Monday, March 15, 2010

Lost 6.07: "Dr. Linus"

“I’ll have you.”


Between HIMYM, The Big Bang Theory, and “Dr. Linus,” the episode of “Lost” I’m about to discuss here, last week was really a stellar week in television. “Dr. Linus” is by far my favorite episode of “Lost” this season by far. There were just so many things to love about it. Michael Emerson gave a stellar performance, as expected, Ben got some redemption in both universes, and we ended with both an old-school musical montage as characters reunite plus a shocking twist in the final seconds. It was everything I like most about “Lost” (except for Desmond) all wrapped up in one episode.

Most of the sideways-verse action in this episode takes place at the public high school where we saw Locke teaching at the end of “The Substitute,” but this time Ben (aka Dr. Linus) is the focus. Ben is feeling kind of down because he has a doctorate in modern European history, yet he’s teaching high school. Principal Reynolds doesn’t exactly make his life any easier. Due to budget cuts, Reynolds wants Ben to monitor detention for the next week. This is a problem for Ben, because it interferes with is History Club meeting. Principal Reynolds chides Ben for his reluctance, saying that History Club is more for Ben than the five students who participate.

Ben is complaining about the situation to Arzt while the two are lunching in the faculty lounge. Arzt has his own complaints about the school. The lab equipment is decades outdated, for instance. Locke is carefully listening to the conversation from the next table, and he slyly suggests to Ben that maybe Ben should try to become the principal. Ben clearly cares about the students, at least. I find it incredibly interesting that Locke is the one who instigates the high school mini-insurrection that is to come, especially considering this is the real Locke, not “evil incarnate” in Locke’s form like we’ve got in the other universe. In fact, sideways Locke in this scene feels more like smokemonster Locke than the put upon original Locke that we all know. Maybe the fact that he has Helen and has made peace with his injury has given Locke more confidence.

One of the things I liked the most about the sideways verse story this week is that Ben has been reunited with Alex, and their relationship is much more positive and less creepy than it was in the original universe. Mostly because here she’s still Alexandra Rousseau, and Ben never kidnapped her from her mother. Instead he’s her history teacher and something of a mentor. Ben also seems to have a positive relationship with his (still alive but in failing health) father, Roger. When tutoring Alex for her upcoming AP European History test, Ben learns something that sparks him to actually try to stage the coup Locke suggested. Alex tells Ben that in order to have a shot at getting into Yale and getting the financial aid she needs to pay for it, she needs a letter of recommendation from someone who went to Yale. Someone like “that pervert” Principal Reynolds.

Concerned that Alex may have been subjected to some inappropriate behavior, Ben inquires further. One day when Alex was resting in the nurse’s office, she heard the school nurse and Reynolds having sex in the next room. Even though he promises he won’t say anything, Ben heads right for Arzt’s classroom. He wants to know if Arzt can hack into faculty e-mail and pull incriminating e-mail from the school nurse’s account. Arzt most certainly can, in exchange for a better parking spot and lab equipment after the coup is complete. Ben takes a whole stack of incriminating e-mails to Principal Reynolds, but Principal Reynolds has one final play to keep his job. He threatens to destroy Alex’s chances at Yale if Ben goes ahead with his plan.

I thought Ben might choose power over Alex again, but he actually didn’t. Alex got a wonderful letter of recommendation to Yale. Ben didn’t get to usurp power, but he did manage to convince Principal Reynolds to take him off detention duty so he could have the History Club back again. Arzt isn’t happy that he won’t be getting his perfect parking spot or new lab equipment, but Ben seems to be at peace with how everything went down. Earlier in the episode, Roger had lamented that he and Ben hadn’t stayed on the Island, because he thought Ben could have had a much better future had they remained with the Dharma Initiative. I really think that Ben is probably better off without the Island. And how cool is it to know that the Dharma Initiative existed in the sideways-verse, too!

