(n.) 'Boredom, restlessness, or irritability that results from a lack of environmental stimulation, as from a prolonged stay in a remote, sparsely populated region or a confined indoor area.'
Jacob's Cabin is the ultimate place to get 'cabin fever'. Sparsely populated region? The Island. Confined indoor area? A small, wooden shack. Put the two together: "Help me!" So that's Jacob. And applying the definition to Locke, who in flashback evades his destiny in misguided pursuit of his 'hunter' persona, there's a strong cabin fever resonance. Locke was the definition of restlessness and irritability precisely because he stuck so hard to his "don't tell me what I can't do" mantra and stopped listening to people advising him about what he should do.
Locke, it would appear, is destined to be the Island Chief. He would have been one sooner had he passed Alpert's test (more on that to come) or just bothered to study at Mittelos when the offer presented itself. Instead Locke metaphorically reached for the knife his whole life and missed his calling. In the meantime, then, on the Island, Ben was acting leader. A caretaker to the throne of Island Chief.
There are clear parallels between Locke and Ben. Both were born prematurely. Both had lousy fathers. Both were very quiet boys. Both never knew their mothers. If Locke was always destined to be the Island Chief then Ben almost fit the Locke template. Perhaps that's how he came to be the caretaker Island Chief. Maybe, for a while, some people believed Ben was the real deal. Elsewhere, other people like Richard Alpert didn't stop pursuing alternatives. . .
So what's the deal with the never-aging Richard Alpert and the six object test he presented to young Locke? I'll give you three explanations in order of the one I like least to the one I currently like best.
Explanation Number One is that Richard Alpert is travelling through time. He can crop up in Locke's life having never aged because he can visit Locke's entire lifetime in the equivalent of an hour or so of his own. So he came from the future with Locke's knife and compass and presented them to young Locke as a test to see if he was 'ready' for the Island. . . Trouble with this is, since Alpert can time travel, he already knows when Locke will be ready and knows he is the right man. Ergo, there's no need to test him.
Explanation Number Two is that the Island is running on a time loop, only Alpert exists outside of that time loop. So Alpert has lived through iterations of the Island where the Island Chief turns up and leads the Island to safety and. . . Oh Jesus. Why the hell did I put this idea as better than Explanation Number One? Well, there was a hint of a loop in the way Locke dreamt of Horace Goodspeed perpetually chopping a tree down - but it was just a dream.
Let's just press on to: Explanation Number Three is the big idea. Locke is Jacob. Jacob is Locke. For this to work I'm going to get all Buddhist on you and posit that Locke is the next 'Tulka' in line after Jacob. To make sense of that, some information: "Dalai Lama is the title given to an individual believed to be the current incarnation of a long line of Tulkus, or Buddhist Masters, who have become so enlightened as to be exempt from the wheel of death and rebirth. Familiarity with the possessions or attributes of the previous Dalai Lama is considered the main sign of the tulku."
Richard Alpert presented Locke with 6 objects, a couple of which could have been possessions of the previous Island Chief (Jacob). If young Locke selected the right objects this would prove he had an affinity with the previous Island Chief. For this to work in practical Lost terms it would mean that Jacob, as he currently exists, is the bodiless, eternal spirit, trapped, waiting for the right Island Chief vessel to turn up and assume the mantle. Enter John Locke. Jacob's words to John? "Help me." As in, help me by realising what you're supposed to do.
It all seems cut and dried and simple until we factor in Christian and now Claire in Jacob's cabin. (I think we can be sure that 'the eye' Hurley saw during The Beginning Of The End belonged to Horace Goodspeed, so at least that's that kind of cleared up!)
Christian and Claire in the cabin create questions (no tuxedo for Christian, Claire's happy, carefree manner) but as Christian mentions to Locke, whose head was similarly full of grand ideas, there are more pressing concerns. . .
Big Bad Keamy and his men are planning to torch the Island in Stage Two of Operation: Capture Ben. And Keamy is a bad man. He shot the captain. It was he that slit the Doc's throat (seriously, having just heard his body had washed ashore you'd have thought Doc Ray would have been a tad more vigilant!). Keamy would have killed Michael, too, were it not for Michael being invulnerable.
Michael, it seems, genuinely cannot be killed until his purpose is complete. And we had Ben's remark to Hurley about how he had been silly to shoot Locke at the mass grave since he ought to have known that Locke could not be killed. Tie that in with Ben's conversation with Widmore during The Shape Of Things To Come - Widmore: "Have you come here to kill me, Benjamin?" / Ben: "We both know I can't do that." - and the insinuation is that Widmore, too, has purpose and is, like Michael, invulnerable. Destiny may be a "fickle bitch", but when she's on your side she's a tough act to beat!
I think I can make a prediction as to how the finale, in part, will play out. Sayid and his boat will be the means by which the Oceanic 6 leave the Island. Sayid will steer. Sawyer will show up with Aaron and, with no Claire, demand Kate take the kid and leave (no doubt asking her to fulfil a promise, too!). Sun, naturally, will get a place due to her pregnancy-certain death predicament. Hurley? Hurley I find hard to justify (maybe his millions could fund another rescue?). And Jack, as I believe has been foreshadowed, will do something heroic and rip his fresh stitches, go into a critical condition and so be put on the boat (by a selflessly trustworthy Juliet, natch, hence the cover story that Kate saved his life as heard in court during Eggtown). And, of course, the Island will get moved.
Well, it has to, does it not? In The Shape Of Things To Come Ben tells Widmore he'll never find the Island. Since Widmore sent The Freighter he knows where the Island is, but in the future, after the Island has been moved, his search will begin again. There's also a possibility that the Island has been moved somewhere really cold (perhaps it's been there before, perhaps that's where it picked up polar bears) and that was why Ben appeared wearing a parka with steam coming out of his mouth when he teleported to the desert.
As for how the Island moves (through time? through space? through time and space?), well, I'll file that under the same rationale that dictates how Jacob's Cabin can move around, appearing and disappearing, with the likes of Claire and Christian and Horace and Jacob inside it. I don't know how, but I know it does, and I assume someday I'll find out. Those are big ideas, and we've got a season finale heading our way. "Beware distractions," as Yemi once advised. I think that's good advice for an Island Chief with an Island to save.