Ben Linus: I was terrified that I was about to lose the only thing that had ever mattered to me…my power…
This week: Theoretical redemption through Saved By The Bell-meets-Law & Order plotlines. Also, maybe we find out why Jin can’t die.
I. On This Week’s After-School Special / Episode of Fat Albert
A. The alternate universe Ben has the same desire to be the devious opportunist but too much tact (or too little courage) to go for it unless he has a really good lead. He’s an idealist who believes that the people in charge aren’t doing it right and will get them kicked out if it means The Linus Era can begin (see also: Widmore, Charles). Except in Bizarro SoCal, he’s less of a Che Guevara and more of a “HistryBuff259”, a loser who complains to his friends and posts on message boards about the way life should be. He’s probably a nitpicking dork who critiques TV shows on a blog somewhere. And what is up with his cardigan? There’s no continuity there.
B. The most distinct difference between Alterna-Ben and the “real” one (well, second-most behind “not a penis”) is that he gives enough straight answers to warrant a PhD in history. If he answered in riddles like his Island self did, he would still be taking GED night school courses. “Who is Napoleon?” “Napoleon is one of history’s greatest figures.” “Ok, thanks, A+”
C. The agent for the guy that plays Arzt is some kind of genius or some kind of brother-in-law to a producer, because I’ve seen more of Leslie’s ass in the first six episodes than I’ve seen of Sawyer. Of course he works at Bayside with Ben, they are both teachers and so is John Locke now, why wouldn’t they work at the same school? There is only one school in Southern California because it’s a small world, after all, and every-fucking-body lives within a two-mile radius.
D. Apparently one of the lingering effects of the atom bomb is an unforseen devaluing of college diplomas. Hey, I get it that you guys hate No Child Left Behind and you watched the fourth season of The Wire, but I went to a private school and we didn’t have Ivy League-educated administrators and doctors teaching European History.
E. When you’re looking to start an academic revolution in the halls of Bayside, it’s important that your army have a strong foundation, and I can think of no stronger rocks than the jaded malcontent chemistry teacher/e-mail haxxor and the prideful wheelchair-ridden substitute girl’s basketball coach who got fired from his last job for corporate fraud.
F. You know why things would have been different if you hadn’t left the Island, Rico Linus? Because you would have both drowned when the Island sank after the bomb blew up. Unless you’re trying to convince me that you left before the bomb went off due to some still-unknown turning point somehow unrelated to what I thought was the fork in the road between the two worlds, in which case FUCK YOU LOST.
G. That’s right, Alex is here, too, because Los Angeles is a Hellmouth for all the assholes that would have otherwise gravitated to the Island. The fresh start means that Rousseau gave up her budding science career so she could emigrate to Los Angeles and pursue her dream of being a professional batshit crazy woman on the grandest stage of all. Her second job, by the way? Playing “Homeless Angelina Jolie” in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater.
H. I am sure that Alternalex is a total nerd and she has no friends and none of the boys like her (the episode where Slater asks her to homecoming isn’t in syndication yet), which is why she goes to a teacher’s house at night, gets up early to study for AP History and most importantly, doesn’t share a pretty juicy secret about Principal Belding banging the school nurse (why do high schools always hire such slut nurses, amirite?) until her European History tutor asks her two follow-up questions.
I. Touche on the double-reverse, Principal Belding, I guess I WON’T blackmail you…for six to eight months until Alex is enrolled at Yale. So we’ll table the blackmail for now. Should I have the secretary put it on your calendar for June?
J. Yes, AlternaBen redeemed regular Ben by “saving” Alex this time, but he also bartered his blackmail down from “give me your job” to “give me back history club” which means he hacked the nurses’s e-mail account to get the principal to listen to him bitch. So yeah, he’s a good person, but he’s also a pushover, and I’m hard-pressed to decide which one is the more important change.
II. Jacob Squad, Assemble! Form Of: Ben’s Missing Soul!
A. I think I am finding out more (and simultaneously, less) about the Island Organizational Chart as we go along. Ben was pretty sure that all his dickery came at Jacob’s behest, yet his only documented meeting with the man began with “I’m sorry, Ben who?” and ended in a stabbing. Ilana claimed Jacob to be her surrogate Daddy and can cite that one time when she was bandaged up and Jacob came to her, and she has a pretty good idea of what’s going on re: candidates. And yet Ben is the one who can name-drop Dogen and Ilana had no idea who that was. So Ben and Dogen, who claim contact with Jacob but couldn’t pick him out of a lineup (well, Ben could, but only if one suspect had a big fucking knife in his lung), seem to be on the same page, but the appointed Secret Service of the candidates isn’t plugged in? Am I suddenly glad Dogen is dead? WHEN IS THE BASEBALL?
