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JULIET:: hardly worth the time

salem_saori in ship_manifesto

Stop Looking: Ben/Locke (LOST)

Title: Stop Looking
Author: Salem AKA

salem_saori 
Pairing: Ben/Locke (LOST)
Spoilers: All through the three finished seasons, up to Through the Looking Glass the second.
Notes: I owns nothing. Second, I've tried to make it as exhaustive as possible – the characters and fandom deserve it. (: I'm passing on what we know from season four so far, due to the unclear nature of basically everything.

 

.Introduction.

Foreword
[ I want you to change your perspective. And, the first step in doing that would be for me to be decent enough to introduce myself honestly, so… ]

At this point, I think mostly everybody can agree that Lost is nothing like your usual TV show. More than just that, it should be called a phenomenon. Everyone knows the basics about the surrealistic tale of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815: the DHARMA Corporation, the hatches, the Others, the Island – what it really is, may all sound less familiar for the non-fans. Characters come, characters go, motivations are unclear, there’s treason, there’s betrayal and double-agents and spies who turn out not to be double-agents or spies, lies by the bucketful and extra injections of mindfuck ever other episode or so.

The situation has changed so much since its starting point that it’s barely worth trying to sum up completely in a few paragraphs. And still it manages not to end up in a tangled mess of nonsense.

Mostly.

One thing I find completely brilliant about the show is the character development. There’s character evolution here like you wouldn’t believe. And as far as OTPs go, there’s a little bit for everyone here: most canon pairings have already been (brilliantly) covered in other manifestos, and I’m just going to speak about the one example of how I think a character relationship should be done.
 

.John Locke – Man of Faith.

The great majority of Lost fans will agree, the character of John Locke has always been one of the main driving forces of the series. Although not always part of the main focus, he was capturing from the beginning – even when his past was still enshrouded in mystery, everything about Locke, his demeanour, the way he just always seemed to know exactly what was going on, equilibrated the general panic of every other survivor: from the beginning, the fact that this man was definitely not ordinary, was obvious and enough to catch your attention.

So, who is John Locke? This may be a bit hard to answer: for, at first glance, he seems reasonably different pre and during island time. But in reality, the wheelchair-bound, desperate, worn out Locke we see in flashbacks, and the natural, knowing sage who trots the island like anything at the beginning of S1 are very much the same person, and as we come to see during the series, share some strong traits.
 

Background
Never tell me what I can’t do.  ]


Like all of the survivors, Locke has a rather huge family conflict. He was brought up in several foster homes, never hoping to meet his real parents. The crucial events you need to understand Locke’s past and exactly who he is today started when, years later, his biological mother, Emily, showed up while he was working, which led John to try and investigate about his origins, thus finding out about his father, Anthony Cooper.

John met and bonded heavily with Cooper. He soon found out his father needed a kidney transplant, which he was more than pleased to donate for; during their time together, John made it clear he believed their encounter to be a strict matter of fate. However, after the operation, his father left the hospital immediately, ditching him. Everything had been planned by Cooper, with Emily partaking for money. John desperately tried to get a word back from his father, and didn’t succeed: although, Cooper did show up a few times afterwards, only hurting Locke further.

This event, the overall relationship, scarred him heavily. He constantly obsessed over his father, over everything he did. He couldn’t avoid going back: we’re led to believe it’s because he keeps hoping there will be something that will make Cooper change, something which will make him turn again into the man who loved him like a proper father should – something which will prove the fake Anthony Cooper true. As desperately as Locke clings onto the idea, this doesn’t happen, and eventually, he ends up left by the woman he loves, Helen, and spiralling into depression because of it.

John hit the bottom when, desperately wanting to convince himself that Cooper couldn’t have murdered someone, he decided on paying a visit to his father’s apartment in an eight stories building. The confrontation ended with John being knocked out of the window, causing him to break his back, thus ending up paralyzed from the waist down, in need of a wheelchair to move.

Next we know about John, he dispassionately works at a cardboard box company, is smitten with a phone-sex operator who goes by Helen’s name, and has started to plan going on one of the “Melbourne Walkabout Tours” in Australia. He flies there only to be rejected for his disability, and was supposed to go back to Los Angeles aboard the infamous Flight 815 – but, as anybody reading this will know, said flight never reached its destination.

After the crash, he was shocked to find that his paralysis had healed. He was immediately convinced that he shared a special connection with the island. He firmly believed the crash had all been by destiny’s hand. Above all things, he feels just at home; John Locke, close to inner peace and believing every survivor’s presence in the island is far from an ‘accident’, did and does not want to leave.
 

