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Back to the Source: Lost Questions, More on "Across the Sea"

Welcome to this week's second look at Lost, which only has three and a half hours left before it fades to black. (Or white.)

Once again this week, I'll be taking a second look at this week's episode of Lost ("Across the Sea") by answering reader questions submitted via comments, Twitter, and email.

While I discussed "Across the Sea" in full over here (along with my views about why I didn't care for the episode), it's time to dive deeper and get to some further theories, doubts, and questions that we're all thinking about.

So, without further ado, let's grab our Senet boards, take a sip of wine, and let's discuss.

[NOTE: While I've already seen next week's astonishing and shocking episode ("What They Died For") at last night's Lost Live event (which I covered for The Daily Beast), I won't be discussing it here, so you can safely stay spoiler-free.]

Reaction to "Across the Sea" seemed to be extremely mixed, with viewers seeming to either love the episode or loathe it. I fell into the latter camp: while I appreciated the hows and whys of the story that unfolded here, I had to question the choices that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse made in slating this episode in this particular order. Given that there are so few installments left, I didn't want to take a breather just when the momentum was going in full-swing before the end... and I certainly didn't want to break away from our core cast to focus on a pair of bickering deities whom we only met at the very end of last season.

There were some important answers buried within "Across the Sea" that are essential to a full understanding of Lost as a single entity, but, as I stated in my post on Wednesday morning, I felt that the episode amounted to little more than an information dump, a way for the writers to directly download a huge amount of exposition to our frontal lobes without grounding it in much emotion or characterization.

But I discussed all of that and more the other day. It's time now instead to look at your questions and thoughts stemming from "Across the Sea."

Adam and Eve. Amanda from Michigan asked, "Way back in season 1, when they introduced Adam and Eve, were they planning the whole Jacob/MIB storyline? We didn't even know that Jacob really existed until the very end of season 5. I'm guessing this is evidence that the writers knew what they were doing all along."

Um, not quite. Lindelof and Cuse have admitted that the Jacob-Man in Black mythos really was developed in the period when they were beginning to break the second season after the Season One ender when the hatch was blown open. The skeletons of Adam and Eve, discovered by the group at the beginning of Season One in "House of the Rising Sun," weren't planted there by the writers originally as the corpses of the Man in Black and Mother.

I doubt Lindelof and Cuse will ever reveal just who they originally meant them to be... but it's safe to say that they had a very different answer in mind way back then, especially because Jack--though not an expert--dated the clothing of the skeletal remains and said that the level of decomposition indicated they had been dead approximately forty or fifty years, a point that reader Kim Harrington also pointed out.

Had Lost not gone on for six seasons, through alternate universes and various time periods and integrated sibling deities with divine and demonic powers, I dare say that we would have eventually learned something very different about "Adam and Eve" in the cave than this.

Jacob. Reader stimpqb1 wrote, "Maybe why Jacob lets people figure things out for themselves because he has no more answers that anyone else. The only thing he knows is that given time people will make decisions and there might be good or bad things that come from those decisions."

I think that's somewhat true. He was given an awareness of his position as guardian of the Source by Mother, who seemed to transfer a huge amount of power to him through the ritual... and he's had thousands of years to fulfill that duty. But much of what has unfolded has been on Jacob's terms and his belief that man is inherently good rather than evil. While he seems to have chosen these individuals for a higher purpose, he's leaving their ultimate decisions in their own hands. He's definitely a proponent of free will, even if he's pulling strings to set up encounters that will themselves lead to choices.

Eventually darkness will overtake light and the cycle will have to begin anew again. His fallen brother will find a way to kill him and attempt to flee the island, perhaps not by taking a plane or a submarine, but by returning to the source itself, as he was trying to do with the wheel. Unable to find the Source for thirty years (it seems to be a guardian's power to prevent others from finding the Source and thus shielding it), the Nameless One wants perhaps to extinguish the light and have it go out everywhere in the world? Perhaps that's why the stakes are so high for Jacob: letting the Man in Black leave, especially in his monstrous form, would result in the end of everything.

Likewise, rockauteur asked, "At what point did MIB regain his corporeal form to interact with Jacob? When was the statue built? How is Jacob able to leave the island? Is this a power he acquired or found that he had? Or did he literally travel off the island on a vessel or using the donkey wheel? Was Mother able to travel off the island (I'm thinking not)?" KenB echoed some of these questions with a few of his own: "If Nemesis is incorporeal but Jacob can come and go freely, then what are the rules about leaving the island and therefore what is it exactly that Jacob is protecting?"

All very good questions and likely many that will remain unanswered at the end of the series. It's my belief that the smoke monster didn't "regain his corporeal form" so much as begin the pattern of appearances by which we know him in the present day: he selected the image of a dead person, namely himself.

