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Lost recap: Richard Alpert reveals all -- heralding an epic battle between the disciples of Jacob and the Man in Black



Richard Much as Lost producers hyped Tuesday's episode as The One Which Explains Everything, it turns out they may have undersold the whole gig.

Because "Ab Aeterno," the episode which outlines how ageless Spaniard Richard Alpert earned his eternal youth and impeccable eyebrows, also -- at long last -- described the stakes our Losties have been playing for since the moment Oceanic Air 815 hit the ground on our nameless island.

It's a fight to keep evil from enveloping the world, courtesy of our smooth-talking bad guy, the Man in Black.

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen, I'd long harbored the idea of the island as a testing ground of sorts -- where humans brought there by the island's caretaker Jacob would find themselves tempered by the place's resident badass, the MIB. It also seemed obvious Jacob was trying to verify man's ability to find redemption, while the MIB was convinced man had no such capabilities.

But watching Nestor Carbonell's Alpert look on wide-eyed as Jacob laid out that very scenario to him -- back in 1867! -- was a delicious, satisfying reveal. That it came after Alpert had cheated death twice, nearly executed for accidentally killing a man and almost killed again when the ship where he served as an indentured servant crashed on the island, only made the information seem hard earned, somehow.

Best of all, we got THREE more items for our list of questions Lost must answer this season - click through to see how much we know -- and don't know.

This tour de force for Carbonell held up Lost's tradition of making supporting characters so much more interesting than the supposed stars, allowing an actor who has always sat on the periphery of action to finally grab some of the spotlight. It also continued the show's habit of following an episode without much plot movement with an installment where the revelations gush like a stream from a fire hose.

And perhaps most importantly, this episode pushed the show's mythology hard toward religion and spirituality, with dead people speaking from beyond the grave, talk of evil spreading across the land and the most straight-up portrayal of Jacob as the island's benevolent check against a living hell that we've yet seen.

My fave moments:

-- Finally seeing how the Black Rock ship landed in the middle of the island, and how the statute which houses Jacob got sheared away by the crashing vessel.

-- Seeing Alpert's age confirmed as at least 150 years. When Jacob promised him eternal life, he wasn't kidding.

-- Watching Richard's wife appear to him after the Smoke Monster killed the crew of the Black Rock, knowing it was another shape-shifting trick by the MIB .

Jacob -- Seeing Jacob explain the island as a cork in a bottle which keeps evil from overrunning the world. Suddenly, we see the consequences of allowing the MIB to get off the island and how callous he must be to pursue his goal regardless of the result. We also see why the energy the island is sitting on is so immensely powerful.

-- Watching Jacob explain how man must choose the right path on the island, or the whole exercise is meaningless. Was also great fun to see a more energetic, active Jacob - particularly when he was beating up Richard to take away his knife. In fact, with all this talk of free will and faith, Jacob sure seems an awful lot like God.

-- Seeing Jacob give Richard a baptism of sorts, dragging him into the water to prove that he is not dead or in hell.

Titus-MIB -- Finally seeing Titus Welliver return as the original human shape of the MIB, letting drop that he needs to kill Jacob and the candidates to replace him if he wants to leave the island -- something I've also suspected a while. All of a sudden, Sawyer and Sayid's decision to join that team doesn't look so bright.

This being Lost, questions remain:

-- If Jacob keeps MIB on the island, is there anyone (or anything) above him? Why can't he bring Richard's wife to life or forgive his sins to keep him from hell?

-- Why is the MIB now stuck in the form of John Locke?

-- Why is the MIB forced to manipulate people into killing Jacob?

-- And how in the hell can Hurley talk to dead people?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:06pm]


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