I am start with the Ben-centric and then move onto the Sawyer-centric episodes. To preview, I thought both were excellent, with the former pushing forward the mythology (funny, first attempt to type that word came out methodology) and the latter pushing the along the plot.
Re: "Dr. Linus": I had my usual reaction to anyone one with a doctorate referring to themselves as Doctor--what a douche! But it made some sense here, as Ben did not have an alternative title to fall back on such as prof. So, as an academic, my first question is, of course, why did Ben become a teacher rather than a professor? The job market for Modern European Historians about ten or fifteen years ago was probably not great, but my guess it had more to do with an inability to move across the country with a sick father. Or perhaps he interviews poorly as departments can discern his inner weasel. Just trying to illustrate how an academic thinks about stuff like this.
The flash sideways in the Ben episode is a pretty cool tale of the temptations of power (starting with the Napoleon reference that was far from subtle--why not Milton's quote cited by Khan at the end of the key Star Trek episode "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."?). I was really amused by the Windows 7 effect. Alexandra was quite, ahem, attractive in this episode, not that she wasn't cute on the Island. But it was like the ads where the person is much more attractive in their flashback. Anyhow, Ben chooses what is right over what is tempting. Or is it? Would it be better to burn Alex's career to replace a douche as principal (as we have seen in Ghostbusters and Die Hard), given how much damage he would continue to do in a position of power? Ah, but that kind of calculation, gambling for the greater good, risks lots of damage to individuals for the sake of society. As we have seen.
The Lost folks are having fun with us: "Imagine how different our lives would have been if we had stayed on the Island" says Linus senior. Indeed, this Flash-sideways is very different from Sayid's as it is clear that Ben and his father are much better off in the alternative world, as Ben realizes, more or less, as he sees Alex walk away. Better to give up a parking space for a bit of peace and back down from his confrontation with the principal for history club.
But here is the thing: Ben's leverage over the principal does not disappear, while the principal's hold on Ben could ebb if Ben does not display as much concern about another student for a year or so. Or, just timing--that Ben could destroy the principal at any point in the future that is of convenience to him. This deal is entirely unenforceable. Still, I think with only eight episodes left, this is the only glimpse of Ben's sideways world, I think, unless it bumps into another character's.
On the island, things are about as interesting.
- Ben finally has to account for his murder of Jacob, although the really interesting part of this is that Jacob "was hoping that he was wrong about you." Super-ouch.
- Frank the pilot overslept and missed Ocean 815. The Island got him anyway.
- Hurley questions Richard about his immortality: is he a cyborg? Hurley and Miles both continue to serve wonderfully as the voice of the snarky audience of this show.
- Jack's suicide wish is somewhat contradictory. If he cannot die, then why did Dogen force the poison out of him?
- Richard's explanation of his own desire for death seems a bit strange, but perhaps to be explained next week. Yes, Jacob has disappointed him, but most of his life on the Island was not unpleasant. What's a little mass murder? Oh, ok, maybe Richard has much to regret.
- One nice bit here is also that Ben has no idea how to follow. His awkwardness is as much due to this fact as anything else.
- Explanation of candidates (for an exhaustive list and how they were ruled out [death], see here). We have six left, apparently: Sayid, Jack, Hurley, a Kwon (Sun or Jin but probably not both), Kate, perhaps Miles? His name is on the mirror wheel, although scratched out.
- Sayid is almost certainly ready to be scratched off. Jack would seem to be the most likely since his life off the Island is in tatters in this reality, and he is a Shepherd. But that would seem to be too obvious. Sawyer would be least obvious and thus then most obvious. Hmmm. Kate needs to go back home to help Claire's mother raise psycho's kid. Hurley? Perhaps, he has a cool gift that might be handy. This is really the one question that we know will be answered.
- Of the previous alternate candidates, I wonder which Rousseau--Alex or her mom.
For the Sawyer-centric, Re-Con, see below.
I am on board with the various blogs that recommend a Ford and Straume cop show or the two getting cast in the remakes of the Rockford Files or Hawaii 5 0. This alt reality was just heaps of fun from beginning to end.
Here are my random observations:
- And we another example of the Windows 7 effect: Charlotte was pretty in her previous appearance but was a knockout in this episode. James, James, James. You screwed up a great thing.
- Lots of great lines, including those that were humorous and those loaded with portent. Of the latter: "Do You Want to Die Alone?"
- Lost is losing a bit of subtlety--the Watership Down reference was much more obvious this time.
- Sayid seems to be entering Zombie mode--does nothing when Claire attacks Kate.
- I love Flocke's response--that Claire was "completely inappropriate." Yes, teacher.
- I hate it when Miles asked Sawyer about the flight to Australia and said flight 815. Who knows their flight numbers? I flew yesterday and can barely remember the numbers. Flight numbers have no meaning until they crash or something else of note happens.
- Another mirror spotted. I think it is safe to expect that a mirror will show up in each flash-sideways although the one with Ben did not stick out. Of course, he didn't break his.
- Another great Flocke line: "Nobody's perfect." Followed by Flocke giving Kate an awkward series of smiles. Creepy. He also had growing pains! Hmmm. What does a young smoke-monster do? Crash the family car?
- Little House on the Prairie as the model of family life for James Ford. The lesson is not to look ahead, but live one day at a time. Was that a message for the audience to enjoy each episode rather than obsessing about the conclusion? Or was it a call out for Valerie Bertinelli? Too soon to tell.
- Who killed the "red-shirts" from Ajira? Smokey, probably. But we didn't see the bodies, so we canot tell what killed them. Depending on either Flocke or Widmore for a straight answer is, well, not a good way to proceed.
- And are these more deaths on Jack's hands? Would the plane have crashed if Jack did not get the folks on the plane, or was it going to land on the Island anyway?
The wonderful thing here (for the political scientist/scholar of International Relations) is that this show is much more aware of the limits of making commitments in the absence of higher authority than the Matrix was. Ford makes clear to Widmore that neither can trust the other. They both can be and are lying about their deal. Ford knows that Widmore is lying. Not sure that Widmore knows that Ford is lying or would care either way.
The interesting thing is that Widmore, who was Ben's enemy and, perhaps by extension an adversary of Jacob, is also an adversary of Flocke. Man makes a lot of enemies. And yet Penny, his daughter, is so very likable, even she is going to commit adultery on her other TV show. Anyway, so the enemy of my enemy is my friend, but if Flocke and Widmore are enemies, then who will ally with whom? Indeed, this episode may become required watching for my IR classes. Just heaps of good stuff.
We are now much closer to the ending, with the three teams clearly established and some insurgents clearly identified (Sawyer and Kate on Team Flocke). I don't think that Sayid will be loyal, especially if he has to kill a friend. Killing the guys who tried to kill you a few times is one thing, but Kate or Jin or Jack? But that is down the road.
We have eight episodes left, with Richard's story taking the stage next. We still need flash-sideways stories on Jin/Sun, Kate (to resolve her legal situation), probably Jack again, perhaps Flocke (that is, the monster, not Locke), Locke's wedding to resolve his daddy issues, and who else? Indeed, Locke's wedding would give closure to multiple folks, including Sawyer. If I had to bet, I would guess that would be the flash-sideways for the finale.
This week should be fun.