Bitter over the death of Jacob, Richard contemplates switching sides, and his backstory is finally revealed.

What a tour de force of an episode! One of the show’s greatest ever! It’s never been clearer that the end is in sight, because Lost has, at long last, shown us it’s cards. Sure, there are plenty of mysteries still to be revealed and details to be filled in, but finally we know what the stakes are.

The episode begins with a flashback to the same Jacob/Ilana hospital scene that we saw in “The Incident,” only this time, after Jacob asks Ilana for her help and she agrees, the scene continues. He gives her a list of six people’s names, and asks her to protect them. He tells her that this is what she’s been preparing for, and she asks who these six people are. “The remaining Candidates,” he replies.

In the present, the group at the survivors’ beach sits around a fire at night, and Ilana and Sun reveal to Jack and Hurley that they are Candidates to potentially take Jacob’s place as the island’s protector. Frank asks what they’re supposed to do now that this information is out in the open, and Ilana says she doesn’t know.

Suddenly we flash back again to Ilana’s stay in the hospital — only now her injuries appear fully healed — and Jacob gives her further instructions. She’s to gather the the six Candidates and bring them to the Temple. She asks what she’s to do after this is done, and Jacob replies, “Ask Ricardos. He’ll know what to do next.”

Back in the present, Ilana turns to Richard to ask what they should do next. Richard laughs at her, saying he has no idea. As far as he knows, all of Jacob’s plans died with him, and Richard states again his bitter conclusion that “everything Jacob ever said was a lie.” Jack asks what Richard’s talking about, and Richard responds to him with a crazed look in his eye. He tells them “a secret” that he’s “known for a long, long time”: they’re all dead, and the island is Hell. He says he’s done with Jacob, and he’s ready to listen to someone else. Angry, he grabs a torch and marches into the jungle, saying that that’s exactly what he’s going to do.

Ilana prepares to go after Richard, but Jack stops her. He thinks Richard’s lost it, and reminds her that their priority is to figure out what Jacob’s plan for all of them is. Richard obviously doesn’t care about this anymore. Sun and Ben reveal to Jack that the “someone else” Richard went to meet was Locke — only, they mean the Man in Black.

Jack spots Hurley standing off alone near the shoreline, seeming to talk to no one. What Jack can’t hear is that Hurley’s speaking Spanish. Jack approaches him, believing that he’s talking to Jacob. But Hurley denies it was Jacob, and refuses Jack’s inquiries. “Sorry Jack, but this has nothing to do with you,” he says, and then leaves.

At the campfire, Ben tells Ilana that he agrees with Jack: going after Richard is a waste of time. Ben doesn’t think Richard knows anything useful that will help them, pointing out that he’s known Richard since he was twelve. Frank wonders how it’s possible that Ben was a kid at the time, yet Richard looked exactly like he does now.

Flashback to 1867, in Tenerife, on the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. Richard Alpert — looking the same age that he looks now, but with longer hair and a beard — rides a horse, hard and fast toward the small, woodland cottage he shares with his wife, Isabella. Inside, she’s bed-ridden with a life-threatening illness that’s making her feverish, pale in appearance, and is causing her to cough up droplets of blood. Richard is passionately in love with her, and she with him, and the blood she coughs up makes him realize just how dire her situation is. He prepares to leave and promises to return as soon as possible with a doctor. They have very little money to pay the doctor with, so Isabella gives Richard a small gold cross that she wears around her neck to add to his handful of meager coins. He doesn’t want to give it away, but she insists. She promises him that they’ll always be together, as he laments the anguishing thought of a life lived without her. He vows to save her and departs.

