The Overthinking Lost Open Thread: “Across the Sea”

Your thoughts and discussion about the latest episode of Lost: "Across the Sea."

Wow.  That was… wow.


We’re gonna need to watch that again.

Do you agree, John Locke?

Yeah. We're gonna need to watch that again.

So.  This week’s episode started with the births of Jacob and his twin brother What’s-His-Name.

Question 1 (a silly question): Was I the only one screaming “Tell us his name, you bastards!” at the TV last night?  Gah.  And if the Man in Black really doesn’t have a name, how did he introduce himself to the shipwrecked fellas?  He must have at least had a nickname, no?

I know people get annoyed when I refer to the Man in Black as “Esau,” but wasn’t it interesting how the Jacob-Esau myth was flipped on its head this episode?  In some ways, the myth went as planned: the Man in Black/Esau was the hairy, angry one, and Jacob was the shy/naive one.  But this story was different from the Biblical tale in major, major ways.  First, Jacob was born first–no heel-holding this time.  Second, Mommy Dearest loved the Man in Black better (unlike the Biblical Rebekah who clearly preferred Jacob).  Third, Lost’s Jacob would not be described as a deceptive supplanter.  In fact, according to Mommy Dearest, Jacob doesn’t even know how to lie.  Four, Jacob didn’t steal the Man in Black’s birthright as the Biblical Jacob stole Esau’s.  Here, the Man in Black rejected his birthright, and Jacob had to be convinced that he wanted it.

Question 2 (a serious, overthinky question): What are we to make of Darlton’s retelling of the Jacob-Esau myth?  Clearly they were riffing on the same themes as the original Bible story, so… why?  And why did they change up the story in so many different ways?

Speaking of Jacob and the Man in Black, we got some interesting characterization of those two this week.  This episode really hit hard on the science vs. faith themes, even though (for once!) those words weren’t actually spoken aloud.  The Man in Black is shown to be the scientific one: he doesn’t have blind faith in his mother; he bases his points of view re: humanity on empirical evidence and study; he and his ancient Roman buddies go out of their way to explore the Island’s weird electromagnetic phenomena (and, if I’m reading this right, even built the frozen donkey wheel); and he wants to explore “across the sea” just because it’s there.  Meanwhile, Jacob blindly accepts everything his mother says, except, of course, that humanity is evil.  That’s apparently because Jacob’s blind faith in his mother can only be topped by his blind faith in human society, which is interesting seeing as Jacob has never lived in human society.

Question 3 (serious, overthinky): Is there any chance in hell that science, curiosity, and a belief in empirical study will win the day over faith?  I know that science and skepticism and so on are now associated with Smokey, and Smokey Is Bad, but…

I mean, think about that scene with the frozen donkey wheel.  The Man in Black is trying to open a portal that will take him off the Island.  Mommy Dearest says, in so many words, “No, Man in Black, don’t do science!  Your curiosity will be the death of us all!”  (This seems to be the theme Lost has been pushing over the past few weeks through the character of Jack.)  And what does the Man in Black say?  He says the thing that totally won me back over to his side.  In so many words, he says to his mother (and to Jacob, and to God, and to Lost’s writers, too), “I’m only doing this because you never told me anything!”    If that’s not a cry that we Lost fans can rally behind, I don’t know what is.  Answers!  Answers!  We want answers!  And it’s science and reason, not faith, that’s going to get us those answers!  You go, Man in Black!  I’ll be right here on the other side of the TV set, cheering you on.

Some less overthinky questions.

Question 4: Who’s Mommy Dearest?  Just another victim of a shipwreck who got roped into being the Island’s Jacob by the Island’s previous protector?  Or something more mythological?  (Also: Allison Janney!  With her, Katey Sagal, and Kim Dickens, Lost has finally hit the awesome-red-headed-character-actress trifecta!  Sweet!)

Question 5: Why did Mommy Dearest think the Man in Black was so special?  The moment she saw him as an infant she clearly thought there was something about him.  What could it be?  And would things have been better or worse if he had been her replacement instead of Jacob?

See you next week.

20 Comments on “The Overthinking Lost Open Thread: “Across the Sea””

  1. Chad #

    Here’s a question that arose in a couple post-episode discussions I had:

    Are Jacob’s Brother and The Smoke Monster the same person (meaning JB lost his body but is still living as Smokey), or did JB’s being thrown into the Light just release Smokey and kill JB (meaning that Smokey is just taking JB’s form, as he has done with Locke, Christian, Yemi, and possibly others)?

