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There's never a dull moment in a Ben-centric episode of "Lost." Tonight's was a doozy. In truth, it felt a little bit over-stuffed. There were some moments — like Ben's confrontation of Penny and Desmond at the dock in L.A. — that seemed really rushed, and thus lost some of their impact. (After a second viewing, this didn't bug me as much and the whole seg grew on me considerably.)

But in the main — we sure did learn a lot in "Dead is Dead," written by Brian K. Vaughan and Elizabeth Sarnoff and helmed by Stephen Williams. It might've also been titled "Rules are Rules," or "The Loves of Benjamin Linus."

Ben does go on and on about doing everything for the sake of "the island," as does Widmore (it's getting to the enough-already point), but I think Ben's adventure with the resurrected Locke and in Smokey's underground cavern was all about his atoning for Alex's death — not about breaking the rules of returning to the island once you've worn out your welcome with Jacob.

We got a lot of glimpses of the bitter battles for island supremacy over the years — between Widmore and Richard Alpert, Ben and Widmore, Horace and Richard, Ben and Richard, and Ben and Locke. And they all love to play the Jacob card on one another. "The island chooses who it chooses," is Richard's retort when Widmore gets worked up about the decision to take in the dying 12-year-old Ben in 1977. Notice a pattern to the leadership choices here? Maybe it's time Jacob thought about bestowing the crown on a femme (Juliet?) for a change.

We even get the comic relief of seeing Ben and Locke needling each other about it — as if they were kids in a school yard — as Locke takes them to the Temple site to smoke out Smokey. But boy you can really see, as Ben admits, that Locke's intuition about all things Island is bugging the hell out of Ben. He nearly breaks down emotionally when he comes to realize that Locke was dead-on about what Ben's really going to face Smokey's judgment for.

Although I should know better by now, the action in this seg kept me guessing at every turn about Ben's motives and the truthfulness of his statements until the end. And I was right to do so, as proved by the big moment at the end where Alex (or the ghost of in the guise of Smokey, duh) comes to Ben and orders her guilt-ravaged dad to become a faithful follower of Locke, and to forget his plan to kill Locke for a third time.

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