Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Dr. Linus" Analysis!

I’m not sure how many of you listen to Damon and Carlton’s sporadic podcasts where they “hash out” episodes… but I’m guessing if you’re reading this Blog, you’re probably pretty obsessed with Lost and hang on their every word. I’m sure a lot of people listen to them in hopes of finding out hints about where the storylines are heading – but when I listen to them, I’m the exact opposite. I’m more interested in getting their perspective on where the series has been – to get their take on what their intentions were with the past episodes, to see how closely they match up to our own theories and analysis. A lot of times the podcasts are 90% jokes and filler, compared with 10% real information, but every once in a while, they say something that makes me sit up and take notice.

In this week’s podcast, they made one of those comments.

Damon: “Certain story points in the show are not story points. They are character dynamics. One of the questions we get sometimes asked is – do we have any intention of showing the show in chronological order, like one scene after another – and the reason we say we wouldn’t want to do that is that the stories are built for very specific reasons they way that they are.”

Their point is – while a lot of times we get caught up in all the minute details of the flashbacks, flashforwards, and flash sideways as if they are all a part of the big overall Lost mythology, a lot of times, that’s not the point. The function of the flashes is to enhance and help us understand the “present action” better.

This got me thinking about the Flash Sideways. This week’s episode, “Dr. Linus”, featured very little in terms of storyline advancement in the “LA X” Reality. There was a minor scene between Locke and Ben – but otherwise the episode centered around something as simple as a recommendation letter and Ben wanting to become a high school principal. That’s about as far away as you can get from the Lost mythology, bleeding realities, or the world coming to an end.

Yet, it worked – perhaps more than any other Flash Sideways this season. It worked because it provided a simple storyline that actually highlighted and reminded us about the decisions that Ben made in his life on the Island – and the repercussions for those actions. Rather than acting as a separate storyline for us to analyze, it simply enhanced the existing story of Benjamin Linus that we already know. Seeing Flash Sideways Ben choosing Alex’s well-being over gaining power for himself reminds us that he did the exact opposite the first time we saw him faced with the same situation. Seeing him making friends with Arzt and having a – well let’s call it “decent” – relationship with his father makes us realize just how alone he is on the Island right now… which made his breakdown scene with Ilana all the more powerful. He gave up everyone and everything for the Island – and look where it left him. Alone and lost in life (pun somewhat intended).


In short, the Flash Sideways actually served to make the On-Island storyline better, just like the original Season One Flashbacks did. By learning about our Survivors’ pasts, we understood their presents much better. Likewise, by seeing “what could have been” with Benjamin Linus this week, understand his present condition much better.

I guess you could say I’m gaining a little more appreciation for the Flash Sideways after this week’s episode. I think we’re missing the main point of the Flash Sideways this season - not so much to tell a self-contained story in the “LA X” world, but to simply feature scenes that heighten the Survivors’ condition on the Island. If you think about it, we’re a third of the way through the season, and it doesn’t really seem like the “LA X” storylines are going anywhere fast. There are a few cross-connections between characters, but no over-arching themes or plot that connects all the characters.

While part of me is still waiting for this big seismic, shocking, twist that makes us all feel like fools for complaining about the Flash Sideways this season, another part of me is just going to roll with them and appreciate them for what they are – character enhancements.

So there’s my token analysis of the Off-Island action for this week. As you can see, not a lot of developments in the “overall theory” department besides confirming that Dharma still existed in the “LA X” Reality and that Ben and his father still went to the Island, but left before it sank (for reasons unknown). That puts the Island sinking at sometime after 1977, but before 2004 – which we already knew since we saw the Dharma Barracks on the sunken Island in the season premiere. So, like I said – not a lot of new development.

