Lost: Who is this Ben?

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Well guys, we had a great run. But it's time for us to stop being friends, because I'm about to say something bad about Lost and you're about to cease reading my articles on the show.

First, let me tell you how I write these articles. I watch each episode live, think about it all night, and re-watch it again the next morning. I don't read what other people are saying about it, and aside from briefly chatting with my friends after each episode airs, I pour what's in my brain directly into a word processing document with no outside interference and no filtering. If you want to read a long-winded article about the minutiae of Lost, you can read Doc Jensen over at EW.com. If you want to read a bunch of "OMG"s and "Squeeee!" and "Sawyer is hot!" you can see what Kristin at E! Online has to say. Here, you'll get my humble take on the show, one friend to another, and if I need to be brutally honest, I will be. You are free to take it as is, or to write harsh comments about my lack of mental capacity in the comments section below. Go ahead, I won't get mad.

Which leads me to this: I did not like last night's episode. Let's start with the flash-sideways. Ben is a history teacher, which we first discovered in the excellent Locke-centric episode "The Substitute." He's keeping his dad alive, a sharp contrast from gassing him in the front seat of a VW van on the island, and he's watching over the student version of Alex, who we adopted on the island. But Ben's real problem at the school is the principal, played by the bad guy from Ghostbusters, who wants Ben to go on detention duty instead of teaching an after-school history club. It's all a parallel to what's going on on the island, with power struggle over who's going to take control over the school/island.

So Ben guns for the principal's job. Alex alleges some naughty behavior on the principal's part, which Ben intends to use as blackmail. The principal counters with a threat of ruining Alex's future by not writing a recommendation as she tries to get into Yale. In the end, teacher Benjamin Linus won't let his mad rush for power ruin Alex's life, and he backs down knowing that he made a sacrifice for Alex's future, unlike when he allowed Keamy to put a new hole in her head back in Season 4. So Ben ends up right where he started.

On the island, Ilana discovers that Ben killed Jacob and tells him to dig his own grave. Ben freaks out, and is eventually helped out of his shackles by Sir Smoke-a-Locke, at which point he runs into the jungle to escape. He's got a chance to fill Ilana with lead and run away, but he opts not to and makes a speech about how losing Alex is worse than any punishment that might come his way. He then slinks back in line with Ilana, who does a 180 and says she'll take him in. So Ben ends up right where he started.

In both instances, the result is a null set. Nothing moved forward; instead, we ran around in a big circle and thought about things that could've happened. And teacher Ben, powerless and squirming under the boots of other people, is really no fun to watch. This isn't the Ben we knew, the Ben with a plan. The Ben who takes a punch to the face or a torture session only to psychologically win the war with his tormentors. This Ben, both on the island and off the island, was a doormat. This Ben was boring.

And that brings me to this: What was the point of last night's episode? Ultimately, when we look back, what happened? Nothing. Nothing happened. And with 10 episodes left in this once-stellar series, it boggles my mind that the producers would spin their wheels like this. "Dr. Linus" seemed like a really big-budget fan-fiction episode.

Now, I'm not asking for answers to the show's lingering questions. I don't mind waiting. But I do expect the story to move forward. And except for positioning people back at the survivor camp, I'm not sure what the takeaway was in "Dr. Linus."

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The only thing of interest in last night's episode was Richard Alpert, bless him. He's not a happy camper even with his "gift" from Jacob. I've been waiting for Alpert to succumb to the doldrums of eternal life, and finally he's ready to off himself. And how does he want to do it? In very dramatic fashion, with a stick of dynamite.

But here comes Jack to mess things up. Richard asks Jack to light the fuse, because he can't (something about him not being able to kill himself). And Jack, in very UN-Jack-like fashion, agrees without a hitch. Jack, the man who would give CPR to an elderly squirrel for two hours in order to try and save it, just says, "If he wants to die, there's nothing we can do to stop him." Then he lights the fuse and sits down for a little chat because he thinks destiny will intervene and stop the dynamite from blowing up. The fuse does magically go out, and Jack laughs. Not exactly a shark-jumping moment, but definitely worthy of a few eye rolls. And definitely frustrating.

I found myself relating to a certain bit of dialogue uttered by Richard as he explains why he wants to die: "I devoted my life, longer than you can possibly imagine, in service of a man who told me that everything was happening for a reason... Why do I want to die? Because I found out my entire life had no purpose." Replace "my life" with "the last six years" and "a man" with "a show," and I'm beginning to know exactly how Richard feels. I'm at the point where frustration is setting in, and frankly, it makes me want to cry. Maybe me and Lost just need some time apart.

Other notes on last night's episode

... This no Sawyer thing is getting really annoying. He's become the show's best character and he's been absent for the last three episodes.

... Leslie Artz has gotten way too much screen time this year. Imagine how much better Ben's side-flash would have been if he had all those talks with John Locke instead of Dr. Artz.

... The ending was nearly identical to that of a previous episode, I believe it was "One of Us," with Ben replacing Juliet as the group returned to the beach to be reunited with others.

