‘The Man Behind’ Benjamin Linus
“The Man Behind the Curtain” was an episode that was quite important, we thought, for establishing many facts about the island’s past. These facts, though, are less about its mystical properties and more about its history. And, it seems, Benjamin Linus has played a very integral part in that history. We learned a few things about Juliet and Jack’s plan in the episode, and there’s kind of a stunning cliffhanger I won’t mention here for fear of major spoilers, but it was really all about figuring out who Ben really is. In learning about his actions, his traits, his acquaintances, we come to terms with his character, and where he heads from here.
But, before I do so, I need to make something clear: this was perhaps one of the most exhilarating episodes of Lost in the show’s history. It was heart-pumping television, and watching it in HD with Surround Sound was something to behold. The show remains on its roll, and I don’t think it can be stopped with only two weeks remaining. But, for now, onto the various facets of Ben’s character revealed this evening.
Ben the Mommy Killer
Yep, that’s right. Ben was, in his father’s eyes, responsible for his mother’s death when he arrived two months premature out in the middle of the woods while hiking. This has a few ramifications: it mirrors the death of pregnant women on the island, and it also kind of explains why he was attracted to Juliet, since his dead mother bears a striking resemblance to her.
Ben the Liar
We learn that Ben, in the present, is lying about certain things. Most importantly, and all that he reveals to Locke before episode’s end, is that he wasn’t actually born on the island. We knew he was a liar after the entire Henry Gale arc last season, but now that trait is becoming more important considering the shadowy nature of Jacob’s existence.
Ben the Friend
Yes, we got to see Ben have a little relationship of sorts with a young girl named Annie, who gave him a doll of sorts for his birthday when his drunk alcoholic father got him nothing. It’s a weird relationship, because Ben has kept that doll all of these years and yet we don’t see the continuing of that connection…especially when we consider the likely fate of Ms. Annie within the episode.
Ben the Homicidal/Genocidal Maniac
Wondering where we’ve heard the name Roger before? Well, it was the name of the skeleton found in the VW Bus in Tricia Tanaka is Dead, and it turns out that the skeleton was Ben’s father who he murdered with a gas of some sort for being a terrible father. However, this is not the only blood on his hands; he was also responsible for working with the hostiles (The non-Dharma natives to the island) in order to purge the entire Initiative and its peace-loving ways.
This is, of course, the purge that Mikhail has referred to in past episodes, and it’s interesting to see how closely Ben was involved, and how there happens to be a memorial of sorts where the final act takes place…and it’s a doozie.
Ben the Lackey
Here’s the really interesting thing: Ben, as far as this flashback tells us, is not the leader of the Others but rather a young man who they picked up from their employment. Their leader appears to be Richard, who we’ve seen as part of The Others…but he doesn’t seem to have aged a day. He looks no different now compared to when Ben was a child, which makes me wonder whether the island does have some form of fountain of youth properties as well.
Ben the Crazyman(?)
This is the question the episode leaves us (Other than the obvious one you’ll see from the cliffhanger): Ben is depicted as somewhat of a crazy person, until it’s clear that Locke shares his vision of Jacob for a split second. To what extent, then, is Ben crazy? He was clearly acting, but was it all a ploy to learn more or rather an attempt to…ah hell, we basically know no more about his current state now than we did before.
Well, that’s about all we get about Ben, but what about a term that pops up that might mean something, or you might be curious about?
Wikipedia ‘Behind the Curtain’
Namaste – The greeting given to the new Dharma recruits as they arrive on the submarine. According to Wikipedia, it’s a gesture of the hands in Hindu culture in which one hand represents the spiritual, and the other the worldly self, and the coming together of those two parts…which sounds a lot like the island, no.
Lostpedia also has some information in terms of Dharma’s meaning, and how Namaste might fit into it. There’s some interesting stuff there which could provide even further analysis, and it makes me wish I had taken comparative religion at some point.
And that’s that. Haven’t watched the episode yet? Want to catch up on what occurred in this mind-blowing hour of television? [Edit: Also, with thanks to Ripclawe at NeoGAF, there’s an animated gif of the brief glimpse of the mysterious Jacob.] For the full recap of the episode…
Previously on Lost: Ben doesn’t know why it happened, but he knows that Locke’s connection to the island is important. Juliet gathers information, and Ben has it, and Locke knows it and tells Sawyer as such. Locke learns that they’re moving, without him, and that he can track their trail all he wants.
A woman is in the jungle (Or, more accurately from what we can tell for sure, a large wooded area) trying to give birth as a man leads her through it: her name is Chloe, apparently. The baby is born, and it’s a boy: and she is suffering more than a little in the process. She is in a lot of pain, and she tells Roger that it hurts. There’s a lot of blood, all sorts of it, and he says they need to get back as soon as possible, and then sprints off through the jungle in search of…the highway. This isn’t the island at all.
A couple pull up, in their 1960s car, and help her out. They try to keep her warm, and Chloe tells Roger to call him Benjamin as she loses her battle against death. Death 1, Ben’s Mother 0.