Day turns to night, and Richard rides through torrential rain to seek out the nearest doctor. The doctor, it turns out, is a very wealthy man living in a comfortable plantation house, and Richard barges into his home as he’s eating dinner. Richard pleads for the doctor’s help in saving Isabella’s life, but the man refuses to take such a long journey in the pouring rain. Instead, he offers to sell Richard the medicine that will save Isabella’s life. Richard gives him the coins and the cross necklace, but the doctor is displeased. He tosses the necklace aside, calling it worthless. Richard retrieves the necklace but begs the doctor to let him work off the debt. He’ll do anything the doctor wants, he says, if he’ll just give him the medicine to save his wife. The doctor is disgusted by Richard’s pathetic state, and orders him away, but Richard is too desperate. A mild struggle ensues as Richard grovels before the doctor, and the doctor tries to pull away, ending in the doctor being slammed against his own dining table and breaking his neck. He falls the floor dead, just as his servant enters the room and sees Richard standing over the body. Richard quickly grabs the vial of medicine from the dead doctor’s hands and runs out into the night.

Richard returns to Isabella as fast as he can, but when he arrives, he’s devastated to find that it’s too late. She’s already dead. Soldiers arrive at his home and take him into custody.

Some time later, Richard is in prison, reading from Isabella’s Bible. He receives a visit from the priest in charge of this jail, who takes notice of the Bible and the fact that it’s an English translation. Richard explains that he’s been teaching himself English, because he and his wife had planned to travel to the New World to start a new life and a family. The priest asks if he’s ready to give his confession, and Richard confesses to killing a man. He asks for forgiveness, but the priest refuses to grant absolution for murder. Richard cries that it was an accident, and begs for some way to earn God’s forgiveness, but the cruel priest says that only acts of penance will be enough to gain forgiveness, and Richard doesn’t have time since he’s being hanged tomorrow. He tells Richard that the only thing waiting for him is the Devil in Hell. He takes Richard’s Bible and leaves him there, devastated.

The next day, soldiers come to collect Richard for his hanging, and blindfold him. But he soon learns that something else is afoot. A British man by the name of Witfield inspects him, and asks if he speaks English. When Richard replies in English that he does, Witfield is satisfied, and pays the priest a small bag of coins to buy Richard as a slave. “This man is now the property of Captain Magnus Hanso,” he declares, telling a very shocked Richard his intentions to take him to America. “I hope you don’t get seasick,” he adds.

Days later, a violent, cataclysmic storm at sea tosses the Black Rock about. Down in the cargo hold, Richard is chained to a wall alongside numerous other slaves. One of the slaves is backed up against a small crack between slats of wood in the hull, through which he can see the storm and the ocean outside. Richard asks this man what he sees, and he looks out and spots the island. Then he recoils in horror as he sees the four-toed statue of Tawaret, standing at its full height. “I see the Devil!” cries the terrified man. “The island is guarded by the Devil!” Richard clutches at his wife’s cross necklace — which now hangs around his neck — and prays for his soul as the ship is carried toward the island on the crest of a huge tidal wave. As the wave slams into the island, the Black Rock crashes into the Tawaret statue, destroying it.

When morning comes, the ship has flattened a large swath of the jungle as it was carried inland by the wave. The ship itself stands largely intact, and Richard awakens alongside a few other slaves who survived the crash. Richard’s fellow passenger declares that God has spared them, and soon they overhear Witfield up on the main deck, learning from another crewmember that Captain Hanso is dead. He and the other living passengers call out for help, and Witfield descends into the hold. To their horror, Witfield draws his sword and begins killing them one by one. Witfield says that they have limited supplies, no fresh water, and only five officers still alive. When Richard is the last one left, he asks Witfield why he’s doing this, and Witfield says that if he set Richard free, it would only be a matter of time before Richard tried to kill him. Richard tries to grab the cross necklace for comfort just as Witfield’s about to strike, but finds that it’s not there, having come off during the wreck. The smoke monster is heard outside, and the ship is shaken as it attacks, killing everyone still alive. Richard gets his first look at the monster as it reaches down through the deck and grabs Witfield, dragging him up top and killing him. Soon the monster returns, and approaches Richard, inspecting his memory with its flashing lights (the same way we’ve seen it inspect Eko, Juliet, and Ben in episodes past). As Richard closes his eyes and prays, the monster withdraws and disappears.

