The Overthinking Lost Open Thread: “Ab Aeterno”

Your thoughts and questions about the latest episode of Lost.

So here we are.  The long-awaited Richard episode.  Pretty damn good, I thought.  Prett-ay prett-ay good.  I wanted it to be a leeeetle more earth-shattering than it was, but, screw it; I shouldn”t complain.  That bit where Richard, Isabella, and Hurley reenact the end of Ghost (with Hurley doing the Whoopi Goldberg part) was played to perfection.  Nestor Carbonell, you just earned yourself an imaginary cookie.

(Also: I totally dig the facial hair, Nestor.  It works for you.  P.S.: Call me!)

…And now it’s question time.

When I first saw Ricardo Alpert-o racing across Tenerife on horseback, my mind went to Dances With Wolves.  Next, when he was in the prison, I thought, “Ah: The Count of Monte Cristo!”  Then came thoughts of The Mask of ZorroRoots, certain episodes of Blackadder… Oh, and, of course, Ghost.

Question 1: What pop culture classics did this episode remind you of, if any?  Or am I just ruining this episode for you?  If so, I apologize.

Later in the episode, we saw Smokey doin’ the ol’ “Smoke Monster Stare-Down” on Richie Alpert, back when he was known as “Ricardo” and starving to death on a slaving ship.  (You may remember a similar Smoke Monster Stare-Down from such episodes as “The 23rd Psalm” — another episode partially about Catholicism.  Hmm.)

Question 2: Can we determine now what the Smoke Monster Stare-Down is all about?  When I saw “The 23rd Psalm,” I thought Smokey left Eko alone because Eko was just that badass.  Here, though, Richard was just sitting there, cowering and praying and generally being the opposite of a badass.  Can we say now for sure that Smokey only leaves people alive when he’s able to detect guilt and ghosts on their brains?  (Vaguely related question: Can we also say now that the “white light” John Locke saw way back in season one when he looked “into the eye of the Island” was also Smokey for sure?  Or is that still TBD?)

Speaking of Smokey, the show has gone to great lengths over the past eight episodes to establish that the Man in Black is a seriously bad dude — an “incarnation of evil,” if you will.  So…

Question 3: Any ideas about what might happen if (and when?) Smokey gets off the Island?  On Island, the MiB is a Devil-figure who manipulates people into killing one another.  But, uh, people already kill each other plenty in the real world without any help from the Smoke-ster.  How much worse could he really make things out here if he escaped his prison?  (This question gets even more interesting when you consider that Lost’s Alterna-verse, which has no Island/evil-sealing cork, seems to be a pretty nice place to live in.  Or will it turn out that the Alterna-verse really is Hell, but we just don’t know it yet?)

Speaking of the “cork in a jug of wine” metaphor…

Question 4: So what’s the point of the Island, anyway?  The show, it seems to me, has put forth two possible answers.  Answer 1: The Island is the MiB’s eternal prison.  Answer 2: The Island is a game board where Jacob and the MiB’s use humans as pieces in an attempt to prove the other’s ethical philosophy wrong.

So which one is it?  Or is it both?   And, if the answer is “both,” then isn’t that’s like a prison warden spending centuries (and the lives of hundreds of other prisoners) helping one really bad prisoner learn about the inherent goodness of humanity?  I’m saying, “What’s the point, Jacob?  Why do you keep drawing new Losties to the Island?  Why is it so important to you that the Man in Black learn about free will and mankind’s capacity for forgiveness?  Is this just an ego thing with you, Jacob?  Is that it?  Or is there a concrete, non-philosophical reason you’re doing this?  ANSWER ME.”

Be sure to visit Overthinking It next Monday, when I’ll try to figure out Lost’s… shall we say, interesting relationship with Catholicism?  Yeah, “interesting” sounds about right.  See you then.

28 Comments on “The Overthinking Lost Open Thread: “Ab Aeterno””

  1. Eric #

    1: When MiB appeared to Ricardo in the Black Rock and offered to free him if he helped him, I got echoes of The Stand, when Llyod got freed from a prison cell by Flagg. Also, couldn’t you argue the Jacob’s drowning of Ricardo constituted a baptism?

    2: ****ed if I know. I assume it’s him learning the levers that will push another person it doing his will. And I’m willing to believe that Real!Locke in season 1 got the flashing lights put on him, and was desperate enough to believe that it was a great spiritual experience.

