Main Article Theories about
The Rules
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General Thoughts

  • If you want to know the Rules, you don't have to look any further than the Truce between DHARMA and the Others. All the rules that apply (to every entity!) are stated clearly in the document.
  • Read them carefully and use them to look at several scenes and things you could not easily explain before (or only in a very different way).
  • There seem to be 3 different types of "rules" that govern Lost.
    • The first set of rules involve the Others and their link to the Island. One of those rules is "Whoever moves the island can never come back" however I believe that Ben was lying when he told this to Locke. All of Ben's actions so far in season 5 lend me to believe that he has found a way back to the island himself. Another one of these rules is that members of the Others cannot kill one another. This is evidenced by the "trial" that Juliet was subjected to in season 3 after killing an other while helping Kate and Sawyer escape Hydra Island. I also believe this is what Ben means when he says that he cannot kill Widmore. As we saw, Widmore was an Other back in 1954.
* This "rule" doesn't seem to be what keeps Ben from killing Widmore. Ben has ordered several Others killed, has possibly killed a few Others himself, and Widmore has killed at least one Other (Cunningham?). Yet, neither has been "tried".
    • The rule regarding "unable to die/to be killed" can by circumvented by a simple trick: The person targeted for death is not allowed to see it coming. This applies to everybody and was the reason FLocke could not be killed by Sayid, for example. And for the same reason Ben was able to kill Widmore in his closet, Sayid could kill Dogen in the temple, Jacob's brother could kill his "mother" and so on.
    • The second set of rules involve all the issues surrounding Time Travel. It has been clearly underlined by both Faraday and Dr. Chang that one cannot alter the future by changing the past. The catch to this rule is that there are apparently certain individuals who are "outside" of time and therefore the rules do not apply to them. I'm thinking of Richard and Mrs. Hawking here but also Desmond and perhaps Faraday as well.
    • The third set of rules involve basic morals/ethics by which all of the survivors live. As we have seen over and over again in this series, characters are constantly placed in difficult moral situations on the island that mirror something that occurred in the past. How one deals with these situations influences their standing on the island. I believe this is why the idea of good vs. evil is so prevalent in the show.
  • One "Rule" is that Others cannot kill each other. It's not so much an "Island/Protector Rule" as it is an "Others Guide-line". This is why Juliet was branded "[1]"
  • A Rule is that candidates can not kill other candidates. Ben and Widmore think they are both still candidates and that is why they think they can't kill each other. They never saw the list with their names crossed off, meaning they are no longer candidates and can kill each other. That's why Jack and Sawyer couldn't really hurt each other fighting, because they were both candidates. Mother made the rule so that Jacob and his brother couldn't hurt each other, because they were both candidates at the time. Jacob killed his brother only once he was no longer a candidate.
**COUNTER: Ben does not know of this rule though because he killed John Locke.


Rules of Engagement

  • They are unwritten rules of engagement concerning allowable actions in pursuit of the larger strategic purpose, presumably control of the Island and its secrets. They exist because both Widmore (and others off the Island) and Ben (and those on the island) have immense resources at their disposal, but using them without limit can cause bigger problems than they would solve. The two sides are in balance, and while either side could try something different, both know that the other could quickly adapt, in an equal and opposite manner, giving no net advantage. (Widmore could spend millions to send mercenaries after Ben's family, but Ben could use the Island to send assassins after Widmore's associates. The outcome is foreseeable, so neither uses these methods, resulting in a List of Things We Don't Do...at least until recently.) Without the rules, the conflict would destabilize, possibly turning the struggle into a personal vendetta, attracting the attention of larger and more dangerous adversaries, or destroying whatever they are after.
  • Widmore appeared to claim that he did not change the rules when he said that Ben was responsible for Alex's death not him. This might mean that the rules are open to different interpretation i.e. there is no written, definite list.
  • The same rules referred to in "Stranger in a Strange Land", when Ben commutes Juliet's death sentence, claiming that "the rules don't apply," and orders her to be marked instead.

