Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lost, "Dr. Linus": Follow another leader

A review of tonight's terrific "Lost" coming up just as soon as I make another trip to Marshall's...
"Maybe you should be the principal." -Locke
Whatever issues I've had with this season of "Lost," there is no problem with the series so great that a little Michael Emerson can't fix it.

Here, Emerson (and a huge group of other creative types, including writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and special guest director Mario Van Peebles) helped give us easily the most compelling episode of this final season so far, one where all the tumblers clicked into place and I was reminded in so many different ways of why I love "Lost," past, present, future and alternate timeline.

Hell, it was even an episode where I enjoyed all the Jack scenes, and given that I'm told I have a pathological hatred of the character, that's saying something.

For now, I'm sticking with my theory that the flash-sideways are an epilogue in advance - that this is where and when the characters all wound up in the aftermath of the war between Smokey and Jacob's forces. (I have no idea if I'm right, nor will I be upset either way when the reveal comes, but right now it's important for me to have some idea of what the alt-timeline scenes mean, even if it turns out I'm completely wrong. Otherwise, there's no weight to them this late in the "real world" timeline.)

During last week's discussion of "Sundown," some of you speculated that if I'm right, we're seeing key differences in the endings of the characters who sided with Jacob and those who went with Smokey. Sayid goes with Smokey, and in the alt-timeline has a kind of monkey's paw fantasy where he's near Nadia but not with her, and still placed in situations where he has to be the killer he doesn't want to be. Hurley, meanwhile, goes with Jacob and ends up far happier and luckier than he was in the original timeline.

And Ben, who ultimately and movingly turns his back on Smokey at the end of this one, winds up in an alternate life that turns out to be more good than bad. Yes, he's only a European History teacher to a mostly-disinterested group of students, but he has a much healthier relationship with his dad than he did in the timeline we know, has the respect and admiration of Alex (even if Alt-Alex was never stolen from her mom), and turns out to be more capable of choosing love over power than the Ben we know ever could...

...until, that is, we see that our Ben deeply regrets the decision he made with Alex. And faced with the choice of regaining his crown under Smokey or being just another soldier in the army being formed by Jacob's chosen, Ben rejects power in favor of penance, of doing the right thing as a pawn rather than the wrong as a king.

Ben Linus, really, is a character who shouldn't work at all. Because he lies and manipulates at every turn, he could so easily exist solely as crutch of the writers, there to nudge the plot in whatever direction they deem necessary, and to mix lies and truths so deftly that the viewers can never be sure what to believe. But the genius of Michael Emerson's performance is the conviction with which he delivers every one of Ben's lies and shifts in allegiance. I know I should never believe any words that come out of Ben's mouth (at least, not in this timeline), but time and again, I fall for it.

And I sure fell hard for that climactic scene with Ilana, as did Ilana herself. I have every reason to distrust Ben, and she has every reason to put a bullet in him, and by the end of his monologue about the reason he killed Jacob(*), I felt for the little weasel, and I believed that he's finally abandoned his quest for power and is maybe capable of doing the right thing for its own sake, and not because he might benefit from it. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out Ben played me (and Ilana) once again, but Emerson sold me, just like he always does.

(*) One of the unavoidable design flaws of "Lost" is that characters drift in and out of the narrative so often that it becomes hard sometimes to keep all the relevant details in mind. By the time Ben got all stabby with Jacob, it had been so long in real time since Alex was killed - and even a month since Smokey-as-Alex laid a guilt trip on Ben in "Dead is Dead" - that I left her death out of the equation of vengeance Ben calculated before he put the knife in. At the time, I was just thinking of how frustrated Ben was to have spent all those years as the island's leader without ever actually hearing from Jacob, but of course he'd be consumed with rage that he let his "daughter" be killed in service to this man who had so systematically ignored him. So when Ben said it to Ilana, it gave that climactic moment from "The Incident" even more resonance.

My fear about this final season was that it would devolve into a contest between two supernatural arch-rivals I don't care a whit about, but an episode like this one nicely reframed the story as being about the human cost of Jacob and Smokey's war. Richard has spent centuries blindly following Jacob's orders, and the knowledge that Jacob apparently died with his plan unfinished has made the immortal man a suicidal one. Ben is similarly crushed by sins he committed (or allowed to happen) in Jacob's name. And Jack, our man of science, who wants a rational explanation for everything (even though he's singularly incapable of asking the sorts of questions that might elicit them), was so transformed by his visit to Jacob's lighthouse - finally unable to deny the grand plans of the island any longer - that he was willing to risk his own death because he had faith, deep down, that the dynamite wouldn't go off.

The scene in the belly of the Black Rock was a great one for Matthew Fox, so well-played that I was mostly able to set aside my usual frustration at how none of the Lostaways are ever able to get a straight answer out of one of The Others. Richard shows up and says "you wouldn't believe me if I told you" where he was, and when Jack offers to try, Richard says, "Not yet."(**) And when I thought for sure Jack was going to use Richard's desperate need for Jack to play Dynamite Dr. Kevorkian to force some answers out of him, he instead lit the fuse, and left their relationship in a place where Richard now considers Jack to be the one with the answers. But because Fox and Nestor Carbonell were so good, I was able to suppress most of my eye-roll reflexes and just go with a very cool moment.

(**) Immediately after Richard says his maddening "Not yet," Kitsis and Horowitz provide a very meta exchange between Jack and Hurley, where Hurley asks why Jack would trust Richard, and Jack replies, "At least he's not stalling." For that matter, I wonder if Alt-Arzt's ability to get Alt-Ben to so quickly explain his plan was also a kind of meta-commentary - that of course Arzt, who in his brief tenure on the show served as a guy who voiced many of the complaints and questions the audience had in season one, would be much better at getting people like Ben to talk than Jack ever was. Suddenly, the idea of an alternate version of the show built around what Arzt, Nikki and Paolo were up to - "Expose" as a series - sounds almost intriguing, and not just because Miles finally dug up the diamonds that got buried with those twits.

Smokey only has a brief cameo, and we don't see any of the people who willingly or reluctantly joined his army, but at least the two sides of the conflict are starting to take shape. Ben has cast his lot with Ilana, and Jack, Hurley and Richard have now joined them (in the kind of dialogue-free, Giacchino-heavy sequence the show so effectively ended many episodes on in seasons past). And in the episode's final, mostly chilling(***) moments, we see a wild-card enter the mix, as Charles Widmore arrives in a submarine, intentions unknown.

(***) Would have been more chilling, of course, if I hadn't spotted Alan Dale's name in the guest credits. Lindelof and Cuse have said there's no way around that, because of SAG rules - even though "Battlestar Galactica" famously managed to circumvent those rules once in an episode where listing the actor in question's name would have ruined everything - and it's a shame. I'm sure the Guild has much larger problems to worry about than credit placement, but it would be nice if they could be more flexible on waivers for shows like this that often depend so heavily on surprising you with the return of a familiar face.

Clearly, this is the "someone" Jacob said was coming to the island, and he has the resources to tip the balance of power one way or the other, or to make things even worse if his agenda runs counter to both parties.

Hell of an episode. Can't wait for the next one.

Some other thoughts on "Dr. Linus":

• One name I was very happy to see in the guest credits: William Atherton, who hit the D-bag trifecta with roles in three of my favorite '80s movies ("Ghostbusters," "Die Hard" and "Real Genius"), and who was perfectly cast as Principal Reynolds, a man sleazy enough to deserve Alt-Ben's hate, but also slick enough to out-maneuver Ben. When Atherton had a recurring role on the second and final season of "Life," I made it my mission to feature an Atherton '80s movie quote in each post about an episode he appeared in. I exhausted most of the good ones then, so instead, go watch this scene from "Real Genius."

• Okay, I recognized Chaim Potok's "The Chosen" (a nice riff on the idea of "candidates") among the books Miles found in Sawyer's tent, but could someone tell what the Benjamin Disraeli book was?

• And speaking of candidates, Ilana confirms that they're candidates to replace Jacob, not Smokey.

• With a bunch of characters now hanging at the beach, armed with rifles, should I get my hopes up about completing the circuit of the outrigger shoot-out? Or am I better off, again, assuming that's one of those things Team Darlton decided to drop for season six?

• A nice touch in the scene with Alt-Ben and Alt-Roger: Ben gives his father gas, only here it's something to keep him alive (oxygen), rather than to kill him (the nerve gas from the purge).

• I also liked that, in the final scene between Alt-Ben and Principal Reynolds, it's implied that even though Ben dropped his demand to take Reynolds' job, he's still finding ways to exploit the power of those e-mails, here getting him to re-open the History Club. (And five'll get ya ten that Arzt winds up having to supervise detention, albeit with a better parking space.)

• Hurley drops his usual "Star Wars" references to ask if Richard is a cyborg like from "Terminator."

• The scene on the beach at the end is the first time Sun has seen Hurley or Jack since the Ajira crash, right? Again, characters flit in and out that I'm worried I might have forgotten something. In character time, it's only been a few days (or weeks at most) since she's seen them, but it's been a while for us.

After reminding you about the No Spoilers rule - which extends to discussing the content of the previews for next week's episode - let me ask... what did everybody else think?


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Tom said...

Loved how Ben learned the lesson Napoleon didn't: Exile really is worse than losing your power.

Loved this episode, really.

Would it have been too much for William Atherton to have pronounced "Dr. Linus" in the same way he said "Dr. Venkman" in Ghostbusters?

Lester Freamon said...

One of the unavoidable design flaws of "Lost" is that characters drift in and out of the narrative so often that it becomes hard sometimes to keep all the relevant details in mind.

I was reminded of this during the dynamite scene. For Jack, it hasn't really been all that long since he last tried to commit suicide. Only a few days passed during the flashforward in "Through the Looking Glass", then a few days more rounding up the Oceanic 6 and getting them on Ajira 316, then a few days in 1977, and then a few days on the island in the present. Two weeks tops, yet in real time, the scenes aired three years apart.

Anonymous said...

Now it's getting good...

There wasn't too much action, but we got a little tension & an EXCELLENT character piece.

Heck, we also got some answers, even if they did come in tidbits.

Ben has been one of my favorite characters, so to see him find some sense of redemption both on and off the island was a joy for me to watch. And my god, Michael Emerson is a great actor.

Plus, we had a Nikki & Paulo mention, a William Atherton appearance & a whole lot of ARZT!

Jim said...

I learned a few seasons back the importance of holding up my hand to block the screen when the guest stars started rolling across -- though sadly, I messed it up tonight and saw both Alan Dale and Tania Raymonde listed. Definitely sucked all the drama out of the Widmore reveal.

Was it me or was Tania Raymonde especially appealing tonight as Alex? Maybe it was mostly Michael Emerson's performance, coupled with our knowledge of Ben-Alex history, but I enjoyed her more than usual.

Hal Incandenza said...

Great recap, Alan (and a great episode). You're right about the Sun/Jack/Hurley reunion, though it took me a few seconds to process the significance (damn you, real time!).

Nitpicky question: why couldn't Ben have extended the blackmail scenario to cover Principal Reynolds writing a glowing review to Yale on Alex's behalf?

I realize that, thematically, he needed to be presented with a choice (and, of course, also make the right decision), but it hardly seemed like the total reversal that Reynolds made it out to be...which took me out of the moment a little bit.

But, that aside, and Jack's maddening (and yet not at all surprising) decision not to grill Richard, I really enjoyed this one.

MPH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernando said...

Nice "five'll get u ten" reference.

Good episode, Michael Emerson delivers as usual.

A moment that was really telling and probably won't get mentioned is Ben trying to bribe Miles. After getting back to the island, and seeing how much of a pawn Ben really is, it was pathetic to seem him try fooling Miles and Miles being to smart (and psychic) to fall for it.

MPH said...

Great episode on its own merits, but also with a lot of callbacks to previous ones (i.e, Nikki & Paolo's diamonds and why Michael couldn't kill himself either).

So does that also mean now that none of the 6 candidates will age anymore either, now that they've all been touched by Jacob?

Hal Incandenza said...

Re: blackmail scenario: ...I see Noel mentioned the same thing in his just-posted Onion entry. I swear I didn't plagiarize!

dead souls said...

It could have been a much better episode if the flash sideways didn't seem like a bad after school special.

They are really dragging this season down.

Alan Sepinwall said...

For Jack, it hasn't really been all that long since he last tried to commit suicide.

An excellent point, and one I had forgotten myself. Yeah, in Jack-time, he was ready to jump off a bridge a couple of weeks ago at most.

Devin McCullen said...

Yeah, that was outstanding. I rarely pause TV shows to laugh, but the Nikki & Paolo line killed me.

And Michael Emerson - what can you say? Amazing. But assuming Ben wasn't playing Ilana (which as Alan says is a pretty big assumption, although I tend to believe it), then I expect him to wind up with a Charlie-style ending.

Dennis said...

Emerson made me care about a character that I once absolutely hated.

A very touching scene with his father and then in the jungle when he said "who else would take me" and then found out that someone else would his expression killed me.

Loved this ep.

vampy said...

Hands up, anybody who wouldn't watch a spin-off about Benjamin Linus, snotty European History teacher?

When I saw this episode, I thought, "Alan sort of got his wish, didn't he?"

Well, it wasn't a whole season (too bad!) but watching Ben's Machiavellian maneuvers in a High School Faculty lounge was quite entertaining. Maybe he'll use his new found blackmail powers to get John Locke brought on as a permanent teacher...

leleana said...

