‘Lost’ Recap: ‘Ab Aeterno:’ From the Beginning

"Want Me to Tell You a Secret?" (ABC)

The end is near, my dear Losties! We’re at the halfway point in the final season of the mad genius ‘Lost‘ and answers are flying fast and furious.

And in this week’s official ‘Lost’ podcast, executive producer Damon Lindelof finally revealed the episode title for the series finale. You ready for it?

‘The End.’

“I think we couldn’t probably make a more clear statement as to the fact that we are bringing our story to a close,” said Lindelof.

That is so ‘Lost’. Simple, yet not, since it could be read in many ways. The end of show? The end of the world? We shall find out all too soon, and then we’ll be left with nothing. Shivers.

While you ponder ‘The End,’ this week’s episode, appropriately, took us back to the beginning. Way back.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was an island…

It feels like it’s been at least 150 years that we’ve been waiting to find out what’s the deal with Ageless Wonder Richard Alpert and the writers gave us a mighty flashback this week that helped flesh out his Otherly life–and the island’s origin story.

In what seems like a monumental episode, and a sweet departure from the imbalanced sideways Alt-Verse, this Richard-centric tearjerker was loaded with major reveals, a handful of ‘Damn you, ‘Lost!’ moments, and another powerhouse performance from ‘Lost’s supporting-character stable. Nestor Carbonell’s turn as the brokenhearted 1800s Spaniard Richard Alpert may have even topped Michael Emerson’s outstanding outing in ‘Dr. Linus’ a few weeks ago.

Enter ‘Ricardus,’ who’s dropping bombshells by the bonfire. “Want to know a secret?,” a giggle crazed Richard says to Jack, when the beach bums ask him what to do now.

“You’re dead. Literally. We’re all dead. Every single one of us. And this? All this, it’s not what you think it is. We’re not on an island. We never were. WE’RE IN HELL.”

What the Hell is going on??? Let’s get drunk on El Diablo wine and figure this shizz out, my dear Losties, because it’s my birthday and ‘Lost’ gave us an episode filled with presents! (i.e., answers).

Immortal Richard Alpert Passes by the Statue's Ankh Cross, a Symbol of Eternal Life (ABC)

Immortal Richard Alpert Passes by the Statue's Ankh Cross, a Symbol of Eternal Life (ABC)

The Spaniard Slave
Ricardo is in fact vintage 1867, a loving husband who lives in Tenerife on the Canary Islands with his wife Isabella, whom he’s desperate to save from the ‘sickness.’ Richard gallops off to the town doctor for some meds, but things don’t go so well as the doc ends up dead, and Richard ends up in jail with the meanest priest ever. The priest refuses to forgive Richard’s accidental murder and he’s pretty much damned all to hell. Until British captain Magnus Hanso (more on this later) of the Black Rock slave ship sends his first mate to the jail to borrow an English-speaking stud with strong hands and guyliner. Did I forget to mention Isabella is dead by now?

Soon that ship has sailed and hits super stormy seas, and the Black Rock ends up on our island–taking out the Taweret statue in the process (and leaving just four toes behind)–and crash-lands ‘in the middle of a bloody jungle.’ Before you can say ‘Yes, Master,’ the ship’s crew goes up in smoke when Smokey the Bandit strikes again. When Richard wants to know what happened to his visiting dead wife, Smokey points his finger at “the devil.” But Jacob points his finger right back at the Man in Black.

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist,” Verbal Kint, ‘The Usual Suspects’

What ensues is a new power struggle over Richard Alpert between the two island bullies, who continue to drive us mad with their verbal volleys: which one should we believe? Both Jacob and the Man in Black are equally persuasive and equally manipulating. But whose higher purpose is for the greater good? Turning the screw even more, as we flash way back to the 1800s, we meet a much meaner Jacob and a still smoothly convincing Man in Black–welcome back on-screen, Titus Welliver!

Hey, It's Not-Locke's Other Face: The Man in Black (ABC)

Hey, It's Not-Locke's Other Face: The Man in Black (ABC)

What Is the Island?
It’s the Devil’s Play Pen! Jacob explains to Richard that Exile Island is a containment device of sorts, a ‘cork’ that is bottling up all the evil in the world.

What’s the message in the bottle? Don’t get too drunk and spill your wine, or El Diablo is coming to getcha! Jacob ‘splains it to Ricky Ricardo below.

“Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell. There are many other names for it. Malevolence. Evil. Darkness. And here it is, swirling around in the bottle unable to get out. Because if it did–it would spread. The cork is this Island. And it’s the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs.”

Another key point revealed regarding the Island Chess Match between Jacob and the Man in Black:
“That man who sent you believes every man is corruptible because it’s in their very nature to sin,” says Jacob. “I bring people here to prove him wrong. And when they get here, their past doesn’t matter.”

With that, we are inclined for now to stick with the concept that Jacob is good (light) and MIB is bad (dark), but this could totally flip because, honestly, Jacob is acting shady and Man in Black is cool. Then again, that may be too obvious a twist. Damn you, Lost!

Richard Alpert, Jacob, the Man in Black (ABC)

Richard Alpert, Jacob, the Man in Black (ABC)

The Big Reveals
~Seeing Titus Welliver return not in Not-Locke form, but as his still frustratingly nameless character, known as ‘The Man in Black.’ Ilana told us MIB is trapped in Locke’s form, yet MIB told Richard that Jacob had taken his body and his humanity. That’s why the Man in Black always has to take other forms, but the question is, a. is the silver fox with the oceanic blue-green eyes MIB’s original body? And b. did Jacob strip him because he was bad, or did MIB become vengeful after he was robbed?

~Without his Isabella, Ageless Wonder Richard Alpert asked for eternal life (instead of eternal damnation, duh) and so, was ‘touched’ by Jacob, and subsequently “hired” to be his representative, sort of like Robert Duvall’s family lawyer to Marlon Brando’s ‘Godfather.’ I’m kind of disappointed with this explanation for Immortal Richard. I mean, the Temple Jacuzzi wasn’t even involved at all. What’s up with that?

~The four-toed statue lost its head when the Black Rock ship crashed into the middle of the island during a perfect storm stirred up by Jacob to bring them to the island to forward “progress.”

~Getting confirmation that MIB does need to kill Jake and the candidates in order to leave the island, and he cannot kill Jacob himself. He keeps sending a proxy, who fails. Jacob can not kill MIB, and cannot let him leave the island. ‘Who’s in charge here???’

~ The episode is called “Ab Aeterno,” which means “From the beginning of time.” Unsubstantiated Internet rumor has it that Jacob and the Man in Black go so far back, they may pre-date Jesus.

"You Only Have One Chance" (ABC)

Clues or Coincidences?

~The episode opened with a shot of Ilana’s bandaged eye, a familiar opening scene pattern. That is all.

The Book of the Dead
~In Egyptian lore, dead peeps faced a trial in the underworld before the god Osiris, Lord of the Dead–who had been drowned and resurrected–and his 42 judges (that’s a number) in the Hall of Judgment (aka Hall of Two Truths). In order to be reborn into new life, their heart was ‘tested.’ To find out whether the deceased was worthy of the afterlife, their heart would be weighed on a balance of scales (*we saw scales in the Secret Bat Cave). If the heart balanced on the scale weighed “heavy with sin,” he was “gobbled up” by “a strange creature called Ammit” who devoured the souls of the condemned (kinda like the Locke-Ness Monster does?). A man with a good heart would pass to the afterlife. (Sayid and Claire failed their test. D’oh!)

*Lost producers have repeatedly said ‘Lost’ is not purgatory. That’s looking like a technicality at this point, but time will tell. It may or may not be Hell, but without a doubt, “This place is death!”

The Black Rock and Hanso the Great
~Magnus Hanso was the Captain of the Black Rock slave-trading ship that Richard Alpert was held captive on. Magnus is the great grandfather of Alvar Hanso. Alvar Hanso is the Danish CEO of the Hanso Foundation, which funded the Dharma Initiative, which was founded by Gerald DeGroot. Alvar Hanso stayed with the DeGroot family while he was attending the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (the Dharmas had some secret ‘initiatives’ in Ann Arbor).

P.S. The Latin origin of the word ‘Magnus’ means ‘great.’ The surname ‘DeGroot’ means “the great one” or “large” one.

