This is a post that will give free reign to some probably ludicrous speculations about LOST. Feel free to read and to critique them.
Who is Ben’s man on the freighter? And why have they come here on a freighter rather than some other kind of ship? Michael, some have observed, could well be Ben’s man on the freighter. Walt is another option, since Michael genuinely seemed doubtful when Ben told him to follow a particular course and he’d “find rescue”, whereas Walt had been with the Others, was already on the boat hiding, and seems to be inspiring Locke to protect Ben from the newcomers. Plus Locke mentioned that Walt was taller – does that mean that Walt is a bit older now, and is thus rightly called Ben’s man on the boat? Or is it a future Walt that appeared to Locke? Perhaps neither of them is “Ben’s man”, since Ben would still need to have known where the freighter would be in order to send the boat in that direction. But Walt remains the most promising candidate: communications were being jammed, yet whoever was on the boat was able to pass information about the people on it to Ben, and so perhaps the method of communication was not a conventional electronic one.
Why recruit a ‘ghostbuster’ or spirit-talker for this mission? Does that give us some insight?
It was shown in the season premiere that Hurley saw Christian Shepherd in the cabin, where we would have expected Jacob. Are they one and the same? Let me offer another possibility. What if it was indeed Jacob, played by the actor who plays Christian Shepherd, but not because Jacob is Christian Shepherd, but because he looks like Christian Shepherd, his father? Jack is a nickname, and one obvious name for it to be a nickname for is Jacob. Christian Shepherd, just as an aside, then becomes Jacob’s father, and in the Bible, Jacob’s father was Isaac, who is often regarded as a type of Jesus because of the story of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac. (This is the speculation I feel has the least probability, since a figure dressed the same way as the ‘Christian Shepherd’ in the cabin was seen by Jack, and is the same one who refers to him as his son in “So It Begins”. Unless the time travel thing means he is his own father, but I’m not about to go there).
Finally, the gas masks. Someone involved in sending these four to the island knows about Ben, knows about the Purge, knows about the Dharma Initiative. There have been hints that we’ll see the scientist from the Dharma videos at some point, and so we should expect to learn of a connection between him and Matthew Abaddon.