Episode Title: “The Man Behind the Curtain”
Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: After numerous “The Wizard of Oz” references over the course of the past two seasons, we finally have one as the episode title!
For those unfamiliar with the origin of the title, here’s a brief recap of what happens in the movie (also, you’ve never seen The Wizard of Oz? Seriously?)…
When Dorothy crash lands in Oz, she is told the only person who could help her get home is the “Wizard”, who serves as the all-knowing, all-powerful ruler of the land of Oz who has the power to grant wishes to those deemed worthy. When Dorothy visits him, the Wizard appears as a freaky floating head surrounded by fire and smoke (it should be noted that in the novel, the Wizard appears as something different to each person who visits him – he’s a floating head to Dorothy, a beautiful woman to the Scarecrow, a scary beast to the Tin Man, and a ball of fire to the Lion). The Wizard agrees to help Dorothy only if she can obtain the broomstick of the Wicked Witch (in the book, he requests that they actually KILL the Wicked Witch – the movie was sanitized to make it more family friendly).
(note: it’s killing me to not point out the obvious, glaring similarities to Lost right now, but I’ll wrap up the story first…)
Towards the end of the movie, once the Wicked Witch has been melted, the main characters return to the Wizard to collect their rewards. However, thanks to Dorothy’s dog Toto tugging on the edge of a curtain, it is revealed that there is no Wizard, only an old man behind a curtain who is operating an elaborate hoax. Miraculously, this normal man is able to grant all their wishes anyways thanks to common sense and clever logic.
In the end, the Wizard explains that he was born in Kansas and brought to Oz via hot air balloon, and promises to take Dorothy home in the same balloon. He further explains that when he crash landed, the people of Oz assumed he was their ruler – almost like a prophecy come true. The Wizard, finding himself in a wacky land of witches, scary midgets, and flying monkeys realized that he would need to stay anonymous to keep himself safe – thus explaining his creation of the fictional Wizard.
So what does this have to do with Lost? What doesn’t this have to do with Lost!
Unless this episode title is a huge red herring meant to intentionally throw us off, this episode titel is screaming BEN IS THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN! THERE IS NO JACOB!
Let’s remind ourselves that when Ben (aka Henry Gale – the name of Dorothy’s uncle in the Wizard of Oz) first appeared in Season Two, he claimed that a hot air balloon crash brought him to Lost Island. Since then, we have seen Ben make numerous promises to different people on the Island (curing cancer, making wishes come true via magic box, etc.) that really could all be explained by rationale / normal explanation or smoke and mirrors – especially if one has the proper funds and connections to make it happen, as the Others seem to have. Yet Ben continually gives credit for these occurrences to the mysterious and all-powerful “Jacob”, a figure generates feelings of awe and worship from all the Others, even Ben.
Heck, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to assume that Jacob represents different things to different people, much like the Wizard appeared differently to different characters of The Wizard of Oz. In fact, I would wager that most of the Others have never even really met “Jacob”, only have heard tales and gotten information about him second-hand (say, from Ben?). Just like the Wizard, we’ve seen Ben require sacrifices from people in order for their “wishes” to be granted. Juliet has to find a way for mothers on the Island to conceive in exchange for her sister being cured of cancer, Jack had to remove the tumor from Ben’s spine in order to receive a ticket off the Island, etc.
Last week, I hypothesized that Ben might have been the last of a dying breed of “Island Originals”, helping explain why he is so obsessed with having babies be born ON THE ISLAND rather than brought to the Island as children. If you make this assumption, it’s very easy to believe that an Island Native, aware of the freaky powers of the Island, could convince Island Immigrants that some imaginary all-powerful being was responsible for all the strange occurences, and convince them that following the rules of this being would lead to their gaining of the same power / happiness / enlightenment. Just like the Wizard, by creating a fictional leader, it prevents any potential coup against Ben himself, since he’s just “following Jacob’s orders”, keeping them out of harm’s way.
