Analysis: 6.9 Ab Aeterno

Ab Aeterno. From the beginning of time. The long-awaited backstory of Richard Alpert didn’t extend the ageless one’s lifetime to quite that long ago. The title Ab Aeterno can perhaps be interpreted as referring to Jacob and Nameless – that their contest on the Island has been running from the beginning of time. But we’ll get to them. This was Richard’s show – probably his one and only. Who would have thought back in Season 3 that this Richard Alpert. . .

. . . was a rugged, devoted man of faith from 1869 who went by the name Ricardo!

His journey to the Island had quite the epic sweep about it, beginning with his flight to the bad doctor’s house to try and save his wife, Isabella. This meeting with the doctor was filled with symbolic omens. Consider the doctor dressed in black, for example. Here was Ricardo, at his direst need, requesting help from a man in black. And the man in black, when handed a crucifix so dear to Isabella, tossed it aside as worthless. It’s not subtle when laid out like that, eh?

Even the medicine the doctor in black offered was white, looking a little like ground down powder of a certain white stone that Jacob would, later in the episode, use as a symbolic gift for Nameless. The resonance here is hard to miss. Ricardo tries to win the favour of a man in black that casts aside goodness (the crucifix) and dangles the promises of what he wants most (the medicine) before considering him unworthy.

Interestingly the other man that returned and witnessed Ricardo’s struggle with the doctor that resulted in his death was carrying blankets – which did remind me of that time Michael killed Ana Lucia which Libby, carrying blankets, witnessed.

Not saying that was intended, but it was a nice thematic harkening. And it’s not the only time events in The Swan serve as a thematic reference to events in this episode, but that’s big, meaty stuff we’ll get to later. Before then Ricardo was locked behind bars and facing a death sentence. Another man in black, this time a priest, came to offer a chance to repent. But Ricardo didn’t feel fully guilty. He said it was an accident. The priest declined to save his soul as a consequence of his weak confession.

Does this remind anyone of anyone?

“Confess,” Mr. Eko was told, by Yemi, who we now know was Nameless in disguise. Mr. Eko did not confess. He was, like Alpert, steeped in the belief that his regrettable crimes had been a result of actions he could not have controlled. Mr. Eko was served a death sentence as a result. As was Ricardo.

Only Ricardo’s English-speaking urge to visit the New World prompted a visit from Black Rock shipmate Jonas Whitfield. We didn’t get to see the elusive Magnus Hanso, alas, but it was nice that he was mentioned (Magnus Hanso being the forefather of Alvar Hanso, founder of the Dharma Initiative). And so it was, as many of us had long-suspected, that Ricardo came to the Island on the Black Rock as a slave. It would seem the boat we all thought was the Black Rock in The Incident. . .

. . . wasn’t actually the Black Rock at all. As the real Black Rock came crash-landing onto the Island, through statue Taweret’s face, on a stormy, stormy night. (Unless the Black Rock had been to the Island previously and this was something of a return voyage, not entirely impossible due to some timeline discrepancies found within the Black Rock ledger about the date of its disappearance – but I digress.)

We got two birds with one stone, here. An answer as to how the Black Rock wound up in the middle of the jungle (a giant wave picked it up and pretty much threw it there) and an answer as to why the four-toed statue was broken (a ship being picked up by a giant wave slammed into it – presumably both ship and water being forcible impact combined to produce the shattering rubble that remained).

It may seem miraculous that a ship could have slammed into a statue and crashed into the middle of the jungle on a giant wave and still been relatively intact and had people onboard alive – but then, you know, there was that time a passenger aeroplane split into three pieces in mid-air and hurtled to the ground below leaving about a third of the people onboard pretty much fine and dandy. The show set a precedent for miraculous survival events right from the get-go so we can’t go crying foul six seasons in!

Just like how the Oceanic 815 pilot was quickly despatched by the Smoke monster, the crew of the Black Rock were also rapidly wiped out. Justification? Maybe Smokey just gets really mad at those directly responsible for bringing people to the Island! Obviously the root cause is Jacob, who Nameless wants to kill, but as a substitute he goes after the literal people that brought others – for Oceanic 815 it was the pilot, for the Black Rock the crew.

It was lucky for Ricardo that Smokey did run riot, arriving just in time for him to not be shish-kebab on the pointed end of Whitfield’s sword like the other helpless slaves.

