Well, i’m still a bit off-kilter, and even though i had noble intentions of recapping this week’s episode of LOST Wednesday after tapping out Tuesday night, clearly that didn’t happen… besides the fact that it took me a while to watch it again i’ll blame a normally busy schedule, a desire to make good on this week’s mashed potatoes, and an overall lack of energy during my free time…

anyway, it’s finally time, since it’s not necessarily written in real time, i decided that instead of a standard play-by-play feel (like the last few weeks) i’d put a little more into it, format it nicely and hopefully make it more concise… this episode shakes the season up a bit stylistically by temporarily? abandoning the “_x” timeline and using a more conventional “flashback” device… the focal point is Richard and, in turn Jacob and Es- er, MiB… it’s a doozie… off we go…

TO FROM INFINITY…

now playing: Ab Aeterno – LOST season six

A few scenes about Richard, reminding us of his current crisis of faith, while Jacob’s visit to Ilana in the hospital (why is she in the hospital?) is further clarified, offering us some more insight into their conversation. Richard knows what the next step is, but in his current state, he’s too unsettled to offer any help. He informs everybody that he is suicidal and then tells Jack and the rest of them that they’re all dead and that the island is Hell. He then runs off into the woods, vowing to find smokeLocke, who Jack is just learning about. Ilena gears up to go take him out, but Jack talks her out of it, while Hurley speaks to an unknown, dead Hispanic in their native tongue.

Flash… back. For the first time this season we’re not flashing sideways, we’re flashing back to the history of one Richard Alpert. (or are we? – more on that later). His wife is on her deathbed and in dire need of medical treatment, but the doctor is miles away and it’s the 19th century and the Alperts are peasants. Richard accidentally kills the fat cat doctor in a struggle to get the medicine he needs, but cannot afford. It’s all in vain, anyway, as he returns to a dead wife with the police on his tail.

In prison, Richard turns away bread offered by a visiting priest. Later, we see that he’s reading an English Bible – Luke 4, the temptation of Jesus (“Man does not live by bread alone”). He was preparing to make a new life, but the priest simply wants him to give his confession. Richard begs for God’s forgiveness to absolve him of the accidental murder, but the priest refuses. “There must be some way to earn God’s forgiveness,” Richard weeps, all but defeated voice. The priest replies that there is no time for penance, Richard will be hanged the next day. “I’m afraid the devil awaits you in Hell.” The priest seems all too happy to announce this and he leaves poor Richard in the cell to his thoughts.

The next morning finds Richard getting a reprieve of sorts as he’s sold into slavery instead of being hanged. A Mr. Whitfield claims him on behalf of Captain Magnus Hanso, great grandfather of Alvar Hanso, founder of the DHARMA Initiative. (Begat, begat, begat). Anyway, Richard and others are taken to off to the New World after all, but the catch is that they’ll be chained up in the bottom of the Black Rock and, as we know, shipwrecked on an island.

Based on the giant statue with four toes and a dog head, a fellow slave declares the island is guarded by the devil. Well, the Black Rock apparently took out the statue, leaving behind the foot (and the shadow), and winds up in the middle of a bloody jungle. Whitfield comes below deck and starts slaying all the slaves with his cutlass. As he pauses to explain to Richard (the last slave standing) that it’s simply a matter of self-preservation, the smoke monster makes an appearance, slaughtering all the crew members including Whitfield, who gets yanked through the deck to his untimely death. Smokey has a face-to-face with a terrified Richard before leaving him there in his chains.

We then see composite shots of time passing Richard by in the bottom of the boat. He works faithfully to free himself from his chains, but ultimately is unsuccessful. He even gets tormented by a wild boar that runs by him and knocks away a nail that he had been hoping to pick the lock with. Finally, in the throes of defeat, he sees Isabella, his wife, coming to rescue him before the devil comes back. Since she’s already dead, he’s confused and, before he’s freed, she runs away as Smokey reappears in the distance (as evidenced by the sounds and the skylight) and she is presumably thrashed to death, despite Richard’s agonizing arguments. He crumples into a heap on the floor and some time passes.