On the Island
You’re just having a bad month.  ]


Locke has been with us since day one; we barely knew anything about him during season one. He sees himself as a ‘man of faith’, and that phrase alone describes him perfectly. Faith in the island, how he lets himself be lead around by its ‘signs’, faith which drives him and causes him to ditch his fears and grow stronger, being the most brilliant, spiritual and resourceful of the characters and acting as a guide for many of them, but also taking very seriously and stubbornly the goal to “find himself” in the island, forgetting his own “to find, stop searching” philosophy to end up one of the most lost.

Each step the survivors make to unveil the island’s mysteries is a step to a potential deception. This particularly led to a perceivable change to his character during season two: it was not, contrary to popular belief, because the writers are idiots, but because IMO, they were trying to approach the darker side of his character. Something he had clung to desperately, something he had believed to be absolute and marvellous, was one step from shattering and deceiving him terribly – not unlike Anthony Cooper had.

Thankfully, Locke, whether breaking through or dragging on, has always found a way, rational or at least as-rational-as-it-gets, to further reassure his beliefs. His role, never questioning the island’s power (or his deep connection with it), is the perfect contrast to Jack’s sceptical, ‘man of science’ approach. Both born leaders, they have more-or-less managed to work together to take care of the survivors. But nobody has managed yet to make John deviate from his convictions. Whatever is up with this island he IS determined to find out, even when the answers may be so much harder on him than the questions.

During season three, he’s broken off from the protagonists to finally take on his own path. Some theorize he’s being a double-agent, but I think he’s decided not to take sides, and simply find out everything he can about the island, whether by hand or the Others or not.

John is played by Terry O’Quinn.
 

.Ben Linus – One of Them.

We can’t speak about Ben without stating from the very beginning that he’s the centre of this complex accumulation of lies, setups and manipulation he has established to become, and stay, the leader of the Others. The first time we see him, he doesn’t even call himself Ben, and his reply to the question of ‘is he an Other?’ is ‘another what?’. Later on, we’ll hear lots about what exactly: ask him and he’ll have everything you are looking for, at a price.

What makes this character most interesting to follow is that you can never, ever, know what he’s up to next: if he’s lying, if he’s telling the truth, if he’s playing some mind game, if the situation has escaped his hands or if he has everything carefully planned.

Again, to understand the character fully before proceeding, I’ll analyze his story.

Background
Why would I be lying?  ]

Ben claims to be the only person to have been born in the island; however, even this is a lie, as he came there when he was about ten with his father Roger Linus, who had been employed as a workman by the DHARMA initiative, a corporation destined to conduct various experiments on the island.

Ben’s mother, also an Emily, had died when giving birth to him, and Roger didn’t treat the young Ben too kindly, drunkenly blaming him for his mother’s death to excuse having forgotten about his birthday. Not too keen on staying at home, Ben wandered the island’s forest at night instead, where he thought to see his dead mother.

Following the apparition, the young Ben looked for his mother through the jungle, but instead found Richard Alpert, one of the mysterious people the DHARMA Initiative referred to as the Hostiles who had inhabited the island for an unspecified period of time. This is not unlike Jack Shepard’s recently deceased father guided him through the jungle to water supplies in the first few episodes. Telling Richard about the much he hated living with the corporation, Richard accepted to let Ben join the Hostiles, as long as he had a whole lot of patience to go with him.

Fast forward to years later. While on a delivering errand, Roger and a grown Ben, now also a workman for DHARMA, were holding another primary-example-of-father-son-moment clssic to the tune of ‘o wai, did you just say it’s your birthday?’, Ben pulled out what turned out to be a gas grenade, and gassed his father.

When he stepped out of the delivering van they were in, all personnel of the DHARMA project had been killed in the same fashion. The Others invaded the installations, dumping all corpses in a (except for Roger’s – Ben leaves him to rot inside the van), and regarded Ben as their leader from then on. A “master in the art and science of psychology,” Ben doesn’t exactly achieve what he does through the cleanest of methods.

On the Island
No, I want you to want to save my life. But we're beyond that now.  ]

…which is a bit of an inaccurate title, since everything I’ve told before (minus Ben’s birth) already took place on the island, but anyway.

Ever since he took over the Others, Ben has been using the island to lead numerous research projects on pathology. It is unknown if he’s the mind behind the experiments (ask him and he’s not, though – Jacob did it, but we’ll get into that later) or if the Others took over the DHARMA stations for these purposes.

He has been employing researchers, like Ethan Rom and Juliet Burke, for supposedly brief stays at the island to contribute to his research. He’s, quite probably, the only of the Others who isn’t desperate to leave – and knows it. He neither confirms nor denies the others’ hopes, always repeating that there are means to leave the island, and that they are able to go if they want to.

The truth, as we’ve come to find out, is – nobody gets out of the island.

Ben has intently severed all possible contact with the exterior, uses two lady pawns to supervise the blocking of all possible radio signal to come in or out of the island from a station he claims to have been flooded and out of use for ages, and overall manipulates all of his people to keep them safe and sound inside his little paradise.

