We'll start with the time differential. I think that it is clear that there is no standard time differential, but that it varies. While the Island and off Island are close in time, they can be up to hours, maybe even as much as a day, apart.
When Faraday did his rocket test, the clock didn't show up until half an hour after it was supposed to, but the Doctor's body showed up hours before he was killed, so the differential can go both ways, and there is probably no way to predict it.
There has been a lot of speculation as to what Benry Gale meant by saying Widmore "changed the rules".
To borrow an idea from Battlestar, "All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again." More precisely, I think that there is a script that is supposed to be followed. Those "in the know" basically know what is supposed to take place. Benry Gale and Mr. Widmore are fighting for control of the Island, but there are certain things that are decided, and they have to make their play for the Island within those rules. Killing Alex wasn't supposed to happen.
Benry Gale rarely seems surprised, and often it is said about him that he is right where he means to be. If he knew roughly what was happening and what would happen, then getting yourself into the right position would be fairly easy. And when something happened that wasn't supposed to happen did happen, that would explain the rare shock that we saw from Benry a couple of weeks ago, as well as the disbelief in the fact that the rules had been changed.
Obviously Widmore has some of the same "right place, right time" understanding that Benry has, since he supposedly gave directions in a safe to Krazy Keamy detailing where Benry would be. The Captain asked Krazy Keamy how Widmore could know such a thing, and Krazy Keamy answered, "He's a very smart man." Someone who had some understanding of the future would certainly be able to be described as such.
Also it makes me wonder if Desmond's ending up on the Island was orchestrated by Widmore as a way to discover the Island's location. He knew that Desmond would enter his race, crash on the Island, and destroy the Swan station setting off the electromagnetic signal that alerted Penny (and therefore probably her father as well) to the Island's location.
Which Dr. Daddy informs Locke can be changed. Interesting.
John's connection to the Island has been there his whole life apparently. Even causing him to draw a picture of the Smoke Monster as a child. Awesome.
Alpert (who hasn't aged a day for even longer then we first surmised) was at his side shortly after his birth.
He then came and tested him as a child. I had no doubt that he would pick up the sand, the compass, and the knife, but Alpert seemed surprised he picked up the knife. I'm surprised he waited till last to pick it up. I wonder why picking up the knife was a bad thing.
By picking up the knife, perhaps John locked (no pun intended) in his future.
If he had chosen something else, Richard would have taken him to the Island right then and there, raising him as one of the Others (or whatever they were known then, which would have been even before the Dharma group).
Although Richard gave him another chance in high school (through the same company that later would recruit Juliet, already pretending to be based in Portland) I think it was already impossible for things to change.
The knife represents what I'll call "Walkabout John", the Locke that we know, the Locke that we discovered tonight was set into motion by Abaddon. I don't think it is wrong to assume that Abaddon doesn't work for the Island while Alpert does. By selecting the knife, that meant that John would be sent to the Island through Abaddon's actions, not Alpert's.
Obviously Michael still has work to do for the Island as Krazy Keamy's gun jammed when he tried to shoot Michael. I think that it is pretty obvious now that Michael will be the one in the coffin from last season's finale as he will finally succeed in killing himself after he helps save the Island and helps get the Oceanic 6 off of it.
If you haven't read my Claire post from earlier, check it out. I'm leaning toward theory number one, as she freaked me out hanging with Dr. Daddy in the cabin tonight.
In case you can't remember, Horace who helped John find the cabin is the same guy who was there when Benry Gale was born prematurely and was the person who brought Roger Work Man (Benry's dad) and Benry to the Island to work for Dharma. When the Purge took place, it was Horace who Benry went to and almost lovingly closed his eyes.
I find it interesting that both Benry Gale and John Locke were born three months early.
Finally, not related to the main storyline tonight, I found Desmond's comment worth mentioning. He says to Sayid, "I'm not setting foot on that Island again."
Do you think that's true, or will Desmond be forced back to the Island before it is all said and done?
Until Next Time, the season certainly appears to be ending strongly as tonight's episode was fantastic.