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'Lost' Wednesdays: 'I understand. He can be very ... convincing.'

March 24, 2010 | 11:33 pm

118788_0296_pre  While nearly everybody liked last night's "Lost," "Ab Aeterno," it's perhaps worth pointing out that not everyone was as crazy-nuts for it as I was. In fact, let's turn things over to Jace Lacob of Televisionary (who also writes for Show Tracker) to hear just what he wasn't digging about the episode:

"So just what are they meant to do next? Richard has no idea and he's had it with his bargain with Jacob. He wants to switch sides, to change his decision and his alliance. He returns to the spot of his past decision, the place where he had buried Isabella's cross, and digs it up as he screams out to the Nemesis that he has changed his mind, echoing the offer made by the Man in Black to come over to his side whenever he wanted. But before that can happen, Hurley turns up with a message from Isabella, acting as a bridge between Richard and his dead wife and passing along two important messages: one, that they are already together, always, and two, that they must stop the Man in Black or they will 'all go to Hell.'

"All in all, I thought this was a serviceable episode that didn't totally fulfill the promise of Richard Alpert's backstory. Things did pick up once Richard arrived on the island and was forced to enter the game between Jacob and his Nemesis but I found the Isabella elements to be really contrived and forced and didn't have the emotional impact that it really should have. (I especially felt that the scene at the end between ghost Isabella, Richard, and Hurley wasn't really earned, given that I didn't care about Isabella and she remained little more than a pious cipher at the end of the episode.) I did, however, really enjoy the flashback elements that dealt with the Man in Black and Jacob as we got to see much more of their relationship and those scenes crackled with energy and tension."

Obviously, I disagree with Jace (though my opinion might have been closer to his after my first viewing of the episode), but a number of commenters at other "Lost" review sites, particularly at Alan Sepinwall's blog, have made a similar case that the backstory was too predictable and the episode as a whole too slow-moving for an episode we've been looking forward to for a long, long time. Again, I disagree. I found the whole thing riveting, and I liked that it moved with a sort of dreamlike stateliness. But I don't deny that fervor and anticipation had been building for this episode for so long that it was basically impossible for it to meet expectations. (For another take on what was disappointing in the episode, check out Laura's comment in last night's thread. She explains it better than I could.)

I was fortunate enough to watch last night's episode with Jason Mittell, who teaches classes in TV and TV theory at Middlebury University in Vermont. Anyway, if you're not following his "Lost" recaps or his Twitter feed, you're really missing out. Since "Ab Aeterno" aired, he's wondered where the Island would be if someone could get there heading to North America from the Canary Islands (off the Atlantic coast of Africa) and also pointed out a theory that Jin's placement in the '70s might confirm him as the candidate, while Sun, who stayed in 2007, would not be. It'd be too bad if that were the case, since that would pretty much mean all of the major candidates (the ones paired with the "numbers") were men, but maybe Jacob, coming from millennia ago (presumably), is a bit of a sexist.

Let's move on to your comments! As always, I've cleaned up spelling and grammar.

Marthwell wonders why Richard would choose everlasting life over getting to see his wife again, when, if Isabella is dead, he might be able to see her in Heaven (being a religious man and all). I see it as Richard believing he's doomed to Hell, since his priest would not absolve him of his sins. For a deeply Catholic man, that's probably tantamount to a death sentence. As such, he probably doesn't think he'd be joined to Isabella in eternity, since he surely believes his sweet, innocent wife is in Heaven.

I like David Xarach's sharing of some myths from the actual Canary Islands that seem to echo "Lost" in some fascinating ways:

"I'm from Canary Islands, in fact from Gran Canaria, the other big Island in front of Tenerife. I was STUNNED to see this not just because of the fact that Tenerife is where the biggest air tragedy occurred, but to the fact that I don't know if the writers are aware of these, but we have some local legends that make perfect sense to what we saw in the episode:

"- Tenerife was known in maps from 1350 as 'The Island from Hell.'

"- Canary Islands have been speculated to be one of the possible locations of 'Atlantis'


"- We have a local legend, about a 8th island 'The Island of San Borondon.'  A 'magical' Island which can travel through the sea and disappear whenever it wants, and that it has been seen by a lot of sailors, but never documented.

"There have been a lot of jokes between the locals, in the past, about the Island of 'Lost' being 'San Borondon' but now, it can perfectly make sense."

(The link, by the way, is mine.)

Now, I think this is probably just a big coincidence, but the "Lost" producers are so widely read that I wouldn't be surprised if this is a wink and a nudge toward the myths and legends of the actual Canary Islands, just as much as it is one toward the famous air disaster there. At any rate, I'm really glad David shared those stories, which I'd never heard of, with us.

Lots of you joined me in wanting a Lapidus episode. Maybe, if we don't get one before the series ends, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse will make an exception to their "No 'Lost' follow-ups on our watch!" policy for some sort of Fightin' Lapidus comic book or something. Obviously, they can crowd-source it out to us. We'll know the best way to write it.

Matt Roeser wondered if the Bible in Richard's cell would be the one the Tailies found in the Arrow Station way back in season two, but then the priest took it away from him. It's too bad, I agree, as that would have been a cool callback for the hardcore fans.

Natalie paid better attention to what Richard was reading than I did:

"I don't think it's coincidental that the baptismal imagery was paired with Richard taking on that mediator role - the passage from the Bible he was reading in the jail cell deals with those themes, as well as themes of escaping temptation from the devil (which Richard had just done with the MiB)."

Interesting. This episode was definitely one steeped in biblical imagery, and that passage from Luke offered up some cool commentary on Richard's role on the Island, now that I go back and read it.

KarenJ's got some cool thoughts on Jacob and the Man in Black's connection to our current characters:

"Todd, I'm with you on the whole demigod thing. This is really playing out similarly to Greek myths (with a whole lot of religious references thrown in). I think it may be possible that Jacob isn't the guardian of the island because he wants to, but because he has to. Whether he was banished or is paying a penance of some kind.. I don't know. But it's his job and he's going to do it well. Therefore - he's more of a righteous man than a purely 'good' man (sounds kinda like Jack and Sawyer huh?)"

Ashley suggests that since Jacob calls Richard "Ricardus" instead of Richard or Ricardo that it might point to him having origins in ancient Rome (as that would be a Latin pronunciation). I hope this is some sort of clue, and it's a good catch.

And finally, we've got Mr. K, who has three great questions that should provide good discussion fodder heading into next week. (And if you haven't read this week's comment's thread, please do. There are so many great comments I didn't get to.)

Mr. K writes:

"1.) The Man in Black's instructions to Richard are exactly the same as Dogen's instructions to Sayid a couple episodes back. So is this another 'inside joke' between the two sides, that ends up codified as a religion?

"2.) Notice that Jacob beating up Richard is very similar to how Not-Locke beats him up back at the statue. Is it just a similarity in fighting style or something else?

"3.) One of the MIB's grievances is that Jacob stole his humanity & 'his body.' Given that we know the MIB can do this, could Jacob have done this literally? Is body snatching why Jacob's powers are more circumscribed?"

And I agree almost entirely. I think we're being given lots of clues that things aren't so simple as Jacob being the good guy and the Man in Black being the bad guy. If it turns out to be like that, I'll be pretty disappointed.

And with that, we're done for this "Lost" Wednesday! We'll see you all this weekend, and remember to e-mail or Tweet at me.

-- Todd VanDerWerff (follow me on Twitter at @tvoti)

Photo: Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell) has to decide which side to take when he crashes on the Island. Credit: ABC

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