[itunes link=”http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=HcJWwKj9YyY&offerid=146261&type=3&subid=0&tmpid=1826&RD_PARM1=http%253A%252F%252Fitunes.apple.com%252FWebObjects%252FMZStore.woa%252Fwa%252FviewTVSeason%253Fi%253D361041869%2526id%253D344218920%2526s%253D143441%2526uo%253D6%2526partnerId%253D30″ title=”LOST-Dr_Linus”]

Ilana sentences Ben to death when the truth about his role in Jacob’s murder comes to light. Meanwhile, Richard takes Jack and Hurley on a trip down memory lane.

“Dr. Linus” was packed with surprises and revelations, and a remarkably touching ending for Ben in both realities, thanks to another brilliant performance by Lost MVP Michael Emerson.

Ben teaches his history class with a lesson on Napoleon, about how he was exiled to the island of Elba, and his power stripped of him. After class, Ben is approached by the school’s Principal Reynolds, who orders him to take over detention hall from now on, citing budget cutbacks as his reasons. Ben protests that he directs the History Club every day at the same time, but Reynolds cuts him down, stating that the club isn’t for the five students who make up its membership; it exists merely to feed Ben’s own desire to be needed.

In the teacher’s lounge, Ben sits down to eat lunch with the school’s science teacher, Leslie Arzt, who gripes about the poor quality of his lab supplies. Ben argues that Principal Reynolds won’t get the school new lab equipment because he’s an administrator who’s lost sight of the importance of helping kids. From another table nearby, substitute teacher John Locke suggests that Ben should be the principal, since he genuinely cares about the kids. Ben likes the idea, but doesn’t believe anyone would put him in charge of the school.

That evening, Ben makes TV dinners for himself and his elderly father, who’s sick and hooked up to a portable oxygen tank. It’s immediately clear that the two of them have a much better relationship here than they ever did in the original reality, a relationship based on mutual respect. Ben tells his father about his day, about being assigned to detention duty, and that as a man with a doctorate in modern history relegated to this despised new role, perhaps he’s a bigger loser than any of his charges in detention hall. Roger Linus tells his son that he wanted a better life for Ben than this, and that that’s is why he signed up for the Dharma Initiative and took Ben to the island so long ago. He imagines that both their lives would have been far better had they stayed on the island, and not left it. Ben rolls his eyes at the thought that his destiny could have been something greater than what it is now.

The doorbell rings, and it’s a student of Ben’s: Alex Rousseau! She’s one of his History Club members, and asks where he was during this afternoon’s meeting. He apologizes for forgetting to leave a note on the chalkboard for the club members, and explains about his new duties in detention hall. Alex reminds him that an important placement test is coming up for her on Friday, and she was counting on his tutoring to help her get a strong grade. Ben proposes that they meet the next morning in the library before school starts, and he’ll coach her for the test then. She gratefully accepts.

The next morning in the library, Ben asks Alex questions out of a text book — a book opened to a page about the East India Trading Company that includes a painting of an old ship that looks a lot like the Black Rock. When she struggles with a question and throws up her hands in frustration, he notes that she’s being overdramatic. But she replies that it’s not excessive drama, it’s her whole future at stake. She says her mother works two jobs just to pay the mortgage, so there’s no way Alex can pay for college, particularly when Alex has her sights set on Yale. Ben assures her that she’s one of the smartest students he’s ever had, and that he knows her future is going to be a bright one. He offers to help by writing her a glowing letter of recommendation, but Alex says to really have a shot at getting in, she needs a recommendation from someone who actually went to Yale, and the only person she knows who did is “that pervert, Principal Reynolds.” Ben asks why Alex called Reynolds a pervert, but she doesn’t want to say, until he expresses concern that Reynolds might have done something to her. She assures him that’s not the case, and swears him to secrecy before telling him that a few months ago she went to the nurse’s office with a stomach bug and fell asleep in there. When she woke up, she overheard Reynolds and the school nurse having sex in the adjacent room. Ben senses an opportunity, but reassures Alex that “a promise is a promise,” and he won’t say anything to anyone about the principal’s indiscretion.