Posting this mid-review, but Ben killed Jacob a day after his confrontation with Alex-Smokey. Unless you meant it was a month in terms of waiting between episodes to see everything, because that makes sense!

Ryan W said...

Great writeup of a great episode, Alan, but I am not sure the no-spoiler rule applies to the teasers or "next on" anymore. Given how random and fleeting the images have been in the late two or three teasers, I don't know why ABC even bothers showing them.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why Jacob needed candidates to replace him. He seemed genuinely shocked when Ben stabbed him, so I don't think he was lining up a replacement for when that happened. And one could argue that Ben wouldn't have gotten to a place where he wanted to stab Jacob if Jacob hadn't brought all the candidates there in the first place.

Anonymous said...

William Atherton AND Ben's dad AKA Lazlo AKA Uncle Rico....

Cody said...

VERY solid episode. Ben's speech to Ilana at the end about not having anybody was some of Emerson's best work.

It's really great to see everything slowly start to click together for the end. The structure of the season has kind of reminded me of Season 3, in that we have to sit through 6 episodes of set-up mainly focusing on one group of our characters (the Temple characters as opposed to the Hydra Station characters in S3), but now we're headed in a very cool direction.

Also, I'm very glad you confirmed that Jack said "At least he's not stalling." When I watched it, Jack's pronounciation made it sound like "At least he's not Stalin.", which made me raise an eyebrow.

Unknown said...

Great ep - this one hit on all cylinders. If you'd have ask me before the season started if I really wanted an Ben redemption episode I'd have said no thanks just give the weasel what he deserves.

I would have been wrong.

LB said...

I was about ready to write off Ben as pathetic and horrible after last year's season finale. But this episode brought me back to what I loved about Ben; his struggle to get in touch with his humanity.

The flash sideways only seem to work for relevant, well developed characters. While I can tolerate Kate and really enjoy Sayid, the concept failed on them in comparison to complex characters like Locke, Ben and Jack. All of the episodes have logical flaws but those three episodes offered great redemption for those three characters desperately seeking it.

Anyway great episode and I especially enjoyed how Jack is a man of faith now and had to teach it to Richard. I just wish Locke was around to see it.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time commenter here and I'd like to say before anything else that your blog has become an indispensable part of my TV-watching. Anyway...

I found I mostly enjoyed this one in the moment when I've largely hated this season; I suppose it comes down to Michael Emerson since on review this episode still played plenty of typical Lost tricks. As a glaring example, it's ridiculous to have Richard say "Not yet" when asked where he's been considering he's on his way to kill himself. Furthermore, shouldn't Hurley's ability to speak to a dead Jacob who's clearly still able to observe, influence, and react to the world give Richard any pause? Why wouldn't Hurley bring that up when Richard decides to end his life? The answer seems to be simply that then you wouldn't get a super-tense scene with Jack and Richard staring down a long fuse, but it was predicated on something that didn't really make sense.

The alt-timeline, meanwhile, was silly enough that it played almost as parody, given that it was basically the mirror image of Ben and Alex's relationship set in a boring ol' high school instead of a crazy mystical island. It was also accompanied by plenty of way too on-the-nose dialogue, like Arzt's "You're a killer" and elder Linus's "If we'd stayed on that island, what would you have become?"

Since you brought up Battlestar Galactica, here's a question for the floor: Are there any fans of both shows who prefer Lost? I ask this because I've recommended BSG to every Lost fan I know, and without exception the ones who've watched it have all come back with the opinion that it's a better show, and certainly one more willing to push the plot forward, take risks, and provide answers. I'm honestly not trying to get into a fanboy pissing contest here, I just see them as very similar shows in many ways--intricate, character-driven, mystery-heavy, serialized sci-fi--and I'm wondering if Lost's much higher profile is simply a question of cable vs. network, or something else.

In fact, Alan, if you ever guest on Bill Simmons' podcast again, I'd be very interested to know if he ever gave Battlestar a shot. He and Chuck Klosterman completely nerded out for about half an hour over Lost in the most recent podcast, and they certainly sound like the kind of people who'd like BSG.

Sam Hobart said...

Interesting comments from the senior Linus about their time on the island. They went and then left but from what we saw last season were not part of the crew that got off on the sub.

So there is definitely a larger difference between the timelines than just Jughead and the island sank after the Linus men first arrived, but also after they and Ethan left.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Unknown said...

I thought it a nice touch that the seed of Ben's plan to take the principal's job was actually planted by Locke. Even in the alternative timeline Ben is just following someone's suggestion when he thinks he is running the show.

Unknown said...

I also think that the LA X scenes are what happens after whatever is done on the island is done, but I don't think that the difference is that Jacob never touched their lives, or that it's a reward/punishment for the various characters' decisions to follow either Smokey or Jacob - I think their lives are reset so that the characters live them with at least some of the lessons they learned on the island.

Danny F. said...

Given Alan's epilogue theory... Is it possible that the still-alive characters in the Island timeline actually do remember the Island timeline in the flash-sideways timeline? Thinking back, I am struggling to come up with concrete evidence that Jack, Kate, and now Ben do not remember the island.

For example... Jack asking how he got his appendix scar could be him trying to find out in the alt-verse how the scar got there, knowing how he lost it on the island. Kate thanking Sawyer in the elevator could be more knowing than we think. Her and Claire had a lot of interaction in the alt-verse, but Claire might legitimately not remember; I can't recall if Kate's interactions with her would still make sense of Kate remembered the Island. Ben seemed more attached to Alex than he should have been in this ep.

The sideways for certain characters would seem much more significant if we realized in hindsight, at the end of the season, that they were the same characters we knew from the Island, actually being given a second chance. I might be way off base though.

Jim said...

Heartbreaking, still, to see no one is happy to see Ben in the final group hug scene.

And for what it's worth, my sense of the H.S. blackmail attempt was the principal was essentially threatening to take Alex's college hopes down with him. He was calling Ben's bluff -- and Ben sided with preserving Alex's "future." (Don't get me started on the inanity of kids obsessing about getting into Harvard/Yale, like they'll never get a job otherwise.)

Danny F. said...

Should clarify that I wasn't counting Sayid, Claire, or Locke since they are either dead or smokefied on the Island currently. I was assuming you'd have to be alive, or on Jacob's team at least, to retain your memories in the flash-sideways timeline.

If anyone can disprove this I'd actually appreciate it; it will frustrate me otherwise trying to rack my brain for examples! :)

Sam Hobart said...

One more thought on LA X universe:

Unless coincidence is even stronger than we though it seems pretty definitive that someone/something is putting our characters into each others orbit in LA versus the same on the island. I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with an episode showing LA X Jacob nudging everyone to LA.

And I'm not looking to get into it over BSG and Lost but I vote Lost hands down.

Unknown said...

@Anonymous: I watched both BSG and Lost, and without a doubt, Lost is the better show....and frankly, it's not even close.

Lots of meta-moments in this episode, particularly in the scene with Arzt, Ben, and Locke in the teacher's lounge, discussing who should be the "leader" at the school.....

Unknown said...

If anyone can disprove this I'd actually appreciate it; it will frustrate me otherwise trying to rack my brain for examples! :)

I can't think of anything in particular other than the reactions when they see people they would know. For example when Jack ran into Dogen at the audition - now there is nothing to stop them from saying at some point well the characters were just pretending not to know each other but that would be very dishonest story telling I would think.

fran said...

best episode of the season. great post, too.
I love that Ben found redemption, and in both timelines. the scenes with Alex & the last one with Alana were so moving.
Most of all, that last moment after the other losties reunion, as he stood apart - the look on his face, the way he stood there - very powerful.
Michael Emerson's amazing.

Paul Worthington said...

I liked it, but:
This episode blew my theory.
I'd been thinking the 'x' sideways timeline was the result of the end of the struggle between Jacob and what's-his-name.
When their conflict ended, it in effect did not happen -- no magic island, which is why it was sunk in "LAX."
That is why the X stories had changes in the characters' pasts far beyond the plane not crashing: it was a universe in which the Jacob/MiB conflict never happened.
All the X story was in effect the postscript, our character's reward or lack thereof after the main battle.
But then we get the scene between Ben and his Dad showing that there was an island, they did live there, with the Dharma Institute but for some reason, they left, and Ben ended up a nobody.
That means if there was an island, if there was a Dharma, then there was / is a Jacob in the X story, and so:
So what was the change? What 'created' the X storyline?

As it was after Ben's birth but before the Oceanic plane crash, it must be The Incident, with the bomb going off.
Um, Maybe?

Aside from this revelation, it was a good episode in that, while little happened plot-wise, it showed definitively that Ben is not All Evil: in the X story, he chose Alex over power, and in the 'real' story, he regrets choosing power over Alex and at the end chose not to go with F-Locke.

Why couldn't F-Locke just kill what's-her-name, tough broad with a gun?

If it's all about the island, and F-Locke really wants Ben to take it over, why send him to the smaller second island? What is there besides polar bear cages?

And the fact that they pointedly went to the place where they had just buried the real Locke reignites my hope that he is yet a pivotal character, and not just a loser manipulated by the MiB solely to persuade Ben to kill Jacob. I hope we see Locke resurrected a second time, and this time for real.

And was "They're coming" about Widmore? I don't think so.

" My fear about this final season was that it would devolve into a contest between two supernatural arch-rivals I don't care a whit about, but an episode like this one nicely reframed the story as being about the human cost of Jacob and Smokey's war."

Yep -- that spells out why this show works: Big Concepts that appeal to us scifi geeks, but also true characters and drama that appeal to everyone.

Allison DeWitt said...

I've been relatively happy - to happy - with most of this year's episodes but that was by far the best and the one that reminded me the most of old, classic "Lost" episodes.

And my expectations were quite high since I knew it was about Ben. A complex character in not one, but two, timelines. We learn no matter which timeline Ben is in, he'll break a promise sometime without missing a beat. Emerson can make a sleazy bit of high school hanky panky seem as fascinating as a life and death battle on the island.

His emotional explanation for killing Jacob showed his grief and regret that added a big new dimension to his role. The mercy shown by Ilana was as surprising as it was touching. (And I never cared for her before this.)

Love the humor in both timelines and the new Jack vs. the dynamite.
Just crazy enough looking and something new...a sense of power.
Loved seeing two sides to Jacob - the one who angered Ben, Richard and WTFLocke and the one who believed in the goodness of Ben although he was wrong.

(And what a cool scene with Miles - telling the truth, getting it right.)

This episode underlined something I've wondered about - what if characters could decide between staying on the island and gaining..say the ability to walk when they're disabled vs. a loss of some kind of power but a gain in human relationships and happiness.

At its best, that's what "Lost" does. It's entertaining but it leaves you with ideas to think about.

And for the second time, I've thought about the Smoke Monster's reason for killing the first pilot, played by Greg Grunberg . For the first time, I was given a reason. Frank Lapidus missed the flight.

Wonderful review that added a lot to the pleasure of the show..thank you!

Danny F. said...

I can't think of anything in particular other than the reactions when they see people they would know. For example when Jack ran into Dogen at the audition - now there is nothing to stop them from saying at some point well the characters were just pretending not to know each other but that would be very dishonest story telling I would think.

Dogen wouldn't remember Jack in my theory because Dogen is dead- so bringing it up wouldn't have made sense for Jack to do.

The only times two currently alive characters interacted that I can think of is Kate/Sawyer, and as I mentioned, it was ambiguous. Again, I might be forgetting something really obvious though.

medrawt said...

From the other side, I'll just say that I watched the first season, and part of the second of Lost before giving it up, and I was a huge BSG fan, and I've been reading these reviews (also at the AV Club) with great interest, largely because I have no idea what, theoretically, would entice me to invest the time into watching the rest of this show. I imagine that if I were in it all along, this would be meaningful and enjoyable to me as the necessary conclusion to my investment, but from my subjective vantage (which is all it is), a lot of what seems to be good or bad in both the posts and the comments about these episodes seems like a reflection of Lostness - the episode satisfied, or didn't, based on the internal logic of satisfying people who've already watched 100-odd hours of Lost. Reading this blog has driven me to check out a whole number of TV shows I might otherwise have missed, often inhaling them on DVD; I'm curious to find out what happens on this show, but I haven't read anything that makes me feel like I need to go back and take in the whole experience. (And the things that people tend to point to as strengths of this show are the sort of things that, at least when discussing the episodes I've seen, I think BSG did incomparably better.)

Paul Worthington said...

Alison: great catch! Smokey killed pilot Greg because he was not Frank!

Unknown said...

Okay, never mind the other episodes, THIS is my favorite one. Well done, Lost! Extremely well done, to make us care about Ben and actually have him find redemption (in two timelines!). To care enough about student Alex in sideways-world to forego his usual power play tendencies, and to admit he was wrong and why he did it to Ilana and have her choose not to send him down the path of death or evil... wow. Wow wow wow.

On other notes, Miles found the diamonds (booyah!), Jack somehow wasn't terrible and actually made something work, Hurley remains amusing, and in general, good stuff. Not a bad note in this one for me, and I really haven't liked any episode besides The Substitute so far.

I am definitely liking the "flash sideways comes from what side of the battle you pick" theory. It really seems to work so far (though I guess the jury's out on Claire-sideways).

