Feb 26 2009 12:02am

Lost Round-Table: Episode 7, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham”

We continue with our round-table discussions of Lost. This week, we’re joined by Bridget McGovern, Theresa DeLucci and Melissa Frain. As always, spoilers abound, so stay away from this post if you haven’t watched the latest episode of Lost, “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham.”

Theresa: Guess we know that the other passengers in first class with the Losties did get brought to the Island. Caesar and Ilana (aka. Hot, Slutty Chick from Rome, aka Hot, Slutty Chick from The Namesake) are taking care of injured people from the Ajira flight. Liked the framing device of it, with that nice little reveal at the end.

This episode is surely going into Terry O’Quinn’s Emmy reel. What a great actor. I’m in love with Locke again. I missed the one-character-at-a-time flashback device and Locke had become so one-note in his devotion to the Island faith, I stopped feeling sympathy for him. And what a flashback. Loved the visits paid to Sayid, Hurley, and especially Walt. God, poor kid. No one has the guts to tell him what happened to his father. For three years?! That seems cruel to me. I really hope they do bring Walt back into the fold and tell us why he’s so special. Good to see creepy Abbadon again, too. Briefly. Frakkin’ trigger-happy Ben! And how sad about Locke’s love Helen.

The two key scenes to me, the ones that really made me think were John’s encounters with Charles Widmore in the beginning and Ben at the end. Why am I willing to trust Charles more than Ben? Is it because, aside from the Freighter staff snafu, he hasn’t tried to kill anyone. Aside from Ben. Ben is so self-serving, I just will never trust him. Saying that, I’m still surprised when Ben does something terrible. Like kill Locke! Especially when the man is at his most broken. I always want to believe Ben is working for a higher purpose. But what does it matter if Locke brings everyone back to the Island on Charles’s behalf if Ben wants everyone back on the Island, too?

I still fail to see what’s so great about being the leader of the Island. Obviously it fills that emptiness in Locke’s life, so that’s enough for him. But what appeal did it have for Charles? For Ben? What of this coming war?

Melissa: This week’s episode was indeed full of absolutely amazing acting, but I’ve gotta say…wasn’t hugely excited by tonight. (Mind you, I do have a history of disliking the episodes that the rest of the world seems to love the most.) This whole episode felt a little like they were just filling in the gaps to me–ok, we got to see what exactly Locke said to the Oceanic 6, and we saw him thinking he failed in the whole mission (which, btw, was one of the most amazingly acted scenes I think I’ve seen on this show). But how much of this was really new information? It felt very much like a series of here-is-what-happened-and-for-once-it’s-exactly-what-you-all-thought-it’d-be.

Take the final scene. I was waiting for the huge mindblowing moment at the end there, but was pretty disappointed. I will be surprised if there is anybody in the world who thought it was going to be somebody other than Ben on the bed when the camera panned around.

The most interesting thing we learned this week as far as I’m concerned: all the different sides are trying to get the Oceanic 6 back on the island (and we got confirmation that Widmore led the Others at one point – cool!). But…huh? Ben and Widmore and Ms Hawking and Locke and all of those people are working toward the same goal, but why? What could that mean? Widmore says the “wrong side” will win if they don’t get back, but which is the wrong side if all of the sides we’re aware of want the same thing…?

One last tiny little note: Oh Hurley, I love you so much. When he thought Locke was dead and then realized it wasn’t all just in his head…oh, priceless. Oh, and I’ve always been a fan of Abaddon, so I was excited to see him (not to mention his phenomenal death).

Bridget: I can’t believe I’m writing this, but tonight was actually a relatively straightforward episode, right? Not for any other show, but in terms of the patented craziness of “Lost,” I didn’t feel like many punches were pulled. Basically, Locke spent the episode bouncing between Charles Widmore and Ben Linus like a needy, confused ball in the World’s Most Evil Game of Pong. His longstanding emotional and physical vulnerabilities have come back into play with a vengeance, and it’s impossible to watch his interactions with Ben and Widmore without thinking of his past with his con-man father, Anthony Cooper. And as pathetic as he seemed at points in this episode (Terry O’Quinn’s performance was truly, truly excellent), let’s remember that Locke is not above revenge (even if he has someone else doing his dirty work), so now I guess we get to watch John and Ben extend their sadomasochistic, cat-and-mouse tango beyond the grave. (Well, beyond the coffin, at least.)