Ben goes to Arzt and asks if he could hack into a faculty member’s account and access their email. Arzt says he can, but asks what’s going on. Ben divulges that he believes Principal Reynolds has been involved in an inappropriate relationship with the school nurse. Arzt realizes that Ben’s concocting a plan to oust Reynolds and take his job, and makes some demands of his own: a better parking spot and updated equipment for the science lab. Ben agrees. Arzt is pleased, suggesting that under Ben’s unassuming demeanor lies “a real killer,” and Ben pauses, almost seeming to sense something in these words…

Ben goes to Principal Reynolds’ office and confronts him with print-outs of thirty emails between him and the school nurse, in which Reynolds’ illicit affair is described in detail, including sexual acts that took place on school property. Ben points out what the school board is likely to think of this, “not to mention your wife.” Reynolds asks what Ben wants, and Ben tells him to resign and recommend to the school board that Ben be hired as his replacement. Reynolds counters by reading a different email to Ben — an email sent to him by Alex, who’s asked him to write her a letter of recommendation to Yale. Reynolds issues an ultimatum: Ben can carry out his plan to eject Reynolds, but if he does, Reynolds will torch Alex’s chances of getting into Yale.

The next morning, Ben enters Principal Reynolds’ office, and seems to be there to claim it as his own. But Alex knocks on the door, all smiles, and says she came by to thank Reynolds for the incredible recommendation letter he wrote for her. Reynolds enters and puts on a happy face for Alex’s benefit, though it’s clear he’s kept his job, thanks to Ben not going through with his plan. Ben asks if he’ll see Alex in History Club, and looks to Reynolds as he explains that they got their old time slot back, since Reynolds was able to find someone else to cover detention. Reynolds, obviously hearing this for the first time, realizes he has no choice but to agree.

Outside, Arzt asks if Ben did as he’d planned, but Ben tells him he didn’t. “What about my parking space?” asks Arzt. “You can have mine,” Ben humbly replies. He turns and sees Alex exiting the Principal’s office, overjoyed at her own good fortune. Ben walks away alone, genuinely happy to have helped Alex, regardless of what it cost him.

Separated from the others, Ben runs through the jungle, fleeing the carnage at the Temple. But he soon spots his companions and catches up with them. Ilana asks why Sayid isn’t with him (since he split up with them to go and retrieve Sayid), but Ben reports that Sayid has gone to the dark side, having killed Dogen and Lennon. The group considers a safe place to go, since the Temple is out of the question, and they settle on the Oceanic survivors’ old beach camp, which at least gives them the safety of the ocean on one side.

After they’ve made it a safe distance away from the Temple, Ilana stops and confronts Ben on a hunch. She turns to Miles and hands him the bag of Jacob’s ashes that she got from the Statue chamber, asking him to tell her the truth about who killed Jacob. Was it the Man in Black, as Ben claims? Miles does as she asks, and informs her that it was really Ben who killed Jacob. Ben denies it, but Ilana believes Miles. “Jacob was the closest thing I ever had to a father,” she tells Ben bitterly, and then resumes their march toward the beach.

They arrive at the beach the next morning, finding it in the same state of disrepair that the Others recently found it in. Ilana gives out work assignments, but when Ben asks what he should do, she ignores him. He tries to convince her that Miles is an unreliable source of information, pointing out that Miles tried to blackmail him once, but still Ilana ignores him, walking away without a word.

Sun later approaches Ilana and asks how long they’re going to stay on the beach. When Ilana says she doesn’t know, Sun reminds her that she’s here to find Jin, but Ilana says that she wants to find Jin just as much as Sun does. Sun asks why, and Ilana explains that the last name “Kwon” was given to her by Jacob as someone she’s supposed to protect — but she doesn’t know if the name meant she should be protecting Jin, Sun, or both. “You’re Candidates to replace Jacob,” she explains. “Replace him at doing what?” Sun asks. “If you’re the one selected, I imagine you’ll find out,” says Ilana. Sun asks how many Candidates there are, and Ilana replies that there are only six left.

In the jungle, Jack and Hurley wake up and continue their hike back to the Temple. Hurley tries to stall their return, but Jack isn’t interested in waiting. Hurley again tries to divert Jack by leading them down the wrong path, but when they argue about which way to go, Richard Alpert emerges from the jungle and says that both of them are wrong, offering to lead them to the Temple. Hurley asks if Jack trusts Richard, to which Jack replies, “At least he’s not stalling.”

