Jacob and Ben: A history lesson

Elizabethmitchell_lost_240 So today I'm going to follow up on what we discussed yesterday: that a power struggle over the fate of Annie exists between Ben and Jacob. I'm not too terribly concerned with ascertaining Jacob's identity/existence just yet: too little is known about him at this point. Think about it this way: when you first learned of the Hatch in Season 1, did you consider the possibility of a multi-national corporation that paired up with a couple of University of Michigan scientists in order to break the tyranny of an equation that predicted the end of the world? Oh. You did? Really? Wow. You're good.

Point of the matter: the true identity of Jacob will probably be one of those mysteries that won't be revealed until the very end of the show. That is Season 6 material. I have an inkling, but that's all it is, an inkling. (It's a really long inkling, but an inkling all the same.) But let's for today focus on the relationship between Ben and Jacob, how Annie fits into it, and how she is responsible for Ben's ultimate downfall in Season 3.

From the time Ben met Richard Alpert beyond the sonic fence as a boy, he's enjoyed a keen relationship with the Island. The fact that he can hear the whispers in the jungle impresses Richard, and eventually vaults him to the head of the "Hostiles," a group that eventually merges with other people from the "real" world in order to form what we know on the show as the "Others." Ben's privileged relationship with the mysterious Jacob either aided in his ascension or merely allows him to maintain it; this much is unclear for now. All we know about Ben's relationship with Jacob on the show indicates the reverence the Others have for Jacob, despite their more than occasional unhappiness with Ben.

Indeed, the rift between Ben and the Others during Season 3 ties in directly with Ben's perceived disobedience towards Jacob. The more from Jacob's wishes that Ben deviates, the further he slips from a position of power. But let's do a little "what if" here and posit the start of this relationship. All of this is supposition, naturally, but I feel makes a compelling case that explains not only Ben's actions under Jacob, but the ultimate reason he splits with Jacob and aids his own downfall.

There's a large time gap yet explained in the show: the time between Ben's first meeting with Richard and The Purge. In that time, Ben more than likely snuck out on a regular basis, communing with the Hostiles/Natives, but also with the Island itself, in the form of Jacob. Jacob's goal is constant: self-preservation. Self-preservation for himself and the Island (if indeed the two are not mutually exclusive) are paramount at all times. One can easily imagine Ben as the latest in a long line of people not unlike the Knights Templar. But instead of being charged with the protection of the Holy Grail, they are charged with the protection of the Island.

Ben was all too happy to end the lives of the Dharma Initiative on one condition: Annie, the one person who treated Ben as a human being, would be spared. What Ben soon learned, however, after the Purge, was that procreation on the Island was impossible. Using the equipment located in The Staff, a CT scan was taken of Annie's womb. This CT scan showed something bizarre: what should have been a healthy womb showed signs of aging well beyond what should have been possible.

At this point, one of two things happened:

  • Ben cut a deal with Jacob to somehow put Annie in suspended animation, or in a slipstream of time, if Ben protected the Island from the invaders who would soon come to the Island
  • Ben cut a deal with Jacob to somehow resurrect Annie from her death due to pregnancy, if Ben protected the Island from the invaders who would soon come to the Island

The idea, in either case, was that Ben would essentially do what was necessary, no matter how odious, in order to protect the Island. In return, Jacob would return Annie back to life/back to health. And for a while, this arrangement went smoothly. Ben used Richard and others to recruit more Others, such as Mikhail. These recruits got the Room 23 treatment, thanks to Ben's ingenious use of Dharma Initiative facilities in order to further Jacob's agenda.

But at some point, Ben became impatient. He wanted Jacob to honor their agreement, only to be stonewalled. So perhaps he used Mikhail in order to monitor fertility research in the real world. Kept his ear to the ground, out of Jacob's sight. Finally, in the year we know as 2001, he discovered Juliet Burke. He sent Ethan Rom to Miami to monitor the situation more closely. And when satisfied that she was the person who could help Annie, he sent Richard Alpert to her with a CT scan: Annie's CT scan. No longer content with Jacob, he sought outside help to solve his problem.

Juliet's presence marked an enormous rift within the Others. It wasn't what she did that scared them so much as why Ben had brought her there in the first place. Childbirth is simply not in the gameplan for the Others, and Ben's insistence on introducing it into their society is seen as a breach of Jacob's will. The fact that Ben probably insisted that various women voluntarily get pregnant in order to save Annie's life further alienated him from the group.

At some point, Jacob got wind of Ben's efforts with Juliet. And believe you me, he was plenty steamin' mad. Mad enough to, say, allow Ben to develop a huge tumor on his spine. This tumor is analogous to Locke's temporary loss of legs in "Deus ex Machina": tests of their resolve by the Island presented in physical maladies. The sudden development of this tumor scares Ben, and hammers home his schism with Jacob. His goal from that point forth is balance: trying to keep on Jacob's good side while also manipulating both the Others and the Lostaways into enacting his dual plan of saving the Island and saving Annie (not necessarily in that order).

This tension not only forms the basis of the antagonistic relationship between the Lostaways and the Others, but between members of the Others themselves. There are those such as Ethan and Mikhail who blindly follow Ben's orders, but those such as Juliet, Pickett, Richard, and Tom who clearly disapprove of some of Ben's methods. Remember Tom berating Ethan for kidnapping and treating Claire at the end of her pregnancy? Tom's fear came from worrying whether Jacob would find out. Each child-centric action taken by Ben or one of his acolytes puts The Others in danger of losing Jacob's favor. While Ben is willing to take that risk, others are not, and soon find their potential new leader in the guise of John Locke.

Jacob, too, sees John as his new ally, forsaking Ben in the cabin and speaking to John without Ben being able to hear. The look of terror in Ben's eyes in "The Man Behind the Curtain" is the terror of a man who knows he may have lost the love of his life forever. His erratic, sloppy, violent behavior from that moment forward can be seen as him grasping as straws, desperately trying to hold onto his position of power and Annie's mortality while the Lostaways gain strength, Locke gains favor, and the freighter gains ground on the Island. Bloodied and beaten, his only course of action by the end is to feebly beg Jack to not contact the freighter, all too well versed in Jacob's doomsday scenario. 

And that's the scenario we will see unfold in Season 4. I can't wait.

Can you?

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.