As for how Jacob was able to get off the island, it's perhaps wise to recall the words of his nameless brother from this week's episode: "One day you can make up your own game and everyone else will have to follow your rules."

I believe that the guardian has the ability to change the rules. Jacob believes he can be in more than one place at once and so he can be. I don't believe that he actually left the island unguarded but was perhaps able to send himself across the sea to appear there as well at key moments in our characters' lives. After all, I still maintain--as I suggested very early on this season--that the flashbacks we've seen throughout the series has been Jacob watching the characters and deciding which of them will be chosen to act as candidates to be his replacement.

It's no mistake that these characters were brought to the island, as we've been told time and time again, they were brought here for a reason and each one of them needed to be brought there in order to "let go" of the traumas and injuries of their past life. The island acted as a looking glass into their souls, enabling many of them to achieve redemption, to progress their grief, or rage, or loss, to sublimate those emotions and process them in a magical place, an impossible land like Oz or Narnia that was free of the distractions of the modern world.

Wine. Caitlin asked, "Now that MIB has smashed the wine bottle (in a different espisode this season), what will the candidate drink from during the handing-over ritual? Or won't the candidate drink from it, because the island is at the bottom of the sea and 'it only has to end once'?"

As I wrote on Wednesday, after seeing this episode, I didn't think that the wine was the important part of the ritual, just part of it like many religious rituals in many different belief systems. It just signified the benediction and the oath that the replacement was taking, completing the prayer. It could have been any cup or any wine. Or anything, really. The prayer--the words spoken--and the belief that they impart are the true essence of the power transfer.

The Nameless One. An anonymous commenter wrote, "I don't understand the deliberately not naming Jacob's brother. What purpose does it serve to not give him a name? Last night was the perfect opportunity to name him."

It was the perfect opportunity to name him, which is why Lindelof and Cuse subverted expectations by not naming him. When you name something, you give it form. Some ancient belief systems believe that if you know someone's name, it gives you power over them. Throughout the series, names have been incredibly important: they are identity signifiers. Various lists, names on the wall, names on the lighthouse compass, they all track individual people who are recognizable by their names.

If something has no name, it's therefore unknowable in any complete sense. The Nameless One has many names--smoke monster, Man in Black, Esau, Fake Locke, Smocke, Flocke, etc.--but no true name. By denying us any concrete identity marker, Team Darlton has managed to keep Jacob's brother somewhat unknowable and therefore somewhat mysterious and unpredictable by nature.

Claudia didn't have a name for him. She didn't know that he, Jacob's dark twin, even existed until he came into the world. She couldn't name him as she didn't have a name for him (remember how important it was that Aaron be named Aaron?) and Mother (who also is nameless, save for her familial relationship to the boys) killed Claudia before she had a chance to think of another name.

By not naming Jacob's brother, did Mother unwittingly--or intentionally--lead to his eventual betrayal? Did she need him to leave her, to attempt to find his own identity with the humans, knowing that he would only day return and punish her for preventing him from knowing about the world across the sea? From keeping a real knowledge of good and evil from him?

Jacob learns of evil because he sees the potential for such within himself, acting out of anger and vengeance, making a fatal mistake that results in the transformation of his brother into a black pillar of smoke, a fate worse than death. The Nameless One is corrupted by his own desire to leave. Jacob is able to sacrifice his own freedom for the greater good. His brother wants only to leave so he can be free. He's further corrupted by his time among the humans, by those who want to claim the power, to use it, to study it, and harness it. But the Source is meant to burn on its own, to be viewed from afar, and never to be touched, lest it and mankind be forever corrupted.

And another anonymous commenter (ye gods!) asked, "Just how did MiB know how to create a bomb using a wrist watch as detonator? He was born and raised on the island and was not the possessor of any great knowledge (evidenced by the basic child-like question she asked Mother). He now possesses Locke's body ... Locke was a box salesman, right? So just, where did he learn how to create a bomb?"

It was seen here that the Nameless One has many skills that he shouldn't, he seems to possess knowledge of things from across the sea even though he's never been there... and he's watched over humans on the island for thousands of years. Something tells me he's picked up a few pointers along the way, even how to rig a bomb (which was, after all, harvested from Widmore's explosives on the plane).

And Gregory wrote, "Jacob's brother is dead. His skeleton is lying in a cave. And although spirits may reappear here and there I shall quote Ben who I think said, "Dead is dead." This led me to think that Smokey is as much Locke right now, as I projected him to be the MiB before. And/Or although Smokey may have the same ambitions as Jacob's brother, it is not in essence Jacob's brother as portrayed in the episode."

Gregory, see above. Yes, the Nameless One's body is laying in the cave with that of Mother, but I believe that his interaction with the Source stripped his essence, his corrupted soul, from his body, transforming it into something dark and evil: the smoke monster, who then took the form of a dead person, himself. It's the start of his whole M.O., really.

