Lost – ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’ – 3.20

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I’m going to spare you the suspense. This is my first 5 Mooninite rated episode of Lost. If I had been reviewing this show back when it premiered, the only other episodes that would have garnered a rating of Perfection would be the pilot episode and the Locke-centric ‘Walkabout’ – which featured that shocking reveal of Locke in a wheelchair. That’s not to imply that there haven’t been other excellent episodes – I consider anything rated 4 Mooninites or higher to be quality hours of television. It’s just… I don’t dole out the 5 Mooninites all that often.

And yes, I realize how ridiculous I sound sprinkling the word Mooninite in every other sentence. Hey, I chose that rating scheme way before those little bastards become so controversial. As a quick primer, TV shows get rated with Mooninites, Movies with Ebert heads and Games with Super Mario Brothers’ Koopa Troopers. And, it’s for that reason above all others, that I will never garner a paying gig reviewing anything.

Enough with the tangent – on with the show.

1.   John Locke tells us early on exactly who ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’ is about. This is Ben’s story. He’s “The man behind the curtain. The Wizard of Oz.”

2.   Through Ben’s flashbacks, we get snippets of his extroadinary life story. For starters, the guy is a bold-faced lier. But, you knew that. The opening sequence sets the tone. We open on a woman giving birth in a dense forest. The writers on Lost have become masters of misdirection and I love how they play with our preconceived notions here. We see a woman giving birth against a backdrop of imposing foliage and we assume that we are witnessing one of those doomed pregnancies we’ve heard so much about. As the husband scoops his wife and newborn son and makes a mad dash through the woods, we’re suddenly shocked as he emerges from the brush to a busy interstate populated with antique cars. A mile marker states we’re 32 miles outside Portland (a call back to Juliet’s episode – ‘Not in Portland’) and then before the woman dies, she implores her husband to name their son, Benjamin. So Ben has not lived his entire life on the island.

3.   That entire opening sequence shot a hole in my old theory that Ben was born on the island in a test tube – that he was a product of the Dharma Initiative. I’m not giving up on the theory completely though. Ben may be biological but there’s the matter of Richard, who appears in Ben’s flashback not having aged a day in roughly 30 years. Now, I don’t think this is laziness on behalf of the producers as they go to great pains to age other characters in this episode, including Ben’s Dad and Horace, the guy who drafted them to this island. So, the question remains, why hasn’t Richard aged a day in 30 years? Ben teases Richard on this point early in the episode. What appears to be a throwaway, sarcastic line at the time takes on greater meaning when we see Richard appear to Ben later in the hour. As Ben reflects on a birthday gift he received years earlier, he says to Richard, “Do you still remember what birthdays are, Richard?” How old is this guy?

4.   One other point regarding Richard. He clearly drafted Ben into his fold – using him to infiltrate and ultimately destroy the Dharma Initiative – yet, Ben appears to be in charge. At what point did a power shift occur? I have a theory which I’ll close with.

5.   We received an explanation for Mikhail’s return – the sonic fence was not set to kill, it was at a lower frequency, meaning he was fried pretty good but regenerated. Like he said last week, wounds heal differently on the island. Now we know why he thanked Locke for throwing him through the fence. Essentially Locke freed him without knowing it.

6.   We got some more evidence to support The Others’ desire to remove Ben from power. When Locke was beating on Mikhail, Ben panicked and asked Tom and Richard to intervene. Tom sat drinking his coffee and Richard didn’t move. Ben can feel the walls crumbling around him.

7.   And then there’s the matter of Jacob. While on the trip to Jacob, Locke disovers a line of powder or ash in the jungle. Some viewers feel that this is a call-back to the volcano referenced earlier in the episode, but if you view the scene again you can clearly see that the powder is poured in a deliberate circular formation and seems to stretch outwards a good distance. I have a theory for this which I’ll get to in a minute.

8.   Before discussing the Jacob sequence, two things to note. I have no idea what these mean but the camera lingered on them so I assume they hold some significance. Within Jacob’s ramshackle cabin were 5 jars of red and yellow liquid sitting on a window sill. In addition, there was a weird painting of a dog. Could the dog represent the smoke monster – which was called Cerberus on the map Locke found in the hatch?

9.   I’m glad they didn’t go the Psycho route with Jacob. During that encounter in Jacob’s shack, I intially feared a Norman Bates moment as Ben spoke to the empty chair and Locke queried him on his sanity. But, Locke forgot Ben’s word of warning and fired up his flashlight. Suddenly all Hell broke loose as we learned that some force, some entity, was there in that cabin and it really does not like Duracell. During the chaos that ensured, for one brief second (followed by several Slo-Mo replays – thank you DVR) we spied Jacob – who did indeed reside in that chair.

