''Lost'': Never Ben Kissed

A Tempest by any other name (part 2)
Of course, there are some of you who, when they hear The Tempest, don't think ''Shakespeare!'' but instead ''Robby the Robot!'' I refer to the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet, loosely based on ''The Tempest'' and long-suspected of being a secret Lost text. Linda in Dallas offers this analysis: ''[In Forbidden Planet] astronauts from our time happen on a planet where a wise scientist and his daughter have harnessed the energy of the planet and are living in relative comfort. But it turns out that in harnessing the planet's energy, the scientist's 'id' becomes expressed through a strange monster. In Lost, we have an island with strange powers, harnessed somehow through the Hatch, but with violence erupting through the black smoke.'' I leave it to you, my friends, to excavate further meaning out of the film. I have an episode to recap.

Omniscient Ben strikes again!
The plot kicked in when Juliet encountered an old foil in the jungle: Harper, the Others' psychotherapist (''it's very stressful being an Other,'' Juliet later explained to Jack) and wife to Juliet's old Other lover, Goodwin. Harper — whose entrance and exit was accompanied by a choir of creepy jungle whispers (long time, no talk!) — had an urgent message from Ben. He wanted Juliet to track down and kill Faraday and Charlotte before they completed their mission of unleashing the deadly chemicals housed inside the Tempest. By episode's end, we learned Charlotte and Faraday were actually conspiring to do the exact opposite: Their mission all along was to neutralize the chemical stockpile in order to prevent Ben from pulling another Purge. Ben's mobilization of Harper raises many questions, not the least of which is ''Where are the rest of the Others hiding?'' It also suggests that either Ben can telepathically communicate with his people, or the surviving Others are executing orders Ben gave them prior to the events of last year's season finale, orders undoubtedly based on insight supplied by his freighter spy. As Ben told Locke, ''I always have a plan.''

A Good(win) man is hard to find
I was really looking forward to this flashback. The first two peeks into Juliet's past — ''Not in Portland'' and ''One of Us'' — were all-time keepers, in my book, and I thought they still left plenty to be explored, particularly the reluctant Other's romantic relationship with Goodwin and her turbulent rapport with Ben. But I was a little let down by what we got. I wasn't fond of the performance by Andrea Roth as Harper, nor was I fond of the lines written for her; she came off as too arch and unreal. I didn't like the revelation that the Juliet-Goodwin romance was an adulterous affair; it was a needless, underdeveloped twist that rendered Goodwin murky instead of complicated. And it ultimately didn't tell me anything about Juliet that previous flashbacks — and Elizabeth Mitchell's layered performance — didn't already establish or suggest. That said, I totally dug Ben's creepy loverboy act, culminating with the revelation that he had Goodwin infiltrate the Tailies in the hope that he'd get killed and thus be eliminated as a rival for Juliet's affections. I loved the part where Ben took Juliet to Goodwin's corpse, told her ''You're mine!'' then graciously allowed her to grieve by saying, with apparent sincerity, ''Take as much time as you need.'' If I haven't said so before, Michael Emerson is just genius in this role.

See? They haven't forgotten the kids!
I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the passing reference to abducted Tailie kids Zack and Emma during the scene in which Juliet and Ben ''enjoyed'' a ''romantic'' ham dinner together. Ben commended Juliet on her care for the kids. But it was the disclosure that they were kidnapped strictly because they were ''on the list'' that struck me. I used to have a theory that the Others swiped kids either because of their fertility problem or because kids tend to develop a magical, powerful rapport with the Island that isn't easily controllable (see: Walt) and the Others know that and try to manage that lest it become a problem. But if we are to believe Ben, it was merely a matter of faith — faith in Jacob's will, as revealed by the holy writ of the list.

NEXT: Who's afraid of the big bad?