    I thought it was the latter, and a discussion with one of my friends made it sound like she thought the same. But my brother thought it was the former.

    Oh, and to answer Question 1, I was SO hoping that they’d reveal his name in this episode.


  2. James #

    This is the episode I’ve been dying for. So much answered yet just enough unanswered to keep us biting for answers. Love it.

    I’m with you on the cheering on of Smokey/Esau/#2, mlwaski. The best villains are usually justified in some way and now we no he’s no exception.

    @Chad I’m thinking it’s the former. Mommy Dearest tells both the brothers that going into the light would result in a fate worse than death and if we take what she says as true, Jacob and #2 can’t kill each other. If the light were to rip #2’s essence/soul/electromagnetic signature/whatever from his body, he technically wouldn’t be dead so fair play to Jacob.

    Also, by eluding to the fact that she knows the consequences of hopping down the rabbit hole, does that in turn elude that having happened to previous individuals. I’m not sure of the time frame but it would seem that whatever culture created the statue of Tawret seemed older (to me at least) than Jake and the Smoke man. It might explain the carvings near the grate.


  3. Melissa D. #

    I think that because Claudia didn’t have a name Son in Black is either nameless, or has the same name.


  4. Wilbur #

    Not to get too metaphysical, I think the horror worse than death if anyone entered the cave of light that Mommy Dearest was talking about was two-fold: extinguishing the light, and then unleashing this monster on the world, a monster which, if it gets off the island, would destroy everything. Smokey is like the personification of evil, but beyond that, the opposite of everything the light stood for. In place of goodness and justice and rebirth and all those good things, he’s the embodiment of evil and death and chaos and lies. Hence, he can lead people astray by assuming the role of a deceased relative/friend/whoever and then wipe them from existence.

    If you’ll remember early in the episode, there was that conversation about rules needing to be followed, and one day Jacob would create his own game? How about if Smokey came after Jacob, and Jacob said, “Hold on, buddy, I’m immortal. I’ll give you a shot at killing me, but there’s rules you cannot break”? So then, we have the conversation where Smokey, in the person of Jacob’s brother, says, “I’ll find my loophole,” and then after Ben stabs Jacob, Smokey Locke says, “I found my loophole.”

    I’m sure I’m missing a detail or two, but that’s what I gleaned from this episode. Thank god, they finally got our brains prickling again! Heady stuff…


  5. Bob #

    Hmmm . . . interesting episode.

    A question I had that can be answered – does anyone know what language they were speaking in the begining (Before the ‘Hunt for Red October’ language change)?


  6. Maddy #

    @Bob: they were speaking in Latin.


  7. the winchester #

    Isn’t it obvious? The brother’s name is “Brother”.

    That’s why Desmond is always saying it.


  8. matthew #

    Did “mother” mumble something, perhaps a name, right after she got stabbed and saw MIB? Anyone?


  9. Bob #

    @Maddy – thank you! I wasn’t 100% sure (Cruddy Catholic School education, shouldn’t they have taught me Latin!) and people I discuss it with here at work were trying to convince me it was Egyptian.

    @Winchester – lol

    I’m still undecided about this episode. Half of me kinda felt it was an hour to see who was Adam and Eve. Half of me kinda felt it was a direct link to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave (Even the picture in @mlawski’s article looks like a painting depicting the metaphor) showing a larger conspiracy of the island.


  10. Iver #

    @matthew…I thought I heard her say a name at that moment too! I went back and re-watched it a couple of times but I couldn’t catch it…but, I’m glad to know I’m not alone.


  11. dock #

    I thought this episode was great! We basically got the entire plotline of the show. Its funny, theres this radio show near where I live that always talks about Lost the day after, and they were having trouble understanding it and were wondering what the meaning is still. I thought they covered it perfectly. “Mother” was a candidate herself and was stuck on the island keeping humans away from the light because they would undoubtedly go in it. She knew that people would be too untrustworthy to guard the light, so when she found her chance to raise 2 infants from birth (thus protecting them from human society and its inherent evils) that she could raise at least one of them to be the new guardian (so in a sense, they were both candidates, themselves).