Good to know Sayid got in some Habitat for Humanity do-gooding between stints as a ninja-assassin, nice to see Waalllllttt!, as well as the always enjoyably-sinister Matthew Abaddon (while it lasted). Also, now we know that the Oceanic Six survivors were magically raptured out of the plane before it crashed, which is interesting. More than anything, I guess, this episode drove home the sense that there have been larger forces controlling events at every turn, that there is a war coming between these rival powers, and that Locke (and presumably the other survivors) will play a key role in deciding the outcome of the clash. None of that is really news, but it’s good to have details fleshed out a little. So: do we think that Helen’s really dead? What’s up with Locke’s son? And if the pilot (who I’m assuming is Lapidus—must be, right?) took a boat and ran off with “some woman,” who wants to bet it wasn’t some random stewardess? So many larger questions have been brought up, but I can’t even begin to slog through the great Widmore versus Linus debate right now. The only thing that seems clear is that neither one can be trusted. And: don’t ever, ever turn your back on Ben.

Theresa: I don’t even think I know what the sides are! Dharma? Others? Sleestaks?

Bridget: Sleestaks!!! I can’t wait until they show up! With Klingon allies!

Bridget McGovern
1. BMcGovern
Oh, I forgot to ask: Why did Eloise Hawking's name have such a dire effect on Ben? She’s obviously in league with Ben and his people, or would be a very short time afterward--I can understand that he wouldn’t be happy to hear that Widmore has intel and a connection to Hawking (through Faraday), but why the sudden about-face in his attitude toward Locke? How does the mere mention of Hawking’s name make Locke suddenly expendable? Is it possible that Hawking was actually in with Widmore until Locke mentioned her to Ben, and that she switched over to the Linus camp sometime between Locke’s death and the flight back to the Island?...that seems pretty improbable. Then again, it’s “Lost.” Any thoughts?
Melissa Frain
2. frainmelissa
Ack, and something that *I* forgot...did anybody watch the enhanced version of last week's episode?

I ask because during the part where Ben parts ways with Jack and Ms Hawking etc. to go take care of that thing for an old friend, I was intrigued to note that the little enhance-y thing popped up to remind us of Ben's vow to kill Penny. So that seems to make it pretty clear that he was indeed intending to go off her.

However, in a tragic and unexpected turn of events, I wasn't paying attention later, during the scene where Ben calls from the phone booth. Did anybody watch it? Any more interesting tidbits revealed at that part?
Theresa DeLucci
3. theresa_delucci
I can't imagine why Hawking's name made Ben flip. I mean, then he goes and gets Locke's body and carts him around everywhere? Did he know Locke had served his purpose alive, given Ben all the useful info to lure Sun back? Does he know Locke will be revived on the Island?

I still would like to learn a bit more about Sayid's two years as a hitman for Ben. Who was he killing exactly? Why? "The Economist" gave us the briefest glimpse of it, but, unless I'm forgetting, how did they fall out? And fall out so badly Sayid is working for Habitat for Humanity?

I missed the enhanced version this week, but now I'm definitely looking forward to (hopefully) seeing Desmond kick Ben's ass.
Bridget McGovern
4. BMcGovern
@ theresa

Yeah! Desmond...or Locke. John's got some *serious* payback coming. As much as I love Desmond, Locke is the Wile E. Coyote of "Lost"--he gets smashed up and screwed over by life at every turn, he's always waking up in hospitals, lonely and confused. And now he's back on the island, all spiffed-up and back in his element--and suddenly it's Ben's turn to be passed out and vulnerable. It'll be fun to see how this plays out. Either way, I wouldn't be surprised if Ben escapes comeuppance once again--I guess he's like a coldblooded, malevolent Roadrunner that way :)
Andreas S.
5. logain
did anyone notice this detail about ben?

