By Jeff Jensen Mar 24, 2010
It began in the darkest of night, on the shores of a place Richard Alpert called Hell. It ended in Easter daylight, in a lush Eden, with the ageless enigma trembling with much fear and a glimmer of hope. In between, we got a story that asked questions that we've been asking ab aeterno — since the beginning. What is good? What is evil? How do we know the difference? Who knows what is truly best for us? Who should we trust? How do we make moral choices amid such ambiguity? Why must we figure this stuff out on our own? Why don't the gods of the universe play straight with us? How the flaming hell are we supposed to live like this?
''Ab Aeterno'' — the story of two great and powerful and angry gentlemen and a third who wasn't quite sure who or what he was anymore — was miles away from Two and a Half Men. It was a heavy, heady hour of TV suffused with Biblical subtext, scribbled with subtitles, and stuffed with answers for the show's Island mythology, albeit in a fabulist form requiring careful interpretation and a clarification or two. Or more. In addition to getting a story that revealed how Richard Alpert got to The Island, we got a story that revealed more of the historical relationship between Jacob and the Man In Black. Indeed, we got the sense that the battle these two angels/demons/whatchamacallums waged over Alpert's soul was actually the first phase of Man In Black's 140-years-in-the-making Smoke-man from Alcatraz escape plan. The episode used a corked, half-empty jug of wine as a metaphor for The Island as a never-to-be-opened holding container for hell and assorted analogous concepts: malevolence, evil, darkness, more. Jacob said all those words were functional words to characterize the archetype embodied by the Man In Black. (No doubt Smokey's own interpretation of Jacob's symbols would have been be more charitable and ''glass half full.'')
Wine was one of several religious symbols of the Catholic-Christian stripe that ''Ab Aeterno'' employed and subverted. I was reminded of the cryptic Last Supper images that ABC released prior to the season, particularly the one in which the castaways were seen serving and sipping the wine at Fake Locke's Passover table. Jacob might say, ''They're drinking poison!'' Smokey's interpretation? Judging from the way he smashed the bottle/metaphor to bits, maybe he'd say ''They're drinking spirits. I mean, their souls. I'm pouring out and returning their souls to them. Get it? Wine = Spirits = Souls? No? Oh, screw this symbology s--t! It's just a damn bottle of wine!''
'Ab Aeterno'' was a big winner in my book. My guess is that most fans feel the same way. As I write these words, Rainn Wilson, star of The Office, just Tweeted the following: ''Tonight's episode was one of TV's greatest of all time. I'm gay for the eternal Richard Alpert. There I said it.'' It was definitely the most unusual episode Lost has given us this season, a mostly linear tale akin to ''The Other 48 Days'' from season 2, ''Flashes Before Your Eyes'' in Season 3, and ''Meet Kevin Johnson'' from season 4. It was technically a flashback episode, thanks to the Island-set framing story; it was definitely not a Sideways episode. (I will pause a microsecond to allow the silly haters to cheer.) It was also the ninth hour of Lost's 18-hour final season. We're halfway to the finish, and the castaways are halfway to home or oblivion. Which one will it be? Right now, I guess it depends on how you view the jug. But let's crack it open and see if we find clarity. And I promise: a minimum of drunken theorizing this week.
The year: 1867. Ricardo was a handsome and horsey man with spectacular eyelashes and little time for shaving. He was a Spaniard who lived on the largest Canary Islands, Tenerife. (FUN FACT! Tenerife is known for its ancient pyramids believed by some to be a link between Egyptian and Mayan cultures.) Ricardo — brave ruler — had a wife. Isabella. God's promise. God is my oath. Pledged to God. The Penelope to his Desmond. His constant. Totally dug her cheese — but not her bloody coughs. She had TB, and she was dying. We met her close to death, clutching her Bible, ready to make peace with mortality. She was all Rose: Time to let go. But Ricardo was not ready to surrender. He was all Jack: Nothing's irreversible. He stormed off into a raging rain, determined to bring back medicine that would restore her to life. ''I pray that I have enough,'' Ricardo said. The difference between Ricardo and Isabella was where they stored their treasure. Isabella kept it in Heaven; Ricardo kept it on Earth. The chasm would prove significant.
