Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Cancer Man's Con...

I've suggested before that Benjamin Linus is the Cobra, the mysterious villain from Expose', a fictional story within a story on Lost. The big twist in Expose' is that the Cobra turns out to be Mr. LaShade, a supposed good guy whose team of sexy detectives has been battling the Cobra for years. I believe that Ben, who similarly claims to be one of the "good guys," has been simultaneously conning Jacob and Charles Widmore, both of whom covet the Island. Ben has played each against the other in a desperate bid for time, reminding me of an equally wily cancer survivor from another favorite show -- Cigarette Smoking Man on the X-Files.

Cigarette Smoking Man worked for a shadowy extra-governmental organization known simply as the Syndicate. Its ostensible purpose was to collaborate with mysterious alien invaders that planned to colonize and repopulate the planet, killing or enslaving most of humanity with a symbiotic virus. The truth, however, was more complex. Even as the Syndicate collaborated with the aliens and protected their secret plans, its members worked covertly to develop a vaccine against the virus. Cigarette Smoking Man was ultimately revealed to be a kind of double agent, deceiving aliens and humans alike to forestall the coming armageddon.

In much the same way, Ben has been conning both sides in the Island conflict. His self-described modus operandi is to find and exploit what his marks value most. Jacob and Charles Widmore both badly want the Island, and that's what Ben has used against each of them in different ways. Jacob wants to keep control of the Island but has difficulty communicating with his people. I'm pretty sure Ben is (or was) the only Other who can directly see and hear Jacob's ghost. Charles wants to take control of the Island but can't seem to find or access it. I believe Ben has secretly agreed to help Widmore find the Island as added leverage over Jacob.

Jacob may literally and figuratively possess the Island but his ghostly grip is surprisingly weak. For all Jacob's power, which apparently includes controlling animals and Cerberus, he can't speak directly with his people. He can tickle certain receptive minds, which explains the strange and prophetic dreams experienced by characters like Locke, Eko, Charlie, and Hurley, among others. But Jacob's messages get distorted by the recipient's subconscious and are often misunderstood. He can also temporarily assume corporeal form using Smokey to snatch dead bodies. Even then, however, it's unclear if everyone can actually hear Jacob, as opposed simply to seeing him.

For the most part, therefore, Jacob depends upon Ben to translate his words into action. One analogy suggested by Mr. Eko is to the biblical Aaron, who spoke for his brother Moses. Another is to Sun, who sometimes translates for Jin. That latter dynamic has long struck me as an apt metaphor for Jacob's efforts to communicate with the survivors of Oceanic 815. It's no coincidence that an entire Missing Pieces mobisode was devoted to Jin's temper tantrum on a golf course. Jin's frustration over his failure to communicate ("Why doesn't anybody understand me?!") mirrors that of Jacob, who pitched a similar fit in his cabin before realizing Locke could hear him.

That brings me to Ben's Cobra con of Jacob and the Others. For a time, the arrangement between Ben and Jacob worked well for both. Jacob got his mouthpiece, and in return, he performed miracles on demand for Ben -- e.g., curing Rachel's cancer. At some point, however, Ben began having doubts about the deal. Maybe he had a disturbing flash of an apocalyptic future if Jacob's plan came to fruition. Or perhaps Ben simply realized that his tenure as leader of the Others was coming to a close and decided to stall for time. Whatever the reason, Ben began censoring Jacob's messages, derailing the Island patriarch's plans. That's why Jacob is so frustrated...

Around this same time, Ben secretly reached out to Charles Widmore who was searching for the Island. Widmore had been an original investor in Dharma but wasn't privy to the Island's hidden location. Ever since contact with the Initiative was lost, Widmore had been curious about the fate of his investment. He somehow learned about Desmond's conversation with Donovan where Des described the race around the world, his shipwreck, and the Swan Station button. Charles immediately recognized the Island and decided to use Desmond to find it. That boat Libby offered Des seemingly out the blue may actually have been Widmore's doing.

The effort, however, proved fruitless. Widmore's crew lost Desmond's transponder signal during a South Pacific tempest, finding only empty sea when they tracked his last recorded location. By then, Ben's people on the outside had alerted him of Widmore's search. Ben ostensibly began marshaling the Others to resist, possibly even sending agents to infiltrate Widmore's organization. All the while, however, Ben was holding secret talks with Charles, carefully stringing him along as a trump card against Jacob. That's why the Looking Glass console connected to the Widmores' private line, and why Ben lied to the Others that the station had been flooded.