    3: *dons sunglasses* Sir, I’m afraid that’s classified information. Seriously, we have no real information on the specific consequences, but check out #4 for my theory.

    4: It’s friggin’ Pandora’s box! The Monster is the physical manifestation of a spiritual concept (like in American Gods). He’s the metaphorical wine in the bottle. It has no actual humanity, but it can adopt the personality traits and history of Losties that it impersonates. Right now, it has Locke’s leadership ability and history- didn’t John have a crazy mother? And once the Monster gets off the Island, it will be the opposite of the Island’s redemption, where your past doesn’t matter. In the real world, your past screw-ups will drag you down permanently.


  2. Kevin #

    Loved the episode. LOVED it. Not for the lack of a sideways story (which I’ve been enjoying anyway), though that helped make it a relatively straightforward affair which I thought was great. I figured our Richard episode would be chock full of flashback jumping from the Black Rock, to 1950s Others with Widmore/Eloise, to 1970s Dharma, and on and on… instead, we get a nice, emotional, linear story. Good change of pace.

    If I had one (minor) complaint, it was that the entire “Black Rock smashes into statue on giant wave and lands on middle of island” to be, uh… pretty F’ing ridiculous. Though that actually helped shed light on another mystery: apparently it wasn’t the smashing of the Tawaret statue that led to the infertility on the island… so what was it? (I wonder if it actually is something incredibly simple, like the radiation leaking from Jughead into the water supply… I always thought we’d get a supernatural answer, but now I’m not so sure.)

    Now, as for mlawski’s questions:

    #1: Yeah, you’re actually right in your apology — this is the kind of episode that we *shouldn’t* overthink for pop culture references. I suppose they’re there (largely referring to other episodes/seasons of the show), but again, it was surprisingly simple and moving, esp. the ending. I don’t want to think about whether it was too “Ghost” or not!

    HOWEVER: that being said, I think there’s one cultural touchstone we’re meant to think of: Milton’s Paradise Lost, a work with lots of references to others that came before it — much like our favorite TV show. But more on this notion of the island being hell later…

    #2: I think the “Smokey stare-down” is surprisingly simple, without a lot of explanation needed — though I may be wrong! I look back on it now and think it’s simply Smokey scanning someone’s memories and experiences to see if they can be manipulated into helping him get off the island. It doesn’t have to do with judging; it doesn’t have to do with anything hugely mysterious. It’s just that: Smokey looking to find pawns for his end-game. If you don’t pass, he simply kills you. He thought Eko might help, based on his history… then realized he didn’t need him, so when he found him in the jungle he destroyed him. The only others I can think of to survive Smokey are Locke and Ben… who, of course, were needed to kill Jacob. No one else mattered… thus, anyone unlucky to encounter Smokey died.

    #3: It’s a notion of BALANCE. Yes, there’s evil in the world… but there’s also good. Maybe more, maybe less, but there is still good. There’s a balance between them, just as there is on the island. If Smokey gets off the island, evil tips the balance. Lots and lots of badness happens, and there won’t be enough good to keep it in check.

    Re: the sideways world being hell… wow, no idea. Could it be heaven instead? Everyone learns their lessons (for the most part) and moves beyond their baggage?

    #4: I think the answer is “both” — ultimately the goal is for SMOKEY to change his worldview, though if some of the humans end up better for it, so much the better. I think that Jacob’s hope is that if he can prove Smokey wrong, he’ll wipe out unchecked, rampant evil in the world; in the meantime, though, he’ll have to “stop him up” in the bottle.

    Finally, the one thing I would have loved more of: discussion of what, exactly, the “rules” are between Jacob and Smokey — this ep seemed like the perfect opportunity. But I assume we’ll get a few more specifics in the “back nine.”


  3. Bob #

    Thank you again for the great recap. You’re prett-ay good was spot on. I went to bed liking this episode but as I disected it at the water cooler we here thought it was more of fluffer then anything else. Can Nestor’s imaginary cookie be a Mint Millano?

    1) Nail on the head with Monte Cristo – first thing I thought of. What’s more, I thought Richard would’ve been on the island much longer then 200 years. Sidequestion – when Jacob said he can’t save his soul, did anyone else get the “Your soul is clean so that’s something I can’t do” or a “I can’t do that, that is something you do yourself” vibe rather than how Richard took it “You soul can’t be cleaned”.

