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The Temple Others and Dharmaville residents form distinct factions
The factions were the two locations that The Others reside. There is a certain "dress code" that comes with living at the temple, you need to shun modern ways and clothing, this explains the way that Richard dress when initially meeting Ben. When Ben became leader, and some of The Others moved to Dharmaville they embraced the more modern way of living, as seen numerous times.
Good or evil?
See also: Crimes of the Islanders
|Action||Negative Rationales||Positive Rationales|
|Shot at Sun||To kill her||Self defense. Tom also didn't shoot her, he just shot at her, possibly to get her off the boat while still keeping her alive.|
|Stole sailboat||Deprive the survivors of a means to escape the Island||They needed another sailboat - perhaps to take Jack home, as they promised.|
|Kidnapped Alex||Wanted to experiment on her; populate their colony (perhaps they can't have children).||Save Alex from her mother, who had had just killed off rest of her team; protect child from illness for which there was limited medication.|
|Kidnapped Walt||Same as above||Save Walt from sure death at sea or explore his special powers to help other humans.|
|Kidnapped Claire.||Same as above; brainwash Claire before sending her back; a "Rosemary's Baby" scenario.||Inoculate Aaron from the sickness. Provide a better/safer environment for the baby to live, rather than the beach.|
|Shot Sawyer, blew up the raft.||Didn't want the castaways to leave the Island; disregard for human life. Figured the DHARMA shark would get them; or maybe this was a test of their shark's ability.||Protecting themselves (Sawyer was reaching for his gun); knew castaways would survive in the ocean and be brought back to the Island. Knew that shooting Sawyer in the shoulder wouldn't kill him.|
|Hanged Charlie and left him for dead.||Killed a witness to the kidnapping of Claire.||Perhaps the Others did not do this; someone else did. Charlie either has lost his memory, is pretending not to remember or is unconscious during the event. They may have known he wouldn't die, and just intended to send a warning. Also, Ethan may have done this without the Other's orders, or he may have been crazy while the other Others aren't.|
|Goodwin killed Nathan||Protect self from discovery.||Nathan is "not a good person". Nathan would've been tortured and possibly killed anyway.|
|Held Michael hostage. Possibly forced him to kill Ana Lucia.||Revenge for Ana's murder of two of theirs; freeing Ben.||Michael only killed Ana because he needed to seize an opportunity to liberate Ben without anyone knowing about it, meaning that he had to dispose of any witnesses. The Others did not specifically say to kill anyone.|
|Holding Jack, Kate, Sawyer hostage.||Intend to harm or kill them; Want remaining group to be leaderless. Possibly to get Kate pregnant so they could steal her baby.||Afraid these people will hurt them; want chance to convince them that they can all get along; want to explore their visions; want to integrate with them because they are "good people". The Others are helping Jack, Kate, and Sawyer sort out their problems through therapy, albeit by strange, but useful, methods. They figured that Kate would eventually get pregnant, and Juliet is a fertility doctor with access to medical facilities that are much more sanitary than the beach.|
|Ethan threatened to kill one of the survivors each day, carried out this threat on Scott||Wanted Claire, or at least her baby, at any cost.||Their plans for Claire and her baby may have been viewed as more important than the lives of the other survivors. Perhaps Ethan only planned to kill people who were not "good." Also, Ethan did not necessarily have orders from the Others to kill someone, and he may have gone crazy.|
|Gassed Kate, Jack and Sayid||To leave them to die||To give them a chance to escape|
- Given that we don't really know exactly what Ben is trying to protect or who the "bad guys" are, it would be hard to judge whether these actions are good or bad. Most would agree that some actions may be necessary to ensure the survival of you and yours.
"Ab Aeterno"'s DVD commentary states that Richard is the first "Other" as we know them, but there's no reason to think the people who built the egyptian monuments were all extinct at that point. The importance given by the Others to these monuments seem to indicate that the people Jacob brought to the island after Richard's arrival mixed with the Egyptians to become the Others.
Allegiance and purpose
Throughout Lost's timeline, we've seen many different people and groups with very different motivations, all being considered or involved with this group known as the Others. By definition, the Others are followers of Jacob, but different influences and events, primarily caused by the Man in Black and Ben Linus, have made the true motivations and identity of this group rather complicated and split. What is clear is that everyone on the Island was brought to it by Jacob for candidacy, and upon a arriving, a battle ensues between Jacob and the Man in Black to whom can gain the candidates loyalty, as suggested by their conversation in The Incident, Parts 1 & 2 and events of Ab Aeterno. In order to understand how it came to the complex split, we must look at the timeline.
Mother is guardian of the Island. She was likely chosen by her predecessor, it is unknown how she got to the Island, or if she was with anyone. Her sanity and paranoia suggests she has been alone a long time.
Brought to the Island by Mother through shipwreck. Mother kidnapped Claudia's two children, Jacob and the Man in Black, to be her replacements. When it became clear that the Man in Black did not want the responsibility of protecting the Island, Mother killed Claudia's people. Jacob becomes leader of the Island, his brother becomes a monster. The cork is placed, and the battle of allegiance begins, Jacob for a successor, the Man in Black for an escape.
Early civilisations and Egyptians
At some point in time, colonies of Mesopotamians and Egyptians were brought to the Island. They resided on the Island for some time, long enough to build the Statue of Taweret, what would become the Ruins and The Temple. They may have also been responsible for the shrine at the The Heart of the Island at Jacob's orders or their own worship. It is clear from events in Dead Is Dead that the Man in Black was successful in eventually getting the Egyptians to worship him, posing as a God, but for whatever reason, the Egyptians did not live long enough for him to carry out his plan. Jacob may have had them under his lead for at least some time, due to him making his home at the base of the statue.
