Hello my dear friends -
Guess what? We've officially reached the halfway point of Season Six. Nine hours down, nine hours left to go before it all ends on May 23. I've gotta say that if the remaining episodes are even remotely as incredible as Ab Aeterno was, we are going to be very happy Lost fans indeed.
So go ahead and add me to the list of people who loved this Ageless Richard-centric hour (its title, by the way, is Latin for "since the beginning" or "for long ages"). I made what might've been the most obvious comment ever to my husband after it was over: "This was so much more powerful than it would've been had we gotten his backstory earlier." We needed years of seeing Richard as Jeff Probst's doppelganger -- clean-shaven, stylish, confident and spewing out impeccable English -- in order to truly appreciate how far he's come in, oh, a hundred and forty years. And to understand how utterly desperate he must feel to finally want to give up on the job he was given by Jacob all of those decades ago.
Since this episode bucked the traditional format and was almost entirely done in flashback mode, I'm just going to cover things chronologically. Let's do this.
AM I IN HEAVEN HERE OR
AM I IN HELL?
AT THE CROSSROADS
I AM STANDING
The opening scene showed the beach gang discussing what Ilana told Sun about "the candidates." Since I knew from the previews that this was going to be a Richard Alpert flashback, I was really surprised to see the replay of Jacob and Ilana's conversation in the hospital when she was all beat up. So I just assumed Richard was going to walk in, or was also lying on another hospital bed or something. Wrong. They showed us -- and expanded upon -- that scene again to reiterate three important points: 1) Jacob was wearing gloves and therefore never transferred any of his magical powers to Ilana, 2) he specifically said that she had to watch over "the remaining candidates," indicating that he was aware the latest experiment he was conducting on human nature was coming to an end, and 3) that "Ricardus" would know what to do once she brought everybody to the Temple.
The scene cuts back to real-time on the Island and Ilana repeats that Jacob said Richard would be the man with the plan. That's when we heard what might've been the most girly, yet simultaneously awesome laugh from the ageless one, who was standing off in the shadows of the campfire. He's like, "Joke's on you, suckas, because I got nothin' for ya." He then proceeded to tell Jack that he (The Mad Doctor) was dead and that they were all in hell.
And then I (and I'm sure many of you) groaned a loud groan and said, "Oh no, the Purgatory / They're All Dead theories are going to be alive and well again after tonight." Sometimes I think the writers just want to mess with the hardcore fans who dismissed those theories (because the producers themselves shot them down) back in 2004. Sigh.
Then Richard stomps off into the jungle to find the Man in Black, Ilana tries to stop him but Jack says it's pointless, Hurley's on the outskirts of the clearing, talking in Spanish to an unseen ghost, Ben tells everyone that Richard "doesn't know anything," and then the group just looks at each other and laments that they don't have any marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey's bars with which to make some much-needed s'mores.
And then we switch to flashback mode once more...
I'M A SLAVE 4 U
A heavily bearded Richard is riding a horse across what I assumed was the Island, as there was a mountain in the background and we'd seen Widmore riding a horse around the Others' camp before. But nope, the setting was the Canary Islands and the year was 1867. Richard arrives home to his coughing-up-blood wife, Isabella, and he realizes that he needs to get her help right quick. She gives him her cross necklace, tells him that "we'll always be together" and he takes off on a half-day journey to find a doctor.
He finds a doctor, who's pretty much an ass, and then accidentally kills him -- much like how Des accidentally killed Kelvin on the Island. But as Richard looks down at the blood flowing from the back of the doctor's head, he realizes that he's got the medicine vial in his hand already. So he busts out of there... all for nothing. Isabella has passed on by the time he returned to her.
He gets no time to grieve because lawmen followed him home. The next time we see him, he's in a prison cell. A priest visits him, he begs for forgiveness for the awful accident, but Father Suarez will have none of it. He tells Richard, "I'm afraid the devil awaits you in hell. May God have mercy on your soul." Nice. That's the last time Richard gives a confession! Even if he wasn't about to be hanged!
Shortly thereafter, Alpert is in the process of being hauled off to the gallows when he's stopped by some British dude and asked if he can speak English. After it's revealed that he can, the British guy -- Jonas Whitfield -- BUYS him and declares him the property of one Magnus Hanso. As in, the great-grandfather of Alvar Hanso, founder of the Hanso Foundation, which financed the Dharma Initiative. (None of this is stuff we hadn't known before, except the confirmation that Richard was indeed a prisoner on the Black Rock. I'm just repeating the Hanso stuff for the "normal people" who don't remember all of this Lost mythology from past seasons.)
ALL AROUND THE WORLD
STATUES CRUMBLE FOR ME
Finally, we get to see the long-awaited Black Rock voyage. Thank the heavens that the FX were OK in this scene. All of the prisoners are in chains below deck and one of them peers out to see an Island that is "guarded by the devil" -- Taweret in all her glory.