Allison DeWitt said... more scene I loved..

When someone, I think it's Arzt, tells Alt-Ben he's a real "killer", and he has a slightly frozen expression for the briefest of seconds.

I need to watch this one again.

Anonymous said...

Now that's the Lost I love!

*sigh* gonna watch it again
and then read all the comments


Michael said...

If we extend the "candidates can't kill themselves" then that explains why Michael couldn't do it when he was back in New York.

Once he made it back to the freighter as Kevin Johnson, he froze the C4 bomb long enough for the "Oceanic 6" to get away. Then Christian Shepard appeared to him and says "you can go now", then the freighter blows up.

As far as Jacob is concerned, Michael was no longer one of the six candidates. But was that his whole purpose in this ordeal, to stop that particular bomb so those six could leave?

That also suggests that Michael was "touched" by Jacob, and that Christian was working for him.

Or something like that.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever laughed more at anything on Lost than hearing Ben say, "Totally." Fantastic.

Allison Dewitt said...

Paul Worthington..thank you. I finally "got something"! At the least, it was new to me.

I loved how they reached back to the very beginning of the series to a scene that was very violent, and very frightening. And it actually meant something.

And kudos to the show for getting a new round of sleaziness out of William Atherton. He is damn good at that.

And I also didn't get or enjoy the ending scene with Widmore. Other than that, I thought it was very satisfying.

Good night, good people..

Brad East said...

Seems like we can appropriately call this episode "The Redemption of Benjamin Linus."

Speaking of all the time-related questions, is there a straightforward resource that gives us a day-by-day account of the past few "weeks" on and off the island, in the lives of these characters? That would be incredibly helpful.

It's sort of like Lord of the Rings in the books vs. movies: can we just watch Jack go from bridge, to gathering the group, to Ajira, to Dharma, to bomb, to temple, to Black Rock in the course of an hour or so? Talk about invaluable YouTube mash-ups: let's get each character's stories since Season 3 spliced together individually!

And finally, on the excellent theory that we are seeing the "right" epilogue granted to each of these characters, a couple thoughts:

1) It just doesn't seem weighty enough.

2) Who "stays" in island world as king of the island?

3) I want the epilogue theory to coincide mid-way through the season, then for the alternative timeline to somehow converge and collapse into the island timeline. Perhaps those who die on the island "awake" in the other, and vice versa?

(P.S. Connecting Alan's point about Ben losing Alex and his anger toward Jacob, it's also interesting to note that that is precisely the moment when he "calls forth" Smokey's wrath!)

Great episode, great reflection Alan, great comments.

Kelly said...

Oh man... the scene at the end where Emerson says "because he's the only one who'll have me" with that quiver and note of anguish in his voice - just killed me. I started weeping. And weeping loud enough to worry the chihuahua sleeping on my lap.

I love Michael Emerson. I really, really do.

Anonymous said...

Re: Actor Credits, since LA X I have covered up the bottom of the screen with my hands and wait a few minutes before I drop them, they spoil too much.

Loved this episode, buying Ben's redemption, though he may be tempted once or twice before the end.

For all the crazy plotting, the attraction of the show continues to be the acting and the story telling, both were at there peak in this one.

At this point in the series, I do think you have had to been along for the whole trip and we viewers have become quite insular. What other show would have a cliffhanger consisting of a submarine and a billionaire, and make you want it to be next week now!


Scott said...

I really liked half of this episode. Maybe it's because I don't have a good theory for the alt-timelines, but I still find that stuff to be 67% boring. I just can't get into the off island catharsis. But, the past couple episodes have been good. One of the commenters, I think Allison, said most of the things I liked about this ep that some of the greater (in words and overall) commenters didn't say.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this episode, but still, the blackmail scenario with the principal rang totally false.

So what that he was about to write a recommendation for Alex? Make that part of the deal. Or even better, wait until he submits the positive recommendation, and THEN blackmail him again for the principal job. It's not like the emails disappear. It just made no sense.

Count me in as one of the many that has, for years, blocked out the credits with my hand. I've slipped up a few times when I've let my hand down too soon, but it usually works just fine. Glad it didn't ruin the return of Alex and Widmore for me tonight!

Anonymous said...

This episode satisfies emotionally on the character level while maintaining the lost background details. It teases and pokes yet answers while showing why we should care about the characters.

belinda said...

I liked the episode a lot, but it wasn't as kickass as I imagined it would be since it's about Ben.

- Like someone posted earlier, I don't see why Dr. Linus couldn't have played dumb and blackmail the principal AFTER he wrote his rec letter for Alex? (heck, he could wait half a year til Alex gets in Yale to be extra cautious). I can't believe Ben would miss such a detail, even if it's altBen (who's still smart), so it seems kind of a lame way to get altBen into a similar position where he would 'save' altAlex. And while the ending was good for Alex, it's not great for the school to keep having a not so great principal (whereas Ben being principal might improve a lot of students and not just Alex's lives).

- Perhaps I'm a bad person, but I never felt that Ben actually did anything wrong (well, other than murder itself) when he killed Jacob, because Jacob? Is annoying. (And look at Richard, who's been strung along for god knows how long for no reason at all!) So I'm very displeased to see the seeming direction of Jacob=God/Jesus/good route, and that those who follow him (basically blind faith and without question, given how little Richard or Ben, two of Jacob's most loyal followers for a long time, seems to know) will be granted a good epilogue (and those who follow Lockey/Devil, or just ones who doesn't care about Jacob, don't). It's getting a little preachy, which is not what I expect from Lost. I'm hoping things aren't as they appear, with the appearance of Widmore (I did manage to not see the credits by having the screen set to a different ratio so it cuts off the bottom part, so I was surprised to see him pop up. Finally!)

- I wish someone hugged Ben at the end scene. Was it strange that no one was like, hey, why's that Richard dude here?

- So Sun was just going to hang around with a bunch of people she's actually not too familiar with (until Jack and Hurley showed up) in lieu of actually going into the jungle to look for Jin, because Ilana said so? Hm.

- If Richard is ageless and can't die because Jacob touched him, not counting Jack's fun with the dynamite, does this mean all the candidates (possibly in the flashsideways too, if Jacob visited them anyway in their youth) are actually immortal? (Since as far as I remember, Jacob did actually physicall touch each of them at some point in their lives?)

Hatfield said...

What other show would have a cliffhanger consisting of a submarine and a billionaire, and make you want it to be next week now!

Well said!

To the Anonymous wondering why Hurley seeing Jacob's ghost didn't give Richard pause, he did think about it for a sec, then told Hurley not to believe anything Jacob said. Clearly he's not too concerned with Jacob anymore.

Alan, I know you have largely given up theorizing, but I'm surprised you didn't even mention the relative bomb of having Roger Workman (sorry) mention the island and DHARMA. Granted, it might have been another island, but it's definitely some kind of clue.

Otherwise, yes, what a splendid episode. I'm still adjusting to the weekly wait between, so the lack of anyone from Smokey's group (and the third straight episode sans Sawyer) was felt, but Michael Emerson more than made up for it. And count me among those who buy his turn for the better. Between Alex's death and being manipulated into killing Jacob, I figured he was going to be anti-Smokey, and the little nudges of Miles telling him Jacob's last thoughts and Ilana accepting and perhaps forgiving him were final pieces clicking into place. I actually did a fist pump when he followed her back, and this is a character I loathed for almost three seasons. Well done, Emerson and Lost; well done.

Oh, and to speak to the inanity of the previews (not a rule breaker, swearsies): last week's preview for tonight's episode featured Sawyer, and as we all saw, he clearly wasn't around. Best just to pretend the damn things don't even exist.

Yellowdog said...

Solid episode, thanks mostly to Emerson, but it should be more than solid at this time. There are less than ten episodes left. Shouldn't every one pretty much be like a finale in their own right? What are they waiting for?

belinda said...

Oh, and as for BSG vs. Lost question, it's difficult to evaluate given we don't know what Lost has prepared for us as the finale (which was largely what some people were most pissed off about in BSG), but as a series, I'm in the BSG camp, which I think has a better rewatch value (for most of the seasons) than Lost.

But both shows are worth watching for anyone who hasn't.

Hatfield said...

Fair point about Sun, Belinda, but she does know Frank pretty well, both from his previous time on the island (mostly flying to a from the freighter in "There's No Place Like Home") and the time on Penny's boat between being rescued and constructing their story.

Anonymous said...

My major nitpick:

Ilana says she doesn't know if Sun, Jin, or both of them are candidates, but she states definitively that there are six candidates.

Derek said...

Great great great episode.

There's just one thing that's bothering me. Ben's rationalization that he "gave his daughter to the island" feels like retcon to me. Remember, at the time, there was an armed bad guy outside with Alex, calling for Ben to come out and die.

Ben didn't sacrifice Alex for the island, he did it to save his own skin. That makes me think that, while there may be the ring of truth to his speech to Ilana, as usual, Ben's playing more than one angle.

Anonymous said...

actually, it's Dr. Linus ....
if you're nasty.

Benjamin Standig said...

The reason Sun didn't go back to the 70's...she isn't a candidate!

Michael said...

Brad said:
Speaking of all the time-related questions, is there a straightforward resource that gives us a day-by-day account of the past few "weeks" on and off the island, in the lives of these characters? That would be incredibly helpful.

That would be the Lostpedia, the Lost wiki. Here's the main page, and here's the timeline page.

The Ajira crashed on Day 1, this episode ended on the morning of Day 6. They've only covered about the last 48 hours or so this season since "LA X".

Unknown said...

Sunn didn't go back to the 70's because she wasn't on the island when the time shifts occurred.

Benjamin Standig said...

Marina said...

Sunn didn't go back to the 70's because she wasn't on the island when the time shifts occurred.

Sun was on the same plane with Jack, Hurley, Kate and Sayid and they all made it back to the 70's. But Ben and Sun do not because they are not candidates. The Sun part is interesting because we don't know which Kwon is a candidate.

Henry said...

I didn't spot Alan Dale's name in the credits due to closed captioning blocking the names so I didn't worry about that. Though, I kind of expected Widmore to be in the sub and be the "someone" who's coming to the island. Do you think Penny and Desmond convinced or helped him to get there?

I think the most interesting nugget of information from the sideways reality is that Roger Linus acknowledged the existence of the island to his son.

I liked that Arzt can't catch a break in either reality (though, of course, it would appear to be better being a miserable biology teacher than to be blown up by dynamite).

I had the brief thought during the episode that Richard's talk about Jacob's touch would mean that everyone who got Jacob's touch would live forever, but that seemed ridiculous. In fact, John's death is proof that touched people don't live forever. I also thought of the Terminator in Terminator 2 when he said that he couldn't self-terminate and that Sarah and John had to lower him in the steel when Richard said that Jack had to light the dynamite.

I was however able to get into Jack's headspace for the first time in a while, since maybe the end of the fifth season. His decision to stick around with the lit dynamite brought back the thought that Jack was once suicidal after hearing about John's death. He can understand when a person has lost faith in someone they had devotion in. See what some calm and faith can do for a person, Jack? Lashing out like you did with the lighthouse mirror gets people nowhere.

John S said...

Hey Alan,

Great review as usual, though I disagree with your positive take on the episode. Emerson was great, but it seemed too much of a rehash of Dead Is Dead for me.

One question--what evidence do we have that Ben would have reclaimed his "crown" if he went with Smokey? Isn't it just a question of being a minion for Jacob or a minion for New Locke? And if that's the case, why not go with the devil you know?

Unknown said...

Miles, Farraday, Rose and Berard went back to the 70s, and none of them are candidates.

Cotsos said...

Speaking of the Kwon's , as the two teams are forming, I can't see a reason why Jin will stay at the end with Flocke's team. Claire-Kate-Sawyer and Sayid have pretty good reasons to stay, but Jin as long as he sees Sun, he'll join the "good guys".

I guess they're just delaying the reunion.

Also, from the next episode I'm starting hiding the opening credits too. Alan Dale's name ruined the cliffhanger. I expected him to appear in the LAX-verse.

tribalism said...

Richard tells Jack that Jacob’s touch is a gift, but I’m not convinced that this is the case. It seems that every character that has been subject to Jacob’s touch has also been subject to a considerable amount of misery and torment on the Island. I'm not sure that Jacob's intentions are really that benevolent or are just self-serving in his own little game of backgammon.

The make-up on Roger "Workman" Linus was fantastic. Usually on tv shows, you come to expect something as bad as the stuff you saw put on actors not named Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button.

If anyone is interested, I go into more detail about this episode on my blog, including my thoughts on how characters' have behaved in the flash-sideways universe has coalesced with whether they have aligned themselves with Jacob or Smocke. Click my username or follow the link below:

Unknown said...

not to get into over the BSG v. Lost either but my vote is for BSG by a wide margin-and I do like Lost but this season (and aspects of last season) are really trying my patience.

In general I liked the episode but really thought the blackmail was ham-handed-and the faux drama over the Yale rec letter made it worse. If Alex can get into Yale it is very likely that she can (and will) get into any other schools in the top 5 or top 10. And her life would not be over by going to Princeton instead of Yale or Harvard instead of Yale or god forbid Stanford! Oh the horror! Cut me a break.