B. Speaking of Ilana, she drops another subtle on bombshell on Sun: someone else gives a shit about your husband! And for realz this time! I think Sun was a little off-put to find out that Jin might have a purpose besides being married to her. Speaking of, this marks the 30th straight episode of Sun making the same face in every scene. Congratulations, girl, you did it. We got you a cake in the shape of THE BABY YOU ABANDONED TO FIND THE HUSBAND YOU NEVER LOVED YOU SELFISH BITCH.
C. I can’t wait for the moment when Miles, who averages three sentences and one “WTF?” face per episode and almost always pushes the plot along in his own (highly entertaining) Miles way, is murdered right before he validates why he’s been quiet for about a season and a half despite being both interesting and useful. He’s like Walt without puberty and a budding NBA contract – we’d get more out of him if he was randomly materializing in the jungle talking backwards at people. The best way to make yourself scant on this show is to have some ability that people want to know more about (see also: Hume, Desmond; Faraday, Daniel; Alpert, Richard). When your 30-second scenes involve you referencing previously abandoned side characters like Nikki and Paolo, it does not bode well.
D. I know I spoke too soon on Richard, because at least we found out that he’s from The Black Rock and that even being the walking undead can’t save you from the whole “my god, why have you forsaken me?” act. I’m surprised he didn’t ask Jack and Hurley to wait outside while he sat in the hull of the ship and played the same Smiths song on repeat for an hour or two. The eyeliner is one forgiveable thing. The pansy suicide attempt is another thing. Any time you make Jack look macho you need to reevaluate your approach to life.
E. Speaking of Jack, this episode went a long way toward making him feel like he knows what he’s talking about again. First he got to sass Hurley about stalling and keeping them from the Temple, although if I were Hurley I would note that the last time I dropped Jacob into the convo you broke something pretty expensive. Then Jack turns around and puts Richard, a former Man of Mystery up in here, on the spot for some answers after Richard tried the classic “not now” approach to questioning. I knew Jack was going to be right on the whole dynamite thing, but given his track record of having total faith in ideas that turn out to be complete failures, I was still hoping it would explode and give us a Rachel-Dawes-in-The-Dark-Knight-esque game changer.
F. The whole idea of the candidates (or maybe just the people Jacob touched, which puts Kate in the mix) not being able to die explains why they walked across the jungle twice with backpacks full of dynamite and didn’t explode despite Arzt become A, R, Z and T after breathing heavy near one stick. It also confirms that Jin is the sixth candidate because he has been proven Immortal on multiple occasions. It also confirms that this show is really just a Highlander spinoff, because in the end there can be only one and because I am really hoping someone cuts Kate’s head off with a longsword.
G. I know that the recruiting strategy of Herbert (which, as you recall, is the name we democratically elected for the John Black Smoke Locke Monster since everyone else is giving him the Voldemort treatment) revolves around “do this complicated thing to prove you want to come with me” more or less, but you can put a gun in a clearing at a distance you’ve calculated to give Ben just enough lead him to claim it and shoot his pursuer…or you can just hand Ben a gun. “Oh, The Rules say I can’t hand him the gun, he has to claim it himself, but The Rules don’t have any applicable sections to me magically making his ankle-cuff fall off.” Maybe when Ben wavers on joining your team you can seal the deal by asking him if his card is the ACE OF SPADES?!?!
H. Ilana didn’t forgive Ben, she just didn’t want him to sign with the other team. He’s the Brett Favre of the Island: he used to be at the top of his game but his game started to falter every time some new people showed up and eventually he made a monumentally bad decision that really screwed everyone else over and now he’s trying to get a clean slate and switch teams because he just loves playing the game. He’s like a kid out there – a kid who got shot by an ambitious Iraqi soldier and eventually turned into a real prick.
I. I will believe Ben’s change of heart when I see him existing peacefully on Jacob Squad as fourth banana behind Ilana, Jack and Richard…or possibly tied with Richard for third place, or possibly behind all of them AND Charles Widmore.
J. Welcome back, Charles Widmore! And welcome to the Island, guy on Widmore’s sub who will die within ten minutes of arrival! I am impressed that Charles spent all that time off the Island amassing a fortune so he could afford a private sub for the war her warned everyone about, but a smart button-down with rolled sleeves is not appropriate dress for war, Charles!