LOST 6.09 Ab Aeterno (Richard Alpert)

Ab Aeterno a latin phrase which means Since the beginning of time. (figuratively) Since a very long time ago.

In this episode we see how the Black Rock sailing ship and Richard Alpert end up on the island.  I guess that people will either like this episode or really hate it.  It gives us plenty of answers into Richard, Jacob and MIB’s motivations on the island, but little in the way of moving the story ahead for Jack and the rest of islanders.  For me I liked the historical background and Richard’s search for absolution for the accidental death of the doctor and the loss of his beautiful wife Isabella.  But this episode broke the pattern of mirroring the themes of Season 1.  Well it had to since it was about a time long long before the plane crash that brought our present crew to the island.

Canary Islands – 1867

Richard is a farmer who rushes back to his modest home to find his wife Isabella dying.  He loves her very much and promises to “save her” by bringing the doctor back.  But he can’t save her and neither can the doctor, because the doc is a corrupt man who needs payment before he will even give Richard medicine (which probably wouldn’t have worked anyway).  When the doctor refuses the modest sum Richard offers, he then gives him the “cross” necklace.  The doctor says its worthless.  This ties into a recurring theme of this episode – the theme of the truly faithful believers and those that reject or corrupt the faith.

Richard accidently kills the doctor, takes the medicine home but it’s too late – Isabella is dead.  Richard is put in prison but he takes a Bible to read to help him learn English since he and his wife were planning to go to the New World to start a family.  Richard asks the visiting priest for “God’s forgiveness”, but the priest says NO.  He will not forgive for a killing even if it’s accidental.  He says the only way to be forgiven is through penance (which the priest means paying to clear your name through good works).  Now the priest is corrupt because in the Christian faith God has already forgiven the sins of each individual in the world by sending his Son to die in our place as a penance for our sins.  Ajira 316 is a reference to the famous John 3:16 passage of the Bible.

The priest takes Richard’s bible and tells him he is to be hanged.  The guards drag him out to die but the priest has taken money from a man representing Magnus Hanso the captain of the Black Rock ship who takes Richard because he can speak Engish since they are headed for the New World.

The ship is caught in a storm near Lost island causing a tidal wave to lift the ship high enough to smash into the great statue (of Taweret/Sobek) breaking it apart.  The men believe the statue is El Diablo himself.  The ship ends up in the middle of the island.  Many of the crew are dead.  One of the officers kills all the prisoners and his about to kill Albert when the Black Smoke monster comes.  He kills everyone but Albert who he “scans”.  Richard is trapped in his chains and can’t get out.  One day his “dead wife” comes to visit him to tell him he is in hell.  Evidently the Black Smoke is creating this apparition or it is a dream.  She tells him they are both dead and in hell.

The MIB releases Albert on the one condition that he kills El Diablo to be free of hell and see his wife again.  Albert goes to kill Jacob with the same dagger that Dogen (or maybe Ben) had.  But he is stopped by Jacob who is not afraid to use his fists.  He convinces Alpert that he is not dead and that Jacob is not the devil.  He gives Alpert the job of advisor but can’t give him forgiveness for sins, or return his wife from the grave, so Alpert asks to live forever and Jacob grants his wish by touching his shoulder.

Jacob explains that he doesn’t want the job of protecting the island from the evil MIB, but he asks Richard to help him.  He explains that “darkness and evil” are trapped on the island as a way of making it harmless, just as the dark wine is trapped in a bottle with  a cork.  He also tells him no one can enter Jacob’s house unless Jacob invites him first.

On the Island in 2007

Richard returns to where he buried the cross his wife gave him.  He says he changed his mind and wants the MIB to allow him to be with his dead wife.  Instead Hurley shows up and translates what his wife wants to tell him.  She says she still loves him and he already has her because they are together even now.


Isabella’s words are similar to what Penny wrote to Desmond:

Please don’t give up, Des. Because

all we really need to survive is one

person who truly loves us.

and you have her. I will wait for

you. Always.  I love you, Pen

There were many allegories to heaven and hell in the episode.  Jacob’s choice to enter the statue reflects God’s election for those to enter heaven.  When Sawyer visited the Black Rock to kill Cooper, Cooper said they were in hell.

MIB wants to be set free from the island, but Jacob can’t let him leave, so MIB needs to kill Jacob or whoever takes his place.

