How Much Do the Others Know?Edit
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1. Oceanic 815 was unexpected. Maybe Desmond really did bring down the plane with an electromagnetic fluctuation. “Incidents” have happened before. When the Others ran outside to see what was happening, they immediately looked up—not around or down. A whole lot of shaking was going on—which could just as well mean an earthquake or tsunami as much as an imminent plane crash to an island-dwelling people. Until they spotted the plane breaking up midair, they didn’t know what was happening. How many planes have crashed on the island? (We know of two, but even the Others might not have been aware of the drug runners’ plane; it might’ve been small and quiet enough literally to fly under their radar.) In any case, the Others weren’t sitting around waiting for the arrival of Oceanic 815. This gives more weight to Desmond’s theory that he accidentally brought down the plane, but I still doubt if that’s the complete answer to Why did the plane crash on this island? and Did someone ensure that these passengers would arrive?
2. The Others didn’t know everything taking place among the castaways, new or old. In “The Glass Ballerina,” Ben acted shocked that Sayid, Sun, and Jin sailed around the island, because he wasn’t aware of their sailboat. He expected Sayid to find the fake village, but possibly locating the Others’ suburbia didn’t cross his mind. It took him a moment to formulate a plan to get the boat and prevent Sayid from possibly learning more about the island than Ben wanted him to know.
If Kelvin kept the sailboat—and Desmond—a secret for more than two years, Ben didn’t know about everyone who washed ashore. Or perhaps he knew but was given false information about the condition of Desmond’s boat and didn’t suspect Kelvin would be able to fix it in order to escape. Someone knew that Kelvin, or another volunteer, still operated the Swan station, because it’s doubtful that the DHARMA Initiative-labeled food would continue to be dropped year after year if someone didn’t know that the station was manned. Given the fact that the button really needed to be pushed, Ben probably knew that someone was there but didn’t care much more than making sure someone stayed around to push the button. Even this possible little gap in the Others’ knowledge brings up more questions: Was Kelvin exiled by the DHARMA Initiative — a form of extreme punishment that he attempted to escape by incarcerating Desmond? How much did Ben know about the Swan station’s current operations before he infiltrated the castaways’ society? The sailboat provides us with some interesting questions about how much or little the Others really know without sending a party to gather information.
What the Others know proves equally interesting. Ben said that he’s an island native, as are at least a few Other people, such as Alex. They knew enough about the outside world to blend with the recently crashed castaways. They knew that the island is “special” and can trap travelers. They knew exactly what to do when Oceanic 815 broke up midair — where to go and how to act to infiltrate two groups of survivors; they likely created their own Homeland Security plans just in the event of unexpected arrivals. The Others knew how to move quickly and silently through the jungle. They knew how to sneak past Sayid and silently board the sailboat. They’ve shown several times that they’re masters of gathering and controlling information. They’re even willing to bargain the most important piece of information to the castaways: how to go home. Ben, at least, knows enough about the island and its? his? mission to stay there voluntarily.
But I still theorize that Henry/Ben is just a middle manager in a much grander plan, likely operated by He/Him living off-island. Ben received “outsider” information about the castaways and their former world. He sent parties to gather information and interact with castaways on his terms, but he didn’t set up the surveillance equipment or develop the initial experimentation stations. He knows quite a bit about what’s happening on the island, but he’s not in charge of the highest levels of decision making. He just oils the machinery and keeps the employees from grumbling too loudly; he probably even has productivity quotas—however they’re measured in DHARMA Initiative or other corporations’ (Widmore? Hanso? maybe even a Paik consortium?) terms.
Knowledge is power, and Ben acted, at least in these two episodes, determined to get as much information as possible from Jack and to limit what everyone else knows. Like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a vast machine, fooling the rest of the population about just how much he knew, and basing his leadership on this false sense of power, “Henry Gale” might know only as much as his monitors and informants show him. Ben’s “omniscience” is likely just smoke and noise. We may need to find He/Him to get the all-powerful answers to our many questions.