Ben searches through Sawyer’s old tent at the beach, trying to find anything useful, and comes across an old Oceanic water bottle. When he becomes nostalgic about seeing the plane break up in the air over the island, Frank notes that he was supposed to be the pilot of Oceanic 815. Ben asks why he wasn’t, and Frank answers that his alarm didn’t go off that morning, causing him to oversleep. He muses how different his life would have been had he gotten on that plane, but Ben suggests it might not be that different at all, because “the island still got you in the end.”

Ilana suddenly places the end of her rifle up against Ben’s neck and leads him to the survivors’ graveyard. She forces him down on the ground and uses some cabling to tether him to a tree, and then tells him to pick up an old bamboo shovel and start digging a grave. “For who?” he asks fearfully. “You murdered Jacob,” she replies. “[The grave] is for you.”

Later, Miles stops by to offer Ben something to eat, but Ben isn’t hungry. Instead, he offers to fulfill the old contract between the two of them, and give Miles his $3.2 million if Miles will help him escape. Miles is dubious of Ben’s abilities to give him money here on the island, but Ben says that he can leave the island and that he has “a vast network of people and resources” that can get Miles his money. Miles counters that he’s read the final thoughts of everyone buried in this graveyard and that two of them are Nikki and Paolo, who were buried alive with $8 million in diamonds on top of them. Ben is outraged, asking why Miles would stand by and let Ilana murder him, when she blames him for killing a man who didn’t even care about being killed — Jacob. But Miles says that this isn’t true, that Jacob did care. Miles says that “right up until the second the knife went through his heart, he was hoping he was wrong about you.” Pondering the fact that Jacob must not have been wrong, he leaves Ben to continue his work, which Ilana spurs on by shooting the ground near Ben’s feet.

Richard leads Hurley and Jack through the jungle, and Hurley grills Richard for answers about why he never ages. Richard says “it’s not easy to explain” why he doesn’t grow any older. “Jacob gave me a gift,” he says cryptically. When Jack asks what Richard knows about Jacob, Richard replies that he knows Jacob’s dead. He suddenly stops dead in his tracks, revealing that he hasn’t lead them to the Temple at all, but to the Black Rock. He reveals that everyone at the Temple is dead, though Sayid and Kate weren’t among the dead, so they must’ve left with MiB. Jack asks if Hurley knew about this, since he didn’t want to go back to the Temple, and Hurley says that Jacob hinted at it. Richard is stunned to hear that Jacob recently spoke to Hurley, but bitterly says not to believe anything that Jacob said. Richard walks toward the shipwreck, and Jack asks what this is about. “There’s something I need to do,” Richard replies. Jack asks what, and Richard says he’s come here to die.

Richard enters the Black Rock and takes a look around, recognition and memories seeming to flood his thoughts. He grabs hold of a pair of manacles for a moment, before he’s interrupted by Jack, who asks if he’s been here before. Richard affirms that he has, but that in all the time he’s spent on the island, he’s never been back until today. Hurley enters as well, while Richard goes to a crate of the unstable dynamite sticks and pulls one out. Hurley tries to warn him not to, but Richard calmly ties the fuse of one dynamite stick off to a longer fuse. Hurley tells Jack they should go, that Richard is suicidal and holding unstable dynamite, but Richard points out that he can’t kill himself. “Jacob touched me,” he explains. “And when Jacob touches you, it’s considered a gift.” But he’s decided it’s not a gift, it’s a curse. So he wants one of them to kill him. Jack asks Richard why he wants to die, and Richard says that he devoted his very long life to serving a man who told him that everything happened for a reason. Jacob told him that he had a plan, a plan that Richard was a part of, and that when the time was right, he would share it with Richard. But now that man is dead, and Richard has come to the conclusion that his entire life had no purpose. So he wants to die. Richard says that if he lights the dynamite, it won’t work, but he’s extended the fuse so that Jack can do it and have time to get away before it goes off. Hurley can’t believe Jack is even considering this, but Jack calmly takes a lantern and uses the flame to light the dynamite’s fuse. Once it’s done, he sits down opposite Richard, with the dynamite between them, and says, “Now let’s talk.”