Let’s move on to the On-Island action…

Benjamin Linus. One of the first things I noticed about “Dr. Linus” occurred during the “previously on Lost” portion of the episode. Jacob actually touches Ben after being stabbed. Although he’s on his way to a char-grilled demise, this might “count” as Jacob touching Ben to make him a Candidate, similar to what he did with Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Sayid, and the Kwons. Sure, his name isn’t listed in the Cave or Lighthouse, but maybe that’s because he wasn’t picked until much later in life… like the moment when he stabbed Jacob.

Later in the episode, we saw that the “bait” SmokeLocke used to entice Ben was to offer him the chance to be “in charge of the Island” after he leaves. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes for this to be the ultimate outcome. While all the rest of our Survivors have some semblance of a life or purpose off the Island, Ben’s got nothing. He’s spent nearly his entire life on the Island, his whole family is dead, and he’s never had a job other than “leader of the Others”. It’s a pretty thin resume. Plus, unlike someone like Jack, he’s actually worked towards and wanted this position for his entire life. He’s not being forced into it by some God-like being pulling his strings. He doesn’t need convincing that the Island is important or worth saving – he already knows it.

We talked about “Happy Endings” for characters a few weeks ago. If you are thinking about happy endings for each character left on the show, it’s nearly impossible to come up with one for Ben that doesn’t involve staying on the Island, right? Perhaps in the end, it’s not going to be Jack and Locke becoming the new Jacob and Anti-Jacob, but Ben and Locke.

If the last shot of the series really is going to be two characters on the beach re-enacting the scene from the beginning of “The Incident” (as many have theorized), who better than the show’s two best actors to carry it out?

But aside from Ben, who are the other potential Candidates?

Ilana. According to Ilana, “there are only six left” (she wouldn’t know about Ben). So who are these six other potential Candidates? Jack, Hurley, Sun / Jin, Sawyer, and… then who? Even if we count both Sun AND Jin as Candidates, that’s only five people. Ilana knows that Locke is dead (so she wouldn’t be including him), which only leaves Sayid. Although Ben just told the group that he had just gone on a killing spree at the Tempe, perhaps there is still hope for Sayid. Maybe Ilana is just an optimist. Heck, maybe Locke isn’t ruled out yet after all (giving hope to the “Locke resurrection” theory for his happy ending). The moral of the story is, a lot of what we are assuming about the Candidates is based on what SmokeLocke told Sawyer in the Caves (where he crossed out Locke’s name). Given that SmokeLocke is allegedly “evil incarnate”, maybe we should take what he said with a grain of salt. Remember – Kate’s name was crossed out in the Cave, but not in the Lighthouse… she might even still be in play.

In addition to knowing about the Candidates, Ilana also revealed that she knew about Miles’ abilities to read the thoughts of the dead – which she was conveniently able to exploit thanks to carrying around the bag of Jacob’s ashes. She continues to impress with her knowledge about EVERYTHING that is going on. But who is she?


She told Ben that Jacob was “the closest thing she ever had to a father”… which means that she isn’t the daughter of Jacob as some people were theorizing this season. I’m guessing Ilana was some orphan that Jacob visited in her youth. I picture her as someone who could assist Jacob whenever he left the Island, in addition to helping Jacob protect the Island from outsiders (Jacob visiting her beat up in the hospital was probably the result of some run-in with one of Jacob’s enemies). In return, maybe Jacob gave her some type of “gift” – but more importantly, he gave her a purpose in life. It would make sense that Jacob would need someone off the Island who knew EVERYTHING that was going on, just in case things went terribly, terribly wrong on the Island. It’s like the US Government – you don’t let all your top officials travel together, just in case something goes wrong. Ilana is the secret knowledge base off the Island that could go to the Island and “rebuild” in a worst case scenario.

The fact that Jacob called upon her means that we are looking at just such a “worst case scenario”.

