"The Shape of Things to Come" is the ninth episode of Season 4 of Lost, and the eighty-first produced hour of the series as a whole. It was originally broadcast on April 24, 2008 in the United States. Ben is forced to make a choice as Keamy and his team launch their first attempt to capture Ben, while a body washes ashore at the beach and Jack is finally told the truth about the intentions of the Kahana crew. Flash-forwards show the origins of Ben's manipulation of Sayid and a hostile confrontation with Charles Widmore.


Previously on Lost

On the Island

At the beach

Ray's corpse washes ashore.

Jack and Kate smile and wave at each other as Kate digs her bare feet in the sand and lowers the straps on her camisole. Jack goes into his tent and goes through the box of medicines. Kate comes in and tells him he looks awful. He takes what he says are antibiotics and says he has a stomach bug. They flirt until they hear Vincent barking, and then Bernard's calls for help. They run to investigate and find a dead body in the surf. They pull it from the water and Daniel reveals that the body is Ray, the freighter's doctor. His throat is slit. Jack asks when Daniel last saw Ray, Daniel replies "When... When is kind of a relative term."

Jack demands the truth from Faraday.

Daniel follows Kate and Jack pulls Bernard aside to talk to him about something.

Later, Daniel partially repairs the satellite phone using wiring from the plane, enough to communicate with the freighter in Morse code. He transmits "What happened to the doctor?" and listens as the freighter's reply. Daniel says that the response from the freighter was that Desmond and Sayid are fine, and that the helicopter would return in the morning. Bernard steps forward to say that the reply was, "What are you talking about? The doctor is fine." Under pressure from an angry Jack, Daniel reveals the freighter never planned to rescue anyone from the Island after all. Jack doubles up in pain and stumbles away.

Keamy forces Alex to disarm the sonar fence. (promotional still)

At the Barracks

Alex is captured by a group of six mercenaries from the freighter, led by Martin Keamy. They remove her blindfold at the sonic fence surrounding the Barracks and order her to deactivate the fence. She wants them to make a promise because the survivors have a baby with them, but Keamy holds a gun to her head and she enters the code "1623" and disarms the fence.

Locke answers the Code 14-J call.

At the Barracks, Sawyer, Locke and Hurley are playing Risk, when the phone rings. Locke picks up the receiver and hears an automated message repeating, "Code 14-J." Ben is playing the piano in another house and is agitated when Locke and Sawyer come in and tell him about the phone call. Ben opens the piano bench and pulls out a sawed-off shotgun, racks a shell and hands it to a surprised Sawyer. They take up position at Locke's house (formerly Ben's), blockading doors and windows. Locke demands to know what is going on, Ben replies, "They're here!"

Ben warns Sawyer not to go outdoors, but he goes to wake Claire from her house and fetch her. Ben tells Locke that he must survive the attack, so that the two of them (with Hurley to guide them) can get help from Jacob.

Sawyer watches in horror as Claire's house explodes. (promotional still)

Sawyer tells Doug (another survivor) to get inside, but gunfire from the tree line kills Doug, Jerome, and a woman. Sawyer manages to dodge the hail of gunfire, return shots with his handgun, and works his way to Claire's house just in time to see it destroyed by a LAW.

After the house explodes, the gunfire ceases. Sawyer searches through the rubble of the house and finds Claire, scratched, but otherwise uninjured. As he picks her up, she is dazed and calls him Charlie. Sawyer yells for the others to open the front door as he carries Claire, but it is blockaded by furniture. Against Ben's wishes not to open the door, Hurley throws an ottoman through the front window and allows them in.

Keamy threatens Ben while holding Alex hostage.

Shortly afterward, the doorbell rings. Sawyer sees who is at the door, and unblocks and opens to let in Miles who has a walkie-talkie from the mercenaries. Ben initially refuses to talk to them, but Miles tells Ben that their hostage is Alex. Ben talks with Keamy, who instructs him to look out a window so they can talk "face-to-face". Keamy asks Ben to come out, and promises not to harm anyone else, but Ben tells him his violent history and that he knows exactly what kind of man he is and that he can't be trusted. Keamy drops the formalities, and Alex is brought and forced to kneel at gunpoint. Keamy instructs Ben to walk out the front door and no one in the house will get hurt. Ben refuses and issues a counter-offer, instructing the mercenaries to turn around, leave, and to forget the Island. Keamy tells Alex to say goodbye and tells Ben that he had 10 seconds.