Ben also managed to find some redemption in the 2007 timeline, too. Ben is one of my favorite characters on Lost, that that was definitely a welcome development. The way it all went down makes me ponder the connection between the sideways verse and original verse. It seems like as soon as Ben makes a good choice in the sideways verse, his fortune starts to turn in the original verse. It’s almost like karma can travel from one universe to the other.

The 2007 part of the story begins with Ben meeting back up with Ilana and her crew after Locke’s Temple rampage. Ben has a slip of the tongue, and Ilana begins to expect that Jacob’s death didn’t happen in the way Ben said it did. Ilana gives Miles Jacob’s ashes and asks him to tell her how Jacob died. Miles reveals that Ben murdered Jacob, and Ilana is furious. She puts her rage on hold for a little while, as the group has decided that the best next move was to head to the beach. This reminds me of a bit of meta humor in “La Fleur” where some of the characters complain to Sawyer that all they seem to do is just travel from one location to another. There really isn’t a good reason behind this latest move.

Once the group is somewhat settled on the beach, Ilana decides to start getting her vengeance on Ben. She shackles him between two trees and makes him dig his own grave. It’s moments like these where I’m glad I swore off spoilers half way through season 4, because I honestly feared that Ben wouldn’t survive the episode. Locke pays Ben a visit as he’s digging, and he makes Ben an offer that he thinks Ben can’t refuse. If Ben joins him on Hydra Island, Locke will make Ben leader of the Island once Locke and his followers leave. Ben escapes, and he’s predictably chased down by Ilana.

Ben reaches a rifle that Locke planted for him and trains it on Ilana. He doesn’t want to kill Ilana, though. He just wants to explain why he killed Jacob. He was angry because he realized that when he let Alex die in season 4, he made a very bad decision. He did all these things and gave up so much in service of Jacob, and Jacob didn’t really give much in return. Ilana finally understands Ben and lets him return to the group. Back at the beach, Ben helps Sun put together a shelter after asking her if there was anything he could do to help. This was a lovely counterpoint to a scene that took place when they all first arrived at the beach, when nobody would even look at Ben let alone accept his offer of help.

The second plot we’re following in the 2007 timeline this episode is Jack and Hurley after Jack’s tantrum at the Lighthouse. Hurley has an inkling that something bad has gone down at the Temple, so he keeps trying to stall going back there, even though Jack is anxious. As Jack and Hurley reach a fork in the road, they encounter Richard, who tells them that the correct way to the Temple is in a completely different direction. Where Richard actually leads Jack and Hurley is to the Black Rock. Richard wants to die, but he needs someone else to pull the trigger, so to speak. Richard’s death method of choice is some of the dynamite inside the Black Rock. I guess Richard felt it was sort of a full circle type deal, as he alludes to the fact that the Black Rock is how he got to the Island in the first place.

Jack offers to light the dynamite, but after he lights it (Hurley has already run far, far away), he tells Richard that it’s time for them to talk. Richard doesn’t really have answers for Jack. He’s just really disappointed that he’s worked for Jacob for so long and nothing ever came of it. Jack, however, got something out of the encounter anyway. His faith is somewhat restored. He tells Richard that he doesn’t think Jacob would have arranged for Jack to see what he saw at the Lighthouse just to let him blow up in the Black Rock with Richard. Jack is right- the fuse goes out before it can detonate the dynamite.

Another thing I loved about this episode was that it ended with an old school musical reunion montage on the beach between Jack and Hurley and Ilana’s crew. Sun is elated to see Hurley and Jack again, and she gives them both big hugs. Ben doesn’t really participate in the reunion, which I guess means he hasn’t been 100% redeemed yet, but he at least seems to be on the right path. He chose to stick with Ilana instead of going to Locke, after all. Finally the camera turns to the ocean, where a submarine periscope breaks the surface of the water. Inside the submarine? Is Charles Widmore. Interesting stuff is certainly about to go down on the Island, that’s for sure.

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