“Across the Sea” Recap and Analysis …
I’ll just leave this here:
Retcon – “Retroactive Continuity” v. to retroactively revise (a plot, storyline, character, event, history, etc.), usually by reinterpreting past events, or by theorizing how the present would be different if past events had not happened or had happened differently. See: Crisis on Infinite Earths; Wolverine’s bone claws; Greedo shoots first.
Once upon a time, there was an Island. It was a very special place. To this Island came a lady in red – shipwrecked and washed ashore, this lady was very, very pregnant. Although the lady in red survived her ordeal, she did not believe that her ship companions had, and so thought that she was alone. She wasn’t. Soon, thankful for finding a stream for fresh water, she bent to take a drink and was startled when she looked up and found that Allison Janney was on the Island, as well. She seemed shocked to also find that Allison Janney spoke Latin.
Allison took the lady back to her caves and fed her and tended to her wounds. She found that the lady in red’s name was Claudia. Allison’s meal seemingly did not agree with Claudia’s constitution and so the lady in red went into labor, popping out a little baby whom she named Jacob. The lady in red wasn’t quite done yet, though, and soon pushed out another little boy, whom Allison wrapped in dark, swaddling clothes. This little bundle would remain nameless, however, as Claudia had very little imagination and had only picked out Jacob’s name.
Baby Jacob and the appropriately-acronymed BiB – Baby in Black.
Claudia wants to see her babies, but Allison has another idea, and decides to show her a big rock up real close to her face, over and over. With the lady in red now completely in red, Allison could become mommy dearest to the yin yang twins.
A few years later, BiB – the Boy in Black – walks along one of the Island beaches and finds a wooden box. There are squares carved in the top, and ornate swirls along its side. Inside are six stones – three in white and three in black. Little Jacob wanders over and asks his brother what he’s got. BiB explains that it’s a game, and he’ll teach Jacob how to play if he promises not to tell mother.
This is an ancient Egyptian game called Senet – one of the oldest boardgames in the world. This is probably the coolest bit of research that the Lost team has turned up, and we’ll go over the finer points later, in analysis.
Back in the caves, mother is weaving. Mother questions Jacob about his brother, and Jacob pulls a George Washington, unable to lie about his brother and the game.
Mother heads down to the beach and finds BiB thinking deep thoughts. BiB knows that Jacob blabbed, and mother says that Jacob is incapable of lying, unlike BiB. The boy wants to know what he’s like, and mother explains that he’s – special. The boy wants to keep the game and mother allows it, saying she left it for him. He assumed it was from somewhere else, like across the sea. Mother explains that there’s nothing across the sea – there’s only the Island.
Later, in the Jungle of Mystery, the brothers are chasing boar when the boar is suddenly speared. The boys hide in the bushes and witness some Others field dressing the boar. These Others aren’t capri-loving, nor are they jungle hippies – these Others are dressed in field leather and brandish swords.
The brothers run back to mommy and tell her about the bad men. She tells them that they are not like them, and don’t belong on the Island. And then she decides that it’s a good time to blindfold the boys and take them on a nature hike through the same jungle wherein they said they had just seen sword-brandishing goons. Doesn’t seem like the brightest idea, but whatever mother wants, mother gets.
As the boys walk blindly through the jungle with their mother, they all chit chat. Mother tells them that the men they saw are dangerous because “they come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt and it always ends the same.” BiB, wise beyond his years, deducts that if they are people and the Others are people, and the Others can hurt each other, then that means Jacob and BiB can hurt each other. Mother stops them, removes their blindfold and tells them both that she’s made it so that neither boy can ever hurt the other. Then she spins them ’round and let’s them take a gander at the heart of the Island – a cave at the end of the creek with insides that sparkle and glimmer like gold.
That’s right folks, now you know what’s at the heart of the Island – Marcellus Wallace’s soul.
Mother explains that this place is the reason they’re on the Island, and the boys can never go in there. Mother tells the boys that inside is light – the warmest, brightest light that they have ever seen or felt. A little bit of that same light is inside every man, and they always want more. She warns that if they take a lot of it, that light could go out – and if that light goes out here, it goes out everywhere. So basically it’s the fuse box for Earth.
Mother tells the boys that she has protected this place for a long time, but that she can’t protect it forever and that one of them will have to take over for her someday.