Ben stares at a birthday present he once received, and notes to Richard that he seems to have forgotten that today was his birthday. Richard is actually here to ask Ben something about Juliet’s tape (He never delivered it back to the medical hatch, which makes sense since Locke stole it), but once he emerges outside in anger he is distracted by Locke returning with his father’s body. Locke wants to know everything, and wants Ben to start at the beginning.
Ben pours a drink for he and Locke, and wishes that he could just open up a dusty book and let spill the island’s secrets…but it’s not that simple. Ben notes that Locke thinks he is the leader, but he isn’t: they all answer to Jacob. Locke wants to be taken to him, but Ben is generally uncool with this. Locke wonders whether anyone else will take him to Jacob, but Ben insists he is the only one to have ever seen him. Locke calls bullshit, without even knowing that Ben’s “I was born here!” is clearly a lie, and says that Ben is clearly the Man Behind the Curtain just like the Wizard of Oz.
A young Ben emerges from the submarine with a group of research-esque people and passes under a sign which says Namaste from the Sharma Initiative. Mr. Horace Goodspeed is meeting these people, and the man is indeed Roger (Where have I heard that name before?), Ben’s father and Mr. Goodspeed is the hippie who was at the side of the road when he was born.
An initiation video plays information about the barracks and the sonar fence, and there are unique properties on the island to be studied for the betterment of mankind. Ben is curious, very curious. There’s a young girl who greets Ben, named Annie, who offers him a chocolate bar of sorts. Roger, meanwhile, is more than a little bit annoyed to be a simple Work Man. The nurse assigning him the role is unsympathetic.
Sawyer is hiding in the bushes and hails down a passing Sayid. Sawyer details his Locke-related happenings, and reveals the tape recorder to him.
Speaking of reveals, Mikhail is now most certainly alive and is running to the Others’ camp. He survived since the fences were not set to a lethal level, and explains that Desmond has found the parachuter which alarms Ben greatly. Mikhail is insisting on the Beach invasion now, rather than later, but Locke doesn’t want it to get in the way of their excursion to visit Jacob (Which the Others are very fascinated by). Ben is all “Yeah, about that, this is more import-“ and then Locke walks to Mikhail and beats him senseless. Ben asks for Tom or Richard to stop the madness, but no one moves a muscle as Locke pummels him. He gets up, hand bloodied, and asks Ben when they’re leaving.
Ben sits filling a canteen, and we learn that it was simply a senseless beating. Speaking of which, Alex has arrived to give Locke some advice for his trip to meet Jacob. Oh, and a gun. She wishes her father a less than pleasant happy birthday, and Ben just stares at it.
Ben sits in his school desk considering volcanic reactions, and the small baking soda volcano is quickly overshadowed by a large explosion outside and the immediate barricading of the classroom against what Annie calls “The Hostiles”. Later, Roger tells Feelgood that they were struggling to get back from The Flame when they were attacked by the hostiles. Ben overhears, and then returns to his room to find a blonde woman in his window…perhaps his mother?
Meanwhile, Sayid and Sawyer find that Juliet has flown the coop. Kate explains that she and Jack left right after she told them about Naomi, and she felt he had a right to know…and then Sayid suggests she hear the tape. Sawyer’s all “I don’t want to ruin your thing here, because I want to have sex with you, but…”
Ben tells Locke that Jacob is going to be very angry; Jacob is not someone you visit, he’s someone who summons you. Mikhail, beaten, watches as Locke and Ben exit. Richard, Alex and Tom sit by the fire and ponder their fate.
Ben opens a gift of sorts from Annie, his quasi-girlfriend of sorts. It’s his birthday, and it’s two dolls (One of which Ben was looking at earlier). Annie says that they represent them, and now they don’t need to be away from each other at any point. She has the Ben doll, and he has the Annie one. He returns home with the gift and takes a beer from his father’s hand as he’s passed out on the sofa. Roger seems to be a tiny bit of a drunk, and also a tiny bit of a terrible father for forgetting his son’s birthday…and for telling his son that it’s hard to celebrate on “the day you killed your Mom.” Which is just HARSH.
Roger is tired of being stuck here with Ben, and wishes him a happy birthday which makes him run from home and into the woods…where he finds the giant sonar fence and hears whispering voices…and sees his mother across the way. She warns him not to cross the fence’s line, and says that it isn’t time yet. She walks back into the forest, as Ben yells after her before running home.
In the jungle, Ben leads Locke towards Jacob’s location. Ben steps over a patch of sand very carefully, as Locke examines it…quicksand? Gunpowder of some sort? Either way, it’s not explained within the episode.
Meanwhile, at a fireside gathering, Naomi has told everyone their story. Claire is generally not impressed by this news that everyone thinks they are dead, and Sayid is quick to swing things to “This is Jack’s fault.” Sun steps to Juliet’s defense, but Sawyer plays the tape…and then Juliet and Jack arrive after, we realize, going to the Medical Station to gather the tape. Juliet, after they play Ben’s response to the tape, reveals that she told Jack about it that day, and he was withholding his own information much as everyone else was. Jack just hadn’t decided what to do about it, and says that they have some catching up to do.