Ben looks on in horror as Keamy shoots Alex right in front of him.

As Keamy counts down, Ben says that Alex means nothing to him, as he took her from an insane woman, and that she is just a pawn, nothing more. Alex hears this in anguish and pleads for her life. Ben declares that he is not coming out of the house, and Keamy shoots Alex in the head.

Ben stares in shock before muttering "He changed the rules," and quickly retreats to his secret room where he seals a blast door behind him. Ben pushes aside his hanging suits and reveals another secret doorway. The walls appear to be made of stone and the door is carved with some sort of Hieroglyphs. He opens the door and walks in.

Ben makes his way to his secret door.

Later (after dark), Sawyer shouts and beats on the blast door that closed behind Ben, when Claire emerges from another room carrying Aaron and asks "What's going on?". Sawyer asks Claire "You all right, sweetheart?" and she tells him "Yeah, a bit wobbly, but, uh, I'll live." to which Miles replies "Well, I wouldn't be too sure about that." Ben emerges from his secret room covered in black soot. He orders everyone to leave the house in one minute and to run for the tree line on his command. A rumbling is heard and the Monster thunders into the camp and plunges into the tree line. The Monster is multiple thick columns of black smoke, cutting through the trees. There is some sort of electrical discharge going off inside the smoke, which causes a flashing white light and crackling noises. The survivors watch in awe as it attacks the mercenaries in the woods. Hurley questions whether Ben summoned the Monster. As it draws farther away, Locke and the survivors escape into the jungle, while Ben lingers momentarily to say goodbye to his daughter. Claire, Aaron, Hurley, Sawyer, Miles, Ben and Locke are the only survivors of the mercenary attack.

Locke and his faction watch on as the Smoke Monster emerges from the jungle and attacks the mercenary team. (promotional still)

Ben catches up with the rest of the group at the creek. Sawyer is frustrated with Locke and Ben's plan to go and see Jacob and decides to leave for the beach. Miles, Hurley, Claire, and Aaron go with him, but as they turn to leave, Locke pulls a gun on Sawyer. He insists Hurley stays to guide them to Jacob's cabin. Sawyer and Locke have a standoff at gunpoint, but Hurley agrees to go with Locke and talks them into putting down their weapons.

Flash-forward (2005)

Ben gains the upper hand over the Bedouins.

A disoriented Benjamin Linus wakes up on the ground in the middle of the Sahara Desert wearing a parka with a DHARMA logo and the name Halliwax on it. His right arm has a deep wound on it and there appears to be steam evaporating off him. He vomits, and two armed Bedouins on horseback approach. One of the Bedouins (speaking Arabic) points out how Ben does not have a trail. The other replies, "Where did this [guy] come from? Down from the sky?" Ben asks them if they speak English, and when he gets no reply, he asks them if they speak Arabic, and then Turkish, but they still do not speak with him. As one searches him he feels something hard in Ben's pocket. Ben pulls out a metal cylinder, which is a telescopic baton. He spins around, beats the Bedouin who was searching him, takes his gun and shoots the other. The beaten one says, "Surrender", and Ben says, "So you do speak English." He then hits him with the rifle butt. Ben ties off his arm wound and rides off on one of their horses.

Ben notices Sayid on the Tunisian television.

Ben checks into a hotel in Tozeur, Tunisia. The desk clerk asks if it is his first time in Tunisia, but he tells her he has been there before, though "it's been a while." He gives the name Dean Moriarty and introduces himself as a "preferred guest." The clerk looks for the name in a book and treats him with additional respect, asking if there is anything else she can do for him. He asks the clerk the date, to which she answers October 24th. Ben clarifies the year, asking, "2005?" The clerk confirms the year looking a little surprised. As he heads to his room, Ben overhears Sayid's name mentioned on the television, and turns to watch a news broadcast showing Sayid getting into a car as he is being hounded by the press, telling them he "just wants to bury [his] wife in peace."

Sayid discovers it was Ben who was spying on him.

In Tikrit, Iraq, Ben emerges from an SUV labeled "Press" and slips up a stairway to the top floor. He pulls a camera with a zoom lens from a bag and snaps a photo of a man watching the funeral procession for Sayid's wife, Nadia. He then turns the camera toward Sayid, using his flash. Sayid appears to spot Ben, who hurries back down stairs. In the street, Sayid tackles Ben to the ground. Sayid questions how he got to Iraq, Ben says he slipped in via the Syrian border. Sayid says that he meant how did Ben get off the Island and Ben tells Sayid he left via Desmond's sailboat, the Elizabeth, and after landing at Fiji he chartered a plane. He also explains that a man at the procession, whom he identifies from a traffic camera still as Ishmael Bakir, was sent by Charles Widmore to kill Sayid's wife in Los Angeles. She was killed three blocks from the corner of La Brea and Santa Monica five days earlier. Sayid vows to kill the man, saying it is now his war too.