The confidence trick on Ricardo began with a scanning. Just like Mr. Eko and in the same fashion Juliet and Kate once got flash-scanned in the jungle, Black Smoke took a deep look at Ricardo and then retreated to formulate a plan. First, it left him trapped, thirsty and desperate. Ricardo pulled out a loose nail only for a boar (that I don’t think was the Black Smoke in disguise but just another nice reference to earlier episodes with pesky boars truffling through dead people) to knock it away. Then Black Smoke took on the form of Isabella, the one thing Nameless knew Ricardo wanted more than anything else.

Managing to convince Ricardo he was in hell, Nameless (as Isabella) managed the conjuring trick of making it sound like the Black Smoke was approaching. Let’s just pause for a second and consider this, because there is a reasonable explanation. See, there’s the big Black Smoke we are now well-familiar with, but there have been fleeting appearances of the ‘little’ Black Smoke.

Now I’ll venture this little wispy Black Smoke, like some kind of extra offshoot, is the bit that can transform into other people. The big Black Smoke is the one that can scan, travel long distances and, of course, pick people up and drag them off and smack them around to death. No doubt the ‘wispy’ bit rejoins the main Black Smoke when it’s not been sent off, clicking away, on manifestation duties. Maybe I'm over-thinking it. But I digress.

Through this Isabella encounter, and then faking her ‘death’, Nameless turned up in the ‘man in black’ form we have, perhaps, considered to be his original body but which, by the episode’s end, we can figure probably isn’t. Nameless would later remark that Jacob had stolen his body. Maybe that means Jacob now physically occupies the body that was once his – or the body that was once his is long gone and he has since had to exist in different forms, such as Man In Black and Locke.

Nameless had now got Ricardo mentally and physically in a state where he was very amenable for coercion and, with the offer of some food that this time Ricardo did take (note that previously, with the priest in black, Ricardo declined the food offered in prison – he was of stronger will back then – but it was left there for him, for later!), he was ready to believe he was in hell and that there was a devil out there he could kill with a dagger through the heart, just so long as he didn’t let him speak, which would earn him the gift of seeing Isabella again.

A few things here. First, Nameless’ promise that Ricardo would see Isabella again is certainly one he could provide. He’d done it once already! Sure, Ricardo, you can see her again – just give me a minute to go and turn into her. . . In that sense, Ricardo wasn’t quite making the bargain he thought he was (and makes me figure the promises he's been making to The Others and the Candidates is also equally rife with 'not quite as it seems' smallprint). Second, this business of a dagger through the heart before the victim could speak was, of course, the same instruction given to Sayid to use against Locke (as Nameless).

Locke managed to speak before Sayid stabbed him, and Jacob managed to intercept Ricardo when he attempted his assassination. Are we to believe that if Sayid or Ricardo had managed to stab Jacob or Nameless before they spoke it would have killed them? Is it really so vital, the not-getting-to-say-a-word-beforehand part? I don’t have an answer for that.

Also rather flummoxing was why Nameless, when speaking to Ricardo, elected to divulge that he was, in fact, the Black Smoke. For viewers watching it did make us wonder whether Nameless was really the honest one, and that what he was telling Ricardo about Jacob could potentially be the truth. But why tell Ricardo this?

Me? I think he made a mistake. I think Nameless, so filled with such bitterness and evidently cut off from humanity, wasn’t quite as refined a confidence trickster with Ricardo as when he became Locke and manipulated Ben. With Ricardo he didn’t rein in his own way with the truth quite enough, but he’d learn better as we recently saw when he omitted telling The Temple Others that he was the Black Smoke that had slaughtered the people left behind. Jacob, too, when he had eventually battered and drown-threatened Ricardo into accepting he wasn’t really dead, came to a new realisation that showed him he needed to refine how he was conducting himself on the Island.

Jacob’s attitude was that people’s innate goodness would ultimately rise above Nameless’ tactics, would surpass their corrupt ways, and they would find their own realisation about how to be good without him having to “step in”. Ricardo’s remarks that Nameless certainly would step in gave him pause. How does Jacob, who needs man to use his own free will to find the right path, get around this? He appoints an advisor, a go-between.

Unlike Nameless, Jacob would not grant promises he could not keep. He could not bring Isabella back, nor could he absolve Ricardo of his sins. And so, to avoid a fate in hell (very important, his belief in hell), Ricardo didn’t want to die. One touch from Jacob later, instant immortality is granted. And for the next 150 years Ricardo served Jacob’s bidding, changing into Richard and seeing the Island become more populated with people – Others – considered to be ‘good people’ that, unbeknownst to Richard, were potential candidates as Jacob’s successor.