To tell them what to think, Ben puts his words in the mouth of an obscure figure called “Jacob”, and Ben refers to him as a “brilliant, unforgiving man” who lives in a cabinet in the island’s forest. This Jacob would be the Others’ actual leader, having just chosen Ben to spread his word and give the commands and lead them through their righteous path of win.

Jacob’s existence is heavily disputed.

During S3, it seems Ben has been focused for a while in a project trying to fix the fact that women can’t give birth in the island. In general, and partly because of his own back tumour (his reason, in the first place, to go after Jack), he’s a bit obsessed with the concept of the island’s healing powers, and insists on looking into them. Some Others, including Richard Alpert, consider this pointless, and uncanny for a leader. Overall, it would seem that many Others only put up with him by clinging to the false hopes he gives them, a trust which gradually goes down towards the end of S3.

Benjamin is played by Michael Emerson.

.As Far as Canon Goes.

Now we’ve gotten to know the characters individually, let’s take a look at how they’re brought together and exactly what their story is.

Mr. Henry Gale or the Man Behind the Curtain
You say I’m ‘an other’? Another what?  ]

There’s someone else I have barely mentioned, but is crucial for the John and Ben relationship. I have already said that, the first time they met, when Ben is captured by the survivors and kept secret in a room in the hatch while he’s ‘interrogated’, he doesn’t go by the name of Benjamin Linus: he introduces himself to the cry of “My name is Henry Gale and I’m from Minnesota,” and to tell the truth, it’s hard not to believe him.

Where Ben has a calculated set-up, a perfect alibi, Henry is just an innocent survivor of his own crash on the island (balloon crash, no less), unfortunate enough to fall in one of Rousseau’s (an independent, slightly mental survivor who has been in the island for 17 years) traps. Every time he’s asked to repeat his story, he stutters something so ridiculously surrealistic that it’s impossible not to believe. It is, looking back, hard to see Ben the Evil Calculating Genius in Henry the Stuttering Balloon Man, but the survivors have been too much time on this island to believe a word he says.

That’s where Locke comes into play. He’s terribly eager to get answers, and at first, he supports Sayid, who had been a torturer, getting them forcefully out of him. It’s the possibility of Henry being an Other what draws him in: he was the first one to acknowledge that they were not alone, he’s convinced that the Others have something to do with his fate.

Ben catches John particularly vulnerable. He thought he may have been close to finding what he’s looking for in the underground bunker known as the ‘hatch’; but all he does there is spend his day entering numbers, pressing buttons, waiting 108 minutes and repeat. By doing this, he keeps the magnetic forces of the island from destroying the world, basically, but at the time, he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know if there’s a meaning to it (he desperately wants to, but doesn’t), he lies to himself about it, and it all has started to evolve into a crisis of faith.

Locke’s the only one to soften up a bit with Henry. He brings him breakfast, something to read, tries to get closer to him – chooses a bad moment, though. Not far into the two’s encounters, Henry seems to detect that John is not as much of a leader as he’d like to be, falling second to Dr. Jack Shepard, the series’ protagonist. Thus, Henry starts to produce classics such as “So who are you, John – the genius, or the one who always feels like he’s living in the shadow of the genius?” or, more directly, “I just don’t see why you always let the doctor call the shots.” These comments anger Locke; it’s impossible to say they’re not taking their toll on him. Henry knows and smiles.

And still, Locke ends up trusting him. He’s clingy – very clingy. The high point of the first stage of their relationship occurs during the “Lockdown”, a process where huge metal doors shut Henry and Locke together in the hatch without being able to escape if they don’t cooperate. To top it all, Locke accidentally harms his legs, actually needing Henry to type in the 108 minutes code. Before letting him out of his improvised prison, Locke forces Henry to look at him in the eye. Henry does so and tells him what he wants to hear – “My name is Henry Gale, I’m from Minnesota” – in one second, Locke’s in the palm of Ben’s hand like that.

Not much after that, Sayid and Jack bring actual proof that Henry Gale has been lying all the time, and that Henry Gale is not even his real name. This alone is more than enough to make Locke’s trust shatter down to pieces, but still – if he’s lying, if he’s been lying all long, why did Henry help instead of leaving him and trying to escape during the lockdown? In his subsequent conversations with Jack, it’s a given that wants to find absolutely any way around not trusting – something similar to what happened with Anthony Cooper, and this time, I think it proves Henry must have really meant something to Locke, even if it was just for that couple of hours they spent together.

That’s the story of Henry Gale. From that moment on, we speak about Benjamin Linus.