Sayid makes his first kill for Ben.

Ben is watching Ishmael, while being served coffee by waiter in a cafe. Suddenly Ishmael leaves and Ben pursues but loses him. Ben turns into an alley, where the Ishmael appears behind him. He asks who Ben is and why he is following him. Ben identifies himself and explains that he needs him to carry a message to Widmore. Ishmael asks what the message is, and Sayid shoots him, continuing to pull the trigger even after his magazine is empty. Ben tells him not to let his grief become anger, but Sayid wants revenge, asking, "Who's next?" Ben pleads with Sayid to think about what he is doing with his life, telling him he doesn't need to get involved. Sayid stands his ground, and Ben promises to contact him. As Ben walks away he has a smirk on his face.

Ben confronts Widmore at his London apartment.

Late at night in London, Ben emerges from a taxi and enters a building. He tricks the doorman, claiming to be heading to visit a Mr. and Mrs. Kendrick in apartment 4E, but instead has a key to allow the elevator to go to the penthouse suite. Ben makes his way into a bedroom and he calls Charles who wakes. Ben inquires as to when Widmore started sleeping with a bottle of scotch by the bed. Widmore replies, "When the nightmares started." Charles asks Ben if he has come to kill him. Ben says "we both know I can't do that." He instead accuses Widmore of changing the rules and killing his daughter. The two argue about who bears responsibility for Alex's death. The debate concludes with Ben vowing to kill Widmore's daughter, Penelope, so that he will know the same pain Ben knows. Widmore claims to know "what" Ben is, saying everything Ben has he took from Widmore. Ben says Charles will wish he hadn't "changed the rules." Widmore counters that Ben will never find Penny, and that he wants "his" Island back. Ben tells Charles he will never find the Island. Charles then says that the hunt is on for both of them.


DHARMA logo on Ben's parka.

  • The DHARMA logo seen on the breast of the parka worn by Ben is that of the Orchid.
    • This parka also has the name "Halliwax" emblazoned on the left breast.
    • The octagons appear differently than other DHARMA logos on the patch, but the same logo is seen on Keamy's Secondary Protocol file with the correct hexagrams, so it is likely that the patch was a prop error. ("Cabin Fever")
  • Ben speaks Arabic and Turkish. He asks the Bedouin if they speak these languages.
  • Although Ben asks the Bedouin whether they speak Turkish, it is not a language spoken by Bedouin, nor is it related to the Arabic language.
  • One of the Bedouin points out how Ben does not have a trail. The other replies, "Where did this [guy] come from? Down from the sky?"
  • The television reporter that mentions Sayid, while Ben is in Tunisia, states: "One of the sons of Iraq, and despite the terrible causes for his return, Sayid Jarrah, one of the members of the Oceanic Six, returned to Baghdad after his wife had passed away. Sayid Jarrah and his wife are from the Tikrit area."
  • The pill bottle opened by Jack says "Amoxicillin", a common antibiotic.
  • Ben's flash-forward takes place in October 2005 — one year and one month after the crash of Oceanic Flight 815.
  • The symbols on Ben's secret room door appear to be hieroglyphs that are determinative signs in Egyptian.
    • A basic translation of these hieroglyphs is "to summon protection," according to The Lost Ninja.
  • Keamy's full name is revealed to be Martin Christopher Keamy.
  • The mercenaries are wearing MultiCam, an advanced camouflage pattern developed by the United States Army and Crye Precision, an American company.
  • The passport that Ben uses in Tunisia is Canadian, as can be seen on the front when he is opening the passport at first ("Canada" is partially visible) and the fact that there are maple leaves imprinted on the document when it is open to his picture.
  • The camera that Ben uses in Tikrit is a Nikon D100, although the Nikon logo (above the lens) has been replaced with a random pattern.
  • The lens used on the Nikon D100 is a Nikon 80-400 telephoto zoom lens.
  • Charles Widmore is sleeping with a bottle of MacCutcheon by the bed.
  • There is a line cut from this episode, but shown in the preview: "Welcome to the war." Ben says this to Locke after telling him that Hurley knows the location of Jacob's cabin. He's referring to the attack on the Barracks by the mercenaries.
  • This is the first episode since "Eggtown" to feature Hurley saying "dude," his catchphrase, marking a four-episode hiatus of the catchphrase, the longest in the history of the show.
  • This is the first episode to have a flash-forward from the perspective of someone who was not on the plane, and the first of two from the perspective of a non-Oceanic Six member, the second being Sawyer in "LaFleur".
  • In the penultimate episode of the series, "What They Died For", Ben revealed that the Monster was actually summoning him rather than him summoning the Monster.
  • This episode is Rated TV-14-LV.
  • The Baby Kate Crying sound is coming to Aaron

