We’re experiencing technical difficulties! This here’s page 3, and you’ll want to start on page 1. Click to the next page, start from there, and then circle back to read this page last. You can do it. Jacob has faith in you.
-MMorse and the good folks at Chud
• Ben makes like Creedence Clearwater Revival and runs through the jungle, hotly pursued by Ilana. He makes it to the gun that Anti-Locke promised him, but he doesn’t shoot Jacob’s sworn protector. Instead, he tells her that he wants to explain. And with that, all of the lies, the oily self-protectiveness, melt away. Ben lays his soul bare, and confesses. He tells Ilana the truth. He admits his sin. And he begs her to just let him leave. With that, we get this exchange:
Ilana: “Where will you go?”
Ben: “To Locke.”
Ben: “Because he’s the only one who will have me.”
That’s despair. Real, honest despair. Ben will join Anti-Locke’s Island renegades because it’s all he’s been offered. It’s all he thinks he has left. He’s lost everything and everyone he cared about due to his own decisions, and the only alternatives in his eyes are death or damnation.
But then something happens. Something I genuinely didn’t expect – something powerful and simple and immensely moving. With three simple words, Ilana offers the fallen Benjamin another alternative:
Ilana: “I’ll have you.”
I get shivers just typing the words, which is totally ridiculous. Commence your chortling. But if I can get all mushy on you for a minute:
Forgiveness. Grace. Compassion. Call it what you will. It adds up to the same thing – a second chance. Biblically-speaking, Ben is the Prodigal Son here, and Ilana has welcomed him home again. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read this:
“A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want…
And when he came to himself, he said: ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.’
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” – Luke 15:11-24
The Prodigal Son understood that he did not deserve his father’s forgiveness. He understood that he had acted rashly, wrongly, that he had sinned. And he fully expected his father to take this into account – to judge him, to treat him as though he had sinned. To treat him as an “Other.” And yet, the Prodigal’s father does none of these things – maybe because he sees the honesty in his son, and maybe, simply, because the love of a parent for a child is a holy thing, almost impossible to destroy. The parable is designed to illustrate God’s love and capacity for forgiveness, and to urge us all to exercise it in our lives. That forgiveness is mirrored in Ilana’s brief words.
• Notice that Ben’s attitude toward Jacob in the Season 5 finale more-or-less reflects the attitude of the Older Son in the Parable of the Prodigal.
“Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”
Sound familiar? It should. It’s essentially what Ben said to Jacob, just before he gutted the Island’s God/Father like a stuck pig. Part of the beauty of the Parable of the Prodigal lies in its dualism. At some point in our lives, we are all the Older Son, and we are all the Younger Son. At some point, we all need to be forgiven. And at some other point, we all need to learn to forgive. This goes beyond any idea of religion, any sect or belief or creed. It’s the sort of universal human Truth-with-a-capital-T that we all arguably recognize, whether we’re “religious” or “atheist” or “Jedi” or “Other.”
• Of course, the choice between the position of Principal and the well-being of Alex mirrors Ben’s similar choice from Season 3, where he was forced to choose between the Island and his daughter, and chose poorly (cue disintegrating Alison Doody).
• The final choice for Ben (Job or girl?? Girl or job??) doesn’t necessarily add up, if you’re of the mindset that once Ben has the power he seeks he’ll use it to help Alex. But that perspective fails to account for the “moral calculus” involved here.
For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?” – Mark 8:36
Or, if you prefer your Scripture with musical accompaniment:
“Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold.”
Ben is clearly in his heart a teacher, not an administrator. To take Atherton’s job and more specifically, to take it in this specific way, would change him. He’d dole out his favors to Arzt, and he’d start making other deals – for the “good” of the school. Only, those Arzt favors probably wouldn’t stop being demanded, as that guy isn’t exactly the type who seems to be above some me-first-and-the-gimme-gimmes-style blackmail. More deals would be made.
Maybe he’d start out with good intentions, but by starting down this road, Ben could easily become the man we’ve seen him as: bug-eyed, Machiavellian and utterly isolated from those around him. Rise to the next level in any organization, or simply in life, and a very real danger exists: the people you’ve left behind can start to look “small.” Unimportant. And the choices that you make from that point on – choices that affect those people on sometimes deep and meaningful levels (see: Reynolds’ casual destruction of Ben’s history club) – start to get hideously easier, because, after all, they’re “only” five students. They’ll live.
And I think Ben understood this on some level (perhaps on an instinctual/subconscious level – see my theory from the Rewatch column for The Constant). He understood that getting what he wants in this manner might result in losing everything he needs. Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, brutha. As Benjamin Disraeli once said, “Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forego an advantage.”
• Lost hasn’t done a slow-motion beach reunion in a long time, but we get one here and it’s warm, hopeful stuff. Last week’s episode was perhaps Lost’s bleakest ever, but “Dr. Linus” offered us something like Grace – the possibility of redemption. I’m at my most eye-rollingly sincere when I say that I hope Ben’s choice made the difference for him, and that it was made honestly (and I have no reason to think it’s not, despite Ben’s well-established reputation as a Lying Liar with pants very much afire).
• As if all of the above weren’t enough (I’ve somehow managed to churn out my longest column ever – “lucky” you!), the episode ends on a decidedly sinister note: Widmore has returned to the Island.
We spent a good portion of Season 5 being told how difficult it was to travel to the Island – that the conditions of the Oceanic flight had to be replicated as precisely as possible in order to return. This was backed up, implicitly, by all of the stuff we’d learned previously about the submarine homing beacon, and how, once disabled, the Island apparently became “cut off.”
So: How in blue blazes does Widmore suddenly show up in a submarine?
Three possibilities off the top of my head:
(1)The writers forgot all about that complicated find-the-Island stuff and just said: “You know what would be SUPERCOOL?! If we had Widmore show up in a SUBMARINE at the end of the episode!” Then they high-fived, lit another joint, began wrestling one another atop a giant pile of crisp hundred dollar bills, and never spoke/thought about it again.
(2)Widmore’s sub can travel at/around the same speed as a plane, or was awaiting the arrival of the Ajira flight in the same vicinity as the “Vile Vortice” where the entrance to the Island was temporarily open, and passed through with the plane, parasitically piggybacking off of it to gain access.
(3)There is a “beacon” similar to the one found in the Looking Glass which has been hidden aboard the Ajira flight, giving Widmore the renewed ability to find the Island.
Questions of how he got there aside, what’s he doing there now? Theories? I’ve got a bunch, but this column is LATE.
• While things are still murky and unclear, one refrain continues to repeat, again and again, like a song – a song that we heard Sawyer singing to himself as he left the Island via raft. If there’s a central “message” to Lost, I believe it’s this one, and that this episode only underlined it further:
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds.”
I invite you to point out all of the things I missed (of which, I’m sure, there are many) and tell me what you thought about this episode in the comments section below. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!
If you enjoyed this column, please Digg it using the button provided below!
To view the complete Rewatch archive and related articles, please visit Back To The Island.
To talk about/join the discussion about Season Six, jump onto the Message Boards.