In the end, the story of Lost is so thematically similar to the Wizard of Oz that it’s somewhat amazing we haven’t been picking up on it all along. Looking at all the correlations, would you be surprised to find Vincent playing the role of Toto, revealing that there is no Jacob? I know I wouldn’t.
On the other hand, all of this analysis is assuming that the episode title is a direct reference to the Wizard of Oz. But in modern times, the phrase “the man behind the curtain” has come to refer to anyone who is pulling the strings behind an elaborate or more powerful front. It’s a name given to the mastermind of an operation, who generally remains hidden from public view. If this is the case, “Jacob” doesn’t necessarily have to be Ben. It could be anyone from Richard Alpert to Alvar Hanso or even Jack himself. We’ll analyze the likelihood of each shortly, but I think the main thing to keep in mind is that in all likelihood there is no honest to goodness all-powerful, all-knowing, flowing-robed Jacob wandering around the Island with his magical box. The Others, who mostly have seemed very sheepy in their mindless following and adherence to illogical rules and actions, are all being tricked.
Remember that event I’ve been looking for all season to unite our Survivors and the Others? I was always counting on a third party enemy or cataclysmic event to make them forget their differences and band together – but how about the common realization that they’ve all been scammed and there is no Jacob or “magic” to the Island? That seems as good as any reason to get everyone on the same page with a common goal – finding a way off the Island to get back home.
Episode Description: Ben begrudgingly begins to introduce Locke to the secrets of the island, beginning with the mysterious Jacob. Meanwhile, Juliet's secret goes public. Guest starring are M.C. Gainey as Mr. Friendly/Tom, Tania Raymonde as Alex, Andrew Divoff as Mikhail, Nestor Carbonell as Richard Alpert, Marsha Thomason as Naomi, Sterling Beaumon as young Ben, Jon Gries as Roger Linus, Carrie Preston as Emily, Doug Hutchison as Horace, Samantha Mathis as Olivia and Madeline Carroll as Annie.
Episode Breakdown: With all the excitement about the episode title, I can’t believe I’ve gotten this far through the episode preview without bringing up one very, very important point – THIS IS A BEN-CENTRIC EPISODE. That’s right, the episode I’ve been waiting for the entire season, the episode where we finally see the Others from their perspective, rather than the perspective of our Survivors. Yes, I’ve made these same sweeping excited statements before both of the Juliet-centric episodes, but after seeing them, you realize how foolish it was. Juliet isn’t a true Other – she’s somewhere in between Other and Survivor… a Survother. Clearly she wasn’t privy to all the secrets of the Island or the greater master plan of the Others - heck, she’s almost as much of a prisoner to the Island as our Survivors are – she just had nicer living arrangements and better food.
But with Ben Flashbacks, there’s really no hiding the truth. Unless we’re subject to some very creative writing and scene selection, just a few moments of flashback scenes from Ben’s perspective should give us more understanding of the Others than we’ve gotten from all the cryptic statements from Ben, Patchy, Alpert, and Juliet combined! As if that weren’t enough to make Wednesday the longest day of work ever, check out the first sentence of the episode description:
Ben begrudgingly begins to introduce Locke to the secrets of the island, beginning with the mysterious Jacob.
Not only are we due for some big-time understanding of the Others, but we’re starting with a reveal of one of their most mysterious secrets – Jacob. The first thing that came to mind when I saw this was “why would Ben reveal these secrets to Locke”? Granted, the episode shows Locke arriving at the Others’ new campground, still exhibiting superhuman strength in carrying Cooper over his shoulder, but in my mind this would merely grant Locke access to the Others’ Super Secret Club – not access to their deepest darkest secrets, which seem to be kept from the vast majority of the Others.
The key word seems to be “begrudgingly”. Somehow, Ben realizes that there is no denying the communion that Locke has with the Island – and no matter what he does to try and distract him or make him lose focus, he has continued on his mission. I’m guessing that his return confirms the power of Locke to the Others, making Ben realize that he either needs to let Locke in on the secrets or risk losing his following of Others forever. It almost seems like Ben is willing to turn Locke into the new leader of the Others, sacrificing his own position of power for the sake of keeping the Others acting in protection of whatever the big secrets of the Island are… starting with Jacob.