    2) Think you are spot on – and think it was Smokey that Locke looked at.

    3) I would love to see Smokey get off the island, look around, then run back to the island. “Wow, and I thought I was bad” would be Locke’s last line. NERD ALERT – This would be akin to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode Innocence when ‘The Judge’ was an old demon that everyone was afraid of, but with a modern he was easily taken out. In LOST, Lockenstein gets off the island expecting to rein terror and lands in LA only to think that someone else worse then him arrived to cause terror.

    4) The island is an enigma wrapped in a riddle shrouded in mystery! But honestly, I think Smokey thinks its prison but it will be reveled that it really isn’t.


  4. Kevin #

    (Oops — said I’d bring up the “island as hell” again and forgot…)

    So I know the writers have said from Season One that no, the island is NOT purgatory… but isn’t it? Metaphorically, at the very least? It’s a place where humans need to get over their pasts before they go to a “better place” (back to where they came from)… otherwise, they’re doomed to hell. When the Oceanic Six were able to cheat destiny and get off the island without resolving their issues, they returned to a worse place, haunted by ghosts — Jack was on the verge of killing himself; Kate was convinced she couldn’t be a good mother; Sun had lost her husband and was consumed with revenge; Hurley ended up in an institution; Sayid was a murderer for Ben without much thought or reason; and Aaron had really bad diaper rash.

    It was only when they returned to the island (and, fittingly, the PAST… except for Sun) that they could work on rebuilding their wounded selves… and next time they leave the island, they’ll go to “heaven”, in other words, a world where they’re living as good, healed people. (In fact, their actions may give some/all of them the opportunity to live life in the sideways world, though I really, REALLY have no clue how the worlds will merge as one. But it has to happen, doesn’t it?)


  5. Tom P #

    2: I’ve always gotten the sense that the Smoke Monster Staredown is figuring out if it’s time to kill you by pulling the “ghosts” out of your brain. As for who it decides to kill and who it doesn’t — both Linus and Locke were candidates who, for whatever reason, it’s against the rules for him to kill… just as he didn’t kill the members of the French team whose names were on the wall. It can, however, apparently manipulate candidates in to killing other candidates.

    4: According to Jacob’s speech: Total Redemption Island. I win!


  6. dock #

    Heres my thing- if Jacob was keeping smokey on the island, and jacob is now dead, why doesnt he just turn smoke monster and fly off the island? He’s obviously not stuck in Locke form alone, he can still go back to smokey, he just cant take over other dead people. Does his locke form need to get on a sub and leave? And if so, why doesnt he just smoke-out and kill the sub people and steal the sub? Theres got to still be something keeping him there, some sort of final barrier. If its the candidates being alive, and hes not allowed to kill them, then he would have to make them kill one another. I could see this happening if Richard’s decision is to join Whidmore (the enemy of my enemy and so forth). We could see a huge battle between the two camps. Thatd be pretty sweet. Also, I was so glad they didnt stick with the “this IS hell” gimmick, because that would have felt cheap. Only because people called it by like episode 2 and the creators specifically said it wasnt hell. Im kind of leaning towards the island as a prison where the devil, or evil or whatever (locke) is trapped. Once he gets off he can kill off humanity because hes very disappointed in all of us. Its probably not on this plane of existence, but I dont think the island is heaven or hell.

    The questions-
    1)I didnt think of any other stories specifically, but I know what you mean.

    2)Im on board with the notion that he is reading their past and finding a way to manipulate them. I also get the feeling that he is everywhere on the island, which is why Richard was just speaking out loud to no one when he got to his wifes necklaces grave. I said it before- everything hes said to the people he talks to is exactly what they need to hear- to Ben- I need someone to be in charge of the island. To Kate- think about Aaron and remember your painful past. To Sawyer- its kill or be killed, and I dont wanna be killed. I just want to get off this damn island. Sayyid- I can give you Nadia back just kill for me. Richard- you are in hell go kill the devil and your wife will be freed. I mean its pretty obvious, hes offering everything you ever wanted in exchange for doing what he says. Which I believe is what The Devil is known for in catholicism…

    3)I think he would just smoke-out and kill everyone. People kill eachother, but he wants to end humanity. I still cant figure out the whole “its against the rules to kill them.” thing. I mean, it seems as if Jacob has authority over MIB, because of the way he seemed so put off saying “dont tell me what to do”. Also, the rule that made it so smokey had to use a human to kill jacob. Whose making these rules? Is it just the guidelines to their bet? Or is it from a higher power or something?