Richard says they are all dead – even Jack.  In a season 5 episode, Richard says he saw them all die (meaning Jack, Kate, Hurley and the others from 815).  In this episode Richard thinks he is dead because he believes his dead wife (who is really just Smokey).

Richard’s memory of his dead wife’s love for him will keep him from going to join the MIB.  But what information does Richard have that will help Illana and her group of candidates take the next step?

13 Responses

  1. Didn’t we see Jacob & MIB looking out at the sea when the BlackRock arrived at the island? It was a clear day yet, they land on a stormy night. What goes?

  2. This for me was one of the best episodes of the season so far. I have always liked Richard and wondered about his origins and how he got to the island so now we finally know. I did feel sorry for Richard he was just trying to save his wife and he ended up in jail for accidentally killing the doctor who could save his wife.

    There were some historical inaccuracies as the slave trade ended in the British Empire 60 years earlier and slavery itself did not end until 1833. Although since Magnus Hanso was Danish I am not sure when Danish slavery ended, I only say when British Slavery ended because the Black Rock is from Portsmouth but could have been bought by Magnus. Also the American Civil War had finished 2 years previously which outlawed slavery.

    Jay Jay you are right we did see a ship appear during the day but I guess that was another ship. The Black Rock arrived during the night and in stormy conditions in contrast to the calm and sunny day when that other ship came. Perhaps they were the other people who came to the island that Jacob mentioned but died.

    Also it was good to see that we got some answers about how the statue became broken and how the Black Rock got inland. We also got a description of what Jacob wanted to prove MIB that humans can be good but they needed to be good themselves and not need him to intervene. Richard’s role was to do so on Jacob’s behalf so it was all part of the bigger game between Jacob and MIB.

    I like the similarities between Penny and Desmond and Richard and Isabella both love their partners dearly and will do anything to be with them which makes the show interesting.

    MIB certainly is a dangerous person and will do anything to leave the island. I hope that his plan is foiled by the candidates and that maybe Jacob we be resurrected somehow. I guess that Richard knows that MIB can be killed and that it has something to do with the sonic fence.

    Finally Nestor Carbonell’s acting in this episode was good.

  3. Excellent point, JayJay, I noticed that as well. 2 theories I have:

    1.) With the time travel loops, there were multiple “landings” of the Black Rock on the island, where the weather was different.

    2.) That ship from “The Incident” was not the Black Rock, and likely from a time after the Black Rock, given Jacob and MIB were shaggier in that scene.

    I was simultaneously fascinated but disappointed in this episode. They are using valuable screen time to “explain” things that do not need explaining (e.g. the added attention to Jacob and Ilana’s meeting in the hospital). In addition, Richard’s appointment as “advisor” was for a pretty spurious and inconsequential purpose. If Jacob doesn’t want to “butt in”, what’s the difference than appointing someone else to do it for him?

    Lastly, the references to the island being “Hell” are another in a long line of direct contradictions between what the producers have explictly stated in the past and what they’re showing us. It’s either another brilliant “con”, or further proof that their word is meaningless.

  4. I didn’t think that the ship in the incident was any other than the black rock. So thanks for clearing things up. Yes it could possibly be another ship, but where did it land, since we’ve only seen one ship on the island so far. I think the writters messed up and now their only defence is, “It’s another ship”. Since Jacob summons everyone that comes to the island, why did he even ask Richard on the beach who he was? After all he did admit he brought him here. That’s like Santa Claus what a childs name is, since Santa knows every child.

    The determination that Richard had to save Isabella is similar to that of Mr Eko stealing food to feed his hungry younger brother, both did it out of love. But you’re right TLE, one must think whether it would have made a difference anyway.

    Maybe the show is set up to make us want to except our fate, and the things that happen around us, whether we like it or not, but we shouldn’t in any case break the laws/rules to do so. Not only do we hurt ourselves, but we have to pay the consequences of the broken law. If the losties had excepted their fate, the wouldn’t have to on this wild goose chase. Ultimately life is a test. Just like the test that Jacob is putting the candidates through.

  5. The Black Rock has been referenced several times to be from different years.

    In The LOST Experience it disappeared in 1881.

    In The Constant it was lost in 1845 and in this episode it was 1867.

    A contention of the earlier date was that dynamite wasn’t patented until 1867 so was new then.

  6. What’s up with the whole initial scene, of Jacob asking Ilana for help. He must have explained to her that she has a mission because Jacob was going to die. So knowing this, why is she so upset when he does end up dying? I thought she’d be prepared since he would have told her, you are going to do this because I will be dead.

