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Welcome back to our Lost recaps, everyone, and sorry for last week's absence-- I was out covering other things for the site and missed it entirely. I caught up in time to catch this week's episode, though, which felt kind of like a fulcrum for the season as a whole. For the first time this season we don't see a flash-sideways to a life off the island, and possibly for the first time in the series the episode isn't chopped up between the present and the past. And it seems that from here on out, none of the episodes will be the same-- the lines have been drawn, and now we go from here. For nearly half the episode we are simply submerged in Richard Alpert's mysterious past, which is quite possibly one of the saddest we've seen yet. Oh, and there's a ton of exposition about Jacob and the Man in Black's fight against each other, and finally--finally!-- an explanation of what happened to the rest of the four-toed statue.
Where did Richard Alpert come from? Though we'd basically assumed he arrived as a slave on the Black Rock, thanks to taunts from SmokeLocke, now we know why-- he was a peasant living on the Canary Islands who accidentally killed a doctor when trying to save his dying wife. Instead of being executed Richard was sent on the slave ship, and when it crashed on the island, the deeply Catholic Richard made the only logical conclusion he could-- he was in hell.
What happened to the four-toed statue? The Black Rock crashed into it in a storm and destroyed it! Very convenient.
Why can Richard live forever? Because Jacob couldn't bring back his dead wife or absolve his sins, and that seemed like the best alternative at the time. Clearly Richard has come to regret it, as we saw when he attempted suicide a few episodes ago. Shows you to be careful what you wish for!
Why does Jacob need Richard to speak for him anyway? Basically because it would spoil the fun otherwise. As Jacob explains the purpose of the island to Richard-- and who really knows how true that is-- the island is a place where Jacob brings people in order to prove to the Man in Black that people are fundamentally good, while the Man in Black tries to prove they all come corrupted. Jacob wants to see if people can be good without his instruction, but figures it's not cheating if Richard gives the instructions for him. We can now assume that when Richard learns that Jacob has been killed, it's the final proof that people are awful after all. Sad times.
Why does the Man in Black/SmokeLocke want to leave the island so badly? Well, it still depends on who you ask. The Man in Black tells Jacob back in the past that he just wants to get outta there, while Jacob tells Richard that the island is the stopper keeping the wine that is evil (a.k.a. The Man in Black) from infecting the world. Richard's dead wife later appears to tell him that if he lets the Man in Black leave the island, everyone will be in hell. It's totally, intentionally unclear how seriously we are to take all of this-- all the talk of protecting the island as a means of preventing evil could just be pushing the button all over again.
What is Ilana's mission from Jacob? Yeah, we learned about other people in this episode too! At the very beginning of the episode Ilana gets a little flashback of her own, as Jacob approaches her in a hospital and gives her a list of six people to protect-- "this is what you've been training for." Jacob also told Ilana that once she got everyone together by the statue, she should ask Richard what to do-- but you probably don't need me to tell you by now that Richard had not a clue of what was to happen next.
Now that Jacob is dead, will Richard go to the dark side? Well, he tried, but thanks to a last-minute intervention from his dead wife (as interpreted by Hurley), he seems to be on Team Jacob after all. They could use the eyeliner.
So, wait, is the island actually hell? Richard is convinced that it is, but it seems equally possible that it's just a metaphor used by both the Man in Black and Jacob to get him to do their bidding. More than anything, it seems unlikely that the creators would explain the whole thing so simply halfway through the season. But then I didn't think Locke was actually dead for half the season, so what do I know.
Why does Dogen say the same thing to Sayid that Man in Black said to Richard? The language used by Man in Black and Dogen are unmistakably identical, and both have basically the same result-- the guy charged with the stabbing is unsuccessful, and is instead convinced to join the guy's side. But why does Dogen think the same thing will work on the Man in Black when he's the one who used the language to begin with? It seems like too close a connection to not be explained later, despite the fact that Dogen is dead.
Seriously, what was the four-toed statue? Everyone kept promising Richard it was the devil, but like I said, those seems more like useful metaphors than facts. Are they ever going to explain why is looks like an alligator head? I'm kind of OK if they just ignore it.
Where We Go From Here
Let the battle begin. The lines have been drawn clearly, Jacob convinced that the Man in Black will spread evil over the world and Man in Black/SmokeLocke convinced that Jacob is misguided. We have our castaways divided between the two teams, with Widmore and Desmond out there as potential last-minute spoilers. The character development of the season has been fascinating, but it's time for the build-up to end.
Prove that the good vs. evil isn't as simple as anyone thinks. One of the few consistent things about Lost over the years is the way it embraces fuzzy morality, allowing self-proclaimed evil characters like Ben moments of grace and self-proclaimed good characters like Jack constant errors in judgment. It seems too easy for the entire island to come down to a battle between good and evil, and I don't think that's the answer-- the writers have consistently avoided making Jacob and the Man in Black explicitly either, and I look forward to seeing the battle commence and our characters confused again and again about which side is "good." I expect the answer to be neither.