Ricardo galloped to the home of a wealthy doctor dressed in a black vest. He needed help. The Black Vest was too busy gumming some greasy chicken, and what's more, wasn't about to get his fine ebony threads all wet for some poor peasant chick in the sticks. But he had some medicine — pure and white and salt-of-the-earthish. It would help Isabella. But it would cost Ricardo... a lot. Ricardo dumped some coins in Black Vest's hand. More, the doctor wanted. Ricardo gave him his wife's most precious possession, a necklace with a cross pendant — the symbol of her life; her soul; her eternal hope. ''Now you have everything,'' Ricardo said. Black Vest threw it to the ground. It came to rest near the inferno of his fireplace. ''This is worthless,'' he said. Her life meant nothing to him. Medicine, humanitarianism, good Samaritan — all blah blah blah to this monster. Ricardo snapped at the injustice. Grab! Push! Krunk-crack! Thud! Drip drip drip drip.... Black Vest's noggin bashed against his table. He bled out like a spilled jug of wine. Ricardo was now a murderer — but he took the medicine anyway and galloped back home. But Isabella was already dead. Was he simply too late? Or did she die because of his sin? And then the Javerts broke in, and Ricardo was muy miserables.
Ricardo was put in prison and sentenced to die. He spent his remaining days teaching himself English and reading the Bible. He had become converted, or so he believed. We saw him reading Luke chapter 4. In this chapter: Christ's temptation in the wilderness by Satan; Christ beginning his public ministry; Christ citing the proverb ''Physician, heal thyself!''; the story of Christ healing the sick and casting out demons. Yay for born again Ricardo, right? Wrong. He made his final confession to a priest — another man in black. But the priest coldly rejected Ricardo's petition with a brutal ''No.'' It made me wonder if the priest declined the confession because he saw that it wasn't genuine. Ricardo didn't really consider himself guilty of a crime. He called it accidental. He called it killing instead of murder. He didn't view himself as a sinner who needed God. Rather, God was a means to an end — a last gasp hope to be reconciled with Isabella in the heaven of her faith. Still, I think Father Black's further explanation will be one for the theologians amongst us to debate. True repentance requires penance, Father Black said. ''You don't have time... because tomorrow they're going to hang you. I'm afraid the devil awaits you in hell.'' This makes sense. It's kind of galling to think that rapists and serials killers and genocidal maniacs would get a Go Directly To Heaven! card with a simple if sincere spiritual conversion minutes before their execution. But if the monsters invalidate the principal, what about everyone else? Whither the multifold of lesser evil lifelong unbelievers — misunderstood villains, semi-harmless jerks, nice guy agnostics, message board slaggers — who on their deathbeds suddenly get the eternity jitters and bet their spiritual house on Pascal's Wager? Should St. Peter rubberstamp them DENIED and trapdoor drop them into Hades just because they didn't have time to complete the full redemption program?
Regardless, as I listened to Father's Black's pitiless theology, I found myself thinking this theory-thought: If only there was some second-chance place somewhere in the land of the setting sun, where you and other last-chance souls can band together and fight smoke monsters and prove yourself to cryptic gods and successfully score a seat on a flight or sub to Heaven. Could that be a viable theory of The Island?
Ricardo thought he found a different kind of reprieve: slavery. He had told Father Black that he and Isabella had dreamed of leaving their Island and finding new life as new creations in the New World. Father Black tipped off a fellow named Mr. Jonas Whitfield, an officer in the employ of Magnus Hanso, a shipping merchant and slave owner, that Ricardo was basically the kind of guy who'd do anything to stay alive — even suffer dehumanization. Ricardo got a new lease on life by accepting a leash, and he soon found himself in manacles and anklets in the bowels of Hanso's ship: The Black Rock. According an apocryphal quasi-canon texts of Lost, Magnus Hanso was an ancestor of Alvar Hanso, the financier behind The Dharma Initiative. I encourage you to peruse his deets at Lostpedia at your leisure on another occasion.
