OK, so I've watched this one a couple times (editor's note: watching Lost at 1:30am drunk is not recommended if you want to understand what's happening) and still am not sure what to think. On one hand, we were treated to one of the most jaw dropping endings of the season, but on the other hand I feel like maybe we were all being played a bit. I mean, how can little Harry Potter/Ben Linus be dead at the ripe old age of 10? Did the writers just throw us a cheap thrill knowing full well that next week we'll find out that Ben lives and the bullet magically missed every major organ in his body? Or is there something more here? I'd like to think there is, because at this point the time travel paradoxical chicken or the egg stuff is about to make my head explode. But as always, let's see what sense we can make of what went down in "He's Our You."
Clearly this week's Sayid/Ben-centric love/hate-fest episode focused on a couple major themes, each tied to each other philosophically. One theme is the old nature/nurture argument...are people born with intrinsic traits or are they learned by those who raise them? Is Sayid truly a born killer? Well, he definitely doesn't seem to have a problem with snapping that chicken's neck as a boy, but at the same time he does so to seemingly gain approval from his leering father. As his life moves on, he never fails to exhibit his innate cold blooded behaviors when necessary - but only does so when prodded on by an authority figure. Example one: his corrupt Iraqi commander/friend who convinces him to become the de-facto torturer of the group; and two, Ben's ability to turn Sayid's murderous behavior on and off like a light switch. Both scenarios involve a combination of innate traits mixed with outside influences, which correlates nicely with the broadly accepted argument that both nature and nurture contribute to the make up of one's overall sense of self.
Keeping that in mind, the other main theme that was revisited this week was the question of whether you can change the past to alter the future. Up to this point in the show, we've been told that you can NOT change the past and that the universe will correct itself to always get back on the path on which it resides. But recently we've seen examples of the contrary; last week we saw Sun, Ben, and Lapidus in a Dharma camp that looked eerily untouched for thirty years, looking as if the Others never took it over to begin with; and then this past week we see the biggest game changer of all: a 10 year old Ben supposedly shot dead in 1977. Deep down, it becomes a debate of free will...if we can't control our own destiny can we control our decisions or are they being made for us? As in the nature/nurture example above, can it be a mix of both?
Consider this: Ben has lived through the current version of his life (the one we've seen throughout the show) and unfortunately things have not gone to plan. He has failed in protecting the Island and his people, lost his daughter, been exiled, and is generally hated by all. So upon his exile, he turned his sights on finding out how to change the past and focused on Sayid, his easiest target (well, besides Locke I guess - but Sayid has a knack for killing). After arranging for Nadia's death (not a fact but very likely), he takes advantage of Sayid's fragile state and creates some bogus list of people that were involved in her murder for him to kill. Once he's got him as trained as a Faraday maze rat, Ben cuts him loose, specifically to piss the shit out of Sayid. Upon the break, Ben utters, "You're free" which is rather humorous because Sayid is anything but at this point. Sure, he may think that he's trading in a life of evil to go and build houses for the ironically named charity "Build Your World" but we all know that Sayid's world resides in the palm of Ben's hand. At the appropriate time, Ben chooses to pay that control off with a threat to Hurley's security when he casually mentions the fact that a man (again, likely hired by Ben), is standing watch outside of Hurley's mental hospital. You know the rest, Sayid comes back to "save" Hurley, then gets conned by Ilana (also probably hired by Ben) and ends up on flight 316. Which brings us to the final pay-off in 1977; Ben did all that shit to Sayid for one reason and one reason only: to ensure that he would shoot him as a child. Ben is actively trying to change the future by changing his own past, and by getting shot, maybe things turn out entirely different. Maybe the hostiles find him in the jungle and take him as one of their own earlier than planned. Or maybe he lives but the act "outs" Sayid, Sawyer, and others, bringing them to justice. Or maybe he does die - the ultimate act of sacrifice that inevitably saves the Island from the Purge, something he deemed as wrong in hindsight. Whatever the result, the shooting changed SOMETHING to set the future on an alternate course, and Ben used the knowledge of one reality (his immediate past) to create an alternate reality in the future (the one in which he is shot). And to that point, can anyone remember the book that Ben gives to Sayid in jail? That's right, A Separate Reality.
But of course, that is not the only theory out there explaining the traumatic events of this week's episode. My bearded friend Robert posed that a shot and killed Ben will be found in the jungle by the Hostiles, be brought back to their camp (maybe the Temple?) only to resurrect, proving to Richard and Hostiles that he is their true leader. Definitely a little out there (and Jesus-y), but it's not like we haven't seen this before: Locke has just recently sprung back to life from the depths of a coffin and a similar argument can be made for Christian. Another common thread between Ben and Locke's (possible) resurrection is that both were murdered...which helps explain why Ben murdered Locke instead of letting him commit suicide. He knew from history that murder was the only way to test whether or not one was worthy of Island leadership.
In one last theory, let's not forget about Ben's enemies and their motives. Widmore could have hired Ilana to get Sayid on that plane, hoping that he would kill a young Ben in 1977, which would effectively eliminate the source of Widmore's life long troubles. Ben is the sole reason that Charles is not still leading on the Island, so if he ceased to exist, Widmore would presumably still be there calling the shots. But where these types of arguments hit a wall is the fact that we've already seen the events of a world where Ben exists, meaning that he can't possibly be dead. That is why I fear that we are being played and that Ben will simply recover from a gunshot wound in next week's episode - but also why I believe that the first theory hold the most water seeing that it allows for an alternate future based on the occurence of a major past event (meaning that Ben can still live but the event itself can change the future). That being said, next week's episode is cryptically titled "Whatever Happened, Happened," so hopefully we'll have some sort of answer on the subject that makes more sense than this post. ;)
Per usual, a couple of quickies:
-Hurley as the chef: awesome. For those that didn't see it, check out is Dharma Chef badge, it's by far the best Dharma logo we've seen.
-Oldham (the creepy drug dude who lives in the woods): I don't have much to say other than I was impressed by this guy's performance. Also though, there is an alternate tie to the book I mentioned above that can be linked to Oldham. While A Separate Reality can be interpreted as a literal reference to an alternate future, it can also be referring to Oldham and his wacky drugs. The book, written by Carlos Castaneda, claims to be a non-fiction account of Castaneda's journey to become a veritable enlightened being, marked by supreme self-awareness and capable of perceiving ''non-ordinary reality.'' To accomplish this journey, Castaneda does two things; 1) becomes an apprentice to Yaqui shaman Don Juan Matus, and 2) eats a ton of peyote. In light of this info, both Oldham and his spiked sugar cube can be seen in a new light. Is he a reference to the Shaman? Is Ben his apprentice? Is there going to be an episode where everyone takes a day off to shroom in the jungle? Cause that would be awesome.
"You used exactly the right amount....hahahHAAHAHAHAHAH"
I think that's all I got for this week. I suppose I could talk about the inevitable "love rhombus" showdown (thanks Sam) that we'll no doubt see go down between Jack, Kate, Juliet, and Sawyer but I don't care much about its significance. Instead, I'm eager to see how this episode is resolved, because at the moment I'm pretty damn confused. Chime in below to clear my head! Till next time....