Lost: Richard, from the beginning of time

This week we got a peak into the life of one of the island’s biggest mysteries, the eye-lined, ageless advisor Ricardus “Richard” Alpert, and ended up with clues into a lot more.

Richard came to the island around 1867 on the Black Rock as property of Captain Magnus Hanso. He was sold into slavery in Tenerife, Canary Islands after being jailed for accidentally killing a doctor while trying to procure medicine for his sick wife, who died while he was away. We discovered last night that it was the slave ship that broke the statue in a massive storm. After crashing, one of the ship officers went loco and killed the surviving slaves to save them from perishing in the desert, but stopped short of Richard because the Smoke Monster stopped by for a visit and killed everyone but Richard (to whom he gave what my brother likes to call the “ole Smokey once over”). Very nice of him, but it meant Richard was alone, chained to boat, and left to die basically. Shortly thereafter, Richard got a visit from his dead wife Isabella, who informed him that they were both dead and currently in hell, and tried to help him escape from el Diablo. She should have helped herself though, because just then Smokey ripped through and snatched her up. Her visit was followed by one from none other than the Man in Black. He called himself “a friend” and explained that they were indeed in hell and the only way to escape was to kill the devil.

So Richard, freed by MIB, went off to the statue to kill the devil and retrieve his wife. Jacob reaches him before Richard gets to the doorstep and basically beats him down. He tells Richard that he is not the devil and Richard is not dead. And then he goes into a discourse about what the island is that we will explore in more detail later in the post. Apparently, Richard decides to believe Jacob because he accepts a representative job from the Man in White in exchange for the ability to live forever (he first asked for his wife back and then absolution of his sins which Jacob said he could not grant).

Richard then goes back to MIB and gives him the white rock we saw in the cave in Episode 4 of this season as a gift from Jacob. MIB offers Richard the opportunity to switch sides whenever he wants and gives him a gold cross that used to belong to his wife. Richard buries the cross by a stone bench in the jungle and says his final goodbye to Isabella. A little later, we see the Man in Black and the Man in White sitting together in the jungle and MIB explained that he will keep trying to kill Jacob and Jacob explained that even if MIB succeeds, someone will take his place. And thus ends the flashback.

Island time began with Jack, Sun, Hurley, Lapidus, Ben, Ilana, and Miles enjoying a good bonfire and catching up. Through Ilana’s story and an extended flashback that we first saw in season five’s season finale, we learned that Jacob recruited her to protect the candidates, bring them to the temple, and then follow Richard’s orders. Richard, sitting outside the circle, explains that he does not know what to do and that they are in hell so he is going to switch sides. Around this time, Hurley starts talking to someone in Spanish but when Jack asks who, Hurley says mind your own beeswax. Then we see Richard storm off into the jungle, dig up the necklace, and yell to the island that he changed his mind. Instead of Smocke emerging from the jungle to add a new sheep into his flock, Hurley appears, bearing a message from Isabella. Her ghost then appears but Richard does not see her so Hurley translates for them. She asks why he buried her cross and reassures him that he did not kill her. Richard says he would do anything to be reunited with her and she says they are already together. Apparently Richard gained the ability to sense or at least hear her at some point in the conversation because Hurley stopped translating and Richard continued replying. She disappears but leaves Hurley with a final message for Richard: stop MIB from leaving the island or we all go to hell.

Wow. This week’s episode was chock full of things to talk about. I am going to do my best to cover it all and still keep it short-ish. In that spirit, here are some things to take note of.

* Verses from Richard’s bible = John 4:24-29. “And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.” Interestingly, John 4 begins with the tale of the devil tempting Jesus in the desert.

* Ilana looked upset when Jacob asked her to protect the candidates. I get that she was bandaged and probably not feeling up for a secret mission, but I also get the feeling she might be jealous that she is not a candidate.

* Could Ilana be a descendent of Richard? Maybe Richard and Isabella had some kids that they sent away when she got sick? Or perhaps he has not been a celibate widower in the 140 years since she died? Just a wild conjecture.

* That priest sucked.

* Two lines from this week’s episode have been said before. 1) “It’s good to see you out of those chains” is what Smocke said to Richard after emerging from the statue. 2) “If he speaks it will already be too late” are the same instructions Dogen gave Sayid when he sent him to kill Smocke (which we are going to talk about later).

