3.20 “The Man Behind the Curtain”
Locke returns to the Others and demands Ben take him to see Jacob, but when Ben finally relents and agrees, their visit with Jacob leads to disastrous consequences. Back at camp, the survivors finally confront Jack about Juliet’s treachery. (Includes My Big Theory about Ben!)
|Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff & Drew Goddard
Directed by Bobby Roth
Benjamin Linus was not born on the island, as he claimed, but in a forest outside of Portland, on December 19th 1964. His father, Roger Linus, carried the two of them out of the woods and near a highway, where the three of them were found and rescued by a couple named Horace and Olivia Goodspeed. Ben’s mother Emily died giving birth to him, and Roger was destroyed by the loss of his wife.
In 1973, when Ben was eight years old, his father took a job offer from his friend Horace Goodspeed as a member of the Dharma Initiative, and the two of them were taken to the island on the same submarine that Locke recently destroyed. Ben wasn’t a very talkative child at the time, but he was intrigued by his new home. Ben and Roger were taken to an orientation building, and shown a welcome video featuring Dr. Marvin Candle. The video welcomed newcomers to the island and asked that they stay within the boundaries of the Barracks, for their own safety. While Roger checked in, discovering much to his chagrin that he had been assigned to janitorial duties, Ben was befriended by a girl his own age named Annie.
One day while Ben and Annie were at the elementary school built on the island for the children of Dharma members — which was taught by Olivia Goodspeed, Horace’s wife — they learned about volcanic reactions. Olivia pointed out that there’s a volcano on the island, and once a very long time ago, it erupted. Her lesson was interrupted when gunfire was heard in the distance and alarms began to sound. Olivia armed herself with a nearby rifle and ordered all of the children to take cover as a precaution. Annie tells Ben as they huddle together that it’s the Hostiles attacking. Later that night, Ben watched as Roger complained to Horace about being caught in the middle of the attack, and Horace explained that these Hostiles were natives to the island that the Dharma Initiative knew very little about. Ben retreated to his room but was startled to see his dead mother watching him from outside his window.
On his birthday, Annie gave young Ben a pair of figurines she’d carved and painted out of wood. Later that night, Ben found his father drunk and passed out on the couch in their home. Roger woke up and saw Annie’s present, realizing for the first time that it was Ben’s birthday. Roger drunkenly apologized for forgetting, but said that he found it hard to celebrate the day Ben killed his own mother. He was sorely embittered by the loss of his wife, the fact that he was stuck in a dead-end job on a remote island, and that the only person in his life was a son he couldn’t stand. Deeply hurt, Ben ran out into the night alone until he came close to the sonic fence. There, he heard Whispers coming out of the jungle, and suddenly his dead mother Emily appeared before him again. He tried to cross the fence to get to her, but she warned him to stop, saying that “It’s not time yet, Benjamin.” She turned and walked into the jungle, leaving him confused and upset.
The next day, Ben found the combination to the sonic fence and snuck out there to turn it off. He wandered into the jungle looking for his mother, but found someone else instead: Richard Alpert, looking the same age as he is in the present! Richard kindly offered to help Ben find what he was looking for, even though Ben knew that he was a Hostile, so Ben explained that he was trying to find his dead mother. Richard was stunned to hear that Ben had seen and talked to his mother even though she died giving birth to him; though he never said it, his expression and body language conveyed a suspicion that Ben was special to the island in some way because of this. Ben confessed to Richard that he hated his life and didn’t want to be part of the Dharma Initiative. He said he would rather join up with the Hostiles. Richard told him to think long and hard about it, to be certain that that was what he really wanted. He said it would take time and patience if it were to happen.
By 1992, a 28-year-old Ben worked a janitor for the Dharma Initiative, just like his father. It was his birthday again, and once more his father forgot. To make it up to him, an older and somewhat gentler Roger offered to take Ben out to a private spot so the two of them could share some beer and a little quality time together. Ben agreed, but when their Dharma van came to a stop high up on a lonely mesa, Ben quietly asked his father if he blamed him for his mother’s death. Roger evaded the question, but promised to do his best to remember Ben’s birthday next year. Ben looked at his watch, noting that it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and then pulled out a gas mask and a gas grenade from his bag. Saying goodbye to his father, he put on the mask and pulled the pin on the grenade. Roger died from the gas, and when it was over, Ben returned to the Barracks to find that every other member of the Dharma Initiative was dead from gas poisoning just like his father — including Horace Goodspeed. The Others emerged into the Barracks wearing their own gas masks, and Richard asked if they should retrieve Roger’s body. Ben, apparently now made the Others’ leader due to this victory on their behalf, replied that his father should just be left out there to rot.