And not to be too nit-picky with a what was a stupid story-line to begin with, but her complaints about Rousseau working two jobs to pay the bills (sounds like the alt-universe didn't work out well for her) but Yale and many others in the Ivy League (Princeton, Harvard, etc) and Ivy caliber schools (Stanford for example) have had programs for several years where low income students who are accepted actually go for free or close to it. This has taken a hit with the economic collapse (which has hurt many of their endowments that were funding these programs) but for the purposes of the show (its time period) they were in effect. So Alt-Alex (and writers) can relax. And what the hell the AP Euro History exam has to do with admission to Yale is beyond me. Again just stupid.

I don't expect much from TV shows but it's annoying when major plot points are as stupid or poorly handled as the blackmail one was.

As Hal mentioned above-how hard is it to extend the blackmail scheme to cover the rec letter? Just moronic. This was the best they could do for redemption for Ben/Alex?

Every week I find myself thinking the same thing - I wish this show would just end. I feel too invested in it now to not watch the last set of episodes, and while I am enjoying some aspects of each week I honestly can't say that when the episodes end I am satisfied.

Count Screwloose said...

Best of the season so far.

I don't think the sideways arcs have anything to with an epilogue, though. It's an absolute, seperate reality (whatever that means in the context of this show!). I do think that the characters in each will start to slowly become more aware of each other as we get closer to the end.

Dano said...

Re: Ben's redemption on the island

Perhaps his response to Ilana tonight rings more true because he had the upper hand when he made the speech. In the past, he's always been lying and manipulating when he needed something from someone or found himself between a rock and a hard place. That wasn't the case tonight.

I struggle with knowing how much biblical info I should project on the show but this whole Richard/Ilana thing feels similar to how the disciples must have felt between Good Friday and Easter. The person who gave their lives meaning and purpose gets murdered before the plans can get carried out (if they even understood the plans at all.)

Anonymous said...

Miles, Farraday, Rose and Berard went back to the 70s, and none of them are candidates.

actually, straume and faraday are/were candidates, but i'm not sure about rose and bernard

Scott J. said...

On the Island, Ben gambled with Alex's life and lost. Alt-Ben refused to bring the recommendation letter into the blackmail, because he didn't want to take any chances with Alex's future. Even if Reynolds backing down seems like a sure thing, it would still be a betrayal for Ben to allow Alex's interests to be involved in his petty power struggle.

Unknown said...

Are you sure Miles is a candidate? I don't think the numbers add up, if there are only six left.

Anonymous said...

Best episode of season six easily (and definitely in my top 10 overall), pushing the Locke-centric ep to #2 for me personally.

But anyway, all that BSG vs. Lost talk earlier in the comments... I love/loved both shows, but can we save that argument for this summer, please? We can't very well judge Lost's finale against BSG's when only one show's had one...

(long) P.S.
Similar to an earlier commenter (IIRC a BSG fan who never got back into Lost, unlike me), despite having watched Lost since the first ep, I fell behind on DVR viewing a half-dozen episodes into season 2 and ended up deleting them and giving up on the show.

A couple years later, I happened to tune in and see the finale of season 4 the night it aired (without really knowing why I was bothering to watch), and it hooked me back in so completely that I bought and watched seasons 1 through 3 on DVD immediately and then watched all of season 4 from ABC's website to get back up to date.

I saw seasons 2-3-4 in a matter of weeks, but have been suffering through the slow week-by-week reveals of seasons 5 and 6 just like I did back in season 1, and... it's a weird way to view Lost, but I appreciate it even more since I lost my love for it along the way. It's much stronger the second time around, so... I hope you'll give it a second chance as I did, fellow BSG fan.

fronz said...

I'd love to know who was in the pic of the book Ben was holding in his right hand while showing his distaste/interest in the porno mag.

Question Mark said...

Re: why Ben didn't continue with his blackmail plot once Alex had her letter of recommendation. The whole point of that storyline was to show that Ben-X wasn't as manipulative as his Island-world counterpart. Alex got her letter, the principal kept his job and Ben got his after-school history club back, so everyone got something out of the deal. Frankly, the loss of the history club was what spurred Ben on in the first place, so he was probably just more upset about that than he was driven by a genuine desire to be the principal.

Interesting points about Sun not being the 'Kwon' candidate because she didn't get to time-travel. You could also argue that because she was singled out, this makes her MORE likely to be not just a candidate, but the final one. This would also be a good way of explaining that nagging question of why Sun was the only Lostie who didn't go back to 1977.

My major nitpick:

Ilana says she doesn't know if Sun, Jin, or both of them are candidates, but she states definitively that there are six candidates.

I presume she's crossed Locke off of the list given that Locke is dead. So, Hurley, Jack, Sawyer, Sayid, and either Jin or Sun are still play to be candidates --- that makes six.

matty said...

"Locke" told Ben to meet him on Hydra Island. Where there's an intact airplane on a makeshift runway.

J said...

One of the unavoidable design flaws of "Lost" is that characters drift in and out of the narrative so often that it becomes hard sometimes to keep all the relevant details in mind.

Yes to this and thanks to the person who mentioned Jack's recent suicidal mindset. The by-product of this is that in 2010, though we're no longer time-travelling, we're watching a show in which the "present" is currently 2007 and 2004-X. This is one of the many reasons the show is even better when you watch it in a few sittings on DVD.

That Ben-X & Roger-X were once on the island is a major revelation. In the alternate reality, the island is underwater. I'd thought it was safe to say that it had been there way before the nuclear explosion in 1977. But..?

Ben's story was heartbreaking and Emerson was top-notch during that monologue. So Benjamin Linus winds up participating in a dark spin on Abraham and Isaac. What kind of resentment would Abraham have had had he sacrificed his son and never heard again from God?

But ultimately there was a selfishness in Ben's sacrifice of Alex; Ben was saving himself. After she died, he immediately summoned Smokey, later sought vengeance on Widmore for breaking "the rules."

Sam, re: The Yale thing, I agree it was a distracting thing to toss off without giving more context. B Alex said she had not yet been accepted. Do we even know if she was a Senior? (I took my first AP test as a Sophomore.) Even if she'd qualify for financial aid, it's not like every poor kid is admitted. Entry is ultra-competitive and it does make sense that she'd panic over every little thing that would get her closer.

As for Lost vs BSG, for me, too, there's no contest: Lost all the way. BSG was powerful and purposeful when it directly confronted us with the war, and with what made us human. Because of that, its soap opera digressions and plot contrivances and dalliances with mysticism seemed like serious wastes of time. Gaius Baltar was more annoying and ridiculous than a billion Jacks and Lockes combined. The visions on Lost have been haunting and mysterious and personal. The imaginary Six in Baltar's head was just the sound of a writers' room schlucking through gallons of Astroglide.

Seven said...

Finally, a very good Lost episode!

Something's been bugging me, though.
Last season Richard was asked about the fates of Jack, Jin, Sawyer and the rest of the timetraveling gang, and he responded that he watched them all die.

In this episode, he meets with Jack and Hurley for the first time since the timetravels, and he has nothing to comment on this fact.

Joel Godwin said...

I'm not sure that the Disraeli book is an actual one. However, the title below the author name is "Justice and Truth in Action" which is actually almost a quote of Disraeli's, but I couldn't find a book with that title. (Actual quote, "Justice IS Truth in action")

However, that's a completely cool quote and very relevant to Lost.

Tim Windsor said...

(I believe Ben at the end. Like Alan, I may have been snookered, but this comment assumes he's telling the truth.)

To me, the most emotional part of Ben's redemption story is that, as he breaks down and follows Ilana back to the beach, he's realigning himself with what he said at the very end of season two: "We're the good guys."

He believed it then; it's finally true now.

Charlotte K said...

Will we connect the outrigger canoe shooting now that they are back on the beach? I wondered the same thing when Ben pulled out the Oceanic water bottle. Remember the Ajira water bottle?

Great episode!

guinness said...

Alan, I think the credits don't necessarily give away any surprise endings with all the flash-sideways going on. I mean, Whitmore could have been in Ben's flash sideways and not necessarily the guy coming to the island.

Also, and not sure if someone else has mentioned it, but it looks like the bomb didn't destroy the history of the island since Ben's father had signed up for the Dharma initiative in the flash sideways. And didn't he say, "I wonder what would have happened if we stayed"? Does that mean that the flash-sideways Ben had been on the island at some point? If so, which other characters have been on the island in the flash-sideways?

Stealth said...

Several of the people on the time-traveling outrigger are members of Team Smokey (Locke, Sawyer), so there's perhaps enough of an overlap for Team Jacob to get confused and start shooting.

themightypuck said...

Great episode but I agree with the others about the Yale business. That was pretty ridiculous. Like attacked by Martians ridiculous. As if someone who is a letter of recommendation from her own principal away from acceptance to Yale has anything to worry about. It kind of made me mad that Linus's redemption(?) rested on such weak writing. He deserves better.

OldDarth said...

Michael Emerson kicked serious ass on Lost tonight! Very poignant episode. I admit it - I teared up. Amazing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, I think the credits don't necessarily give away any surprise endings with all the flash-sideways going on. I mean, Whitmore could have been in Ben's flash sideways and not necessarily the guy coming to the island.

Certainly, and for a while I assumed that's where we would see him. But by the time we got to the end of the episode and he hadn't turned up on the mainland, I knew we'd see him in an island context, and that therefore took away some of the surprise that I'm sure the creative team wanted me to feel at seeing him on the sub.

Jennifer Finney Boylan said...

Sorry to dwell on the obvious (when my familiarity with the writers' habits means I already know better), but when Atherton says, "Okay, you can be principal but I'll write Alex a terrible letter for Yale," you'd think Ben's response would be, "Dude. You have to let me be principal AND write Alex a letter for Yale." Why would he let himself be outfoxed like this when he already holds all the cards?

(I know. Don't ask.)

Best episode of the season. Almost everyone (except Kate and Jin) had a role to play. Ben's dad, Alive. Alex, alive. Emerson: amazing. And Whittmore in a sub.

All I need is LIbby alive again, and my life is complete.

Alan Sepinwall said...

That Ben-X & Roger-X were once on the island is a major revelation. In the alternate reality, the island is underwater. I'd thought it was safe to say that it had been there way before the nuclear explosion in 1977. But..?

No, it had to be sometime after Dharma arrived in the '70s, because we saw the ruins of New Otherton when the camera went underwater in "LA X." So we already knew that the island both existed in the alt-timeline, but wasn't sunk until sometime around when Juliet set Jughead off. The mainland presence of Roger and Ben (who were both on the island at the time of The Incident) suggests that it's something more complicated than just saying "The island sank and this is how the other characters' lives would have gone without the island influencing them," but we had several pieces of that in previous episodes (including Alt-Ben's cameo at the end of Locke's episode).

Joseph Thomson said...

Alan, a really handy tip for when it comes to avoiding the guest cast is when you read Terry O' Quinn's name on the regular credits, just raise your hand into your line of sight of the bottom portion of the TV for 30 seconds. Looks kinda silly but works a treat. I was totally unspoiled by Widmore.

Unknown said...

don't think this was mentioned yet, but the "touched" not being able to kill themselves would seem to explain why jack had to be the one that poisoned sayid rather than sayid just taking the poison pill.

Alan Sepinwall said...

One question--what evidence do we have that Ben would have reclaimed his "crown" if he went with Smokey? Isn't it just a question of being a minion for Jacob or a minion for New Locke?

No, because Smokey would be off the island, and Ben would be in charge of whoever/whatever was left. He might have had an empire of one, but it would be his empire.

Anonymous said...

In Darlton I trust. Dispense with the obligatory Kate Episode and other weak episodes early and give us 10 final episodes of sheer greatness. I really hop Ben stays good. He constantly is struggling with serving the greater good, I would like to it become a reality.

Toeknee said...

RE: DannyF @ 12:48, about characters remembering the island….

In “LA X”, Jack seemed to recognize Desmond on the plane. And in “What Kate Does”, as Kate’s taxi sped away from the airport, Jack (on the sidewalk) and Kate (in the taxi) look at each other VERY briefly, and Kate they both seemed to recognize each other.

RE: Ben @2:14 (“The reason Sun didn't go back to the 70's...she isn't a candidate!”) and subsequent comments….

I don’t think this logic works because Lapidus is a candidate (per Ilana last season) and he didn’t go to the 70’s either.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Shame on me, btw, for failing to note that Atherton was in an ep with fellow Real Genius alum Jonathan Gries (Roger Linus). Is the show trying to get the RG alums to compete withe the Deadwood alums for guest star supremacy! If so, who's next? Kent? Jordan? Would Val Kilmer do another episodic guest spot?

Anonymous said...

As a public school teacher, I hate it when TV shows get it all wrong, but they usually do, and LOST is sadly no different.

First of all, a female student would show up at a male teacher's house at night to ask why he skipped History Club? And the teacher doesn't bat an eye? That would just not happen.

Second, you don't oust a principal in a coup d'etat. In order to be a principal, you have to have a degree in administration, complete an internship, and apply for the job. A teacher doesn't just get promoted to the job when a principal leaves. Friday Night Lights also got this crucial detail wrong.

Third, no, you don't need a letter from an alum in order to get into an Ivy League school. I didn't. That was a contrived plot point. Also, why couldn't Linus have just waited for Alex to get her letter and then lowered the boom on the principal?

Overall, I found the B-timeline teacher story very weak. Emerson is a great actor, but there was a great lack of verisimilitude in the details of life in a school.

Otto Man said...