The Black Rock found itself bumping through the proverbial dark and stormy night. Ricardo and his fellow human cargo worried as their stomachs heaved: This is the end/for us my slavey friends/The End... Their frightened tenor turned apocalyptic when they all peeked through the slats and saw the toothy crocodile grin of towering Taweret on the shores of The Island. Taweret: the Egyptian goddess of pregnancy and childbirth, a former bad girl goddess who redeemed herself and helped keep the god of evil Set in check. Not that the Spaniards knew their Taweret from toejam, but they did know their Dante. ''Inferno,'' SlaveSock intoned. The Black Rock caught a wave and hurtled straight into Taweret's mug. In the aftermath, Taweret lost her head and became The Four Toed Statue, and The Black Rock crashed in the center of The Island, where the impact shattered the ship into a million pieces and Ricardo and his friends died instantly... but then both boat and humans were miraculously reconstructed by a flock of magical talking Hurley birds. All to say that I didn't quite understand how The Black Rock survived The Island belly flop, but I rolled with it because 1. If rolling with it hasn't become an instinctive reflex by now, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself; and 2. It evoked one of Lost's key literary touchstones, The Wizard of Oz. Ricardo and The Black Rock touching down on The Island = Dorothy and her house landing in Oz. Indeed, just like Dorothy's adventure was a fantastical mirror of her hard-luck dustbowl life and plucky spirit, Ricardo's Island origin story played like a ''This is your life!'' phantasmagoria of his hardscrabble underclass existence and religiously shaped/scarred psyche. (P.S.: I know many of you are wondering if Lost made a continuity error regarding the time of day of The Black Rock's arrival. The error assumes that the ship that Jacob and the Man In Black saw last season during the sunny breakfast talk was The Black Rock. I was among those who assumed it was The Black Rock; I am now going to assume that I was simply wrong to have assumed that. See? Error resolved!)
Of course, Ricardo's Island ordeal also followed the beats of the mythical drama that apparently must always play out when castaways arrive on The Island, albeit with some bleak derivations. The Mysterious Island Arrival is followed by The Mad Scramble To Get Our Bearings, followed by A Heroic, Idealistic Embrace Of Live Together, Die Alone Survival Ethos... unless you're two-thirds man slave property and deemed a drain on precious resources, in which case you get skewered through the heart by the designated castaway leader. The scene was Richard's class struggle of life in little deadly strokes. (That scene, with Mr. Whitfield systematically murdering Ricardo's' steerage friends — chilling. In his small defense, I got a whiff of mercy killing, too, and certain eau de Dogen: I think it would be better if you were dead.) And then: Monster Attack. First, the crew was chomped. Then, Mr. Whitfield was plucked and crunched. With that, Jacob and MIB's latest Olympiad of the Soul had been christened with bloody sacrifice.
Smokey snatched up Whitfield's body seconds before he was going to shish kabob Ricardo. It was a deus ex machina salvation. But then he saw the face of divine intervention on The Island, and it was terrifying. Smokey snaked into the ship and slowly tikatikatikatika'd over to Alpert. Then, Smokey bent into shape so he could get a good look at Richard (Those are some amazing eyelashes, he thought) and then flashed him with his psychic strobes. After acquiring the necessary intel from Richard's head, Smokey left — and Richard fainted.
Days passed. Richard tried to escape his bonds by prying a nail out of the floor and using it dig around the chain mounts on the wall. It was slow work. He was making progress, but he was also becoming dehydrated and weak. Then the boar — always an omen of demons and doom on Lost — showed up and began eating out of a dead man's stomach. The sinister swine then charged past Richard, knocking the nail out his reach. Despair. More days passed. Then, Isabella showed up. They were in Hell, she said. The devil was chasing her, she said. Let me help you out of those chains before he comes back, she said. Then: Tikatikatikatkatikatka. Ricardo told her to flee, that he would find her, save her. She padded up the steps. Ricardo heard scary sounds. Ricardo concluded: The Monster got her. Ricardo screamed. We said: Ricardo, you've been played. Someone or something left you down there to weaken your body and soften your mind to set you up to be their killing tool. Someone has played a Ben/Sawyer long con on you to warp you into a reckless hero like Jack, or worse, a ruthless assassin like Sayid. And here he comes now...
Enter the Man In Black. He gave slumbering Ricardo a long touch on his shoulder. Ricardo woke, then was taken aback. MIB called himself a friend, but everything after that seemed suspiciously tailored to Ricardo's worldview/state of mind. Yep, friend, you're in hell, the Nameless one (lied?) purred. Your wife? The devil has her. Sure, I can help you out those chains (Lucky you! I found the keys!), and sure, I can help you save her... Then came the bargaining. ''I want to be free, too,'' MIB explained. ''I need to know you will help me. You will do anything I ask. Then we are agreed?'' Ricardo said Si. This Is Your Life, Richard: Another man in black, selling salvation at a price.
