Again, the flash-sideways has given us a chance for these characters that we have loved for so long to take one of their flaws and improve upon it.
This week it is Benjamin Linus, the consummate villain of LOST. However, Ben Linus has been reduced from leader to beaten down lackey.
And int he flash-sideways, Dr.Linus was given a chance to redo the biggest mistake in his entire life, figuratively. Dr. Linus discovered from his student Alex Rousseau (yep, that Alex) that the principal of the school was having an illicit affair with the nurse, Linus found evidence and intended on blackmailing him to resign as principal and recommend Dr. Linus for the job.
Substitute teacher John Locke suggested that Linus should be principal because he cared about the school and the students more than the administrators did. Linus was attracted to the power and moved forward with the plan. We know Ben has always desired power and he would do practically anything for it.
However, the principal had a ace up his sleeve. When Ben approached him with the blackmail, the principal said that if he went through with this, he would torch a recommendation to Yale that Alex Rousseau had asked him to write.
Alex had already expressed to Ben how much she needed to get into Yale and she worried that she would never make it because of money. She needed a recommendation from a former Yale graduate. She made this seem like life and death for her.
So here Ben was again. He could push forward with his own plan to hold on to his power at the figurative cost of Alex’s life or he could give up his power and save her life.
This was just like the literal Alex and Keemy situation where Ben had chosen to hold on to his power, leading to Alex’s execution. It is a brilliant juxtaposition by the LOST writers to be able to place Ben back in that situation again.
Of course, Dr. Linus chooses the better path than Ben Linus did, and Alex gets her recommendation.
Meanwhile on the Island, we have two people facing internal crises. Ben is being forced to dig his own grave by Ilana, who found out that Ben was the actual person to have murdered Jacob. The second person was Richard, who was looking for a chance to die and he was enlisting the help of Jack.
Ben was approached by Locke and he offered Ben control of the Island after Locke and his group departed. Richard ran into Hurley and Jack and led them to the Black Rock and away from the Temple, where everybody was dead.
Ben took off into the jungle after a gun (told to him by Locke) with Ilana in pursuit. Richard brought Jack inside the Black Rock and pulled out a stick of dynamite. Richard said he was unable to kill himself but he needed Jack to do it.
Ben got to the gun and got the drop on Ilana, but he did not shoot her. He only wanted to explain. Jack agreed and lit the dynamite, sitting down next to Richard.
Ben explained about how he had made the decision to choose the Island over Alex and how much he regretted that, but how Jacob didn’t even care. Ben said he was so angry. He had sacrificed everything only to be tossed aside. Jack told Richard that he knew that dynamite wouldn’t explode because Jack was important and had been brought here for a reason. So Jack was willing to sit there and let it blow up. believing that it would not.
Ben told Ilana he just wanted to go to Locke because he was the only one who would have him. Ilana said that she would have Ben. Jack closed his eyes and the dynamite fizzled out. Jack snarkily said, “You wanna try another stick.”
The performances in this episode were out of this world. The scene between Ben and Ilana is one of the best of the series, and Richard’s off-balance behavior was the best we have seen Nestor Carbonell as the never aging Other.
And the fantastic episode ended with another reunion scene of Jack, Hurley and Richard arriving on the beach and having everyone happy to see them. Ben stood back out of the way, still the outsider with more to prove.
And then there was a sub with Charles Widmore approaching the Island.