Richard spends days trying to work himself free from his chains, all without food or water. At one point, he wakes up to the sound of an animal and finds that a boar has found the ship and is feasting on the dead men chained up around him. He shoos it away. Later, he’s awoken again by the voice of a woman: Isabella! He’s stunned but thrilled to see her, and they embrace. She explains that they’re both dead and in Hell. She’s says she’s come to free him before “the Devil,” aka the smoke monster, returns. They hear the monster come back, moving around above them on the main deck, and Richard begs Isabella to run, to leave him there. It takes a lot of convincing, but she finally does as he asks. Just as she emerges on the top deck, Richard hears the monster descend upon her, and he cries out in outrage.

Later, Richard is asleep when he receives a new visitor. It’s the Man in Black, in his original form. Richard doesn’t know this man, who offers him some much-needed water to drink. Richard asks who he is, and MiB says he’s a friend. Richard asks if he’s in Hell, and MiB affirms that he is. Richard notes that MiB wasn’t on the ship, and MiB says he was here long before the ship. He asks about Isabella, explaining that the black smoke took her and he hasn’t seen her since. MiB lies, telling him that “the Devil” has her. Richard asks MiB for help in freeing his wife, and MiB asks in return that Richard will help him to be freed. Richard gladly agrees, desperate to get his wife back, and MiB unlocks Richard’s chains. Richard collapses in exhaustion, thrilled to finally be free, and MiB notes, “It’s good to see you out of those chains” (the same phrase he uses in 2007 to identify himself to Richard when he wears the guise of John Locke). MiB helps him exit the ship, telling him that he’s going to have to get his strength back if they’re going to escape. “There’s only one way to escape from Hell,” MiB says. “You’re going to have to kill the Devil.”

After he’s had a meal, Richard is given his marching orders: MiB wants him to kill Jacob. He constructs an elaborate lie, explaining that Richard is to walk through the jungle to the beach, where he’ll find the statue where “the Devil” (aka, Jacob) lives. MiB pulls out an ornate dagger and gives it to Richard, explaining that he’ll have only one chance to kill the Devil. Richard is to put the dagger through the Devil’s chest before he can utter a single word, because if he speaks, it will already be too late. “He can be very persuasive,” MiB says. Richard doesn’t understand how he’s supposed to kill somebody who’s made of black smoke, but MiB shocks him by confessing that he’s the black smoke. Richard asks if MiB attacked his wife, Isabella, but MiB lies again, claiming that the Devil attacked Isabella, and MiB tried to stop him but couldn’t. Richard still isn’t convinced, but MiB argues that he was also betrayed by the Devil. “He took my body, my humanity,” says MiB. Still Richard argues, asking about the other men on the ship and MiB killing them, but MiB cuts through this, telling Richard conclusively that the Devil has his wife, and if he wants to see her again, he has to kill him. Richard says that murder is wrong, but MiB says this isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about whether or not Richard wants to see his wife again. Richard’s forced to conclude that he does want to see her again, and he accepts the dagger.

Richard traipses through the jungle, following MiB’s instructions on how to find the statue, only to find that the storm and the ship’s crash have decimated the entire area, littering it with storm debris and statue fragments. Only the foot still stands. Richard draws his dagger and approaches the foot, but he’s attacked by Jacob and knocked to the ground. But this is a very different Jacob than the one we know in the present — he’s short-tempered and distrustful. Jacob disarms Richard and angrily asks him where he got the dagger. Richard in turn asks where his wife is, but Jacob doesn’t know his wife. He asks if she was on the ship, and Richard says no, she’s dead. “Then why are you asking me where she is?” he asks. Jacob suddenly understands what’s happening, and asks Richard if he met a man in the jungle who was dressed in black. Richard says that he did. Jacob asks what MiB told him. Richard tells him everything, and asks again about his wife, telling Jacob that he saw her here, on the island. “That wasn’t your wife,” says Jacob, knowing all too well that it was really the Man in Black impersonating another dead person. Richard argues that it was, because she’s in Hell, just like him. Jacob calmly assures Richard that he’s not dead or in Hell, but Richard starts raving on and on that this is Hell. To prove his point, Jacob grabs Richard and drags him to the ocean, where he holds him under the water for a few seconds. Richard panics and fights for his life, but Jacob points out that he wouldn’t need to fight for his life if he was already dead. He drags Richard back to the beach and tells him they need to talk.