Ricardo delighted in his release from bondage. MIB shared in that joy. ''It's good to see you out of those chains,'' MIB said, radiating true sincerity. He scooped up weak, witless Richard, and there was a quick shot of what looked like Ricardo's eyes looking cataract-gray blind and almost rolling into the back of his head. MIB carried Ricardo's half-life weight up and out of The Black Rock, and as he did, I recalled the words Richard had been reading in his cell from Luke 4: ''The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free those who are downtrodden, and proclaim the year of the Lord.'' In this scenario, Smokey = Jesus. He played the part — but is he Christ or anti-Christ? We debate.
The matter got murkier as the episode progressed. In the ruins of some ancient garden, the Man In Black quickly nursed some vitality back into Ricardo with roasted pig. ''I'm going to need your strength to escape,'' said MIB, a line also spoke to the Island drama in the present, in which MIB/Fake Locke needs the strength/support of the castaways to complete his supernatural prison break. As Ricardo chomped, MIB said some interesting things about himself. He claimed that ''the devil'' had ''betrayed'' him. ''He took my body. My humanity.'' My guess is that hard-core theorists will spend the next week factoring that bit of info into their ''Who is Smokey?'' conjectures. Some ideas I'm mulling over? Cain and Abel, the world's first CSI murder case. Cain was punished to wander the world as an immortal entity because he murdered his brother. He was also given a dark mark to scare away anyone who'd want to do him harm. I'd dare say that Earth-bound immortality qualifies as a kind of body-nullifying, dehumanizing curse — and that being able to convert into black smoke and change shape can qualify as some kind of protective-spooky defensive mechanism. Abel's final fate is more on-the-nose with Lost: Wikipedia cites an apocryphal Biblical text that says that Abel now resides in a ''netherworld,'' an ''awful man'' who is tasked with judging all creatures, and examining the righteous and the sinners.''
Irrelevant? Maybe. But it was hard for me to resist the connection when MIB and Ricardo started talking about murder. ''There's only one way out of hell,'' MIB said. ''We're going to have to kill the devil.'' Ricardo argued that he'd basically be damning his soul with the same sin that damned him in the first place. Again: shades of Sayid. MIB got pragmatic on him. ''My friend, you and I can talk all day long about what is right and what is wrong but the question before you remains the same: Do you ever want to see your wife again?'' His utilitarian logic is located in the broad, contentious body of thought known as ''Consequentialism.'' As you might glean from MIB's sentiment, a weaknesses of ''Consequentialism'' is its shaky, nebulous definition of justice. A major egghead in this field? Jeremy Bentham, the name Charles Widmore gave John Locke before his death. He had at least one thing in common with MIB/Fake Locke: Bentham was an abolitionist. And that explains everything, right? Right! Moving on...
The Man In Black sent his newly emancipated angel of death to the beach to slay Jacob with a ceremonial knife that looked very similar to the one Sayid stabbed Fake Locke with, if not the exact same would-be murder weapon. Ricardo got the same specific instruction that Sayid got, too: Stab first; don't even let him to talk to you. He eyeballed the shadowy entrance to Jacob's crypt-HQ, then got his ass kicked three different ways by the sunny blonde demigod, new and improved with action hero powers. He interrogated Ricardo with a mix of indignation and glibness that was both terrifying and funny. I loved the way he was framed against the blue sky, bright and elemental, a morning star. The Latin word for ''morning star''? That's right: Lucifer. Which brings us to the semiotic cipher that is Mark Pellegrino. The actor is marvelous as Jacob. But Pellegrino also appears on Supernatural, playing... Lucifer. According to a few recaps I've read, Pellegrino's Lucifer is on a mission to purge the Earth of mankind, which he views as innately corrupt, and torments humans with visions of the dearly departed dead. He also requires a human host to get around. Again, I say all of this having never seen an episode of Supernatural, so here's hoping the Internet is reasonably correct. Regardless, I find the Lucifer/Luciferesque overlaps between Supernatural and Lost to be intriguing and ingenious. What better way to cultivate further mystery around Jacob's moral allegiance than by casting him with an actor who currently plays the devil on another show? One would assume that neither Lost nor Pellegrino would want to duplicate efforts — unless encouraging that assumption is exactly why you make that move. Hmm... will the series reveal that Sideways Lost = the Supernatural world?
