Mutton dressed as lamb in some bad wiggery, a monologue-ing villain, and one pissed-off teenager: Lost had it all this week. Get spoiled after the jump.
I'm so happy that self-confident, cagey, jungle-master John Locke is back! Though I'm not sure that he's "the same man he's always been" as he tells Sun (who, from the bewildered look on her face, still doesn't know quite what to make of Locke's resurrection).
At a minimum, his return to the island, if not his trip to the Great Beyond, has done him very well indeed. And who better to test his new abilities against than the man who killed him, one Benjamin Linus? Despite Ben's assurances that he knew Locke would come back to the land of the living, I think Locke's return came as a total shock to him (he admits to Sun that it scares the hell out of him—which leads me to think he is completely unaware of Christian Shepard, the island's other living dead man). Seeing these two going head-to-head in a verbal sparring match as Locke leads Ben to his date with Smokey was a real treat.
Does Ben really come back to the island to face judgment (for Alex's death or otherwise) or does Locke simply hold him to it once Ben mentions it? Either way allows Locke to show how firmly he now holds the upper hand, especially since he pushes Ben to atone for Alex's death, for which Locke knows Ben has great remorse. (The monster clearly looks for penitence in those it judges: Eko didn't have any and he was killed; Ben quickly tells Sun to tell Desmond he's sorry in a last minute confession before entering the Temple, ignoring all those other deaths for which he's responsible -like Caesar's.)
Indeed, just how powerful has Locke become? He now seems to have a very close relationship with the smoke monster (though after seeing Ben summon it by draining a pool of water I wonder if we should be calling it the steam monster). "If everything has been done in the best interest of the island, then I'm sure the monster will understand," Locke tells Ben.
While I don't think Locke and Smokey are one and the same, as I've seen some commenters wonder on other boards, Locke does appear and disappear at some very key moments in this episode: when Ben tells Sun he can't control what's about to emerge from the bushes, and before and after Ben's encounter with the monster in the Temple. Smokey seems to be watching out for Locke. When the monster appears as a vengeful Alex (loved it!!), she demands Ben's allegiance to Locke. I'm also interested to see how Richard Alpert will react to Locke after all these years—hopefully they'll have an encounter before the season ends.
I'm sure the decision to use wigs on Michael Emerson instead of hiring actor(s) to portray younger Ben was a cost effective one, but at my house, there were some suppressed giggles as a result. Anyway, we got to see some of Ben's backstory with Widmore, beginning with Widmore's anger when he finds out that the young, injured Ben has been brought to camp (because Jacob wanted it done, according to Richard).
Widmore explains to Ben that he can be a double-agent, living with the Dharma-ites, pledging his allegiance to the Others. The tension between them grows when adult Ben, sent by Widmore to kill Danielle, spares her life ("every time you hear whispers, you run the other way") and then refuses to kill infant Alex on Charles's order - though that too is what Jacob wants done, according to Charles.
Given Ben's own tumultuous upbringing (no mother, father prone to cruelty), it isn't surprising that he wants to protect babies and small children, even if it leads to his own downfall. The sight of young Charlie on Desmond and Penny's boat (Our Mutual Friend is another Dickens reference if you're keeping count), makes him pause long enough to miss his shot at Penny, and allows Desmond to beat the crap out of him. Though if Ben saw The Incredibles, he'd know that monologue-ing ("Hello, Penelope. My name is Benjamin Linus. I'm sorry that you're caught up in the middle of this thing . . .") is never a good idea, either. Hopefully, Ben's bullet bounced off a pack of frozen peas - or the island is watching out for him - and Desmond doesn't die as a result of his heroics.
And we get to see Widmore's perp-walk off the island. Leaving the island regularly, and having a child with a woman off the island, are grounds for banishment? I guess I was expecting the events leading to Widmore's dismissal to involve more fireworks. I've never been on board with the "Ellie is Penny's mother" theory - heck, I'm still not convinced she's Daniel Faraday's - but that's clearly off the table now (unless of course Widmore has more than one child by more than one woman).
Meanwhile, what is up with the remaining Ajira 316 passengers? What's in the crate? "What lies in the shadow of the statute?" sounds like the first half of a password as opposed to an interrogatory remark, but why do they need one? Something tells me you should have stayed with Sun, Frank.