As is fitting, Jacob didn’t even tell Richard more than bare minimum (he, too, needed to have free will to choose the right path) which, following Jacob’s death, was what caused his crisis of faith and made him return to that deep-rooted belief that the Island really was hell and Jacob had lied to him all along. Thank goodness for Hurley!

Richard’s collapse of faith meant he finally stepped up to the door Nameless had left open for him all those many years ago with that invitation to return should he change his mind. The longterm strategy very nearly paid off; Richard almost gave himself over to ‘the dark side’ until Hurley popped up with messages from Isabella.

Now, if the Isabella Richard saw and interacted with on the Black Rock was really Nameless in disguise – as it surely was – then what is this apparition that Hurley can see and speak to? It would appear to be a stronger manifestation of the same spiritual life-after-death world that Miles can tap into. It’s not something exclusive to the Island, but it’s a capacity that Miles and Hurley have perhaps only possessed because they have been on the Island. There are dead people on the Island that are Nameless in disguise. And there are dead people seen that aren't him, which must be sourced from somewhere else. . .

Let’s hold on to the idea of their being a ‘source’ for dead souls, like Isabella, as we consider the metaphor Jacob presented to Ricardo about the function of the Island.

Jacob: “Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell. There’s many other names for it too: malevolence, evil, darkness. Here it is, swirling around in the bottle, unable to get out because if it did it would spread. The cork is this island and it’s the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs.”

I mentioned earlier that this episode induced parallels with The Swan Station, and this metaphor of Jacob’s is a big one. Consider The Swan, and the function of pushing the button every 108 minutes to vent electromagnetism. Fundamentally The Swan functioned as the only thing keeping this devastating power in check. Seems the Island works on a similar principle, serving as a cap on a nebulous mass of all that is bad to prevent it from spreading out into the world.

It’s a pretty big concept to swallow, no question. But whilst we’re here, let’s really think big about this.

I believe Lost may be trying to introduce notions of there being a good and evil – sources for each that exist in the world. Now we are presented with Jacob, and Nameless, and our religion-aware minds wonder if they are representations of characters we know already. Is Jacob God, Nameless the Devil? Or are they angels – one fallen, one pure? I am forming up a belief that Jacob and Nameless, these notions of good and evil, they’re not of religious iconography, these are what religious ideas are based on.

Jacob remarked that Ricardo called it hell. That is, in Ricardo’s understanding of the world due to his religious upbringing, the place where all evil lies is termed hell. But hell is just a name, a religious interpretation of the real truth which is this nebulous source of darkness and evil the Island sits above, like a cork in a wine bottle. And maybe, if there’s this vague source of evil that some religions call hell, there is also the opposite – the white to this black – that some religions call heaven. Is this where the likes of Isabella, that Hurley can see, stem from? Is there a paradise Island somewhere, serving as a cork for this place also? Or does the Island cover both these sources – evil and goodness together – hence why both can, indeed need to, exist there?

Black and white, opposing forces, locked together. The theme has been there from the very beginning and the Island might just be the epicentre of both.

Jacob and Nameless, it would seem, are the determining balancing act keeping a lid on things. If one leaves then, like a one-sided see-saw, there is an upset in the equilibrium and the cork pops off and it all goes wrong. If Nameless leaves, it’s over.

When they spoke together at the end of the episode, Nameless once more re-stated his urge to leave with the connotation being that it was Jacob, and purely Jacob, that was preventing him from doing so. The only way he can go is over Jacob’s dead body, and even that comes with the caveat of their being no replacement to take over, to take up the seat on the other side of the see-saw and return the balance.

The real ab aeterno we’re interested in concerns these two – the story of Jacob and Nameless, of how Nameless lost his body and developed the urge to kill Jacob. That, I feel, is subject matter for a finale. The finale. In the end we’re going to need to understand the beginning, and I am starting to believe the end is going to represent a new beginning.

Some day, maybe, these two men will sit together on the Island. . .

. . . immortally locked in an opposing battle on the Island interminably. They’ll watch over the Island, expecting more people to come, and the game will go on. Lost was originally going to be called 'Circle'; maybe with Jack and Locke as replacement guardians of the Island everything will come full circle and start anew with them, ab aeterno.