in the episode before this one jack asked ben while on the plane, whether he knew that locke killed himself?

and ben was like "no, i didn't know THAT!" - however in this episode we learn that in fact HE killed locke and made it look like a suicide.


i wonder if ben ever said something without lying.
6. drummingdm
@1 and @3

I think the reason Locke mentioning Hawking's name made Ben flip the crazy switch was because the only reason Ben was even there was to prevent Locke from killing himself before Ben could find out who Widmore/Locke's contact was. Ben sure seemed concerned about keeping Locke from taking that last step to then turn around and kill him 2 minutes later. Heck, Ben sure sounded concerned about the fact that Locke was in the room by himself...enough so to kick the door in. We already know Ben was watching Locked (the scene on the street in NYC). It stands to reason he saw Locke climbing up on the table and tying the makeshift noose.

Once Ben got Hawking's name, Locke was expendable. All Ben needed to do from that point on was make sure he could get Locke's body back to the island. Especially now that Ben knew that Locke had convinced Jack to try to return to the island. Ben knew he could never do that without Locke's intervention.
Michael McGovern
7. mikemcg
Is anyone else slightly annoyed by Jack playing the role of Scully to Locke's Mulder? Jack has been to the island, knows the craziness that goes on there, the shenanigans and whatnot, yet still has to play the cynic when Locke tells him about Christian? Come on, Jack.

And also: Abaddon (interesting name, significant?) will always be Lieutenant Daniels to me.
Bridget McGovern
8. BMcGovern
@ mikemcg #7

I hear ya--Jack's whole "Doubting Thomas" characterization this season *is* pretty bland, though I thought there was a nice moment, when he was yelling at Locke in the hospital, trying to shake Locke's belief in being special or the end Jack slips from "you're not special" to "WE were never important!" I thought it was a significant switch, reminding us how hard Jack is struggling to hold on to any convictions at all (obviously, we know that he falls apart after Locke's visit and death, but now we've seen what pushed him over the edge).

Also, I'm glad you mentioned Abaddon's name...depending on different interpretations of the Book of Revelation, it refers to Satan or the Antichrist, and sometimes a lesser demon of hell; in other traditions, it denotes the Angel of Death. In any case, Abaddon is connected to Armageddon and the Apocalypse in the Biblical tradition, so all this talk of "an upcoming war" seems to resonate even more strongly in light of Matthew Abaddon's influence.

At any rate, I hope we see him again, in one way or another; I'd be shocked if we don't.
Andrew Gray
9. madogvelkor
Some interesting symbolism. Abaddon is a name that can refer to hell or the devil, depending how you want to interpret it. And at the end, Locke was hanging from a cross if you pay attention to the shape of the beams of the ceiling.

The picking of the name Jeremy Bentham might be significant too. Beside his fame as a philosopher, he had his body preserved and put on display. And, of course, the connection to utilitarianism is apparent in that the 6 (and Locke) have to give something up for the greater good.
Joe Sherry
10. jsherry
drum @ 6: That's exactly what I think, too. Ben didn't know everything he needed to get back to the island until Locke gave him that name.

Then he finished the job.
Dave Thompson
11. DKT
I loved how this episode started. I figured Locke would somehow be resurrected but I dug how they played that card right up front. Good show!

I'm wondering if the woman Lapidus took the boat with might be Claire.

Agree that Ben changed his mind after Hawking's name was mentioned because he then knew how to get back to the island.

And I don't think there is a side we're supposed to be rooting for in the upcoming Widmore/Ben war. I'm with Desmond. These people are ALL manipulating the Losties as a means to their own ends. They both want to rule the world. I think our heroes are going to have to come up with a different way at the end of it all.
Theresa DeLucci
12. theresa_delucci

I agree. I will go even further and just root for whichever side Desmond is on. He's got his shit together more than anyone else on or off the island.
Mitchell Downs
13. Beamish
@1 frainmelissa: I also liked the confirmation that we were supposed to connect Ben's "promise" to Penny Widmore. I was watching when he made the call from the Marina but they told us nothing extra.