    4)The island is like the bottle of the genie in a bottle. Except the genie is the devil and you want to keep him there. Its just a place thats apparantly accessable from earth where once you enter your in another plane of existence that may be purgatory, except its smokeys own private purgatory where Jacob has been searching for his replacement for some time (which would imply Jacob replaced someone else).

    sidenote- I loved the exchanges that echod back to Jack and Dogen. The knife, the whole “he is evil incarante, dont allow him to speak, he can be very convincing”..I guess thats what Richard said whenever he warned the Others about MIB. Unless he was being serious that Jacob stole his body..(anybody else wonder WTF that was about?)

    My own question- does The Jacob Touch automatically give you infinite life, or do you have to ask for it like Richard did? I noticed he was wearing a glove when he touched Illayna, I wonder if that matters? Also- how exactly are people suppossed to kill smokey?? Is it that he spoke to Sayyid before Sayyid stabbed him, or did the stabbing just not work? Or can you even kill him? Maybe thats why he has to stay trapped on the island, because he cant be killed. Great episode that answered a lot, but as usual, still left more to ponder.


  7. Jon Eric #

    1.) I hear you, but I have nothing to add.

    2.) I’m still not sure. It might be that he’s reading your past to figure out how to manipulate you, if possible. It might also be that he’s judging you, to see if you’re “worthy” somehow. Smoke Monster deaths prior to season 6 have seemed rather judgmental – remember how it just up and killed Eko right after Eko told it he had nothing to confess?

    3.) I’m not so sure that the Man in Black would do anything, in particular. I think that, according to the show’s logic, his very presence in the world at large will make it somehow more malevolent. Like he leaves evil in his wake, even when not explicitly causing it.

    4.) I think the answer is “both.” The Island is Man in Black’s prison, and Jacob is his warden. This makes Jacob “the good guy,” but only in relative terms, because Jacob doesn’t seem to care a whole lot about the enormous sacrifice of human life he’s caused for the sole purpose of making a point. Honestly, I feel a lot closer to understanding the true dynamic of what’s happening here, and it doesn’t make Jacob look good.

    In other news…

    If the Oceanic Six (plus Jin and Sawyer, minus Aaron) are all “candidates” for Jacob’s replacement, then this begs a couple of questions: 1.) How did Jacob know he would need to be replaced, and how did he know it would happen at that exact point in time?
    2.) What body or entity gets to decide which of the candidates becomes the next Jacob?
    3.) When does the decision get made? I mean, Jacob is dead now; what’s the hold up?

    Any ideas?


  8. Jim #

    Regarding Q3: Could it be useful to recall what happened when even a little bit of “island-ness” leaked into the “real world,” in the form of the Numbers? Hurley got “cursed” by using them as lottery numbers, while flash-sideways Hurley, presumably free of the numbers’ influence, is the luckiest man in the world. Multiply Hurley’s curse times seven billion people, and… ?


  9. Gab #

    Really quick, before I forget it, and in re: Catholicism- The priest TOTALLY walks off with his Bible. THIEF!!!

    1) I was reminded of _Last of the Mohegans_ in addition to most of the stuff you mentioned. A hot (PUN!), sweaty guy, running around in some greenery, tall, dark, long hair… Oh yes. Ahem…

    2) Same as most everybody else: Smokey looks into your mind to see if it can manipulate you. I used to think it was passing judgment in a more God-complex sort of way, but no, the judgment being made is the object’s usefulness, not necessarily goodness.

    3)It keeps being implied he’d cause all sorts of chaos on purpose, but I’m more inclined to think of it like Jon Eric- perhaps his aura just permeates negativity that would spread everywhere. Which leads to 4.

    4) Both, and again, I’m in sync with Jon Eric more than anybody else. I’ve had reservations about Jacob for *quite* some time, and the idea that he’s totally pure and blameless doesn’t jive with me at all. I don’t really think either entity is “pure”, as in only whatever.

