment this episode? The almost giddy tone to his voice when he asks Richard if he wants to try another stick of dynamite.

- I think Richard's faith has to be restored somewhat, seeing that while Jacob may be "dead", he is still not without influence...how else to explain what he just saw?

- I sound like a broken record, I know...but every scene between Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson just crackles. They have such amazing chemistry together.

For some reason, Ben throwing in the part about that woman over there "eating a mango" made me laugh.

- Smocke is the tempter...the one who provides the easy way out, and promises all you ever wanted, in the worst way possible. Yes, you can have control of the Island...but it's on MY terms.

Sorry to keep making this a Bible story, but...

5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
(Luke 4:5-7, New King James Version)

- And here is where it got really cool to watch how the two storylines converged...in both storylines, we reach a point where Ben has to make a decision as to what kind of man he is going to be. On the Island, he has a clear chance to kill Ilana and take Smocke up on his offer to run the Island after he leaves. In the X timeline, he can have the power and respect that he craves so deeply...if he's only willing to sell out Alex's future.

Fate vs. free will? No....fate PLUS free will. I think it was always Ben's "destiny" to become the power-hungry despot willing to do whatever is necessary to gain and maintain his power. But now, Ben makes the CHOICE to change that destiny...to truly TURN from his old way of doing things, and in the Island timeline show true repentant remorse for the things he had done in the name of maintaining his power.

And, because of those choices...he is redeemed. On the Island, he has a "family" now that accepts him and forgives him, even though by his own admission he does not deserve that forgiveness. In the X timeline, he is able to play a part in the life of Alex, and countless other similar students who will pass through his sphere of influence...an influence that now seems to be unencumbered by the meddlings of Principal Reynolds, thanks to the power that Ben has now chosen to use for the good of others rather than for his own selfishness.

Just amazing storytelling, and the typical remarkable acting job by Michael Emerson...especially in his "confessional" scene with Ilana. It got a little dusty in the room at that point, even on rewatch.

Ben: (::sobbing::) Because he's the only one who'll have me.
Ilana: I'll have you.


- And then...a couple of typical LOST moments. First of all, a beautifully shot reunion scene between Jack, Hurley, Sun, etc. set to a gorgeous Michael Giacchino score.

Followed by a typically atrocious looking CGI submarine. I almost have to think they are doing it on purpose at this point.

- So, is Widmore the one that Jacob said was "coming"? On one hand, I think he is, if only because it's getting a little late in the game for the writers to be pulling tricks on us.

On the other hand...I'm holding out hope that Desmond is still on his way.



Shan said...

Nice recap, as usual. Watching Emerson work is truly a joy.

Obviously, I'm invested, along for the ride, trusting the writers, etc., BUT I am getting really frustrated trying to piece together the "details" of the X timeline. I know the writers have stated that we are supposed to be, but trying to noodle out what it is and when it started is starting to suck out some of the pleasure of watching it unfold. For example, I think we were all supposed to assume that Jack/Juliet's "detonation" of Jughead was the event that cleaved the timeline in two. However, more and more things keep appearing in the X timeline that would seem to contradict the view that everything was one, single timeline up until that explosion, and then two split narratives following it. (such as, if the island sank in X as a result of "the incident," then how did Ben and his Dad decide to leave the DI and settle into this new, more friendly relationship?)

Still, despite the aggravation of trying to make complete sense of the alt-world, I'm really enjoying the stories and the character work in particular.

Scott said...

I most definitely agree that the X timeline has to have some relevance given to it...and soon. The writers have said that it's not just a "what if" scenario...but that' really all I can make it be at this point.

I want to say that maybe Ben and Roger evacuated when they were getting everybody off the Island in the S5 finale...but that would take a pretty heft suspension of disbelief, considering that Ben (I think) was still at the Temple and Roger was busy shooting Sayid in the gut.

James Stephenson said...

Well see that's the conundrum. How did Sayid shoot Ben, if they never crashed on the island to begin with.

I also think Jin is the candidate. Why, because all of the candidates that were still alive traveled back in time.

Figure, Hurly, Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Jin, Sun and Sayid are possible candidates. One of these are not like the other and that other is Sun, she did not travel back in time. It almost seems like they were sent back there so when things started coming to a head, they were safe tucked backwards in time.