Analysis: 6.8 Recon

I’d been waiting for a Sawyer-centric episode this season because I believed it would provide good grounds upon which to gain a foothold in understanding the Alternate Timeline. Why was Sawyer so important in this respect? Because he was the only character that we have seen Jacob touch before ‘the incident’ in 1977.

In essence, this could have meant that Sawyer was the only person in both timelines that had been touched by Jacob. Everyone else – Kate and Jack and the rest – in the Alternate Timeline were existing in a world where Jacob almost surely had no guiding hand because the tangent Alternate Timeline stemmed from a point before Jacob intervened to guide them to the Island (and what we were seeing then, arguably, is the people they would have been for better or for worse). After Recon, however, I am now fairly convinced that Sawyer in the Alternate Timeline was never touched by Jacob. Indeed, in this timeline Sawyer doesn’t even go by the name Sawyer at all.

What are we to make of this? Well, the finer points about how Jacob’s touch doesn’t exist in this Alternate Timeline is a debate you could turn your brain inside out trying to fathom. I shan’t bother with that, rather I’ll deal with the broad view: The Alternate Timeline is a world where Jacob has exerted no influence (at the very least on our candidate Losties, but potentially on no one – suggesting this is a completely Jacobless world).

This is an idea I’ve been kicking around in my thoughts for a few episodes. The fact that the Island is a part of the Alternate Timeline does pull me away from casting Jacob completely out of the Alternate Timeline picture. We know Ben and Roger were once there, for example. Miles in this episode remarks that his father works in a musuem - but you have to figure that Miles was still more than likely born on the Island. The finer details probably don't need to be puzzled over; I am now fairly firm in the belief that Jacob definitely is not a part of the candidates’ lives (or the lives the candidates interacted with, such as Miles and Charlotte) in the Alternate Timeline and this is the entire point of it.

What does this mean then? Actually, it gives me good grounds to form a basis about the Island and what it means. Slowly, over the course of Season 6, episode by episode we have been seeing various characters on-Island and in the Alt-Timeline and slowly that has allowed us to compare and contrast to begin to reach conclusions. Fundamentally, I believe the Alt-Timeline lets us see the person as a lesser version of who they really are – it was Jacob and the Island that allowed the real person’s character to flourish and present itself.

In fast and loose terms, Jack was a man struggling to be a father to his son in the Alt-Timeline. He was a good man under tough circumstances. Who is he on the Island? The same, only larger-scale. Struggling to be a true leader under incredibly tough circumstances.

It’s as though, through the Alternate Timeline, we are getting a glimpse at the person Jacob knew was there and the potential for the person they could be on the Island. He just had to bring them to the Island to test his theory – just like he had brought many people before. Candidate after candidate. The whole point of the show Lost we are watching is that this group – the Oceanic 815 people – they’re going to be the ones that finally prove him right.

Consider Sayid. In the Alternate Timeline he was a tempered version of his torturer nature, struggling to be a good man even at the cost of himself (with Nadia). Even in that timeline his murderous impulse could not be suppressed. On the Island, this was further emphasised.

Sayid sat idly back and watched girl-on-girl action whilst Claire deviated from nervously reaching for Kate’s hand to turning on her with a knife before deciding she’d done right with Aaron and liked Kate again. I didn’t really like what went on with Claire’s character this episode so I’ll put it down to a slight aberration and move on.

In the Alternate Timeline Ben proved to be a better ‘father figure’ to Alex in forsaking his own lust for power for her. He didn’t quite manage as much on the Island but, eventually, a humble man emerged out of his tormented lost soul as Ilana showed him pity. That man, the man that Jacob hoped existed, was there inside him. In short: Ben is a good guy in both timelines - the Island provoked extremes.

In this light, what happened to Locke was even more tragic. The Alt-Timeline showed a good man at peace with his limitations and finding happiness. It was Nameless that fundamentally got to him and corrupted him. The Locke on the Island, the one that looked into the Black Smoke and saw a hopeful white light, got suckered in and used entirely.

Is there anyone still making a claim that Nameless is a potential good guy who's just misunderstood? I'm not. But the trick with Nameless is he believes he's got just cause for doing what he does - and that what makes him so charming and beguiling and, well, believable. Like all good con men, Nameless is incredibly convincing because he tells people what they want to hear and provides what they need. There was a great deal of irony when he told Sawyer – just before he sent him to the Hydra Island – that he was the best liar he had ever met!