Richard Alpert. It’s actually a good thing that Ilana came to the Island – because without her, no one would have a freaking clue what was going on besides SmokeLocke. A few weeks ago, we found out that Alpert didn’t even know about the “Candidates”. This week, we saw him as a broken man – someone who devoted his life to Jacob with the understanding that there was a “master plan”… but died before telling him anything. Let that register for a second. Richard has no idea what Jacob’s plan was. Yet Richard was the intermediary between Jacob and Ben, who was the leader of the Others. It’s no wonder that looking back over the past five seasons, some of the actions of the Others don’t make much sense (like almost killing the Candidates) – they had no clue what was going on.

While it does seem like Jacob passed some information to the Others via Alpert, via Ben (who referenced “all those notes”), it’s pretty clear that Jacob kept everyone on the Island in the dark about the master plan – WHY he was doing these things. Seems like poor management structure to me, but isn’t that always the way with god-like beings? It’s easy to draw parallels to the major religions of the world, full of rules and instructions – but also full of followers who don’t really understand WHY they’re doing them, other than being told to do so by their leaders. But I suppose that’s the whole point of faith – to believe without seeing.


Although we’re still due for a Richard Alpert-centric episode this season, a lot of his story was revealed this week. He arrived on the Island on the Black Rock (although how it ended up in the middle of the Island is still a mystery). Jacob gave him a “gift” of never aging – although Alpert now views it as a curse. He’s miserable on the Island, but unable to kill himself. He’s angry at Jacob for leaving him (again, note the heavy parallels to Christianity with the disciples angry at Jesus for dying after the crucifixion), even going so far as telling Hurley “whatever Jacob said, don’t believe him.”

Does he really mean that? No – he’s just angry, lost, and hopeless. Thankfully, along came Jack, giving Alpert a new person who seems to have some answers – or at least the air of “leadership” that Alpert needed in his life at that moment. Jack saved Alpert, at least for now.

Widmore. There was a lot of debate this week about one particular exchange between Jack and Alpert:

JACK: Where did you come from?

RICHARD: You wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Somehow people are interpreting that to mean that Alpert left the Island to get Widmore, and then came back. They’re clearly missing the point here – when Jack said “where did you come from”, Richard replied with “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you” because he came from the Black Rock – a ship that crashed on the Island hundreds of years earlier.

But if Alpert didn’t go and get Widmore, where did he come from?

In my preview post for “Dr. Linus”, I laid out the following logic:

  • Widmore sent the Freighter to the Island with the instructions to kidnap Benjamin Linus and kill every other living thing on the Island… which includes the Others.
  • The Others worship and follow Jacob.
  • While putting together the Freighter Team, Bram attempted to talk Miles out of joining this Team – telling him that “he’s playing for the wrong team”.
  • Bram says that he is playing for “the team that’s going to win”.
  • Bram is a follower of Jacob, who unsuccessfully attempted to kill Anti-Jacob.
  • Bram is on the same side as Ilana.
  • This week, we learned that Jacob was the closest thing Ilana ever had to a father.
  • Alpert never seemed to like Widmore or his way of doing things.
  • Alpert dedicated his life to service of Jacob.
  • Widmore was instrumental in sending Locke back to the Island, which allowed Anti-Jacob to complete his “loophole”.

Add it all up, and you can clearly see that based on all the evidence we have so far, Widmore is on the opposite side of Jacob. But there’s an even bigger reason why Widmore has to be on Team SmokeLocke…

Ben is now on Team Jacob.

For three years, the writers have been building up the storyline between Ben and Widmore, which served as the two “sides” in the big bad battle for the Island prior to learning about Jacob and Anti-Jacob. With such a history, you have to assume that these two are going to be on opposite sides of the final battle for the Island.

Although I complained about the timeline that could have brought Widmore to the Island so quickly in my Instant Reactions, I’m going to let that slide for now as a necessary plot point. We need Widmore on the Island, even if it means he put together his submarine crew and got there within a matter of days.

What is his purpose?