Is the show trying to get the RG alums to compete withe the Deadwood alums for guest star supremacy! If so, who's next?

I'm pretty sure the giant bangs that Mitch wore in that movie had to be a Dharma Initiative experiment gone horribly awry.

jamfan said...

Hah! Everyone who's discussing the ruined Widmore surprise due to seeing Alan Dale's name in the credits: I have watched Lost since the beginning but don't really have a grasp on guest stars' names, so I haven't ever hid the screen or anything. And last night, when I saw the name "Alan Dale," I said to my husband, "Hey, the Skipper from 'Gilligan's Island' is in this episode!" and was still totally surprised by the Widmore reveal.

Matthew said...

Alan, Stealth and other outrigger-hopefuls: do remember Miles was on the boat with sawyer and juliet.

A pair of outriggers were found at the abandoned beach camp on the main Island by the timeshifted Sawyer, Locke, Faraday, Charlotte, Miles, and Juliet. Inside one of the canoes, Sawyer found a water bottle with an Ajira Airways label on it. When they realised the Zodiac was missing, the party took one of the canoes to travel to the Orchid; soon thereafter, paddlers in the other canoe pursued them and shot at them.

So yea, if you assume that this loose end will be tied up this way, you have to assume that illana's crew shoots at them cuz they recognize sawyer and locke... but if they do, wouldnt they also see juliet and miles? for that reason i dont think we will get satisfaction in exactly the way we are hoping right now.

themightypuck said...

@anonymous I was OK with Alex showing up at Ben's house because the writers only have so much time and it was a nice dramatic moment. Still, I get what you are saying. There is only so much off key notes a person can take before things start to grate. To be fair to the writers, most people I talked to weren't bothered by the forced writing in the school bits. Also, the overall redemption story was nice even if the point upon which it turned was utterly contrived.

W said...

I thought it was pretty significant that Richard said Jacob's touch was a gift, and he touched several of our Losties, including Kate who apparently isn't a candidate. Does that mean they're going to have some sort of special ability? Locke apparently didn't get immortality when Jacob touched him.

One thing that's bugging me.... Jacob has apparently been watching/grooming candidates to replace him for some time. Which would imply that he knew something was going to happen to him.

Just before he died, Jacob gave Ben the little speech about he didn't have to do it even though Smoke Locke wanted him to. And now we have Miles saying Jacob hoped Ben wouldn't stab him right up until the knife went in. So I'm wondering if the whole thing was some kind of test for Ben. All those years of neglect and so forth were some way for Ben to redeem himself by forgiving Jacob. Needless to say, I guess he failed.

Greg S. said...

For those of you confused about why Ben and Roger talked about the Dharma Initiative and the island, I present my theory about what the LA X timeline means.

A lot of people seem to have a problem understanding the sideways universe because they think it only diverged from the original one when flight 815 landed in LA. Juliet's cryptic "it worked" gives us a clue to what created the sideways universe. The sideways universe is a divergent reality that was created by Jack and co. successfully preventing "the incident".

My current theory is as follows:

Faraday was right when he says "what happened, happened". There is one timestream that can get split into two realities, but these separate realities always "course correct" back to the main timestream. We saw some examples of this when Desmond kept saving Charlie's life. But Desmond's interference only delayed Charlies death by several days. The timestream only took about a week to course correct.

Now when Faraday came up with his new "variables" theory, he used the metaphor of throwing pebbles into a river. You can cause a small disturbance in the flow of the river, but it quickly returns to normal. This is the metaphor for Desmond's diverting Charlie's death for a few days. Then Faraday said if you could get a big enough boulder you could actually divert the flow of the stream permanently. This was a metaphor for his theory that preventing the incident would mean no "button pushing" etc. and therefore no 815 plane crash.

I think Faraday's reasoning here was all correct, but failed to take into account the paradox of time travel being the mechanism which put them in a place to prevent the Incident. If they prevent the 815 crash, then no one is there to prevent the incident.

So when Juliet set off the bomb (and I bellieve she did) that energy, plus the energy being released by the drill hole was enough to create a new reality where the incident did not happen, but instead of "diverting" the timestream into the new course, it "split it in two" so now we have two equally valid timestreams running "side by side".

So the sideway timestream and the original timestream are identical up until 1977, then they split and different things start happening in each. This allows plenty of time for Jack to have a teenage son that he didn't have in the original timestream. I think this is why the producers are adamant that the sideways timeline is not a dream or "what-if" story, but is just as real as the original timeline.

(Continued in next post)

Greg S. said...

(Continued from previous post)

Another part of this theory is that both the bomb energy and the "time/electromagnetic" energy under the Swan were used up in creating the Sideways timestream, so there was no immediate devastation on the island. This allows for Ethan, Ben, plus both Others and Dahrma people to leave the Island and become doctors, teachers, etc. (I don't think the bomb sunk the island. I think that something else caused it at least a little bit later, otherwise Ben would not have had time to leave the island).

So the combined energy of the bomb and the time/electromagnetic energy under the island was a big enough "boulder" to create a new timestream, but in a universe where "whatever happened, happened' and there are no paradoxes, the original timeline is preserved because the original circumstances are needed to create the opportunity to set off the bomb.

Now the timestream is still going to course-correct back into one timeline, but it's taking 30+ years rather than the week or so that we saw in Desmond/Charlie's case. I think the two timelines will merge/course correct back into one shortly before the series finale (maybe during the series finale). The interesting thing will be if the charaters who are still alive after the merge will remember both realities or not. (I don't think there will be two Jacks, Sawyers, etc because the course corrections on Charlie's death didn't create multiple Charlies.)

Anyway, this was pretty much the view I've had since watching the season premier and so far the new revelations have only supported it. I may be entirely wrong, but so far it matches the evidence we've been shown, and the Ben/Roger conversation makes this theory seem even more likely.

Anonymous said...

Great episode, great review!

Here's a 70s Atherton quote (a litany, actually)... "We're in *real* trouble."

From... The Sugarland Express, one of Stephen Spielberg's least-known and arguably best films. If you haven't seen it, put it in your Netflix queue *right now*.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed that Ben didn't take down the principal. It would be more fun to have a diabolical Ben running wild in a high school than the "redeemed" Ben we got.

Also, with this whole inability to commit suicide thing, doesn't that mean that Locke would still be alive if not for Ben, because Locke couldn't kill himself? So...hard for me to get really excited about Good Ben 2.0.

JOHN said...

Hurley told Richard he looked the same as long ago...

I dont remember Hurley meeting Richard in the past...

When was it?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Greg S., the problem with your theory is that Ben and Roger were still on the island in 1977, so if the LA X timeline is simply showing what would have happened if the bomb went off, sank the island and prevented The Incident, the Linus men would both be dead at the bottom of the ocean.

Ryan F. said...

Awesome episode last night, and another epic performance by Michael Emerson.

In the larger sense, the one thing I can't get past without finding it significant is that Kate was #51 in the lighthouse and not crossed-out, and all of the "candidate" experiences (she was touched by Jacob, she travelled through time, etc.) continue to apply to her -- but Ilana doesn't recognize her as a candidate (unless she has a different "six") and MIB doesn't seem to, either. Kate going to be the "tipping point" in the war, wielding more ultimate power (to kill MIB, perhaps) than either side realizes. Will she be the magic #7 for the "winning" team?

Osbloon said...

Okay, so after last night’s episode — SPOILER ALERT!!! — I think I finally understand the meaning of Lost.

Or I would if I actually trusted the writers.

My current theory — IF I trusted the writers — is that the island represents organized religion, and Smokey represents the amorality of nature and/or a godless universe, and the flash sideways universe is one where the Losties are living their lives with common sense and decency (rather than magical thinking and the whims of an unknowable God whose dictates must be obeyed, no matter how ludicrous). The sinking of the island in this scenario represents man abandoning superstition and advancing to a higher plane of reason — which would be incredibly ballsy for a network show, raising all kinds of fascinating questions about how Lindelcuse sold it to the Suits.

But, again, all of the above pre-supposes that I can actually trust the coherence of what the writers are showing me…


Lizbeth said...

I love Ben-centric episodes...even if the high school subplot had some questionable holes in logic and reasoning.

I have to believe that Ben isn't pure evil. As someone else mentioned, he has always considered himself one of the "the good guys." And he's merely followed Jacob's orders...

As for Jacob hoping Ben wouldn't kill him, but knowing he ultimately would, this is the story of Jesus being betrayed by Judas in the garden. Jesus knew he would die, accepted it, but was still filled with fear and doubt.

From Wikipedia:
If Jesus knew Judas would betray him, why did he trust him and allow himself to be betrayed?[30] The text of the Gospels suggests that Jesus both foresaw (John 6:64, Matthew 26:25) and allowed Judas's betrayal (John 13:27-28). An explanation is that Jesus allowed the betrayal because it would allow God's plan to be fulfilled.

If you follow the Christian allegory, then Jacob is not the one ultimately pulling the strings. He's the one who had to be "sacrificed" so that the sins of the people could be forgiven. So, who, then is pulling the strings?

Alan Sepinwall said...

And he's merely followed Jacob's orders...

But did he, really? Jacob never actually spoke to Ben, so unless Richard was constantly conveying instructions to him, a lot of what Ben did as Others' leader was him acting on his own.

themightypuck said...

I never saw Ben as evil in the moustache twirling sense. He was always an ends justify the means pragmatist who was kind of like you and everyone else except that he had that special quality of being able to stomach the "next step". That's why he is so great and so scary. He's very relatable. He's not a sociopath. He's Hannah Arendt's Eichmann.

Mike K said...

In regards to the LA X Universe, I've always assumed that everything that happened up until the bomb explodes still happened (ie there was a Dharma Initiative since we saw houses on the sunken island) but that Ben and his dad escape before it explodes. After the bomb explodes, everyone who is supposed to be in that timeline remains constant, and everyone who is not (the losties) are shipped back to their normal timeline, with their alt universe identities changing.

This explains why Rosseau never comes across the island, why Alex is born to Rosseau, and all of the other multitude of changes we've seen.

Now in terms of what this while universe means, I am not so certain it does tie to the original timeline anymore, that it is a "reward" or end result of the war. I think it just exactly as Julia said. "It Worked" and nobody from Oceanic 815 will ever be effected by Jacob or Smokey or Dharma. One thing that gives me pause with this, however, is the appearance of Desmond on 815 to Jack. This must have some significance later on.

Also, I can't wait to find out which side of the fence Widmore falls on. One of the best episodes ever IMO.

Kristi Logan said...

Fabulous, fabulous episode that found me inexplicably weeping for Ben during his Iliana speech/Alex scenes at the end. I guess it says something to my soft spot for redemption and the belief that people can choose to do the right thing over selfish desires.

My one nitpicky issue? The "sub surfacing" scene seemed pretty cheesy, and I half expected the "Jaws" theme to start playing. It took a little bit away from the Widmore reveal for me, for nothing more than being embarrassed for the producers than anything. Kinda like that awful CGI underwater shot at the beginning of "LA X". Just my $.02.

carly said...

Itty bitty detail, but Island timeline Ben was quite the cook in New Otherton, wasn't he? Making elaborate dinners for Juliet, etc - I chuckled at his supermarket sushi and TV dinner.

Anonymous said...

Those of you complaining about the Yale rec letter are doing so with the perspective of adults who have been through that process and (for some of you) have even seen it from the inside. Alex is 17! It's very easy at that age to get the idea that if one little thing goes wrong, everything will be ruined.

And anyway, she was kind of right. She had already asked the principal for a letter, presumably because she thought it would improve her chances. If Ben went through with his plan, there still would've been a letter, but it would've been bad enough to sink her entire application (and yes, a letter can be that bad). Ben couldn't tell her to go back to the principal and say she doesn't want the letter after all.

The only mistakes here were Alex's trust in the principal and over-concern about getting into Yale, but those are the kind of character-based mistakes that should be entirely believable.

Kristi Logan said...

Oh, and does William Atherton age? Because I swear he looks the same as he did in the 80's. Nobody plays sniveling d-bag quite like him.

Benjamin Standig said...

Blogger Marina said...

Miles, Farraday, Rose and Berard went back to the 70s, and none of them are candidates.


Well, they were all on the island when the time-jumping began. Sun was the ONLY one of the Oceanic Six from the plane that DID NOT go to the island. Obviously all of this is crazy talk, but it is the first tangible thought as to why Sun didn't make the time jump other than the writers wanting to keep the Kwon's apart.

Also, while I understand a little bit about why folks were annoyed with the letter of Recommendation gambit, there is one part they are forgetting. The Principal also said he would "torch her", meaning forget the letter, but he would do everything in his power to ensure no Yale for her.

That, combined with the larger point that Ben isnt' just thinking of himself in the al-timeline as compared to his actions on island, makes it all go down easy enough for me.

Lander said...

Alan- great recap.

My big thought about tonight's episode, besides my reaffirmation that Michael Emerson is deserving of another Emmy, just from tonight's episode alone is how the actions evolving in the sideways timeline is mirroring the actions that are evolving on the island.

Also, I began to think a bit about which of the Kwon's needs to be found, since Jacob "touched" both Jin and Sun at their wedding. Could it be either of them, or even their baby who was born off the island? Thoughts?

themightypuck said...

@anonymous. That works pretty well. Ben didn't do what he did to get Alex into Yale. He did what he did to get Alex the letter she wanted. I can get behind that.