The two of them sit down for a talk on the beach, and Jacob offers Richard some wine to drink, which he retrieved from inside the statue. Richard asks what’s in there, but Jacob replies, “No one comes inside unless I invite them.” Richard asks who he is, and Jacob tells him his name, and says that he brought the Black Rock to the island. Richard asks why Jacob did this, and Jacob picks up the wine bottle, which is only half full of wine. “Think of this wine as what you keep calling Hell,” he begins to explain. “There’s many other names for it, too. Malevolence, evil, darkness. Here it is, swirling around in the bottle, unable to get out. Because if it did, it would spread.” Jacob produces the bottle’s cork and forces it tightly onto the top. “The cork is this island. And it’s the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs. That man who sent you to kill me believes that everyone is corruptible because it’s in their very nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong. And when they get here, their past doesn’t matter.” Richard asks if this means there were others Jacob brought to the island before him, and Jacob says there were many. Richard asks what happened to them, and Jacob replies that they’re all dead. Richard asks why Jacob brings people to the island if he’s not going to help them. “Because I wanted them to help themselves,” Jacob replies. “To know the difference between right and wrong without me telling them. It’s all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?” he asks. But Richard replies, “If you don’t, he will.” Jacob seems to absorb this as though it’s the first time he’s considered it. After several moments, he realizes that Richard is right, and asks if Richard would like to work for him. Richard almost laughs, but asks what kind of job Jacob has in mind. “Well, if I don’t want to step in, maybe you can do it for me. You can be my representative, an intermediary between me and the people I bring to the island.” Richard asks what Jacob will give him in return, and Jacob asks what Richard wants. Richard wants his wife back, but Jacob says he can’t do that. Richard asks if Jacob can absolve him of his sins so he won’t go to Hell, but Jacob says he can’t do that either. So Richard says that he wants to live forever so he never has to die and go to Hell. “Now that I can do,” Jacob says as he places a very significant hand upon Richard’s shoulder. And with that seemingly simple gesture, Richard is given the gift of immortality.

Richard returns to the camp in the jungle where he left the Man in Black, and MiB is waiting there for him. He knows at once that Richard has signed on with Jacob, but he’s not angry. He’s even amused when Richard produces a gift for him, sent from Jacob: a white pebble. MiB tells Richard that if he ever changes his mind and wants to see his wife again, his offer stands, indefinitely. MiB then gives him a gift: the cross necklace, which he says he found on the ship. MiB disappears, and Richard quietly buries the necklace in the dirt, saying a sorrowful goodbye to his wife.

Back in the present, Richard returns to that same clearing where he met MiB and buried the necklace. He digs up the necklace and shouts at his surroundings that he’s changed his mind. Again and again he says that MiB promised that the offer would still stand if he ever changed his mind, and he has changed it. He hears someone approaching, but it’s not MiB or even Ilana — it’s Hurley. Richard flies into a rage, angry that Hurley followed him, and saying again that he doesn’t know how to help the Candidates. Hurley interrupts his little tirade by shouting, “Your wife sent me!” It was Isabella that Hurley was talking to back at the beach, and she sent him to follow Richard so she could talk to him. Hurley proves it’s true by telling him things about him and his wife that no one but Richard knows. Hurley says that Isabella wants to know why Richard buried her cross, and says that she saw him dig it up because she’s standing next to Richard now. Richard turns to look but sees nothing. But from Hurley’s point of view, we see that she really is standing next to her husband, looking healthy and beautiful and still passionately in love with him. Richard turns to look again and considers believing, asking quietly, “Are you really here?” Isabella relays instructions to Hurley, who tells Richard to close his eyes, echoing a playful way the two of them used to express their love for one another. At this, Richard’s head snaps around at Hurley once more, astonished at hearing this private little detail from his marriage. This seals the deal for him; now he believes, and he closes his eyes as requested. Isabella tells Richard that it wasn’t his fault that she died, and that it was simply her time to go. She releases him from the guilt and grief he’s carried all his life, and he tells her how much he misses her and that he’d do anything for them to be together again. “We are already together,” she replies lovingly, cradling his face. She kisses him on the cheek and disappears. When she’s gone, Richard places her necklace around his neck and thanks Hurley. But Hurley hesitates before leaving, and Richard asks what’s wrong. Hurley confesses that Isabella told him one more thing: “You have to stop the Man in Black from leaving the island. Because if you don’t, we all go to Hell.”