    Once Jacob threw MIB into the light, the smoke was released as it had a human form it could inhabit. MIB died, and Smokey took his form from then on. Jacob was actually bringing people to the island to take his place, not prove his brother (now dead) wrong. He wanted to die. Just like when Mother thanked MIB for killing her, Jacob never fought back and allowed Ben to kill him, using the knife that keeps popping up.

    They still never explained how the guardians presence alone keeps the smoke on the island, b/c jacob is seen leaving the island numerous times and that didnt offer the smoke an opportunity to escape. I hope they touch on that but wont be heartbroken if they dont. I feel like they gave us all the answers we needed about that relationship.

    I loved the religious tone too, the whole conversation w/ Jacob and MIB about watching the humans from above and thinking theyre not that bad, as oppossed to living w/ them and knowing they are…sounded like a conversation the devil and god might have to me. Also the wine drinking- take this cup and drink from it, I mean that was right out of a church service.

    I wouldnt be too quick to feel sorry for MIB, though. Remember, hes dead, just like Flocke is not really Locke, FIB is not really MIB, just the smoke monster in his form. So the smoke is probably still an evil creature, or incarnation or whatever it is.

    Q1- I half expected to learn a name when we saw them being born, but I wasnt suprised that the didnt drop it. We probably will never know. Damn Lost…

    Q2- Loved it.

    Q3- How great would it be if Lost ended w/ MIB winning? Seriously, the writers are so creative and original that the idea of letting “the bad guy” win had to have crossed their mind. Sadly, I think the end will be more like an end to this story “but the start of an whole other chapter”, with Jack replacing Jacob and either A. Locking up the smoke back in the light cave, or B. Staying on the island w/ Smokey running around freely while everyone else gets to merge w/ their alternate selves after being killed in island world (staying on the island is Jacks ultimate sacrifice).

    Q4- I would say Mommy Dearest is probably another victim of the island cycle. Like they said, if they answer every question, it always leads to more, and eventually they have to answer the origin of the universe. I am willing to just assume she was a candidate and Jacob replaced her.

    Q5- That was really interesting I thought. The fact that Jacob didnt want to do it, and she said he had no choice really struck me as odd. Jacob is all faith and yet always spouts about choice, despite his mother (who he was endlessly loyal to) preaching the opposite. I also thought her covo w/ MIB was strange.

    Anyone else think Mommy Dearest had the ability to Smoke Out and turn into The Monster? How did she lay waste to that entire village? Before she just used a rock to kill the woman and her hands to bash MIBs head against the wall, so how did she fill the well and destroy the village all by herself? Maybe Mommy Dearest was a smoke monster too? Like she went into the light and thats why she told them to never go in? She did get killed by the magic knife…


  12. Mike L B #

    Yes, well-said mlawski, well done. “I’m only doing this because you never told my anything.” I’m with MIB now, at least, as much as I am with all of them. There is no good, or evil, there’s just us. And we sometimes we do evil things, we all do.


  13. AsWicked88 #

    I am not so sure I understand why Jacob is supposed to be good and MIB is supposed to be bad. Don’t they both deceive/manipulate/kill people?


  14. Harold #

    If Jacob could get a replacement, then MIB can as well. I bet someone else will take a deadmans float into the light and become to the new smoke monster.


  15. Gordon Shumway #

    I got it! Desmond is a cork. He will take FLocke into the light as he is the only one who can survive the electro-magnitism. Because he can survive, Smokey will be locked up in solitary, leaving Desmond unharmed. Then Jack will become the new Jacob and send every one else home.


  16. Gordon Shumway #

    Home being the Alt-verse


  17. Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News #

    I just watched this episode. I’d heard it called the best episode ever, but was I the only one who was sorely disappointed? It didn’t have the sets or romantic qualities of Ab Aeterno. It was just two kids in vests laying it all out for us with some wooden acting. Even the mystical quality seemed lacking for me. Anyway.

    @matthew: I thought she said “Thank you,” which would support the mother-as-previous-smoke theory (like dock said).

    @dock: I think the smoke really is still the brother. After all, it has a personality, and wants to leave (still). Remember, the boy foreshadowed that he’d find a way off, some day (I got seriously bad Hayden Christiansen vibes on that line).

