The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

Whatever Happened, Happened

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Lost season 5, episode 11

Dear N,

So what I desperately wanted to say earlier but couldn’t is that, now that we know that boy Ben survives, what does it mean about his whole character development that he remembers being betrayed and shot by Sayid!! Having watched him be battered around and verbally abused by his father we know he has some serious trauma issues. And then the one adult he thinks he can trust shoots him in the chest?! Not to mention, what does this mean about his relationship to the passengers of flight 815? Does the Ben we’ve always known know Sayid as his would-be-killer? Does this explain why he singles Sayid out to do his dirty work and why he is so certain that deep down, Sayid is a killer at heart? And what about Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and especially Juliet? The young Ben would have known all of them. Does this mean that the adult Ben we know has recognized them all along, even if he doesn’t understand the time-traveling meaning of it all? Does his crush on Juliet, his insistence that she come to the island and his romantic pursuit of her as an adult stem from his deep-seated thankfulness to her for saving his life, or out of the self-interested desire to get her to the island in the first place so that she can undergo the series of events we’ve been watching, such that she ends up back in time, ready and able to save him when he is shot? Talk about complicated motives! How would one account for all of one’s desires if one was actively trying to ensure that the past as you know it happens by manipulating the present and future?!

I know that Hurley asks this question explicitly – how come the grown up Ben doesn’t recognize Sayid? – which baffles Miles’ otherwise very cogent explanation of time travel I mean, cogent as these things go. It is still a confusing premise, but I definitely thought this conversation was meant to help sort things out for us. The fact that the one puzzling piece is Ben’s memory or seeming lack of memory of the Oceanic survivors seems significant. Richard is supposed to solve this problem for us, telling Sawyer and Kate that Ben won’t remember anything once he is given over to the Others. Still, I can’t help but wonder if he does remember. Or maybe he doesn’t remember consciously, but the knowledge is lurking there, tying them together over time. From my memory, none of this is cleared up this season, but I am going to pay attention as we move into season 6.

In other news, we learn what happened to Aaron. After a scare of losing him in a grocery store – and of watching him be led away by a Claire look-alike – Kate finally seems to accept the fact that Aaron doesn’t belong to her and that she has to go back to the island and find Claire. Or something like that. To be honest, I am not sure I buy or follow this line of reasoning. It seems like an excuse to take us back to a preoccupation of the series: the abandonment (or neglectful abuse) of children. Think of how often this theme comes up: Locke was abandoned by his mother, Jack was basically neglected/abandoned by his (same for Claire), Ben was abused by his dad and effected his own abandonment, Aaron was going to be given up by Claire, was left in the woods by her, and now has been abandoned by Kate, Kate herself came of age in an abusive home, Sawyer has abandoned his daughter Clementine, and even Sun has left her daughter without the promise of seeing her again. I can’t help but think that given our earlier discussion of the problems of reproduction, there is something going on here. Who children belong to and how they are raised is a central preoccupation of the show, even though it rarely reflects on it. Or maybe the bigger question is: what makes a parent and what do children owe their parents? I haven’t worked out a theory about this, but one thought that keeps crossing my mind is wondering if there is a connection here with the name Jacob as the mysterious, illusive island leader/prophet/god. Though not an abandoned child, Jacob, in the Hebrew Bible, is a birthright stealer who wrests the paternal blessing from his father by trickery, suggesting that things are not aright in the child/parent relations. Not to mention, he is the son of Isaac, the poster child for questionable behavior of parents toward children. If you have other thoughts or theories, I’d love to hear them!

I also loved the confrontation between Juliet and Jack. Coming on the heels of his confrontation with Sawyer and his argument with Kate, Jack is seeming like a real loser, or at least a deeply confused man. Kate tries to call him into the role of action man that Sawyer criticized earlier, and Jack won’t accept it. Except that he tries to play the hero by telling Juliet that he came back to save them. When she counters with the fantastic line “we didn’t need saving” Jack finally admits he is back for himself, because he thinks he has a purpose. So now Jack is like Locke from the early seasons: searching, confused, kind of pathetic. The question is, is Jack on the path to enlightenment like Locke, if that is indeed what is happening with Locke?