Next we flashback to a time shortly after Richard signed on with Jacob. MiB sits alone on a ridge, looking out at the vast expanse of the island, and Jacob walks up to join him. They bid one another good morning, and Jacob notes that MiB is holding the white rock he sent with Richard. “Don’t gloat, Jacob,” MiB replies. “It doesn’t become you.” Jacob asks why MiB tried to kill him, and it’s clear from the question that this was the first time MiB ever tried it. MiB resentfully replies that he wants to leave the island, and asks Jacob to let him. “As long as I’m alive, you’re not going anywhere,” Jacob says. MiB says that now Jacob knows why he wants to kill him. Jacob points out that if he’s killed, someone else will just take his place. “I’ll kill them too,” says MiB. Jacob gives him the bottle of wine as “something for you to pass the time.” MiB accepts it but when Jacob’s gone, he smashes it to bits.

The metaphor is clear: if MiB has to destroy the entire island to escape from it, then he will.

  • The Black Rock was tossed inland by a tidal wave, in an extremely violent storm.
    How did the Black Rock wind up so far inland on the island? [1.23]
  • The Black Rock slammed into it, circa 1867, thanks to a tidal wave.
    How was the statue destroyed? [2.23]
  • Based on his appearance in 1867 as a man of 30-40 years old, Richard Alpert in present-day 2007 should be approximately 175 years of age.
    How old is Richard Alpert? [3.20]
  • I’m conjecturing here, but it stands to reason based on what we know about Jacob’s job of keeping the smoke monster from escaping the island, that Jacob deemed the Army men and their hydrogen bomb test an unacceptable risk to the island, and ordered them killed in order to keep it safe, and keep the smoke monster safely imprisoned.
    Why did Jacob order Richard to kill the Army men? [5.03]
  • He wants to leave the island, and as long as Jacob is alive, he’s confined to it.
    Why does the Man in Black want to kill Jacob? [5.16]
  • Protecting the final six Candidates: Jack, Locke, Sayid, Sawyer, Hurley, and Jin or Sun.
    What did Jacob need Ilana’s help with? [5.16]
  • He was reiterating something he said to Richard the first time they met, after he freed Richard from the chains that held him captive aboard the Black Rock.
    What did the Man in Black mean when he said it was nice to see Richard “without those chains”? [6.01]
  • The Man in Black freed Richard from his chains on the shipwrecked Black Rock when Richard first arrived on the island. He tried to convince Richard to join his cause and kill Jacob, but Richard ultimately refused, signing on with Jacob instead.
    How does Richard know the Man in Black? When have they met before? [6.01]
  • Jacob is telling the truth: the island must be protected at all costs, because it exists to keep the smoke monster/Man in Black from being set free to spread evil across the earth.
    The Man in Black said that Jacob believed himself to be the island’s protector, yet he asserted that the island doesn’t need protecting. Which one of them is right? And if it does need protecting, who or what does it need protecting from? [6.04]

  • What did the Man in Black mean when he said that Jacob took his body/humanity away from him?

Holy moley. What an epic! Such a bravado performance by Nestor Carbonell! What unexpected heart and emotion! And the biggest news of all: after six long years, we finally know what the island is!!

Wow. So many implications to consider…

Okay, okay… brain still reeling… where to begin…

Let’s start, appropriately, with Richard. We finally found out the emotional stakes and motivations behind this fascinating character, and he turned out to be a lot more human and fallible and tragic — and just as in-need-of-redemption as every other character on the island — than anyone would have guessed a few seasons ago. His life was one big domino effect — his accidental murder of the doctor, his wife’s death, his capture by a cruel priest, being sold into slavery, etc. — that convinced him he was irredeemable and would be going to Hell when he died. We saw how Jacob gave him immortality, but more profound was the revelation of why: Richard wanted to live forever because he feared he would go to Hell if he died. So poetic and tragic.

