The Cork in the Bottle

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”.


18 Responses to The Cork in the Bottle

  1. I wonder if "The Package" refers to whatever is locked up in the sub. says:

    I wonder if The Package refers to whatever is locked up on Widmore’s sub…I also wonder if the show will end with Jacob and MIB’s replacements in a similar scene in which we first saw them…waiting for the next “comers”

  2. SB says:

    Sorry…that last post was by me…typing on my phone

  3. MJParsh says:

    Chris…outstanding review! Reading it made me also want to see the episode again.

    I like MIB’s line to Richard while on the Black Rock, “It’s good to see you out of those shackles.”, just as Un-Locke said to Richard when all were at the statue on the beach earlier this season.

    Also the guys that “sworded” all the prisoners once the Black Rock “landed”…same sickness as Rousseau and Claire?

  4. cjblost says:

    Good theory Steve.

    After waking up this morning, I’m wondering if the island is akin to the Garden of Eden…a place where people are tested and tempted, but ultimately have a chance to redeem themselves and be reborn. MIB would be the snake and Jacob might represent the gatekeeper who prevents evil from leaving the garden.

  5. CK says:

    After last night’s episode, I’m picturing the island as a person, with Jacob sitting on one shoulder, the MIB on another. They are each giving a message, a test, and the person has to figure out the best course of action (with Richard’s help/guidance). Good or bad they make a choice and then have to live with the consequences.

    I have to watch this again without the effects of Benadryl. Great write-up, Chris!

  6. Viki says:

    How do you suppose the story of “Jacob’s Ladder” might fit into all of this? Could the island actually be the stairs on which angels travel up and down, reaching heaven or falling to hell depending on the basic good or evil of their soul?

  7. CK says:

    I’m still on that fence that you hopped off of. I’m still not convinced that Jacob is all good and MIB is all evil.

  8. MickieMom says:

    Since we watched it together, I think you know what I felt from this episode. I was almost crying during the time when Isabella was speaking to Richard. Very moving indeed. And, the acting was Phenomenal!!! Richard has always been kind of “behind the scenes”. This was an opportunity to shine and find out what he was all about. Loved it.

  9. cjblost says:

    CK – C’mon, we know you’re only on the fence because you have the hots for Titus Welliver (MIB). LOL Seriously though, the key word in your comment is “ALL”, which I tend to agree with.

    Viki – Yes, we talked a bit about Jacob’s Ladder after the episode when unLocke and Sawyer descended the ladder into the cave. I definitely think that there is some relevance there. Still not sure if they’ll definitively answer exactly what the island is. They may leave it up to our own interpretation.

    Parsh – Yes, loved the use of the same line by MIB and unLocke and what’s interesting is that MIB probably views Richard’s service to Jacob for 140 as a metaphorical chain that was released upon Jacob’s death.

  10. Glenn says:

    I could not stop myself from thinking that in the ending scene with Richard and Hurley, that it was actually Jacob playing the role of Isabella.

    And that MIB’s instructions to Ricardo on how to kill Jacob which were essentially identical to the instructions given to Sayid by Dogen to kill fLocke… was an important clue from the writers about something. Maybe that MIB and Jacob are really not so different? That they are two sides of the same coin, in a yin/yang sort of way?

    So for now, count me as one person who is still on the fence about the “evil” on the island.

  11. cjblost says:

    Before now, the only people Hurley has spoken to on or off the island are people who died ON the island (I think). Dave doesn’t count because he was imaginary and could have been smokey too, if we think about it (since smokey can see memories). It makes sense to me that Isabella’s ghost could have been on the island with them, especially since she gave Richard the necklace symbolizing that she’d always be there with him.

    Therefore I don’t believe it was Jacob, especially since that would be a direct interference with Richard and his decisions.

    Yes, I think it’s possible that Jacob/MIB could be a yin/yang of one person, but I don’t believe Jacob appeared as Isabella and if he did, it would ruin one of the best emotional moments we’ve seen on the show…second to the end scene of The Constant for me personally.