    Perhaps this is semantics, but the writers or whoever said it’s not PURGATORY, but did they ever say it isn’t HELL? I can’t help but think of how in the _Diving Comedy_, they were two completely separate places, and I wonder if that is important somehow. Maybe the Island isn’t Purgatory for anybody, since nobody is meant to wait things out before leaving there- but it could still be Hell for MiB; and Jacob, unfortunately, dragged the others into it. So it isn’t *meant* for them, therefore it isn’t either Purgatory or Hell for them. I mean yeah, they’re kind of waiting around, but not because they’re being prayed for or are hoping to achieve a higher state of existence- they’re waiting to be told where to go and what to do by Jacob. (Again, Jacob doesn’t seem to be purely Good to me!) I suppose that goes along with other notions ^up there^ about the Island being MiB’s personal something (prison, Hell, whatevs), but it also helps explain how it can be Hell and NOT be Hell at the same time.


  10. Gab #

    Clarification: I meant THE SHOW keeps implying in my answer to 3, not the commenters- I realize it could be taken either way, sorry.


  11. Gab #

    AAAGH! And I meant “Divine” not “Diving.”


  12. Senator Whoopass #

    Speaking of pop culture references, Richard isn’t the first scraggily bearded guy Mark Pellegrina has held underwater. He did the same to The Dude (in his own toilet) in one of the opening scenes in The Big Lebowski.


  13. Senator Whoopass #



  14. Christopher #

    @Gab: So, if it IS Hell, then… wouldn’t Jacob, in fact, be the devil? I mean, he’s essentially the “highest power in the land” type figure, keeps others trapped there with him, and is constantly dragging more people there – that sounds pretty similar to the devil’s role, IMO.

    Though, I really doubt they’ll take the literal route here, and instead sort of expect this episode to serve in the grand scheme as a “Matrix: Revolutions”-esque “here! look here! we’re explicitly showing you the symbolism we’re trying to use! look!!” type situation.

    In other words, the way I see it Jacob isn’t the devil, but serves the role of the devil in this story. Many viewers might pick up on that naturally from themes and plot developments, but others might miss it completely, so episodes like this fakeout the idea that he’s -actually- the devil, then take it back, with the intent of planting that _idea_ in the viewers head, so that the depth of the story can be as apparent as possible to as many as possible.

    At least, that’s the way I see it. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not knocking the technique (I, personally, had not actually considered likening Jacob and the devil until this episode, so it’s certainly damn effective). And I would say it was used more gracefully and successfully in this instance than the unfortunate example I mentioned above. But I think that’s all it was – a narrative maneuver to develop the show’s themes, not the show’s plot.

    P.S. I also noticed the blatant bible-swiping. WTF?!


  15. Kevin #

    Everyone’s talking about whether Jacob is good or evil… and while narratively it makes sense for Jacob to be good, I still expect a fakeout, as Christopher suggests. I mean, it’s LOST — the show’s always been about subverting our expectations and using them against us. The question is how large the fake will be.

    One of the commenters over at the Slate recap — which is pretty useless as far as recaps go (I can see the pitch to the editor now: “We’ll take two guys who don’t really enjoy the show and one that does but isn’t an expert on it and we’ll have them write about what they think each week!”) — nevertheless had a good bit this week, speaking of mlawski’s pop culture references:

    ‘In an episode that revolves around a splintered slave ship, we saw a classic debate over whether humans possess free will or are cuffed and chained to fate. Jacob claims that Smokey believes it’s in people’s “very nature to sin.” Jacob brings folks to the island “to prove him wrong. And when they get here, their past doesn’t matter.”
    A nature/nurture argument between two powerful beings, with human guinea pigs as test cases? You may recall this is precisely the plot of the 1983 film comedy Trading Places. Commodities broker Mortimer Duke is like Smokey—certain that our qualities are ingrained and irreversible, and that if he plucks hoodlum Billy Ray Valentine off the streets and places him in a corporate boardroom, it will still be in Valentine’s “very nature to sin.” Meanwhile, Mortimer’s brother, Randolph Duke, is like Jacob—certain that a person’s “past doesn’t matter” and that even the worst among us can shine when given an opportunity.’

    So is Lost just an update of Trading Places? I think that’s it! Six years of mystery solved!

    Seriously, I do think that Smokey has killed SO many characters, both primary and secondary, there’s no absolving him of his sins and making him the “good” guy in any way — he has to be the evil one in this equation. Misunderstood, frustrated and lashing out… even sympathetic… but still evil. (Another thought in the Slate recap is that maybe Jacob and Smokey represent the “Knights and Knaves” logic puzzle come to life: one always tells the truth, the other always lies… the question is, which is which?)

