'Lost': Course Corrections for 'Dr. Linus'

terry-oquinn-lost-0309-320.jpgThere's not been a lot of dissension in terms of opinion about the latest episode of " Lost." By and large, Zap2it readers seems to have loved it, and even those that didn't quite feel it didn't have the disdain they have had for previous episodes such as "What Kate Does" and "Sundown." But that doesn't mean that there's nothing to talk about concerning this episode. And that's why I'm here with this week's edition of " Course Corrections."
 
As always, this series is my attempt to amend, augment, or append my initial recap. Those suckers are long, written in the immediate aftermath of exposure to the episode, and usually take me late into the night to finish. By the time I post those, I'm sweatier than Ben after a day of grave digging (metaphorically speaking). So I enjoy the chance to soak in the episode a bit more, read up on reader comments, and look at the episode anew a little later on. So, as always, here are eight more things about "Dr. Linus."
 
***
 
Smocke's potential "take-over" of Sideways Locke put two interesting ideas into play in the "Lost" universe: one old, one new. First, the new: since the start of the season, I've suggested that there's an energy being passed between the two timelines. It's not unidirectional. But until last night, I never considered that this energy could be anything other than positive. With Locke's subtle suggestion that Sideways Ben angle for the principal position, I think we saw the first concrete instance of NEGATIVE energy flowing from one timeline to the other. Does this mean that Sideways Locke=Smocke? I don't think it's that simple. But if indeed this timeline is at least partly a byproduct of Smocke's leaving the Island, then he may have a failsafe or two in place over there to keep things "as is." I've hinted before that Hurley's good fortune MIGHT be a Smocke-provided luxury, itself something nominally positive but under the surface evil. But only in "Dr. Linus" have we seen such an event so literally presented onscreen.
 
***
 
Now, for the "old": with all the downloaded info about Jacob's Touch providing a type of invulnerability, I couldn't help but think of the dearly departed Michael Dawson. But not just for all his attempted suicides off-Island. No, I thought more about his conversation with Ben aboard the Kahana, a conversation that played out in interesting ways last night:
 
BEN: When I'm at war, I'll do what I need to do to win, but I will not kill innocent people.
 
MICHAEL: Ana Lucia and Libby... they were innocent.
 
BEN: You killed them, Michael. No one asked you to.
 
First of all, buuuurrrrnnnn. Secondly, this conversation highlights something currently in play in the "Lost" universe more than ever: personal actions that are attributed to fate, destiny, or some other higher power that in fact have no derivation in anything else other than personal choice. Free will still rules in the "Lost" universe, even if Jacob occasionally gives a candidate a push now and then. In both the Island and sideways timeline, Ben is presented with a choice. And the mere fact that he recognizes it AS a choice is a huge step forward. Assigning personal agency over the vagaries of "fate" is the first step towards stripping both Jacob and The Man in Black of their power. Somewhere, Jacob is smiling. And Smocke is sneering.
 
***
 
Speaking of energy passed back and forth, my friend wrote me this morning to point out that I ignored one way in which the energy could have worked last night. Rather than assuming the experience with Sideways Alex directly influenced his encounter with Ilana in the jungle at episode's end, it could be the latter than informed the former. To which I say: yes, and had I been semi-conscious when wrapping up the recap, I would have counted this as a possibility. I'm generally indifferent in which order this sequence happened, so long as it accounts for both timelines having an effect on the other. So long as that stays in play, I'm a happy, albeit tired, camper.
 
***
 
One nice thing about making Ben's sideways choice nominally innocuous is how it speaks to the benign nature of the inception of evil. I know I make a lot of "Lord of the Rings" references, but look: I run a "Lost" blog. You already knew I was a nerd. But as Ben pawed at Reynolds' nameplate, I thought to Gandalf tempted by the Ring in Hobbiton upon Frodo's offer to him: "Understand, Frodo. I would use this ring from a desire to do good... But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine." In that ellipsis, Gandalf nearly succumbs to the temptation, but then backs away from the precipice. The old lesson remains: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Evil doesn't always manifest itself in grand gestures. Just read Stephen King's latest novel "Under the Dome" to see the tyranny in small-town America.
 
***
 
Your homework assignment (and mine) between now and next week's episode: rewatch "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham." Specifically, watch all things Widmore. Since this is "Lost," two scenarios are equally plausible: he sent Locke back intentionally to unleash Smocke, or was an unwitting pawn in a larger game he's now trying to amend off-shore while avoiding both mega-sharks and/or giant octopi. (Sorry, the periscope shot made me giggle, and not in the good way.) Watch the ep, come back, and tell me which scenario seems most plausible. Ben seems on the road to redemption: could Widmore be far behind?
 
***
 
In light of this week's episode, I think it's time to revisit two essays from September, in which I looked at Richard's possible death wish. Part 1 is here, and Part 2 is here. I'm not pointing this out to puff out my chest and say, "I told you so!" But I still think it's worth a second look, both for what has held up and what has been punctured by the events on the show so far. Biggest update/amendment I'd make? Suggesting Richard made a bargain for everlasting life. Clearly, Jacob's gift isn't something you can ask for. It's given to you, whether you like it or not. (Emphasis on the "not" in Richard's case lately.)
 
***
 
An aspect of the sideways timeline that I haven't given NEARLY enough time to: a generation of people passing on something positive, not negative, the one after it. Back in 2008, I came up with my "Sins of the Father" theory for the show, which essentially boils down to "Lost" as we know it being comprised of people that had been failed by their parents. No real "Greatest Generation" in the "Lost" world: just a steady stream of disappointment and passing the buck and the bill onto their kids. But in the sideways universe, we've seen at least two concrete examples of "Lost" characters adding something to the younger generation: Jack giving his son the love his own father didn't, and Ben giving Alex the chance to succeed at the expense of his own ambition to be more than he is. All part of Jacob's progress, and only possible by introducing this sideways timeline. Just brilliant.
 
***
 
OK, my favorite part of these "Course Corrections": your weekly "Lost" mixtape! For Ben: Peter Gabriel's "Digging in the Dirt," Bloc Party's "Price of Gas," Oasis' "Don't Look Back in Anger," and Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone." For Ilana: George Michael's "Father Figure" and Kansas' "Dust in the Wind." For Miles: Notorious B.I.G.'s "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" seems appropriate. I'm sure Principal Reynolds listens to A Perfect Circle's "The Nurse Who Loved Me" on the way home from work. While walking back to the beach, I'm sure Jack Shephard hummed AC/DC's "T.N.T." when not whistling The Beatles' "Get Back." Richard Alpert couldn't hear him, what with The Hives' "Die, All Right!" in his brain, and Hurley was too busy thinking about Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Run Through the Jungle" after his sprint from the Black Rock.
 
***
 
Those are my thoughts 48 hours after "Dr. Linus": what are some of yours? Leave them below!
 
Ryan invites you to join the hundreds already in Zap2It's Guide to Lost Facebook group.

Photo credit: ABC