The Black Rock
Jacob's first success came in the form of Richard Alpert after many other attempts failed after the Egyptians. We see this battle for his allegiance take place directly in Ab Aeterno. Richard becomes the first Other, as Jacob decides to change his tactics.
By the 1950's, Jacob has collected a small group of followers that remained loyal to him, led by Richard. Charles Widmore was one of these. There seems to be no indication the the Man in Black had begun any manipulation at this stage other than through a time-travelling Locke. The American Army was brought to the Island by Jacob, as it is known at least three of them were Candidates, but they quickly posed a threat to the Island with Hydrogen Bomb testing. It is unknown who gave the order to exterminate them, Richard in desire to protect the Island, or Jacob himself, but it is likely to be the former. Charles Widmore and Eloise Hawking took over from Richard as leaders after this.
DHARMA Initiative were unknowingly brought to the Island by Jacob, but soon proved troublesome with their experiments and desire to harness the Island's power. The Others now were known as Hostiles to DHARMA, and were still following Jacob. It is known they were living in the Temple due to their clothes and the healing of a young Ben Linus, this is perhaps around when Dogen had been recruited. Richard or Charles formed a truce with DHARMA, but ultimately plotted to purge them all once it became clear that they threatened the Island with their drilling and experiments. Richard's method to do this was to recruit Ben Linus from a young age, taking advantage of his membership with DHARMA. However, one night Ben saw his deceased mother, which visibly worried Richard as he knew what this meant. The Man in Black had begun his manipulation, targeting Benjamin Linus. When Ben was an adult, the purge took place.
Danielle Rousseau's team
The Man in Black, in the form of the monster, quickly attempted to kill, infect or pose as members of the French team, presumably in an unexplained attempt to leave the Island. Only Danielle stood as resistance. One Widmore learned of what happened, he sent Ben and a young Ethan to kill Danielle, perhaps fearing she had been possessed by the Man in Black. Alex was kidnapped, Ben spared Alex, and shortly after Widmore was banished from the Island for his affair.
Ben assumed leadership from a banished Widmore, and eventually recruited others from civilisation, giving birth to the modern Others the survivors of Oceanic 815 encountered. Allowing Ben as a leader would soon prove to be a mistake, for one of two reasons. Either, first it was now that The Man in Black, previously watching Ben, sprang into action and took advantage of the situation. He began posing as Jacob, and created the illusion his form as the monster was able to be summoned, and used this to manipulate Ben in various ways, such as kidnapping Walt, kidnapping survivors, preparing John Locke as a vessel for him, and getting Ben to ultimately kill Jacob. It is under the Man in Black's manipulation that the Others seem so antagonistic to the survivors, though the Others, especially Ben, are unaware and think they are doing the work of Jacob. The second is that the true Jacob was still in control, and it was his will for certain candidates to be apprehended such as Walt or Jack, as they did prove to be instrumental Jacob's plan, but of course, like with Widmore, or every Other leader before Ben, Ben's personal interests and concerns, his tumour, his insecurities, his manipulative nature, manifested themselves. Jacob's fairly innocent will was turned antagonistic by Ben's own style of leadership.
The Temple Others
However the Temple others are an exception. They live a life of solitude and are presumably mostly made up of Widmore-recruited Others. They seem to be outside the influence of the Man in Black, with the ash protecting them. They only become involved when the Survivors visit them, and are promptly murdered by the Man in Black. It seems throughout Lost, they were always loyal to the true Jacob, but their life of solitude prevented them from intervening with the manipulation of the other faction, or the survivors, until it all came to them with disastrous consequences.
Off Island Others
Off Island ex-Others
A banished Widmore, alongside Eloise Hawking, and potentially Matthew Abaddon, Peter Avellino, The Economist and others were still loyal to Jacob, and knew of the Man in Black. Widmore desperately tried to find the Island again and prevent anyone else finding it, fearful of the consequences of failing to do either. Though his intentions were good, his selfish execution and determination made him appear antagonistic to the perspective of the survivors, who to an extent had been manipulated by Ben. Widmore recruited The Kahana team, and potentially Henry Gale as methods for finding the Island and taking it back. Due to the Man in Black's influence, Widmore failed and most of his associates were murdered under Ben's orders. Eloise Hawking seemed to working with Ben, what with her position at The Lamp Post and hatred for Widmore, yet presumably she was unaware of the Man in Black's resurgence, or merely her interests and responsibilities were now only needed off-Island, thus she did not concern herself.
Hand picked by Jacob and led by Ilana and Bram, these would get to the Island through Jacob's influence, but unknowingly bring the Man in Black, in Locke's form, to Jacob directly, resulting in his murder. As a team, they were unsuccessful.
The pre-Ben history of the Others is fairly straightforward. It only becomes more confusing when Ben becomes involved because of the complicated and sometimes contradictory actions the Others seem to perform in his leadership. It seems likely that the Man in Black did have some influence over Ben in some shape or form however, because that helps to explain mysterious things the Others do that don't immediately make sense in the overall context as established by the pre-purge history of the group. Examples being the emphasis on John Locke being fooled into believing he was special amongst the Others and in general (leading to his death and 'possession') and the commandeering of The Cabin, amongst others. Ben's own interests however do play a large part in the nature and actions of the Others during the survivors tenure on the Island. It is wrong to think that it's exclusively the decisions of Jacob, Richard and Ben, or exclusively manipulation from the Man in Black that result in what we see, but an intricate combination of the two that's difficult to pinpoint where one ends and the other begins.