Sawyer. Brian raised an interesting theory that had Sawyer taking over for The Man in Black, due to the fact that he seems to want to get off the island and was able to see the ghostly image of the young Jacob. The latter was a point of contention for Vishwananatha BU as well: "Wonder how/why you forgot/slipped to correlate the scenes of sawyer and MIB seeing the flashes of the boy with this episode...Gives a strong hint about sawyer's possible future."

I've said repeatedly throughout this season that I felt as though the dichotomy between Jack and Sawyer was meant to echo that of Jacob and his Nemesis... and the earlier one set up between Locke and Jack, with Jack finally stepping into the role of man of faith and Sawyer now fulfilling his role as skeptic. But besides for the obvious parallels, I don't think that Sawyer is being groomed as a replacement for Smokey. For one, we don't know that Smokey needs a replacement... The island seemed to exist before there was a smoke monster and Mother implicitly warned the boys against accessing the Source. Two, I've long said that the reason Sawyer was able to see the young Jacob is because he is a candidate and had been in Jacob's presence prior. I don't see it as an indication that Sawyer is being groomed as a candidate for Smokey or will take over Smokey's role as island prisoner.

Candidates. Rockauteur also raised an interesting point about parallels between the Dharma Initiative's button-pushing exercise and the role of protector on the island, writing, "One more thing: no one really ever discusses the parallels to Jacob hunting for his replacement with the candidates and the Dharma Initiative with the person that has to press the 108 button. Desmond was "a candidate" for that job by washing up onshore and replacing Kelvin... Interesting parallel..."

I thought this was a nice touch as well. Desmond was clearly a candidate to replace Kelvin, who wanted to get the hell off the island, providing a nice parallel with Jacob and his brother. Desmond was quite happy to press the button every 108 minutes, keeping the world safe (the island's human protector) while Kelvin wanted to shirk his responsibilities and go back across the sea. But it doesn't quite work that way.

Like Jacob, Desmond makes a fatal mistake: not pressing the button, which causes the crash of Oceanic Flight 815. (Just like Jacob accidentally creates the smoke monster.) But in doing so, Desmond saw that he had to reclaim his purpose and the act--which brought the castaways there, resulted in him dedicating his life--possibly the whole of his existence--to pushing the button and keeping the island safe.

Could it be that because of this role, which due to the electromagnetic correlation with the Source and the energy of the Swan Station, the Dharma supplies continued to arrive? Because they knew that, just as Jacob had to protect the island, so too did a human, pressing the button every 108 minutes? Until, of course, something changed and the energy was released, making the sky purple and infusing Desmond with electromagnetic properties.

Those properties that Widmore wants to use for some purpose. But what if Widmore's intentions and Jacob's aren't the same? Just what is the Nameless One scared of regarding Desmond? Could it be that because of his tolerance to the energy, he can safely enter the Source? Hmmm...

Fate or coincidence? Yammer2002 asked, "I remember from Season 2 that a big deal was made regarding the original crash: Desmond was chasing Kelvin Inman out of the hatch, did not enter the "Numbers" in time, resulting in the meltdown and eventually causing the crash of Oceanic 815. This makes it seem that the passengers of Oceanic 815 were there "accidentally," as as result of Desmond not entering the Numbers in time. However, this season, with the Numbers in the cave, with Jacob's "touch",and with the Lighthouse numbers, we are led to believe that each of the Oceanic 6 characters were "chosen" by Jacob to be on the island. This conflicts with the "accidental" nature of the initial crash."

Yes, Jacob chose these people and they were all brought aboard Oceanic Flight 815 for a reason. The crash happened because Desmond didn't push the button, because he didn't believe. But what if he was given a crisis of conscience to make him believe? What if Jacob left that a choice for Desmond to make, knowing that he would have to chose and in doing so, the candidates would arrive on the island? (See also above for my thoughts on why it was important for Desmond to question. The questioning is what made him sacrifice his life to fulfill his purpose of pushing that button until someone else could replace him.)

Lost-X. Greg asked, "Is it possible that the Lost X universe isn't really an alternate reality, but the new reality? Since the beginning of this season, it's been pretty much assumed that it was the bomb at the end of last season that spawned this new reality and sunk the island. But, what if it wasn't that event that sunk the island? What if it's the event at the end of the series that sunk the island and the life of the Lost X is truly the new reality?"

That seems in keeping with the epilogue-theory that's been circulating all season but its a theory that I can't get behind. There seems to be more of a connection between what's unfolding within the mainstream reality and the Lost-X reality, which despite being set in two different timeframes, seem to be unfolding at the same rate and time. What happens in one reality affects the other; Desmond's subconsciousness getting shuttled over to the Lost-X timeline seems to confirm that. I think they're islands in the stream, divergent realities occurring side-by-side rather than a strict cause-and-effect relationship.