And then, the Black Rock proceeded to take out the majority of the Four-Toed Statue. BIG MYSTERY SOLVED -- woo-hoo! I thought that part was pretty cool. Now we also know that it was a huge tidal wave that landed the ship in the middle of the Island. Another mystery solved. It's almost too much to handle. Almost.
RUNNIN' DOWN A DREAM
Next we watched as poor Richard saw Whitfield stab and kill everyone else below deck, one by one. Just as it was Richard's turn to look down the edge of the officer's sword, who shows up to wreak havoc but Smokey. Whitfield is disposed of and now Richard's face-to-face with something much worse than a man-made weapon. Smokey proceeds with the white-flash/mindscan thing we've seen him do before with Juliet and Eko, Richard is spared and Smokey rattles off.
Minutes turn into hours, hours turn into days, and Richard continues to fight to break free from his chains. Although these scenes were sad, I did find it kind of humorous that long before the boars of the Island taunted Sawyer, they were around to mess with Richard, and one of the bigger members of their clan caused him to lose the pin he'd been painstakingly trying to unlock his cuffs with. He was just out of reach of the pin and of rainwater, and he was just about out of hope and the will to live when Dead Isabella materializes. But Richard thought she was very much alive and therefore totally freaked out when she ran above deck, only to be eaten by Smokey.
What was Isabella? Since her body wasn't on the Island, it doesn't seem like the MIB could've transformed into her, does it? But maybe after the mindscan MIB could shift into people he saw from Richard's past? Or maybe Richard was just hallucinating -- who could blame him at that point, right?
I have to think that Isabella was the MIB in disguise, however, because the entire crux of his plan was to make Richard think that "the devil" had her. He even went so far as to admit that he was the smoke monster, that's how confident he was that Richard would be undeterred and still do whatever it took to save Isabella.
MAN IN BLACK: I'm not the one you need to worry about. The Devil has your wife, and you are going to have to kill him if you ever want to get her back.
RICHARD: Murder is wrong. That is what brought me here.
MAN IN BLACK: My friend, you and I can talk all day long about what's right or wrong, but the question before you remains the same - "Do you ever want to see your wife again?"
RICHARD: Yes I do.
Now, I know that in my last few posts I've been pointing out the increasingly religious tone that the show has taken, and clearly Ab Aeterno was the most blatant Bible-referencing episode of late. However, I think the only reason "the devil" was actually mentioned this time around was solely because of the mindscan Smokey performed. The Man in Black knew Richard was a God-fearing man and therefore used that against him in order to manipulate him into doing what he wanted -- namely, killing Jacob. What better way to do that then by telling Richard that Jacob was the devil... and had nabbed his wife? So let me be clear: the Island is NOT hell, no one back at the campfire in the present time is dead, they are not in purgatory, and Jacob is not Satan. I believe, just as I always did, that Jacob and the Man in Black might still represent some sort of religious figures, but I'll talk about that more in-depth later.
'CAUSE I'M WORKIN' FOR THE MAN
WORKIN' FOR THE MAN
Richard sets off for the statue, gets into a tussle with Jacob who -- in an attempt to convince the Island's latest visitor that he is not in fact dead -- dunks him a bunch of times in the ocean, just like a high school bully. I kind of liked this less patient version of Jacob. Anyway, Jacob was like, "If your wife was dead before you came here, then that wasn't her that you just saw on the ship -- duh." Jacob then goes on to describe evil as wine swirling around in a bottle, and the Island as the cork that was stopping it from escaping out into the wider world and spreading. Jacob explained that he brought people to the Island in an attempt to prove to the Man in Black that humankind was fundamentally good. Yet he never wanted to interfere with anyone's actions once they arrived. Richard called Jacob's strategery lame, and pointed out that if Jacob didn't try to influence visitors' actions, "... he will. DOUBLE DUH!"
Jacob felt really silly for not having realized this. He would've totally failed a Game Theory course back in the real world, geez. It dawns on him that this Ricardo dude could be useful, so he offers him a job as his "representative" in exchange for immortality. It's important to note that Jacob made it clear he couldn't bring back the dead, nor could he absolve anyone of their sins. So, he is NOT God, not that anyone really ever thought he was. I should probably mention that in the comments for my "Sundown" post -- the episode in which Sayid turned evil and killed Dogen -- Lost fan extraordinaire and LLL reader SherylM pointed out that while Jacob offered to save Dogen's son in return for Dogen coming to the Island, never did Dogen actually say his son had DIED. He just said that Jacob claimed to be able to "save" the boy, which could mean that he was so seriously injured he was probably not going to make it. So there are no inconsistencies in what Jacob says he can/cannot do. Even when he touched Locke after Locke's eight-story fall, he touched Locke within seconds of landing, so it's possible Locke had not died of internal injuries by that point, which I'm assuming would've happened otherwise. (Holy crap, it just hit me that we still don't know WHY Locke was paralyzed in the flash sideways timeline since he now has a good relationship with his father... DAH! Sorry. Back to THIS episode...)
TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT
Back in the present day on the Island, Richard returns to the stone bench under which he had buried Isabella's cross... the cross that the MIB saved from the Black Rock wreckage 140 years prior and had handed back to him with the promise that his "offer" would always stand. After Jacob's death, the Temple massacre, and learning information about "the candidates" which he'd never been privy to for 14 decades, Richard was more than ready to take the MIB up on his deal and end his time as Jacob's errand-boy. And I think the writers of this episode did an excellent job of helping us viewers understand exactly why Richard had finally had ENOUGH.
So he digs up the necklace and starts shouting into the wind, "DOES THE OFFER STILL STAND?!?!"
I was positive that Fake Locke was going to appear out of thin air, but instead Hurley emerges from the jungle. The first thing through my mind was, "Hurley is definitely going to be Jacob's replacement." I mean, all signs are pointing that way, no? I still think Jack will play some monumental role in "saving" the Island and everyone on it, but so far Hurley has been the most connected to Jacob and has already carried out his will several times. Then, in a very Ghost-like sequence, Hurley revealed that he'd been talking with Isabella -- who was presently standing right next to her long-lost love -- and that she wanted Richard to stop punishing himself for her death. She also wanted to remind him that they are "already together." Sniff.
Ghost Isabella vanished and Hurley dropped one last bomb on Richard: the ageless one's dead wife also mentioned that he HAD to stop the Man in Black from leaving the Island because if he didn't, "we all go to hell." Once again, I did not take her words literally. I took them as, "I'm a God-fearing Ghost and you're still a God-fearing immortal and the MIB is evil so you can't let evil win." Do not make me publicly shame you by trying to convince me her warning was evidence for the Purgatory theory!!!
GET YOUR MAN A BOTTLE OF RED WINE
The last scene took place back in 1867 on the Island. We see Jacob and the Man in Black engaged in another tenuous chat, much like the one they had at the beginning of "The Incident." The MIB swears he'll find a way to kill Jacob one day... and that he'll also kill anyone who replaces Jacob. So there should now be no doubt that the promises Fake Locke is making 815ers like Sawyer and Kate and Sayid are complete lies. He fully intends to off them. Also, did you notice how Fake Locke and the MIB as played by Titus Welliver are so amazingly alike in their mannerisms and speech? Very impressive.
Even though his life has just been threatened, Jacob takes the high road and replies, "Brother, you need a drink. Oh look, I just so happen to have some wine. Here you go -- bottoms up." He gives him the bottle and then takes off. Once he's alone, the Man in Black throws a hissy fit and smashes the wine against a log. That's, like, SO mature.
Let's wrap up by discussing what new things we've learned about Jacob and his nemesis. I know there's a "Fight Club" theory going around that states Jacob and the MIB are the same person. This idea picked up a lot of steam after the MIB gave Richard the exact same instructions for killing Jacob that Dogen gave Sayid for killing Fake Locke/MIB: 1) Don't let him speak... AT ALL, and 2) plunge a special silver sword into his heart (it was the same sword in both episodes, by the way). While I am not by any means dismissing this theory on the grounds that I don't think it makes any sense (because I do think it's very clever), I am going to dismiss it on the grounds of "too complicated for a prime-time TV show with only half a season left."
First off, Jacob is already dead -- so how would THAT work if he and MIB were the same guy? Secondly, you've got people like Ilana sent to protect Jacob, and another big group siding with Fake Locke. I just think it would be waaaaay too complicated to not only wrap all the other several dozen (or more) outstanding mysteries in the show, but also find a way to easily explain to the average viewer that Jacob and his nemesis -- you know, the guys that were shown talking to each other, passing a bottle of wine back and forth, giving rocks as presents to each other -- are actually THE SAME DUDE. Nope, too complex to pull off, sorry.
After this episode I think the same thing I've always thought: that MIB is a form of evil. It doesn't really matter what his name is or if he's the devil or just a force for darkness or a demon or whatever. All that matters is that he despises humankind and therefore wants to prove that man is inherently "bad." He also wants to escape the Island so that he can spread his special brand of wickedness around the globe. (One thing that's confusing me is that I could've sworn we already saw Smokey -- in apparition form -- OFF of the Island. As Zombie Dad in Jack's hospital in "Something Nice Back Home" (remember, the smoke alarm even went off in that scene?) and on the freighter before Michael blew up. Anyone wanna help me make sense of that?)
Jacob, on the other hand, represents "light," or "goodness." He believes that man is inherently moral. He could be some sort of angel... that would still make him on par with the MIB if the MIB was in fact the devil, because in many religions the devil is described as a fallen angel. He might be some sort of heaven-sent representative charged with keeping the devil from running wild all of the place.
No matter what you want to view these two as, clearly they are not human beings. So we can all at least agree on that point, right?
I think it's nearly impossible for next week's episode to match the awesomeness of Ab Aeterno, but here's hopin'...