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...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Best. Mobisode. Ever.

If you haven't already, check out the most recent Missing Pieces installment and get ready to set your face to stunned. It's not quite how I'd hoped, though we've certainly discussed this possibility previously. I'm pretty sure, of course, it's not really him. Most of the mobisodes are really about Jacob -- a point I'll revisit in a subsequent post. For now, let us take a moment to rejoice in the Christian Resurrection!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Star of Jacob

I've long been struck by the messianic overtones of Lost. I suspect, for example, that Dharma was trying to scientifically engineer a savior for humanity -- the Doctor Manhattan Project. I also speculate that the Others covet psychic children like Aaron and Walt for their messianic potential. Aaron seems particularly significant in this regard. He shares his name with the apocalyptic Messiah of Aaron predicted by the Dead Sea Scrolls. His lullaby -- Catch A Falling Star -- evokes the messianic Star of Jacob foretold in the Book of Numbers. That latter prophecy brings me to the other main point of this post. What if Aaron descends directly from the mysterious Jacob himself?

Let's begin with some background. One fascinating aspect of the Bible is the way New Testament accounts of Jesus take great care to depict him as the fulfillment of various Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. Among the most important of these messianic prophecies is the aforementioned "star out of Jacob," which finds New Testament parallel in the star over Bethlehem that signals the birth of Jesus. Whether by coincidence or design, Aaron Littleton (of Bethlehem) is also well positioned to fulfill some of the very same prophecies, particularly if he's the descendant of Jacob. So how might Aaron be related to this ghostly Island patriarch?

I've raised one possibility before in posts like Extinction or Evolution. Maybe Jacob now exists as bioelectromagnetic energy and can "possess" women who catch his eye (of the Island) thereby causing parthenogenetic pregnancies. Emily Locke was a liar and a mental patient, but she did claim that John (the Baptist) was immaculately conceived. Jin's shady mother couldn't say for certain who his daddy was, but she seemed pretty sure it wasn't the humble fisherman who actually raised him. Walt was reading a chapter on cuckoos, which lay their eggs in other birds' nests, and Ms. Klugh made a point of asking Michael if he was Walt's biological father.

Aaron may similarly be one of Jacob's immaculately conceived "children." If so, his case features an added element of the bizarre because he may simultaneously be Jacob's great-great-grandson. Just as the New Testament takes pains to trace Jesus' genealogy back to the Biblical patriarch Jacob, so too has Lost revealed some interesting details about the lineage of Aaron Littleton. We now know his mother Claire is the illegitimate daughter of Christian Shepard and thus the half-sister of Jack. It's certainly possible this connection was revealed purely for the dramatic twist, but I suspect they're building to something even bigger.

Jacob was a Shepard, and I don't mean he tended sheep. That could explain Jack Shepard's strong and immediate connection to the Island. I even wonder if Jack was actually the first survivor scanned by Smokey -- i.e., in the Pilot when he was separated from Charlie and Kate. I'm guessing that was also Jacob who led Jack to Adam and Eve's caves using Smokey. I can't shake the sense that Locke was Jacob's second choice after his great grandson proved too committed a man of science to mentor Baby Aaron appropriately. If Ben's comment about technology is indication, Jacob is a man of faith himself. It probably also helps that Locke is so amenable for coercion.

The messianic references highlighted herein are merely the foot of the four-toed colossus. I could go on and on about the significance of the fishes in the Swan Mural or the Horace/Horus pun. Instead, I'll close by posing a final chilling question for your consideration. The psychic Richard Malkin claimed that "great danger" surrounds Aaron and insisted that Claire's "goodness" must be an influence in the child's development. Many believe that Malkin was a faker, but I strongly disagree. Malkin makes me wonder whether these psychic children are innocent Chrysalids or sinister Midwich Cuckoos. Are they little saviors of the world or monsters who will end it?