Mike K said...

Alan: You state that Ben and Dad were still on the Island in 1977, but we know that they were trying to evacuate the island once the energy started to get out of control, so why can't we assume that Ben and his dad evacuated with other Dharma people before the bomb sunk the island. Since the nuke was so far underground it is safe to assume that the blast only affected the island itself and wouldn't go much beyond it, so a sub leaving could safely make it out.

I do think the sideways timeline is exactly what happens if the bomb went off. The island sinks from all the energy and most of the people make it out alive by being evacuated.

srpad said...

I enjoyed the episode but the only thing that bothered me was the scene between Ben and his father. For two reasons:

1. His speech about"what ifs" seemed a little on the nose especially for this show.

2. I had two competing theories as to what the sideways time line was and it blew both of them away. One was that the bomb in the 70s sank the island and this was the timeline that resulted but in that case as was mentioned above, Ben and his Dad would be dead. The other was that it was erased from modern history completely (not all of history because it still had the statue even when it was sunk)and this was a timeline without Dharma, Hostiles, Others, numbers or any of that. But that too isn't the case. So now I am confused.

Unknown said...

Why can't the correct Kwon and Shepherd be Jin & Sun's baby and Aaron? Baby Kwon was conceived on the island, and we know Aaron has some kind of mysterious fate.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if they were on that sub.

Unknown said...

More on Jack completely adopting the "man of faith" mentality. I think he was so willing to let the dynamite go because he really did not care whether he lived or died anymore. Two episodes ago he admits to Hurley that he was broken, "and stupid enough to think this place could fix me." Sounds a lot like a man with nothing left to live for. So while he clearly is starting to see that Jacob brought him here as part of a plan, I think he's so willing to go with it because he has nothing else to live for.

Alex Mullane said...

So... I may be totally imagining things here, but I wonder...

When we see the final shot of Alt-Alex leaving the principals office and walking away, she has back-pack on. Is it just me, or is that the same back-pack Tania Raymonde used to wear in her geek days on Malcolm In The Middle?

It's been years since I've seen Malcolm, but the back-pack definitely looked familiar to me! Can anyone confirm?

Cool little throwback reference if I'm right :)

Alan Sepinwall said...

You state that Ben and Dad were still on the Island in 1977, but we know that they were trying to evacuate the island once the energy started to get out of control, so why can't we assume that Ben and his dad evacuated with other Dharma people before the bomb sunk the island

Couple of reasons. First, wasn't Ben still in the temple with The Others at the time? So he wouldn't have been involved in any kind of evacuation. Second, Roger's "what if" implied a kind of regret about leaving, which means they left under some other circumstance than fearing for their lives, and/or they have no idea that the island was sunk. As far as Roger knows, had he and Ben stayed there, their lives would be much better.

themightypuck said...

@RJ Isn't that what leads a lot of people to faith? Just making a choice between that or nihilism?

Anonymous said...


I know it's kind of stupid looking to do, but something I've been trying to do the last couple of seasons is use my hand to cover the bottom portion of the screen when the credits start rolling in the begining. It's really helped with some of the surprise guest star moments I would have otherwise seen coming.


Hollywoodaholic said...

Loved Emerson's performance and this episode ... except for the cliche about digging your own grave before being shot. Just once I'd like to see the imminent victim refuse the shovel and say, "You better flex up, killer, because YOU'RE the one who's going to do all the digging and dragging if you plan on shooting me."

Anonymous said...

Alex hadn't already asked the principal for the letter when she was in the library with Dr. Linus. At that point, as the adult, he could have debunked her idea that she needed a letter of rec from him just because he went to Yale. She might not have realized this, being 17, but her doctor of modern European history teacher sure would have, and it would have saved him a lot of trouble.

The whole school storyline was riddled with holes and inconsistency. Emerson is great, and Linus an intriguing character, but the story was not well-written. I expect better from LOST writers.

srpad said...

Rereading other comments more carefully, I forgot that the pan that showed the foot underwater also showed New Otherton so my second theory was wrong before I even made it :-).

Still this means that the timeline did not change from the point of the bomb. so if not then, when?

Steve said...

It'll be exciting to see Widmore back in play. In addition to learning his general position over the power play of the island, and his interaction with Jacob/MIB, I eagerly await his reunion with Ben, as his men were the ones who killed Alex.

I wonder if Ilana counted Sayid as one of the six candidates left

I get the purpose of Ben's yielding in the end of the alt-timeline was to show his redemption, but he could have easily extended the blackmail to coverthe letter of rec, or he could have re-issued the blackmail once the letter was written.

Fantastic performance by Michael Emerson. Is he the greatest addition to a drama in TV history?

Carmichael Harold said...


I'm not sure that Ben would be with the Others pre-Jughead. He was with them because Sayid shot him, but Sayid's presence there requires (I think) the Oceanic flight to crash. So if no Oceanic crash, it's likely that Ben doesn't get shot.

Unknown said...

One thing I enjoyed is that Jack has become something of a man of faith but he seems to have come to through a scientific examination of what is going on around him. He sees that he couldn't kill himself by jumping off a bridge, that he didn't die when a hydrogen bomb blew up. Jack believes in his island destiny because he has had so many facts presented to him that the theory has to be true, his scientific mind can do nothing besides accept the evidence. Just a thought.

Bobman said...

I thought Ben's "No one else will take me" was a LITTLE hammy / over the top, even though I otherwise loved his performance.

Also, I'm surprised to see no references to "An Officer and a Gentleman"s famous "I got nowhere else to go!!" in your review, Alan :)

Anonymous said...

Apart from the premiere, I found this to be the best episode of the season thus far. When Michael Emerson said, "Because he's the only one who'll have me," I got chills.

On an almost entirely unrelated note:

At some point this season, I want to watch the Smoke Monster transform into Terry O'Quinn. I can't stomach too many more of these scenes where you get the sound effects, [character] gets scared, they search their surroundings frantically, the noises stop, and [character] does a 180 to see Locke standing behind them. At least once I want to see how he does it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm not sure that Ben would be with the Others pre-Jughead. He was with them because Sayid shot him, but Sayid's presence there requires (I think) the Oceanic flight to crash. So if no Oceanic crash, it's likely that Ben doesn't get shot.

But - and here's where the headache-inducing logic of time travel and paradox comes into play - Jughead only goes off because Sayid, Jack and company have traveled back to the '70s to detonate it. Ergo, Sayid shot Ben, Ben in the Temple, etc., etc.

Chris said...

Sorry if anyone mentioned this, but another neat correlation was that Sideway's Ben's power-play on Principal Atherton was essentially the same as the one that he used to get Widmore off of the island in the main timeline.

Alan Sepinwall said...

At some point this season, I want to watch the Smoke Monster transform into Terry O'Quinn.

Based on some of the really lame CGI effects we've seen this year (sunken New Otherton, the submarine in this one), I'm not sure that you do. Based on the budget they have to work with, I think this is one of those things you're better off imagining rather than seeing.

Rae said...

In his second comment, Greg S. clarifies that he doesn't believe the bomb sank the island. So nothing anyone has mentioned seems to disprove his theory. And I've thought the same since the beginning of the season mostly because the show bothered to have Faraday give such a visual example of what he thought would happen when they set off the bomb... that didn't truly change the flow of the stream completely, just altered it more than a tiny pebble might.

Also, didn't Alex specfically point out that the principal was who she needed to write her letter because he had some influence at Yale from having gone there? The principal's threat to take Alex down in flames further proved that he could have a positive influence on her application. All of the high school stuff takes a little bit of suspension of disbelief but I don't think it's quite the leaps in logic that other commenters are complaining about. (And, remember, Ben didn't even know there was a means of blackmailing the principal when Alex first brings up the letter so it makes sense that he isn't thinking about the cause and effect of those two things when he finally goes through with the plan. And, while there are legit reasons why Ben wouldn't get to be principal, the writers did try to acknowledge that by having Ben point out the reason he'd even be able to get the job was because the principal would be recommending him for the position.)

Laurel said...

The off island stuff is just soooo cheesey!! I appreciate all the little tidbits we are getting, but they are set up so poorly. Roger Workman just happens to bring up the island and Dharma randomly in a conversation. A teenage girl would never in a million yrs go to a teacher's house. Especially a single male teacher. It has been thoroughly discussed but the letter of rec issue was complete nonsense. Not to mention the fact that when you apply to Yale you have to sign a statement saying that you have not read the letters of rec, meaning that Alex would have no way of knowing if the letter was good or bad. And isn't the principal curious how Ben came to possess the nurse's private email?

Anonymous said...

Why are we so sure that Kate is not a candidate? Her name was on the wheel in the lighthouse. Do we know who Ilana's six are, and do we know that Kate is not one of them?
Also, why is Kate going with Locke? Just because she wants to stick with Claire? Judging by the look on her face when she went with the rest of them at the end of "Sundown," she's not really sold on the whole "following Smokey Locke" thing, not even for Claire.

Carmichael Harold said...

Well, Alan, that's a fine, if brain-baking, point.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the fact that when you apply to Yale you have to sign a statement saying that you have not read the letters of rec, meaning that Alex would have no way of knowing if the letter was good or bad.

Yeah, but
1. you wouldn't ask someone for a letter unless you think they'll write you a good one (unless you're very stupid, and some students are)

2. if someone asks you for a letter and you don't think you can write them a good one, the proper thing to do is tell them that and suggest they look elsewhere.

Alex was mistaken in trusting an untrustworthy man, but given that she apparently trusted him, there was no reason for her not to ask him for a letter and assume it would be good.

Laurel said...

Right, but I think I remember Alex saying that the letter was much better than she expected, meaning she read the letter. Not that it is a big deal, especially considering all the super crazy things that happen on the island that we all accept no questions asked, but the writers seem to be just making stuff up at this point which makes me nervous...

themightypuck said...

I watched the episode again (because I'm a complete geek nerd etc.) and it is even better the second time. The plot holes in the school part are quickly forgiven. The sense I got round 2 was that Ben just isn't "that guy". He is not ambitious and really doesn't want to have to grab the reins. On the other hand, Ilana bothered me even more. Zuleikha Robinson totally fails to sell one of the most important lines in the episode "I'll take you." Luckily Emerson picks it up brilliantly and no one will remember how bad Robinson was.

Anonymous said...

I went back to that scene too (Ben and Ilana) and noticed that right after Ilana lowers her hands we get a closeup of Ben and, right before he speaks "I want to explain" there is a light shimmering on his face (as if a Supernatural being is entering his body).

I went over it time and time again to try and see if it was light reflecting off a pool of water (or some such) on his face or to try and convince myself it was just happenstance during filming, but I am fully convinced it was intentional as from that moment on, Ben became "Good".

Lizbeth said...

For the person who suggest Ben has never done anything wrong, do you honestly believe that? Murdering someone is acceptable? Nevermind Jacob, but Locke?

Not sure if you're referring to my comment, but I didn't mean to suggest that Ben never did anything wrong...just that he always justified his actions as necessary evils in support of the island (or Jacob).

In Ben's own mind, I believe he DID consider himself one of the good guys. Could be, as Alan says, Emerson is just that good at selling sincerity where there is none. Perhaps Ben really is just power-hungry pure evil, but I kinda feel the tragedy of the character is that he was "just following orders."

The way I see it (and I may be totally off base here) these people are fighting a holy war of Biblical proportions with a "take no prisoner" philosophy. In terms of life and death struggles and holy wars, general rules of morality (thou shalt not kill) sort of go out the window.

Locke, a so-called "good guy" killed Naomi without even a howdy do. Even innocent little Claire is an ax-murderer now. Killing seems to be a way of life on this island...but WHY are people willing to die and kill for the island??

That is really the only question I want answered at this point.

Anonymous said...

there are 6 candidates
for sure:
jack, hurley, sawyer, sayid

1 or 2 of the kwons

and maybe kate

so one of them isnt. going to be fun finding out

WilforkForFood said...

William Atherton, was also villian from Bio-Dome.

IN the scene where he counter-blackmails Ben, threatening to sink Alex's chance at Yale- why didn't Ben just go back to his original threat? Write her a good reccomendation and resign and reccomend me for the job of principal? Why did the principal's counter-threat work on Ben? Did I miss something?

themightypuck said...

@chazz that bugged me too but after I watched it again it seemed more like Ben really didn't care. The entire school side of the episode was to push Ben to the point of a coup (playing on the audiences pre existing knowledge of Ben) and at the end having Ben reject power. Possibly cheesy but I think it worked.

Anonymous said...

Loved the ep, especially its heart and ancillary humor. "Wanna light another?" - first time Jack has been funny since... ever? I guess that to a man who's survived a thermonuclear detonation, a little dynamite is nothing to fear. :-)

Hurley asks Richard if he's a Terminator - and shortly thereafter, Richard effectively explains that he can't self-terminate!

The Redemption of Ben Linus was a wonderful thing. I actually buy that he's been broken by events and has seen the light. And, through him, the island's good/evil dichotomy is becoming interesting again.

Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn are the best actors on the series. Give 'em the right material and they both just shine.

After weeks of pessimism, I'm a fan again.

Anonymous said...

Meh. I'm surprised most of you liked this one so much. I enjoyed the Jack/Richard scenes, although I'm disappointed they've turned Richard into such a sissy this season. Ben as history teacher was a snooze. His relationship with Alex was creepy. The recommendation letter thing made no sense.