A Few Irreversible Steps
If it's not real, then what are you doing here? Why did you come back? Why do you find it so hard to believe?  ]

During the climatic end of S2, Ben takes a few of the survivors (namely Jack, James Ford AKA Sawyer, who lives hoping to kill the man who conned his mother leading to his parents’ deaths, and Kate, a fugitive who was being taken back by an agent when on the plane) to the Others’ camp – what used to be the DHARMA installations, only without the DHARMA workers, and used for the Others’ research and Ben’s purposes.

As I said before, Ben has been diagnosed a back tumour by Juliet, and Jack is an expert surgeon, which renders him useful. Kate and Sawyer manage to escape, but Kate is remorseful abut leaving Jack there, and thus decides to go back for him; not knowing that Jack has been promised to leave the island via sub (Ben’s mean to keep his people’s hopes alive) if he helps, and the doctor willingly does so.

So, it is in mid-S3, when Locke teams up with Sayid and Kate to go on a rescue mission. However, John couldn’t care less whether Dr. Shepard is fine or not: the first place he visits upon arriving to the camp is Ben’s house.

I’ll tell you it was this scene what drew me into the pairing. I consider it very important for the relationship; since Ben and John haven’t seen each other in a long long time, they have quite the chunk of things to talk about, and most canon aspects of the relationship are discussed here.

Locke pops up in Ben’s bedroom. Alex, Ben’s “daughter” (actually daughter of Rousseau, disappeared 17 years ago and seemingly adopted by him), hears his father talking to somebody; when she enters the room, John forces her to retrieve a captured Sayid’s bag, which contains some explosives. Next thing John does after her taking off is demanding Ben to tell him where the sub is.

Ben, now temporally paralyzed waist-down, asks first to be conceded a little dignity; from then on, Ben uses a wheelchair to move around, something he’s perfectly aware that will have effects in John, place him metaphorically in a “leading” position. Ben comments on how blowing up the sub will be to no use: it’s just Jack who wants to leave, he will not be able to find the island from the outside; after it leaves, it will definitely not be back; the sub keeps his people’s hopes up and if they lose faith in him he won’t be regarded as a leader anymore, and so on. John dismisses each of his comments; quite clearly, as Alex puts it so beautifully later, “He [Ben]’s manipulating you. It’s what he does. He makes you think it’s your idea, but it’s his.”

Ben then starts elaborating on his little obsession about the island’s qualities; he implies he could give John everything he wants if he joins him. He comments on how what happened to Locke, how his disability just magically healed, thrills him so much he just needed to know more; how it was oh-so hard for him to stay so much time in the bunker alone with John, knowing he could ask anything without necessarily having to tell who he really was. Fervently interested, he questions over and over what happened upon the crash (“Was it instantly? You just took off, started to walk?”) – and also what his accident felt like. John replies to the last question that he felt how his back broke; it wasn’t exactly his top moment.

The conversation is starting to derive into a mutual ongoing attempt to hurt each other, when Alex enters the room, bringing the explosives. Locke makes her guide him to where the sub is kept. Next we see, seconds before Jack is going to be allowed in it by the Others, a hurried Locke exits the vehicle, asking to be forgiven before it’s blown away in front of the doctor’s incredulous eyes.

The Others, of course, take John prisoner, and Ben drops by to visit. He applauds what Locke has done; tells him he’s just solved a problem, because Ben definitely did not want the doctor to escape, and killing him would have made his people suspicious. Basically, John has done him a favour; but Ben doesn’t need to tell him. Both know well.

Ben ironically tells him he has a surprise to say thanks. He remembers their conversation back in the bedroom, saying that, when he asked John about how his accident had felt, he didn’t mean physically. He wanted to know what his father trying to kill him felt like.

Ben knows something else. He knows one of the reasons why Locke feels safe in the island is because it’s the only place where his father will never ever find him – John is on the verge of tears as he hears that. But something happened: Ben doesn’t know how it has been possible, and he points out that it’s probably caused by John’s esoteric connection with the island. Richard releases John, and he’s commanded to follow Ben to another of the prison rooms: there, tied down, gagged and bloodied up, is none other than Anthony Cooper the fantastic.

The Man of Tallahassee
What if I told you that somewhere on this island there's a very large box, and whatever you imagined, whatever you wanted to be in it, when you opened that box, there it would be.  ]

Both are as bewildered to see each other as the viewer is by this point. Locke almost doesn’t look like the same person that we first met: the fake Cooper with clean-white hair and a friendly smile has evolved into a slimy Hostel-baddie look-alike. When his son removes the gag, Cooper bites him, drawing blood: he’s desperate, and regards Locke as though he knew perfectly where they are.

The two don’t get much time to elaborate. Instead, Ben tells John he and his people are leaving the camp, ‘to a new place’. “Do you want to come with us?” The Others’ leader tempts John, and he agrees.

