Last night's Lost was an hour-long festival of Locke, with a special guest appearance from the World's Biggest Kid (and I don't mean whiny Jack). Let's talk about it after the cut.

I've been familiar with the name Jeremy Bentham ever since I got a wonderful book about mummies when I was in grade school. Bentham was included because he willed that his body be embalmed - Bentham called it his "auto-icon" - and wheeled out at special University of London council meetings forevermore.

What fascinated me most, however, was the gruesome picture of Bentham's head. Due to a mistake in the embalming process, the head had turned into a blackened, shriveled thing that sat between the auto-Icon's feet, while a lifelike wax copy perched upon its neck. After watching last night Lost, I have to wonder whether Locke's noggin likewise has been replaced by a wax one - become he sure was acting like a man without a brain. Indeed, I think part of my slight-but-lingering disappointment with "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" is due to Locke's ongoing willingness to believe just about anything anybody tells him. Widmore: "You're special! Ben's bad." Locke: "Okay." Ben: "You're special! Widmore's bad. And here, let me help you with that noose." Locke: "Okey-doke."

The episode opens as Cesar, a Sayid-esque passenger from Ajira Flight 316, rifles through the Hydra Station (which means they've landed on the smaller island). He's just stuffed a shotgun into his bag, when Ilana (the Ana Lucia proxy) walks in to tell him that they've discovered a man, dressed in a suit (Why is this such a big deal? Not everybody travels in sweatpants), who wasn't on the plane. It's Locke, of course. The following morning Ilana tells Locke that the outriggers were already on the beach when they arrived, and that there were three until "the pilot and a woman" (Sun perhaps, frantically looking for Jin) took one in the middle of the night. Locke tells Ilana that he doesn't remember being on the flight, but he does remember dying. She shakes her head and walks off.

We flashback to Locke turning the wheel and the flash of light and - boom - he wakes up in the Tunisian desert, just like Ben in "The Shape of Things to Come" and, in all likelihood, the Hydra-collared polar bear whose skeleton Charlotte uncovered in "Confirmed Dead." Locke's leg is still badly fractured, and calls for help when he notices there's a camera fixed on him. He lays there until night, when a pickup truck almost runs him over. A group of gun-toting Tunisians jump out, none-too-gently throw him in the back, and take him to a clinic/field hospital. There, Matthew Abaddon peeks out from behind a curtain as the local doctor sets Locke's leg without painkillers, in a scene that makes my bones ache just writing about it.

Locke wakes up when he hears a voice; it's Charles Widmore. He's had a specialist flown in to set Locke's leg properly (or so he says). Widmore reminds Locke of the last time they met: on the island, when Widmore was just 17 years old. He asks Locke, who hasn't changed a bit since then, how long ago it was: four days, says Locke.

Widmore explains that Tunisia is "an exit," that Ben fooled Widmore into leaving the island, that before then Widmore was the leader, and protected the island peacefully for more than three decades. Also, there's a war coming and if Locke isn't back on the island when it happens, the wrong side will win.

This speechifying is, I think, is another reason why I found this episode less exciting than I wanted it to be. I know there's less than two seasons left and they have to move things along, but flat out expository ("Let me tell you that A happened, then B, and C") by its very nature lacks the mystery and subtlety that I've come to expect from Lost. Last week we had Mrs. Hawking explaining how they found the island, and now here's Charles Widmore giving up a lot of his back story, whereas in seasons past each might have had an episode or more to developing these stories. Now we have answers to questions we haven't even had time to ask.

Though he still doesn't trust Widmore (something about that boatload of killers and C4), Locke is onboard with the rest of the plan to round up the rest of the O6. Widmore gives him a passport in Jeremy Bentham's name ("Your parents had a sense of humor, so do I," says Widmore. Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher, was opposed to John Locke, the philosopher's concept of natural rights), as well as a dossier on the whereabouts of the O6, a phone with speed-dial connection to Widmore, and a car and driver/bodyguard. The latter is an old friend: the other-worldly Matthew Abaddon.

The two of them set out to convince the O6 to return to the island. Sayid's in San Domingo, building houses for a Habitat-for-Humanity style organization. He doesn't want to go back to the island, but asks Locke a couple of good questions: who's manipulating him, for one, and whether the reason Locke so desperately wants to go back is because he has no where else to go.