Ben was smart to hedge his bets because, shortly before the crash of Oceanic 815, Jacob struck back, afflicting his former Chosen One with cancer. Ben's x-ray was in the eponymous envelope that Carl delivered to Juliet in the mobisode of that name. When Juliet warned Amelia "I think we're in real trouble," she was referring to Ben's tumor. This information alarmed Juliet because it suggested that Ben had conned her about curing Rachel's cancer. For Others like Richard, the news raised suspicions that Ben had fallen out of favor with Jacob. That satellite uplink from Acadia Park wasn't just for Juliet -- Ben also wanted Richard to see that Rachel was alive and cancer free.

Locke's recovery from paralysis was another strike by Jacob. When news of this miracle rippled through the Others, Ben moved quickly and quietly to neutralize the threat. His solo trip to the Swan was supposedly to con Jack into performing the cancer surgery. But Ben had an equally important ulterior motive: to shake Locke's faith in the Island generally and Swan button specifically. Ben wasn't exactly sure what would happen if the button was missed. He knew, however, that Jacob wanted it pushed and might blame Locke if it wasn't. Ben also correctly surmised that failure to push the button would somehow make the Island visible to Widmore's people.

That latter outcome, of course, may be precisely what Ben wanted. He wasn't lying when he predicted the folks on Not Penny's Boat would kill every living person on the Island, but neither was he completely truthful. Maybe Ben has a deal with Widmore for safe passage once the Island's location is revealed. More likely, Widmore is as mad at him as Jacob. Ben has decided that his only hope of staying in charge is to force a bloody conflict between Widmore and the Others that will purge the Island's population and leave Ben the last man standing. I even wonder if he secretly wanted Jack to make that call. I sense we're being conned again by the Cobra. Don't believe his lies...


Cool_Freeze said...

honestly I feel that I have just read a major spoiler...because it is a sort of DUH moment for me.. I mean of course. It all fits. disgustingly together. Even better..that could mean that "time cops" such as Mrs. Hawking work for Jacob..and that of course they would be working above Ben. All of that falls into place. Libby may have even been working as a Mrs. Hawking ( I have mentioned that before) but of course it makes more sense that she may have been recruited from such mental institutions in a mirrored Juliet situation.

Whatever the case this all seems to make very much sense. =]

Great post bigmouth!


Bigmouth said...

CF: Glad you liked it! I'm still not sure what to make of Chronology Protection Agents like Ms. Hawking. It does make sense, like you say, that they would want Desmond to go to the Island and push the button. Of course, as I discuss above, Charles Widmore has his own incentive to want Desmond to do all of those things -- plus turn the Fail-Safe key. It's also possible that they represent a third neutral faction that simply doesn't want this moment of potential instability in the timeline to get out hand.

I love the comparison of Libby's speculated recruitment by Widmore to Juliet's by Richard and Ethan. I agree that the question of her employer is an important one. Keep in mind, however, that she could just as easily be working for Jacob. I tend to think that Dave's appearance and her romantic interest were both attempts by Jacob to win Hurley over. Hopefully they'll revisit this question during Season 4...

DJ said...

Love reading your posts, Bigmouth!

Have a theory I'd like to throw your way.

I see that you, like myself, are very intrigued and excited about Christian making a reappearance in the mobisode. We all hoped and wished, and there it was. :) But what if it really isn't all that special?

This isn't fully formulated and a lot of the big things in LOST are missing (magnetism, polar bears, special people, good/bad people, etc), but... here are some things that seem to fit together in my head.

Seeing both Christian and Charlie really made me scratch my head. Especially with Charlie admitting that yeah, he's dead, but here he is. And one of Hurley's uhmm buddies at the institution saw him too, so it wasn't a Dave situation. Charlie was there because of course-correction. Poor guy's always getting thrown around to make the world go as its supposed to, and this was no exception. He's dead, but it doesn't matter -- he's an agent and he's being used to set things right. The Island, or whatever, simply set in motion and bam, here's Charlie telling Hurley to round up the gang (Oceanic 6) and head back.

So what about Christian? I don't know his full point, but it seems that he was used -- dead, sure, but tapped by the Island to get something done -- to bring Jack to the caves. Why? Plot progression, whatever, but probably to get the black and white stones. That's another thing I can't explain... no idea why those are important, and would love to know. Some people suggest they close some sort of time loop (like that's Jack's body there or something), but who knows.

Ever wonder why Ben says that "every LIVING person on this Island will be killed"? That's kinda weird. This is where I take it a bit far, but I think all the Losties, Others/Natives (Richard for example, who doesn't seem to age and doesn't seem to "remember birthdays"), and maybe some of the Freighties we're about to meet (though probably not, for reasons I can't explain) are all dead and simply... still existing because they're "supposed to", because they're part of some giant plan. They died. We saw Oceanic 815 at the bottom of the Sunda Trench courtesy of Mr Sam Thomas. That really did happen. Errm, another thing I can't explain -- how it can be down there AND on the Island. I think this theory allows for some really lazy writing and interpretation in some areas, hah!