Time Travel

  • The rules relate to time travel. Tom knows Michael can't kill himself because he knows somehow that in the future he's in the boat heading back to the island (example: in Meet Kevin Johnson Michael is telling his story, which involves a few suicide attempts. As a viewer we know those attempts were unsuccessful because he's telling the story.) Ben and Charles Widmore might know there is an endgame confrontation between the two of them in the future. Therefore, Ben knows he can't kill Charles and vice versa. They might have tried, and when they realized it was futile, they created a set of "rules." (i.e., no killing of each others families until the "endgame.")
    • This is further backed up by what Faraday said about rules in Because You Left. This is also why Ben was so surprised that his daughter was killed. He thought she couldn't die so when she was Ben was really saying "He changed the rules [of time travel]."
** Ben meant that Widmore changed the rules under which the two of them operated, ie, their family members may not be harmed. That is why Ben informs Widmore later that he is going to kill Penny.
  • The rules are the rules of time travel. In Because You Left Pierre Chang tells the construction foreman that killing Hitler is "absurd" because "there are rules;" Daniel Faraday later explains that new timelines cannot be created. I.e., once you know the future, you can't change the past that leads up to it.
    • This is why Ben is so surprised when Alex gets killed in The Shape of Things to Come; Ben has apparently been to the future, where Alex was alive, and thus he was confident that Keamy could not kill her. When Keamy does so, that means that Widmore has figured out a way to "change the rules" -- that is, Widmore can change the future by altering the past. Ben's knowledge of the future would also explain why he is able to get his way so often.
      • Widmore did not figure out the way to "change the rules"; he and Ben knew how to long ago. Ben and Widmore, however, agreed not to create a logical paradox in time. Widmore ignored that and this is the reason why Losties are skipping through time. All of those involved in things to come (and all of those who are directly involved in the paradox created) are traveling through time Limbo, while Others, and people off the island are not. It leads to a conclusion that all of those who are skipping through time are connected to Alex's existence in the future, which is now not the case.
    • The rules are those of the self-consistency principle as stated by the russian physicist Igor Novikov. Basically, he argued that altough time travel was possible (according to the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics), it would only be possible to interact with the past, not change it.
    • Could it be possible that these 'rules' are written in the BOOK OF LAWS which we have seen in many episodes and is referenced often...
  • "You can't change the past/future"
We've heard multiple people say this on multiple occasions. Eloise Hawking says it to Desmond in Flashes Before Your Eyes but it seems that she was incorrect, at least about this rule applying to him. We also heard Faraday say this to Desmond back in 1996, in The Constant, though he later seems to recant this when he tells Desmond "the rules don't apply to you" in Because You Left. Pierre Chang also says it to the construction worker at the Orchid.
Desmond is the one exception to this rule in the normal world - only he can change time in the normal world. The Island is the second exception - anyone can change time on the island. Faraday doesn't realize that this is the case. He knows that Desmond is an exception, but he has yet to learn that the island provides another exception. Where the losties could not change time back in LA, they can change the past on the island. This is why they end up back in 1977, because the work they have to do, the reason they need to be on the island is so that they can change the past and thereby affect the future.


  • At some unknown point in the future Ben Linus is destined to travel back in time and save a young Charles Widmore who then later grows up to live into the future and travel back in time help plan the purge. This creates a set of murderous limitations.
    • Ben cannot kill Charles because he still has to go back in time and give the others the idea for the purge.
    • Widmore cannot kill Ben because he still has to go back in time and save him.
    • Alex might also have been very important to the future, maybe she was supposed to be the person who tells Charles he has to go and tell the others about the purge.
    • To settle their makeshift feud, they set up a list of guide lines of things they could do to each other without breaking the laws of physics.
    • When Keamy killed Alex in The Shape of Things to Come, this disproved Miles' whatever happened, happened theory. It created a new time line, a branch off from the things that happened. Knowing that the rules can be broken with out consequences in the time space continuum, Ben seeks revenge on Widmore but is cautious of making another disturbance in the time space continuum.
  • One of the loopholes that the Smoke Monster had found was that it needed someone who was dead, but who had not died on the Island, while simultaneously being alive in the outside world and being dead on the Island. As was the case with John Locke, who came to the Island as a dead body on Ajira Flight 316 (where they passed through the year 1977 via a time flash, as indicated by the numbers from the radio tower that were heard in the cockpit), while at the same time being alive in 1977 in the outside world.

