Best episode of the season by a mile, and a top ten episode all time. Richard's story was finally told and Nestor Cardonell cemented himself as one of the greatest actors on LOST. The story of his past life on the Canary Islands was absolutely gut-wrenching, and we had no prior emotional investment in him or his wife whatsoever. Imagaine if Claire of Sayid or really, anyone sans Ben Linus tried to pull that off; making us become emotionally attached to a completely new character from the 1860s in just 20 minutes of screentime. Wouldn't happen. Richard nailed it.
Not only was his off-island flashback a great character development story and gave the audience a far better understanding of Richard Albert the man, the on-island stuff was even better. The Man in Black/Smoke Monster was great. He almost had me convinced that Jacob was the devil and the island was hell. His deceitfulness and manipulation is second to none. Anytime Jacob and the Nemesis are on the screen at the same time, those at the best moments of LOST. Period.
One thing is for sure -Richard Albert led one sad and pathetic life up to the point that he met Jacob. And after 140 years of learning English, fashion and leadership skills, he still doesn't seem to have it all together. He still loves and misses his wife, after more than a century! Forget Desmond and Penny, Richard and Isabella is the new best love story on LOST. Thanks to Hurley's convinent ability to talk to random ghosts, Richard got to speak to his wife for the first time since she died, and he's now back on the side of Ilana and the good guys.
Speaking of Ilana, we got to see an extension of her flash-back, where her and Jacob are speaking Russian and he asks for her help. He tells her that he needs her to protect 6 people, the remaining Candidates. We don't know why she's hospitalized or how she knows Jacob from the past, and that leads me to believe that we'll see an Ilana-centric episode eventually. Or, they could just squeeze a few Ilana clips into someone else's episode like they did in Ab Aeterno. She seems to knows her way around the Island pretty comfortably, and I'm guessing she's been there before.
A few random tidbits:
-We saw how the 4-toed statue came to be broken.
-We heard about Magnus Hanso, the captain of the Black Rock who was referenced when Widmore bought the Black Rock book at the auction in season 2 or 3. Hanso's descendants were founders of Dharma.
-"Ab Aeterno" is Latin for "from eternity," referring to Richard's agelessness.
-Richard lived in Socorro, a city on the island of Tenerife - the location of a plane crash that killed 583 people in 1977, making it the deadliest plane crash in human history.
-The dagger that MiB gives Richard to kill Jacob with, along with the instructions to "stab it into his chest before he speaks" are exactly what Dogan tells Sayid to do a few episodes ago. Both guys were unsuccesful.
-We see the white rock "inside joke" that Flocke eventually throws in the water.
To clarify the potential confusion of Richard's on-island events, I think all of the Isabella stuff we saw was a hallucination created by the Smoke Monster, similar to how he made the Losties see things in previous seasons - Jack saw his dad, Kate saw the black horse, Eko saw his brother, etc. That's why the monster stopped before killing Richard, and seemed to analyze him. It obtained a picture and a memory of Isabella, and then manifested itself as her to Richard, all for the sake of trying to use Richard to kill Jacob. Brilliant. And disturbing.
The Man in Black is definitely the most cold and calculating killer on LOST, and in this episode he really fit the bill of "evil incarnate." Certaintly, the best part of this episode, and one of the best conversations in LOST history, was when Jacob decided to let Richard in on the secret of What The Island Is. No big deal, just the key to the entire show.
Remember way back during season one, when everyone was theorizing about what the island was, and what the show was all about. I just want to say for the record, that five years ago I was the first one who said, "Hey, maybe the island is a cork!" I totally called it. I knew the island was a cork.
Just to clear it up, Jacob himself is not the cork. If that were the case, evil/malovelence/hell would have spread throughout the world the minute Jacob died. The island is the cork, and the only way to un-cork the island is to kill whoever "protects" it. That was Jacob, and is now the job of whichever candidate becomes the new Jacob. (i.e. Jack). The way I see it, if Flocke kills the remaining 6, the cork is gone and he is "free." You know how Flocke keeps saying he "wants to go home" or "be free?" Does he really mean that he wants to escape the island so he can destroy and corrupt the entire world? Is he actually the devil, and he wants to bring hell to the whole earth?
Pretty dark stuff. For the record, I do not think the Man in Black is the devil persay, but rather that he embodies or symbolizes the devil. In LOST, there is no God or devil; there's only Jacob, the Monster and the island. It's an alternate world, and a sci-fi show. So I don't expect a realistic twist in the remaining 8 episodes, and I don't expect that Jacob literally is God or the Monster literally is the devil.
