So let's take yesterday's theory a bit further. Let's make a few assumptions, shall we?
Let's assume that Ben, like Desmond, has some sense of the future. They may be flashes, they may be still images, they may be as long as the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings. Doesn't keep me up at night wondering how he sees it; what matters to me is that he CAN see it.
Let's also assume the following: Ben hates what he sees. And like Desmond, he manipulates things in order to prevent them from passing. And like Desmond, he becomes increasingly frustrated by his attempts to thwart fate.
Let's also assume the following: he inherited this gift from the Island upon his arrival, but soon had this gift turned against him by the Island once he deviated from the Island's desires. And that these visions show him the folly of his new path. And even after seeing what is to come, Ben still thinks he can outwit the Island and get what he wants.
And what he wants, more than anything? Annie.
Yes, I'm back on Annie, and I'll bring her up quite a bit between now and the start of Season 4, I'll wager. I outlined the following theory a few weeks ago, but in short: the fertility program, in my humble opinion, sprung out of the fact that Annie either died in childbirth with Ben's child or is somewhere right now in a type of cryogenic/suspended state, waiting for Ben to find a way to keep her from dying.
Ben's increasing obsession with finding a way to perpetuate the new society created in the wake of the Purge causes a rift between himself and Jacob, as well as between himself and the Island (assuming "Jacob" isn't simply a manifestation of the Island itself). Whatever the Island intends, it has nothing to do with procreation, that much seems certain. As such, Ben is "punished" for bringing Juliet, a person of science, into a land for people of faith. This punishment is the cancerous tumor on Ben's spine, a signal that the Island will no longer help him.
However, the crash-landing of Oceanic 815 gives Ben a literal lifeline in Jack Shepard, a man who can remove his tumor and allow his increasingly risky research to continue. This research is risky but for Ben, there is no option: he must save Annie (or find a way to avenge her death). He sees the new vision: Jack calling the freighter, those offshore running rampant on the Island, imprisonment/death for those currently on it, the end of both Jacob and the Island...but Ben feels he can still sidestep all of that in pursuit of his own ultimate endgame.
As such, the crash of Oceanic 815 becomes a litmus test for Ben: a moment of truth delivered by fate, by the Island, by whatever power you wish to assign. It's the fork in the road, and Ben's going down the road less traveled, at the end of which is Annie. However, the Island's unhappy with this choice, since it leads to the invasion of the island by those on the freighter. And even though Ben sees this possibility (and sees it slowly coming to fruition more and more each day during Season 3), he still grips tightly to his own ability to manipulate people into enacting his will. This explains why he wants Jack to WANT to do the surgery. This explains why he tries to humiliate Locke in front of The Others. This explains his increasing desperation throughout the season, with an ever-growing number of slip-ups uncharacteristic of a man who once ruled The Others with an iron fist and a tight grip. It's all the signs of a man trying to futility fight fate.
While signs of friction between himself and certain members of The Others existed before the crash, there's no question that Season 3 saw his power over them completely stripped. What were once idle rumblings or personal grievances turned into almost outright mutiny by the time Jack contacted Minkowski. And while he clearly subscribed to the "divide and conquer" mentality, coupled with encouraging everyone to believe he was the Island's conduit, what if every action he ever took was for Annie? What if the bug-eyed creeptastic Ben was in fact a fool for love? Wouldn't that be something?
That "something," of course, could be either wonderful or terrible, depending on your point of view. So tell me your point of view below. What if any and everything Ben's done has been for Annie? Does that strengthen or weaken his character? Does it make his actions consistent? More understandable? More reprehensible? Comment away!
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.