Lost season 3 episode 20: Jacob may not have a ladder, but he does have a chair

So you thought the island was a strange place? It just got a hell of a lot weirder.

Ben and Locke: Everything I just told you was a lie- and what I just said was a lie too
Having taken Ben’s words to heart, Locke returns to the Others’ camp with the body of his father- and this time, he wants some answers. In response, Ben tells him that he is not actually the one in charge on the island- he answers to a man named Jacob. When Ben reveals that no one else has met Jacob, however, Locke tells him that it is clearly just a ruse to maintain control over the Others, before forcing Ben’s hand by publicly claiming that he has agreed to take Locke to see Jacob.

Although Ben is none too happy to defy the usual rule of Jacob summoning him by dropping in unannounced, he ends up going along with Locke’s plan, and the two traipse through the jungle to a secluded hut. Once inside, Ben introduces Locke to Jacob, but to all intents and purposes, he seems to be talking to an empty chair. Laughing, Locke tells Ben that he is delusional, but before he leaves, his conviction is shaken by a mysterious poltergeist-like phenomenon, along with a ghostly voice saying “Help me…”.

On their way back, Locke still outwardly refuses to accept the existence of Jacob, whilst Ben decides to show him just one more thing- a mass grave filled with skeletons. Ben tells Locke that this is where he really came from- rather than being born on the island as he claimed, these were the people who brought him here. Only he was smart enough not to end up in that grave, and if Locke also wants to avoid becoming one of those skeletons, he must tell Ben what Jacob said to him. After getting pushed into the grave and being threatened by Ben, Locke reveals the fateful words spoken by the unseen voice…

On the beach: Trust issues continued
As Sawyer starts playing Juliet’s recording to the other named characters, it seems to justify the general suspicion of her, but just as the case against Juliet seems irrefutable, she and Jack show up to provide a defence. Juliet has Sawyer turn over the tape, revealing a recording in which Ben informs Juliet about a planned raid to take all the pregnant women. Juliet says that her time spent with Jack has been to tell him about this plan- and now they must prepare for the upcoming attack…

Flashback: An overview of Ben’s past
As he finally reveals in this episode, Ben was not born on the island- in fact he was born in Portland, and his premature birth by the side of the road also ended up killing his mother.

Some years later, young Ben accompanies his father to the island, where he hopes to get a job with the Dharma Initiative. He isn’t too pleased to be assigned ‘workman’ (aka janitor) status, but since it is a paying job, he stays on. Ben, meanwhile, attends the local school, but the idyllic Dharma village is periodically attacked by ‘hostiles’, and a powerful sonar barrier is placed around the perimeter to keep them out.

For Ben, his life with Dharma is not a happy one- his father is a barely attentive parent, and one drunken night he even blames Ben for causing his mother’s death. When he sees his mother outside the perimeter, Ben longs to go out there, but she tells him it is not yet time.

In due course, however, Ben ends up meeting one of the ‘hostiles’, who seems to be the same Richard who talked to both Locke and Juliet. Ben wants to go with him, but Richard tells him to be patient. And indeed, it is only many years later when Ben is a grown man that the time comes, and after Ben has a final heart-to-heart talk with his father, he participates in a scheme to gas the Dharma people to death. Now, Ben is ready to begin his new life with the Others…

Observations and Speculation

  • We now know the truth about Ben’s origins, as well as confirming the conflict between Dharma scientists and indigenous people, as previously mentioned by Mikhail and theorised about here. Several questions remain, however, such as the origin of the island civilisation pre-Dharma, and how Ben rose to be their leader.
  • Just what exactly is the mysterious Jacob that Ben communicates with? It certainly seems to have presence and consciousness- is it the mind of the island, or some sort of rogue AI? If this is all a game, is it the Dungeon Master who needs help bringing his own players under control?
  • Is Juliet truly supporting the camp now? She does seem to hate Ben, but what if this is a complex triple bluff?
  • Ben was born in Portland- this is the place that Juliet initially expected to go to when she chose to work with them.
  • Since Ben saw his mother beyond the barrier, was it meant to separate the planes of living and dead? Certainly dead people seem to move around on the island, but is everyone on the island dead? Are they just ‘ghosts’ in the gaming system?
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