Rudyjax said...

Is it that difficult to not pay attention to the credits?

Unknown said...

@Anonymous: As someone who watched every episode of BSG and Lost, I can say that I find Lost vastly preferable. I can see myself watching it again, and I'm pretty sure there's no way I would ever rewatch BSG. It all comes down to that, for me, BSG was a fascinating plot but with characters I never grew to care about one bit. Lost is a fascinating plot with characters that I care deeply about.

Rick said...

So the scene with Richard Alpert and Jack was certainly interesting, but it was supposed to be tense right? Well, they kind of gave away the game by having Richard mention Jacob's touch, didn't they? I mean, if Richard can't commit suicide because Jacob touched him, then we know (from the events of last season's finale) that Jack can't commit suicide either. Now, I suppose Jack doesn't realize that (because he doesn't know that Jacob handed him a candy bar way back when), but still. There can't be any tension when we know what we know right?

Also, the whole Jacob's touch thing raises a lot more questions than it answers.

Does it mean that the candidates (whom Jacob touched) can't age? How then did young Kate and young Sawyer grow up to be the strapping and buxom young adults that they became? Or does Jacob's power "lock" someone in to their ideal age (late 20s/early 30s) for all eternity? And what of Michael? Since Michael was the only character on the show whom we saw share Richard's "no suicides" curse, it is safe to assume he was at one point touched by Jacob? Further, since the "no suicides" curse is implied to be a manifestation of Jacob's gift, what then are we to make of the fact that it was Christian Sheppard, not Jacob, who seemed to be shepherding (pun firmly intended) Michael about his appointed duties back in Season 4? That means that Christian was a stand-in for Jacob in Michael's plotline, but a stand-in for the Man in Black in Claire's plotline. Who or what is Christian?

Well, at least Lost still gives us these fun mental exercises, even if I am somewhat less than convinced that the show will ever adequately address them.

Hollywoodaholic said...

There was also the creepy moment where Ben left Alex alone with the principal and I thought he was going to sexually extort her for the recommendation.

Ken Raining said...

Too many comments to read them all, so apologies if I repeat what others have said....

The one flaw with the episode was that alt-Ben apparently didn't figure out what I'm sure most of us did, that the principle would make him choose between his ambitions and Alex. Logically, it should have dawned on him that this would happen, so he'd just wait a week until he wrote her the letter of rec. But still, fantastic episode. Ben has been among the elite characters on the show for awhile, and any episode that features him is going to be great.

I also appreciated the juxtaposition of Richard's disillusionment with Jacob with Ben's. I think this is one of those "it's always darkest before the dawn" cases, and that this is all a part of Jacob's plan.

I also spotted Alan Dale's name, so I was waiting for him the whole episode and not surprised to see him on the sub. It would have been smart to fit him in to the flash sideways storyline somewhere, so us credit readers would think that was it. Dollars to donuts that Desmond's on the sub....

JTM said...

My memory is fuzzy about exactly what was shown of the island underwater, but here's my idea. I think that opening shot of the island underwater in episode 1 is possibly the closing shot of the series finale. I think along the lines of Greg - that the timeline split into two and that it will someday converge into one again. I think after the "war" is over, the resolution to the whole Jacob-candidate issue is to sink the island so that no one has to protect it ever again. Maybe they all die, maybe they all go home - who knows, but I personally don't buy the theory that the island sank when Juliet set off the bomb.

Unknown said...

I thought this episode was better than we've gotten this season -- mainly because Ben/Emerson is more interesting than most of the others -- but that's damning with faint praise.

Giving us all the LA X scenes for what appears will be for the majority of the final season with no explanation is asking for a lot of indulgence from the audience. My patience with it has run out. Alan, I think the theory you mentioned about it being an epilogue is probably right, but I don't think the reveal is going to be breath-taking enough to make up for what feels like wasted time and stalling.

There's been very little real plot advancement, and we're halfway through the season. Killing Kogen, Deadwood Interpreter and the temple mob *seems* like plot, but those were characters introduced for the sole purpose of allowing Smoky/Sayid to kill someone expendable. They might has well have thrown Guy Fleegman from Galaxy Quest out there to die instead. It's all smoke, mirrors and misdirection.

I'm so frustrated with the pace and the currently-meaningless vignettes into What Might Have Been or What Might Come To Pass or whatever it is, that the little we do learn seems inconsequential. I've been spending a lot of time surfing the web while the show's on because most weeks I have no emotional investment in what I'm seeing. Last night was better, but all that happened from a plot perspective is that they allied Ben and Ilana (maybe) and put Jack and Hurley with them. And we learned the mechanics of Richard's agelessness without actually learning why it was done or what his role on the island has been.

I knew going in that whatever answers they gave were going to be disappointing in some way, and I was okay with that. I didn't expect to be so disappointed with the storytelling. At this point, no explanation for the LA X timeline will be able to make up for how much time they've spent on something I don't care about and don't understand.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Re: Jacob's touch, I don't think it automatically makes the touch-ees immortal. I think it does whatever Jacob wants it to do. With Richard, it was to make him immortal. With Sawyer, it was to keep him on the vengeful path that would take him to the island. With the Kwons, it was to make sure their love stayed strong enough that Sun wouldn't be able to leave Jin at the airport, etc.

Anonymous said...

I liked the episode overall, but there was one gaping plot hole:

I don't understand why Alt-Ben didn't let the principal write the recommendation and then blackmail. It's not like he couldn't have made a deal about the recommendation and then reneged on it to oust the principal. What would the principal have done? Withdraw the recommendation? Alt-Ben can still blackmail the principal. That Alt-Ben chooses instead to get his history club back instead of taking down the principal is silly.

Col Bat Guano said...

Just once I'd like to see the imminent victim refuse the shovel and say, "You better flex up, killer, because YOU'RE the one who's going to do all the digging and dragging if you plan on shooting me."

Thank you. Both my wife and I said the same thing last night. I suppose you could make a case that he was just buying time, but whenever I see this scenario on screen I fantasize the doomed character saying "What are you going to do if I don't, shoot me?"

Anonymous said...

Tribalism said: "Richard tells Jack that Jacob’s touch is a gift, but I’m not convinced that this is the case."

I agree. The other thing that bugs me is this (and apologies ahead of time if this has been mentioned already): Jacob had gloves on in the hospital flashback when he visits Ilana. She is obviously very important to him, yet he makes a point to wear gloves and not touch her. Why?

kwas said...

Spot on, Alan, this episode had it all. The flash-sideways story seemed to resonate more with the island story, and the more Emerson the better since he has been under-utilized this year. And great casting as always, Atherton must be the go-to guy for arrogant creeps.

7s Tim said...

Jacob's six are: Kate, Jack, Hurley, Sawyer, Jin and Sun. Six possible replacements. I hope you guys remember last week when Sayid went freakin crazy, cause that's how I discount him. I know his name wasn't crossed off in the lighthouse, but I also know dead men don't cross off names, and Jacob bit the dust before Sayid.

Alt-Ben had to choose between ousting the Principal or keeping Alex safe, and couldn't have worked it another way. 1) Had Ben gone through with exposing him, there was no reason to believe he'd get the job (without the recommendation to the school board) and the Principal would write a letter to Yale that could keep her out, almost definitely. 2) If Ben told him to write the letter AND step down, the Principal could just say no to the letter part, either leading Ben to expose him (see also: 1)), or Ben would just have to live with the fact that he caused Alex to get a horrible letter and keep her out of Yale. 3) If Ben were to try to coerce the Principal a year or more later, the principal could write a letter to Yale saying Alex was complicit, and they would at very least take her enrollment under review.

I'm sticking to my guns that the 2004 world is actually the second act of this season. Would any of us have preferred to have the show seemingly end at episode 7 or 8 or so, then spend nearly as many episodes in this alternative reality, before coming back 2007 timeline for the final coupla episodes? This structure, as frustrating as it is, is much more viewer friendly. *** X-Men fans: this is like Age of Apocalypse or Here Comes Tomorrow-- alternate timelines whose very existance must be either prevented or ended from with in that alternate reality. (Bishop and X-man and a coupla other factors in AoA, the Ghost of Jean Grey in Here Comes Tomorrow, sort of).

Jack and Kate's stories carry the most clues as to the influence of 2007 on this 2004 world. Jack's appendix scar, weird blood stain in ep one, vague recognition of a bunch of characters. Kate being driven to, once again, go back for claire, to her keep her and the baby together. We are seeing the first act and second act of this season simultaneously. Many of these seem like epilogues, but that's just the manipulations of Smokey to make them want to stay in this world, which is why it will be so hard for Jack to give up his son, or Ben and Locke to loose the peace of mind they have in this shiny world.
I'm hoping they focus on Ben and Locke and Sayid for that stuff, since they really are the best at portraying regret and loss.

Eric said...

I think the letter of rec deal worked because Ben realized he didn't want to be principal anymore. It's about helping the kids, and as principal you deal with behavior issues and write letters of rec, not meet with gifted students in History Club.

They had better explain how Sawyer gets out of the cave.

So if Jack was touched by Jacob, swallowing Dogan's poison pill wouldn't have done anything. They can die, they just can't kill themselves. Is that the loophole Smokey was looking for?

Stella said...

I don't understand why everyone keeps referring to the underwater island as "sunken." An island is the top of a mountain sticking up above sea level. It is not a floating clump of rock and dirt and palm trees. If the island's under water, so is LA.

I hope the writers realize this. It's been bothering me since we saw that silly CGI shot in the season 6 opening sequence.

Anonymous said...

"3) If Ben were to try to coerce the Principal a year or more later, the principal could write a letter to Yale saying Alex was complicit, and they would at very least take her enrollment under review."

If the principal took that step, Alex could sue both the school and the principal for defamation. The principal would lose his job, his family and a lot of money.

Again, I enjoy the show, but I think that especially this season, the writers do a good job of explaining the big picture, but gloss over little, but important details. No show is perfect, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the show and at the same time be annoyed about things that could have been easily explain or patched.

Another example of this was Alt-Kate's escape from the airport. The federal agent first allows Kate to go to the bathroom alone even though there are bound to be other female agents and TSA officers available. Then after Kate's escape he goes to talk to the security officers at the taxi stand, but doesn't look at the people at the taxi stand thereby allowing Kate to escape through the most likely exit point in the airport. Then Kate drives around LA in the taxi- no police officers in sight.

Kenrick said...

I actually like the sideways stories. They're like little self contained episodes with a beginning and end.

Lost proper is just biding its time until the finale, which I find rarely satisfying.

7s Tim said...

I just think the whole situatiton would end up incredibly messy, with the Principall probably losing his job and family anyhow, with the evidence Ben has, so he might as well take them down with him. And since Ben learned of the affair from Alex, and since he had used the evidence to secure her good recommendation, I think there might be a good case to be made that Alex was an unknowing accomplice, part of a conspiracy she benefitted from, without having full knowledge of the full conspiracy. She'd probably still be outta Yale (were she to get in for other factors, a glowing letter of recommendation that was coerced would taint her whole application and put her character at issue)

Lotta fun discussing the little subplots as if they were the main focus sometimes. Maybe Jacob could influence the Yale Admissions?

verification: dropit. Fine, that's the last I'll say

jams said...


Can't really blame people for thinking your jack hate is a bit strong when one of the lines in an older review was something to the effect of: I pretty much do not like anything to do with Jack unless he is getting punched in the face (Pretty sure it was you, but if not correct me).

Then, even in a an epsiode where you say you like all his scenes you say he doesn't ask the proper questions. It's a necessary flaw of LOST and I'm guessing people don't feel like watching chracters play 20 questions 95% of which would be answered with I can't tell you. I just got done rewatching LOST and there are multiple main characters that display that same flaw ( Ex:Locke and Ben season 4).
Right off the bat this season you jumped to blame Jack for the island sinking dspite the fact, that there isn't enough information to come to a conclusion. His "terrible" leadership skills come up constantly, but his/Faraday's mission with Jughead seems to have been a success and Jack came up with the plan, to stop the Others from killing and taking women. Not to mention all he did in S1 to hold the survivors together. I remembered you've stated, that it was obvious that Sayid would make for the best leader, when he was the one who refused Jack's idea that they confront Michael in S2 and instead came up with a terrible boat ambush plan. He then botched another cruddy boat ambush plan early in season 3.

As a fan of the character even I thought the his last two centric episodes before "Lighthouse" were fairly weak. However, I thought "Lighthouse" was good , even if it was more of a transitional/set-up episode.

Sorry for the long post. still loving the reviews (even if I don't agree). Who knows maybe you'll actually end up not hating Jack this season, but I'm guessing no.

Unknown said...

Regarding the BSg-Lost debate - I was a big fan of BSG, but after the last 2 seasons of BSG and the pretty disappointing ending - no doubt Lost is far better.

BSG main flaw has always been that they did not have any clue about where the show was going, they did not plan anything (which is ironic for BSG) and they even admitted it with no problem, even with pride. So at then end, many of the thing we invested in had no meaning at all, the writers had no idea about the answers, they just put things in the show because it was "cool", and we got that stupid ending, tons of plot-holes, and a story that does not make any sense.

Lost, on the other hand, clearly is following a plan for a long time. Lost is also much more rooted in high culture, has tons of references, thinks much more about meaning, and has better actors, production values and directors.
And Lost does not involve liberal politics.