The Island's Rules

  • The rules are the things which Ben and Widmore are permitted to do while contesting control of the island. The island (or Jacob or Jacob and the MiB) doesn't allow certain things to happen so it's pointless to try them. We saw that similar rules applied to Michael - something stopped him from killing himself so from his point of view there were rules that guided how he was permitted to pursue his redemption. Apparently the rules also say Ben can't kill Widmore.
  • The rules were not to involve the "others" in the conflict between Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore. If Widmore was once the leader of the "others" at some point, it would make sense for both to decide not to harm their own people. Ben sends his people away to the Temple before the freighter arrives and calls them for help after Alex is killed.
  • The rules are set between two persons who are competing for the control of the Island like Ben and Charles Widmore. The rules are something ancient and Ben has somehow gained control of the Island by following the rules and there after somehow banished Charles Widmore. Now Charles Widmore is trying to gain control of the Island again but he has to follow the rules which he didn't when he killed Alex. Maybe the rules somehow imply that one have to take control of the Island by outsmarting his opponent and his/hers family, not by killing and threatening them to give up control.
    • There must be taken in consideration that Alex was actually Ben`s daughter because he adopted her. Maybe the rule only applies to actual sons and daughters not adopted ones. Or that a certain thing, like the spell of Jacob`s mother must be made in order to the Island to accept someone as your daughter(s) or son(s).
  • Ben says the rules were "changed" not "broken" because when they are set however they are, they are like physical laws and cannot be broken - as Michael simply could not die until he had fulfilled the island's purpose for him. There is obviously, however, a process to change these rules that a person can carry out without others knowing. If "the rules" were a gentleman's agreement, Widmore would have broken a rule, and if he had decided to change the rules without informing Ben, well, that would have negated the entire idea of an agreement in the first place; all rules would be off. But...
    • In Meet Kevin Johnson, when Ben is urging Alex to go to The Temple, he does tell her, "These people that are coming - they know who I am, Alex. They're here to capture me. They'll kill anybody that gets in their way. If they knew who you were, that you were my daughter, they would use you to get to me." It sounds like he knows Alex's death on Widmore's orders is a physical possibility.
  • We've seen recently that Jacob has brought to the island, people who are "candidates". That would make all the Others candidates too. I think that the 'Rules' mean that you cannot kill a candidate of the island. That's why Ben can't kill Widmore (meaning he is still a candidate) and MiB can't kill Sawyer.
    • This theory seems to make very little sense -- Firstly, you assume that Widmore must be a candidate to fit in with your theory, and more importantly, Ben killed Locke while he was still a candidate.
      • Locke could be killed by Ben because he did not see it coming at that moment. For the same reason Jacob could hurt his brother when they were kids, but could not kill him. Jacob's brother died by proxy via the electromagnetism at the source.
  • The rules can only be broken when the source is depleted. That his because the source (or the island`s core) actually feeds MiB and Jacob`s inmortality, among with their powers effects (such as Richard`s agelessness)
    • SUPPORT: The death of MIB
      • Counter evidence: MIB's death had nothing to do with the rules. If the rules made MIB immortal,jacob could have changed those rules and kill MIB.
  • Those who get the power directly of the source (the island`s core) like MiB and Jacob cannot kill candidates directly, so they must convince others to do so, or trick candidates into killing themselves.
  • That also means that those "infected" are possibly MiB`s candidates, so they cannot be killed by Jacob directly.