Sometime later, the boys are playing Senet. Jacob tries to make a move, but BiB informs Jacob that it’s against the rules. Jacob says that BiB made up the rules, to which BiB says that some day Jacob can make his own game of Calvinball and can make up whatever rules he wants. BiB then sees the ghost of his dead mother. We know he knows, because that’s what she tells him. He tells Jacob he’s going off on walkabout, and chases after her.
Ghost Claudia takes BiB on a little tour of the human settlement, and informs him that he and his brother are from those people and that those people came from across the sea. She also fills in BiB on the little bit of homicide that his current “mother” engaged in when she bashed Claudia’s pretty face right after they were born. Naturally, this does not sit well with little Blackie.
For the sake of my over-attentive mind, I’m going to pretend that I didn’t just see a ghost brush a piece of grass aside because it was ruining her take.
BiB returns to the caves and gathers Jacob, ushering him into the jungle and telling him the truth about their “mother” and the Others on the Island. Jacob gets a little upset and beats the stuffing out of little brother. Mother shows up and drags them apart. BiB informs his adoptive mother that he knows the truth about everything, and that he’s going to go live with the Others. Mother tells him it’s useless, because he can never leave the Island. The boy vows to someday prove her wrong.
At dawn, mother is sitting on the thinking log on the beach. Jacob joins her and asks for the truth. She tells him that she killed his mother, and did so because she would have taken Jacob back to the Others, and those people are bad. She wanted Jacob to remain good, to which Jacob asks if he truly is good. Of course, says his mother. Then why do you love him more than me? asks Jacob. Mother can’t really deny the truth in that, but tells Jacob that she loves him in different ways. Wow, that’s certainly something you wanna hear from dear old Mom. She asks Jacob to stay and he reluctantly agrees.
Thirty years later, BiB is now MiB and lives and works among “his people.” Jacob visits his brother and the two play a game of Senet while discussing the selfishness and evil that men do. Jacob thinks that men might not be all that bad, but MiB says that they are exactly what their “mother” said they were. He continues living with them, however, because they’re a means to an end – and he’s leaving, having found a way off the Island. Jacob balks at that idea, but MiB takes out his knife and hurls it forward until it sticks magnetically to the side of a stone well.
Look familiar? Yep, it’s the same knife that Dogen gave to Sayid many, many years later when he sent the Iraqi to assassinate MiB.
Jacob is amazed and MiB tells him that there are smart men amongst his people, curious men, and they like digging holes. Whenever they find a spot on the Island where metal behaves strangely, they dig down deep. Here at this site, they finally found something. MiB asks Jacob to come with him, but Jacob becomes petulant and refuses to leave his home.
Jacob returns to the caves where mother is preparing yarn for to weave. Jacob tells her that his brother has found a way off the Island. Mother is very displeased. She heads out into the jungle and over to the well, where the Others are grabbing their lunch pails and heading home for a brewski.
Deep down in the well, MiB is working a coal pit. He senses someone behind him and turns suddenly, pulling his knife. It’s mother. She asks to join him and he acquiesces. She’s worried, and MiB says that she should be – he’s searched the Island for 30 years for that golden cave she took them to when he was young, all in vain, until now when he realized he might be able to reach that place another way. And so he dug. And he found. And he says that he and some of the Others have some very interesting ideas about what to do with what they’ve found. Mother is agitated, saying he has no idea what he’s doing. MiB retorts that he doesn’t know, because she wouldn’t tell him.
He walks over to the stone wall and pries loose a stone. A shaft of bright, golden light pours through and illuminates what appears to be half of the great wheel that Ben and Locke turned to move and halt the Island. Mother is curious, so MiB enlightens her that he’s going to make a hole in the wall, stick that wheel in it, and attach it to a system that channels the water and the light so that he can finally leave the Island. Okay, then. Whatever, dude.
I would recommend rack and pinion steering, because the Island is going to be hard as hell to drive with that thing.
Mother asks what we’re all thinking and wonders how he knows all this. MiB reminds her that he’s “special.” She begs him to stay, but MiB says he doesn’t belong here. She says her goodbyes and hugs him tight – then screams and throws him up against the wall, bashing his head. Man, this Island sure can mess with some women’s heads.
