Like Ben, I'm getting ahead of myself. After dispatching two gun-toting Bedouins on horseback, Ben wearily trekked to Tozeur, Tunisia. (Famous denizens: Aboul-Qacem Echebbi, a poet whose famed poem ''To the Tyrants of the World'' sounds like it was written for Charles Widmore.) Like Peter O'Toole walking out of the desert in Lawrence of Arabia, Ben walked into a hotel dusty and parched and checked in under his On the Road-inspired alias, Dean Moriarty. How often has Ben been here? He claimed that he was a ''preferred guest,'' and the clerk's nervous eyes confirmed that he was either an important client or a really notorious one. Oh, no! Not the guy who whizzes on the walls again! She was also a tad baffled when Ben fished for the correct date. It was October 24, 2005. I'll let you guys research the date for illuminating connections, although I can't resist noting that (1) October 24 is Take Back Your Time Day, appropriate to this season's time-travel themes, and (2) October 24, 1593, is the day in which a Spanish soldier named Gil Perez ''suddenly appeared'' in Mexico City, claiming that he had just teleported from the Philippines. Believe it...or noooooot. (My Jack Palance needs some work, huh?)
Of course, we must note here that Lost has once before brought us to Tunisia. Flash back to ''Confirmed Dead,'' when freighter folkster Charlotte Lewis discovered the Hydra-station tag at an archaeological dig the one that turned up a polar-bear skeleton. In my ''Confirmed Dead'' TV Watch, I wondered if Dharma was using polar bears as guinea pigs in its time/space-warping experiments. But given the implication that Ben is something of a frequent visitor to Tozeur, I wonder if he's the conniving agent responsible for the skeleton. After all, there is the increasingly popular theory well promulgated in this space over the years that dark forces have been manipulating the lives of the castaways so that they would wind up on the Island for the purpose of preserving (or destroying) the current timeline. Certainly the freighter folk could have been similarly manipulated; did Ben plant that dead polar bear in the desert to facilitate a future in which Charlotte came to the Island? Time will tell.
After Tozeur, globe-trotting Ben bummed it to Iraq, which also happens to provide a crucial setting for the book from which this episode took its title: H.G. Wells' 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come, a work of speculative sci-fi in which a technologically oriented cabal based in Basra attempts to foist its notion of world-state utopia upon the planet. (Wells also penned a screen adaptation, 1936's Things to Come, in case you believe that investigating a moldy movie for Lost resonance is easier than reading a moldy book.) What brought Ben to Iraq? Giving flash-forward Sayid his avenging-angel makeover. We discovered that early in his off-Island Oceanic 6 life, Sayid reunited with lost love Nadia and married her. Alas, shortly before the events of this episode, she was killed, and according to Ben, the murderer was an assassin in the employ of Charles Widmore. Ben's pursuit of this Widmore pawn was merely an elaborate setup designed to manipulate Sayid into wanting to become his dark-knight avenger confirmation of and payoff to Sayid's cryptic assertion in the climactic twist ending to ''The Economist.'' But the revelation here is that both master and servant the Darth Sidious and Darth Maul of Lost are motivated by deep personal loss. With just a few scenes to execute this business in a busy-busy episode, Michael Emerson and Naveen Andrews did some really nice work selling us on everything we needed to know and feel about their angry, bloody alliance. (Coincidence or conspiracy? Bob Kane creator of pop culture's most famous heartbreak-spawned dark knight, Batman was born in 1915 on...October 24.)
There Will Be Blood. And Smokey, Too!
Ben's V for Vendetta motivations were established in his part of the episode's Island-present story, in which Widmore's freighter mercenaries stormed New Otherton determined to abduct their boss' nemesis. I liked the comedic touches: the high-stakes game of Risk (Sawyer's foolish if successful play for Siberia foreshadowed Ben's mad and unsuccessful gambit to save Alex); the ringing phone signaling the deactivation of the sonic fence (''I think it's for Ben''); the ringing doorbell bringing Miles Straume into the action. (I was also amused to learn Ben was hiding a shotgun in his piano bench; so much for being under house arrest.) The action was intense; lots of redshirts got wasted, while Claire's house was obliterated by a rocket, though Aaron's mama herself survived. Kinda hard to believe, but I rolled with it. (FYI: A scene in which Claire experienced a hallucination/prophetic vision was shot for this episode but cut for lack of running time, but I'm told we can expect Claire intrigue to ramp up next week.)
The death of Alex was hardcore. Clearly, the girl's executioner, Keamy, didn't want to pull the trigger, despite his vaunted Ugandan badassery. My take on what happened is this: Papa Linus hoping Keamy wouldn't have the stones to kill Alex if it gained him nothing tried to convince him that his adopted daughter, kidnapped from ''an insane woman'' out of pity, really did mean nothing to him. It was a moment reminiscent of the coldhearted father-son square-off in the final act of There Will Be Blood. (I will spoil no further if you haven't seen it.) Keamy put a bullet in the back of Alex's head, anyway. Ben was devastated, naturally, but there was more to his soul-rocked shock than the mere sight of Alex's murder. My interpretation of ''He changed the rules'' wasn't so much Widmore and I agreed to wage our battle according to a certain set of limitations and regulations, but rather, simply This was not supposed to happen. As I've long insisted, I believe Ben's genius is derived from having knowledge of future events, via time travel, Desmond-esque precognitive flashes, or the other hot conjecture of the moment, time-loop theory, the idea that Ben has lived this life many times before. So a monkey wrench like this pretty much wrecks Ben's entire game.
NEXT: What's behind that door?