Next, they drop by New York City for a quick visit with - all together, now - WAAAAAAAALT. "Boy's gotten big," notes Abaddon dryly. Walt's been dreaming about Locke - he was wearing a suit and everybody wanted to hurt him. When he asks about his father, Locke hedges and says the last he heard Michael was on a freighter near the island. As they leave, Abaddon helpfully notes that Locke is now 0 for 2 when it comes to gathering former residents of the island, though this is the first we've heard that maybe Walt was supposed to go back, too. Neither of them notice Ben watching them.

Hurley, working on a watercolor of the Sphinx (shout out to Garrison Dean's Ra theory!) in the yard at the asylum, first thinks Locke is another ghost like Charlie. But when he realizes that Abaddon is with the very-much-alive Locke, he really freaks out. Abaddon is evil, he warns Locke, then refuses to continue the conversation, let alone go back to the island. At this point, Locke finally asks what Abaddon does for Widmore - and here comes more of that exposition. Abaddon reminds everybody that he was the orderly in the hospital after Locke's accident who convinced him to go on the walkabout, which caused him to take Oceanic 815 and end up on the island. Abaddon helps people "get where they're supposed to get to."

John Locke Gets Played Like A CardS

Then it's off to L.A., where crabby Kate not only refuses to go back to the island, but tells Locke she thinks he's a desperate, loveless, angry obsessive. And with that, Locke makes Abaddon take him to his lost love, Helen Norwood. She's dead of a brain aneurysm, and as Locke and Abaddon stand before her tombstone, they discuss whether Locke's death will be inevitable or by choice. As they leave the cemetery, an unseen Ben shoots Abaddon. Locke, terrified, drives off like a crazy man and gets into a car accident.

For a moment, we wonder if Locke is dead, but then he wakes up in Jack's hospital, and immediately starts giving the hard sell about going back to the island: it's fate that brought him to the hospital; somebody's trying to kill him because he's special. Jack's not buying it. He thinks Locke's deluded, a "lonely old man that crashed on an island" once upon a time. But when Locke tells Jack his father says hello, he starts to get nervous. Locke presses his case; only Jack can convince the others. But Jack doesn't listen. It's over, he tells Locke, "and we were never important. You leave me alone, and you leave the rest of them alone."

In his room at the Westfield Hotel, Locke has written his suicide note, fashioned a noose of electrical cord, and is ready to take the final plunge off a desk when Ben breaks down the door. He's been following them all, keeping them safe - which is why he killed Abaddon. Widmore is extremely dangerous, says Ben, that's why he moved the island - to keep Widmore away so Locke can lead, and he reiterates how important he is.

But Locke thinks he's a failure, at least until Ben tells him that Jack has booked a ticket to Sydney. (Do we know the significance of this? Or is Ben flat-out lying? Who flies to Australia and returns "first thing in the morning"?)

"You can't die, you have too much work to do," Ben pleads, and Locke gets off the desk. When Ben mentions that Locke hasn't even been to Sun yet, he spills the beans about Jin and the wedding ring. Ben appears shocked that Jin is alive. Locke tells Ben that after they've gathered everyone together, they're supposed to go to Eloise Hawking. Ben admits he knows her then, faster than you can say "Tony Soprano," garrotes Locke. (This strikes me as the second time Ben has usurped a task that Locke is supposed to do, turning the wheel being the other. Is Ben trying to keep Locke from fulfilling his destiny by performing these tasks himself?)

Cut back to the island, where Cesar is poking through a Dharma folder, when the reanimated Locke walks in. Locke confesses he's been on the island before, and has no idea how he got back. Cesar then asks him if he knows why, after the flash on the plane, the big guy with curly hair was gone, as were some other passengers. This rings a bell with Locke, who asks for the passenger list-but Cesar says the pilot has it (though when Locke earlier asked about the passenger list, Ilana told him to talk to Cesar). He then takes Locke to a makeshift hospital, where Locke recognizes a seemingly badly injured Ben. "Do you know him?" asks Cesar. "Yes, he's the man who killed me," says Locke.

So, is Locke really "special" - or do Ben and Widmore understand that this is the best way to manipulate him to do their dirty work? Are the Losties just pawns in a bigger game? And is anybody dreading next week's big Sawyer/Kate reunion as much as I am?