    Ilana asks Jacob “what do I do when I get to the temple?”, Jacob says “ask for Ricardus, and he will tell you what to do”. Did we get any indication what that was? I assume it’s the plan to keep MIB on the island and never let him leave. Or is it to do with a replacement for Jacob? Or does he know how to kill MIB.

    When Richard tells them they are in hell, I didn’t see Ilana object to it. It’s obvious Richard looses his faith in Jacob, and it is regained when his wife talking to him through Hurley.

    Sun knows quite a bit by revealing tid bits here and there. Which is quite weird coming from a character that has just hung around.

    When MIB confessed to Richard about him being the smoke, he could have at least told him he protected him, as the captain of the ship was just about to kill him, had smokey not arrived he would have killed Richard.

    Did I hear MIB say Jacob took his body and his humanity? Does that mean Titus Willever is a body smokey took from somone else the same way he took Locke’s body.

    I think there’s something about the visions of the deceased. Richard sees his dead wife, when he was in a state of dehydration, Jack saw Christian looking for water, also dehydrated. I think all the visions have come about due to hunger, dehydration, drug induced hallucinations, if we look back I think he can see the link between them.

    When Locke told Sawyer that Jacob visits you in the deepest time of dispair, it’s the same when MIB shows up to Richard. He is also hopeless and needs help.

    I’m abit confused that MIB calls the smoke monster the devil, then he admits to being the smoke later. So is he admitting he’s the devil.

    Now the gift that Jacob gave to Richard, does that mean he can still die through someone else, like how he wanted to be killed by the dynamite? Is it immortality, or extended life?

    If MIB get’s off the island we all go to hell. Is he talking about the end of the world?

  7. Gosh guys, these comments are great, please keep them coming.

    I don’t have much to add other than the reaction to this episode seems to be overwhelmingly positive. I just watched it for the second time and liked it even more then the first viewing.

    I am puzzling about Richard seeing his wife at the Black Rock. Was it MIB doing his pretending to be someone else trick or was it a hallucination. I think both are possible. In the first instance MIB immediately agrees with Richard that this is hell, which is what Isabella said. In the second instance Richard was near death and dehydrated so he could have thought he saw her but it was all in his mind. On the other hand, MIB scanned Richard and probably knew how to manipulate Richard by using his memories of her to fool him.

    I guess I would have to fall on the hallucination side, since we could hear Smokey outside at the same time we saw her in bodily form inside the Black Rock.

  8. Don’t forget even MIB/UnLocke saw a vision of a young boy, which was out of his control. So why do we assume it’s MIB’s doing?

  9. This was an incredible episode. I do believe the ship we saw in The Incident was indeed the Black Rock. We’ve seen the day/night shift with Ajira 316 and raging storms near the island with Desmond’s boat and to a lesser extent Frank’s helicopter. For this to be true, I guess the ship in The Incident would have needed to be outside of the island’s perimeter during the initial scene. In any event, the image of the Black Rock riding a huge tidal wave over the statue leaves little doubt of how the ship was so far inland. Beach erosion is another issue.

    The bottle and cork description of the island clearly defines the stakes Jacob believes he is facing. This leads me to believe the volcano described by Olivia Goodspeed may somehow enter into the storyline.

    Jacob’s comments made on the beach to Richard surprised me. Jacob describes the battle, Richard notes that MIB will push people to his favor, and Jacob pretty much says “Really. Do you want a job?” It was my belief this was an ancient battle between Jacob and MIB, so it alarmed me that Jacob hadn’t thought of using a proxy before.

    The knife MIB gives to Richard looks identical to the one Dogen pulls from the potted plant. The instructions from MIB are also identical to those Dogen gave to Sayid. Unfortunately, the target got in the first word. Oddly though, Ben was able to have a quick discussion with Jacob beore stabbing him in the heart.

    This episode provided better insight to questions we’ve had for years. It was nice to have a return to flashbacks albeit without the familiar woooosh sound. We also heard the smoke monsters familiar tika, tika, tika sound. Who knew NY Taxi meters had been invented way back then?

  10. I find it more disturbing that Jacob is justifying interfering by a proxy when he claims to want people to decide on their own what to do without any prodding from him. I think we are being told in so many different ways that Jacob is not the sum of all that is good nor is his nemisis (brother, son, father, alternate self or splintered self?) the sum of all that is evil. Each will claim that the other is evil incarnate, but isn’t that true of humanity through time eternal?