"What Fresh Hell Is This?" (ABC)

Ghost Ship
In 1845, the Black Rock ship sailed out of Slip 23 (23’s a number) from the Portsmouth docks in the U.K. and was never seen again. Charles Widmore paid a handsome sum at an auction to buy the journal of the Black Rock ship’s first mate. According to sea traders, the ship stopped by Papua New Guinea to acquire more slaves, but then sailed away from that port headed east, rather than west to their destination of Africa, and ended up on Mystery Island in the South Pacific, so Jacob could conduct his little experiment to prove the Man in Black wrong. It could be the island’s magnetic forces that caused their compasses to go haywire. This explains why transportation vessels, such as Rousseau’s expedition, Mr. Eko’s drug plane, Oceanic Flight 815, and the Black Rock, were ‘drawn’ to the island.

The Numbers: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

Amelia Earhart Got LOST: Crazy Theory of the Week
The Black Rock’s last known pit stop was Papua New Guinea, which also just happens to be the last port of call for ‘Lady Lindy’ aka Amelia Earhart, whose plane went missing in July 1937 somewhere over the South Pacific in one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Her Lockheed Electra was overloaded with eight tons of fuel. (8 is a number). Rescue crews searched for Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan for 16 days (16 is a number). The search for Earhart cost $4 million dollars. (4 is a number). Amelia missed the coordinates to her destination of Howland Island and never made her scheduled transmission at 0815 GCT. (Losties crashed on Flight 815). Sawyer and Kate found two bodies in airplane seats at the bottom of the waterfall lagoon. I know this is a huuuge stretch, BUT…could it be that those are the remains of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan? They coincidentally left on the same doomed course as the Black Rock, so maybe they crashed at the same point too. Just sayin.’

*This area is known as the Sunda Trench and disappearing along its skies and waters is highly contagious. It’s also part of the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” which I discussed in the bad-ass-ian ‘Sundown’ Temple Massacre episode, pointing out the Man in Black (Johnny Cash) and the Ring of Fire (his famous song).

*Fancast reader Caroline noticed that in ‘One of Us,’ Richard took Juliet to an airport named Herarat Aviation. Herarat is an anagram for ‘Earhart.’

There was also a random elderly ‘Other’ named ‘Amelia.’ And Sawyer, the nicknaming bandit, once called stewardess Cindy, ‘Earhart.’

Never Play with Knives, Kids (ABC)

Never Play with Knives, Kids (ABC)

Mack the Knife
~Locke was the knife man. In the Alt-Verse, Locke’s knives went missing from the Un-crashed plane’s cargo. Dogen presented Sayid with a special knife and special instructions to try and kill the Man in Black. This week, the Man in Black presented Richard with a special knife to try and kill Jacob, announcing the same instructions. Both Sayid and Richard failed. In the Season 1 episode called ‘Special,’ Locke teaches Walt how to throw knives, telling him to use his ‘mind’s eye.’ Is Walt ‘special’ because he might be the ‘dragon slayer,’ or ‘the one’ who can actually kill one of these dudes?

Was the boar having a slave snack attack inside the Black Rock actually Jacob? The Man in Black can ‘shape-shift,’ if you want to call it that, into smoke. Presumably Jacob should be able to transform into something too. There was a prominent shot of a butterfly flying into the shipwreck, which represents transformation and rebirth. We’ve seen random, unexplained animal sightings on the island previously, including ‘Sawyer’s boar’ and ‘Kate’s horse.’ Was Jacob running his own animal undercover recon mission? What are the chances that all this time Vincent has been…Jacob!? Vincent, Walt’s dog, has been roaming the island and disappears for long spells but always turns up safe. If Jacob wanted a ‘special’ kid to come to the island, maybe he’d escort him there himself in the form of ‘man’s best friend.’ Just sayin.’

"Jacob, is that you?" (ABC)

St. Luke
~While in jail, Richard’s Bible is open to Luke 4:24: “And he said, Verily I say unto you, ‘No prophet is accepted in his own country.'” It refers to “the days of Elias.” The name Elias is an alternate spelling in some translations for Elijah, a prophet.

P.S. In Mormonism, per Wiki, “people to whom the title Elias is applied include Noah, the angel Gabriel (considered to be the same person as Noah), Elijah, John the Baptist, John the Apostle, and an unspecified man who was a contemporary of Abraham. An unspecified man dressed in black, perhaps?

