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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 04/25/2008

'Lost' Dueling Analyses: The Shape of Things to Come

By Liz Kelly

In which Jen Chaney and I jump back in to our weekly regurgitation of last night's episode. But this is merely prelude to this afternoon's "Lost" chat-a-thon: 1:30 p.m. ET -- Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond). 2 p.m. ET -- The "Lost" Hour.

Liz: That was some show. As promised in your pre-show tips yesterday, Ben channeled Carol Ann, there was a dead body and we heard more from Charles Widmore -- throwing his relationship with Ben into an entirely new light -- than we ever have. But (and this is where the spoilers start, so stop reading now if you haven't yet watched last night's episode) I think the endgame is beginning to reveal itself -- like a real-life version of "Lost" Madness, Ben is going to travel the globe, and possibly time, trying to avenge Alex's death by killing Penny. An eye for an eye and all that. But it also sets up the future seasons of this show as a possible Ben vs. Desmond scenario. Desmond will be like Kyle Reese to Penny's Sarah Conner -- saving her from the Terminator, Ben.

Ben Linus's (Michael Emerson) 100-mile stare. (ABC)

Am I wildly off the mark? What'd you take away from last night's return episode?

Jen: I had mixed feeling about the episode. On one hand, I agree: Some show. I am not even sure I need to see any summer blockbusters now, since I have already seen a major explosion, an attack by a smoke monster and Indiana Jones, in the form of one Benjamin Linus. I would not have been surprised to see him ride that horse out of the Sahara, hop in a plane, then shout, "I hate snakes, Jacques! I hate 'em!" On the flip side, something in the tone of the episode felt a little bit off to me. Maybe it all that action and the bleakness, but it seemed somewhat different from the usual "Lost" episode. Still, much, much to discuss.

Seems like we have to start with Ben's time travel, no?

Much more after the jump...

Liz: Right -- we know Ben's off-island adventure was a future flash and we witnessed the birth of his vendetta -- or his reinvigorated vendetta -- against Widmore. We also found out how Ben tricked Sayid into joining his cause. Actually, that bit surprised me. Earlier this season, it seemed as if Sayid was under duress and helping Ben because he was basically forced into it. Last night's episode painted a different story -- Sayid being manipulated into joining Ben's cause to purportedly avenge Nadia.

Jen: On the Sayid issue, I would argue he was under duress. Not in a Ben-has-a-gun-to-Nadia's-head sort of way, which is what I initially envisioned. But he's profoundly grieving and when you feel that much pain -- especially, as he explained, after trying to find Nadia for so many years -- vengeance may seem like the natural course to follow. I was surprised that he believed Ben so readily. I am not convinced Ishmael really killed Nadia. Call me naive. Or hell, call me Ishmael.

It would appear that Ben, as some of our wise readers have suggested before, is a time traveler. I was struck by that tremendous opening shot of him splayed out on the Sahara in a winter coat with Dr. Hallifax's (aka Dr. Marvin Candle's) name on it. It reminded me, and I don't think this is coincidence, of that opening shot of Jack in the pilot, dropped on his back, disoriented, opening his eyes and trying to figure out where he is. Almost makes me think I might know what the last scene of the series will be...

Liz: Interesting. And re: something being off. I didn't get that feeling overall, but I was annoyed by a few things -- two rational, the other not so much. Rational no. 1: The introduction of some throwaway Others (?), Losties (?) who were summarily gunned down by Widmore's bounty hunters. Were they really necessary? To me, it was just jarring to see new faces introduced solely for the purpose of being killed. Irrational: The opening shot of Kate sitting on the beach taking off her tank top strap. That was just gratuitous. Cue the Swedish Bikini Team!

But, getting back to Ben with my second rational observation: He really seemed off his game in the Alex death scene. For a guy who usually has all the answers, he couldn't have flubbed that situation more. It just didn't ring true when you think about this guy's overall mastery of most situations. And what do you make of his hieroglyphic-covered secret chamber? I mean, additional secret chamber (he has so many -- how does he keep track?). And why wait until after Alex was dead to release Smokey?

Hurley (Jorge Garcia) and baby Aaron. (ABC)

Jen: Okay, the tank top thing bothered you because, as has been established, you loathe Kate. She did indeed give Jack quite the come-hither stare though, which seemed to induce, literally, a desire in him to vomit.

