In the Sideways 2004 world, Ben is a frustrated teacher of European History. He truly wants to help the students, to lead them, but is being held back by budget cuts and by principal Reynolds. At home, meanwhile, he's close to his father, who is suffering from lung problems.
At one point. Mr. Linus tells his son that he wanted something more for him.... that's why they went to the island and joined Dharma. Mr. Linus wonders what would have happened if they never left. Fascinating.
Meanwhile, Ben is close to Alex Rousseau at school. She's a student that needs to get a scholarship in order to get into Yale. She studies with Ben (Dr. Linus), but really requires a recommendation letter from a Yale alum (hello, Principal Reynolds!) to get in. This will soon pose a problem for Ben: he gets help from Leslie Arnzt, breaks into the school nurse's email and finds proof of an affair between her and Reynolds. He tries to blackmail Reynolds in order to get his job, but the principal turns the tables.
He says he'll write Alex a terrible letter if Ben goes through with his plan. So, what does Ben want: power? Or to help someone he cares about? In the end, he chooses to NOT pursue the principal position. In exchange, Reynolds writes a glowing letter of recommendation. Given this new chance in 2004, Ben chooses Alex over a position of power.
ON THE ISLAND...
Miles, via Jacob's ashes, determines that Ben killed Jacob. As a result, Ilana shackles Ben and forces him to dig his own grave. But Fake Locke soon shows up, hiding in the bushes. He magically undoes the shackles and he tells Ben his group is at the Hydra Station. He should come join them. When Ben breaks free and has a confrontation with Ilana, he also breaks down. He says he chose the island over his daughter years ago and now he's completely lost. He doesn't want forgiveness. He just wants to go with Locke because he's the only one that will have him.
Not true, says Ilana. She'll have him. At that, Ben is redeemed. He goes back to the beach, where Lapidus, Miles and Sun have gathered, and offers to help. We then get a mimick of a classic scene from season one, altered a bit: Jack, Hurley and Richard walk to the beach. They greet everyone in slow motion. It's a great scene.
Where had these three been? At the Black Rock, on which Richard arrived at the island. He said he made a deal with Jacob, that Jacob gave him a "gift" when he touched him and he can now live forever. But he doesn't want to anymore because Jacob is dead and Richard feels like his life has been a waste. He asks Jack to kill him by setting off dynamite because Richard can't kill himself.
Jack takes up this challenge. He sits with Richard as the fuse on the TNT is lit and says he has complete faith that neither will die. Why? Because he was at the lighthouse and saw his name. He knows Jacob brought him to the island and it wasn't to die at that moment. When the lit fuse goes off... nothing happens. Looks like Jack was right: neither he nor Richard can die. Can Jack also live forever and never age?
The episode concludes with the aforementioned beach reunion... and then the shot inside a sub. It's Widmore's sub. A crew member says there are people on the beach. Should they still go through with the plan? Widmore says yes.