While the fuse burns down, Hurley implores Jack to run, but Jack won’t move. Instead, Jack convinces Hurley to go on without him. When Hurley’s gone, Jack explains that he doesn’t think the dynamite is going to blow up, and that neither of them will die. Jack tells Richard about what he discovered at the Lighthouse, how Jacob had been watching him his entire life and had brought him to the island for a reason, and that whatever that reason is, it’s not to sit here with Richard and blow up in the belly of the Black Rock. As the fuse is nearly out, Richard asks what if Jack’s wrong, but Jack says with conviction that he’s not. The fuse nears the dynamite, and… burns out less than an inch from the stick. Jack laughs, while Richard looks on in amazement. “Wanna try another stick?” Jack asks, exhilarated that his faith paid off. Richard looks at Jack with new eyes, and says that since Jack seems to suddenly have all the answers, what are they supposed to do now? Jack replies that they’re going to go back to where they started: the survivors’ beach.

On the beach, the Man in Black visits Ben, hiding in the foliage where Ilana can’t see him. MiB is confused to find Ben digging his own grave, and Ben explains the situation, blaming MiB for talking him into killing Jacob. MiB argues that he never wanted Ben to die, that he even went back to the Statue to get Ben, but he’d already left. He tells Ben about his plan to leave the island forever, and that he’s gathering a group to go with him. “Once we’re gone, someone’s going to need to be in charge of the island.” Ben’s surprised that MiB wants him to be in charge, and points out that he’s about to be killed by Ilana and has no means of escape. MiB frees him from his shackles, and tells him to come to the Hydra station on the other island, because that’s where MiB is gathering his followers. He explains that he’s left a rifle leaning up against a tree not far inland, and that if Ben makes a run for it, he can get the drop on Ilana. He then leaves Ben alone.

As Ilana watches from afar, Ben bolts. She gives chase, but he’s got too big a head start, and he finds the rifle and draws it on her before she can lift her own weapon to bear on him. He forces her to drop her gun, and she waits for him to fire, grief filling her eyes. She’s almost relieved that it’s all over, but he doesn’t shoot. Instead, he says he wants to explain himself to her. He tells her about Alex’s death, and how he could have saved her, but he chose the island over her. He sacrificed everything for Jacob, “and he didn’t even care.” Ben says that when he stabbed Jacob, he was angry and confused and terrified of losing the one thing he cared about most: his power. But he realized after killing Jacob that the only thing that he really cared about — Alex — had already been lost. He apologizes for killing Jacob, but doesn’t ask for her forgiveness, vowing never to forgive himself. She asks what he wants, and he requests that she allow him to leave and go be with MiB. Ilana asks why he would go to MiB, and Ben loses his fragile composure entirely as he pitifully admits “he’s the only one that’ll have me.” Ilana, in tears herself, surprises Ben by forgiving him and declaring that she’ll have him. Ben can’t believe his ears, but after he recovers, he slowly follows her back to the beach.

When they arrive, the others are still rebuilding the camp, and they eye him warily. He approaches Sun at one of the tents, and asks if he can help. She says he could help her put up a tarp, and he sets to work. Meanwhile, Frank stokes the fire he’s built, Ilana cries over Jacob’s ashes, and Miles examines the diamonds he’s dug up from Nikki and Paolo’s graves. Everyone suddenly turns to look as Hurley, Jack, and Richard round a corner and enter camp. Sun is particularly happy to reunite with them, as she hasn’t seen them since the Ajira flight. Introductions are made for Ilana’s sake, but Ben stands alone, off to the side, and watches, while no one makes any attempt to include him.

Not far off the coast, the periscope of a submarine rises out of the water to observe the scene taking place on the beach. Inside, a man we’ve never seen before looks through the periscope and reports that there are people on the beach. “Should we stop?” he asks. “No, proceed as planned,” replies his superior, and the voice’s source is revealed: it’s Charles Widmore! He’s found the island, and is about to make landfall.

  • Doesn’t look like it. The Man in Black walked right out onto the beach when he approached Ben, so apparently he has no trouble going there.
    Kate posed a valid question to Jack: Are the survivors any safer from the monster on the beach than they are in the jungle? [1.02]
  • Frank accidentally overslept the morning of the flight.
    If Frank was originally supposed to be the pilot of Oceanic 815, why was he replaced by Seth Norris? [4.02]
  • Looks like Widmore was wrong in saying the island wouldn’t let him come back.
    Why would the island let Ben come back, but not Widmore? [5.12]
  • Charles Widmore!
    Jacob told Hurley that someone’s coming to the island. Who’s coming? [6.05]

  • Before sending the freighter to the island, Widmore spent 20 years searching for it after being was banished. How did he find the island? Did Eloise Hawking decide to help him (after she presumably spent the last 20 years not helping him)? Did he plant some kind of tracking device on Locke? Or is there another explanation?
  • Ilana said that there are only six Candidates left, and that one of them would be selected to replace Jacob. Since Jacob is dead, who will make this selection?
  • Sideways reality: Why and when did Ben and his father Roger leave the island? Was it before Ben was shot by Sayid?
  • Sideways reality: Since Alex and Danielle Rousseau are both alive and well and together… does that mean Danielle was never on the island?

