So, due to some personal projects I needed to complete, I had to delay this week's "Lost" recap. Which is a shame, because last night's episode, "Dead is Dead," was probably the season's best yet. It was like a sort of greatest hits; a potpourri of all the things I like best about "Lost." It had showcase moments for my two favorite cast members, Michael Emerson and Terry O'Quinn. It had a little more insight into the nature of the smoke monster. It had glimpses of Alex, perhaps the only character to bring out Ben's humanity. And it, thank God, finally let us know that the Hume family is OK, despite Ben's "promise" to Charles.
It was so unbelievably awesome, I don't even know where to start. How about the beginning?
* Not to brag, but I totally called that the man who rode up on the horse at the start of the episode was a young Charles Widmore. I don't know how I recognized him, because he didn't look like the teenage Widmore we saw earlier, nor does he really resemble Alan Dale, who plays old Charles. In fact, he looked like a reject from a Lord of the Rings movie. But I figured it had to be Charles. It was the only choice that made sense, given his disdain for Richard bringing little Ben into the camp. Also, there was the small matter of the accent. Dude didn't look like Widmore, but he sure sounded like him.
* This moment, by the way, was a nice start to an episode that gave us tantalizing hints about the relationship between Widmore and Ben. Despite his reluctance to have Ben in the camp, Charles is kind to the boy. How does their relationship become so acrimonious? Did it start with Ben's refusal to kill Alex? Did it start earlier? Did Widmore harbor the kind of jealousy toward Ben that Ben has for Locke? What's up with these guys, anyway?
* And, speaking of Locke, I don't always love when "Lost" repeats moments from previous episodes, but I can never watch that Ben-Locke "welcome back to the land of the living" moment too many times. The "holy crapballs" look on Michael Emerson's face, and the smooth serenity of Terry O'Quinn's voice are just perfect. Then, this episode builds on the moment, by that brilliant exchange in which Ben tells John that he knew he'd come back to life, and John calls him on it, pointing out how surprised Ben looks. "Surprised" being a euphemism for "incontinent." Ben then tells John that believing something and seeing it happen are two different things. Fair enough. But we can tell John doesn't believe him. Neither do we.
* John's obviously right not to believe Ben because, within moments Ben is manipulating Cesar into believing that John is a murderous island native. Poor Cesar. The moment he shook Ben's hand, you kind of knew he was a dead man.
* Back to the John-Ben dynamic. I really loved the evolution of that relationship throughout this episode. Previously, John's been somewhat deferential to Ben. Before dying, John was so eager to be "special" that he allowed himself to be manipulated by Ben so easily. But that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. Resurrection John is more confident. He has no far of calling BS on Ben's story about seeking judgment from Smoky about breaking the rules, guessing that the journey is really about letting Alex die. John also leads the way to the smoke monster, and rescues Ben from the temple pit after the moment of Smoky reckoning. John's coming into his own now, and Ben knows it. That's why he's plotting to kill John until the vision of Alex appears to him and warns against it.
* So, we get a clearer idea of how one summons Smoky -- and it looks like the same process one uses to unclog a drain. A little disappointing. But that cave is creepy. A lot of bloggers have mused on the etchings on the walls. I don't know enough to get into it my self, but I'll direct you to "Lost" guru Nikki Stafford's blog.
* Ok, I almost pulled a Ben-seeing-undead-Locke when Ben shot Desmond down at the pier. We knew Ben was gunning for Penny, but to see him striding toward his enemy's daughter only to be surprised by Desmond was a nice little shock. Ben's taunting of Charles was also suitably creepy. The whole sequence, broken up though it was, was just really unsettling. When Ben confronts a terrified Penny, and apologizes for involving her in the vendetta, it made my stomach roil. Yet there was a nice turn when Ben sees little Charlie, and can't go through with his murder of Penny.
* Speaking of which, this episode gives us a nice little wrinkle in the Ben Linus character. Turns out that this liar, manipulator and murderer has a soft spot for mothers and children. He can't kill baby Alex, or murder Penny in front of her little boy. He even spares Danielle, the mom of his stolen daughter, and tells her to avoid the whispers that signal the coming of Smoky. Why this sympathy for moms and kids? Maybe it has to do with the death of his own mom. Quite possibly, he attributes all his suffering to his mother's death while giving birth to him, and wishes not to bring the same pain upon other kids.
* By the way, the name of Pen and Des's boat is Our Mutual Friend -- named after the insufferably long (and somewhat boring) Charles Dickens novel that Des said he wanted to be the last book he ever read.
* This episode was clearly an emotional one. There was the revelation that Ben truly loved Alex, and felt great guilt over her death. There was that Smoky slideshow of the key events in Ben's relationship with Alex. There was the reunion of Locke and his murder; the tense moment with the Humes; the confrontation between Ben and ghost Alex. Yet this was maybe the funniest episode not to future Hurley. It was packed with great lines. For instance:
-Locke: I was hoping you and I could talk about the elephant in the room.
-Ben: I assume that you're referring to the fact that I killed you.
Or, after Locke complains that the smoke monster is slow to turn up after Ben's summoning:
-Ben: It's not a train, John. It doesn't run on a schedule.
Or this, from Lapidus, after John tells he and Sun that there's a reason that everything's happening:
- As long as the dead guy says there's a reason I guess everything's going to be just peachy.
*Ok, we need to discuss the weird aesthetic choices being made for our Ben this season. First, there was the pimp ensemble he wore in "He's Our You," then his weird pageboy in some of this episode's flashback seasons.
*Just what's going on on the beach? Why was Ilana asking about the shadow of the statue? What does it mean? Has she gone crazy with island sickness, like Danielle's crew? What's going on?
Well, that's it for this week. Next week on "Lost": Miles backstory! Woo-hoo!