    Q1: MIB’s name – Honestly, when I finally checked the internet discussions after seeing it, I thought the name “Adam” would’ve been rampant. I saw it as he was nameless the entire episode so that Locke could name him for us. Guess not.

    Q2: Changing of the Biblical myth – Wouldn’t following the original story be, I don’t know, extremely boring? What’s the point of telling a story if everyone knows how it ends and how it plays out (which is one of the strengths of the original myth, i.e. how exactly Jacob tricks his father).

    Besides, one thing I thought that they retained was that Jacob isn’t exactly a force of good in either story. He’s merely a mama’s boy. In both stories, his brother is the one with the good heart. Being an Old Testament story, the story of Jacob & Esau always seemed like more of a practical moral to me, though I know Jewish scholars have twisted the logic around so that Jacob was righteous instead of just looking out for number one.

    Q3: Science vs Faith – This is tricky, since Smokey (I still like the name Adam) was the original Science Badboy, and is now *maybe* going to throw down with Widmore, one of the current Champions of Science. No matter what it’d be Science winning over Science. Jack is the only man of faith left in my eyes, but still primed to win, since he’s not a sucker like the original Locke. (By the way, how could anyone NOT become a man of faith after seeing a magical, sentient cloud of smoke dripping with lightning and train sound effects?)

    Q4: Mommy Dearest – Who cares. It’s like she says in the beginning, questions only beg more questions. She was there before them, she was magical and crazy. Full stop.

    Q5: Why was “Adam” special? – I didn’t pick up on her favoring an infant, but as babies are all dumber than me I never pay attention to them. Stupid babies, they’re so stupid. Anyway, I thought she favored him later because, really, Jacob was kind of a dunce. I bet he never won a single game of rocks versus Adam.

    “I win, Jacob.”


    “Because it’s Tuesday, and black always wins on Tuesday.”

    “Okay, sounds about right. I’m going to go tell Mom that I just lost, then weave another rug. Hooray!”


  18. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Brian Williams: No, you are definitely not the only one who disliked this episode. I thought I was going crazy, because I liked it, and the rest of the Internet exploded with vitriol. (“WORST. EPISODE. EVER.”) Fans, huh? Get excited about the silliest things.

    I do believe a person could be called a “Man of Science” after seeing the Smoke Monster. The conflict in Lost isn’t really science vs. religion; it’s logic and empiricism vs. taking a leap of faith and believing you have a greater purpose. A pro-science atheist could still be considered a Man of Science after seeing Smokey, because he saw it with his own eyes. (What kind of scientist would you be if you DIDN’T believe that smoke monsters exist even after you saw one?) If this Man of Science wanted to, he could explain it away with technobabble, spouting words like “unique electromagnetic properties” and so on. A true Man of Faith, on the other hand, is what Jack is now: the kind of guy who just accepts, without needing further explanation, that he has a Purpose.


  19. Gab #

    I like the Mommy Dearest name for her, but I kept using Not the Mama in my own head. I get your reference, but do you get mine?

    The overall feeling I got from the whole episode was even more sympathy for MIB and less for Jacob. Jacob starts out as a blind sheep, and MIB is inquisitive and thinks for himself. Jacob’s sheepiness internalizes, to the point where he never remotely questions himself, while MIB seems to rethink things more in the future.

    And I’m going to make a contradictory, general jibe because a few posters are convinced Smokey is Pure Evil- and I disagree. Think about Mlawski’s explanation of the yin-yang-ness of The Doctor and Donna in her article about _Dr. Who_ from May 3 ( . Both characters are more complicated than Pure Good or Pure Evil. If Jacob was Pure Good, I don’t think he’d be so cold about how people have died In His Name. And if MIB was Pure Evil, I don’t think he’d be so careful with the people he interacts with- he’s realistic with them, but when he has killed, he doesn’t seem as self-righteous about it as* Jacob does.

    1. I did, too. It will probably be revealed in a highly melodramatic way, right before his character is gone for good.

    2. Call me crazy, but I was seeing a lot of the parable of the Prodigal Son going on there- MIB was the one messing up all the time and Jacob was the loyal one with somewhat of a chip on his shoulder. The Not The Mama (and I’m going to call her NTM from now on), when Jacob accuses her of loving MIB more, says, “I love you differently,” or something close, and the father in the parable says (in my New Living Translation of Luke 15:31-32), “‘Look, dear son, you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'” I always took what the father said to mean, “I don’t love him more, I just love him different, and this is how I need to love him, by making a big deal out of his return.” I realize it’s not exact, but I was getting the vibe the whole time, and especially when Jacob started whining to NTM about the differences between them.