@6 drummingdm & 10 jsherry: I got the reverse conclusion when Ben killed Locke for mentioning Eloise Hawking. Ben already knew Eloise was the key to returning but if John knew too then they could leave without him. By killing Locke he ensures that he once again acts as the gatekeeper to the solution - which is his MO.

Besides, just hearing Eloise name would not have told Ben where she was or how to find her. If he already knew where she was then he clearly knew of her and did not need that info from Locke.

I think this episode once agains clearly sets Ben as the "Bad Guy". Perhaps, given how few episodes are left in the whole series, this is the last time: Ben is the "evil" side and Widmore is the "good" side and now we watch the battle.

But as Theresa pointed out in the post: we don't know how many "sides" there are. Maybe Widmore is just as "evil" as Ben, and Locke is the "good" side. Maybe the Dharma Hippies are the true crunchy saviors of the island.

Even with that uncertainty, Ben has been clearly cast once again as the utterly untrustworthy liar we always knew he was, but somehow allowed ourselves to forget as he thankfully got Jack to shave that damn beard, stop wallowing and find a purpose again.

Oh - and I expect Lapidus took off in the boat with Sun. Lapidus didn't know Claire.
Dave Thompson
14. DKT
@ Beamish: I'm confused. Why would Ben want to keep Locke alive if Locke didn't know about Hawking? Other than pumping him for intel? It just feels to me like Ben's always been threatened by Locke. Dude's already tried to discredit him, not to mention shoot him in the back. (My only problem with this line of thinking is whether or not Ben knew if Locke would be resurrected.)

And why would Sun not vanish/flash out like Jack, Kate, Hurley (and after seeing the promo, presumably Sayid)? Even though Lapidus doesn't know Claire, I think Claire (at least spooky Claire in Jacob's cabin) would know Lapidus. But I admit it is kind of a crackpot theory.
Mitchell Downs
15. Beamish
@14 DKT

I think Ben would have kept Locke around to use as he needed to. Maye he would use him to convince the others to come with him by either casting Locke as a threat or in need of help. But once he knew that Locke could find out the information on how to return, worse yet (for Ben) he might find more information; since Locke knew to talk to Ms. Hawking in the first place she may trust him. Locke became a threat.

I just see it as a pure power play, not the reveal of crucial info. I doubt Ben was running around confused about how to return. I could be wrong though, that is one of the great things about the way Lost in written: they allow the viewer to interpret many things many ways until it ultimately matters that the truth be revealed. I remember fondly spending hours hypothesizing about the meaning of Ezra J. Sharkington. :-D
16. jere7my
The wife and I were discussing Ben's motivation for killing Locke while I was washing the dishes tonight. We agree with the emerging consensus here — once Locke told Ben that Hawking was the path home, Ben didn't need him, and didn't want the competition, anymore.

Ben wants to be Locke, and keeps trying to jump into Locke's shoes of predestination. He shouldered Locke out of the way when it was time to move the island, thinking he was usurping Locke's role, then had to skulk around for three years, waiting for Locke to turn the wheel. Then he started following Locke around, looking for another opportunity to supplant him, and he found one: instead of Locke going to Hawking and collecting the Six, Ben killed him and took that role.

Ben's consistently been putting himself where he thinks Locke is supposed to be, hoping he'll be swept up in the rush of events that will leave him the island's savior and leader. But, as Richard knew, Ben still hasn't taken Locke's place — all he's done is shoved Locke onto the path he needs to be on.
17. Kiley Sedai
jere7my: "But, as Richard knew, Ben still hasn't taken Locke's place — all he's done is shoved Locke onto the path he needs to be on."

Great observation - like Eloise said to Desmond, fate has a way of "course correcting." Locke is meant to be the leader, not Ben, but Ben can't and won't accept that. Yet, no matter what he does Locke just keeps on keepin' on.

Locke is my favorite character and Ben is a GREAT character - they are perfect for each other in terms of rivals. It's sort of like all the other characters are background to me now, with Ben and Locke at the forefront.

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