Young Ben is walking through the bamboo jungle towards the fence, waiting to see if it’s time…considering his two backpacks, it seems to be. Also convenient: the fact that he has the code to deactivate the fences. He also has a bunny, which is a brilliant callback to Ben’s use of the rabbit with Sawyer. It also has red eyes, which is CREEPY. Anywho, it proves the fences are off, and he runs off into the jungle, leaving the fence unguarded and unactivated.
Ben expects to find his mother in the jungle, but all he finds is nothingness and, of course, strange vaguely metallic noises. And, it seems, Richard with long shaggy hair (Isn’t he younger than Ben? How is this possible? Hmmm…). Ben asks if he is a hostile as he tries to run away, but Richard is all “That’s a funny term, you lost?” Ben tells him that he’s running away looking for his dead mother, and Richard seems really interested in the fact that he has seen and talked with his dead mother. Richard tells him to go home, but Ben doesn’t want to go back: he hates it there. Richard tells him to really, really think about it, and tells him to be very patient with what comes next.
Locke follows Ben through the jungle, where they finally come across a creepy blackened house amongst the trees. It is dark, and eerie, and Ben tells Locke to turn off his flashlight. Jacob isn’t big on the technology, you see, so he does so and they walk towards the door. Ben takes a match and lights a lantern, while Locke instinctively reaches for his handgun. Ben says that once he opens the door there’s no turning back: is he sure this is what he wants? Locke steps forward…”So be it. Jacob? I’m here with John Locke. We’re coming in now.”
They enter the room…it seems empty. There is a photo of a dog. Jars of blood on a shelf. And an empty chair. Ben is talking to an empty chair. He’s crazy. Locke looks incredulously, much like we all are. Ben says that this man can answer every single question, but “Jacob” interrupts him. Locke realizes that Ben is crazy, and that he’s just putting on a show for him…or does he believe it? Ben says that Locke is just too limited to see Jacob, and…then Locke hears a voice. It asks Locke to help him.
Then, there is anger outside of the hut. The blood flies from the shelf and the fire goes out as the shack explodes with rage and fire and noise. The sound system is pumping out the noise as the hut shakes, and Ben attempts to stop Jacob but Jacob gets angrier. Ben is shoved back against the wall, and we get a brief glimpse of Jacob sitting in his chair as Locke hightails it out of there with Ben following nonchalantly.
“What was that?” Locke asks. Ben: “That…was Jacob.”
Sidenote: Here’s the GIF of what we saw briefly.
Ben and Locke emerge in the daylight, in the jungle, and Ben asks what he heard…but Locke is unconvinced it was Jacob. He believes it was all a show, and thinks that Ben is a fraud…and threatens to tell people the truth. Meanwhile, Locke is noticing that they’re going back a different way. Ben admits that some of his words are lies: that he wasn’t born on this island, for example. Ben wants to show Locke where he came from, now, on this route.
Ben is all dressed up in his Dharma gear, and has aged to Michael Emerson-ness. He notices the wooden carving on the table, and thinks about his friend Annie who he left behind. Ben appears to be back in the compound of sorts at this point, and tells his father that he’s forgotten his birthday yet again. All they have to do this morning is run this stuff out to Pearl Station, and says that they should go up to Mesa and drink some beers. They drive their VW Bus to the top of a mountain and…umm, this seems familiar. Perhaps this might ring a bell from Tricia Tanaka is Dead, when Hurley found a VW Bus with Roger’s skeleton inside. Clever.
Ben is looking at his watch, and asks whether his father really blames him. Roger promises to try better next year, but Ben says it isn’t going to happen much. Ben has missed her, but he has to put up with his father in the process. Doing that required patience, too much of it. Ben, quickly places a mask over his face and then pulls the pin on a gas grenade. Roger doesn’t have time to react, and watches as his father convulses and dies in front of him.
Ben emerges from the jungle and finds that the compound has been purged while he was off with his father. Everyone is dead, as it appears he was working for the hostiles the whole time. Dr. Goodspeed is certainly dead, and the rest of the hostiles emerge from the woods with guns in tow. Richard says it’s time for the masks to come off, and tests the air: It’s clear. Richard asks if he wants them to get retrieve his father’s body, but Ben suggests they leave him out there (For Hurley to find).
Ben returns us to…oh wow, it’s totally the mass grave from the purge. This is Ben’s history, this is where Ben came from. These are his people, the remains of the Dharma Initiative who came here seeking harmony who were incapable of coexisting with the original inhabitants. Ben knew one side needed to be purged, and was smart enough that he didn’t end up in that ditch. He says that Locke, however, wasn’t smart enough at all. Locke turns to confront Ben, but Ben shoots him (I know!) in the stomach before he can do so. Ben wants to know what Jacob said, because Locke heard him. He needs to know what he said, it is important.
Locke says that Jacob said “Help me.” Ben pushes for more, but that’s all. Ben says he sure hopes that Jacob helps Locke, because, well, he’s DYING.
(See also: “HOLY SHIT.”)