Mother returns to the caves and gathers Jacob, taking him back to the cave of light. She says that it’s his turn to protect it, and tells him that it’s the source, the heart of the Island. Jacob has to to promise her that he’ll never, ever go down there, though, because down there lies a fate worse than death. I don’t know about Jacob, but that I believe that line would definitely keep me topside. She breaks out the old wine bottle that MiB would smash in agitation later, says some mumbo jumbo and pours Jacob a tall one. She explains that to drink of this would represent his commitment to protect the heart and he would guard it until he had to find his replacement. Jacob argues with her for a bit like a brooding child, telling her that she wanted his brother to guard the place. She tells Jacob that it was always supposed to be him as guardian, and that he really doesn’t have a choice, so he should shut his piehole and drink the damn wine. Relunctantly, he does. “Now,” his mother says, “you and I are the same.” Hoo boy.
Over at the well, it’s morning, and MiB is topside, lying on the ground. He awakens and finds that the the well has been filled in. Overnight.
Man, that woman was busy.
He glances toward the horizon, seeing smoke, and runs to his peoples’ encampment. It’s in cinders, and Aunt Beru and Uncle Lars are all crispy, too. The only thing left is his charred copy of Senet, which he grabs and then proceeds to get a bit angsty.
Out in the jungle, Jacob and his mother are walking back home. Storm’s a-coming, remarks Jacob. Mother sends him off to fetch firewood, telling him to be careful. He says he’ll see her back home and she turns, a grim look on her face, and heads back to the caves.
Once there, she finds the place in shambles. The loom has been smashed. She notices the Senet game box on the ground and kneels, examining it. The storage drawer slides open and she finds two stones inside – one white and one black. She lifts and examines the black stone. Her examination is cut a bit short, however, when she suddenly finds a knife shoved through abdomen.
That’ll ruin your day, every time.
Mother collapses to the floor. MiB, distraught by his actions, asks his mother why she wouldn’t let him leave. Because she loves him, she says. She also thanks her son, and then ceremoniously kicks the bucket. MiB mourns. It’s all cut a bit short, however, when Jacob shows up and beats the snot out of his brother like he did when they were kids.
Not satisfied with kicking his brother’s ass, Jacob drags his bro out into the Jungle of Mystery and over to the Heart of the Island. MiB struggles a bit, telling Jacob that she burned them all and that Jacob can’t kill him – mother made it that way. Jacob tells him to stop squirming, because he’s not gonna kill his brother. Oh, no, he has better plans than that.
Jacob throws his brother into the creek at the mouth of the cave of light. MiB is shocked that mother showed Jacob the entrance, but Jacob explains that it’s his turn to be guardian. He grabs his brother and tells him that if he’s so determined to see the light and escape the Island, that he should just go. He then flings MiB toward the entrance, where he bashes his head against a rock. His body is caught in the current and he’s washed inside and sucked down, down, down to the heart of the Island.
As Joel Murphy so eloquently put it: “This week’s episode taught me one very important lesson – avoid golden showers”
Everything gets very, very silent in the jungle, and Jacob starts to wonder exactly what he’s just done. He soon finds out, as the light in the cave dims, that familiar crickety sound starts up, and a huge column of black smoke comes rumbling out. Jacob is knocked off his feet, and he watches helplessly as the smoke tears ass off into the jungle.
I can safely say that no one who had just done what Jacob did would expect that kind of result from tossing a body down a golden waterfall.
Jacob wanders further upstream after the smoke incident and finds his brother’s bashed and bloodied body draped over a rock. He hugs his brother and boo hoos a bit.
Back at the caves, he lays his brother’s body down into an alcove, and walks over to his mother’s body. He bends down, picking up the Senet stones, and places them in a leather pouch. We’re treated to a brief montage of a noticeably younger Jack and Kate when they first found the caves and the pouch with the stones way back in “House of the Rising Sun.” Jacob lays his mother’s body next to his brother’s, and places the Senet stone pouch in his brother’s hand. We flash back to Locke who christens the bodies in the cave as their “very own Adam and Eve.” Another mystery solved. Yay.
It’s been a game, even since the very beginning. Only this time around, the brothers are using much bigger pieces.
Jacob sheds a few final tears and then tells his brother goodbye.
Cue the THONK!