Five days later, it looks like Ben’s people are beginning to settle down in a temporary camp. The Others welcome John with open arms, telling him they’ve been waiting for him and that they’re so happy he’s finally come, which he’s a little puzzled about, but happy nonetheless. Moreso, the relationship between Ben and John is particularly quiet and content at this point: Locke casually drops by Ben’s tent while he’s listening to a tape recorder where Juliet informs him about the castaways. When questioned, Ben replies, as if following just your everyday casual conversation, that he’s sent a mole to bring the women that may be pregnant, but that there should be no worries, nobody will get hurt.

One of the most curious scenes in the relationship happens now. First off, John doesn’t question him: he stares off for some seconds, meaning he’s concerned, but discards the feeling quickly in favour of handing Ben this nearby cane. Just then, Ben pulls up, and for first time in about five episodes, starts walking around.

John is surprised by the news, but pleasantly so. Apparently, one week before, Ben couldn’t move his toes; right then, he directly tells John that he thinks the progress has been made thanks to his presence. Both are visibly delighted. The couple even flash each other a few smiles during the course of the conversation, something which happens so rarely.

Ben also adds he looks forward greatly to telling him all about the island’s secrets, but that John is not prepared yet. To become a part of the Others, he has to commit an act of freedom: he has to let go of what has been torturing him all this time. Changing the whole mood of the scene, he puts it bluntly: John has to kill his father.

Now it would be a rare thing for Ben’s emotion to be genuine. In the past, (except maybe concerning his disintegrated relationship with Alex, the main scene concerning which didn’t make it to the final cuts), he hasn’t shown emotion unless it has been of use. Ben is a suspect to the only one of the others that doesn’t want Locke to know anything about the island’s secrets; the not walking up to that point may as well have been an act. It’s just the fact that John is being visibly genuine then that makes this scene of quiet happiness turn into something far sadder. But I shall analyze that later.

That evening, John is wakened up by Ben, who tells him it’s time to accomplish. He finds his father tied down in front of the whole camp, the Others crowding around him; Ben hands him a knife and removes Cooper’s gag.

I will let their own words speak here:

Cooper: You're kidding me, right? You expect him to kill me?
Ben: John, your hesitation comes from the part of you that still thinks he had a perfectly good explanation for stealing your kidney, throwing you out of an eight-storey window. Don't you wanna be free?
Cooper: If he's hesitating, it's because he's a spineless--
John: Shut up! I- I have to think.
Ben: Don't think, John!
Cooper: We've been through this, Bug Eye. All he wants is his daddy.
John: Shut up! I said shut up!
Cooper: You really haven't figured it out yet, have you?
Ben: Let go of him, John.
John: Why are you doing this to me, Ben?
Ben: Doing this to yourself. As long as he's still breathing, you'll still be that same sad, pathetic little man that was kicked off his walkabout tour because you couldn't walk.


By this point in the conversation, John already has his knife to a defenceless Cooper’s throat. Every word the con man spits is venom, and his son’s tone as he asks Ben why is he doing that is one inch from the breakdown. In a final effort, after looking around and seeing every Other hoping to themselves he’ll be strong enough, John tries, but in the end, is not able to proceed.

Another of the crucial John/Ben moments happens now. As Locke withdraws the knife, for one second, one thinks that all three people involved knew that would be the outcome: Cooper starts mocking his son; “I’ll be here the rest of the week, John, if you change your mind—”

Ben then hits him full on the head with his cane before he can finish the sentence.

And here, I’ll leave the overanalyzing for the relationship section.

Right afterwards, Ben takes the knife from a trembling John who is barely capable to look at him in the eye, and announces to the crowd before him that he’s sorry – John is not who they all thought he was.

The morning after, the Others are leaving, and Ben makes it clear John will not be following suit until he’s strong enough. He even uses John’s famous words “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” against him, and implies that both of them were wrong upon judging Locke’s connection with the island. The hunter is strongly hurt by this.

Distanced from the Others’ camp, as though he didn’t think he deserved to stay, Locke looks thoughtful and angry to himself. Richard Alpert, one of Ben’s “number two”s, approaches him; he politely introduces himself, and afterwards explains to Locke that he thinks Ben only wanted to embarrass and humiliate him in front of the Others; because when word had it that someone with a broken spine had started to magically walk again, people around the camp started to get excited, “because that could only happen to someone extremely special”. He says Ben’s research is only wasting everyone’s time; that stronger matters are at hand in the island, and basically, the only reason why their current leader doesn’t want to see it is because he also doesn’t want to be replaced.

Richard wants Locke to find his purpose. “And for that, your father has to go,” He croons. But Ben’s not the only one who knew John’s not capable of that: and because of that, Alpert is more than happy to hand John a well-researched file about one of his castaway comrades who will have more than enough reasons to do so.

John goes back to the survivors’ and manages to corner Sawyer. He tells him he’s captured Ben, and needs Sawyer to kill him, since he’s too weak to do it. Of course, when our friend James disagrees, Locke thinks it over, and as he begins to walk into the forest again, mentions it was a mistake to go find him. James hesitates and shouts at him to wait; back turned on Mr. Ford, John’s expression as he hears that is not at all unlike those we saw on Henry Gale.