Production notes

Bloopers and continuity errors

Ben's office in "The Economist".

  • Jack tells Kate that Sayid had informed him that the freighter's engine was down. The camp's satellite phone had broken before Sayid learned this information, therefore he could not have communicated it to them.
  • There is an attached shirt rack concealing the hieroglyph door in this episode, rather than the storage shelving shown in that same position in "The Economist".
  • When Ben appears in the desert for the first time, he appears on his back on hard cracked ground. In the next shot he is shown raising himself up off a completely sandy surface.
  • Many of the Arabic scripts (including the news broadcast and the signs in Tunisia and Iraq) are erroneous. The letters are not connected as they should be (i.e. as if they did not form words). And even if they were connected, many of them still would not form proper words. Sayid's name, for example, is written as: س ي د ج ا ر ه which would read سيد جاره (Sayyid Jareh) when connected. This is not how Sayid's name is spelled though (سعيد جراح).

Ben's office in "The Shape of Things to Come"

  • In "The Economist" the ceiling of the small corridor between the bookcase and Ben's secret room showed no signs of a gap where the door lowered preventing Sawyer from passing to follow Ben.
  • When Ben is speaking to the concierge the front door is left open. In the next shot as he enters the elevator the door is closed.
  • When running along the fence, right before Claire's house is blown up, the grill Sawyer hides behind goes from upright to lying on its side.
  • The desk clerk was wearing Hijab (cover of the head that Muslim women wear). The Hijab is illegal in Tunisia.
  • The accent of the Bedouins is clearly not Tunisian.
  • There's some blood on the Blonde casualty's shirt before she gets shot.
  • When Ben picks the elevator lock, he uses picks designed for warded locks, but the lock is clearly a pin or wafer tumbler lock.

Blood on Blonde casualty's shirt.

  • The camera Ben used to photograph Sayid is a Nikon D100, but the viewfinder display is clearly not from a Nikon camera.
  • The sound and visual of Ben playing "Prelude in C-Sharp Minor" are not in sync.


The Season 4 soundtrack includes the following tracks from this episode:


Recurring themes

  • The freighter's doctor has been murdered. (Death)
  • A close up of Ben's eyes is shown when he awakes in the desert in Tunisia. (Eyes)
  • Ben closes Alex's eyes. (Eyes)
  • Ben refers to Alex as a pawn. (Games)
  • Hurley, Locke, and Sawyer play Risk. (Games)
  • Ben says, "He changed the rules." (Games)
  • Alex is taken hostage. (Imprisonment)
  • During Risk, after invading Siberia, Sawyer rolls 6-6-3 = 15. (The Numbers)
  • The panic code to the security fence is 1623. (The Numbers)
  • Alex is killed, as are three redshirts by the Freighter Mercenaries. (Death)
  • Claire's "house" is blown up, but she survives. (Life and death)
  • During the final scene, the light casts a shadow over half of Widmore's and Ben's faces. (Black and white)
  • Sawyer calls Hurley "Chicken Little" and says that the sky isn't falling yet. (Nicknames)
  • Ben warns Sawyer there's no time to fetch Claire, but Sawyer says: "I'll make time." (Time)
  • Ben tries to bluff that Alex means nothing to him, and as a result she is shot. (Parent issues)
  • Ben lies to Sayid about how he left the Island. (Deceptions and cons)
  • Ben manipulates Sayid into working as an assassin for him. (Deceptions and cons)
  • Ben says he is going to see "Mr. and Mrs. Kendrick in 4E". (Deceptions and cons)  (The Numbers)
  • Daniel confesses that it was never their intention to get them off the island. (Deceptions and cons)
  • When Keamy is counting down from 10 he stops after 8. (The Numbers)
  • Ben believes Widmore is responsible for murdering Alex, whom he considers his daughter, and he vows to kill Penny, Widmore's daughter. (Parent Issues)  (Life and death)
  • Widmore tells Ben that he won't find Penelope and Ben tells Widmore he won't find the island. (Secrets)
  • Sayid decides to work for Ben in order to get revenge for Nadia's death. (Revenge)
  • When Ben asks Widmore when he started sleeping with a bottle of scotch by the bed, he replies "when the nightmares started." (Dreams)
  • Martin Keamy served in the United States Marine Corps from 1996 to 2001, the exact same time and length Desmond Hume served in the Royal Scots Regiment. Both men are associated with Charles Widmore. (Coincidences)

