Season 3 Episode 20

The Man Behind the Curtain

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM May 09, 2007 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (138)

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  • Another great episode, although the flashback story felt a bit incomplete.

    Obviously, this episode has been anticipated for a long time. Ben's arrival in the middle of season two kick started the season and he has since become a valuable part of the ensemble. With his various manipulations and mind games, it can be almost impossible to determine when he is honest and when he is playing another game. So, as his character sees his role in The Others in jeopardy, it makes sense to explain how he became the leader. It seems like these flashbacks were originally going to be for the finale, which would fit past season themes, but the news of a definitive end date could've made them switch things around, still holding a major card for the finale. As a result, there are a lot of blanks to be filled, but that seems to promise that there will be plenty of Ben in the future.

    It's not a big surprise to learn that Ben wasn't born on the island (even if there was no way he could remember his birth), but his words could be reinterpreted. Being "born" on the island doesn't necessarily mean a natural birth like Aaron's, but a spiritual one like being "born again". His alliance with The Hostiles made him into the man he is, even if he's holding residual resentment towards his abusive father.

    Like nearly every character, Ben's dad has issues with his father. The death of his mother after giving birth to Ben hung over his head so much that his father wouldn't let him have even a good birthday without bringing up that fact in the least sensitive manner possible. This explains Ben's behavior in "The Brig" when Locke was faced with his own abusive father and Ben tried to convince him to do it, as well as Ben's obsession with fertility. It also wouldn't be hard to believe, with what was revealed in "One of Us", that Ben could somehow manifest a situation where all pregnant women died. The island has done similar things before to other characters, particularly Walt. Perhaps the fertility solution will only be solved when Ben dies or resolves his issues.

    Juliet served to show us how The Others would bring in someone to join them. It turns out Ben was brought in similarly, but his active choice showed his "commitment". It's still unclear what it is like for someone born into the Others, or if any of them apply to that term. Richard would be the closest as he is the only prominent Other seen as part of the Hostiles, but not much is known about his history. Time has been explored before, but this episode introduces a whole new element with Richard's history. He has not aged since he first met Ben in the 70s, yet Ben has grown up. There have been hints that The Others, at least those who devote themselves to their beliefs, may have some ability to control time and space (see the reversed audio from Room 23). Ben remarking about remembering birthdays could be read as Richard being so old he has lost count of his real age. Ben's aging, as well as his illness, could be major hints to his lack of ability to truly lead The Others.

    Ben's mother (who oddly enough was played by Michael Emerson's real life wife) appearing before him and leading him to the sonic fence could be chronologically the earliest occurrence of The Monster. This vision intrigued Richard and is likely what got him to become the eventual leader. It's not hard to believe that The Others would wait for a Chosen one and no one had such an experience. However, we've seen The Monster manifest itself as many people or things to other characters, so eventually The Others would have such encounters. With Locke's miraculous recovery, it places him on top as potential successors because he is the "real deal". Since Ben became the leader after assimilating, it wouldn't be hard to believe that Locke could do the same.

    Unlike last season, this episode is the first true look at how Dharma operated on the island. The open mindedness of hippie scientists is shown with Horace, but hints are dropped throughout of more nefarious undertakings, such as the shoot out Roger finds himself in while on a routine delivery. There is still some meat in the Dharma story.

    While described as natives, The Others during the purge had access to tools and weapons that couldn't be made on the island. The gas canister lacked the always prominent Dharma logo, so it could be implied that The Others didn't steal it for their plan. Perhaps Mittelos existed and had prior access to the island, but quickly clashed with Dharma over their inhabitation.

    It's been presumed that the pair working in The Swan, possibly Radsinksy and/or Kelvin, were unaffected by the Purge, as their post demands isolation and Ben may have not known about it. Considering how little was mentioned about other Dharma stations in "Live Together, Die Alone", not to mention Kelvin and Desmond's behavior, it's reasonable to conclude that as correct. As far as they knew, no one was coming to take their place, and Kelvin got lucky when Desmond washed ashore, and could be trusted as an outsider. How they found out their associates died is another question, but that could point to Kelvin and/or Radsinsky being Others like Mikhail, who still adorned the Dharma gear.