Benjamin Linus & Charles Widmore

Ben states that he cannot kill Widmore because of "The Rules" in The Shape of Things to Come. This is echoed in The End. Supposing that one of The rules IS that they cannot kill each other, it was allowed to occur because:

A. The rules were created by a supernatural being and something occurred that made The Rules no longer apply. The Rules (for example, MIB's inability to kill candidates) are unbreakable and enforced by a higher power. The Rules simply did not apply anymore (for whatever reason). The mere fact that Ben pulled the trigger was because he knew that the gun would work (i.e., that he could shoot Widmore), otherwise he wouldn't have taken the chance of upsetting MIB.

  • OPINION: I think it was weak to not explain the reason and get rid of a character like Widmore so easily. It would have made more sense for Richard to die from the Black Smoke (whom he was visibly afraid of, as we had seen after MIB beat him up) than for Widmore to be killed by Ben.
  • SUPPORT: The Rules only existed under Jacob. When the role of Protector was transferred to Jack the rules reset themselves. Ben explains this to Hurley after he becomes the Protector ("That's how Jacob ran things... Maybe there's another way. A better way.") Or Ben could not kill Widmore simply because the Island wasn't done with him yet. So if Ben had pulled the trigger in The Shape of Things to Come, the gun would probably have misfired or something (like Michael).
  • COUNTER: There were Rules broken before Jack became the new Protector.

B. The Rules are more like guidelines and therefore can be broken. Just like Rose and Bernard were able to break their personal rule of neutrality, some rules can be broken. The rules were set up at some point in the past by someone who just said "don't do that." Perhaps the Others posited that the battle over ruling the island should not involve close casualties.

  • SUPPORT: Widmore broke the supposed "no killing" rule when Keamy killed Alex. So, Ben broke the rule by killing Widmore. Their rules don't have anything to do with Jacob's rules.

C. The writers goofed (unlikely).

D. The rules were enforced by man not supernatural force. Ben's ability to kill Widmore was never related to any "rules". Widmore changed the rules when he had Alex shot, and in return Ben was to kill Penny. What Widmore said was "Have you come to kill me Benjamen?" to which he replied "We both know I can't do that".

  • If we assume that Ben was working for MIB rather than for Jacob then "Jacob", really MIB may have told him not to kill Widmore. We see that Widmore is responsible for bringing the freighter to the island which clearly suits MIB's purposes. So, MIB easily could have told Ben not to kill him posing as Jacob and we all know that Ben would do (or not do) anything to please Jacob.
  • The "rules" involved them (Ben & Widmore) both being Others or even leaders of the Others and therefore they could not kill each other directly unless vital information was at stake.
    • Widmore and Ben had simply a gentleman's agreement until Ben's daughter was killed.

The Rules as explanations of how the source's energy affects people.

The Rules are in fact explanations of how the source`s energy (or Island's core energy) affects everybody on the Island.

AlvarCalienes 17:21, April 14, 2011 (UTC)AlvarCalienes

Therefore once properly known, they cannot be broken unless this energy stops flowing over someone or are prevented of flowing on someone.

  • That also means that rules applies different to people in those groups:
    • a. Direct Island's energy wielders (Mother, Jacob and MiB, Jack while he is the island protector, Hurley while he is the island protector)
    • b. Candidates (of any of the first group), consider also "infected" people to be MiB candidates, as MiB choose them.
    • d. Advisors and seconds in command (ex. Richard)
    • e. People living enough on the island to be considered natives or near natives (example: The others, DI's people)
    • f. Newcomers (ex: plane crash survivors)
    • g. Time-space travelers
    • h. People who pursue returning to the island.
    • i. People who pursue a task for the island either inside or outside it.
    • j. Unique cases due to prolonged exposition to the source's energies (ex. Desmond, Walt.)