Something tells me that Anti-Jacob made the same speech to Widmore that he made to Ben – “I’m going to leave the Island forever, and I want to give it to you”. From the start Widmore and Ben have been battling for “ownership” of the Island. What each would do with the Island may be drastically different (I’m still a fan of Widmore wanting to exploit it for wealth / power), but both want the Island. Anti-Jacob probably told Widmore exactly how to get to the Island, and if he helped him in carrying out his plan, the Island would be his.

SmokeLocke said he wants to “go home”. He wants to leave the Island. Perhaps Widmore’s submarine is the vessel that he’s going to use to leave the Island? Widmore shows up, tosses the keys to SmokeLocke, and the trade is complete. SmokeLocke leaves the Island, Widmore gets it.


You’ll also notice that in the final scene of the episode, Widmore views Team Jacob on the beach, but doesn’t “stop” and instead “proceeds as planned”. If the aren’t stopping on the Island, where are they going?

The Hydra Station.

While Team Jacob has now gathered “where it all started”, on the Beach as their home base for the time being, it looks like SmokeLocke intends to rendezvous with Widmore on the Hydra Station – the “Alcatraz” Island just off the coast.

I can’t help but worry that traveling between the Island and the Hydra Station is coming up in the very near future, and that during that traveling, someone is going to die – being shot by Juliet in the back Outrigger, finally revealing the other side to the scene we saw during the time jumps of last season.

The thing is, I can’t figure out who.

In the original scene, Sawyer, Locke, Faraday, Charlotte, Miles, and Juliet were in the first outrigger canoe. They were chased by people in the second outrigger canoe – who shot at them FIRST. Since Sawyer and Miles were both involved in this original scene, they would be smart enough to recognize when they started to re-live it… and thus avoid it… unless they wanted someone to get shot.

What if Sawyer comes to his senses and realizes that SmokeLocke is the “bad guy”? Upon arriving at the outrigger canoes on the beach, he could trick the “bad guys” into chasing after and shooting at the first outrigger canoe under the premise that they are members of Team Jacob, racing to beat them to the Hydra Station first.

But even if that were the case, who would get shot? A random Other that is now following SmokeLocke? I can’t see Sawyer sending Claire or Sayid to their deaths, even though they might be “claimed”. Bullets have no effect on SmokeLocke (and he should know about the original events, assuming he retains all of Locke’s memories).

So in the end, while I was really hoping for something more tragic, I can’t come up with a realistic scenario where it happens. But we’ll see when the next few episodes unfold – answers are right around the corner.

Wrap Up. Okay, a few minor things to wrap up “Dr. Linus”. First off, Frank and Ben’s speech was very interesting and really drove home the theme that “the universe has a way of course correcting itself”:

FRANK: You know, I was supposed to be flyin' it. Oceanic 815.

BEN: And why didn't you?

FRANK: I overslept.

BEN: Come on...

FRANK: Can you believe it? Imagine how different my life would be had that alarm gone off.

BEN: How different would it have been? The island still got you in the end. Didn't it?

In my mind, this is more evidence that detonating the Jughead didn’t actually change the past. Detonating the Jughead caused “The Incident”, just like it always had. You can’t change the past.

Second, Miles told Ben that Jacob didn’t want to die:

BEN: I can't believe you're just gonna stand by and watch this happen. Ilana's gonna murder me for killing Jacob, a man who didn't even care about being killed!

MILES: No, he cared.

BEN: Excuse me?

MILES: Right up until the second the knife went through his heart, he was hoping he was wrong about you. I guess he wasn't.

Even though Jacob appears to be some all-powerful, all-knowing being, this seems to hint that he didn’t know what was going to happen – or maybe he was hoping that he was wrong (like Jesus asking God for an “out” of the whole crucifixion thing right before it happened). We see now that Jacob had an intricate plan in place involving bringing our Survivors and Ilana to the Island – just in case – but he was hoping that he wouldn’t have to use them.