Cultural references

  • Chicken Little: Sawyer refers to Hurley by this nickname. This refers to the old fable about a chicken who believes the sky is falling, indicating a belief in imminent disaster. (Literary works)
  • Prelude in C-sharp minor: Ben is playing this piece from Sergei Rachmaninoff on the piano, right before the phone call. (Music)
  • The Shape of Things to Come: The episode title refers to the name of a book by H.G. Wells which is written in the form of a history book from the future. One of the novel's main settings is Iraq - specifically the city of Basra, which is at the center of a world state emerging after a collapse of civilization and becomes in effect the capital of the world. (Literary works)
  • On The Road: The name that Ben uses to check in, Dean Moriarty, is the name of one of two main characters in this book by Jack Kerouac. (Literary works)
    • A passport with the name Dean Moriarty is first seen earlier in Season 4, in "The Economist".
  • Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty is also the surname of Professor James Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes' best known antagonist and mathematical genius. In the story "The Final Problem", Moriarty pays a surprise visit to Holmes to confront him and both issue ultimatums to the other regarding their continued pursuit of each other in much the same way Ben visits Widmore and they issue threats about their respective searches. (Literary works)
  • The Second Congo War: Ben remarks that Martin Keamy became a mercenary after his time in the USMC, specifically in Uganda. The Second Congo War officially took place from 1998-2003, with Uganda opposing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This conflict was most likely what Ben was referring to, as Keamy came to the Island in 2004. (History)

Literary techniques

  • Hurley repeats an old line of his, "We're all gonna die", though it is revealed that he was talking about a game of Risk. (Regularly spoken phrases) (Twist)
  • Hurley comments during the Risk game that "Australia is the key to the whole game"; The Losties connections to Australia are key to the whole show, as it's where Flight 815 originated from. (Symbolism)
  • Three background survivors (one of whom is wearing an actual red shirt) are killed in the initial attack on the camp. (Redshirt)
  • Jack takes a pill, which he says he "prescribed for himself," while Kate looks on suspiciously. This foreshadows Jack's pill addiction and attempt to self-prescribe after he gets rescued. (Foreshadowing)
  • Claire is separated from Aaron and nearly killed while Hurley takes care of the baby. This foreshadows Aaron being separated from Claire and under Kate's care after they leave the island. (Foreshadowing)
  • Kate says "You look terrible", and Jack smiles and answers "Thanks"; this same exchange takes place during the flash-forward in "Through the Looking Glass". (Foreshadowing)
  • Those survivors who followed Locke, opting to seek protection in fear of the freighter crew, are ultimately those who are attacked and/or killed by them. (Irony)
  • Ben wakes up wearing a parka in the middle of the desert. (Juxtaposition)
  • Locke did not want to execute Ben in front of Alex ("Confirmed Dead"), and ultimately it is Alex who is executed in front of Ben. (Irony)
  • Ben told Michael in "Meet Kevin Johnson" that he will not kill an innocent person, but now tells Charles Widmore that he intends to kill Penelope, who is innocent. (Irony)
  • Ben informs Widmore he is going to search for Penny, while Widmore says he will continue to search for the Island. Both say the other will not find what they are looking for. In fact, both men eventually do find what they are searching for, Ben in "Dead Is Dead" and Widmore in "Dr. Linus". (Irony)  (Foreshadowing)
  • The DHARMA logo and the name "Halliwax" on Ben's parka foreshadows the appearance of the Orchid. (Foreshadowing)

Storyline analysis

Episode connections

Episode references

Episode allusions

Unanswered questions

Unanswered questions
  1. Do not answer the questions here.
  2. Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: The Shape of Things to Come/Theories
  • When and why was Ben in Tunisia before?
  • What are "the Rules"?
    • How have they been changed?
    • Why can't Ben kill Widmore?

External links