Jacob’s job proposal of having someone to reach out to the people who come to the island on his behalf… This is the Others’ entire mission statement, the reason they’re on the island. So if you still find yourself wondering who the Others are, or why they do the things they do… Wonder no more. They’re Jacob’s servants and emissaries. Granted, they’re not always the nicest of people, in fact they’re often downright nasty and heartless, but it’s not their job to be nice. They’re there to help Jacob protect the island, and to try to convince the people Jacob brings there to choose to be good. Remember when Ben told Michael, “We’re the good guys”? Indeed they are! (Or I guess they were, following recent events.)

And just so the significance of this exchange isn’t lost on anyone: Jacob’s job offer made Richard the very first Other. Ever.

Seeing this simple act of the formation of the Others, I was left wondering how and why it was decided that the Others needed a leader. And why that leader wasn’t Richard. I wonder if Richard decided he didn’t want to carry the mantle of leading the Others, and relegated himself to an advisory position among them, as Jacob’s representative.

If I can pause for a moment to throw out some complements… The show’s crew outdid themselves with Richard’s backstory. This is the farthest back in time we’ve ever seen the show go, off the island, and everything from sets to makeup to costumes to cinematography to visual effects was wonderfully authentic. It was a rare treat — like watching a completely different show. And Michael Giacchino composed a beautiful new love theme for Richard and Isabella that began the moment we entered Richard’s flashbacks, and echoed throughout the entire episode. The score was so good, I’d gladly buy a soundtrack album just made up of the music from this one episode.

After the crash of the Black Rock, my wife asked how a ship sailing across the Atlantic Ocean — from the Canary Islands, off the coast of Spain, to America — could have crashed on the island, which as far as we know, has always existed in the Pacific Ocean. Sure, it’s always moving, adrift in the Pacific, and can even make a bigger jump if somebody turns the frozen wheel, but for as long as we’ve seen it, it’s always been in the Pacific. Could this Atlantic voyage of the Black Rock mean that the island isn’t confined to the Pacific after all, and can also turn up in the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, or elsewhere? Or did the ship get so drastically off course that it wound up in the Pacific? That just doesn’t seem feasible.

Complicating this conundrum is the fact that back in Season 4, the auction scene in “The Constant” revealed that the Black Rock “was lost after it set sail from Portsmouth, England, on a trading mission to the kingdom of Siam.” Yet here we saw the ship’s destination was clearly meant to be America, “the New World.” And it didn’t look like they were on a trading mission, either. They were ferrying slaves to the New World, intending perhaps to sell them or put them to work. It’s conceivable that the ship really might have set sail from England — it could have easily made a side trip back to its nearby British port of call before its main departure — but it wasn’t headed for Siam (which we know as modern-day Thailand). Siam is on the opposite side of the world from America. Hrm.

In case you’re wondering, yes “Captain Magnus Hanso” is the ancestor of Alvar Hanso, the weapons magnate who funded the Dharma Initiative. We learned all of this from that same auction scene in “The Constant.” A shame we never got to see Magnus for ourselves. Also a shame that the biggest questions raised by that auction scene — such as how the journal that was being auctioned, the journal of the Black Rock‘s first mate (Witfield), wound up in Madagascar after the ship wrecked on the island — weren’t answered. Now that the Black Rock itself and its presence on the island has finally been explained, I suppose the details are to be left to our imaginations. If that’s the case, then I posit that the crash of the ship on the island was so violent that it threw the journal out to sea, where it eventually washed up on the shores of Madagascar. Okay then? Let’s move on.

The island is a cork. The island is a cork!! It’s a prison that exists to restrain the ultimate evil from ever escaping into the world. This is the missing piece of the puzzle we have been waiting for the longest, and it changes everything, because it explains the grand purpose of the island. It made me think of the mythologies of epics past, such as Narnia, Middle Earth, the Roman/Greek gods, and many more, because it has such far-reaching, richly historic implications. If the island is destroyed, then the entire world is placed in danger, and this is why: the smoke monster would be unleashed, able to spread across the face of the earth. This is why the island is so vital to the planet, and why it’s a place with mystical properties. I still think it’s most likely a construct, that someone or something — some ancient, powerful being — created, and it’s not a naturally occurring place. I hope we get more details about its origins, but if not, I can live with this answer being the final word on the subject. It’s satisfying enough for me.