Lastly, you’ll notice there is a poll in the upper right hand corner of the Blog. I’m curious if folks still want me to continue with doing my episode preview posts. I’ve always done them, but it seems that over the years fewer and fewer people read them – afraid that they’ll spoil the episode (even though I don’t read any spoilers and just do my best to figure out the episode ahead of time). Also, with Lost being on Tuesdays now, there’s just not as much time to tackle them before the episode airs. I usually have my analysis posts up over the weekend, and then have to rush out an episode preview Monday evening – meaning there post has a shelf life of about 24 hours before becoming obsolete.

So, I leave it up to you, faithful Blog readers – should I continue doing those episode preview posts? Or switch to a twice a week Blog, with my Instant Reactions and Analysis (including the “deeper meaning” behind the episode title in the analysis post).

Let me know your thoughts.

Until next week!


frgven said...

i love the episode previews!.. please keep them..

Ellis said...

I have a hard time believing, with all that's going on, and in Jack's state of mind as he's trudging through the jungle, when he comes across Richard and asks, "Where did you come from?", that he meant it in some existential way. It was a question specific to the moment: "Where did you just arrive here from?" Not: "What's your life story?"

Brendan said...

I agree with Ellis - Jack was reacting to Richard just popping up in the middle of the jungle (ever notice that that's pretty much how Richard always shows up?).

I think Richard's response was most likely meant as " you wouldn't believe me because I was just hung upside down in a canvas sack by your dead friend Locke, who is really the new incarnation of an ageless smoke monster thing, and oh yeah I'm hundreds of years old."

I found the Jack/Richard dynamite scene really great, though I'm a little perturbed by Jack's sudden leap of faith.

Brian, interesting theory about Ben eventually succeeding Jacob. That would be one hell of a redemption story! Unfortunately, by your Happy Ending logic, I think that if Ben doesn't become the new Jacob he'll probably end up dead.

I agree that Widmore is on the "bad side." His intentions were settled once he admitted to putting the fake Oceanic 815 on the bottom of the ocean.

Last random thought - I realized that all of the survivors Jacob touched ended up in 1977 when the Ajira plane crashed. Except, that is, for Sun, so I'm thinking Jin is the true candidate. Now, WHY they ended up in 1977 is another matter.....

Hope said...

Wouldn't the ultimate tragedy be if Juliet shoots Sawyer? Also I felt like Jacob's feelings at the end towards Ben were more similar to Jesus' feelings about Judas. Hoping that for his sake he wouldn't betray him but know that it was part of the bigger plan if he did.

Niall said...

Isn't Kate a candidate?

Desmond? Walt?

robpatt said...

interesting theory about it being Jin and not Sun based on the jump to 1977.

I am torn about the episode previews as well. I think the meaning of the title and sentence preview is all good. To me, where you become scary good at predicting is when you analyze the guest stars. You have been rediculously accurate at predicting the stories based on the cast. Especially young Jacob (or whatever he is), as well as Jack's & Dogen's son. What if you try to restrict yourself from research & just do your gut based on what's listed in the episode preview?

Also, i think that Frank is still going to prove important. The fact that he was suppose to be the pilot which Smokey instantly killed (and we know smokey not to kill irrationally) i think we might need a Lapitus episode sometime.

I agree with you on the flash sideways, but i still want to fid out how they connect. The show is all about us connecting the dots to realize things.

I also think the Smoke Monster might be looking for a replacement for his position too. So his offer to ben might not be to be the new Jacob, but the new SmokeMonster. If it was just a manner of replacing Jacob, there wouldn't be 2 sides right now.

timcourtois said...

1. I think if some people don't like they episode previews, they can just choose not to read them. I like them! It's become a fun part of my LOST experience to "pre-hash" the episodes by reading your previews, Brian!

2. I think SmokeLocke definitely exposed himself as a liar last week: He initially told Sawyer, "it's just an island, it doesn't need anybody to protect it". But now he told Ben the opposite, that he needs somebody to oversee the island when all is said and done. So he's definitely trying to screw somebody over.

Joel said...

Didn't Ilana say in "The Incident" that Lapidus is a candidate? She's probably counting him as someone she needs to protect.

