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The Rules: Misc



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"He changed the rules." ("The Shape of Things to Come")

The term "The Rules" can refer to both a set of guidelines between Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus and a set of "Rules" which governs whether time travelers can alter events in history. As yet, the exact nature of The Rules is unknown, and it is unknown whether both instances of Rules refer to the same concept.


Ben Linus and Charles Widmore's Rules

Alex, moments before her execution by Keamy. ("The Shape of Things to Come")

Benjamin Linus and Charles Widmore appear to have had a relationship prior to Keamy's attempt to capture Ben. This is evident in Ben's shocked response to Keamy's execution of his "daughter", Alex. Ben was visibly disturbed at not only her death, but what appeared to be some greater implication of the act. Immediately after she died, Ben said to himself, "He changed the rules." It was later revealed through flashforwards that the "he" was in-fact Charles Widmore. ("The Shape of Things to Come") Later, in a flashforward during the same episode, Ben was seen making an unannounced, late-night visit to Widmore's penthouse as he slept. Ben confronts Widmore and accuses him of changing The Rules, in reference to Alex's death. The conversation also contains hints of prior interactions between Ben and Widmore, as their conversation suggested The Rules govern their actions towards each other. ("The Shape of Things to Come")

Based on this conversation, it appears as though one of The Rules is that neither can kill the other. Ben directly stated he was unable to kill Widmore, and Widmore seemingly can't kill Ben either, as he ordered Keamy to bring Ben back alive. ("The Shape of Things to Come")

"I'm here, Charles, because you murdered my daughter."
"Then I suppose the hunt is on for both of us."

BEN: Wake up, Charles.

WIDMORE: I wondered when you were gonna show up. I see you've been getting more sun.

BEN: Iraq is lovely this time of year. (pause) When did you start sleeping with a bottle of scotch by the bed?

WIDMORE: When the nightmares started. (pause) Have you come here to kill me, Benjamin?

BEN: We both know I can't do that.

WIDMORE: Then why are you here?

BEN: I'm here, Charles, because you murdered my daughter.

WIDMORE: Don't stand there, looking at me with those horrible eyes of yours and lay the blame for the death of that poor girl on me, when we both know very well I didn't murder her at all, Benjamin. You did.

BEN: No, that's not true.

WIDMORE. Yes, Benjamin, it is. You creep into my bedroom in the dead of night--like a rat--and have the audacity to pretend that you're the victim? (pause) I know who you are, boy. What you are. I know that everything you have you took from me. So... Once again I ask you: Why are you here?

BEN: I'm here, Charles, to tell you that I'm going to kill your daughter. Penelope, is it? And once she's gone... once she's dead... then you'll understand how I feel. And you'll wish you hadn't changed the rules.

WIDMORE: You'll never find her. (pause) That island's mine, Benjamin. It always was. It will be again.

BEN: But you'll never find it.

WIDMORE: Then I suppose the hunt is on for both of us.

BEN : I suppose it is. Sleep tight, Charles.

Jacob's conversation with his nemesis in the beginning of The Incident suggest that the two are playing by the same rules. Just like Ben cannot kill Widmore, Jacob's nemesis cannot kill Jacob. ("The Incident, Parts 1 & 2")

That Widmore left the Island regularly and had a daughter with an outsider, was considered against the rules. In the same vein, Ben broke the rules when he came back to the Island after turning the Frozen wheel. ("Dead Is Dead")

The Loophole

"Do you have any idea how badly I wanna kill you?" ("The Incident, Parts 1 & 2")

In reference to these rules, Jacob's nemesis stated he was unable to kill Jacob and that he'd find a "loophole" to do so. ("The Incident, Parts 1 & 2")

NEMESIS: Do you have any idea how badly I wanna kill you?
NEMESIS: One of these days, sooner or later... I'm going to find a loophole, my friend.
JACOB: Well, when you do, I'll be right here.

Later, Jacob's nemesis was able to manipulate Ben into killing Jacob for him. Before the attack, Jacob said to his nemesis that he had "found his loophole." ("The Incident, Parts 1 & 2")

If Ben and Charles are bound by the same rules as Jacob and his nemesis, then such a loophole may exist for them as well. This may be how Charles was able to "change the rules." ("The Shape of Things to Come")

The Rules of time travel

When Pierre Chang is called to the Orchid because of a problem with melting drill bits and injured workers, he tells the foreman that they are drilling close to an energy source that will allow DHARMA to manipulate time. When the foreman asks if they are going to change the past:

FOREMAN: (Chuckles) Right. Okay, so, what? We're gonna go back and kill Hitler?

CHANG: Don't be absurd. There are rules, rules that can't be broken.

FOREMAN: So what do you want me to do?

Chang tells him to do nothing. ("Because You Left")

Daniel Faraday tells Desmond that he can help the people who are shifting through time:

FARADAY: You're the only person who can help us because, Desmond... the rules... the rules don't apply to you. You're special. You're uniquely and miraculously special.

