Lost recap: Ben Linus finds redemption on Team Jacob
So it only makes sense that one of the finale season's meatiest episodes, Tuesday's "Dr. Linus," centers on this complicated sometimes villain's road to redemption on two different timelines.
We even got one more half-answer to tack on our list of 15 questions Lost MUST answer, thanks to ageless aide Richard Alpert's explanation for why his appearance hasn't changed by one wrinkle or gray hair in over 30 years trudging across the island.
It's hard to believe, watching Linus attempt to lie his way into the confidences of yet another hardy band of castaways, that this character was initially only planned to last a few episodes -- way back in the second season, when he was leader of a group of island natives known as The Others and was held captive by our Losties.
But Tuesday's episode found Linus faced with momentous choices in two different timelines, both centered on the question of whether he would act to serve himself and his own petty needs or pick a more selfless path.
In the timeline where our castaways didn't crash on the island, Linus has a useless doctorate in history, teaching in a high school run by an officious egotist while caring for his ailing father. Here, the character's father took them both off the island and away from the Dharma initiative before Linus could meet the Others and become their young leader (killing most of the Dharma people in the process).
Back in the reality where our castaways did crash, Linus is unmasked as the man who killed the island's caretaker, Jacob, targeted for death by Jacob's bodyguard Ilana and urged to cross over to the dark team by the bad guy, our Smoke Monster stuck in John Locke's form.
Which brings us to his momentous choices: Will Linus kill Ilana and join Locke for the promise of being allowed to run the island? And will the not-crash Dr. Linus blackmail his officious principal into turning over his job, even if it means his prize pupil Alex -- the daughter killed by Linus' selfish choice in the other timeline -- doesn't get to go to Yale?
There's so many things to love about this episode, which brought to full fruition the reason for Lost's alternate timelines. Bouncing back and forth between the two, we learn important truths about Linus which remain consistent no matter where he exists: his ruthless talent for manipulation, his lust for power and significance and his burning need to atone for past misdeeds.
Here's a few other things which struck me:
-- Richard Alpert lets one of the series' most important points drop, almost as an offhand observation: That a touch from Jacob bestows ageless life. Which means that every castaway touched by Jacob in the past, now identified as candidates to replace him, also may have ageless life -- provided someone or something else doesn't kill them (see the original Locke).
-- Would anyone have predicted that Sayid would wind up on the bad guys' team, while super-manipulative Ben Linus landed with the good guys?
-- Given that the candidates still seem in contention to assume Jacob's role as island caretaker, must the Smoke Monster kill all the candidates to leave the island? If so, I'm betting he can't do it himself; he'll have to trick someone else into doing it for him.
-- When Ilana says there are six candidates, is she counting the now-deceased Locke? If not, that means there is one candidate left, besides Sayid, Jack, Hurley, either Jin or Sun and Sawyer.
-- Miles also tells us the secret of his power -- he can hear a dead person's final thoughts, and sense how they died. Given that he divines how Linus killed Jacob, this must mean the caretaker is truly dead.
-- Speaking of Atherton's bad guy, Lost producers goofed a bit on his story. When faced with a blackmail demand from Linus -- resign and make him principal or see an office affair revealed -- the principal counters by saying he'll scuttle prize pupil Alex's chances of getting into Yale if he's pushed out of his job. So why doesn't Linus just add a recommendation for Alex onto his list of blackmail demands?
-- The shot of Jack, Hurley and Alpert joining Ilana's group -- leaving Linus stuck on the periphery of their warm reception -- was a telling one. Even though Linus had chosen to reach toward redemption by joining the group still devoted to Jacob, he wasn't really accepted. Which may make him the wild card in Ilana's crew.
-- Given that Jacob and at least one candidate has been murdered, bodyguard/bounty hunter Ilana doesn't seem too good at her gig.