Endless Cycle. HipHopAnonymous wrote, "In retrospect it seems like the real point of the whole ep was to warn viewers that the island is simply never going to be explained to anyone's satisfaction because it's all an endless succession of pass-the-baton backwards through time, i.e. before 815 there was the Frenchies, and before them Dharma, before them the Others, before them Richard, before him there was Jacob and MiB, and before them, the 'Mother'. If we were to get her backstory, it would no doubt simply lead to another predecessor who indoctrinated her into the mysteries of the island, preceded by yet another predecessor, ad infinitum. Thus we can only learn the stories of the people who came to the island, never the story of the island itself or how it came to be. Because the island simply is. And apparently always has been. No origin needed or applicable."

Agreed. The island has always been. Trying to figure out where or when it came from and who proceeded Mother is a bit like unstacking a neverending series of matryoshka. There are questions within questions within questions. One protector follows another, the cycle continues unabated... until it doesn't. If the smoke monster escapes, if the light goes out, there will be nothing to protect any longer. Someone will have to make an enormous sacrifice, not just of the span of a human life, but for eternity, to protect the island and its nature.

You're right when you say that we can only learn the stories of the people who come to the island rather than those who came before Mother. The cycle continues, they are the variables in the equation. Will they choose the path of righteousness or evil? That's the eternal question and the eternal struggle, really. Not just of the island but of mankind in general.

Come back Wednesday to discuss next week's episode and head to the comments section here to discuss any of the above thoughts, theories, or additional questions...

Next week on the penultimate episode of Lost ("What They Died For"), Locke devises a new strategy while Jack's group searches for Desmond.


Veronica said…
It would be fascinating to know who Adam and Even were originally intended to be!
Thanks for considering my comment! So is it a bad thing that Lost didn't end up where it was originally intended to go? It's okay by me that the creative process takes them on twists and turns. We can be very thankful that Michael Emerson stayed for more than a few episodes, contra the original plan.

Man, I miss Ben. The show is not the same without him.
rockauteur said…
As I started to read your commentary, and answer my questions about Desmond, I too came to a realization that perhaps Desmond can safely enter the source. He survived the first blast when the hatch blew up - as well as Widmore's experiment - so perhaps he is the only one that can go to battle against Smokey - and why Locke himself couldn't kill him, assigning the task to Sayid. I think we will see Desmond access the source. Maybe he'll become white smoke! Just kidding about the last part. Maybe.
rockauteur said…
As I started to read your commentary, and answer my questions about Desmond, I too came to a realization that perhaps Desmond can safely enter the source. He survived the first blast when the hatch blew up - as well as Widmore's experiment - so perhaps he is the only one that can go to battle against Smokey - and why Locke himself couldn't kill him, assigning the task to Sayid. I think we will see Desmond access the source. Maybe he'll become white smoke! Just kidding about the last part. Maybe.
Maury Souza said…
This may seem random, but I want to know why Walt was kidnapped so long ago. What made him special? And why did we have to follow that storyline if it was going to lead nowhere?
Unknown said…
@Maury Souza

I've also been wondering about Walt, for some time now. They made such a big deal about Walt being "special" in the first couple of seasons. It was the crux of the first season finale. Can they really end the series without explaining that at all?

Another Walt mystery bothering me: Who appeared to Locke when he was lying shot in the Dharma mass grave, and to Shannon just before she was shot and killed? Walt isn't dead, so it wasn't his ghost. MIB can only take the appearance of dead people, so it wasn't him. Was it Jacob? (Who tends not to get directly involved, thus his hiring of Richard.) Was it Walt somehow, even though he was physically somewhere else? If so, he didn't say anything to Locke when they met briefly after Locke left the island. So what's the deal???

They also made a big deal about Aaron being "special" and how he HAD to be raised by Claire or terrible things would happen.

I fear with so little time left, neither of these "Ooo-this-is-so-important!" issues will be addressed.
Unknown said…
When teenage Jacob and his twin are boar hunting, they see some men thru the branches. One of those men looks A LOT like the Kelvin Inman character. Look closely in "Across the Sea" from 10:27 thru 10:45 - I don’t know what it would mean, but I believe that the actor in that scene is Clancy Brown.
Ally said…
I understand that the origins of Adam and Eve were not decided when they were first introduced, but why not have them be Rose and Bernard?

That's actually what I had assumed they intended (and would probably not show)- after R & B's 'finale' in the 70s they would live, and die, side by side together on the island. Sure, the 40-50 year comment is still wrong, but not by anywhere near as much. I thought that was a really touching (and subtle) way to sign off their story.

But it turns out that I was wrong.

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