But hey, doesn’t evil already exist in the world? Jacob told Richard that malevolence/evil was being kept at bay by the island, but what did he mean? People in general are capable of great evil entirely on their own, as Jacob himself pointed out in his explanation of why he brings people to the island — in the hopes that they’ll turn away from those darker tendencies. So the evil that Jacob referred to as being held captive on the island is more than just an abstract concept; it has to be the smoke monster.

In other news… The Black Rock‘s story was finally told, and it was a two-fer revelation, because it also explained the Statue’s destruction. I never would’ve guessed that the Black Rock was what destroyed the Statue, but only an enormous tidal surge could have been enough to send it so deeply into the island, so it fits.

The big storm scene left me wondering what happened to Jacob’s home inside the Statue when the tidal wave hit. Wouldn’t it have been flooded, and Jacob drowned?

And speaking of Jacob, I was really struck by how different he was in the past than how we’ve come to know him. He’s always been so calm and serene, even in the face of his own demise. But when Richard first met him, meaning to kill him, he was downright paranoid and even violent. To explain this, I think we have to put his frame of mind into context: His home has just been damaged by a powerful storm (probably a hurricane) leaving him feeling vulnerable, he’s not used to having direct contact with any of the people he’s brought to the island, and in walks a stranger carrying a great big dagger, planning to kill him in his secret/sacred personal space that no one is even supposed to know is there. I think he was understandably cranky.

This episode confirmed to us that the smoke monster/Man in Black always chooses to kill some, but leave others alive. We know why he leaves certain ones alive — he hopes to convince them to kill Jacob. But we still don’t know why he chooses to kill the rest. I’ve wondered about this since the very first episode of the show, with the question: Why did the smoke monster kill the captain of Oceanic 815, Seth Norris, and leave the rest of the survivors alive? I’m hoping to get a full explanation before the end.

MiB smashing the bottle of wine brought to mind an odd tangent: We’ve never seen MiB eat or drink anything, have we? He offered food and water to Richard in this episode, and he’s been around others who were eating while in John Locke’s form, but I can’t remember a single time when we’ve seen him eat food himself. I’m also reminded of the first scene he shared with Jacob, on the beach by the statue, when Jacob offered him something to eat, but MiB replied, “No thank you. I just ate.” I wondered then if this might have been a veiled reference to the smoke monster attacking and killing someone, and perhaps feeding off of the body somehow. We’ve seen it kill quite a few people of late, both in the past and the present, and all this talk about him losing his body and his humanity makes me wonder if he eats the people he kills. Or maybe he eats their souls somehow? I don’t know, but there has to be more to this. If there is, it makes Jacob’s repeated offerings of food and wine to him more of a taunt — a reminder of who has the power on the island — and not so much a friendly gesture.

The difference in Ilana between the two brief flashbacks was striking: in the first, her head was wrapped in bandages; in the second, she appeared to be completely healed. Did Jacob heal her? I think that’s what we’re meant to infer, especially since he seemed to be wearing the same clothes in both scenes. It gave the impression that the two flashbacks were just a short period of time apart from one another.

Beyond the literal information that was revealed, everything in “Ab Aeterno” cast a lot of existing information in a whole new light. For example, we now know that Jacob isn’t necessarily an entity of good or evil. He’s certainly doing good by keeping the Man in Black from escaping the island, but that doesn’t make him a deity-type being by any means. In fact, he appears to be quite human and fallible. This is why he and the Others are often seen doing wicked things, willing to go to any lengths to protect themselves and the island: because the ends justify the means. The island has to be protected at all costs.