Jacob. So with all this talk about Jacob, I thought it would be useful to go back and look at all the different references there have been to Jacob, to gauge the likelihood of my theory above. Surprisingly, as much as we’ve talked about “Him”, there have only been a few references on Lost itself.
Ben first referred to the not-yet-named Jacob during Season Two, when he tells Sayid “If I tell you about them, you don’t know what he’ll do. He’ll kill me.” Later he mentions “he is a great man, a brilliant man, but not a forgiving man.” Danny Pickett was actually the first to call him by name, complaining about Ben’s fraternizing with Jack that “Shepherd wasn’t even on Jacob’s list”. (Amazingly, this was only fourteen episodes ago – doesn’t it feel like we’ve known about Jacob for forever?)
More recently, we saw Krazy Karl’s Rave Room Video feature the line “God loves you as He loved Jacob”, and Patchy claims “the man who brought me here, who brought all my people here – he is a magnificent man.”
…and that’s it.
Initially, Ben’s reference to Jacob would seem to blow a huge hole in the “Ben is Jacob” theory. However, remember that when Michael Emerson was originally cast as Ben, he was only scheduled to be on Lost for a few episodes – but then was so freakishly scary that he was signed on as a series regular. It’s entirely possible that he wasn’t originally going to be “Jacob” – but then the writers determined that no one else could possibly be as ruthlessly cunning as Ben, and decided he would be “the man behind the curtain”.
Or, perhaps Ben, knowing that his actions inside the Swan Hatch were being videotaped and watched by his fellow Others, knew that he couldn’t break character out of risk of revealing the secret of Jacob. It also helped to keep him safe with our Survivors. You have to think that if they realized they had captured the leader of the Others, rather than some run of the mill Other, they would have acted quite differently (and more harshly) against him.
I suppose the best argument for “Ben as Jacob” is simply that we’ve yet to see any other Other have the same pull as Ben has. In the Others’ eyes, he’s probably viewed as “second in command” or “acting officer of Jacob”, which is how he gets away with things like kidnapping our Survivors to perform surgery, getting veto power at Other Book Club, and deciding who gets to come and go off the Island.
In fact, the only other character that we have seen approach the same level of knowledge about the goings on of the Island is Richard Alpert, who has the ability to come and go off the Island with some degree of frequency. But even he was seen taking orders from Ben in recent episodes, and combined with the information on Sawyer he passed to Locke last week, makes him a much more likely “Other who is fed up with Ben’s rule” than “Other who is actually running the show”.
While I’ve seen some wonder if Christian Shepherd or Alvar Hanso could turn out to be Jacob, I think both are unlikely candidates. For one, Christian Shepherd is dead. For two, those who didn’t play along with the Lost ARG last summer have no idea who Alvar Hanso actually is, since he’s been mentioned only peripherally on the show on a few sparse occasions. Both would be a reveal that would shock the audience… but would turn out to be totally illogical upon closer examination.
But enough about Jacob. There’s more to this episode!
Meanwhile, Juliet's secret goes public.
The preview for this week seemed to show a gathering of our Survivors, where two very large reveals take place. First, Naomi is introduced to the remainder of the Survivors. Second, Sawyer, equipped with the tape recorder from Locke, reveals the “true intentions” of Juliet. Both could end up being pretty earth shattering.