    I still think the likeliest option is that both Jacob and Smokey are, if not two aspects of the same entity, related; I also think that neither are purely “good” or “bad,” but willing to do whatever it takes to serve their ends.

    Finally, I think we have enough evidence, both dramatic and visual, to come up with a history of the island… but more on that in another post!


  16. Bob #

    @Christopher – I would LOVE for the end, the main charcters get on a plane that crashes, they realize they are in a white room with a door. They open the door and its a multitude of computer screen showing their lives and a man in White watching them. You think – “This is a rip off of The Matrix: Reloaded”, but then the Architect turns around and you realize it is Will Ferrell – a rip off of the rip off from the MTV Movie awards (

    @Kevin – love to see your history of the island!


  17. FlipperBaby #

    @ Senator Whoopass – Holy Shit. It’s all making so much more sense now – “The man in the black pajamas, Dude. Worthy fuckin’ adversary.”


  18. Gab #

    @Christopher: I like where you went there.

    Unfortunately (for you and anybody else sick of my ramblings), it made me think more of Dante and what I interpret _Inferno_ as, so I’ve just got to babble about it a bit because dude, what if?

    In _Inferno_, it’s clear that Lucifer is punishing Judas and Cassiius eternally by gnawing on their heads, but it’s easy to overlook that he, too, seems to be trapped and is being punished: he’s partially encased in ice, weeping, and trying to get out, after all. HIS punishment is to punish THEM forever.

    SO… What if Jacob is *also* being punished, and his sentence is to guard over MiB? If we look at it from an _Infernal_ perspective, he could be punished AND do some punishing at the same time.

    Of course, the flaw in this is the “replacement” factor for him. Lucifer/Satan never gets replaced in _Inferno_, nor is there ever any indication of a possibility of replacement for him. The best I can come up with to account for it in Jacob is how he’s supposedly dead, yet still around- but I know that’s weaksauce because the replacement hasn’t been selected yet, so that’s probably *why* he’s still around (otherwise why the eff call it a “replacement” in the first place?).

    Oh, and glad I wasn’t the only one noticing a nitpicky thing like the Bible, too. I’d say one could possibly chock it up to a simple mistake that just kept getting overlooked, but… well… NOT in _Lost_. Just no. Perhaps a hint as to the character of the priest? I mean, he then sells Richard into slavery, but was it meant to give Richard the “time for penance” he needed, or was it just for the money? I dunno… And I doubt we’re *supposed* to know.


  19. Eric #

    Some personal predictions:

    Jacob is good. But “good” certainly does not mean nice…

    Flocke will die, but either Sayid or Sawyer will replace him. Sayid because he’s already “Claimed,” and Sawyer because, like the MiB, he’s desperate to get off the Island.

    Jack is the Candidate who will replace Jacob.

    Widmore works for himself, but will be instrumental in defeating the MiB.


  20. dock #

    I just assumed the priest took the bible away as a kind of punishment. It also was symbolic of Richard losing everything. Still a d*** move tho… @Eric- It would make more sense for Sawyer to replace him, just in keeping w/ the Sawyer vs Jack angle, but I would LOVE to see Sayyid takeover. He’s been my favorite character since season 1.
    @Kevin- Timelines a great idea. Figure it starts w/ the Jacob/MIB conversation where we first meet MIB, then Richard landing and then on from there?


  21. Harold #

    This episode pretty much said what the point of the whole series is. Jacob’s replacement. Now how we get to that replacement, or even if that replacement has already chosen is what’s left in this series.

    Jacob needs a person of a certain qualification to replace him. By allowing Ben to kill him, it means his replacement is still on the island. Once Jacob saw MIB find the loophole, he accepted that his replacement has been decided and was going to accept it in the end.


  22. LC #

    My theory for a while has been similar to Gab’s. Jacob is also stuck on the island in some way. He can leave, but he’s responsible for MiB.

    And now, my theory why. MiB has not lied once about *being* the Smoke Monster, as far as I can tell. I don’t think he’s lying when he says Jacob stole his body.

    Jacob and the MiB were friends/brothers/whatever. Jacob convinced MiB to do something that turned him into Smokey. Or he turned him into Smokey in a bid for power. Perhaps tapping into the weird energy under the island, who knows. But Jacob realizes the evil he has done, and tries to fix it. He agrees to the “rules” that keep MiB bottled up. And here, on the island, his past doesn’t matter.