On the way, John speaks to James about many crucial details of his past. Sawyer gets particularly violent at the mention of his father, and why he put a bullet to his mother’s head. (As I mentioned earlier, several of James’ flashbacks show that a man conned his mother, causing the Ford senior to lash out: the con man in question went by the name of Sawyer, which is the reason behind James’ nickname.) Without mentioning much more, John quietly guides him to an abandoned ship located deep within the forest, and tells him the capture is there, locked in the brig.

Upon hearing muffled screams coming from inside there, James believes Locke and steps into the room: but John shuts the door behind Sawyer before he even realises Ben is not the one he’s locked with. It’s Anthony Cooper. But Sawyer doesn’t know this.

Puzzled, James calls Locke’s name; there’s no answer. It’s obvious he won’t let the southerner out until he kills this strange man. Cooper confirms being John’s father, except in distinctly less nice words. Spitting everything he says, he denies knowing about how he came there: last he remembers, he had been driving through Tallahassee, when suddenly he had a car accident, and woke up there. He notes cynically that he thought, even thinks, John to be dead by that point. “Are you sure it’s an island? Little hot for heaven, isn’t it?” He taunts Sawyer. Apparently, he’s no better than one of those They’re In Purgatory™ theorists.

Believing he’s dead so much he just doesn’t really care anymore, he tells James about his accident in lurid detail, and also all about throwing John out of the window and the paralysis. By the time he utters “I conned him into giving me one of his kidneys,” a sick suspicion is starting to grow in the back of Sawyer’s mind.

Looking into it further, James ends up finding out that Cooper is indeed the Tom Sawyer he owes his name to: in a fit of rage, he murders the con man, saving Locke the hassle.

Vulnerable as ever, Sawyer runs off for fresh air, and ends up vomiting outside. Locke then thanks him, and, perhaps as a parting gift, reveals Juliet is a mole and gives him Ben’s tape recorder, doublecrossing him. Knowing better than to rely on anybody from now on, he says he’s “on his own journey” now.

After leaving James to go, John wraps Cooper’s corpse in a blanket, determined to track the Others down.

Large Box of Ghosts & Mass Murder
The man I work for, he’s a brilliant man. But he’s not a forgiving man.  ]

All the Others, Ben as a notable exception, are happily bewildered that John is back. After the initial surprise, Ben calmly tells the hunter that “all about the island” is something said faster than explained, that it’s a process, and there are things that he’s just not prepared to understand. Having watched this episode a few times, this can be interpreted as a direct warning towards the viewer, a hint towards the mindfuck later on the chapter.

First off, he tells John, Ben’s not the one in charge. Apparently, he, too, receives orders from someone. Enter the scene Jacob, a mysterious, unseen figure that lives in a cabinet deep in the forest and has apparently “chosen” Ben as his mean of communication with the Others. Nobody but Ben speaks to him.

John receives this like the viewer does by this point. He says what he thinks: Jacob doesn’t exist; Ben’s a liar. The Others’ leader has shown to be bothered by being called that. Thus, he agrees to take John to Jacob’s place, have the boss tell the island’s secrets himself.

They’re getting ready when Mikhail, one of the most faithful Others, interrupts. Impatient, Locke pummels him; Ben is alarmed and shouts at a couple of his second-in-commands to stop him, but to no avail. It is presumably here, when the Others just watch as Locke takes justice by his hand, when Ben starts to feel threatened by him, something unheard of before.

By the time they arrive to the cabinet, it’s already night. Ben orders John to turn off his flashlight – Jacob is one for technology as much as John. After knocking on the door, warning Jacob of their presence, both men enter the cabinet.

It’s empty.

Ben talks to, even seems to argue with the ghost of a Jacob unseen to John; the chair he’s sitting on appears empty to the outer eye, and one can see the hopes and excitement falling to pieces on John’s facial expression as he labels Ben as insane and turns around to leave. And then, something happens. Someone speaks – a voice completely different from either of the two men’s, a voice saying, “Help me.” Bewildered, John turns around and tells Ben to repeat, but the Other insists he's said nothing. Then the furniture starts to shake, objects to be thrown around by some unseen force, just as if the ambiguous Jacob had started throwing a fit.

After things have calmed down, John practically kicked out of the cabinet by its invisible inhabitant, Ben soon following, nobody knows what to expect. For one, John can hear Jacob: for the first time, Ben feels truly threatened. There’s no place for the hunter in his plans anymore. And so, he takes him to what could perfectly be referred to as their “special place”: the mass grave where he disposed of all the DHARMA initiative workers’ corpses.