But the paralells are undeniably there. Jacob says to Richard "I want people to know the difference between right and wrong without being told. I shouldn't have to interfere." But as Richard points out, if Jacob doesn't interfere, the Monster will, and people won't have a chance. Sounds a little bit like the current state of humanity, does it not?
Jacob then appoints Richard an "intermediary" to speak on his behalf. As my brilliant wife pointed out, I guess that makes Richard the Holy Spirit of LOST. Now that Jacob is dead, the question is - how will the new Jacob be decided? Is it simply a matter of 'Last Candidate Standing?" If so, that means an unhappy ending for 5 beloved characters. These last 8 episodes could be a bloodbath.
Well, actually I think the next two or three episodes will be a step backwards. This Richard episode was a brilliant break from the stupid flash-sideways routine, but rest assured, those will be back this week for a Sun & Jin episode. I'm sure that episode will be plenty stupid, but at least we'll learn why Jin was locked in a freezer. And I assume we'll have a Hurley-episode shortly after that, and once that's out of the way, maybe we can have some more freaking awesome episodes, hopefully featuring Desmond, Juliet, Jacob, Ilana, the Monster, and of course Jack.
Near the end of Ab Aeterno, Hurley relayed one more message to Richard from Isabella: if you don't stop the Man in Black from leaving the island, "we all go to hell." Then we see Flocke in all his rage and wickedness watching the scene from afar and chills run up our collective spines. We're in for a pretty awesome next 8 episodes.
Which leads me to ...
Theories & Predictions
As I said already, I don't expect much to happen in the next few episodes. Off-island, we'll see some Kwon crap this week. My prediction: Jin had all that money in the airport to pay a debt he owes Keamy, but Keamy will be a jerk and lock him in the freezer anyway, and someone we don't expect will show up about halfway through the episode - since we've already seen half the cast in the flash-sideways events, the remaining possibilities include Faraday, Eloise, Pierre Chang, Naomi, Ana Lucia, Mr. Eko, Goodwin, Michael (not Walt, too old), the Eyepatch guy, Widmore, Penny, Radzinsky, or maybe Juliet. But since this is a dumb Kwon episode, I don't think they'll pull out anyone cool like Faraday or Juliet; probably Radinsky and the Eyepatch or something like that. Blah. I'm 99% sure we'll see Keamy again, which is just annoying. I hate Keamy.
On-island, we'll have to see what Sun and Jin are doing since this episode revolves around them. Maybe they'll finally get off their lazy butts and go look for each other? I bet Jin would be interested to learn that he has a 3 year old daugter. But will they finally reunite this week? My guess is no, not for another 3-4 weeks. We'll see. Maybe. I'm guessing we'll probably see a bit more about Widmore and Flocke, but just a set-up for an upcoming showdown.
Overall, since Ab Aeterno was so awesome, I think the next few weeks will be weak in preparing for a kick-ass final 4 episodes of LOST.
As far as long-term theories, there isn't much to speculate about anymore. We know about the island and the cork, about Jacob and the Monster, and about the Candidates. We know the pasts of just about every important character, and the major mystery of LOST is pretty much gone.
The big unresolved issue is the alternative reality, Timeline B. Why and how does it exist? What is its connection with Jacob and the Monster? And in that timeline, why is Christian Shepherd missing, why does Jack appear to have some sort of deja vu, and why was Desmond mysteriously on flight 815? My theory: the only way to stop the Man in Black from leaving the island and effectively destroying the world, is to create a reality in which he remains trapped on the island, hence timeline B. I think Jack will have to make a choice in the closing episodes of LOST, maybe in the finale, and he will choose to accept this reality as the only 'real' reality, in an attempt to save the world from the spread of evil.
Thus, Timeline B becomes like a cork. A bigger cork.
Do I like this idea? No. Not at all. After 5 seasons of developing these characters, they're all going to change completely back to their old selves? Sounds stupid to me. But hey, if it keeps the Man in Black from destroying the earth, I guess it's the only plausible option.
Other theories and ideas - I no longer think the Man in Black is Aaron, Claire's baby. I thought about this a lot and decided that it's too late in the game for LOST to revisit the concept of time travel, which would be the only way Aaron could have been around in the 1800s and before. I DO, however, think Jacob and the Man in Black had a previous relationship before they came to the island, and were probably brothers in ancient Egypt.
Oh, one more theory. John Locke will come back to life and save the day.
That's it for now. GO MSU!
PS. I have a new favorite NBA team. The Milwaukee Bucks. Seriously. I'm rooting for them to pull a first-round upset. More on that later...