Is there hope left for Benjamin Linus? After all he’s done, even after murdering Locke and Jacob in cold blood, is there redemption available to him? And does he want it? These are the questions posed by “Dr. Linus.”

Ben’s contrition to Ilana was deeply moving, because he was more sincere than I think we’ve ever seen him. The master manipulator has been humbled by the fact that he himself was manipulated into doing the unthinkable. All of his dark and terrible deeds finally caught up with him, and he saw the profound error of his ways. It’s a new day for Ben, and I’d like to see him finally be one of the good guys.

Emmy Award winner Michael Emerson truly outdid himself in this episode, turning in his best performance on the show to date.

Did you catch the director’s credit for this episode? It was actor/writer/director Mario Van Peebles. I wonder if he lobbied for the gig or if the producers went to him.

Sideways Ben’s history lesson about Napoleon served as insight into Ben’s own character, but I wonder if there was more to it than that. Does the island of Elba hold any clues about Lost‘s island? Somebody hit the history books, stat!

Ken Leung’s reading of the line “Uh-oh” was absolutely priceless.

It’s starting to look like everybody in the Sideways world is a better person than they are on the island. Locke overcame his anger at the world. Jack took responsibility for being a better father to his son. Sayid pushed away his great love Nadia because he knew he wasn’t the man she deserved; not the happiest of endings for him, but certainly a noble one. And now we have a Ben Linus who — shock! gasp! — actually does the right thing. Sure, he nearly fell into his old habit of scheming and manipulating, but when push came to shove, he let go of that and actually put someone else’s needs above his own desires. And who more poignant a person to place above himself than Alex, who here appears to be extremely fond of him? Heck, he even had a good relationship with his father, whereas on the island, he grew up to murder the man.

Speaking of dear old dad, for a second there I thought the show was going to give us some answers about what happened to the island in the Sideways reality. We already know it’s on the bottom of the ocean, and we already know that at least up to a point, its history wasn’t all that different than the history we’re familiar with. The Dharma Initiative came to the island, as witnessed in that stunning scene in the season opener when we dived below the water to see the submerged island — and the Dharma Barracks were in plain view. But the answers were dangled in front of us and then snatched away, with an explanation from Roger Linus that the two of them went to the island in the Sideways world just like they did in the original reality, but (for undisclosed reasons) chose to leave it, apparently before the calamity that sunk it took place.

Oh Lost, you big ol’ tease… I’m actually going to miss this when the show is over.

So what could have made Ben and his dad pack up and leave the island before it was sunk? Whatever it was, it happened early enough in their island-based lives that Roger never got around to becoming so abusive to his son that their relationship could never recover.

Sideways Ben’s history book with the Black Rock painting inside got me to thinking — but not about the Black Rock. The title beneath the painting was “Chapter 19 – East India Trading Company.” Ordinarily, anytime we see written words that include numbers, we get a reference to one of the cursed Numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, or 42). So the fact that this book wasn’t opened to Chapter 23, for example, jumped out at me, and made me try to remember if we’ve seen any of the Numbers in the Sideways reality. I don’t think we have (though if you know of one, please set the record straight), and this is probably significant. After all, in a world where the island is sunk to the bottom of the ocean, there would be no need for Candidates or the Numbers that represent them. Right? I’m gonna keep an eye on this as we see more of the Sideways world…

It’s nice that Danielle, Alex’s mom, is alive in the Sideways reality, even if we didn’t get to see her. My understanding is that the show’s producers asked actress Mira Furlan to return for this episode, but she declined for unknown reasons. Still, it’s gratifying to imagine a world where mother and daughter were never separated, and Danielle never went crazy from years of being stranded alone.