Near death – perhaps literally – Richard is touched and roused from his sleep or coma. He’s startled into a sitting position and scared. It’s the Man in Black (MiB), who calls himself “a friend.” MiB tells Richard that they are in Hell and that he’s been there since long before the Black Rock arrived. Richard asks about his wife, the black smoke, and if he’ll ever see her again. MiB replies that “he” must have her and adds that he (MiB) wants to be free, too. MiB reveals the keys to Richard’s chains, but first, he brokers a deal of allegiance. Richard agrees to do “anything” for MiB, and gains his freedom, perhaps at the cost of his soul. MiB unlocks Richard and helps him out of the ship, telling him to rest – that he’ll need his strength if he’s going to escape. “Escape?!” Of course, the only way to excape from Hell is to kill the devil (and not just that crazy four-toed statue, the actual devil).

MiB feeds Richard a roasted pig and explains the plan. Go towards the statue that your ship smashed into pieces, take this knife, and immediately stab him in the chest. Don’t let him say a word, because if he speaks, it’s already too late. (Where have we heard that before?) Richard asks how to kill the devil, “it’s black smoke.” “No,” replies MiB, “I AM.” (sidenote: there is some serious deconstruction going on here.) After a dramatic pause, Richard accuses MiB of chasing Isabella. MiB assures him that she was running from the devil and he tried to save her, but he arrived too late. (I don’t think we should believe him.)

MiB explains that the devil betrayed him, took his body, and took his humanity. Richard, still coming to grips with this all, argues that MiB killed all the officers and. . . MiB interrupts, insisting that Richard needs not worry about him, that the devil has Isabella and Richard will need to kill him to get her back. Richard has a crisis of conscience, knowing that murder is wrong, that’s what got him into this mess to begin with. MiB balks at the concept of right and wrong. He reframes the question into an easy win, “Do you ever want to see your wife again?” Richard takes the knife.

Heading to the beach, Richard is a man defeated and possessed. He’s incredibly confused as he approaches the statue and unsheaths the knife. Then he gets the snot beaten out of him, but he is determined and lunges with the knife only to have Jacob snatch it out of his hand and shake it at him. “What are you doing here? Who gave you this?” Richard asks about his wife and Jacob is very argumentative, insisting that he doesn’t know what Richard is talking about. And, if she’s dead, “why are you asking me where she is?” They both take a second to process what just happened and Jacob realizes what’s going on, at least somewhat.

Jacob asks Richard if he’s met MiB and what he was told. Richard explains the whole devil-killing, wife reuniting plan. Jacob gets too close to the camera and starts to really understand what happened. Richard keeps talking about seeing his wife and wanting to see his wife, but Jacob matter-of-factly states that it wasn’t Isabella that he saw. Richard insists that she is dead, he is dead, and he’s in Hell, “Where else would I be?” Jacob seems a bit disgusted, grabs Richard and drags him into the sea, where he performs a baptism of sorts, nearly drowning Richard to make him realize he’s alive. With Richard convinced, Jacob begins planning his retaliation.

Jacob gives Richard a blanket, puts him in front of a fire, and brings him some wine. “What is this island?” asks Richard. “No one comes in, unless I invite them.” (Not exactly an answer.) “Are you the devil?” “(pause and smirk) No.” Jacob introduces himself as the one who brought the ship to the island. Richard asks why and Jacob grabs the bottle of wine. The wine represents Hell (or “malevolence, evil, darkness”). If it were get out of the bottle, then that darkness would spread. The island is represented by the cork that keeps the darkness contained. (sidenote: this is what i was getting at last week when i mentioned “protection” in passing – more later.)