Sawyer returns to the beach camp, flags down Sayid, and gives him the tape recorder that Locke gave to him, proving Juliet’s status as a double agent. The two of them search for Juliet, but she’s gone. Kate explains that Juliet left with Jack on a secret mission of some kind, right after she told them about Naomi. Sayid is angry that Kate told their secret, and tells Sawyer to play the tape for her.
That night, Sayid tells the entire camp about Naomi, and Sawyer plays the tape for them. Jack and Juliet return just then, and Jack demands to know where they got the tape from. Juliet tells them to turn over the tape and press play. Sawyer complies, and they all hear a newer recording from Ben, giving Juliet instructions on the Others’ plans to kidnap Sun and anyone else Juliet determines to be pregnant. She’s to mark their tents so the Others will know who to grab when they sneak into camp in the middle of the night. Juliet explains that after she saw Sun’s baby on the ultrasound, she told Jack everything about what Ben had sent her here to do. Jack tells everyone that he’s helped Juliet keep her secret so he would have time to formulate a workable plan, and that now, he has one.
Ben mentions to Richard that today is his birthday, just before Locke shows up in the Others camp, lugging his father’s body over his shoulder. He plants the body at Ben’s feet and tells him to start talking. Ben takes Locke inside his tent and explains to him that the Others and even Ben himself all answer to a man named Jacob. Locke asks to be taken to see Jacob, but Ben says no, insisting that Jacob will talk to no one but Ben. Ben claims to be one of the last members of the Others to have been born on the island, and this heritage gives him Jacob’s ear. Locke, growing tired of Ben’s games, calls him a liar and says he doesn’t believe this Jacob even exists.
Mikhail runs to the Others’ camp in a frantic state, and shouts for Ben. Ben is surprised to see him, pointing out that Mikhail had supposedly died at the sonic fence. Mikhail explained that the pylons weren’t set to a lethal level, so he was able to believably fake his death in front of the Oceanic survivors. He reports to Ben about Naomi Dorrit’s arrival on the island, and her freighter that’s parked eighty miles off the coast. Ben is deeply troubled by this news, and Mikhail insists that they return to the survivors’ camp to “deal with” Naomi. But Locke appears and announces that Ben can’t be troubled with that just now because the two of them are going to see Jacob. Ben’s hand has been forced by Locke, and he knows it, because his people look on with shock. Ben tries to forestall Locke’s visit to see Jacob, and Mikhail insults Locke’s very presence, pointing out that Locke was the one who tried to kill him. Locke violently attacks Mikhail, beating him to a bloody pulp. Ben calls out to Tom and Richard for help, but neither of them move a muscle. When Mikhail is satisfactorily knocked out, Ben has no choice but to agree to take Locke on his journey.
As Locke and Ben prepare for their hike, Alex stops by and gives Locke a pistol, which she says he’ll need if he’s visiting Jacob. She defiantly announces that this was her father’s birthday present. Later, as they are about to leave, Ben warns Locke that Jacob is not going to be happy that they’re intruding on him. He says that Jacob is not someone you just decide to go visit; Jacob is someone who summons those he wishes to see. Locke is undeterred, so they leave.
That night, they arrive at a ramshackle cabin in the jungle, surrounded by a circle on the ground made of what looks like gray volcanic ash. They step over it and walk to the tiny house, which Ben claims is where Jacob lives. Ben warns Locke that Jacob doesn’t like technology, so they leave their belongings outside before entering. Ben warily leads the way, but once they’re inside, Locke sees nothing but an empty chair where Ben insists that Jacob is sitting. Locke angrily accuses Ben of being insane, or of trying to trick him, but when he goes to leave, he hears a new voice say the words “Help me.” Locke thinks it was Ben, but when he turns on his flashlight to shine it in Ben’s face, Jacob is angered by the technology in his home. The house begins to shake, objects fly around the room, and for a split second, Locke sees the outline of a man with long hair sitting in the empty chair. Ben and Locke flee the house, and outside, Locke asks what just happened. It was Jacob, Ben replies.
The next morning, as Locke and Ben make their way back to the Others’ camp, Locke again asserts his opinion that Ben is a fraud, and that everything that happened last night was just a show on Ben’s part. Locke says he’s going to expose Ben to the Others as a fake, and Ben admits that some of the things he’s maintained to everyone around him aren’t true. He says he wasn’t actually born on the island, and before they return to the Others’ camp, he wants to show Locke where he really came from. Ben takes Locke to the site of a mass grave, where the bodies of every member of the Dharma Initiative were dumped after the Purge. Ben explains that he “did what he had to do” when it became clear that either the Dharma Initiative or the Others “had to go,” insinuating that he was directly responsible for the Purge. As Locke examines the huge hole filled with rotting corpses, Ben shoots him in the abdomen, and he falls in. Ben tells Locke he shot him because Locke heard Jacob speak to him, which makes Locke a threat to Ben’s leadership. He asks what Jacob said to Locke, and Locke tells him. Ben is severely unnerved by the words Locke utters, and then leaves Locke there to die.
