A dash of manipulation? Check. A pinch of schemes? Check. A helping of lies? Check. These key ingredients usually make for a tasty Ben-centric episode, and “Lost” offered them in enticing amounts Tuesday night — along with a side of redemption.
It all kicks off on the island, where ghost whisperer Miles totally turns Ben in by telling Jacob’s protector Ilana — after she hands over a small bag that contains “what’s left of” the island’s dearly departed protector — that the former leader of The Others was the one who plunged the dagger into Jacob’s heart.
Oh those silly psychics! Who can believe anything they say? At least that’s what Ben tries to get Ilana to buy, even though the ploy is too stupidly desperate and transparent for someone as devious as Ben to resort to. Unfortunately for the suddenly bad actor, it turns out that the mysterious Jacob was the closest thing Ilana had to a dad.
And so, with a shackle around his ankle and a gun to his head at the beach graveyard, Ben starts digging his own amazingly perfect, rectangular grave with a large piece of bamboo shoot. (More unexplainable island physics?)
Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, he’s leading a sad and powerless life, teaching history at a cash-strapped public school and heating up organic non-Lean Cuisine turkey dinners for his invalid dad. After the principal forces him to miss History Club so he could keep an eye on those no-good kids in detention, who else should show up on his doorstep but his dead island daughter, Alex!
And hello! Island Alex was fairly cute, but give the girl a shower, clean clothes and that little thing high-school gals tend to think is a necessity — makeup — and you’ve got a full-blown L.A. hottie. OK, maybe that’s a little inappropriate, seeing as how her character is probably not of legal age, but it’s not nearly as questionable as a student showing up at her high-school teacher’s door after dark on a school night. But I digress.
Turns out she’s just desperate for some extra tutoring for her upcoming AP history test, and Ben is only too happy to oblige. So during an early morning tutoring session, Alex lets slip that the principal is a total pervert who’s bonking the nurse on school property. With that tidbit of juicy gossip, Ben convinces the science teacher, the unexploded version of Mr. Artz, to hack into the nurse’s school e-mail and print out incriminating evidence of the affair so he can start his power play to become principal and the run the school as he sees fit, an idea planted there by wheelchair-bound substitute, Locke.
Speaking of Locke (or UnLocke/Smokey/Man in Black), he comes to Ben as the man is literally digging his own grave and tells him how to get away from Ilana and join in the escape from the island. With Jacob no longer around to tell him what to do, Ben takes fake Locke’s advice and runs off into the jungle. Except, of course, Ilana’s on his tail and they end up having a heart-to-heart chat. (Kinda hard to do when you’re pointing guns at each other, but as we know, the impossible is possible in this joint.)
Ben chucks the evil master manipulator demeanor and pours out his soul, telling Ilana he knows how she feels because when he killed Jacob, he was full of raging anger. Anger that Jacob left in him because Ben sacrificed the most important thing in his life — Alex — to serve and protect the island. (Or is that the power to run the island?)
But devious Ben is in full force back in L.A., where he forces the sleazy married principal’s hand by demanding his resignation and recommendation for Linus to take his place. Except Mr. Principal wields a mighty weapon of his own: the ability to make or break Alex’s future, because without his recommendation, she won’t get into her dream school, Yale.
So in the parallel world, Ben — perhaps having learned his lesson in some unexplainable time-moving way — gives Alex the future he denied her on the island. And he proves Jacob may have been right about him all along.