Jacob listened to Ricardo accuse him of being the devil and heard the allegation that he had kidnapped his wife. Jacob seemed genuinely taken aback that MIB had tried to kill him. He was even more bothered by Ricardo's insistence that he was dead and in hell. Jacob picked him up and dunked him in the surf repeatedly — water-boarding as wake-up call/baptism. Jacob: ''Still think you're dead? Why should I stop?'' Ricardo: ''Because I want to live!'' Jacob: ''That's the first sensible thing you've said.'' He then dumped him on the beach. ''Get up. We need to talk,'' he said. Interesting: MIB's m.o. was all about helping people to their feet. Jacob's m.o. was all about making people do it themselves. Physician, heal thyself!
The theme of self-determination continued in their conversation. Jacob brought his jug of wine and poured them both a drink. I was again reminded that Jacob looks like Sting, that the former leader singer of The Police had recorded a song about a son who engages in a drinking game with The King of Season to release his father from The Soul Cages. Ricardo asked him if he was the devil. Jacob smirked, as if enjoying a private joke. Maybe he wanted to say: ''Yes, I am — on another network.'' Instead, he just said, ''No.'' He took responsibility for bringing The Black Rock to The Island. And when Ricardo asked why and what for, we got the Allegory of the Jug.
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''Think of this wine for what you keep calling hell. There are many other names for it, too. 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. That man who sent you to kill me thinks 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.'' (Note that Jacob seems to be evoking the idea of Original Sin. More on this in a minute.)
Ricardo asked if others had been brought to The Island before him. ''Yes. Many,'' Jacob said. Ricardo asked what happened to them. ''They're all dead,'' he replied matter-of-factly. (Both Pellegrino and Titus Welliver as Man In Black injected their line readings with some knowing humor that lightened the mood while making their characters even more inscrutable and unsettling.) Ricardo asked a crucial question: How come Jacob doesn't take a more active role in shepherding his spiritual reclamation projects? ''Because I want them to help themselves. To be able to tell the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them, it's all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything! Why should I have to step in?'' Richard's reply: ''If you don't, he will.''
This answer seemed to stump Jacob. It was as if Ricardo had told him something he never considered before. If only he read more books. It's interesting to note that last week, Lost re-introduced into the narrative mix three of Sawyer's favorite books: Watership Down, A Wrinkle In Time, and Lancelot. To varying degrees, all three books deal with corrupt leaders, false messiahs, and wickedly dark spirits that rise to power when a culture lacks a strong, truthful moral agent guiding it. Take Lancelot, whose narrator fancies himself a righteous knight determined to purge the world of corruption. In truth, he's a tragically damaged, deeply disturbed potential psychopath who is locked up in a mental institution and should stay there. At the end of the book (SPOILER ALERT), he comes to a six-point conclusion about the world. Pay close attention to Number 5. ''1. We are living in Sodom. 2. I do not propose to live in Sodom or to raise my son and daughters in Sodom. 3. Either your God exists or he does not. 4. If he exists, he will not tolerate Sodom much longer. 5. If God does not exist, then it will be I not God who will not tolerate. I, one person. I will start a new world single-handedly or with those like me who will not tolerate it. [He then goes on to say his new world order will also include... genocide against the Russians and Chinese, America's main ''enemies'' during the books mid-'70s setting.] 6. I'll wait and give your God more time.''
In my Friday column, I'll explore those literary references some more, plus tell you what Doc Arzt's has to do with all of them. In the meantime, think about this: In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time, there's a young boy — supernaturally bright and powerful — who falls prey to an evil, disembodied mind known as IT. He turns out okay, and lives to save the day in other books. But in a subsequent series of books that take place many years after the events of A Wrinkle In Time and its sequels, we learn that this protagonist has gone mysteriously missing, allegedly on a secret mission. He never again appeared in L'Engle's books. This young man's shares his first name with three different characters on Lost: Charles. (Think: Charlie, Charles Widmore, and Charles, the son of Desmond and Penelope.) But L'Engle's Charles preferred to be called by the combination of his first and middle name: Charles Wallace. Wallace: the name at No. 108 on the dial in Jacob's Lighthouse. Now, last week, Charlotte Lewis made a return appearance in the show. Charlotte's father was named David Lewis. David Lewis is a famous philosopher who championed a theory of alternate/possible realities known as modal realities. Lewis' theories were pretty radical. He argued that even fictional fantasy worlds like Lost could exist somewhere within reality. Now, given the knowingly ironic Lost/Supernatural overlap represented by Mark Pellegrino, is it possible that ''Wallace'' is actually Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle In Time? Could he be the one that Hurley needed to bring to The Island? Is he locked up inside that room on Charles Widmore's sub? Or could he already be on The Island? Could he be... Jacob?