Abaddon (sp) wants to know where the rest of the survivors (not the Oceanic 6 necessarily, but the people who apparently stayed with Locke?) are, so he's bugging Hurley about it. Because these people are important... existing but not necessarily alive? That's pretty valuable stuff, if you ask me. Again, no more answers down that path... too early.

Oh, one more thing. Birth on the Island! Let's see here. Suppose you really do have to die to arrive on the Island. Take Claire for instance. Both she and Aaron died, so having him on the Island wasn't dangerous. But for Sun to have a kid on the Island would mean creating life from death/just-existing. And that's kinda screwed up and goes against the rules somehow. That's why you can't have a kid if you conceive it on the Island. Conceived off is fine, because you both die anyway and it's not something-from-nothing.

Ah well... confusing, ridiculous stuff. I just like reading your posts, so I wanted to see what you think.

I should respond to your Ben/Cobra analysis! Mmmm I don't know! I'm not so sure he's playing both sides. I think he's abusing the Jacob's Mouthpiece position, totally -- but I don't see him connected to any of the institutions working to find the Island. More than anyone else on this show, though, I'd love to find out what Ben knows. Well, Jacob would be good, too... especially now that he and Locke share a cabin, apparently! Hah! A magic, Hurley-following cabin!

Oh and I like the Memento photochop. ;P Nice touch.

Keep blogging!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I've kind of thought tha Desmond saw Hawking more than once, and the first time he told her WHAT she had to tell him to do--to tell him WHY--when he encountered her in FBYE. Great post, as usual. Namaste.

Anonymous said...

You guys are really just making up fanfiction. Or at least, i hope so...because this is terrible. Chronology Protection Agents? LOL.

Anonymous said...

Bigmouth, great post. A few questions. In your scenario, who is "in charge" of Ben's people on the outside, Richard etc? Is there any Hanso Foundation connection?

What do you make of the fact that Locke was at Jacob's cabin?

-- Aaron

Jay said...

Thing is, is Christian really Christian or merely Jacob/The Island/Smokey in Christian's form? Seems to me to be the latter (or, perhaps, maybe the island has animated and is controlling his lifeless body).

But the island seems to make loved ones appear to its chosen few, and they tend to speak as if they were the real deal. Ben's mom appeared on the island and she wasn't dead. Plus Christian's "he's got work to do" echoed Walt in the season finale (who I also suspect was the island).

So if Jacob/The Island/Smokey is using Christian as its "default" form, that suggests to me that Jack is at least as important to the island as Locke, if not more. And the Mobisode seems to suggest this as well.

Bigmouth said...

Hold those great thoughts about last night's episode! I'm working on a post that will be up shortly...

Bigmouth said...

DJ: Whoah...that's quite a compelling theory! If you don't mind, I'm going to repost and respond to it over on my post about the Season 4 Premier. You're probably right about Ben not being connected to the Freighter folks, especially since he left with Locke, rather than staying to be rescued. Still, something stinks about the Looking Glass dialing up Widmore's number. I still think it's possible he was stringing them along as leverage against Jacob...

Wayne: Verrrry interesting! So, to clarify, you think we'll subsequently see another scene with Ms. Hawking where she explains what he must do. Perhaps this explains his "what if you did" comments to Jack at the Stadium. Des can jump back to that moment, giving himself a flash of the future...

Anonymous: Better stop watching now because Damon recently described Ms. Hawking as an agent of the "temporal police" (i.e., timecop). Oh, snap!

Aaron: I think Ben periodically sends agents from the Island for extended missions in the real world. Recall that the two ladies in Looking Glass were supposed to be on just such a mission. The agents on these missions comprise Ben's people on the outside at any given moment. BTW, when you say Locke was at Jacob's cabin, what do you mean?

Jay: Check out my thoughts re the Season 4 Premier, where I echo many of your conclusions. It sure looks to me, too, like Jacob has snatched Christian's body and is using that as his default form. Regarding Jack being as important to the Island as Locke, see the Star of Jacob where I suggest Jacob was a Shepard and originally wanted Jack to be his replacement for Ben. I get the sense Jacob started with Jack, moved to Locke, shifted to Eko, then back to Locke, if that makes any sense.

Capcom said...

Wow, I love the idea of Ben playing off all the factions against each other, like Spender and the Aliens/Consortium, for his own benefit only! That would make him the ultimate manipulator and survivor! He would have to know that eventually, all the sides would have to come home to roost and conflict some day, either when they were finally on to him, or just by their own persistance of purpose. Then he would have to figure out how to remain on the side of whomever came out on top Like Spender (and Krycek!0, as you say. It gives a lot of meaning to what Ben said to Patchy about having to clean up his mess that he made. You can't juggle all the balls, all the time, to paraphrase Abe Lincoln. :-)

And telling Jack not to make the call, to get him to make the call.....genius. :-O

This is a really fun theory!