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10.   I’m going to close on my big theory but before I do that I have to cover one last thing – the apparent death of John Locke. As Ben finished his tale and brought John to the mass grave containing the skeletal remains of the Dharma Initiative, he took his shot and fired a cap into Locke’s gutt. He then reveals his reasons as his anger rises over the fact that Jacob spoke to Locke and Locke heard his words – “Help Me“. Words which I believe explain a lot. I’ll be honest, I never saw that coming. If John Locke is dead, I am sooooo off this show. I bet nobody ever gets killed on My Wife and Kids.

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11.   So here’s my theory. I believe that Ben was indoctrinated by The Others (the Hostiles) through their belief he was special. Richard’s interest was piqued early on when he encountered a young Ben who claimed he saw his dead mother in the jungle. I believe that they may have a prophecy – tied to their worship of the island – that claims someone will come to them with the ability to speak to the spiritual forces on the island (Jacob). I think Ben ‘pretends’ that he can see and speak with Jacob – but in fact – has no real tie to him. Still, he uses their blind faith in him to build power over their group and ultimately becomes their leader – claiming that Jacob speaks through him. It’s really classic cult building. The ash that surrounds Jacob’s cabin comes from folklore – where pagan beliefs posit that spiritual entities can be contained within circles of ash (don’t believe me? – consult your Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Ultimately John Locke arrives and is magically healed by the island. He has a close connection with the island forces and The Others begin to rethink the prophecy. Perhaps, Locke is the true chosen one. This threatens Ben – perhaps not the first time as just before he and Locke embark on their mission, Alex hands Locke a gun for protection. I have a feeling Ben has brought others to Jacob before and none have come back. Ben probably plays it off that Jacob ‘judged’ them when in fact it’s the mass murderer Ben who has taken care of them.

Anyway, the fact that Locke does see and hear Jacob seals his fate. This confirms Ben’s fears. Locke is the chosen one – chosen to help free Jacob from Ben’s spell – thus Ben rids himself of Locke.

Where does this go? I’m not sure we have seen the last of Locke. I see the island bringing Locke back and when Locke rises from the dead, the Others will have the miracle they seek. Locke will become leader of the Others and Ben may break off into a third faction or he may just be killed. Although, I’d hate to see them dispense of such a fascinating character – bug-eyed bastard or not.

So what do you think?

A couple of show notes: I happened to listen to the weekly podcast Damien Lindelof and Carlton Cuse record and they said that the Jacob sequence is a teaser for Season 4 which will focus on that plot point. They also said that they intentionally left out elements of Ben’s years on the island and they will get back to those next year as those elements further define the mythology.

Finally, in year’s past they have had a code word for the twist or cliffhanger that they have capped the season finales with. The first year was codenamed ‘The Bagel’ and last year ‘The Challah’. Both are traditional Jewish bread products. No real reason for the reference other than Lindelof is Jewish and apparently likes bread.

Anyway, this year they broke from form and have a codename for the entire season finale. Although it’s titled ‘Through the Looking Glass’, they’re calling it ‘The Rattlesnake in the Mailbox’. The reason – Cuse was thinking about very evil things that a person could do to another and thought that placing a rattlesnake in a mailbox is at the top of that list. Essentially it refers to a surprise that scares the hell out of you. Well, they promise a ‘game changer’ in this episode which will leave people thinking they are sick, evil people. Hopefully, it’s not all hyperbole and we have something jaw-dropping to look forward to in a couple of weeks.

All right, I’m done. This Wednesday – the Charlie-centric ‘Greatest Hits’ – meaning, we may yet see the end of the Hobbit.

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Comments now closed (12)

  • Do you think that the sick, evil thing that’s a game changer could involve Claire’s baby… something happening to the kid would certainly be sick and twisted.

  • @ Joe – That would be sick and evil but there are certain taboos that nobody likes to cross on television, and having something happen to Aaron would seem to be one.

    How about a twist on this – what if in addition to Charlie, Claire gets killed as well – leaving Aaron orphaned? That may not be a game changer but it would be a downer from a plot point perspective. I know they have had numerous biblical references to Aaron and I belive Mr. Ecko spoke about Aaron’s place in the Moses story. Hopefully some theological expert can chime in here and let us know if the biblical Aaron lost his parents.

    C’mon – where’s a Jesus freak when you need one?

  • Your DVR saw Jacob? MY DVR didn’t see Jacob….
    I am guess one of us is the Chosen One, and it doesn’t appear that it’s me…

    And I am of the mind that it’s neither sick nor evil if Charlie gets killed…never liked the little hobbit much…

  • Uh-oh. Now that my DVR has seen Jacob and yours has not, is my fate sealed?

    Will I be led me off the beaten path to a pit containing the carcasses of doomed television shows (those my DVR elected to ‘Delete Regardless of My Decision to Save Until I Delete’) where upon you will reveal your true motives and subsequently ‘cancel my programming.’