Questions, Questions, Questions

I thought now would be a good time to see how Lost is doing with answering the "10 Questions Lost Needs to Answer" article I wrote before the season started. Here they are:

1. What is the significance of the numbers?
Sort of answered in "The Substitute." The numbers each correspond to the possible candidates, but how they relate to everything else is still somewhat hazy.
2. Why were they chosen to crash on the island, and what is their connection?
Answered good enough for me. They're candidates for Jacob's old job, and Jacob brought them there.
3. Why do some people appear as "ghosts"?
Answered. Old Locke Ness Monster can somehow embody the dead. Still not clear on the "dead" people Hurley see, though.
4. What is the Black Smoke?
As we found out in the season premiere, it's the Man in Black. But we're still wondering why it was initially called a "security system."
5. How is Egyptology related to all this mumbo-jumbo?
No idea, yet.
6. What's up with Walt? And Aaron?
Ummm... no idea. Will Walt even return? Back in reality, is Aaron melting kids' minds in kindergarten?
7. Who is Jacob/Who is "The Man in Black"?
We're a bit closer to knowing who they are, but still don't have a concrete answer. Jacob wants to protect and oversee the island, and MIB just wants to be released from his prison.
8. What's the deal with the Temple?
It has giant hourglasses, Japanese dudes, and really cool hot tubs. Oh, and it was the site of a second-hand Smoke massacre. I don't even want this question answered anymore, I just want the Temple to never be mentioned again.
9. Why do Widmore and Ben want the island?
Still not sure, but at least we know that Widmore is coming back to the island, and that he's got a kick-ass submarine.
10. What is the deal with Richard Alpert? And Desmond?
Richard got a "gift" from Jacob when he was touched by him. We assume it's the ability to live forever, at least on the island. Desmond? Well, he'll pop up eventually.

There's still plenty of time to answer these lingering questions, so I'm not worried at all.

User Contribution News

This is my favorite part of each week's Lost article! Last week, I asked why people were giving up on the show (as I've noticed). And once again, my man Hovabyte did what I thought was a great job explaining why. Here's an excerpt of what he said: "I think the lack of care is coming from the fact that we don't know why we're rooting for Jacob's side over MIB's. What are MIB's plans and why? Up until now we always had a reason to stick around and show our support but now we know it's ending it feels like we're being strung along for the big reveal at the end and no questions are being answered throughout."

That's a very salient point right there, and Hovabyte (I'll try and think of a nonsense Lost article for this week) put it better than I did. It's almost feels like walking into the middle of an argument between two people who won't tell you what they're fighting about. Television shows need to give things weight to keep viewers interested, and without that weight, our attention relaxes. If we knew a bit more about the struggle between Jacob and MIB, we'd be more enraptured. If we knew why the side-flashes were important, we'd be on the edge of our seats. There's nothing wrong with having faith in the show as the hardcore Lost fans do, but there's nothing wrong with asking questions, either.

I also talked about the best fights in Lost, and some of you disagreed. Vstherevolution pointed out that I thought the Juliet/Kate handcuffed fight was the best because they are hot women and were wet. That's absolutely correct, I thought I made that clear. Hey, I'm a simple man. Karlwolfe50 asked where the fight between Jack and Sawyer from Season Five was. That was very, very close to cracking that top three; I love that scrap because of its sheer importance of being between two of the main characters who have needed a good fight for a while now. From a straight fight standpoint, I'll take Sayid's scissor-kicking over that any day. But for importance the story and characters, I would agree the Jack-Sawyer scuffle is probably the show's best.

Joostin_cdn called me out for not liking "the magic" that's been prevalent in Season Six, even though we've seen things like Christian walking around all the way back in the first season. I hear what you're saying, and think you are partially right. Do I love Lost for the characters only? Absolutely not. But Lost is so good with its characters, and that's what separates it from other sci-fi (or whatever genre Lost is in) shows. Look at FlashForward: an absolutely fascinating premise that just can't get off the ground because no one cares about the characters. I don't think you can simply say Lost brought "us" in with mostly lore. It's a combination of the two, and they both need each other to make the show fantastic. When one lacks, the other suffers. It goes both ways, we don't want to see Jack and Kate talk for 40 minutes over a cup of coffee. And on top of that, one of the joys I got from Lost was seeing all the "magic" grounded in science, and reading Popular Mechanic's excellent articles about time travel and electromagnetism as it relates to Lost. I miss that. You know what they recently wrote about? How Claire's bear trap was technically incorrect. Not exactly as interesting as String Theory.

And also, I can 100 percent assure you—I promise!—I'm not writing these articles as flamebait or to generate comments. It's just my opinion. I know some people in online media give a show a hard time simply for page views, and some do the opposite and aren't harsh enough simply to keep show fans happy (most people who read articles about a show are avid supporters of said show), but understand I'm giving you all the real deal from this mish-mash of synapses that I call a brain. No sugar-coating and no extra-picky analysis. Lost has given me hours and hours of great entertainment, so I owe it to the show to be honest with you guys. I love Lost, and even if Season 6 goes down in a fiery pile of garbage (which I pray it won't), I'll still consider the show an amazing television achievement.

The Lost Season 6 Episode Power Rankings

(I'll be keeping tabs on each episode, ranking them in terms of quality each week, right here. Your opinions will differ from mine.)

"Dr. Linus": Not a great showing, particularly for a Ben-centric episode. In the end, there was little to discuss by Lost standards and most of the show seemed like one long deleted scene. But because the characters didn't act as silly as they did in "What Kate Does," I'll put it ahead of that one.

1. "The Substitute" Ep. 4
2. "LA X (2)" Ep. 2
3. "The Lighthouse" Ep. 5
4. "Sundown" Ep. 6
5. "LA X (1)" Ep. 1
6. "Dr. Linus Ep. 7
7. "What Kate Does" Ep. 3

Your Homework:

I'm pretty sure this is going to happen anyway, but for those of you who did enjoy this episode, let me know what you liked about it. This is entertainment, I don't know more about anything than you do. There is no right or wrong answer.

Having said all that, you all are still welcome to call me an idiot in the comments. I'll be back next week for "Recon." Hope you will too. And I'll try to keep the next article shorter...

Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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