    They’ve been having the argument about the ability of people to reform ever since. Jacob’s not really a good guy (I mean, the Others were hardly nice people, and they are supposedly guided by him).

    Thing is, I think Smokey honestly thinks that *he* is the wronged party and Jacob is evil. And with good reason.

    I don’t think Jacob came up with the idea to get replacements until Smokey made it very clear he would keep trying to find a way to kill Jacob. (I also think the presence of candidates is what is still keeping Smokey on the island.)


  23. VfV #

    Continuing the questions about Jacob’s nature, is it not possible to look at the replacement issue in the light of “Live together, die alone”, where in Desmond’s flashback, Kelvin’s attitude towards Desmond (tricks him into pushing the button, then plans to escape, saying “I just needed a sucker to keep saving the world”) ? maybe this point has been made before, but if Jacob is not entirely good, or even devil-like, there could be some kind of retrospective, probably accidental, foreshadowing in the Desmond-Kelvin relationship…


  24. Kevin #

    Okay, here’s my take on island history:

    – Things are obviously wrapped up with the ancient Egyptians, so we start there… I just don’t know if Tawaret (who was likely “real,” in Lost’s continuity) lived in Egypt or on the island.
    – The Egyptians uncover portals to other parts of the world based on natural energy fields all over the planet. (Think of it like, ugh, STARGATE.) Their portal out is found somewhere in north Africa; that leads them to the island, though I’m not sure if they’re able to go anywhere else — say Australia (Ayer’s Rock?) or where the city of Los Angeles would one day be founded.
    – The Egyptians built an outpost on the island, hence the temple(s), caverns, heiroglyphs, etc.
    – The Egyptians have a way back from the island — namely, the frozen donkey wheel. At this point they’re coming and going, though I don’t know if they suffered any side effects, as we saw in S5 (several-year time difference between one point and the other, for example).
    – We know, based on the heiroglyphs in the island’s caverns in S5, that Smokey was around IN THAT FORM even back then… hence the vents that allowed him to emerge from the cave wall.
    – At some point, Egyptian civiliation dies and their knowledge of the portals dies with them. The Tunisian/Egyptian portal — we don’t actually know where it is, the Tunisian spot could have just been the return stop — is lost. Volcanic activity on the island (remember, there’s a large and dormant volcano there) buries the frozen donkey wheel underground, so even if anyone DID have knowledge of the portals, it wouldn’t be easily accessible.
    – Centuries pass. No one is able to get to or from the island.
    – Once sailing vessels come close enough to the island, Jacob draws them in for his “games.” Smokey doesn’t play along. Everyone dies.
    – The Black Rock crashes on the island. BUT Smokey, for the first time, doesn’t just kill everyone — he scans Richard and discovers he might be temptable. He might be able to trick him into killing Jacob, which would allow him to go free. But Jacob gets to him first, and has the idea of using him as an intermediary. Now when ships come to the island, Jacob will use Richard to help them.
    – At some point in the 1940s, Charles Widmore comes to the island. I actually have no idea how this might happen, though I imagine the explanation is coming. Eloise either comes with him or shortly after.
    – 1950s: the U.S. military happens across the island and, ignorant of its special properties, decides to use it for H-Bomb testing. The Others kill them.
    (and everything else pretty much happens according to the show as we’ve seen…)

    The big question is, just how old ARE Jacob and Smokey? My guess is that they are eternal forces of nature, and that while the Egyptians may have been inspired to create their gods based on interactions with them on the island (or back in Africa, if Jacob and Smokey were able to come and go)… it remains to be seen as to whether or not they are actually Egyptian in origin, or centuries-old entities that inspired the Egyptians.

    Here’s the most interesting thing about Tawaret and Set, her companion (and I’m sorry I have to quote Wikipedia here, I’m not an Egyptologist):

    “When Set fell from grace in the Egyptian pantheon… he gradually took over the position of Apep, as the god of evil. With this change away from Apep, Taweret became seen only as the concubine of Set. She was seen as concubine rather than wife, as Set already was married to the extremely different goddess, Nephthys, to whom no parallels could be drawn. It then was said that Taweret had been an evil goddess, but changed her ways and held Set back on a chain.”

    Remind you of anyone? Tawaret — once evil, but now good — holds back Set, the god of all evil? And Jacob just happens to live inside a statue of Tawaret?