  12. SB says:

    I believe whole heartedly that “Isabella” was actually her and not Jacob/MIB. I am of the belief that the reason MIB is stuck as Locke is because Ilana burned down the cabin. In that vain, I think since she did that, neither of them can appear as anyone else. The cabin IS directly connected to that ability. I am just really curious as to how the ash ring around the cabin was broken…was there someone who helped MIB so he could enter and “use” the cabin and if so, who was it? Perhaps Claire was persuaded with the chance to be with Aaron again…who knows. I am a little retarded so if there are any obvious holes in this theory, please let me know.

  13. Bob B says:

    Here’s the deal. Everyone is dead. The Island is
    purgatory. Jacob determines and let’s the dead into
    heaven or not. The black cloud, (the devil), wants
    reach out and get everyone . He’s stuck. Did you ever see the Sentinel? Jacob can move back and forth in time,
    because there is no time. In our world it is a constant.
    Isabella is already in heaven. There are the chosen six. There is the chosen one that will guard the Island. Or, The Guardian. Who are the six? Those who deserve to enter. Doc, Hugo, Japanese girl ( not Husband)
    Pilot … Two more. Oh! Richard.. Not Ben..Need to figure out more about Whitmore. Good bad ,, Why he’s Hell bent on finding Purgatory.. I think He’s the equivilent of a Valkary.. Brings the dead souls to the Island.

  14. cjblost says:

    Sorry Bob…it’s not purgatory. The Executive Producers stated after Season One that it is NOT purgatory, a dream, or all in Vincent’s (the dog) head. LOL

    Steve – interesting about the cabin and I do think that Claire is the one who moved the ash, BUT during a podcast the Executive Producers said that MIB can longer change form (except from unLocke to Smokey) after Jacob was killed. Besides, Claire moved the ash AFTER Smokey presumably appeared as many different characters on the show and MIB wouldn’t have had access to it until Claire moved the ash. We will apparently know who Smokey has appeared as soon enough. Perhaps pre-Claire moving ash, it was Jacob appearing as those other characters. That would support your theory.

  15. Rosie says:

    I find it hard to buy Jacob’s cork-in-a-bottle theory for a reason or two.

    One, there is already evil or Hell in the world. There has always been evil and there always will be evil. I can honestly say the same about chaos – whether it is positive or negative. And two, the world represents some kind of hell dimension to me, anyway. So I see no need to keep MIB on the island for reasons that strike me as irrelevant.

  16. cjblost says:

    Hey Rosie…did you watch the “enhanced” (pop-up) version of Ab Aeterno? If so, the pop-ups completely make me assume that Jacob isn’t just making up a story about how the island is like a cork. So, while I agree with you about how evil and chaos already exist, I think for the sake of the shows narrative, we HAVE to buy into what Jacob explained. Perhaps, by “releasing” the MIB, things will be even worse as if the devil himself is walking the earth manipulating people in far more direct ways than we are all manipulated by the media and other influences everyday.

    I also don’t think Jacob is completely free of a dark side, but he does represent good in the way he does not succumb to MIB’s manipulative ways and how he trusts in the goodness within humanity. It’ll be interesting to see if someone does replace Jacob or if there is some other way of “defeating” the MIB (like sinking the island).

  17. Rosie says:

    [“Hey Rosie…did you watch the “enhanced” (pop-up) version of Ab Aeterno? If so, the pop-ups completely make me assume that Jacob isn’t just making up a story about how the island is like a cork. So, while I agree with you about how evil and chaos already exist, I think for the sake of the shows narrative, we HAVE to buy into what Jacob explained. Perhaps, by “releasing” the MIB, things will be even worse as if the devil himself is walking the earth manipulating people in far more direct ways than we are all manipulated by the media and other influences everyday.”]

    Sorry. I can’t buy into that. It just smacks of Sunday school for kids, to me.

  18. cjblost says:

    That must have been a pretty bizarre Sunday school you attended as a kid! haha

    The executive producers and now the pop-ups flat out said the island is exactly what was described by Jacob. Not sure what else to tell you except it is what it is. :/

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