We finally got a little bit of new info on Ilana’s connection to Jacob. Since it’s been reported that Ilana won’t be getting an episode of her very own, it looks like her backstory will be filled in this way, in slices of dialogue. She had a line here about the Temple being a safe haven for the Candidates, which she knew only because “that’s what I was told.” This makes me wonder if my previous assumption — that she’s been to the island before, and that’s how she knows so much about it — isn’t true after all. Maybe Ilana’s knowledge of the island and the Candidates came from that scene we saw last season, when Jacob visited her in the hospital and asked for her help. Did he explain the island to her then, and what he would need her to come there to do? Or does her knowledge stretch back further? Clearly her relationship with Jacob goes back much further than that meeting. Need! More! Info!

At last we have an explanation for Jill the butcher and the others we met off the island who worked for Ben. His conversation with Miles illuminated the fact that he has an off-island “vast network of people and resources,” and presumably, these people work for him in the same way that Charles Widmore has a seeming empire of underlings working for him. There is nothing to suggest that any of these subordinates are Others themselves, as I once suggested could be the case.

How great was it that the truth about Nikki and Paolo getting buried alive finally came out in the open, thanks to Miles? And not only that, but he actually dug into their graves and got his hands on their diamonds! Oh, Miles. You and your greed… I wonder if this is why his name was crossed off the Candidate list? Did his lust for money make him unworthy of being Jacob’s successor?

One of the most interesting and confusing exchanges of the episode is when MiB approaches Ben at the beach, and offers to put Ben in charge of the island after everyone else is gone. I’m not sure what we’re meant to take away from this. Was MiB offering to make Ben the new Jacob? Or does he want Ben to become the new smoke monster? The latter seems more likely, but I really have no idea. For all we know, MiB might’ve just been yanking Ben’s chain, never intending to put him in charge of anything, but rather just trying to manipulate him again to serve his endgame somehow.

More than ever, what’s coming into focus for Season 6 (in the original reality) is how sides are being taken in the conflict between Jacob and the Man in Black. Each episode seems to be zeroing in on one of our main characters and ending with their decision of who’s team to be on. Jacob’s forces are gathering at the Oceanic survivors’ old beach camp, while MiB’s army is rallying over on Hydra island. I expect this pattern to continue. Coming up, we have Sawyer, Richard, Sun/Jin, Hurley, and more. Each of them will no doubt be confronted with a personal situation that forces them to choose whom they will follow.

A significant revelation was that Candidates can’t be killed. And my guess is that that protection lasts only for as long as an individual is designated a Candidate by Jacob. Consider Michael. At one time, he was Candidate #124, according to the Lighthousd dial. And in “Meet Kevin Johnson” we learned that he tried repeatedly to kill himself after he escaped the island, yet his every attempt was foiled. But after he helped the Oceanic 6 escape the island, he was allowed to die in the explosion that destroyed the Kahana. Therefore, one must conclude that at some point between his time in New York and his time on the freighter, Jacob scratched his name off the Candidate list. So if anybody else is determined to no longer be a viable Candidate, will they become killable? Hm.

This leaves me wondering about Sayid and Locke, both of whom died, just like Michael. Locke is still dead, but Sayid came back to life seemingly infected/claimed by the Man in Black, even though he was still designated as a Candidate. How could any of that happen if Sayid was a Candidate? How could Locke be killed if he was a Candidate?

There’s also this matter of what we’ll call the Final Six. The Final Six are clearly comprised of the survivors whose names are represented by the cursed Numbers: Locke, Hurley, Sawyer, Sayid, Jack, and Sun and/or Jin. Locke is no longer one of the Final Six; he’s dead. Sayid certainly seems to be out of the running as well. So it looks like we’re down to just four: Hurley, Sawyer, Jack, and Sun/Jin (who I’ll get back to in a minute).

I still say it’s going to be Jack. His little test inside the Black Rock against the dynamite was proof that he not only figured out what Jacob was up to in getting him to visit the lighthouse, but that he’s putting his newfound faith into action. This is all part of the process. He’s being groomed for Jacob’s role, no doubt in my mind about it.

And if you’re still wondering about Kate… Carlton Cuse recently clarified that Kate’s name was on the cave wall in “The Substitute” (an image that got cut for time in the editing room), but it was scratched out (why?), so she’s out of the running, too.