Ben was off his game. And I have a theory about that. As a time traveler, he must have had some idea that Alex would survive this. He is always very confident and seems to know exactly how things will play out. This time, he didn't. And the reason is that Widmore, as Ben noted twice, changed the game on him. How did he do that? Well, if that much-quoted time-loop theory is correct and there is a time machine type dealie on the island, then perhaps Widmore not only found the island but got access to it. And he out time-traveled Ben. I know, it makes my brain hurt to consider.

Liz: Well, we know Widmore found the island -- at least in some sense -- by the very fact that his team of questionable bounty hunters, scientists and mentalists have made landfall.

Jen: As for the hieroglyphics, I could spend time decoding each of the images but, you know, I have a life to lead. I also have a theory that hieroglyphics are actually an ancient comic strip about a character named Sphinxy ... sorry, had to throw that in, one of my favorite lines from "When Harry Met Sally..."

Liz: Did I mention that my hatred of Kate is only surpassed by my loathing for Billy Crystal?

Anyway, Ben's infiltration of Widmore's bedroom raised several new questions. For me, the scene utterly changed the dynamic of Ben and Widmore's relationship. Maybe I'm reading way too much into it, but Widmore seemed to address Ben as a former student gone wrong. Or, to get all Jen Chaney on you, as God would perhaps address a fallen angel. Though, of course, in the "Lost" cosmology we honestly don't know who is an angel and who a demon. And, for me the "you changed the rules" statement implied some kind of gentleman's agreement -- as if the two are engaged in a high-stakes game for control of the island. And shouldn't Ben know there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to love and war?

Jen: Wow, I didn't know it was possible to get all Jen Chaney on someone. That's sweet! I completely agree about the control issue and the fact that they must have had some relationship in the past that has gone awry. Which may bolster the theory I posited before that Ben and Widmore were, at least at one time, in cahoots. (I bring this up again largely because I like using the word cahoots.)

Here's a question: What's up with the U.S. military and how, if at all, do they fit into this?

Liz: Now you're getting all Dick Cheney on me. You tell me -- beyond the fact that Widmore has hired some former military guys to do his dirty work, what else should we be thinking about?

Jen: I note, as I often do in these situations: Different spelling of Chaney.

No, seriously, code 14J? That's the same term used for an Army employee who is supposed to provide early warning in intelligence situations and the like. Which is exactly the purpose 14J served last night. Ben also noted that Keany is a former Marine. And Ben also dropped the term "shock and awe" to describe the Widmore posse's approach. I don't know what it all adds up to, but it was certainly conspicuous.

Liz: Okay, now you're scaring me. I mean, I'm an Army brat and I don't carry around knowledge of code 14J and other military lingo in my head. But, if I had to guess at this point, I'd guess that Ben used what is a universal (probably) distress code -- which may mean that he himself was at one point trained by the military or some kind of paramilitary organization (oooh, could he be a former Widmore strongman turned rogue agent?) and so he used that code because it would be instantly recognizable. As for Keany being a former Marine, anyone who has seen any Tom Clancy-based movies knows that former Marines make the best guns for hire. So not surprising that Charles Widmore would hire someone who actually knows how to handle a gun.

Speaking of which... for its simplicity, I think the best line uttered in last night's show was Keany's deadpan, "Get your ass out here right now." And, as I hinted above, I don't think Keany's dead. So we may see more from this guy who seems to have found a way to throw Ben off his game.

Jen: Yeah, well, it's easy to have impressive Army knowledge when you can watch scenes from the show in advance, then Google it ahead of time. (Dang, they found me out.)

As for my favorite line in the show, it came from Hurley: "Australia is the key to the whole game." That's either a really, really important clue, or the writers totally messing with us.

I don't think Keany's dead either, if only because he's listed in credits for upcoming episodes.

Liz: I knew we'd smoke you out... (no pun intended). But, speaking of smoke, kudos to LindeCuse for working Smokey back into the show.

Jen: Actually, let's discuss Smokey. The way that all played out makes it seem like Ben summoned the monster and had him do his bidding. Possible? That was one of those weird, tonally off things for me. How can Ben just summon the monster like that? I assume we'll learn more about that, but it seemed -- forgive me for saying so -- a little goofy. I am hoping answers will come in episode 11, "Cabin Fever," which may very well finally explain who Jacob is.

Liz: It did seem a bit "Scooby Doo" at first blush, but if you think about it, it does kind of make a little sense in the story line. Ben has control of Smokey. Meaning Ben was the one who released Smokey in seasons one and two to terrorize the Losties -- who were easily scared at that point. And, apparently, his use of Smokey had been limited by rules of some sort. Until now. Which would account for him not using Smokey as his go-to weapon all the time.

