If you’re a Lost fan, The Other Woman was a continuity-plugging, plot-filling piece of the show’s puzzle. And if you’re Juliet Burke, The Other Woman is, well, you! Yet despite being a Juliet-centric episode, The Other Woman told us very little about Juliet. Constantly Juliet was deflecting the focus from herself. “It’s safer for you if I don’t talk about it,” she remarked, and “Trust me, Jack, you don’t wanna see my file,” she evaded. By keeping us away from what Juliet was about, about what she was keeping within, we were forced to view her at surface-level. This was not altogether unpleasant.
Gratuity aside, my point here is that how Juliet looks once more became a focus. “You look just like her,” Harper said, but didn’t disclose whom she was talking about. I would guess it might have been Emily Linus, Ben’s mother, but more logically she was referring to Annie, Ben’s childhood sweetheart. (Harper didn’t know Emily, but would have known Annie, and so would have been able to judge how alike Juliet was to her.)
Think back to during The Cost Of Living, when Ben pointed out to Jack, “Has it not occurred to you that Juliet bears a striking resemblance to your ex-wife?” This was Ben’s own plan – “Get you to trust us” – that he thought would be effective on Jack. Perhaps the reason Ben figured it would be effective on Jack was because it had worked on him. . .
See, whilst the episode got busy not allowing us to learn much about Juliet, we learned a lot about Ben. This guy has issues that threaten to overwhelm him. Richard Alpert remarked to Locke in The Brig, “Ben has been wasting our time with novelties like fertility problems.” As Ben himself pointed out, if The Others had wanted him back they could have stormed The Barracks. This, for me, is all building into quite the revealing portrait. We’re getting indications here that Ben's emotional and psychological issues run deeper than we realised. Was his warning speech about how being a leader makes you worry about people second-guessing your decisions purely Ben messing with Locke’s mind, or was he revealing his own insecurities?
Putting the puzzle pieces together, I can envisage a story about Ben that goes like this: A young Ben befriends his childhood sweetheart, Annie. They grow together on the Island and fall very much in love. They perhaps marry, and Annie becomes pregnant. And then the dream turns sour. Annie dies in pregnancy. Bitterness creeps in and grips Ben. The fertility issues that dog the Island, that claimed Annie and his unborn child’s life, become a driving force. And then along comes Juliet – a fertility doctor here to save the unborn babies of the Island! – who looks like Annie. No wonder Ben became smitten. His deceased love and the answer to his fertility issues all in a Juliet-shaped package. “You’re mine!” he stated, with the cold-eyed reasoning of the deeply insane.
Suddenly Ben’s motivations are called into question, most neatly by the plight of Goodwin. Having realised quickly that Juliet and Goodwin were conducting an affair (notice how he was looking into the microscope during his moment of realisation; seeing up close what cannot normally be seen) his instruction to send Goodwin out to the tail-section survivors is cast into new light. Goodwin wasn’t chosen because he was most suited (his opinion about Ana Lucia displayed as much), he was chosen so he could be removed.
Juliet’s assertion, and the message the episode was attempting to convey, was that Ben may turn out to be a mass-murdering lunatic after all. Did Ben really send Harper out into the jungle to order Juliet to kill Daniel and Charlotte. . .?
Harper swooped in on the crest of ‘the whispers’ to apparently deliver a message to Juliet from Ben. The manner of her entrance, and exit, reminded me of when Cindy Chandler disappeared from the tail-section group during Abandoned. ‘The whispers’ sounded and, suddenly, Cindy was nowhere to be seen. Similarly, the whispers sounded and suddenly Harper had vanished. Maybe this is no coincidence. Maybe some Others have some special ‘whispers’ trick that allows them to come and go, and they used it to snatch Cindy. . .
It’s a thought. But probably not a very good one.
However, back to Harper, and her saying that Ben had, from the comfort of his cell, delivered a message to instruct Juliet to kill Dan and Charlotte. If we are to believe Dan and Charlotte (and, despite their mission in the never-mentioned-before Dharma Tempest Station being simultaneously vague and borderline silly I do believe they were acting with good intentions) then Harper’s message would have meant the continued existence of a lethal gas that could kill every man, woman and child on the Island.
I have to assume that Dan and Charlotte, in the act of trying to neutralise the deadly gas, triggered the system. Thus, when Juliet arrived Dan and Charlotte were not releasing it, rather trying to act against a failsafe that had been set off the after they had tampered with it. Trouble is, I have to assume - I don’t know for sure. I would rather have gone with Kate and Charlotte at the end of the episode and heard the explanation for what had just happened rather than hang around with Jack and Juliet and watch them kiss. (Why did Jack kiss Juliet? Just mere days ago on the Island he had told Kate that he loved her! I guess, when he heard Kate say she had stayed over at The Barracks he figured, rightly, that she hadn’t been staying there alone and was hurt and so, oh yes, he turned to his Other Woman!)
So what to make of Harper and Ben? I’ll tell you what I think, happily running the risk of being flat-out wrong. I can believe that Ben would send Harper to meet Juliet. Harper is the other Other Woman, and a sly way for Ben to remind Juliet of Goodwin and his “You’re mine!” message. And I do believe that Ben would want to stop Dan and Charlotte from neutralising the deadly gas. If Widmore is plotting a take-over of the Island, the gas could be Ben’s last ditch measure. He could release the deadly toxin all over the Island. Ben’s plan could be: If I can’t remain on the Island then I’ll make it so no one can. In that respect, The Freighter sending a small team in to neutralise the gas threat on the Island first makes perfect sense. Since that plan has now been "shot to sunshine", maybe that's why Ben is later seen in flashforward real world, assassinating people with Sayid's help. . .
One of the earliest images in the show was of Juliet drawing wavy, parallel lines. I think that’s iconic of how there are layers upon layers, and nothing is straightforward. Once you look past the surface in Lost, generally you’ll find another layer even more confounding than the last.
If Ben’s claim of “We’re the good guys” is true, however dubious his warped mentality may twist it, I think we can now at least be certain of who our bad guy is. The savage beating of the blindfolded Other told us one thing: Widmore is tough and he's not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Interestingly, we could interpret the Island as being 'the other woman'. Just as with Juliet, Ben seized control over her from Goodwin's clutches to claim, "You're mine!" Transcribe that idea to the Island, Ben's other great love that he jealously guards. The stage is set, battle lines are drawn, as to who between Ben and Widmore, when it comes to the Island, will get to claim, "You're mine!"