Sawyer’s reconnaissance mission (the ‘recon’ of the title, but you all knew that, right? as well as it being a play on ‘re-con’, as in a confidence trick redone) was an intriguing sidequest. Did Nameless know what Sawyer would find over there? Or was it purely coincidental that he went over there and ran into Widmore? Me, I think Nameless sported a look of surprise when Sawyer told him about what he had found on Hydra Island which leads me to think he got a lot more than he expected.

What did Nameless send Sawyer over to Hydra Island for then? At the very least, I think, it was to get him out of the way. Note how he pulled Sawyer away from the group when he was becoming a voice of dissent? That’s one reason. Also, with Sawyer out of the frame for a while, Nameless could make some time with Kate and start drawing her into his circle. To her credit she wasn't easily-swayed (again, makes me still think she's hidden-candidate material!).

The conversation between Nameless and Kate felt like fertile ground for seeding future truths about Nameless. His remarks about having a crazy mother, about growing pains that he is still working through – it was all too oblique to be purely about manipulating Kate (though there was a bit of that going on, naturally!). Nameless also told Sawyer that he didn’t want to die and it seemed very pointed.

Pointed to what? I don’t know. We just don’t know on how big a scale we are supposed to consider Jacob and Nameless – whether they are uniquely mortal men caught up in an epic game between each other with an indefinite lifespan, or if they are more on a par with Godlike status. I’m veering more towards the former rather than the latter but, whatever the truth, it’s the basket within which Lost has put most of its eggs so let’s hope for a satisfying explanation before the end.

Meanwhile, over on Hydra Island. . .

. . . Sawyer quickly saw through ‘survivor’ Zoe. Realising she was part of a larger group, and sensing she wanted to get over to the mainland to conduct a little recon of her own (“How many people did you say were with you?” “Do you all have guns?”), he handed himself over for a meet ‘n’ greet with their leader.

Widmore, evidently, is setting up a defensive stronghold on Hydra Island. Busily erecting mobile Black Smoke Proof sonic fence perimeter I think it’s fair to say that he’s not come to the Island to become best friends with Nameless.

What we don’t know is whether Widmore has come to the Island to fight for the side of Jacob, or whether he’s simply come to fight for the Island for himself. I believed him when he said he and his people were not responsible for the deaths of all the Ajira people. (I suspect Nameless went over there and did all that – remember he once told Alpert that those were people that needed to be dealt with? I wonder if he didn't just send Sawyer over to make sure he hadn't missed any.)

After Widmore was no doubt manipulated during his previous tenure on the Island I reckon he’s looking to make reparations. (I hope he’s got a good explanation about how he looked after Locke when he came back in The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham, mind!) I’m not sure Jacob would wholly endorse coming to the Island with gun-toting personnel either, though – so if Widmore is part of Team Jacob I can’t help but wonder if he’s acting on his own initiative rather than following further instructions.

Who or what is behind the locked door on the submarine?

I’ll keep this simple. I think it’s Desmond. I’m either right or wrong.

Sawyer’s big agenda was revealed by the end of the episode to purely be one of playing Nameless and Widmore against each other and in the middle of the skirmish sneak off and make his escape. Old Sawyer, the every man for himself Sawyer, would have plotted this without involving anyone else. However, New Sawyer makes promises to never let Jin leave without Sun and to also take Kate with him. He's come a long way but I am getting a distinct vibe of sacrifice on the horizon for Sawyer. . .

We’ll see how that goes.

On-Island Sawyer is very much more the man he wanted to be than the Alternate Timeline James Ford. He remarked to Charlotte that, at the point where he could have gone one way or another, good guy or bad guy, he went to the side of the law rather than working against it. Trouble was that the ‘real Sawyer’ inside of him still wanted to exist, to right the past wrongs. Ostensibly, Alternate Timeline James Ford was a lesser version of Sawyer on-Island.

On-Island, Sawyer’s a top class con man and liar. In the Alternate Timeline Miles knows he’s keeping something secret, Charlotte sees through his tired chat-up fa├žade. Sawyer on-Island wanders in with a sloppy grin and a sunflower to see Juliet and it’s idyllic. In the Alternate Timeline the sunflower-routine is weak and almost scornfully derided by Charlotte with, “You blew it.”

