Summary and Spoilers
It’s a credit to Michael Emerson’s acting and the Lost writers that despite all of the evil acts that Ben has performed or ordered, I’m still not sure if he is evil, or exactly how evil he is – or at least if he is more or less evil than Charles Whidmore. Since this is a Ben-centric episode, we get to see a lot more of his character – and yet, I’m still not sure.
In flashback, we find out that Richard brought Ben the boy to the Temple, where the island made the decision to heal him. The island could very well have decided to let him die – or kill him. When Whidmore hears that Richard spared the life of this Dharma boy, he is unhappy – but he cannot argue with decisions the island makes.
Later, we see Ben when he is a little older, perhaps in his early 20s. Whidmore has sent him on a mission with a young Ethan to eliminate Danielle. Whidmore considers her a threat to the island. But Whidmore hasn’t told Ben about Danielle’s baby Alex. Faced with killing a mother, Ben opts out, but he does bring back the baby. Back at camp, Whidmore tells him to kill the baby. Ben refuses and tells Whidmore to do it. Whidmore just walks away. Okay, they’re both equally evil there, quite willing to use a baby as a pawn in their struggle to prove which one of them knows more about what the island wants. In many ways, they are like high priests, trying to interpret the same scripture.
Still later, Ben is able to banish Whidmore from the island at gunpoint. He has won the power struggle and convinced everyone that he knows more about what the island wants. Where does Richard stand in all this? The ageless eyeliner-wearing one doesn’t seem to get involved in this power struggle, always remaining close to the top of the command structure.
And Ben was evil on the mainland. Remember how he showed up to return to the island with numerous serious bruises? He got them while attempting an eye-for-an-eye retribution for Whidmore killing his daughter. Ben is about to shoot Penny, when once again a child (Desmond and Penny’s son) makes him stop. Ben will do many things, but killing mothers doesn’t seem to be among them. This gives Desmond time to jump him, stop him, and seriously injure him.
Ben is plenty evil enough in the present, too. He’s obviously shocked to see that Locke is still alive, but he tells Locke that he knew it would happen – that the only reason he killed Locke was because he knew this would get everyone back to the island and bring Locke back to life. But Ben also tells Sun that he had no idea that Locke would be alive again, and that he is terrified by this. This second revelation seems closer to the truth.
Locke, for his part, is serene – indeed, almost god-like. For most people, if they got a chance to confront the person who tried to kill them, they would go for that eye-for-an-eye type retribution. Locke is actually confronting the man that did kill him, and all he wants is an apology. Ben won’t even give him that, but Locke wants something else – he’s pushing Ben to return to the main island to face judgement. Ben initially says he will be judged for turning the wheel, bringing everyone back, and returning to the island. But Locke figures out the real reason: Ben will be judged for allowing his daughter Alex to be killed.
Ben has convinced the gun-toting Caesar that Locke wasn’t on the plane and is deranged. So when Ben and Locke are about to take a boat to the island, Ben makes it sound like he is going against his will. Caesar is about to stop Locke from going, but Ben has stolen his gun – and shoots him in cold blood. It’s an over-the-top response that was not warranted – there was no indication by Caesar that he intended to kill Locke – he was probably just going to detain and question him. But Ben tells Locke that he has just saved his life – and he offers this as an apology.
Back on the main island, Ben and Locke find Sun and Frank. Frank tries to get Sun to return to the other island, but Sun sticks with Ben, hanging on the possibility of finding Jin. Frank returns to the other island amid turmoil. It seems that some of the passengers, led by Ilana, have found a cache of guns and are now running things a little differently. When Frank can’t answer the "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" question, he is knocked to the ground with the butt of a gun.
Ben, Locke, and Sun go to the temple. Sun waits while Ben and Locke crawl beneath the structure. Alone, in a roomful of hieroglyphics indicating that the smoke monster is thousands of years old, Ben is surrounded by gray fog and images of the conflict that was part of his relationship with Alex. When the smoke monster retreats, Alex appears. She doesn’t look like a ghost (perhaps she inhabits the real world or lives in another timeline). Roughly, she pins Ben against a pillar, tells him to discard his plan to kill Locke, and instead to follow every word and command Locke gives. If he doesn’t do this, she says, she will hunt him down and terrorize him. Ben agrees and seems – on the surface - to be truly humbled.
Richard: He's just a boy, and he was dying.
Charles: Then you should've let him die.
Richard: Jacob wanted it done. The island chooses who the Island chooses. You know that.
Caesar: How you feeling, my friend?
Ben: Like someone hit me with an oar, but I'll live. edit »
"Sun, I had no idea it would happen. I've seen this island do miraculous things. I've seen it heal the sick, but never once has it done anything like this. Dead is dead. You don't come back from that, not even here. So the fact that John Locke is walking around this Island... scares the living hell out of me."
Ben: You may want to go inside.
Ben: Because what's about to come out of that jungle is something I can't control.
[Locke walks out of the jungle]
Ben: May I ask you a question, John?
Ben: How is it that you know where you're going?
Locke: I just know.
Ben: I mean, how does that work, exactly?
Locke: How does what work?
Ben: The knowing. I mean, did it come upon you gradually, or did you wake up one morning suddenly understanding the mysteries of the universe?
Locke: You don't like this, do you?
Locke: Having to ask questions that you don't know the answers to, blindly following someone in the hopes that they'll lead you to whatever it is you're looking for.
Ben: No, John, I don't like it at all.
Locke: Well, now you know what it was like to be me.
Ben: I knew it. I knew that this would happen.
Locke: Then why are you so surprised to see me?
Ben: Because it's one thing to believe it, John. It's another thing to see it.
Locke: Do what you say you were on your way to do. Be judged.
Ben: That's not something you want to see, John.
Locke: If everything you've done has been in the best interest of the island, then I'm sure the monster will understand.
Locke: Well, Ben, I was hoping you and I could talk about the elephant in the room.
Ben: I assume you're referring to the fact that I killed you.
Locke: If all I had to do is die, Ben, then why did you stop me?
Ben: You had critical information that would have died with you - and once you've given it to me - well I just didn't have time to talk you back into hanging yourself.
"You're in the habit of calling people "friend," but I don't think you mean it."
- Locke: [to Caesar]