Jacob offered Ricardo a job! Moved by Ricardo's point, Jacob said: ''If I don't want to step in maybe you can do it for me. You can be my representative and my intermediary between me and the people I bring to The Island.'' Ricardo wanted compensation. He asked his wife back. Jacob: Can't do that. He asked for absolution of his sins. Jacob: Nope, can't do that either. He then asked for eternal life. His logic: Better than going to hell; and maybe I an accumulate enough penance to improve my chances at Heaven. ''Now that, I can do,'' Jacob said. And with, Jacob touched him, and the Ageless Enigma was born. Let us note two things. If Jacob really was some kind of God/Jesus figure, you'd think he would have been able to grant Ricardo's first two requests. Moreover, Jacob's rejection of Original Sin is provocative for anyone whose theory of a Christ-like Jacob has been informed by Christian theology, as many Christians do believe in Original Sin. Maybe Jacob-Jesus is trying to prove that spiritually renewed people can truly ''go and sin no more'' (John 8:11)? Perhaps The Island isn't a place where people are spiritually tested, but rather where religions are tested for relevancy and truthfulness. Jacob and Smokey are basically quality control experts — Inspectors 1 and 2 — of Fruit of the Loom holy underwear. And right now, Christianity's up.
Ricardo accepted Jacob's offer. Why not? It's a ''Somewhere Over The Rainbow'' dream come true — a sweet, secure life in The New World... minus the love of his life, of course. Ricardo went back to MIB, who knew that Jacob had turned him. But he didn't blame him much. ''He can be very persuasive,'' he said. You got the sense that MIB's current incarceration had something to do with buying into something Jacob had once sold him long ago — something that hadn't gone exactly as planned or promised. MIB reminded Ricardo that siding with Jacob meant that he could never see his wife again — as if that was truly something he could deliver. (Again, we wonder: Is the Sideways world the fulfillment of MIB's promises?) ''But I want you to know that if you ever change your mind — and I mean ever — my offer still stands.'' Ricardo gave MIB a gift from Jacob: a white stone, which I took to be nothing more than an inside joke, an ironic declaration of victory (I won Richard's soul! Nah-nah-nah!) punning off of Black Rock. (I get the sense these clever boys enjoy their almost childish cruel winks and coded banter with each other.) MIB in turn gave Ricardo Isabella's cross-necklace. I couldn't tell if MIB was taunting him or being kind with the gesture. Maybe the quiet understanding was that the token served as a talisman for summoning Smokey. Ricardo took it and then buried it...
Only to return over 140 years later to dig it back up and tried to ring up Smokey. ''Does the offer still stand?'' he bellowed. Earlier in the episode, Richard's crisis of faith spurred by the death of Jacob had been reignited by Ilana's claim that Richard was supposed to know what to do next with the candidates. Richard freaked. He had no clue. Yes, Jacob had given him the job to serve as mediator and advisor to Island visitors and assorted Others. But it now seemed that Ricardo was pretty much flying on blind faith and making up the job as he went along. But he had held onto his belief that The Island was hell, and that he was dead, and exasperated by the madness of Jacob's apparent meaninglessness, he stormed off to do what Ben was tempted to do back in ''Dr. Linus'': Switch teams and hook up with someone who offered him something like purpose and hope, even if it meant unleashing darkness upon the earth. Way to go, ''Lancelot.''
But instead of a rendezvous with the devil, Richard got Hurley instead. What followed was an extremely effective and affecting scene that flirted with trite emotional resolution but managed to work thanks to some great acting and direction. Leveraging his Ghost Whisperer secret powers, Hurley was able to facilitate a moment between the living and the dead, between Ricardo and Isabella, and translate and impart some spiritual wisdom that Richard desperately needed to hear. Put another way: Hurley and Richard basically switched roles last night, with Hurley playing Island advisor and Richard playing castaway spiritual seeker. Isabella asked Ricardo why he had buried her cross — her soul; her love; his compass. It was a gentle indictment of Ricardo's misplaced values — of finding treasure in the material, not spiritual, in what he can hold in the moment, not carry forever in his heart. Isabella then praised his English — English, the language they were learning together; the language they had learned form the Bible they read, together; the language of the new world they wanted to be recreated into, together. ''Tell him his English is beautiful,'' Isabella asked Hurley. He did. Gotta admit: Kinda choked up there.