James Ford knows it, too. In some ways his ‘inner-Sawyer’ was dying to come through. He pointed Charlotte towards the drawer that housed his big secret because he wanted to catch her looking. Deep down, he wanted her to see it – maybe so he could talk about it, or so he could throw her out for not being, say, Juliet. When he looked at his reflection in the mirror his response was to punch it, frustrated at what he was seeing.

See, in Alternate Timeline world, reflections have been a symbolic element. They’ve been much-discussed so I won’t labour the point (but I will encourage you to keep your eyes peeled for the next episode for Alt-Timeline reflections and see what you make of them). Consider Jack; looking in mirrors he has seen a cut on his neck and a scar from an operation he doesn’t remember – truth of another timeline reflected back. Locke was looking in the mirror when he made the decision to call Jack about spinal surgery – seeing the man that wanted to reach out to the ‘man of faith’. Sayid, when reflected in the glass of the door before Nadia answered, had a face half-obscured in darkness and, significantly, he didn’t look at himself (literally not facing up to his own self).

James Ford looked at his reflection in the Alternate Timeline and saw Sawyer. It was a taunting reflection; the man that could hunt down Anthony Cooper and exact revenge and be the man he wanted to be. The difference is James Ford never had Jacob’s guiding hand, leading him to the Island – the place where he could be his true self. Again, it's pertinent that Sawyer actually exacted his revenge on the Island when he killed Anthony Cooper - it was the place he got to be who he really was.

I’ve said it before, that the Island serves as a form of ‘proving ground’ for people to find their true natures. Perhaps it’s the very nature of the Island that makes it such a fine place for Jacob and Nameless to have staged this battle between themselves. It won’t be that simple, of course. Like the Alternate Timeline, it’s close to the truth but not quite hitting the mark. Like the truth watered-down. It’s on the Island where the real truth lies, and we’re getting closer and closer to finding out precisely what that is.

Analysis: 6.7 Dr. Linus

Where did Dr. Linus come from? Upon initial meeting, and with some vague theorising around Season 6 so far, I had wondered whether Dr. Linus – Ben – was one and the same as the boy we saw on the Island, the one that Sayid shot, the one that got carried into The Temple.

With this episode we got just about enough information to cast aside such theorising and start dealing with pertinent facts. Dr. Linus, whilst tending to his father, Roger, held a brief conversation about what their lives might have been like had they remained on the Island. It’s the first time an Alternate Timeline character has made any reference to the Island but it was a much-needed and pertinent clarification. The Alternate Timeline is, then, a Tangent Timeline. It was a divergent timeline created in 1977, during ‘the incident’. (Indeed, it’s what ‘the incident’ is!)

This is worth clearing up. It explains why the Island Timeline continued to exist for the likes of Jack and Kate and Sawyer after ‘the incident’.

See, imagine they hadn’t continued to exist on the Island. Imagine the Island Timeline had ceased and simply switched to the Alternate Timeline. Well, as we know, that’s a timeline where Jack and the rest take a flight on a certain Oceanic 815 and arrive safely at L.A. That means they don’t go on the Island. They don’t find The Swan. No electromagnetic anomaly, frozen donkey wheels and time travel trips to the 70s to, ultimately, be a part of ‘the incident’ at all.

Inevitably then, this would have created a paradoxical collapse of the space-time continuum. So instead the Tangent Timeline, or Alternate Timeline, was created and the Island Timeline and the key people in it simply remained in existence as a causality necessity. Strangely, this actually suggests that the Island Timeline is the subordinate timeline, but that’s not really the case – Jack, at least, bears curious memories and trace marks of the timeline his alternate version stemmed from.

Scars of an operation he doesn’t recall. His mother believes it was an event that happened when he was a boy. Course corrected memory? Or was it a real event in the Alternate Timeline that Jack’s brain, still filtering out Island memories, doesn’t recall? Probably not a key question but the important point I am making here is that the Alternate Timeline exists. It isn’t some narrative construct for us, the audience, to have juxtaposed against the Island events. The Alternate Timeline has forged a viable place in Lost – it’s a part of the tapestry. (I guess we can stop thinking about the show as a flat mosaic of timeline pieces and more of a sculptured assembly of events.)

Heavy-going stuff this, I know. But to my opening question. Where did Dr. Linus come from?

He came from the Island. We have to figure that all events we saw up to 1977 happened as we saw them. Ben got shot. He got taken to The Temple and revived. Then he found himself back amongst the Dharma people and, instead of living at The Barracks for most of his life, he instead departed the Island with Roger and went to live a ‘regular’ life.