According to Faraday, one of the rules governing time is "Whatever happened, happened." All attempts to change the past will fail. ("Because You Left") But he discovers that there is a "variable" in the equation itself: the people themselves. Faraday claims that he can change the past to alter the future by stopping an "incident" at the future Swan station with a nuclear bomb. ("The Variable") Whether or not this is true is unknown; the detonation of "Jughead's" nuclear core can either stop the aforementioned incident or cause it. ("The Incident, Parts 1 & 2")

Possible references

The DHARMA acronym

The following references use the phrase "the rules", but it is unknown what set of rules they are referring to. It could either be the same rules that Ben and Widmore follow, an entirely different set of rules, or they were simply using the phrase as a cliche or idiom.

The DHARMA Initiative

  • As learned in The Lost Experience ARG, the acronym "D.H.A.R.M.A.", as in the DHARMA Initiative, means "Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications Initiative"
  • The word "dharma" itself literally translates as "that which upholds or supports" and is generally translated into English as "law"
    • The Dharmacakra, a symbol which appears throughout Lost, is also known as the "Wheel of Law"
    • A "law" is defined simply as "a system of rules"

"The 23rd Psalm"

When Eko first faced the Monster, the Whispers mentioned "the rules":

"Who are you and why are you here?"
"Report, report!"
"Saw Charlie with him"
"There’s Charlie"
"Go to hell"
"He’s trying here"
"Nothing yet"
"Now try him from here, okay"
"Those are the roles (or rules) you accept"
"Go to hell"
"He’s hiding something"
"He’s hiding from me"

"Stranger in a Strange Land"

In a note to Isabel, Ben stated that "the rules" didn't apply, with regard to Juliet's trial. ("Stranger in a Strange Land")

ISABEL [reading]: Ben has commuted Juliet's sentence. Execution is off the table. He says the rules don't apply. He has, however, ordered her to be marked.

"Enter 77"

"We can't risk it, you know the rules." ("Enter 77")

Beatrice Klugh referenced "the rules" in a conversation with Mikhail during a tense hostage situation. As Sayid and Kate exited the Flame with Beatrice Klugh as a hostage, they came upon Mikhail, who was holding Locke as a hostage. During the confrontation, Beatrice and Mikhail began shouting to each other in Russian. ("Enter 77")

(Translated from Russian)

BEATRICE: We can't risk it, you know the rules.

MIKHAIL: There's still a way out.

BEATRICE: We won't let them into the territory. You know what to do. It is an order.

BEATRICE: (English) Just do it, Mikhail!

(Mikhail takes aim at Beatrice)

MIKHAIL: (English) Forgive me.

(Mikhail shoots Beatrice)

Coincidental References

"Rec Room Rules: Listen Respect Others"

The following episodes use the phrase "the rules", but they are clearly not referencing The Rules of Ben and Widmore:

  • Shortly after the crash, Locke taught Walt the rules of backgammon. ("Pilot, Part 2")
  • Sawyer explained the rules of his "I never" game to Kate. ("Outlaws")
  • Ana Lucia forcibly told Sawyer that if he didn't like the rules (i.e., her rules), then she'll toss him back into the tiger pit. ("Everybody Hates Hugo")
  • While Hurley was in the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute, there was a sign that read "Rec Room Rules: Listen Respect Others". ("Dave")
    • An image of this sign also curiously appeared on the second Lost jigsaw puzzle titled, "The Others".
  • As Locke put a grenade into Miles' mouth, Locke told him that there was no use in having rules if there was no punishment for breaking them. ("Eggtown")
  • While Captain Gault beat a disobedient crew member, he stated that the rules of desertion still applied to everyone. ("Meet Kevin Johnson")
  • Achara, Jack's former lover in Thailand breaks the the rules by revealing to "outsider" Jack what his new tattoo means. When Achara's brother Chet and a group of Thai men find out, they beat Jack and force him to leave the country. ("Stranger in a Strange Land")
  • When tending to Naomi after her crash, Mikhail states that she will be better in a day. Charlie, due to the severity of Naomi's wounds questions this and Mikhail replies "on this island the rules are a bit different". ("D.O.C.")


  • In the movie Saw, Michael Emerson played one of the victims of the villain in the film. His character was forced to obey "the rules" in order to discover the location of the antidote to the poison that was in his body.
  • In military or police operations, the rules of engagement (ROE) determine when, where, and how force shall be used. The Rules Ben and Widmore follow appear to be some form of ROE, as they've been shown to specifically relate to the use of deadly force against each other. Furthermore, Alex's death being described as a "change in the rules" could indicate that her status as a combatant had changed under the ROE.

Unanswered questions

Unanswered questions
  1. Do not answer the questions here.
  2. Keep the questions open-ended and neutral: do not suggest an answer.
More details...
For fan theories about these unanswered questions, see: The Rules/Theories
  • What are The Rules?
    • To whom do they apply?
    • How, why, and when were they formed?
  • Why did Keamy killing Alex change The Rules?
    • Why did this act change, rather than break, The Rules?
    • Given that Widmore believes she was supposed to die regardless, did it really change the rules or just course correct?
  • Were the Whispers referring to the same rules as the ones followed by Ben and Widmore?

This article uses material from the "The Rules" article on the Lostpedia wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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