Jacob describes MiB as someone who believes everyone is corruptible because of their sinful nature. He brings people to the island, where their past doesn’t matter, to prove MiB wrong. Richard asks about those who have previously been brought to the island and learns that they are all dead. Jacob didn’t help them because he wanted them to help themselves and learn morals without him explaining to them. (God helps those who help themselves?) He proceeds to make a case for the concept of free will inspiring more meaningful lives and choices. Richard counters by explaining that if Jacob doesn’t influence people’s choices, then MiB certainly will.

That point is well taken and Jacob offers Richard a job as his intermediary, a “high priest” of sorts. After saying he can’t give him Isabella back or absolve him of his sins, Jacob agrees to Richard’s third choice for a fair wage, immortality. Richard returns to MiB, who immediately realizes that the plan failed. Richard gives him the white rock that later balances the scales in the cave, and MiB is incredibly disappointed. He tries to play the Isabella card again, but concedes that Jacob is very persuasive and a deal has already been strick, Richard’s choice already made. MiB tells Richard that if he can change his mind at any time, then hands Richard Isabella’s locket, which he “found on the ship.” Richard marvals that MiB has disappeared into thin air, then buries the locket, saying goodbye forever to Isabella. Thus concludes the flashback.

Richard returns to where he buried the locket and digs it up. He declares that he’s changed his mind and calls out into the jungle to MiB hoping for an answer. “Does the offer still stand?” He turns towards the noise of someone approaching, but it’s not MiB, it’s Hurley. Richard tells Hurley to leave him alone, but Hurley explains that Isabella sent him. Richard doesn’t believe, but, with Hurley as an intermediary, he has a conversation with his wife. She absolves him of the guilt that really plagues him, her death. He explains that he would do anything to be together again and she says they are already together. She’s gone, but she said one more thing. She tells Richard that he must stop MiB from leaving the island or else everyone will go to Hell. The camera pans out to MiB (Locke) watching the entire scene and looking off into the distance, knowing that Richard’s back on an opposing path.

In a final flashback scene, MiB is sitting on a hill overlooking the island, mulling over the white rock. Jacob approaches and they have a Wile Coyote/Sam the Sheepdog moment, pleasantly wishing each other a good morning. MiB tells Jacob not to gloat and Jacob brings up the attempted murder, asking for an explanation. MiB explains that he wants to leave the island, but he knows that as long as Jacob is alive, he’s not going anywhere. MiB swears to kill Jacob and anyone who replaces him in that role. Jacob pulls the wine bottle – which actually is more of a jug – out of an apparently huge pants pocket and gives it to MiB as “something to pass the time”. Jacob leaves with a “See ya real soon” and MiB responds to himself, “Sooner than you think,” smashing the bottle on a rock.

AND BEYOND…

now playing: Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce

well, that still seemed to be pretty lengthy, did it not?… i told you that this was a doozie and, though i’m tempted to let that be enough, i will, in fact, offer some further thoughts as i mull about this episode… three things actually, protection, time, and Richard the island’s microcosm…

1. Everyone’s got it all backwards as far as protection is concerned

this is what i wrote last week as a teaser to what i’m about to write… unfortunately, Ab Aeterno makes this pretty clear… before this episode, it seemed that the focus of everyone’s efforts was to protect the island from… well, something… possibly MiB, possibly outside forces, possibly exploitation, it wasnt entirely clear, but whenever protection was mentioned, it was the island that was in need of protection… when Widemore showed up last week with his portable sonic fence, however, i started thinking, what if it’s not the island that needs protection, but the rest of the world… of course, in the context of, say, Revelation, evil is sealed up and unleashed on the world in due time… what if, the island is one of God’s bowls of wrath that is bubbling up waiting for the right time… well, then the “war” that is coming is apocalyptic in nature and is between one side who wants to take control of destiny and choose when the bowl is poured out and the other side who wants to wait for God’s timing… of course, now that Jacob has identified the island as the cork that prevents evil from spreading, i guess that makes this speculation reality… many questions still remain, but i’d suppose that Widemore wants to be in control, MiB wants it to be now, and Jacob waits patiently, holding out hope that the world can be redeemed…