Naomi. Naomi’s presence (assuming she’s telling the truth, and not another plant of the Others) proves to the Survivors that they have a chance to actually get off the Island, and may reignite a sense of urgency to do whatever it takes to get off the Island, instead of happily living in paradise without a care in the world like suckers! Remember that she told Patchy “I am not alone”, and referred to her search crew that was only a few miles away from the site of her helicopter crash. The crew would clearly attempt to rescue Naomi once they discovered her copter went down (since she’s pretty cute), which should lead them directly to Lost Island. The fact that she has a fancy-pants phone and knowledge about the outside world should also help give our Survivors a much needed boost of hope… except for that pesky part where Naomi is going to claim that they are all actually dead – but that should be easily disproved by showing her the dead bodies of the already fallen Survivors, right?
Juliet. As for Juliet, as soon as Sawyer plays the audio recording, it will be revealed that Juliet is still working (or keeping up the image of working) for Ben. Remember last week, when Juliet wanted to reveal the truth of her mission to Kate, but Jack wouldn’t allow it? Well, this week is going to be now or never time – because if Jack doesn’t come clean with what he and Juliet are up to, they’ll probably be run off the beach with pitchforks and torches. But what is the purpose?
As I briefly mentioned last week, I get the feeling that Jack and Juliet are pulling a double con on Ben. He likely sent Juliet with a mission to befriend our Survivors and gather information about each of the women at the Beach as part of his obsessive desire to make Island-born babies. In return, Juliet was probably promised a way off the Island (again). Having already been burned by Ben’s “promises” in the past, she and Jack come up with a scheme to give Ben what he wants, but somehow turn the tables against him in the process. This would explain their need to keep up their end of the deal initially to prevent any suspicion.
Unfortunately, Ben’s careless nature with the tape recorder probably means that he’s on to their scheme, and is pulling an unprecedented TRIPLE CON on them – blowing their cover among the Survivors, ruining their double con before they have a chance to use it against him.
Wow – even I’m confused. Let me dumb that down a bit. Jack and Juliet = Good. Ben = Bad, but Smart. On to the guest stars…
Guest starring are M.C. Gainey as Mr. Friendly/Tom, Tania Raymonde as Alex, Andrew Divoff as Mikhail, Nestor Carbonell as Richard Alpert, Marsha Thomason as Naomi, Sterling Beaumon as young Ben, Jon Gries as Roger Linus, Carrie Preston as Emily, Doug Hutchison as Horace, Samantha Mathis as Olivia and Madeline Carroll as Annie.
No huge surprises there. Patchy continues his surprisingly numerous post-death appearances – and here’s hoping we get a satisfying explanation about how he is pulling this off – because right now it’s a pretty glaring inconsistency on the show (Pickett and Ethan stayed dead, Patchy did not). You would think that if the Others had a way to cheat death, they would all have it – not just Patchy. I would almost say that the whole electric fence seizure was an act, but we saw that it clearly had an effect on Smokey, and Juliet was quite insistent on turning it on and off, so it seemed pretty legit. Very puzzling.
The appearance of “young Ben” means that the flashbacks in this episode are going back… way back to the time when Dharma first arrived at the Island. (Who else is excited to see if Ben is really and truly an Island Original, or if he was brought to the Island as a youth by some Dharmites?) If we’re lucky, we’ll also get some scenes of the alleged “purge”, which seems more and more like it was a “merger” rather than a “battle”, based on the technology and resources available to the Others today. Lastly, it also looks like Roger Linus and Emily are strong candidates to be Ben’s parents, while the remaining new characters (Horace, Olivia, and Annie) could either turn out to be Island Originals or Dharmites. Curiously missing from the list of guest stars? Any actor playing “Jacob”. Hmmm…
Phew. Enough of this Ben-and-Jacob-a-thon. This episode has all sorts of promise, and given that there are only three episodes remaining this season (and 51 remaining EVER), now is the time to get some shocking reveals. If you remember, before the season started we were told “Season Three is about the Others”. After some early season stumbles, I feel like we really are starting to learn about these Others, and all we need is one big reveal episode like this one to flesh out their story and begin to wrap up this chapter of Lost. I have to say, aside from a Vincent Flashback and an Island Flashback (which some claim this episode evolved from), a Ben Flashback is about the best thing a viewer could ask for in terms of reveals.
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