A LOST theory in the wake of “This Place is Death”

Posted by on February 14, 2009 at 7:09 pm.

In the wake of the most recent episode of LOST entitled “This Place is Death” (Season 5, episode 5), an idea occurred to me while listening to the recap of the show on the most recent Jay & Jack LOST Podcast.  Because all of what follows assumes that the reader has seen all the episodes up to this point and would thus contain SPOILERS for those who have not caught up, I will place the bulk of the post below the fold.

The impetus for my theory comes from Ben’s remark toward the end of “This Place is Death” where he is driving with Sun and Jack and he, in good Ben-fashion, has a hissy-fit, stops the van, and says, “What I am doing is helping you.  And if you had any idea what I’ve been doing to keep you safe, to keep your friends safe, you’d never stop thanking me!”

If you recall, at the beginning of Season 4, Sayid is working with Ben as his hitman, killing various people: Mr Avellino on the golf course, and Elsa in “The Economist” who was working for Widmore, plus who knows how many others at Ben’s whim.  So, it is probably not much of a stretch at all to link these events, and it was probably the intention of the writers to make us recall the events from Season 4 with Ben’s remark.

The new bit of information that we now have, however, is that Ben is working with Eloise Hawking, who we first saw in season 3 in “Flashes Before Your Eyes” (incidentally, this was first aired exactly two years ago today of the writing of this post, on Valentines Day 2007).  This episode centers around what happens to Desmond immediately after he turns the key in the final episode of Season 2.  He flashes back to various times, and at one point meets Ms. Hawking at a ring shop where Desmond is shopping for an engagement ring for Penny.  She convinces Desmond not to buy the ring or else a series of events will not take place.  Soon thereafter, Ms. Hawking explains that a man who was wearing red sneakers was killed by a scaffolding because it was his fate.  If she were to warn him about the collapsing scaffolding, he would have been killed another way.  Ms. Hawking explains that the universe has a way of “course correcting” itself so that things eventually work themselves out in a set fashion.  We see this logic unfold throughout the remainder of Season 3 with regards to Charlie’s eventual death in the final episode, even though Desmond did everything he could to prevent Charlie’s fateful demise.

With this in mind, I now have to wonder, is Benjamin Linus trying to “cheat” the fate of the universe?  My theory is that Ben was using Sayid in an attempt to do such a thing.  We also know that Ben’s aims in Season 4 have to do with DHARMA and Ben’s rivalry with Charles Widmore, but these things may not necessarily be that different, viz., perhaps the ‘universe’ wants Widmore to succeed?  Perhaps Benjamin was using Eloise Hawking to make her fancy calculations in an effort to actually escape the actual fate of the island so that Ben could bend the unfolding of events to his usual selfish motives?

The writer/producer Damon Lindelof has talked about Ms. Hawking as a kind of “temporal police[wo]man.”  But then what are her motives?  If her motives are just to police the universe’s temporality, then what about her son, which we all assume now to be Daniel “George McFly” Faraday.  But it seems that up until this point, it would seem that her assumption is that her son may be missing, dead, or stuck in time loops on the island, which is why Faraday had to bother Desmond in the very first episode of Season 5 (“Because You Left“) to tell him to find his mother … but the time-shift happens so we do not know what it was Desmond was supposed to do exactly.  Do Faraday and his mother share similar motives?

Either way, my guess it that whatever Ms. Hawking’s motives are, Ben Linus’ motives most likely do not square up with hers, because we always know that Ben ultimately operates in his own self-interest.  Even Christian Shepherd (is this Jacob?) asks Locke, “Since when did listening to him [Ben] get you anywhere worth a damn?”

Clearly, there are still a lot of holes, or at least variables not yet known here, but my theory boils down to: Ben, working with Ms. Hawking, knows what the fate of the island is, and Ben is most  likely trying to subvert the plan of the ‘universe’ for his own misguided ends.

My friend and colleague Jeff reminded me of a big unanswered question that, if answered, would shed an incredible light on this theory: what ultimately happened to Sayid’s relationship to Ben?  What led to Sayid telling Hurley, “Whatever Ben tells you to do, you do the opposite”?

Perhaps the decisive cunning of Ben is that he actually knows how things will ultimately turn out, but he’s clever and wicked enough to devise ways for the outcomes to finally be the same while causing events along the way to maximize his own benefit and desires.  If this is the case, it would make sense of the increasing ambiguity of whether Ben is actually doing things for an ultimate ‘good’, even though the way in which he does it is always deceptive.

Will Desmond be the ultimate key to undoing Ben’s plans?  Faraday said that the “rules” do not apply to him and that he is “miraculously” unique.