John examines it thoughtfully, perhaps not knowing exactly what to make out of it as of yet. “I have managed not to end up in there,” referring to the reason why he was made the Others’ leader, unknown to us as of yet, “Which makes me considerably smarter than you.”

In one of the most shocking moments on the series, Ben shoots John full on the stomach and leaves him to die in the grave - a total crime of passion, in my opinion.

Now, Locke isn't dead and he's ready to come back and better (just as new, of course, from the bullet wound and everything), and Ben gets all tied up and beaten up by the survivors before they're offered a so-called "chance for escape", but the real plot that unites the two characters is very much over for now.

The questionable, ambiguous nature of the events that I've just described have been theorized about and discussed even by the actors, and there's absolutely nothing official that the series' scripwriters want to let out at the moment. It's a perfect story of "draw out your own conclusions", but again, that's what we're here for, isn't it?

.Beyond Canon & Why It Works.

So they’re both among the main characters and among the major plot points. One’s the most dynamic, going from spiritual hunter to vulnerable obsesser to a bit of both, one’s the self-proclaimed leader of his own little utopia, and two have this whole lot of wonderful pairing potential. What else is new?

Ben  Locke
…and you came striding out the jungle, to make my dream come true.  ]

An evil mastermind is not all there is to Ben. It’s true, we rarely get to see him express any type of emotion; when things go as he wishes, he’s merely pleased; when things look like they may have escaped his control, he hardly panics. It’s so easy to just chalk it up to being a pathological liar or a madman. It’s more as if, if it doesn’t help him gain what he wants, he won’t express himself. Even as a child, badly hurt as he was by how his father treated him, he was shy and apathetic: still keeping the only birthday present he’s ever been given, a doll handmade by his childhood friend Annie, the way he has of clinging to it is examining it curiously, objectively, more than a decade later. (I’m fairly sure that this is not the last we’ve seen of her and Ben, but since the relationship is very unclear at the moment, I’ll just update when it gets a mention.)

So, at the moment, there are only two people with whom Ben has shown emotions: Alex, in a scene which didn’t make it to its episode’s final cut where he wangsts a bit about how their father-daughter relationship has deteriorated so much, and when speaking to Locke. He knows Locke inside-out, like he knows every detail about each of the survivors: but even that’s not enough. He longs to know more, because Locke, without wanting it, essentially represents everything Ben has a need for, everything about the island he hungers to know - even when it may, on a first look, seem precisely the other way around.

That's right: the way Ben has of lying his way into John's confidence definitely mirrors what he wants to get from him. He makes up Henry Gale to pick up Locke's interest and need just the way he knows it will work - precisely because it's what would work with him.

Ben  Locke
Crazy people don't know they're going crazy, they think they're getting saner.  ]

Much like in the above case, at first I don’t think Locke is drawn to Ben for what he is, but for what he represents. The difference with what Ben feels for John is that, in this case, it's far from true, and both of them know, no matter the much John lies to himself about it, gives himself excuses about it.

I think there’s a look to the Locke/Ben relationship that is rarely considered, but very interesting to approach. It has to do with Henry, and how I think that Ben’s slight obsession being reciprocate is perfectly plausible. It's the Anthony Cooper approach: the fact that the relationship established between Locke and Ben, from Locke's part, mirrors the one established between him and Cooper, which also proves that the development of Locke's personality is perfectly plausible and coherent.

Both the Cooper and the Ben that Locke meets at first are very different from the real thing: during his life, our boy John has really been in for a few surprises, the theme of deceit being very obviously recurrent. But, less obviously, also is hopefulness, and obsession. No matter how many times he'll be deceived, no matter how low the blows will be, he'll always keep coming back for either of the two as long as they offer a fickle lie to believe.

In the flashbacks, what John hopes for, never really learning his lesson, is that deep down, there will be something in him that will make him change and be the good – the fake – Anthony again, and love him like a proper father should. But there isn't. And Locke is put through much shit because of it, down to the point of the wheelchair plot I've discussed earlier.

Now Henry is different from Anthony in the fact that he does sort of gradually evolve into Benjamin - which is why it's a little easier, Locke is a little keener on swallowing his lies whole. Sort of, in that he lets out clues now and then, (good thing he's not one of them indeed), but there is something that Locke looks for, that Locke will always look for in Ben, and that thing is Henry Gale. Henry has something that Benjamin doesn't: Henry is mysterious. He's a bit like the reason why things look much better when you have no idea what's going on, because the explanation behind them may be so horrible or so disappointing. But Henry could be anything, he could be literally anyone, he knows something the rest don't. The moment he becomes Ben, he's already a liar, he's already that calculating mastermind living in a neat-suburb-looking Other!island where he has a few half-captive freaks who aren't too fond of him and where he indulges in kidnapping survivors with a song in his heart and a tumour in his back. Henry, on the other hand, is enshrouded by nothing and anything John wants, providing our lostee with somebody who trusts him and confide him his secrets, to depend on and who depends on him, who is "one of the good guys": he's there to tell John everything he wants to hear.