Interesting that Roger ruminated over what their lives could have been like had they remained on the Island. Despite the fact that his relationship with his son in the Alternate Timeline appears far better than it ever was in the Island Timeline, Roger still muses that their lives would have been better on the Island.

So far we’ve seen examples of characters whose lives appear better in the Alternate Timeline, without the Island. Jack, with his son. Locke, with Helen. Claire was doing OK, too. Sayid was the only real exception – being as ‘bad’ off-Island as he was on it. And Dr. Linus? Well, by the end of this episode, I reckon it’s fair to say he, like Sayid, is similar in both timelines – only he’s now as ‘good’ off-Island as he is on it.

Off-Island, in the Alternate Timeline, Dr. Linus sensed a chance of seizing the power he could barely acknowledge he wanted – to become principle of the school. Encouraged by none other than “the substitute”. . .

. . . and aided by the ever-flustered Arzt (formaldehyde on his shirt at school a slight reference to his death-by-dynamite on the Island (formaldehyde being the preservative chemical pumped into dead people to stop them rotting)) Dr. Linus had temptation dangled before him. The cost? Alex.

Alex Rousseau in this timeline makes me smile, thinking somewhere there’s Danielle and Robert living a good life together, raising a super-smart daughter. And whilst not at the level of daughter, Ben is certainly fond of Alex beyond care he'd oblige other students. Like on the Island, Ben is faced with the choice of power at the cost of Alex’s life (off-Island her educational progress to do well, on-Island her literal life at Keamy’s gunpoint).

We know what choice he made on the Island.

In the Alternate Timeline Ben didn’t have to make the horrible mistake he made. In the Alternate Timeline Dr. Linus relinquished the chance of power for self-contentment and the good of others. He even gave Arzt his parking spot! Why was Dr. Linus able to be so selfless? Put it down to daddy issues. He did firmly state that he was a doctor after all, and there’s a certain other doctor that has daddy issues well-publicised. Like Jack, Ben it seems is a character whose daddy issues drove him down some tormented roads.

In the Island Timeline Roger Linus was a mean, lousy father for the most part and so, cast out from his love, Ben found a new father: the Island and, by extension, Jacob. He was the dutiful son for many years and yet, towards the end, he felt betrayed. He killed Roger with poison gas. He killed Jacob with a dagger in the chest.

Miles stated something intriguing; up to the last moment Jacob held hope for Ben, hope that he was wrong. “What about you?” Suddenly that last defiant question now sounds like a challenge of Ben’s worth, and one he failed. Jacob may have hoped for the best but, it seems certain, he expected the worst and made provision for it (Hurley and his guitar case with a note for Dogen pretty much exemplifies that point).

Jacob’s hope for being wrong wasn’t misplaced, though. Just ill-timed. Ben, by the episode’s end, and his wonderful confession scene with Ilana, had finally learned humility and penance for his mistakes.

The very thing that Nameless, as Locke, came to offer Ben was the very thing he had finally realised wasn’t the most important thing at all. He didn't want to rule the Island. What he wanted was something to work for to earn affection that he never got, and to ultimately fill the hole left by the thing he held most dear. It was Alex. It was always Alex. Ben, the poor boy with the bad father, he just wanted to be a better father to someone else. In this we can better understand why he was apparently so consumed with finding a resolution to the Island’s fertility issues that Richard Alpert was so dismissive of. Alpert dismissed it because it was not in the interests of the Island, or Jacob. It was something Ben, under his own leadership, was directing – for once serving his own needs rather than the will of the Island.

I believe it was significant that Ilana herself remarked that Jacob was like a father to her. We don’t know enough about her story, how Jacob touched her life or where she learned all she knows. But one thing is certain is that her faith is absolutely devout - in the name of the father. . .

When Ben states that he will go to Nameless and his people, Ilana realises that it would be better to have Ben with her rather than against her. Despite the pain at housing Jacob’s murderer, there are bigger concerns. Ilana sacrificed her own vengeance for the greater good. In counterpoint, the other faithful servant of Jacob’s was reeling from the news of Jacob’s death.

There was a little more dust blown off the pages of the very old book called The Richard Alpert Life Story. He had been to The Temple and met with scenes of a massacre – many of his people dead, the rest forsaking what he had followed his whole life. Jacob’s death was, again, an echo of daddy issue betrayal. Alpert had been touched by Jacob and given everlasting life for a purpose he fully believed would one day be revealed – and then Jacob died and hope was extinguished. So Alpert went to the Black Rock, clearly to where his Island life began. (Again, there was an echo of this same idea with the surviving heroes going back to the beach camp – the place where their Island life began.)