OK, I’m going on way too long. Now that the initial shock of Ben’s shooting has worn off and you know he is going to live, what are you thinking?!


Hey Kathryn,

Well, my friend, I am amazed by your restraint!  I love your reflections on Ben’s relation to just about everyone.  I have to admit, I was only wondering about Ben and Sayid, but hadn’t made the connections to all the others.  The line you draw between him and Juliet is certainly the most interesting one to me.  And I think I come down on agreeing with your latter interpretation – I really wonder if Ben even had a real crush on Juliet.  I think now that his crush might have been a fake cover for his attempt to keep her alive so that she could travel back to save him.  That crush was one of the more vulnerable moments we’ve ever seen with Ben, and it perhaps wasn’t even vulnerability but instead was carefully calculated self-protection.  That would be such a complex way of manipulating someone were it the case, and certainly something I wouldn’t put past Ben.

The exchange between Hurley and Miles was priceless.  I’ve just been waiting for one of the characters to make a ‘Back to the Future’ reference, and I just knew it would be Hurley.  All joking aside, for our generation, that movie really does shape much of our imagination in regards to time travel.  As Lost alludes to and plays with so many different myths – Western Enlightenment, ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman, and Indian, to name a few – it’s only fair that it should play with some of our more treasured pop culture ones too.  And, in truth, using ‘Back to the Future’ as the explanatory mechanism sure helped anchor that conversation for me and make some of the time travel make a little more sense.  When Hurley tripped up Miles with the question about Ben, he wasn’t just tripping up Miles, but was actually letting us all know where it’s at (another reason why I think Ben did remember the Oceanic 815ers, despite what Richard said, and which further complicates the coming Dharma massacre).

This episode played with themes of belief again in ways I found quite interesting.  Most significantly, we have Jack stating a belief in the island rather than his own skills when called on to operate on the young Ben.  Sure, it might be a bluff, but he really seemed to think that the island would save Ben (or at least do what it was going to do), and that was a real development for Jack.  He admits that maybe the island wants to fix things itself and he wonders if his own actions have simply been getting in the way.  I saw this as the context for that great scene you mention between him and Juliet.  Jack can actually accept her statement that they didn’t need saving and admit that he returned for his own mysterious purposes because he has realized that this whole thing is about the island, not him.  Talk about an unexpected giving up of his own power – that’s so not Jack, and it made him much more interesting to me in that moment.

Furthermore, I think Jack’s realization relates to Kate’s.  As you know, Jack and Kate get on my last nerve.  But I liked both of them in this episode.  First Jack has his own realization that he’s not the center of the universe.  And second, we have Kate admitting her own selfishness.  At first, I was frustrated at her when she admitted that she took Aaron for her own needs, not to care for him.  But then I realized that based on the situation in which the Oceanic 6 found themselves, she did what she had to do.  She had to take Aaron, and she had to lie about whose he was.  And so she didn’t need to admit the selfish motives that tainted her decision.  Like Jack taking a step towards some sort of enlightenment and responsibility for his own selfish motives, so too did Kate.  For the first time in a long time, and perhaps only for a moment, I liked them again.

And if we interpret Jack and Kate in this way, we can certainly tie in their paths to self-discovery to our interpretation of Ben – all of them, in their own ways, were revealing intensely complex knots of motivation for why they do the things they do.  An interesting theme to track alongside the kids/parents one, I think.

One more thing – did you notice how Richard notes that he doesn’t have to answer to Ellie and Charles as he takes Ben away to heal him?  Of course, we expect him to mention Charles, but I continue to wonder what the connection with Ellie is.  I’m continuing to track this Ellie/Eloise/Daniel Faraday possibility and hoping it will bring the return of Daniel real soon!

Ok, gotta keep going!



Read the entire Lost Season 5 conversation from start to finish.

Written by themothchase

January 20, 2010 at 7:53 am

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