    If I had to guess, and I’m sure this will all be made moot in the next two months: Jacob is a spirit of life and fertility; centuries ago, he was worshiped by the Egyptians as Tawaret. Smokey is a spirit of evil; he was worshiped by the Egyptians as Set. Their gender is irrelevant; Jacob and the “Man in Black” are male because those are the latest forms they’ve taken.

    But as to what “the rules” are… and who might be watching them (after all, if you have to play by rules… doesn’t it imply there’s a referee watching over you?)… I have NO idea.

    Also, it’s interesting to note that the ancient Greeks had roughly the same kinds of God-figures in their mythology. What if Jacob/Tawaret and Smokey/Set inspired stories in the Bible? So while Jacob and Smokey aren’t literally Cain and Abel — or maybe another Biblical pair, I’m not at all religious — could they have inspired those types in Christianity as well? (Maybe the Greeks used the same portal as the Egyptians — it’s not as if they lived far away.)

    Anyway… something to chew on over the next few weeks.


  25. Kevin #

    Actually, writing that last post was so fun, and got me thinking… that I’ll dig a little deeper and REALLY overthink:

    “Jacob” and “Smokey” have never, ever been human, despite what Smokey has said; they may have lived as men before (in human form), but they are spirits, entities, gods, whatever term you’d like to use. They have ALWAYS lived on the island. It is human interaction with them in ancient times through the portal (aka, frozen donkey wheel) that has created all of the creation myths of civilization — the Egyptians, as discussed in the previous post; for Christianity, the notion of the Garden of Eden, Original Sin, Cain and Abel, Pandora’s Box, etc. The island is special in part because of the ideas it has inspired in various human cultures over the course of centuries… in other words, it isn’t just important because Jacob is keeping master-of-evil Smokey trapped there — it has literally *gained importance* in the universe because humans have built the foundations of their cultures upon the characters and ideas inspired by the island itself.

    I really like the idea that these two beings and their magical island are the basis for nearly every religion on earth. Not only that, but it’s a GREAT meta concept for the writers: Lost is so heavily influenced by movies, books and TV shows that have come before it, that it’s just the same idea playing out in the “real world.” We literally wouldn’t have Lost if it wasn’t for Star Wars, Stephen King, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz… I mean, seriously, the list is sooooo long.

    Just as the power struggle between “Jacob” and “Smokey” has inspired humans in their creation myths (in the universe of the show)… it is previous touchstones of pop culture that have inspired the writers in Lost’s creation (in our real universe).

    And that’s why the final season’s notion of there being “two universes” is so very apt!


  26. LC #

    Kevin, I like your idea and would be happy they go with it. It’s one I subscribed to for a while. Despite that, the very fact there are candidates makes me think Jacob and Smokey aren’t eternal. It is possible the roles are, but not them. In other words, the energy on the island has been around for ever. Tapping into it can make you the smoke monster. It is possible for someone to chain the smoke monster by taking on the role of guardian of the island.

    A long time ago, this was Tawaret and Set. (OR instpired the story, or what have you.)

    Some time later, Jacob and the MiB got involved, and MiB got turned into Smokey. Using the myth, Jacob took over as Tawaret.

    Eventually, he realized it was going to end in his death, and started working to find a new candidate.

    I don’t know if the writers are going to go for “this is an endless cycle” or “the Losties find a way to break the cycle.”


  27. Bob #

    @Kevin – Great insight. The only thing I may ‘disagree’ with is the idea of an overseer in ‘the rules’. Personally, I always thought of them more in a golf sense, they’ll try to figure out ways around the rules they set out (Phil Mickelson using a 20 year old wedge) but always follow the rules (J.P. Hayes loosing tour card because he called penalty on himself) rather than a fear of someone coming in saying they are breaking a rule. At least, that was my feeling on the show and I’ve been known to be wrong more then once, but that is how I see it.


  28. Iver #

    I don’t have much new to add and I’m coming to this late because it took us forever to get around to watching this episode.

    Kevin, I have to agree…I really like your thoughts on this.

    About the only thought I can add that hasn’t been said yet is…I think Jacob and MiB are indeed universal constants: chaos and order, black and white, good and evil, etc…but…I think more in the sense of the Yin and Yang…not entirely one or the other. If you look at the Yin and Yang the black as has a small circle of white and the white has a small circle of black.


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