  • I haven’t had a chance to read the two new posts yet, so I’ll add my comments when I do. I just wanted to add that like Sharon, my Media Center recording lost the picture as Ben was meeting up with the Hostiles after they had eliminated everyone in the compound. I still had sound, so I could at least listen to him shoot Locke, but I had Ed describe the action for me.

    I wonder if it was a Comcast problem…

  • I also stage live readings of Oprah Book Club selections. For those interested – I’ll be orating ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood’ at the West Brookfield Gallows this Saturday from 2 – 4 p.m.

    I regret to inform that my double-bill of ‘A Million Little Pieces’ and ‘The Corrections’ has been cancelled indefinitely.

  • Did anyone else think it was strange that a lot of the Dharma folks were killed outside. How much (and how)of that poison gas could they pump through the compound to kill folks so suddenly? I mean one guy died holding on the a hose that was still running. Horace didn’t even get up from the bench? It took a little bit for Ben’s Dad to go and he was in an enclosed VM. Don’t mean to nitpick, but I thought that was strange.

    Otherwise I did like this episode, but I was expecting a little more. I am more looking forward to “catching up with Jack and Julia”.

  • Okay, I just read thru this one while making dinner and boy, it took a while. A lot of info here for me to agree with… 😉

    No, seriously, I don’t really have any thoughts of my own about what exactly Jacob is, whether he be spirit or trapped in another dimension/time or whatever. Your theory seems plausible to me and maybe Locke is the true Ghost Whisperer and Ben is the phony. However, I’d think Ben has at least seen or talked to Jacob before, if only because he knew he was sitting in that chair.

    I am with you on Alex giving Locke the gun as protection from Jacob as she, and the others (no pun intended), believe he has killed others (again…) while it was really Ben.

    I think whatever they believe is tied to not only talking to Jacob and/or the island, but also in the chosen one killing their father. Another parallel between Locke and Ben with Ben believing he’d never do it since he wasn’t a method of escaping the island. 😉

    I wonder if the Hostiles weren’t also a part of the Dharma Initiative. That they are part of the whatever is going on there and the culling of the compound wasn’t part of the grand plan. Mikhail’s boast that he was the last surviving member of DI is proven false via the flashbacks since we see Ben as also a part of it. Anyway, I throw that out there without much thought on it.

    Finally, my guesses on the finale are either the Hostiles/Others kill all the Oceanic survivors or they are actually rescued by Naomi’s ship. We’ll see soon.

    And for Charlie… right now!

  • Sean, I was thinking about the hostiles as well. If they killed all the Dharma people on the island. Why would Dharma still be supporting them? Dropping supplies, etc… Remember when Locke was playing chess one of the options that he was given was to press a number if the station had been overun by the hostiles. In last weeks episode the orintation film had made note of the fence to keep the indigenous people out (or something to that affect). They are called hostiles by the Ben’s little friend when the alarm goes off. Doesn’t add up to me how they just take over the island and take the place of the Dharma folks. It does explain how they move about the island and sleep out and live in a primitive fashion as well as in the formal living area as they did for awhile.

    My other thought is maybe Jacob and Smoke monster are one in the same. If Jacob can be an invisble presence (unless you catch that one frame as Ed did) and also take shape of a man as Ed showed. He could morph into a horse, a cat, Eko’s brother as well as take shape of the black smoke.

  • @Chris – The canister that Ben used was mustard gas, which I believe is quite lethal in open air as it was used heavily in WWII (not to mention – it was Saddam’s weapon of choice for awhile) so I don’t think a closed environment is needed to get the whole lot of them.

    As for how the Hostiles still receive drops (and have a presence on the mainland – as evidenced by their various fronts including Mittelos Aviation) – I think that has yet to be revealed. I think we are supposed to be questioning how that is happening and have a feeling that we’ll learn more in the coming seasons.

    Remember, the Dharma Initiative was backed by Alvar Hanso, a billionaire, and Widemore Labs (Penny’s father’s company). For all we know, Richard and his merry band of hostiles could have been a splinter group of Dharma who broke off from them. I think they may have been products of Dharma experiments. Anyway, Ben said he was ‘one’ of the smart ones – which makes me believe Mikhail was also part of Dharma. As the comm specialist, he may have kept up the good front on behalf of the Hostiles.

    There was a key piece of dialogue where Richard encounters young Ben. Ben calls him a hostile and Richard says – “Do you even know what that word means?” The dictionary defines hostile as one against the true nature of something. Therefore, Richard is implying that it is actually Dharma that are the hostiles to the island and that he and his group are actually in tune with the island. If Hanso was looking to get at the heart of the island (for whatever reason) Ben may have been the one to bridge the gap and continue the financing.

    Ahhh – who knows. All in good time. All I know is this show beats a CSI any day of the week. Please – a Miniature Killer?!?!?

  • Oh my Gawd! You found Jacob!! My mom told me you had this up here, I didnt believe her!! Ben is not going to be happy with you…watch your back…or your gut in Locke’s case…