This was a mind-bending episode the first time we saw it. The doctor from the fripeighter washes up dead on the beach with his throat slit. The phone rings in Locke’s house telling him code 14-J, an early warning meaning that someone from his people has been captured. And in a flash forward, Ben is lying on the ground in Tunisia, dressed in warm Dharma clothing. All at the beginning of the episode!
Before we know it the compound is under seige. Ben says that he and Locke need to go to Jacob together. Martin Keamy uses Alex to try to get Ben to come out to him. Ben says that Alex is just a oawn and means nothing to him, and Keamy shoots her. Ben is shocked, and angry. He says, “he changed the rules.” Then he goes into a secret room within his secret room, with hieroglyphics on it. Apparently he summons the smoke monster, which attacks Keamy’s men. Ben goes to Alex’s body and weeps.
In the future, Ben checks into a hotel under the name Dean Moriarty, saying it has been a while and he is a preferred guest. He also checks not just the date but the year. Then he sees Sayid on the news, saying that he just wants to bury his wife in peace. Ben goes to Tikrit in Iraq, to Nadia’s funeral. He tells Sayid he is there to find the man who killed Sayid’s wife. Ben manipulates him into killing the man, and when Ben says they should part ways, Sayid insists that it is his war too now.
We next see Ben in London, England. He uses a sleleton key to make the elevator go to the penthouse suite. He is there to see Charles Widmore. Charles asks if he is there to kill him, and Ben says, “We both know I can’t do that.” Charles tells him that he knows who and what Ben is, that everything he has he took from him. The island is his – it always was, it will be again. Ben says he will kill Widmore’s daughter Penelope.
Dan gets the phone working as a means to send morse code to the freighter. He asks what happened to the doctor. The message that comes back is, “What are you talking about, the doctor is fine?” Dan lies about it, but Bernard knows morse code. Jack confronts Dan and asks him if he ever planned on taking them off the island, and he says no.
The story of Charles and Ben, of which we get a glimpse in this episode, certainly fits nicely with the story about the past they would later tell us. And perhaps the latter actually helps make sense of the former.
Here we see most clearly that Ben and Charles both are laying a proprietary claim on the island. And yet both are allegedly supposed to be defending it – presumably from people just like the ones they themselves have become.
And so perhaps the covert actions of both Jacob and his brother are part of this. A kind of light-handed approach to interaction, as each tried to persuade the other than he was right.
Ben and Charles both seem, in this episode, to be making Jacob’s brother’s case, articulated in words borrowed from their adoptive mother, the island’s previous “protector”: “They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same.” And that, ironically, is precisely what Jacob and his brother end up doing, and presumably everyone who had preceded them.
There is a profound religious, spiritual, and moral message in this. We try to prove people wrong about something, and in the end become – through the very way we interact with them – precisely what we were trying to avoid.
It might be worth trying to watch all the flashes forward and flashbacks and time travel in chronological order, to see what happens.