Ilana’s conversation with Sun about the Candidates and not knowing whether Sun or Jin is the sixth one, means that this is a question we should be asking. My money is still on Jin being the sixth Candidate, because that would explain why Sun was excluded from the Ajira time jump back to 1977. I.E., it was only important that the Candidates wind up in ’77. (Miles, Juliet, and Daniel went along for the ride because they were caught up in the original time jumps, not the Ajira flight.) Of course this implies some influence or intervention by a higher power like Jacob, since an intelligence would be required to decide who jumps into the past and who stays put on Ajira 316.

Richard’s talk about Jacob touching him got me thinking about how Jacob also touched the Candidates. The obvious conclusion is that the Candidates now have the same immortality that Richard has, because the other thing they have in common is their inability to die, or kill themselves (Sayid and Locke notwithstanding). But I’m not convinced that Richard and the Candidates are the same. For starters, Richard’s last name was never seen on the cave wall or the Lighthouse dial. Then there’s the fact that Richard has never heard the term “Candidate” before. Plus, Richard has had direct contact with Jacob for a long time, functioning as his servant/assistant who Jacob kept in the dark about his plans, while most of the Candidates never actually met him (the passing encounter when he touched each of them doesn’t count, because none of them knew who he was). Richard’s role seems more like a blind subordinate/servant to Jacob than how Jacob might treat a potential replacement.

It looks like everyone’s theories about Richard arriving on the island via the Black Rock are going to turn out to be true. He gave us plenty of clues in this episode to lead us to that conclusion, anyway. We only have to wait two more weeks for Richard’s long-awaited backstory, so the hints and teases given this week were meant to set the stage for what’s coming.

Richard has lost his faith in the island and in Jacob. It’s an understandable thing, but I think he’s going to be proven wrong. Jack’s bold dynamite test proved that anyone who’s currently a Candidate can’t be killed — and if that mystical protection is still in place, despite Jacob’s death, then Jacob’s plans are still in play. All is not lost as Richard currently believes.

Other big news this week: Charles Widmore is about to join the party! I’ve wondered since last season’s “Dead is Dead” — where we learned of Widmore’s exile from the island — what it would be like if he ever came back, so I consider this a mega-juicy development. Widmore’s known for a long time that a war was coming to the island, and as a former Other, it’s seems like a foregone conclusion that he’ll be on Team Jacob. And even though Widmore has been a threat to the island in the past, he’s an extremely powerful man, and I think he could actually be a strong asset to Team Jacob. So will he and Ben be able to play nice and put their differences aside in order to combat the Man in Black? Or will he surprise everyone by casting his lot in with Team MiB? I can’t wait to find out!

I’m also wondering if anyone else we know could be on that submarine with him. Like say, Eloise Hawking? Or maybe even Desmond?

The nature and purpose of the Sideways world is coming a little more into focus with every new episode, even though it’s still a big blur.

In this TV Guide interview, the show’s writers again emphasized the importance of the Sideways world, and that it’s most definitely connected to the other world. I’ve already theorized that this connection could be the history reset that the castaways tried to enact before, only maybe it happens later this season when they find a way to finally make it work.

But there are several subtle hints to indicate that the connection between the two realities could be something altogether different than what all of us are theorizing. Juliet’s insistence to Sawyer that “it worked,” for instance, which jibes more with a both-universes-existing-side-by-side theory than an explanation where a single history has been rewritten.

Damon Lindelof further hinted at this side-by-side existence notion in the aforementioned TV Guide interview, when he said:

Here’s a question that might boggle your mind: If you die in one universe, what happens to your body in other universes? “Charlie and Boone died in the island, but they seem to be alive in the Sideways [world],” said Lindelof. “What happens if you die in the Sideways [world]? That’s an interesting question.”

Is Lindelof implying that the two universes are connected in a some kind of metaphysical way?

His suggestion that death in the Sideways world could have consequences in the other world brings to mind Jack’s appendectomy scar, which exists in both realities. The very notion of parallel universes is a very scientific idea, with no connection to the mystical. Yet I see nothing in the science of parallel universe theory that states that actions in one universe can have consequences in another.

So what is the Sideways reality? It’s too important to the story to be some kind of dream or “what if?” scenario. Certain things that happen in one universe are now known to affect the other, which means they’re probably not parallel universes, or even two versions of the same history/universe.

The one thing that seems to be a constant thread through the Sideways universe is that each and every one of the castaways is a better person there. All of Lost‘s characters have always been on quests for their own redemption, and in the Sideways universe, they seem to finally be finding it.

Could the Sideways world be some kind of manifestation of redemption?