Where did Dr. Linus come from? Upon initial meeting, and with some vague theorising around Season 6 so far, I had wondered whether Dr. Linus – Ben – was one and the same as the boy we saw on the Island, the one that Sayid shot, the one that got carried into The Temple.
With this episode we got just about enough information to cast aside such theorising and start dealing with pertinent facts. Dr. Linus, whilst tending to his father, Roger, held a brief conversation about what their lives might have been like had they remained on the Island. It’s the first time an Alternate Timeline character has made any reference to the Island but it was a much-needed and pertinent clarification. The Alternate Timeline is, then, a Tangent Timeline. It was a divergent timeline created in 1977, during ‘the incident’. (Indeed, it’s what ‘the incident’ is!)
This is worth clearing up. It explains why the Island Timeline continued to exist for the likes of Jack and Kate and Sawyer after ‘the incident’.
See, imagine they hadn’t continued to exist on the Island. Imagine the Island Timeline had ceased and simply switched to the Alternate Timeline. Well, as we know, that’s a timeline where Jack and the rest take a flight on a certain Oceanic 815 and arrive safely at L.A. That means they don’t go on the Island. They don’t find The Swan. No electromagnetic anomaly, frozen donkey wheels and time travel trips to the 70s to, ultimately, be a part of ‘the incident’ at all.
Inevitably then, this would have created a paradoxical collapse of the space-time continuum. So instead the Tangent Timeline, or Alternate Timeline, was created and the Island Timeline and the key people in it simply remained in existence as a causality necessity. Strangely, this actually suggests that the Island Timeline is the subordinate timeline, but that’s not really the case – Jack, at least, bears curious memories and trace marks of the timeline his alternate version stemmed from.
Scars of an operation he doesn’t recall. His mother believes it was an event that happened when he was a boy. Course corrected memory? Or was it a real event in the Alternate Timeline that Jack’s brain, still filtering out Island memories, doesn’t recall? Probably not a key question but the important point I am making here is that the Alternate Timeline exists. It isn’t some narrative construct for us, the audience, to have juxtaposed against the Island events. The Alternate Timeline has forged a viable place in Lost – it’s a part of the tapestry. (I guess we can stop thinking about the show as a flat mosaic of timeline pieces and more of a sculptured assembly of events.)
Heavy-going stuff this, I know. But to my opening question. Where did Dr. Linus come from?
He came from the Island. We have to figure that all events we saw up to 1977 happened as we saw them. Ben got shot. He got taken to The Temple and revived. Then he found himself back amongst the Dharma people and, instead of living at The Barracks for most of his life, he instead departed the Island with Roger and went to live a ‘regular’ life.
Interesting that Roger ruminated over what their lives could have been like had they remained on the Island. Despite the fact that his relationship with his son in the Alternate Timeline appears far better than it ever was in the Island Timeline, Roger still muses that their lives would have been better on the Island.
So far we’ve seen examples of characters whose lives appear better in the Alternate Timeline, without the Island. Jack, with his son. Locke, with Helen. Claire was doing OK, too. Sayid was the only real exception – being as ‘bad’ off-Island as he was on it. And Dr. Linus? Well, by the end of this episode, I reckon it’s fair to say he, like Sayid, is similar in both timelines – only he’s now as ‘good’ off-Island as he is on it.
Off-Island, in the Alternate Timeline, Dr. Linus sensed a chance of seizing the power he could barely acknowledge he wanted – to become principle of the school. Encouraged by none other than “the substitute”. . .
. . . and aided by the ever-flustered Arzt (formaldehyde on his shirt at school a slight reference to his death-by-dynamite on the Island (formaldehyde being the preservative chemical pumped into dead people to stop them rotting)) Dr. Linus had temptation dangled before him. The cost? Alex.
Alex Rousseau in this timeline makes me smile, thinking somewhere there’s Danielle and Robert living a good life together, raising a super-smart daughter. And whilst not at the level of daughter, Ben is certainly fond of Alex beyond care he'd oblige other students. Like on the Island, Ben is faced with the choice of power at the cost of Alex’s life (off-Island her educational progress to do well, on-Island her literal life at Keamy’s gunpoint).
We know what choice he made on the Island.
In the Alternate Timeline Ben didn’t have to make the horrible mistake he made. In the Alternate Timeline Dr. Linus relinquished the chance of power for self-contentment and the good of others. He even gave Arzt his parking spot! Why was Dr. Linus able to be so selfless? Put it down to daddy issues. He did firmly state that he was a doctor after all, and there’s a certain other doctor that has daddy issues well-publicised. Like Jack, Ben it seems is a character whose daddy issues drove him down some tormented roads.
In the Island Timeline Roger Linus was a mean, lousy father for the most part and so, cast out from his love, Ben found a new father: the Island and, by extension, Jacob. He was the dutiful son for many years and yet, towards the end, he felt betrayed. He killed Roger with poison gas. He killed Jacob with a dagger in the chest.
Miles stated something intriguing; up to the last moment Jacob held hope for Ben, hope that he was wrong. “What about you?” Suddenly that last defiant question now sounds like a challenge of Ben’s worth, and one he failed. Jacob may have hoped for the best but, it seems certain, he expected the worst and made provision for it (Hurley and his guitar case with a note for Dogen pretty much exemplifies that point).
Jacob’s hope for being wrong wasn’t misplaced, though. Just ill-timed. Ben, by the episode’s end, and his wonderful confession scene with Ilana, had finally learned humility and penance for his mistakes.