2. Time is not as you think it is

i’m no quantum physicist or anything, but i have spent far more time than makes sense pondering the concept of time… (what an amazing distraction – wasting time thinking about wasted time)… anyway, what i’ve come to understand about time is that it only really exists here… i suppose that i believe time to be something of a flat dimension… in the sense that everything that has ever happened, happened all at the same time, in light of eternity… what i mean is that for eternal beings, such as God and mankind outside of earthly life, World history is kind of like an enormous DVR (or TiVO) that can be queued up to any point of finite time… unless, the stinking commercials cause the fast-forward function to freeze up… anyway, in regards to LOST and the _x timeline and the flashbacks… since all things are happening simultaneously in the long run all the characters are in all the places, participating in all the timelines, affecting and being affected by each side story all the time… and it’s all okay… actually, this is more confusing now that it’s out of my head, but my point was basically that as the characters mature, Sawyer, for example, he matures across all timelines, so, even though he was head of DHARMA security in 1977, that choice in his present caused him to be a detective in the _x side story… because he’s already learned that being a con, doesn’t work… never mind… it’s complicated…

2. (take two) The Sad Case of Sawyer

here’s an entirely different line of thinking… Sawyer, when we last saw him, was still on his “own team”… we see him apparently following MiB around the island, challenging his authority only when it affects Sawyer’s plans to escape the island… he runs errands for MiB but, as we learn as he hits the beaches of Hydra, he still has enough of his senses about him to see through the fake Tina Fey and challenge her ruse… we see him face off with Widemore, trying to strike up a deal with him to leverage his knowledge of MiB – which isn’t that much… then, he returns to MiB and sets up a new deal with him, leading up to an eventual diversion that will allow him to slip away from the two powers (Widemore and MiB) undetected, because he doesn’t trust either of them…

But while Sawyer may seem to be a master of playing the hand that’s dealt – and we’ve seen him run this exact con earlier in the series when he became the “new sheriff” on the island… there’s something we’ve also seen in this series, something we’ve come to accept as truth, is the mantra that returned last week as Miles asked Sawyer if he wanted to “die alone”… and Sawyer is alone, despite all his efforts, despite all of his maturation, despite everything he’s gone through, despite Kate sitting next to him… he’s all alone and, unfortunately, it seems clear that it won’t end well for him… i predict that Sawyer is being set up as the tragic hero of the series… (one of many, i’m sure)…

3. Richard, the Island’s microcosm

So did anyone else notice this? Richard’s backstory included several nods to the events of the other Losties… whether it was as simple as him learning English in preparation for a voyage to the New World and a new life (just like Sun) or as random as being antagonized by a wild boar when life just about reached the depths of madness (a la Sawyer)… it seemed like all the events of his life were reflected by events in the lives of our other characters… here’s a quick breakdown of the ones that stood out the most for me:

He came to the island in chains/handcuffs (Kate)

He is convinced that his bad luck causes everyone around him to die (Hurley)

He has a stare down with the smoke monster, becomes a loyal disciple of Jacob, then has an extreme crisis of faith, eventually leading to an attempted suicide (Locke)

He is tricked into attempting murder by the promise of seeing his dead wife (love of his life) again (Sayid)

Interestingly enough, i didn’t notice anything in particular, without stretching something about failing his wife, that related him to Jack… anybody else see it?… what characters did i miss?…

THE END OF TIME…

yeah, i think i took more than my share already… i did write this over the course of a few days, but it feels like it was quite an investment… hope you enjoyed it, now it’s your turn to chime in with your thoughts and theories… oh, and if this wasn’t enough for you, make sure to check out LOSTexplained and their thoughts on the episode…

peace… love… bdg…