140 years! That’s how long Richard Alpert has been on the island. During that time he has been carrying the guilt of not being able to save his dying wife, Isabella, and the guilt of accidentally killing a doctor while trying to obtain the medicine necessary to save his wife. Nestor Carbonell was simply brilliant portraying the mysterious never-aging character and this was one of the better episodes I have seen in six seasons.
I’m going to hop off what is remaining of the tiny fence I’ve been on and definitively say that Jacob is “good” and the MIB (Man in Black) is “evil”. I said in the character analysis of my season finale post last year that Jacob is a believer in the basic good of humanity and that MIB is not. This episode provides a bit more clarity on exactly those characteristics and goes on to say that MIB believes that all men are corrupt.
So this “game” going on between Jacob and MIB might be frustrating because we want answers and clarity of all that is going on, but doesn’t that mirror all of our real lives every single day? We are constantly given choices to make and encounter obstacles and challenges that we must overcome. Our dark side seems so much more blatantly obvious because so many of our decisions are based on the path of least resistance or the path that will provide us with selfish gain. The good choices are often the tougher choices and always seem to require quite a bit of faith in positive outcomes that we cannot clearly define.
Enter Richard Alpert who accidentally kills a man in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, while trying to save his wife. His wife dies anyway and he is sentenced to be hung but is spared when he is sold to the crew of the Black Rock. Coincidentally, the Black Rock is captained by Magnus Hanso, great grandfather of Alvar Hanso who is the founder of the Hanso Foundation. The Hanso Foundation provided financial backing for the DHARMA Initiative.
The Black Rock is caught in a major storm at sea with waves that actually toss the ship into the statue of Tawaret (thus destroying it) and into the middle of the island known as the Dark Territory. When Richard wakes up, one of the crew members (Mr. Whitfield?) is shown stabbing the other chained slaves on the ship until the black smoke appears and kills him along with the other crew members. Richard is spared.
From that point on, Richard is being manipulated by the evil MIB who tells him that they are in hell, that Jacob is the devil, and that the only way to save Isabella and to be with her is to kill the devil. It would seem that MIB scanned Richard’s memories so that he could appear as her and help convince Richard that he was in hell. MIB was banking on the fact that Richard was corrupt and would kill Jacob in order to save his wife.
Choices are becoming more and more of a high profile theme on this show. They have always been there and we have seen countless episodes when characters have had opportunities to redeem themselves. Some have succeeded while others have failed. Richard almost failed, but Jacob got the drop on him and was able to convince him that they were not dead and not in hell. It may have seemed extreme that Jacob to keep pushing Richard under the ocean water, but I thought the scene was very spiritual and likened itself to a baptism and rebirth. Jacob simply asked, “If you’re dead, why should I stop?” and Richard replied, “Because I want to live.”
This is when Jacob and Richard have a heart-to-heart and while we still don’t completely understand the origins of Jacob and MIB, we are provided a nice analogy as to what the island actually is. The island is basically the cork in the bottle that keeps evil trapped inside and its Jacob’s job to keep things in order. When Richard asks Jacob the simplest of questions, “Why don’t you just tell people what the right choices are?” Jacob says that would be cheating and that he trusts in the good of humanity to make the right decisions without his intervention, but he also says that it would be nice to have an intermediary; a representative who can speak for him without his direct interference. That’s when Richard gets the job.
When asked what he wants in return for acting as his intermediary, Richard first asks for his wife back and then for his sins to be absolved, but Jacob cannot offer either of those things. Since Richard does not want to die without his sins being absolved, Jacob touches him and makes him into the ageless wonder we have gotten to know over the years.
Once this deal is made, Richard travels to where MIB is waiting and hands him a white rock; a gift from Jacob that we recently saw unLocke remove from the scale and toss into the ocean. It was basically Jacob’s way of gloating that good prevailed and unLocke’s disposal of the rock was his touché. Never to be completely beaten, MIB hands Richard the cross that Isabella had given to Richard when she was dying. It symbolized that they (Richard and Isabella) would always be together. Then he said, “If you ever change your mind, my offer still stands.” MIB leaves and Richard symbolically buries the cross.
Flash forward 140 years later and Richard digs up the cross and seems to be choosing the dark side after all those years spent blindly believing in and following Jacob. Enter Hurley with a message from Isabella which was very reminiscent of Whoopi Goldberg’s role in “Ghost” (thanks CK for that analogy). She tells Richard to close his eyes and that they have been and always will be together. It was a truly beautiful and emotional scene, which also helped restore Richard’s faith.
Then Hurley added one more thing that Isabella said to tell Richard…that he must stop MIB from leaving the island or we’ll all go to hell.
Great cutaway scene showing unLocke looking on from a distance and then we’re back in 1867 with MIB looking on from a distance. Jacob sits beside him and they chat about how badly MIB wants to kill Jacob and leave. Jacob reminds him that he can’t and that even if he found a way, someone would take his place (referring to one of the candidates). Jacob hands him the bottle with the cork in it so that he has something to pass the time and says, “see you around”. MIB turns the bottle upside down and proceeds to smash it open on the rock he’s sitting on.
I can’t wait to watch this emotionally charged and extremely symbolic episode again. I’m sure I missed so many things, but the essence of what I love about this show was there in full force tonight.
Based on the very short preview, it looks like Sun will have a big choice to make in next week’s episode titled, “The Package”.