The very thing that Nameless, as Locke, came to offer Ben was the very thing he had finally realised wasn’t the most important thing at all. He didn't want to rule the Island. What he wanted was something to work for to earn affection that he never got, and to ultimately fill the hole left by the thing he held most dear. It was Alex. It was always Alex. Ben, the poor boy with the bad father, he just wanted to be a better father to someone else. In this we can better understand why he was apparently so consumed with finding a resolution to the Island’s fertility issues that Richard Alpert was so dismissive of. Alpert dismissed it because it was not in the interests of the Island, or Jacob. It was something Ben, under his own leadership, was directing – for once serving his own needs rather than the will of the Island.
I believe it was significant that Ilana herself remarked that Jacob was like a father to her. We don’t know enough about her story, how Jacob touched her life or where she learned all she knows. But one thing is certain is that her faith is absolutely devout - in the name of the father. . .
When Ben states that he will go to Nameless and his people, Ilana realises that it would be better to have Ben with her rather than against her. Despite the pain at housing Jacob’s murderer, there are bigger concerns. Ilana sacrificed her own vengeance for the greater good. In counterpoint, the other faithful servant of Jacob’s was reeling from the news of Jacob’s death.
There was a little more dust blown off the pages of the very old book called The Richard Alpert Life Story. He had been to The Temple and met with scenes of a massacre – many of his people dead, the rest forsaking what he had followed his whole life. Jacob’s death was, again, an echo of daddy issue betrayal. Alpert had been touched by Jacob and given everlasting life for a purpose he fully believed would one day be revealed – and then Jacob died and hope was extinguished. So Alpert went to the Black Rock, clearly to where his Island life began. (Again, there was an echo of this same idea with the surviving heroes going back to the beach camp – the place where their Island life began.)
As has been subtly hinted at on occasion, Alpert almost surely arrived on the Island on the Black Rock. Was he a slave or a member of the crew? We don’t yet know. Yet that he claimed to have never been back there would suggest that the place held bad memories for him. Either he did something bad there, or something bad happened to him. More information please!
Alpert was also certain of one thing: due to being touched by Jacob he was unable to kill himself. We have seen that before, of course. Most notably there was Jack standing on a bridge. . .
. . . but there was also Michael and his various attempts at ending his life that didn’t pan out (does this mean he was once touched by Jacob?). . .
Michael maybe even had a bigger purpose he never managed to fulfil due to Nameless, in the form of Christian Shephard and Libby, steering him away. There's a big theory to be mined out of that idea. One for another time.
Last time we saw Jack he was staring out to sea. Jacob was sure he’d work things out that way, was sure he would realise he had big things ahead of him. Well, the tide is turning Jacob’s way because Jack is now a man of real faith. His decision to light the dynamite fuse and sit with Alpert with absolute conviction of his survival showed a level of unswerving steel in Shephard’s eyes that encapsulates Jacob’s belief: He’s got what it takes.
Note how Alpert almost instantly deferred to Jack’s leadership (ever the slave, ready for commands?). Hope rekindled that Jacob’s death was not pointless – but it was so his successor could emerge. It’s fitting that as Jack is assuming the role of Jacob’s champion his opponent resides in the form of John Locke. Ever since Season One Jack and Locke have been at odds – forever on opposite sides of belief to each other. Jacob and the Man In Black were rivals. Now the battle continues in its new form of Jack vs Locke.
That’s assuming Locke is still definitely dead, mind. Only, you know, Ilana said something worth pulling up on when she was telling Sun about ‘candidates’. Ilana said there were just six left.
Six? Only I count five still alive. A ‘Kwon’. Jack. Hurley. Sawyer. Sayid. Ilana knows that Locke is dead, that Nameless has claimed his body. Surely that counts him out as a ‘candidate’ right?
(Aside. Nameless, when he met up with Ben. With one subtle force-like gesture of his hand he released the ankle chains that had Ben bound. Hold up. Nameless can do that? Since when!? Aside over.)
Ilana says there are six candidates left. A slip of the tongue? Doesn’t seem likely. So either she still believes there’s hope for Locke as a ‘candidate’ yet, perhaps in whatever flickers of Locke survive within the form of Nameless. Or there’s a candidate that’s remained hidden in plain sight. The one key person missing from the cave ceiling of names that Jacob did touch. Kate Austen.
That’s what I think, anyway. Jacob’s secret candidate, last seen managing to secrete herself in plain sight within Nameless’ group in order to keep close to Claire. She just very well might be Jacob’s ace in the hole. Meanwhile, brilliantly, the remaining band of Jacob's people got together at last and we were treated to another slow-motion reunion on the beach accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s sublime musical score.
And that’s about it. Nothing else in this episode of major note, I believe. Yep. Another week, another episode of Lost, and we’re all just about up to speed. Our heroes are now together to plan their next move. Nameless has his band of people, being lead to surely be used and betrayed by him to achieve his own ends. The stage is set. Oh, but wait. . . What’s that poking out of the water. . .
Straight out of leftfield, here comes Widmore in a submarine!
Was it symbolic that he ignored the people on the beach to continue with his mission? Does that mean he is set on working alongside Nameless? When he once told Locke (in The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham) that if he didn’t go back to the Island then the wrong side was going to win the war, was he talking about Team Jacob or Team Nameless? Only Locke going back to the Island is the very thing that facilitated Nameless to be in his current position of ascendancy.
I’m going with the idea that Widmore is there to oppose Nameless, though. When Widmore was leader of The Others maybe he was duped by Nameless, in some form or other, and it resulted in some bad decisions (kill Alex?) and bad judgement that lead to him being banished. Since then he has learned the error of his ways and now he returns to the Island knowing the situation is dire since his plan to have Ben removed failed, Did he somehow know Ben would be the implement Nameless would select to effect the loophole murder of Jacob? Was that what the Freighter mission was about?. I don’t know the answer, but I can’t wait to find out!