The Big Tree
~I know y’all think I’m off my rocks with the Big Tree talk, but did you SEE Not-Locke peering over that magnificent looking tree in his stellar two-second cameo at the end of the episode? And did you notice that Richard buried his wife’s cross at the foot of said tree? And then dug it back up and put the cross on, as he tried to switch to Team Not-Locke because he’s ready “to start listening to someone else.”

*Fancast reader Ninja caught that the name Ilana is of Hebrew origin and means “tree.” Ilana is the “body guard” assigned by Jacob to protect the remaining six ‘Candidates.’

While I was branching out to research my Tree Theory last week and in my history lessons with Dr. Linus about the World Heritage Sites the week before, I discovered this compelling connection to the heart and soul of ‘Lost.’ Maybe.

On that ‘Tree of Life and Immortality’ Wiki page I linked to, there’s this line: “World trees embodied the four cardinal directions, which represented also the fourfold nature of a central world tree, a symbolic axis mundi connecting the planes of the Underworld and the sky with that of the terrestrial world.” (4 is a number, btw.)

The Axis Mundi
Here’s the new bent to my Tree theory: the Axis Mundi. Also referred to as ‘the navel of the world,’ it’s the “point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet. At this point travel and correspondence is made between higher and lower realms.” “It may appear in the form of a natural object, such as a mountain, a TREE, a vine, a stalk, a ladder, a cross, a lighthouse, a tower, a COLUMN OF SMOKE, or fire.” I’m not making this up, people! The column of smoke, in case you were absent that day in school, represents the SOUL, and the island’s cup runneth over with Lost Souls. While it’s a cork (containing and shepherding Evil) and it’s Elba (a symbol of Exile) and it’s the Axis Mundi (the sacred center of the world), The Island is still essentially the Land of the Lost, looking for redemption, and crossing over into Heaven or Hell. Is Jack Shepherd finally learning his purpose in all this? Jack? Hello? Bueller?

This is getting good, Losties, take a sip of El Diablo wine, because there’s more.

“The symbol can operate in a number of locales at once, and sacred places constitute world centers on the axis, so every temple or palace is a ‘Sacred Mountain,’ thus becoming a ‘Centre.'” “Pagoda structures in Asian temples take the form of a stairway linking earth and heaven. A steeple in a church or a minaret in a mosque also serve as connections of earth and heaven.” Dudes. Jack saw a Pagoda AND a steeple in the Lighthouse mirrors, reflecting where Jin and Sun got married, and the church from Sawyer’s parents funeral. Mrs. Freaking Hawking runs a Dharma station called The Lamp Post under a church in LA. And there’s a Temple with one magical jacuzzi on The Island.

Traditional symbols of the axis also include The Garden of Eden, the Bodhi Tree, ahem, the Tree of Life, Jacob’s Ladder (Sawyer almost died on that thing!), Mount Fuji, Mount Olympus, the Pyramids of Egypt and certain mystical land masses with giant four-toed statues and randomly invisible lighthouse towers, cough, cough.

*The Island was off its AXIS and white flashes tossed the Losties around in time, and Locke had to sacrifice himself to set it right via the frozen wheel. When the island is off its axis, is that then the ‘axis of evil‘? (Did the Man in Black get out of his play pen that week and stir up trouble?)

*What does the Axis Mundi mean to Jack and Sawyer, to Jake and Not-Locke, to you and me? I Have NO IDEA!

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

It’s Not as Black and White as We’d Like
~Jacob has Richard deliver a “present” to the Man in Black: a white rock. (So glad I didn’t get rocks for my birthday presents.) MIB took a white rock off the scales in the Secret Bat Cave and threw it into the ocean. The bodies of the so-called “Adam and Eve” had a black stone with them. Are they Jake and MIB’s parents? Because I’m definitely vibing that these two guys are long lost brothers and we’ve got one spirited sibling rivalry going on.

Best Moments

~Richard’s rant, as the campfire blazed a ‘fires of hell’-ish orange glow over their faces–you’re all dead and we’re in hell–and then everyone blew him off without thinking twice. Ha.

~An existential wine course with Jacob, explaining the island is a ‘cork.’ What happens if you pop the champagne cork? In the words of Eloise Hawking, “May God help us all.” Cause that signals the End of Days. Or the Day of Reckoning. Or as Hurley warned, “We all go to Hell.” Definitely not ‘Happy Days.’