- Benjamin Linus is a leftover from the Dharma Initiative, but he appears to be the only one. The rest of the Others have different origins.
Question: Is Jack right that the Others are leftovers from the Dharma Initiative? [3.01]
- Roger the corpse was Roger Linus, Ben’s father.
Question: Who was Roger the corpse? [3.10]
- The Dharma van was out in the jungle because after murdering his father, Ben ordered that it be left there as a final indignity to his father.
Question: Why was the Dharma van left out in the jungle? [3.10]
- The Dharma Initiative was massacred by the Others in 1992.
Question: What happened to bring the Dharma Initiative’s work on the island to an end, and when? [2.24]
- Ben Linus orchestrated a gas poisoning of them all as a means of revenge against his abusive father and a way to secure his future as leader of the Others.
Question: What happened during the Purge when the Others wiped out the Dharma Initiative? [3.11]
- What is Horace’s position in the Dharma Initiative?
- Why was Horace wearing a jumpsuit bearing the Arrow station’s logo? Does he work at that station?
- Where is the volcano that’s on the island?
- When in the past did the volcano erupt?
- Is the island’s volcano now dormant?
- Why was the Dharma Initiative at war with the Hostiles/Others, back when Ben was a child?
- Who or what was the Emily Linus we saw on the island, when she is known to be dead? Is she in the same state as Christian Shepherd, and other dead people who have been seen on the island?
- How old is Richard Alpert?
- Why doesn’t Richard age?
- Who exactly is Jacob, and how did he come to be on the island?
- Why doesn’t Jacob like technology?
- What became of Ben’s childhood friend Annie? Was she killed during the Purge, or had she left the island by then?
- How did the Others orchestrate the mass release of a poisonous gas on the island to kill every member of the Dharma Initiative?
- Why did the Others enact the Purge, which was nothing less than a massacre? What pushed the war between the Others and Dharma to such an extreme?
- Ben claimed to have masterminded the Purge. How did he convince the Others to go through with such a dark, horrific deed?
“The Man Behind the Curtain” is the first Ben-centric episode of the series.
So very different to look back on this episode now, knowing that everything that happened between Locke and Ben was all a lie on Ben’s part. All except for their encounter with “Jacob,” who we know assume was probably Jacob’s nemesis, instead.
Fans have long speculated that the boundary of ash around the cabin was meant to keep Jacob inside. It fits now that we know that the person trapped inside was never Jacob after all, but Jacob’s enemy. We have to assume that someone trapped him inside there at some point, but who and when remain to be revealed. In any case, I suspect that the words Locke heard as he escaped from the cabin, “Help me,” were in reference to this — the being inside the cabin was trapped there by the ash and wanted Locke (or anyone) to release him.
strong>My Big Theory about Ben: The Others are always on the lookout for people who are “special to the island” in some way. This goes beyond their lists and kidnappings and all that. The ones they define as special have a rare communion with the island, and are usually inducted as their leader. This is what happened to Ben, and what would later happen with Locke. Ben’s “special” status was derived from the fact that he could see and talk to his dead mother. (Locke’s was that the island had miraculously healed his broken spine.) But after Season 5, many (including myself) have speculated that Jacob’s nemesis and the smoke monster are the same entity taking different forms. We’ve seen the smoke monster take on the form of dead people before — such as Eko’s brother Yemi and Ben’s daughter Alex (and very possibly Christian Shephard) — and the fact that it only took on Locke’s form in Season 5 only after Locke had died, reinforces this theory. If this is true, then every time a dead person has manipulated someone into doing something, it’s all been in service of finding a way through the “loophole” so that he/it could kill Jacob. If Emily Linus was another instance of the smoke monster/Jacob’s nemesis taking on the form of someone dead, then it was almost certainly done to manipulate Ben into becoming one of the Others. Which could only mean that Ben was never meant to be an Other after all, since they are usually chosen by Jacob alone, via his lists. He was an unwitting plant, placed among the Others by Jacob’s nemesis, to serve his/its own purposes. Ben made for a malleable subject, thanks to his tragic, abusive childhood. It’s also worth pointing out the irony that Ben has spent most of his life exploiting the weaknesses of others and manipulating them to get what he wanted… when he himself was a victim of the same kind of exploitation and manipulation by Jacob’s nemesis. His entire life has been built on a lie. It’s no wonder he was never allowed to see or interact with Jacob; Jacob never chose him, and knew who Ben really had to thank for his place among the Others.