As has been subtly hinted at on occasion, Alpert almost surely arrived on the Island on the Black Rock. Was he a slave or a member of the crew? We don’t yet know. Yet that he claimed to have never been back there would suggest that the place held bad memories for him. Either he did something bad there, or something bad happened to him. More information please!

Alpert was also certain of one thing: due to being touched by Jacob he was unable to kill himself. We have seen that before, of course. Most notably there was Jack standing on a bridge. . .

. . . but there was also Michael and his various attempts at ending his life that didn’t pan out (does this mean he was once touched by Jacob?). . .

Michael maybe even had a bigger purpose he never managed to fulfil due to Nameless, in the form of Christian Shephard and Libby, steering him away. There's a big theory to be mined out of that idea. One for another time.

Last time we saw Jack he was staring out to sea. Jacob was sure he’d work things out that way, was sure he would realise he had big things ahead of him. Well, the tide is turning Jacob’s way because Jack is now a man of real faith. His decision to light the dynamite fuse and sit with Alpert with absolute conviction of his survival showed a level of unswerving steel in Shephard’s eyes that encapsulates Jacob’s belief: He’s got what it takes.

Note how Alpert almost instantly deferred to Jack’s leadership (ever the slave, ready for commands?). Hope rekindled that Jacob’s death was not pointless – but it was so his successor could emerge. It’s fitting that as Jack is assuming the role of Jacob’s champion his opponent resides in the form of John Locke. Ever since Season One Jack and Locke have been at odds – forever on opposite sides of belief to each other. Jacob and the Man In Black were rivals. Now the battle continues in its new form of Jack vs Locke.

That’s assuming Locke is still definitely dead, mind. Only, you know, Ilana said something worth pulling up on when she was telling Sun about ‘candidates’. Ilana said there were just six left.

Six? Only I count five still alive. A ‘Kwon’. Jack. Hurley. Sawyer. Sayid. Ilana knows that Locke is dead, that Nameless has claimed his body. Surely that counts him out as a ‘candidate’ right?

(Aside. Nameless, when he met up with Ben. With one subtle force-like gesture of his hand he released the ankle chains that had Ben bound. Hold up. Nameless can do that? Since when!? Aside over.)

Ilana says there are six candidates left. A slip of the tongue? Doesn’t seem likely. So either she still believes there’s hope for Locke as a ‘candidate’ yet, perhaps in whatever flickers of Locke survive within the form of Nameless. Or there’s a candidate that’s remained hidden in plain sight. The one key person missing from the cave ceiling of names that Jacob did touch. Kate Austen.

That’s what I think, anyway. Jacob’s secret candidate, last seen managing to secrete herself in plain sight within Nameless’ group in order to keep close to Claire. She just very well might be Jacob’s ace in the hole. Meanwhile, brilliantly, the remaining band of Jacob's people got together at last and we were treated to another slow-motion reunion on the beach accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s sublime musical score.

And that’s about it. Nothing else in this episode of major note, I believe. Yep. Another week, another episode of Lost, and we’re all just about up to speed. Our heroes are now together to plan their next move. Nameless has his band of people, being lead to surely be used and betrayed by him to achieve his own ends. The stage is set. Oh, but wait. . . What’s that poking out of the water. . .

Straight out of leftfield, here comes Widmore in a submarine!

Was it symbolic that he ignored the people on the beach to continue with his mission? Does that mean he is set on working alongside Nameless? When he once told Locke (in The Life And Death Of Jeremy Bentham) that if he didn’t go back to the Island then the wrong side was going to win the war, was he talking about Team Jacob or Team Nameless? Only Locke going back to the Island is the very thing that facilitated Nameless to be in his current position of ascendancy.

I’m going with the idea that Widmore is there to oppose Nameless, though. When Widmore was leader of The Others maybe he was duped by Nameless, in some form or other, and it resulted in some bad decisions (kill Alex?) and bad judgement that lead to him being banished. Since then he has learned the error of his ways and now he returns to the Island knowing the situation is dire since his plan to have Ben removed failed, Did he somehow know Ben would be the implement Nameless would select to effect the loophole murder of Jacob? Was that what the Freighter mission was about?. I don’t know the answer, but I can’t wait to find out!