Ricardo/Richard had not been able to see or hear Isabella for most of her spectral visit. But at the end, with eyes closed, Ricardo heard her voice, and in her words, he heard what he wanted to hear from the priest several lifetimes earlier: absolution. ''It wasn't your fault that I died, Ricardo,'' Isabella said through Hurley. But the rest Ricardo either heard or felt: ''As much as you wanted to save me, it was my time. You've suffered enough.'' He replied: ''I've missed you. I would do anything for us to be together again.'' She said, ''My love. We are already together.'' Translation: It's what Michael Landon said in that Little House on the Prairie clip from last week: It's about ''knowin' that people aren't really gone when they die. We have all the good memories to sustain us until we see 'em again.'' Alpert's real life namesake, Hindu guru Richard Alpert/Ram Dass, advocates the idea that everything is suffused spirit. With an assist from Hurley, Ricardo/Richard finally earned the eyes to see that, and to recognize that we can let go of Hell and move into Heaven whenever we want. What Ricardo/Richard got was huge whollop of ''Amazing Grace,'' the hymn written by a former slaver during a harrowing night at sea: ''Amazing grace/how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me/I once was lost/but now am found/was blind but now I see.''
Over the last several weeks, I've been pushing this idea — inspired by those darn Last Supper images — that Lost 6.0 was being modeled upon Jesus' Thursday-to-Sunday Passion weekend. That's now unlikely, since last night's episode represented the third day of Jesus' trip to hell and back — Easter Sunday. But we did get a story that thematically symbolized resurrection and the restoration of relationship between mankind and the divine. Hence the setting of the episode's climax: a Garden of Eden motif, complete with a proverbial Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil — Ground Zero for the big bang's humanity's fall from grace. Ricardo was saved. (Yay!) But then came his Great Commission. (Groan!) Richard's Island mission: Keep the Man In Black from popping that cork or cracking open the bottle and getting out. Interesting, though, that Richard wasn't told he had to try to kill the Man In Black. At least nobody is asking him to play Sayid the Assassin. Still, how can Richard succeed? Did he learn something from this spiritual journey that could help him? Something about love? Something about sacrifice? In many of the mythic stories Lost cites, including A Wrinkle In Time, pure, sincere love makes a difference. Oh, and a good magical sword, too.
on MIB being ''bad'' and Jacob being ''good.'' Neither sold me as wholly trustworthy last night — which is fitting. My other big theory of late has been that each episode of Lost this year has been linked to one of The Ten Commandments. This was the 9th hour, so we should have gotten the 9th Commandment, and we did: Do not bare false witness against your neighbor. Translation: Don't lie; don't break a promise. I'm willing to cede that Jacob did right by Richard, fulfilling his promise of giving him purpose and clarity over the course of the episode. But I'm not sure he was telling us the truth about his wine bottle. I accept The Cork. The Cork makes sense. But I wonder if Jacob is wrong about the wine. I get the sense that Jacob isn't keen on death. His only super-power is the one that Satan has: Fall into his clutches, and he gets to keep you forever. I'm not saying he's evil. But I am saying that in so many heroic stories, the real, necessary reality of death is often mistaken for evil. So what if the wine in Jacob's bottle = all the souls that have come to The Island and lost the wager with Smokey? What if all those souls are trapped on The Island because Jacob refuses to let them go? In fact, what if the terms of the wager are akin to one of those Old Testament bets that God would make with his prophets, whereby a while wicked city can be saved if one ''good soul'' can be found? Maybe Jacob has been holding onto all those souls who've lost the wager because he's holding out to find that one good man that can give them all a second chance at life? And maybe Smokey thinks that's fundamentally wrong or unnatural, which is why he's so desperate to just end this whole damn redemption game, so everyone can move on to whatever afterlife they deserve — including himself. Breaking the bottle doesn't release a toxic cloud of evil — it just sets the prisoners of Jacob's purgatory free. Namaste!?