    While Ben felt that humiliating Locke in the previous episode would be enough to get him off the track of joining The Others, he underestimated how desperate Locke wanted to commune with the island, as we saw within that episode. Knowing he has the upper hand, Locke underwrites everything Ben says, especially when he can yell it to everyone in the camp. Payback is sweet for Locke, who comes to believe none of what Ben says is real and that Ben is this episode's eponymous character.

    Although Ben's grip as leader may be tenuous, Jacob is very real. The scene at the cabin was a trip. Initially, Ben appears crazy to have an impassioned dialogue with an empty chair, but there are more than tricks in the shack. The brief glimpse of Jacob, both through video and high definition pictures, has been posted throughout the internet, so it's easy to analyze. The forehead resembles Locke, but a close up of an eye during the chaos resembled Desmond. The idea of someone we already know being Jacob is hardly new, but this shot adds some credence to various theories.

    The ash line, as well as the small pile on the chair in the shack, is another discussable subject. Some believe it's an inert version of The Monster. However, it seems more likely that it would be something used to keep Jacob contained. His request for help to Locke could suggest that Ben is holding him prisoner because his power prevents him from crossing a line of ash.

    Why Jacob reached out to Locke is a major question. Did he mean help as in assistance, like taking over as the human element of the Others or to uncover some element of the island? Did he mean the popular interpretation, that he was in dire need of assistance and Locke was the only person to help him. As more is revealed about Jacob, this should become clear.

    With Jacob contacting Locke without Ben knowing, Ben goes to extremes to stay a leader. By shooting Locke and leaving him in the mass grave (some of whom appear to have been shot as well), he hopes to keep his position and ensure Locke dies before anyone will be able to find him. Of course, considering his wound was in his abdomen (perhaps near where his kidney used to be), the island's healing properties as well as Locke's importance, there is no chance it'll be the last of him.

    While "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" appeared to be a filler episode, it actually gave us a hint of what would happen in this episode. The episode confirms that Ben's father drove the Dharma van Hurley found. Answering that question added some darkness to the upbeat Hurley episode. Initial thoughts made Roger sympathetic, a possible victim of an "incident". However, this episode changes that by showing us how horrible he was to his son.

    Back on the main beach, things grow tense as Sawyer returns with the evidence incriminating Juliet. It gets worse when Naomi and her news that they are presumed dead becomes common knowledge. While they are powerless against informing people that they are alive, the believed confirmation of Juliet's treachery threatens to tear the castaways apart. This certainly warrants the question of why Jack wouldn't be open to telling his trusted friends this information in hopes that they would collaborate on a plan. It comes off as unusual.

    The biggest problem with this episode is its incompleteness. In Ben's flashbacks, he goes from being a preteen to an adult with little explanation for the interim years. Perhaps this episode was meant to be a two hour episode, with additional flashbacks detailing his assimilation and perhaps offering insights to other incidents on the island (like Rousseau's expedition and the abduction of Alex). This type of jump is similar to Jesus in The Bible, who is seen as a newborn, a preteen and an adult similarly. It also ties into previous moments, such as seeing Ben tied up in a Christ-like pose when he was in The Swan last season. Why they would go for Christ metaphors for Ben is unclear and slightly odd (especially considering the father-son relationship), but may make sense or be discredited after we see more from him.

    Annie is another loose end that stopped more than ended. It's not clear whether she was among the purge, as Ben would likely stop to remember her as he did with Horace. One popular theory I like is that Annie is Danielle (Annie could be a short form). There seemed to be some hint of history when they've interacted in the past. It also helps that Michael Emerson and Mira Furlan share the same birthday, only a year apart.

    As the season wraps up, major conflicts come to a head. This episode had plenty of surprises, as well as some questions answered in the process. While Ben's flashbacks felt incomplete, the result on his character in the present was still compelling. The stakes are ratcheted high with Naomi becoming known to both camps and with the planned invasion of the beach imminent. This kind of payoff is what we've been waiting for, and the build up has been superb.