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Say what you want about this season - it's not spoon feeding the right amount of answers to you; it doesn't have enough action; you feel the flash sideways timeline so far uncompelling - but last night's episode... this is the reason I watch Lost.
Last night we had at least two really great scenes, but first, let's count the answers I found. What did you find?
Jacob's Touch: Out of the mouth of one who should know, we find out that Jacob's touch grants you the gift of life, and you can't even kill yourself. It was funny watching Richard be so careless with the dynamite and seeing Hurley freak out about it.
Let's note here, too, that Jack didn't know he had been touched by Jacob; he didn't know that was Jacob who handed him the candy bar. This is actually one of my favorite scenes of the episode. Watching Jack light that dynamite, and we're thinking, oh crap, this is how Richard bites it? But Jack sits there with him, just daring the stick of dynamite to go off. My wife and I laughed when it didn't and Jack said "You wanna try another stick"? Great to see that Jack has his faith and sense of purpose back. Interesting to note: Jack wouldn't have been able to kill himself with that pill of poison he swallowed, huh? But I suppose Dogen didn't know that at the time (or really wanted his pill back).
Ilana's Relationship with Jacob: He was 'like a father to me'. Note, not her father, but has been in her life like a father. Kind of like Alex and "Dr. Linus" in the FST, Ben watching over her like a father.
What's different in the FST: We got a glimpse into what was different in the FST from the original timeline. The bomb didn't obliterate the island or, at the very least, they didn't know about it. Ben's dad said that they should have stayed on the island and maybe their lives would have been better. So, whatever is the catalyst for the flashsideways timeline being different, Roger and Ben chose to leave at one point. So, either the bomb didn't obliterate/sink the island and they left some time after that, or events happened differently and they left before the Incident and so the FST is an extension of another time/event we don't know about. Admittedly, this hint gives us more questions than answers, but I'm sure we'll discover the answer soon, and I'm sure this will fuel the theories that think that this timeline is what exists after the end of the season on the island, but I'm hoping that's not the case.
Who's coming?: Charles Widmore, need I say more? Oh yes, I do. I hope he has Desmond and Penny in tow, as well.
Did Jacob Care?: Miles tells us, oh yes, he cared about Ben. He cared right up until the end, hoping he was wrong about Ben. So come on, can you really still say Jacob is a bad person? Okay, I know some of you will, but he cared. It's just for some reason, and elsewhere I've given my thoughts on it, he can't have a hands on approach with everyone, he can't save everyone. For example, Richard has lost faith, too, because supposedly, now that Jacob is dead and Jacob still hadn't told Richard his grand plan and purpose, his life was for nothing. But if Jacob had told Richard you can be sure things would have played out differently; Richard would have treated Ben and Locke and others differently. In order to play his helper role all these years he had to be left in the dark. Well, I'm sure he'll find out now, along with the rest of us, that his life really did mean something.
And the other really great scene was, of course, when Ben explained Ilana. And I didn't think this was contrived, either. He finally hit completely rock bottom, when his lies, manipulation, and silver tongue finally failed him in all respects, so he had nothing left but the truth, and he wanted someone to hear his story; I'm sure he would have settled for anyone.
It still brings a little tear to my eye when I remember him saying, in response to Ilana's question "Why are you going to him?", Ben said "Because he's the only one who will take me." Can you feel anything but pity for him? Ilana could see his repentance and tells him, "I'll take you." My wife and I cheered and clapped at this scene, literally. Ben finally redeemed himself. It will be great from here on out if we see, as I hope, a humbler Ben wanting to help others.
But that didn't change everything. At the end, when Jack, Hurley, and Richard stroll into camp, Ben is left standing all by himself to the right, still alone, but at least now accepted. I hope he finds a friend.
So now we have the two sides fully formed and gathered, well, save for the people in the submarine. How will the war proceed? At least the good guys have something going for them: Jacob seems to still have his plan going, and Ben knows where the other group has gone to.
One last thought, rewatching last week's episode, I'm buying more into the theory that MiB is a "genie" of some kind, which would explain why he couldn't kill Jacob. Genies have to obey their master and are under their command. That would explain why now that Jacob's dead, "he's free", and also why he seems to be granting people's wishes, though as an evil genie, you probably won't get quite what you thought you wished for. But then again, this is Lost, and his similarities to a genie could just be similarities, inspiration the writer's used. Let's wait and see.