Gnolog said...

She didn't say that Lapidus WAS a candidate, she only asked Bram if he COULD be a candidate.

Now Brian, I've been a long time reader and I've always looked forward to your episode predictions. Keep 'em up! They're a part of my LOST-Day traditions.

Dave Harty said...

To me the difference between the flashbacks from season 1 and this season's flashbacks is that the events in the flashbacks actually happened (as far as we know). So they give us insight to the characters and how they became who (and where) they are.

By not explainging the sideway flashes, we don't know if those events did happen, will happen, or might happen. So I think they confuse more than enlighten.

Mrs Z said...

I have always read the episode previews...until this season. I definitely would not have been as surprised as I have been if I'd read them. However, I totally understand why people love them, so I say keep it up and those of us who don't want to read them will skip them! The only difference is if YOU don't want to write them anymore - either because you want to be surprised yourself or you just don't have the time!

Steve said...

Ellis: Jack didn't mean 'where did you come from' in that tense, but Richard in HIS mind state may have responded to the question in that way. He was suicidal. It could have been a double meaning to him. He DID say "Everyone at the temple is dead, that's where I just came from".

Steve said...

Ellis: Jack didn't mean 'where did you come from' in that tense, but Richard in HIS mind state may have responded to the question in that way. He was suicidal. It could have been a double meaning to him. He DID say "Everyone at the temple is dead, that's where I just came from".

Steve said...

Ellis: Jack didn't mean 'where did you come from' in that tense, but Richard in HIS mind state may have responded to the question in that way. He was suicidal. It could have been a double meaning to him. He DID say "Everyone at the temple is dead, that's where I just came from".

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buddery_42 said...

Love the line from Ben that the Island got Frank in the end.

buddery_42 said...

Love the "The island got you in the end" comment

pete said...

What about the possibility that the Kwon candidate is actually Ji Yeon Kwon, Sun and Jin's daughter? Jacob touched Sun and Jin at their wedding at the same time, then they were unable to have a child until they got to the island. According to Alpert, being touched by Jacob gives you a gift, it doesn't make you a candidate. That said, don't assume that Ben is a candidate just because Jacob touched him after being stabbed. All that means is Ben can't kill himself and won't age.

jack said...

Brendan - Jack has not had any sudden leap of faith, as you suggest but has been beaten down, over a period of time both on and off the island, to dispel many of his own beliefs.

I have always enjoyed the 'episode preview' and vote it be continued but of Brian's 3 weekly blog posts, I feel the 'preview' is the least anticipated led by "instant reaction" seconded by "episode analysis".

Anonymous said...

It could have been smoke-locke getting Ben to follow him so he could trade him to Widmore for the submarine.

Emkaytoo said...

Can someone please explain how Juliet, who is currently covered by a mound of dirt, will return to shoot someone?

Perhaps all the time traveling confused me and I should revisit Season 5, but I was under the impression that Season 6 was "current" meaning that Juliet is still dead. Either that, or I didn't read this post correctly (it is 3:19 AM).

I remember the canoe scene vaguely. I remember it happening, but I don't remember the exact progression of events. In either case, can someone help with this?

Not sarcasm...I'm legit confused :-)

Neal said...

@ Emkaytoo

Before she died, Juliette was in a flashforward that is about to occur - the outrigger shootout. So, she was alive at a point in the current storyline's future even though she's dead in the storyline's current time.

See how simple time-travel is ;-)

Neal said...

Brian -

Please keep up the previews! I actually don't read them until after the episode airs - I read the preview, then instant analysis after the episode - so I can see how close you were to being psychic! That's what's cool about them, no one HAS to read them and (possibly) spoil surprises, but they are there for future reference.

Esk said...

Lay off the political humor or you might lose readers. ;)

Anonymous said...

I actually think one of the biggest twists of the series is going to be finding out the "man in black's" name. I think it is going to be really significant to the overall plot.