    I remember a time that one of the best parts of Lost were the boards and podcasts where fans explored many different lines of thouights., I loved reading new authors and rereading others I was familiar with, but from a new perspective. I loved learning about the different philosophers. I loved exploring theories just for the fun of expanding and exercising the mind. I loved the moral dilemmas that were discussed.

    There was a time that The Third Policeman and the “magic box” would have been broght up in relationship to this episode and where the promise of materialization of wished for desires as in Valis would be the focus of moral dilemmas presented by some of the “so called inconsistencies” of this episode. Max, I liked the way you approached the issue of the ship and the knife, and the differences between when Ben and when Richard tried to kill Jacob.

    Personally, I believe that neither Jacob in the shoe and Jacob in the cave, are good or evil, but each are both. sort of like our Losties. Sort of like us. But I enjoy people’s theories that say otherwise or arrive at the same conclusions but by different means.

    When did the fan community stop believing in Lost? When did we stop reading the books or exploring any other references besides Lostpedia’s summaries? Last week we were given 5 books, at least, that obviously the writers are telling us are important to their story. Why else would they bring them up again so blatantly?

    I am worried when I turn on sooo many podcasts (not this one, thank Goodness) and listen to so much whining about how the writers aren’t giving the answers that fan or group of fans were hoping for. It is no longer disagreeing theorries but “I don’t want to dwell on the negative about Lost,but…..” to the point that on one major podcast they actually went around the circle with each person saying what they felt disappointed them in this episode! I know I am slashing so many podcasts from my list that I listened to faithfully. I was regretful that with the change in the program’s day from Wed to Tues, that I didn’t have time to listen all the way to the end of Lost Low Down, another podcast I really like. I always did before but this year have only been able to listen to what I could fit in on the last day of the week when it comes out. Then it was on to all the multitude of podcasts with the new episode. Well I figure it is better to listen to a great discussion about last week’s episode than to move on to episodes of the current week’s episode that week after week only dampened my spirit about this wonderful saga and the bittersweet weeks of its conclusion.

    Doug, this is long and probably off topic. If you want to remove it, I understand. But I am so frustrated with finding so many disgruntled Lost “fans” who are never satisfied. I’m not talking about someone who really likes most of the story but disagrees with an occasional episode or point, but those who want their answers and their story and they want it all now? When did we stop enjoying the journey, the exploration of a magical experience, the learning and the theorizing for the fun of theorizing? I am so glad that I know I can put on your podcast and be neither spoiled nor feel my joy in an episode of Lost which I loved,deflated week after week
    I know there are still many good podcasts out there that are enjoying the experience in all of its dimensions, but I am truely frustrated and alarmed at the vocal discontent of the supposed Lost fandom, who seem to have forgotten what Lost is about, and are only interested in “answers”. I won’t even get into my surprise at all the hostility mulituniverses and sideways realities have brought.

    Again, if you don’t feel this belongs here I will understand if you removed it. Maybe I just needed to get this off my chest. I feel safe doing it here.


    • No way am I removing your comment, Lucy. Seems like you feel as passionately about LOST as I do. When Lord of the Rings ended I thought there would never be such a great fan response to a show, but then came Lost and wow! I am still a big believer in the show even after six years and that scary time in Season 3 when things seamed to stall. But then came “Flashes Before Your Eyes” and I knew the writers had a great plan and now I am seeing it come to fruition and I can’t be more excited about it. Hope you all enjoy the ride before it ends. I am.

  11. SO if MIB is the wine and the island the cork then Jacob is the bottle?

    MIB smashes the bottle.

    The sideways world is what then? The world if MIB escapes? Seems normal enough so what goes wrong?

    When MIB says Jacob stole his body does he mean the body Jacob had as of then or is it still somewhere on the island?

    Is he looking for his body on the island and wants to seperate from the Black Smoke entity?

    • I read the bottle to be the Island and Jacob is the cork. When MIB killed Jacob he popped the cork (or so he thought) and his next plan will be to destroy the island, just like he smashed the bottle.

      If MIB escapes the island all hell breaks loose in our world.

      I don’t know what he means by Jacob stole his body. I think that MIB might be lying, it’s more likely he stole someone’s body.

      MIB may be a spirit who looks like smokey in his natural state. He then takes the form of the bodies of the dead so he can fool visitors to the island that he hates. He fools them and tricks them to kill other people.

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