    3. Yes, very much so, yes. I suspect that we will be shown a situation where we want MIB to win over Jacob because Jacob has become so consumed by his duty/office of keeping the gold energy (meaning the Island, meaning the world) safe that he fails to see the details and how those directly involved are so adversely effected by his actions. NTM killing the villagers, as well as Jacob’s beating up on MIB, was a type of foreshadowing for what we already know Jacob will eventually become- at the time those Romans were still around, he was probably too innocent or new to the situation to contemplate killing (or at least allowing others to die) for The Cause, but obviously he’s way beyond caring by the time the Losties show up. I think that’s probably what happened to NTM- she became so focused on her goal that the idea of killing another woman for her babies and isolating those babies and denying them the choices in life normal children should have, as well as killing an entire village of people (and not just singling out the ones actually doing the science, but ALL OF THEM)- all of that was totally fine with NTM, or at least fine enough for her to go through with it. So I think by the time we reach Jacob in the Losties’ timeline, he has moved even beyond where NTM is when she dies, for he shows absolutely *no* remorse whatsoever when called on his shit. There is so much blood on his hands, and he is absolutely stonefaced about it- at least NTM was apologizing and crying over what she was doing. But the thing is, I don’t think Jacob will go blatantly batshit crazy, either- I mean I don’t see him running around, laughing maniacally and blowing peoples’ brains out. I see it as something that has been building up all season and that may or may not get more momentum- but whether it gets that or not, it will come to a very pus-filled head.

    So to go back to number 1, I really have a suspicion that MIB will end up being the savior or good guy in some way, and maybe, maybe Jack will actually replace *him*; or that maybe Jack will replace Jacob not because Jacob wants him to, but because MIB makes it known somehow that Jacob has lost sight of and touch with any realistic view or care for humanity because of his Duty.

    4. It’s fun to speculate about who she is/was, but knowing isn’t intrinsic to the plot, so we probably will never “know” for certain. I’d like to think of her as some leftover rape victim of Zeus, banished there by Hera’s histrionic jealousy or something, kind of like Perseus’s mother, Danae, except not (because yes, I realize Danae was banished by her dad because he was trying to avoid a prophecy… FATE V FREE WILL, ZOMG!).

    5. Not sure why she thought he was so special, maybe the sheer fact that he was in his biological mom’s womb in the first place. But if NTM had picked MIB, it actually may have been very, very different, and not necessarily in a bad way. MIB’s thirst for knowledge is very human and easy to relate to (word fail, I know).

    As for what the Smoke really is NOW, my personal opinion is going into the light killed the body, but the consciousness/soul is now in the Smoke. I don’t think NTM was ever a Smoke Monster, but I do think MIB’s soul is in it somehow. I do like the idea that the body had to go in before the smoke itself could come out, but I think Jacob’s brother being the first, it retained his SOUL, not just memories. I mean, Lockelganger knows everything about Locke, but he’s NOT LOCKE, and he makes this blatantly clear on multiple occasions, going as far as to bloody SAY so. But when he says stuff like, “I found my loophole,” he’s that guy from way back then, but speaking with Locke’s vocal cords. So while I think it can take on the form and take in the knowledge of any dead person (“any” being a relative term, mind you), the Smoke is still thinking with the Nameless Wonder’s mind and speaking with his “voice” (in the literary sense of the word).

    *Both times I typed “as” in that sentence, I actually typed “ass” at first… Just thought I’d share. Freudian slip?


  20. AsWicked88 #

    Quick! Fenzel! Relate this to Paradise Lost.

    To me, this episode reminded me of the “Apocalyptic Sublime” movement, especially John Martin’s depictions of Paradise Lost. Jacob comes off as an ineffectual, whiny, timorous syncophant, while the MIB comes off as embodying the things that we value: curious, courageous, rebellious. Is this a Miltonic bait-and-switch, as in “You just thought the MIB was this awesome guy you would rather have as a friend, but because of rules set down long before you existed he is Capital-E EVIL?” Is this episode going to be Book II, and the finale Book III?


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