Ben in the teacher’s lounge, and some thoughts about the Sideways world

In honor of the Ben-centric episode Dr. Linus coming up tonight, I wanted to take another look at this clip from The Substitute.

Starting at 0:52, we see Sideways Ben, wearing a sweater vest, in the teacher’s lounge, fussing over the coffeepot, saying:

How many times do we have to go over this. If you have the last cup of coffee, you remove the filter, and throw it away. Fear not, I will make a fresh pot

Sideways Ben in LOST 6x04 The Substitute

"If you have the last cup of coffee ... "

Every office, every workplace has someone like this. Here, in this sideways school, Ben is that guy. Michael Emerson’s inflection is perfect. I think everyone who has ever worked anywhere that had a communal coffeepot must feel at least a twinge of recognition.

What I love about this scene:

— It’s so real, such a part of everyday life, yet something that doesn’t often get portrayed in a drama, especially not a drama tackling such big issues as good versus evil, free will versus destiny, and faith versus reason.

— Michael Emerson is an acting god. To go from the terrifying Henry Gale of Season 2, to the prissy sweater-vest guy in this clip — and to make each one absolutely 100% convincing — is sheer genius.

— Sideways Ben and Sideways Locke seem to have an instant rapport, a mutual respect. Very interesting.

Sideways Ben and Locke in LOST 6x04 The Substitute

"Tea? Now there's a gentleman's drink."

I also wonder what this scene tells us about the sideways world.

We’ve seen some of the sideways characters get what they want or need: Locke gets Helen, a good future, a sense of humor about his plight, and a healthy sense of boundaries. Hurley gets good luck. Kate gets away. But the sideways world isn’t a Disnified land where all dreams come true. Sayid gets to be with Nadia, but only on the fringes of her life. And everyone still seems to be controlled by their character. Hurley is still warm-hearted, but Sayid is still violent.

What does it mean, then, that Ben, the larger-than-life arch-villain in the Island world, here seems so ordinary? What did Jacob do (if it was, in fact, Jacob who did it) to transform this Milquetoast into a cool killer?

Or is Ben not quite as ordinary as he seems here? That’s a possibility. Maybe we’ll find out more about that tonight, in Dr. Linus.

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