So Lost is a much better show.

Chris said...


I don't think you can consider this a plot hole. There has been plausible explanations offered, and I'll try and say it again.

Ben went in attempting to blackmail the principal with damning information. He wasn't counting on the principal having any sort of counter. I think it was a surprise when he brought of Alex, or at least not something that he considered. I think once he digested the implications of her involvement he decided that he wasn't going to meddle in her future or involve her in his scheming even if it could have worked out okay. I think he realized in that moment that his role was to be the educator rather than the administrator.

Katie said...

I was glad to see Jon Gries back as Ben's dad. I've been rewatching The Pretender lately (in a super random order, going from episodes in season two to four to one to three to four, etc.), and it was like two worlds colliding.

All in all, it was a much better episode than the last three, that's for sure.

Rick said...


From your 1:29 post: Let's say you are right and that Jacob's touch doesn't necessarily make someone immortal. Does it always prevent suicides? If Richard's got the rules right, then Jack should have been able to kill him absent Jacob's powers. We know that Jacob has touched Jack, thus the suicide attempt didn't work. We also have circumstantial evidence that Michael was touched owing to the fact that he was the only character we had seen with the "no suicides" curse. Are one or both of Jack and Michael immortal (meaning won't age or die of natural causes), or does "no suicides" just apply to all of the "touched"? Puts Locke's attempted suicide into a potentially different light, doesn't it?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Rick, I just think it means that people that Jacob doesn't want to die can't die until he otherwise changes his mind (see Michael). Richard's a special case, because he's been around for centuries.

Chrissy said...

The only times two currently alive characters interacted that I can think of is Kate/Sawyer, and as I mentioned, it was ambiguous. Again, I might be forgetting something really obvious though.

I'm sure I'm not the first to mention this (I'm trying to get through the comments while at work - tricky business), but I think Kate and Claire's interaction would negate this theory. Even if Claire does not remember, and Kate, for some reason, needs to pretend that she doesn't, I cannot believe that Kate as we now know her would kick Claire and her pregnant belly out of that cab and make them wait by the side of the road while she went off to hang out with Bear from the X-Files and change her clothes.

I think they have inklings that something is off, dull spots in their memory, feelings they can't explain, but I don't think they remember.

Joe said...

Wait a minute. Smokey can control metal objects now? With his mind, apparently? (See when he unlocked Ben's chains)
So, not only is he invincible (at least against bullets and swords), but he has telekinesis as well.
If there's a war coming between Smokey and Jacob's team of misfits... I think my money is on Smokey. He's just too powerful.

Unknown said...

Haven't read all the comments so forgive me if I repeat an observation.

First great post Alan thanks,

Ok so Widmore is coming to the island the only thing baffling me at the minute is this:

Is this the REAL Widmore who depises Desmond/enemy of Ben?

Is this an ATL-Widmore coming from the sideways universe?

Or a completly different Widmore coming from who knows where as we dont know the connections between the timelines/parallels/universes?

Got a headache now, any ideas?

Anonymous said...

I think it's fair to assume that it's the Widmore we all know and love, Grog.

Anonymous said...

@Stella "An island is the top of a mountain sticking up above sea level. It is not a floating clump of rock and dirt and palm trees. If the island's under water, so is LA."

Not so. There are islands right now that are threatened by global warming, that will be "sunken" by rising sea levels. if the nuke went off setting off the electromagnetism - granted this is fictional - it could cause the island to fall below sea level.

Unknown said...

At this moment it probably would make sense that it is the Widmore we all know and love, this would also coincide with him meeting Sun prior to boarding Arija 316 & maybe giving her some type of GPS device so he could find the island??


Lepidoptera said...

Quick question for everyone who attended school in the Post Leave it to Beaver era:

Who was the school nurse at your high school?

Correct answer: There wasn't one. High schools don't have school nurses, anymore than they can promote janitors to administration positions at the resigning principal's request.

I'm going to Tivo tonight's Hannah Montana for a little more realistic look at how a high school functions.

Hatfield said...

Ok, I'm a bit confused on why so many people are so eager to poke holes in the school plot from this episode. Fine, so they flubbed some details about how this all works. On a show like Lost, does it really matter? The point of the story was still clear. I'm not trying to mock anybody, but it seems odd that we can all suspend our disbelief to the level required for this show, and then get upset about something like that.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that Kate as we now know her would kick Claire and her pregnant belly out of that cab and make them wait by the side of the road while she went off to hang out with Bear from the X-Files and change her clothes.

I don't think Kate noticed Claire was pregnant. Hence her reaction to opening the bag at the mechanic's place.

xteen156 said...


There are definitely school nurses still in high school.

Great episode!

Anonymous said...

To Lepidoptera

I went to a high school in downtown Manhattan and we had a school nurse.

Alan Sepinwall said...

There are definitely school nurses still in high school.

Certainly were when I was in high school, which was well after Leave it to Beaver times.

medrawt said...

Hatfield -

I think this is just a common experience of being an audience member. A fictional artwork tells you the things that distinguish its world from mine, and we fill in the rest. To pick an example from a paper I read in college, the Sherlock Holmes stories asks us to believe that there's a guy named Sherlock Holmes who lives on Baker Street, and over the course of the story other fictional "facts" will present themselves. Meanwhile, we fill in everything not mentioned that's needed to understand the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes - gravity still works the way we think it does, England still has a Parliament, and beef is more expensive than chicken. If the story then goes and apparently contradicts that stuff - for no reason satisfying to the reader/viewer - then it jars our experience in a way the "less believable" stuff doesn't, because we buy into that less believable stuff as the price of enjoying a story.

(Also, you can't tell a story about time travel and smoke monsters without establishing a world that has time travel and smoke monsters. You can tell a story about internecine conflict in a high school faculty without violating our understanding of how such things actually work.)

Stella said...


Stella: "An island is the top of a mountain sticking up above sea level. It is not a floating clump of rock and dirt and palm trees. If the island's under water, so is LA."

Anonymous: "Not so. There are islands right now that are threatened by global warming, that will be "sunken" by rising sea levels. if the nuke went off setting off the electromagnetism - granted this is fictional - it could cause the island to fall below sea level."

It would fall below sea level due to a nuclear incident, but all the structures would still be intact?

Anonymous said...

@ Chris

That is a plausible explanation, but it's also plausible that Alt-Ben waits till Alex matriculates to blackmail the principal. I'm merely pointing out that I feel that the writers could have taken of it by adding one line.

Principal: "And if you ever think about using this..."

I'm not really arguing with people who choose to want to infer what the writers meant. That's one way of interpreting it, but there are others.

I admit that I'm biased. My wife works for the board of education. I worked for years in college admissions and then teaching high school students before going to law school. That's my perspective- not saying it's the right one, just admitting where my bias comes from.

Setting aside the fact that the emphasis on one recommendation is way over-blown. (I hope high school students and parents watching don't actually believe that this is how recommendations are factored in.)

Yes, Alt-Ben helped Alt-Alex get into Yale. He also protected a principal who had sex with another school employee in the presence of students. Once Alex was free and clear Alt-Ben could have turned the e-mails over to the board of ed without black mailing thereby ridding the school of a bad principal. Alt-Ben chose instead to get his history club back. That's moral midgetry.

I'm willing to go along with what the writers want the fans to swallow- Ben is redeemed. I just think it could have been conveyed much in a much clearer fashion.

Hatfield said...

Medrawt, that was a great response, thanks. That makes sense, I guess I just don't get hung up on those things on this show the way I would on, say, so school drama. I'm too busy wondering how Hurley immediately knows who Richard is when I can't remember them ever having met.

bakija said...

Lepidoptera wrote:
>>Correct answer: There wasn't one. High schools don't have school nurses, anymore than they can promote janitors to administration positions at the resigning principal's request. >>

Uh, wha? High schools have nurses in them. I mean, I suppose it is possible that they have been phased out in some states, but I suspect not many. Schools have nurses in them.

Yeah, there were certainly some logistical problems in the High School storyline (i.e. yeah, you don't get made Principal by ascension; you don't actually need a recommendation from a Yale alumni to go to Yale; whatever), but they were totally worth overlooking in the name of the good story. I mean, there are logistical problems in the Smoke Monster and Time Travel storylines too...

Lepidoptera said...

I do appreciate the forum, the opportunity for discourse, and the multiple responses.

I have reached the end of my rope with the fractured logic of Lost, and was venting. I should not have painted with such a broad brush in asking about school nurses, as most of you clearly were able to have your tummy aches instantly administered to well into your late teens.

I came from California, and there were not dedicated school nurses anywhere that I know of beyond elementary school. In the Los Angeles of today (where this story takes place), the chance would be much, much smaller, but still, as many of you point out, this is not the common experience, so I shall let this one slide.

I can attest for a fact that it would require a great deal more bureaucracy than a principal's pained recommendation to earn his spot, but again, those who pointed out that these don't rank as even the 150 and 151st most ridiculous storylines in this show are correct, and I humbly digress.

medrawt said...

Hatfield -

And I probably wouldn't have noticed the faculty stuff either, because I'm not in or from that world, but I might've noticed the logical errors about college applications, because I'm not that far removed from doing it myself. I'm aware that, e.g., House is radically unrealistic in its presentation of the workload distribution in a hospital, but since I don't have any experience with hospitals, it doesn't grate at me as a viewer, but I know it's difficult for some medical professionals to watch procedural stuff get show incorrectly all the freaking time. (And other people aren't bothered by it; everyone's got a different tolerance. I'm actually really hard-assed about this stuff because there aren't a lot of shows I watch casually; I'm in it, and emotionally invested, or I'm doing something else with my time, and when moderate details are incorrect - whether relevant to the story or not - I'm confronted with the uncomfortable and slightly embarrassing fact that I probably care a lot more about what I'm watching than the people who made it, and I want to be confronted with the information as little as possible.)

Anonymous said...

All this discussion about the Yale recommendation letter is baffling to me. No, such letters are not required. But very few people get accepted to Ivy League universities, so every little bit helps. You need to stand out from thousands of other people.

And speaking as someone who is directly involved with the admissions process (i.e. I evaluate, interview and help select applicants) at one of the graduate schools of Yale, a letter from an alumnus/alumna is a very good thing.

Conversely, a very bad letter from anyone would be a very bad thing. Also, someone mentioned the statement applicants sign that states that they have not read their letters. I'm sure no one has ever signed that and then read them anyway!

J said...

In the Los Angeles of today (where this story takes place)

Ah, but that part of this story took place in an alternate dimension in 2004. It's quite possible that when they set off the warhead, the California economy got better.

Re: Jacob's touch, I don't think it automatically makes the touch-ees immortal. I think it does whatever Jacob wants it to do.

Perhaps Jacob's touch is not a matter of will, but anatomical pressure points. Maybe if Richard showed them on a doll where Jacob touched him...

Unknown said...

Lastly people just one more observation..

Does it not appear that Jacob & Unlocke/MIB coveiniantly sort of ' help ' each other
i.e Jacob's instruction to take Sayid to the Temple ( he must know the consequences )
Unlocke letting Richard go free to warn eevryone who he truly is & to get his moment with Jack to get hope again.
Unlocke dropping ( mockingly to Ben ) his hint as to where he & his entourage will be at the Hydra station in case you know Jack or Richard want to know....( meaning MIB knew Ben wouldnt take his carrot )
There are a couple of other instances last one ill point out Jacob just plainly not warning Dogen or anyone that MIB was coming to kill them that night as he clearly knew speaking to Hurley

Doesn't this suggest they are and the same , two sides to the same coin?

Goodnight and good luck.......

Chrissy said...

Alex hadn't already asked the principal for the letter when she was in the library with Dr. Linus. At that point, as the adult, he could have debunked her idea that she needed a letter of rec from him just because he went to Yale. She might not have realized this, being 17, but her doctor of modern European history teacher sure would have, and it would have saved him a lot of trouble.

Disagree here. Why would Ben ever suggest a promising student *not* get a letter of recommendation from an alumnus. He has no reason to think it will be negative, and has only just begun formulating his evil plan. The only reason for him to suggest against this would be to eliminate an obstacle to his goal, and it was established that Alt-Ben is not willing to let Alex experience the ill effects of his ambition.

I'm curious about Ben killing Locke, given what we know about candidates now. Is there any way he knew that Locke couldn't kill himself at that point? Was it totally a coincidence?

In response to the idea that the Alt universe is an epilogue based on the characters choices, or what they deserve - if that is the case Charlie got the rawest deal in history. He makes possibly the biggest sacrifice of any character, for the ultimate good cause, and in the alt-universe he's still a drug addict, but with a death wish to boot? I won't say that Darlton can't be cruel, but considering we're unlikely to spend much more time with Charlie in which to make sense of this it seems far too mean-spirited.

Anonymous said...

Henry said: "I had the brief thought during the episode that Richard's talk about Jacob's touch would mean that everyone who got Jacob's touch would live forever, but that seemed ridiculous. In fact, John's death is proof that touched people don't live forever."

It's that these people can't kill themselves, which explains why a "loophole" was needed for MIB to kill Jacob (via Ben); also why Richard could walk through the sonic fence without issue.

I'm also cracking up that people are nitpicking college admission letters but accepting smoke monsters, time travel and rteincarnation pools. With 10 eps left, it's time to be people of faith, not science.

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