Another thing I left the episode thinking about was what the implications are for the Sideways reality. The ep revealed that the island’s destruction would be a very bad thing, allowing the smoke monster to be set free to wreak havoc on the entire world. Yet destroy the island is exactly what Jack & Co. tried to do in “The Incident,” and we assume that the bomb’s blast had something to do with the island sinking to the ocean floor in the Sideways reality. So the Sideways reality represents a world without the island in it. And yet… it doesn’t seem so bad. If the island has been destroyed and the smoke monster set free in the Sideways world, then why isn’t the Sideways world a horrible place? If anything, the Sideways world actually seems to be a better world than the one where the island is still standing. What gives? Any theories?

MiB’s instructions to Richard about not letting Jacob speak before he attacks him, or “it will already be too late,” harken back to Dogen’s instructions on how Sayid was to kill the Man in Black. I wonder if Dogen knew this story — perhaps Richard told it to him — and he used it to add an air of authenticity to his instructions for Sayid. He even gave Sayid the very dagger that Richard was given by MiB.

Did you notice the CGI butterfly that flew through the Black Rock while Richard was trying to escape from his chains? What was that all about? Any guesses? I got nothin’.

The Ilana flashback at the beginning got me thinking about Jacob and how long he’s been looking for Candidates. At the time of this flashback, he had narrowed it down to these final six, but the antagonistic nature of his first meeting with Richard in 1867 implied that he probably wasn’t looking for Candidates back then. Which means that sometime between then and now, he started the search for his replacement. What could have caused him to launch this search? Hmm… What if Jacob was slowly dying? What if something happened — either he became ill somehow, or he just knew that his tenure as protector of the island was nearing its expiration date — and he started seeking out Candidates because of it? His death at Ben’s hands might be rendered ultimately moot, Dumbledore-style, if he was going to die anyway. This would explain why Jacob didn’t defend himself from Ben’s attack.

Another thing that this episode confirmed: the dead people that Hurley talks to are not guises of the Man in Black. Some have been theorizing that the dead people that Hurley talks to could just be the Man in Black manipulating him, even when it’s Jacob he’s talking to. But I think we can all agree that he really was talking to Richard’s wife Isabella in this ep, so I’m willing to accept that Hurley’s legitimately talking to real dead people. Sure, I can’t prove it 100%, but I don’t honestly believe that the writers of Lost mean for us to question every last minute detail, so I’m willing to accept this one on faith.

Do you think Richard is firmly back on Team Jacob now? I do.

MiB’s vow to kill Jacob and anyone who succeeds him raises the stakes for whichever Candidate becomes Jacob’s replacement. Let’s say, for instance, that the new Jacob will be Jack (as I strongly believe he will be). I don’t think we’ll be seeing him and MiB-Locke having casual chats on the island long into the distant future that echo Jacob and MiB’s talks from the past. By killing Jacob, MiB has changed the status quo. The two sides are at war now, and in war, there has to be a winner and a loser. I think it has to be a fight to the death at this point. To end the threat he poses to the island — and the entire world — the Man in Black must be destroyed, once and for all.

One last thing. “Ab Aeterno” is Latin for “from eternity” or “from a very long time.” This could refer either to Richard’s service to Jacob, or Richard and Isabella’s eternal love.

I’m starting to think that the Man in Black/smoke monster is a dual, symbiotic entity.

On the one hand, you’ve got the Man in Black. He was once a real, live, flesh-and-blood human being, with an insane mother who gave him serious issues. He’s all but told us that he holds Jacob responsible for being turned into something inhuman. So I think that at some point in his life, he came to the island and was absorbed or conjoined by the smoke monster, causing these two separate beings to become one. (Jacob’s motivations for doing this probably go back to his all-important task of keeping the smoke monster confined to the island, and using a human body as some sort of tether to the island). MiB had no desire to become joined with the smoke monster — the ultimate evil in the world — but he is, and he believes that his only means of becoming human again is to escape the island.

The monster is the Devil, Satan, the Angel of Death… whatever you want to call it. It’s evil incarnate. But the Man in Black, though he’s now sharing a body with the monster — is merely a damaged, lost soul who’s willing to use anyone or anything to get off the island. I don’t think he’s necessarily trying to put the whole world in danger by unleashing the monster, but he’s been on the island for so long that he just doesn’t care about the consequences of leaving.

What do you think?