There's a war coming, John, and if you're not back on the Island, then the wrong side is going to win.
Thus began a pretty wild episode. Let's jump in, shall we?
Episode: "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham"
The Happenings: We opened back on the Island, where Cesar, aka the suspicious looking man from the plane, is digging through some files. He's joined by a woman, and we quickly realize that they are actually in a Dharma station. They walk outside to meet a mysterious man who had been standing in the water in a suit. That man is John Locke.
From here we jump back in time to see the events that transpired to and around Locke from the time he moved the Island till he found himself sitting in the sand among the new crash victims. After teleporting off the Island, John lands in the Tunisian desert. There he is recovered by men in the employ of Charles Widmore. First being treated in a Tunisian hospital, Locke meets Widmore face to face. Widmore says that he will help him get back to the Island, and beyond that, will help him track down the rest of the survivors and attempt to bring them back as well. Locke will be assisted in this by our old friend Mr. Abbadon.
From here, things go into a bit of a lull as Locke visits each of the survivors and is in turn rebuffed by them. He also stops off to visit his one time sweetheart, but she is now dead. Thinking himself a failure, and taking Richard Alpert's prediction from "Because You Left" to heart, John sets out to kill himself. He is interrupted by Ben, who convinces him to stop, claiming that Widmore is evil and that, he, Ben is trying to really help John and those survivors back on the Island. He succeeds, and John removes his crude noose, but after revealing that he would like to seek Eloise's counsel, Ben changes his mind, kills Locke, and strings him up to make it look like a suicide.
In the final scene Cesar and Locke talk about what happened before the crash. Cesar reveals that Hurley and the other original survivors disappeared in a flash of light before the plane crashed. He then takes John to see the wounded. They walk along until Locke finds Ben, passed out on a bed. He tells Cesar, "This is the man who killed me."
The Craziness: Widmore reveals to Locke that he was once the leader of the Island's inhabitants, who he describes as its peaceful protectors. He says that he too was tricked into leaving the Island by Ben.
Awkward and unhelpful dialogue:
Locke's death tells us several things: a) Ben, though he may appear in league with Eloise, is definitely lying to her as Eloise told Jack that Locke hung himself. b) Ben either does not understand or grasp Locke's fate, i.e. to return to the Island, or c) Ben clearly underestimates the power that the Island has or the relationship that Locke has with it.
We're told that the plane's pilot, that is Lapidus, has taken one of the boats that were on the beach and rowed off with another Ajira survivor. Where did they go, and who did Lapidus go with?
The Verdict: It's funny because in spite of a solid 30 minutes of rather boring TV in the middle, this was probably still my favorite episode of the season thus far. We get a ton of movement in the overall plot arch of the show (see above and below) and we also get a heaping dose of Terry O'Quinn, who has always been one of the shows best performers. This episode really pushed him too, because the writing was definitely cramped -- I mean how many times is a character asked to go from joyous to determined to desperate to suicidal to distraught and back to normal in 40 minutes of screen time? The fact of the matter is that he's back on the Island, and assuming he can hook up with the crew (a big assumption I realize) some sparks should really start to fly.
The Wild Speculation: After this episode, I'm ready to call it: Ben is definitely EVIL. This may seem like a no brainer with everything that we've seen over the last couple of weeks, but there's still lots of interference being run on us by the creators. I mean, Ben did/is helping the survivors return, even going so far as to trick Sun into going back when Locke clearly would not have done the same. Here's the larger corollary to this decision: I'm ready, after only one episode I realize, to say that Widmore is GOOD.
Now, ultimately, I won't be surprised to learn that both men are actually evil, but I think of the two Ben is the more sinister. His motives are also less clear. He's clearly deceived Eloise, as it seems unlikely that she would help him. But the ultimate strike against Ben, other than the murdering of Locke, is that Christian, who we have no choice but to associate with the Island, indicated very strongly that Ben was not to be trusted. Widmore on the other hand has one major strike against him, and that is that he sent the freighter, along with Keamy to the Island. What we don't know, is what exactly Keamy's orders were. A revisionist reading might be that Keamy was told to do anything necessary to take out Ben, even if that meant huge collateral damage. In that case, Widmore has shown that protecting the Island is his ultimate priority. The same could be said about the fact that someone, presumably Widmore again, put a plane at the bottom of the Pacific to throw anyone and everyone off the trail of Oceanic 815 and its survivors.
Here's the major hang-up I have with all of this, and I mentioned it some above, what is Ben's final analysis? How did he think he could kill Locke, and beyond that, why show up to dissuade him from killing himself, only to kill him and string him up to look like a suicide? The only thing that changed was that Locke would have met Eloise, who we can only assume Ben did not want him to meet. Otherwise, the outcome is exactly the same either way. Not only that, but Ben was instrumental in getting Locke's dead body back onto the Island, where it is now undead, and so when they meet, Lock has 0 reasons to trust Ben. It's all very thorny. I could go into the permutations. But I'd much rather hear what someone else is thinking...