Jen: I buy that. But how did Ben get these powers? From Jacob? From his fashionable vests? I mean, the dude tried to romance Juliet by feeding her ham. He doesn't exactly seem like Capt. Daunting.

Liz: Jen, you can't possibly be underestimating Benjamin Linus, can you? He is diabolical. He is a predator. He will win at all costs. And, despite the ham-fisted delivery, he had to have known there was a risk that Alex would die. And he went ahead and took that risk anyhow.

Jen: All of my theories about Ben are blowing away like the grains of sand in the Sahara.

And plenty of people are evil and will win at all costs. Doesn't mean they have the power to make smoke start chucking people around to their death. I'll let it slide, as I trust the writers will explain. Same way I let it slide that Claire totally survived that explosion. (Doc Jensen over at EW says that Claire was supposed to have a premonition scene, but it got cut from the episode for time.)

Liz: We're shaping up for Ben vs. Desmond, methinks. But, let's talk about Jack for a moment. What's with the queasies? Is he preggo? I'm hoping we'll find out more about what ails the good doctor next week. I'm wondering if it's just a plot device to sideline him for the rest of the season, allowing Ben to take over as the prime mover in the story.

Jen: His sickness is coming on at exactly the same time he realizes the freighter folks aren't getting them off the island. So I wonder if it's psychosomatic. He can see the Shape of Things to Come, if you will, and it makes his stomach hurt.

Liz: I'd also like to note that Bernard last night, for the first time really, proved his worth. He knows Morse Code. Good for Bernard. If only Rose had been on hand to see his victorious moment.

Jen: A couple of big things to still address. What really happened to the freighter doc? And where the bleep is Rose?

I think the doctor didn't fully understand what the freighter peeps were up to. At least it seemed that way to me. So once they had to spring into action, he had to be forced out of the way. His arrival also emphasizes the time difference between the freighter and the island.

Liz: Right -- because when Faraday contacts the boat, we're led to believe that the doctor is still alive and kicking on the freighter, despite the fact that he's stiff as a board on the island. And according to the press release for next week's show, Rose will be back.

Jen: I just want to say that Daniel Faraday is the worst liar ever. It makes him more endearing to me somehow, though.

Liz: Agreed. And his presence -- and lies -- make me wonder about him even more. He strikes me as a good guy at heart, but we know he's a good guy who was obviously willing to string along a band of castaways and look the other way when violence is used in order to achieve some end of his own. I'm hoping we get deeper into his story in the coming weeks.

Jen: I still think he is sick and wants to get better. And that he is obsessed with his research. I don't think he's evil, just not following the best ethical models right now.

Liz: Right. But if past works of fiction are any guide, he will eventually -- like Han Solo -- do the right thing.

Anything else we should touch on before wrapping up?

Jen: Well, one big important thing: Ben's desire to kill Penelope. That, like Australia, may be the key to the whole game.

Liz: Makes sense considering what you learned last week on the LindeCuse conference call -- didn't they talk about the show moving off island in the next two seasons? That would jibe with a Ben chasing Penny, Desmond chasing Ben kind of scenario.

Jen: Yes, next season, it sounds like the show will move off island and focus on the Oceanic Six attempting to get back. I also meant to point this out earlier -- the situation with Sayid and Nadia reminded me a little of Pen and Desmond, the whole notion of spending years trying to reconnect with the love of your life, then losing her. The fact that Ben is now using Sayid to get back at Widmore and, possibly, get to Pen is crushing when considered in those terms.

This is also an ideal opportunity to remind everyone that Mr. Penelope -- aka Desmond Hume, aka Henry Ian Cusick -- will be answering questions online with us today. You can start submitting them now, but he will start the discussion at 1:30, shortly before Liz and I continue our official yapping about "Lost."

Liz: Absolutely. Which could set up an interesting future scene in which Sayid is forced to choose whether to obey Ben or save Penny for Desmond. Okay, I just got chills.

Jen: Oh God. Don't say that. I just got chills, too. I need my Dharma parka.

Liz: So, we've talked about endgame, but back to more immediate concerns. Here's next week's show promo:

"Something Nice Back Home" -- When Jack's health is seriously compromised, Kate and Juliet must learn to work together in order to save him; and something goes wrong as Sawyer, Claire, Aaron and Miles continue their trek away from Locke's camp and back to the beach, on "Lost."

Sounds like we'll find out more about Jack's achy tummy after all.

So, until 1:30? (Jen and I will be in the audience with you guys, then start our usual "Lost" chat as soon as Henry Ian is done.)

Jen: Indeed.

By Liz Kelly  | April 25, 2008; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Lost  
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