LOST in Translation: Message in a Bottle

Season 6 Episode 10
“Ab Aeterno”
written by Melinda Hsu Taylor and Gregg Nations
directed by Tucker Gates

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m somewhat gobsmacked. In a series filled with great episodes, and a season that has been all but letter perfect, Ab Aeterno completely and utterly brought me to my proverbial knees. There were a few missteps, which I’ll mention in more than passing, but all in all, this was the episode we’ve been waiting 5 and a half seasons for.

Nestor Carbonell was magnificent, delivering what is surely the most epic performance of his career. I can’t say enough about how great the acting has been this season. Sure, Emerson and O’Quinn have always delivered, but this year it’s been like a little slice of Masterpiece Theatre, week in and week out, with each and every actor bringing an impressive array of acting chops to the fore.

But enough of my inane rambling… let’s get Smokey.

Children of the Sea

“We’re not on an island. We never were.
We’re in Hell, so I’m not interested in what Jacob said.”

~Richard to the Castaways

The mystery surrounding Richard Alpert has been a compelling one ever since his introduction in Season 3. To finally get his back-story is so very satisfying. And what a tragic story it is. Picking his story up in the Canary Islands circa 1867, Ricardo is a man cursed. With a wife fading fast from what I assume to be consumption, his journey to save her leads him to an unscrupulous doctor who, in a struggle with the distraught and desperate husband, dies from an inadvertent blow to the head. Cue the heartstrings as Ricardo returns home to find his wife passed and he is subsequently jailed for murder.

Enter the priest, yet another figure with a faulty moral compass. Visiting Ricardo in prison, the priest refuses to grant him absolution for his sins, instead brokering a deal to save the once and future Alpert from the gallows by selling him into slavery on board the Black Rock.

And here was my biggest problem with the episode, the one somewhat sore spot in an otherwise perfect glimpse into the mythos of LOST.

The Black Rock, drawn to the Island by the Power of Jacob, is caught in the grim of one nasty storm which picks the slave ship up and hurls it into the Statue of Tawaret, busting it all to hell. The ship came to rest, largely intact despite its impact with Caer Jacob, about a mile inland from the now ruined Statue of Four-Toedness.

Excuse me as I type SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF in all caps. That was a mighty big dose of it we were asked to swallow, but swallow I did.

We’re checking off mysteries right and left at this point, so, in the end, I’m good with it. We now know Richard came to the Island via the Black Rock, how the Black Rock ended up so far inland, and what happened to the Statue. Those are three biggies in one fell swoop.

Of course, there were some big continuity gaffs as well. For instance, if I’m not mistaken, the timeline is kind of screwy. If Ricardo was in the Canary Islands in 1867 prior to being imprisoned on the Black Rock, why then was the ship listed as missing in 1845 and that the manifest for the ship was discovered in 1852?

But we’ll forgive them these discrepancies as things only get better from there…

Lady Evil

“Don’t you know, Ricardo? We’re dead. Both of us.
We’re in Hell. I’m here to save you before he comes back.”

~MIB as Isabella to Richard

Let’s get something straight right now because people are actually debating this online. Ricardo, chained, starving and dehydrated, is in the slave hold of the ship. He’s seen the Black Rock’s First Mate pigstick his fellow captives, seen the arrival of  Ol’ Smokey and the kickassery that is his Smokiness, and he watched a razorback munch on his buddies. Then, Isabella arrives to tell him that they are in hell.

People, please… that was not the Ghost of Ricardo’s Lost Lady Love. It was the Man in Black in drag and part of a long con he was perpetuating on our freedom-challenged friend.

The Man in Black shows up soon after, wearing an old familiar face from the end of season 5, and he was in a bind and way behind and looking to make a deal. In no uncertain terms, Smokey lays it out for Ricardo… they are indeed in Hell and the only way out is to kill the Devil… a Devil named Jacob.

So armed with a magic dagger — the same dagger that one day Sayid would plunge into the Lockeness Monster’s black, undying heart — Ricardo pays a visit to the Man who lives in a Foot.

Heaven and Hell

“I want them to help themselves, to know the difference
between right and wrong without me having to tell them.
It’s all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything.
Why should I have to step in?”

~Jacob to Richard

Charged by the Man in Black to kill the Devil before he has a chance to speak — shades of Dogen’s instructions to Sayid — Ricardo finds out that the Devil don’t go down easy. The Man in White unleashes a bit of Jacob Fu then proceeds to give him an old school baptism before setting him down for a little chat.

This is when we learn that the Island is the Hellmouth and only Buffy, er I mean, Jacob can keep evil at bay.

Now, my wife’s far more than just a pretty face and after Jacob’s little wine bottle demonstration, in which he equated the wine with hell and the island as the cork keeping it bottled inside, she made a more astute observation.

See, the wine is Smokey. The Island is the wine bottle. And Jacob is the cork.

That’s my wife for ya… She’s one smart cookie, and her description makes far more sense, but hey, she wasn’t in the LOST war room to sharpen their visual aid summery so we’ll just have to live with it.

Anyway, Jacob, who came across as a tad bit aggressive to me considering he’s supposed to be the good guy (as opposed to Smokey who seemed almost compassionate and forgiving, especially once he told Ricardo that he could rebuke Jacob at anytime and he’d still take him back into the fold)… wait, where was I?… Oh yeah… so Jacob, as quoted above, offers to make Ricardo his emissary. Ricardo asks for the return of his wife as payment. Denied. Then he asks for absolution so that when he dies he can be reunited with his wife in heaven. Denied. So Ricardo asks for eternal life, so that he won’t die and go to Hell. Done. Jacob and Ricardo spit-shake on it and do some kind of Masonic pinky-swear and it’s all Ricardo and Jacob sitting in a tree… until a few hundred years pass, Jacob gets deep-sixed by Ben “The Loophole” Linus, and Ricardo aka Ricadus aka Richard Alpert has a crisis of faith.

Nothing puts a man back on the path to righteousness like a chat with Hurley, however. Especially when our resident two tons of fun, lovable, but numbers cursed ghost whisperer channels Isabella for real and gives Ricardo a new mission: Save the cheerleader and save the… er, I mean keep the Man in Black Island Bound or “we all go to Hell”.

Next Week on LOST

Wow. How in the Hell, so to speak, are you going to top that one LOST? Well, you’re not. At least not for a few weeks when we finally get Jacob and MIB’s back-story. In the meantime, we get to dip into a little Sun and Jin action in next week’s “The Package”. Cue the promo:

And while we’re at it, how about a little sneak peek:

And that is a very brief and somewhat uninsightful LOST in Translation for epsiode 9. The simple truth is, an epic like this, there’s not much to dissect. You just sit back and let it wash over you… letting it carry you on the storm-enraged tidal wave all the way to the finale. Just be mindful of big ass crocodile goddess statues that might loom in your path.

More later as my digestion of this episode continues.



4 Responses to “LOST in Translation: Message in a Bottle”

  1. Wow, great episode, once again. Looks like we’ll need the DVD…

  2. cairnwood Says:

    Ya think?

  3. My wife and I came into the show late. We spent almost 3 days going between our cable “on demand” service and Netflix catching up. I can’t wait to be able to buy ALL seasons on DVD and I’m going on a LOST bender. I am compelled to dissect the storylines and see what elements made this story tick! Obviously it works, why not learn from them?

    • cairnwood Says:

      Yeah, you actually can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t from LOST. The final run is going to be truly epic. I’m thrilled that they get to go out on their own terms.

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