I guess my point is that not only is Ben completely obsessed with John and his kinky lack of wheelchair but it also would make sense for it to be mutual. At least out of love/hate. Whatever.

Together & Why
The moment you appeared, I started to feel pins and needles...  ]

I guess the appeal of the pairing goes, as I said before, how the relationship doesn't really need to be romantic to be all the most interesting - very dynamic, and definitely fun to watch, the romance or obsession would just add another, different layer to it. Now, the canon part about this is their fascination with each other, read deeply into it or not. It may end in a bit of a mess, with Locke finding out that Ben doesn’t, in fact, hold any key answer to what he’s been searching since day one; and Ben feeling immensely threatened by Locke, to the point of killing, or trying to kill him, but after all, what awesome love/hate pairing hasn't ended like that?

There is, actually, a strong parallel drawn between the two characters. Dialogues in flashbacks, cf Lockdown and The Man Behind the Curtain, of a conversation between John and Cooper and one between Roger and Ben, both taking place in cars, are shot in very similar ways; as if to emphasize a connection between their two backgrounds, the mothers of both characters are called Emily. We're at least entitled to speculate about their connection.

Hardly one happy-go-squishysquee lovey-dovey pairing as it goes, not even necessarily romantic to make it interesting, the ways one can treat Ben/Locke are quite a few. If one ever wanted to see it from an actually sweet and cute point of view, there are a couple of moments in their relationship where there could be something sweet and less angst-mindfuck-ridden. Come to mind the far beginning of their "friendship", during Lockdown, maybe, in the seconds of real trust they share; and also the bit when Locke chases after the Others all happy and fullfilled, the very strong, very quiet dialog they share in the tent, the beginning of The Man of Tallahassee. Not the kind of moments that sum up the relationship (not at all), but the ones that, after all, keep it all going in between the drama.

As stated before, there is one particular scene that I find worthy of mention when discussing these two. It's the one where Ben gives John the option to kill his father, as another of his little twisted mindgames; at Cooper's taunting, his twisted smirks and his crooked laughter, Ben hits him to shut him up. Now, I think this is one of the strongest moments for the pairing: Ben already knows John will not be capable of killing his father, and he most probably has been looking forward to shut Cooper up for a while; but the gesture does look a lot like sudden anger venting, hating him, but also hating John for not being strong enough. At a first glance, I didn’t even think it was coherent for Ben’s character, but after thinking about it, it’s not only quite possible that he does it out of having wanted John to go through with it for a split second, but also because Cooper probably reminds him of his own father.

At many points of S3, Locke looks almost as if he’s becoming a Ben in the making of sorts. Definitely, it could do him - in fact, it could do nobody - much good to hang a lot of time around this guy. One of the most widely accepted theories up until now is that, somehow, the parallel must be far from a casuality, with Locke somehow connected to Ben -- even more, destined to actually replace him as the Others' leader, as Ben himself seems to think.

.Recommendations.
He manipulates people. He makes you think it's your idea, but it's his.  ]

The Lost fanbase is huge, and while it isn’t one of the most widely spread pairings, Ben/Locke still gets some love.

He Came Back, the LJ community for devotees, is a wonderful place to start searching. It’s riddled with gorgeous fanart, plenty of graphics and beautiful fanfiction for all our needs.
Been's Bookclub, a Ben and Michael Emerson-centered 18-and-over fanfiction community.

As far as fanfics go, and just to name a couple, some of my personal favourites include:
Not My Fault, (x-posted at DArt here)
That Man Called Henry Gale
And gl12’s swoon-worthy ongoing story, Unfamiliar.

As for miscellanea:
Blockparty, the official fanlisting for the [not necessarily romantic] relationship between the two, made by a fellow fan.
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Comments

As someone who is fascinated by both of them seperately and their relationship, I'm delighted by this essay. Thank you for writing it!
They're definitely very complex and amazing characters, just completing each other in the most odd ways. The appeal is less "omg hot boiz togther!!11!1" and more mindfucky fascinating goodness.
There's just so much to choose from in this show isn't there? Theirs is definitely one of the best relationships evar1111 etc. Thanks for the praise!
Glad I'm not the only one who sees the potential for these two! Very nicely written.
Thank you! ♥ There's definitely a lot of potential, whole lot of layers in that relationship :D
you did a fantastic job writing this!
i love ben/locke ^^
Brilliantly written essay! I'm so glad you took the time to do this.

No matter how many times he'll be deceived, no matter how low the blows will be, he'll always keep coming back for either of the two as long as they offer a fickle lie to believe.

So true, this bit. Poor John. :(
blue by darkhavens

January 2018

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