~Soooo, when Blackie smashes the wine bottle, and red blood, I mean, red wine spills out, it made it all the more deliciously wicked. That Temple Massacre? He was just warming up.

~A scene from ‘Ghost,’ starring Ricardo and his dead wife Isabella, with special guest star Hugo Reyes as Whoopi. Hurley turns Richard into a believer when he says Isabella is there next to him, even though Richard can’t see her. She sends her love through Hurley: “Close your eyes … I would do anything for us to be together. My love. We are already together.” Oh, and btw, you have to stop the Man in Black from leaving the island … or “WE ALL GO TO HELL.”

~The Man in Black has the gift of touch too, just like Jake. He revived a chained-up Richard in the Black Rock (did you notice when he touched Richard’s shoulder, the cut on the Man in Black’s hand healed too?), only to have Richard, who was ‘tested’ by Jacob and ‘baptized’ in the ocean, join forces with Jacob instead, after losing the knife fight. After Puff the Magic Dragon scanned Richard on the ship, MIB tempts Richard with reuniting with his dead wife, because apparently he can get you whatever you want, if you go his way. But it took Richard over 100 years to make his mind up on that one. But Blackie says it’s never too late to join Team Man in Black.

*This seems key: There are things Jacob can do and things that are no-can-do. He can’t bring back beloved Isabella. He can’t absolve Richard from his sins. But he can tap you on the shoulder and make you live forever. Huh. Meanwhile, Man in Black says he CAN make you see your hottie wife again. Are their ‘powers’ split between the moral and the material, or something? Or MIB could totally be lying. He does that.

~Mean Jacob gives Richard a thrashing, physically and mentally: “That wasn’t your wife.” ‘You’re not dead.” “You really think you’re dead?” Here let me drown you for a sec…STILL think you’re dead???

"I See the Devil. El Diablo!" (ABC)

Best Quotes

“Everyone’s dead and we’re all in hell,” – Richard in campfire confessions that no one believes

“I was trying to kill myself when you found me. Does that sound like someone with a plan?” Richard to Jack

“Sorry, Jack, this doesn’t have anything to do with you.” Hurley to Jack (Oh, snap!) after he’s caught speaking in tongues (or later as we find, Spanish, to Richard’s dead wife). I’m surprised Jack didn’t say, “Go to HELL!”

“I’ve changed my mind,” says Richard to MIB. “I was wrong. You said I could change my mind. You said the offer would stand. Does the offer still stand???” *Guess MIB is a man of his word and the offer stood, because Hurley turned up a second later with the ghost of Mrs. Alpert.

“My love. We are already together.” Isabella to Richard. Tear. Sniff.

“Oh, this should be interesting,” – Ben, waiting to hear tall tales from a 130-year-old man he’s known since he was 12, who doesn’t look a day over mid-life crisis age.

“If it’s any consolation…it’s not exactly Locke,” – Ben to Jack, referring to Not-Locke

The Man in Black Has the Key to 'Lost' (ABC)

The Man in Black Has the Key to 'Lost' (ABC)

Burning Questions

~Richard tells us a secret: And either he’s crazy or they’re dead. Who do you believe? Both? Me too.

~Is the Man in Black the devil or the devil’s bitch? Did Jacob seem bitchier in this flashback?

~The final scene between Jacob and Man in Black, where Jacob is all like, So you tried to kill me, what’s up with that? And MIB, is like, Dude, just let me leave. And Jake is like no-can-do. What exactly is MIB’s ‘loophole’? Just how is he going to “escape hell”?

~So Smokey appeared as Richard’s dead wife Isabella on the ship to coerce Richard into believing the Devil Theory, but the real (dead) Isabella appeared to Hurley and Richard by the BIG TREE, right?

~Why/how does Jacob have the upperhand over the Man in Black, keeping him on the island all this time?

~What happened to Ilana? Why was she bandaged up? Jacob made a point of wearing gloves when he went to see her (implying he did NOT want to ‘touch’ her), yet in the following scene when Jacob is explaining how Ilana will protect the six remaining candidates, Ilana’s bandages are off and her face is already healing.

~How in the hell are they going to tie up Jacob vs. the Man in Black vs. Widmore and an epic battle of the Gods storyline to the Dharma Initiative, the Alt-Verse, time travel, hatches, car crashes, The Numbers, daddy issues, water, and polar bears? Only seven more episodes, Losties!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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