* MIB admitted to being The Smoke Monster (which we knew but have now gotten confirmed)

* The episode’s title, “Ab Aeterno” is Latin for “From the Beginning of Time”

Let’s start with MIB’s talk with Richard. He made many claims, and I think it is safe to question his honesty because twice now we have seen him manipulate people to get them to try to kill Jacob. This leads me to believe he does not represent good OR evil, or God of the devil, but rather stands as an example of selfishness. He himself told Richard “You and I can talk all day long about what’s right and wrong but the question before you remains the same, do you ever want to see your wife again?” MIB is unconcerned with the moral implications, he acts instead based on situations. His predicament is similar to Sayid, who, as I pointed out a few weeks ago (link: https://flathatnews.com/blog/54/tube-talk/72934) repeatedly has had to do wrong in order to do what seems right. MIB proves that right and wrong are subjective and therefore irrelevant.

MIB also said that Jacob took his body from him. Therefore, the actual Man in Black is just a shell, much like Locke is, for the Smoke Monster. Smokey’s physical state resembles that of Voldemort’s in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone): “I was ripped from my body, less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost, but still, I was alive,” Voldemort explains in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Since being deprived of his body, Smokey has been cadaver-hopping, using the different visages to manipulate people.

Now let’s get into Jacob’s talk with Richard. First, he said that MIB believes that men are inclined to sin. And Jacob brings people to the island to prove MIB wrong. But they can not leave their past behind and they all end up dying. He does not help them determine right from wrong because giving them the answers negates the lesson. Thus, he hired Richard to act as an intermediary to help guide people toward good.

Jacob’s first comment about MIB believing the worst in everyone relates to philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ view that in a state of nature, all humas are out for themselves and in a situation of bellum omnium contra omnes (“the war of all against all”). Similarly, we can connect Jacob with Hobbes’ adversary (and common Lost referent) Jean-Jacques Rousseau who believed humans to be inherently good. Not sure who represents the third party, none other than John Locke (the philosopher, not the dead salesman), who believed humans are born as a tabula rasa (“blank slate”), neither good nor bad.

Also in their little chat, Jacob used a bottle of wine to explain the island. The wine = hell, evil, malevolence, and the like. The cork = the island, preventing the evil from escaping and infecting the outside world. In MIB and Jacob’s little chat at the end of the episode, Jacob handed him said bottle of wine, which he promptly smashed on a log. I am assuming the smashing of the bottle = MIB’s escape from the island (if he is successful).

Let’s chat about the no talking rule too. What is this? A library? Why can Jacob and Smocke not speak before someone attempts to kill them? Is it simply because they are both master manipulators? And you would think Jacob knew about the rule and would simply say “Hey” to Richard when he saw him approaching with a knife instead of silently attacking him first.

Now for some fan theories. Cameron Boone ’11 claims, “The island is to the earth what the earth is to heaven and hell. You know how Jacob said the island was a cork that kept evil out of the world? I think that’s a metaphor for how the earth keeps the evil of hell out of heaven.” He has an interesting theory here and one that seems entirely possible. But a friend of his posted another theory that I am digging even more…

His friend suggested that the island is the Garden of Eden. My original thought was that the island is clearly a paradise but not one free from sin, but then I remembered Eden has not been free from sin since the fall of man. Perhaps the island was at one time Eden, then the fall of man occurred (because he gave man free will, a common Lost theme), and sin entered the world. But to keep the sin in check, God keeps the majority of it on the island.

And then my brother pointed out that there’s no way to be sure that there is even a God on “Lost.” We also debated whether Jacob is God and Smokey is the devil, but I say no to that because Jacob told Richard he could not absolve him of his sins which God totally could do. I am more inclined to believe that God appointed Jacob to and trapped Smokey on the island. Smokey has to stay so the evil can be contained and Jacob has to keep the evil in check so he does not leave and meanwhile tries to prove evil wrong (convert a fallen angel, so to speak).

Keep sending me your thoughts and theories! To encourage more participation on the comment board, I will be holding weekly drawings for those who say something (anything!) on the comment board. Make a comment and possibly win a prize!

See ya in another week, brotha!


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