Well, alright then. With only three episodes left, we’re treated to an episode devoted entirely to two characters we had never seen before last season’s finale. We learn that Ol’ Smokey was either created or awakened when Jacob’s brother was thrown down the gullet of the Island’s heart of gold. And we now know that Claire and Rousseau are simply two in a long line of crazy-ass Island women.
I’m going to spare the long-winded criticisms this week because it tends to agitate some people. I thought, overall, the episode was slow and deliberate, like watching a sea turtle give birth, much like BiB did early in the episode on the beach. There were some decent twisty moments here and there, and the acting was up to snuff, but the sudden introduction of someone as recognizable as Allison Janney was a big jolt. Don’t get me wrong, I love the woman, but that kind of casting just throws you for a complete loop. You have total unknowns playing Jacob and MiB and then out of nowhere pops … Loretta from Drop Dead Gorgeous? I half expected her to have a beer in her hand. (By the way, if you haven’t seen Drop Dead Gorgeous, I highly recommend it. One of the funniest movies of the last 15 years.)
Everyone’s going to have an opinion on the secrets revealed here, and it’s impossible that the Lost team is going to please every single viewer, especially as the finale grows near and we all get a bit grumpy that the fun is coming to an end. I will say, in closing, that although it was nice to get some background on Jacob and his twin brother, the whole “demi-god” arc continues to bug me. As I mentioned in last season’s finale, for the longest time Lost stayed true to its roots, focusing on its central characters, almost to a fault. By throwing two very important characters into the mix so late in the game, we’re forced to care and want to know more about them simply because of the time constraint placed on us; it’s not dictated by story that can play out over a series. We’ve seen Jack go from being on top to the very lowest, bearded bottom and climb back up again, but the same is not true of Jacob or his brother. Yes, we’ve heard Jacob’s name mentioned for four seasons now, but it’s not until just this moment that we learned why we should even truly care.
As disappointed as I was by much of what went on this week, this episode was important in that it finally brought everything back to the Lost roots – bringing the human drama to the fore, ever above even the most fantastical elements. This is why I can still say I’m fully on board for the finale – when I can watch the Island swallow up a guy and burp out a column of black smoke and still care about what happens next because of the characters.
With that bit of business out of the way, let’s talk about a few things. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to get into, but I do have some clarifications, some confusion and a whole lot of questions.
BEWARE OF DOG
As I saw the “origin” of Ol’ Smokey unfold this week, I couldn’t help but go back and think of everything we’ve seen and heard of the smoke monster since the very beginning. In many of the Dharma files, the smoke monster is referred to as Cerberus, the mythical three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell. Rousseau refers to smokey as a “security system.” Jacob thought that he was protector of the Island, but could Cerberus exist to be the ultimate protector of the Island? The entity that exited the cave of light could be just as Rousseau described – a security system. It’s normal function is to embody the protector and guard the heart of the Island. However, because it absorbed the persona of “Esau,” it also, over time, took on his dark personality traits, wanting to get off the Island.
We’ve seen now that Smokey has absorbed and exhibited many of the stronger personality traits of those people whom he has embodied. Since he has embodied the dark twin (Bad Twin?) for the longest time, those personality traits – his “special” abilities, his sense of entrapment and subsequent obsession with getting off the Island – are deeply rooted. Over time, instead of protecting the Island, it only sought to escape the Island, and realized that the only way it could get off the Island is if it managed to break the rules and kill off Jacob and all the candidates. It would free the cycle and enable it to get loose.
Maybe. Or maybe it really is simply evil and wants to escape and wreak havoc on the planet. Yeah, I said planet. You don’t think that thing is actually from around these parts, do you?
SPEAKING OF SERVICE ANIMALS
How did mother fill in the well over night? And destroy all those people? Was she a smoke monster, or did she summon Cerberus to come and do her dirty work, like Ben did to take care of Keamy and his goons in season four?
Also, who finished installing the Wheel? It’s long been built by the time Ben uses it to move the Island at the end of season four. We see the Dharma Initiative building the basement of The Orchid around the great wheel in the opening of season five, but did they complete the work? How would they know the plans that MiB had in his head in order to tap into the Island’s power source? Perhaps Ol’ Smokey, infused with the soul and essence of MiB, became so obsessed with getting off the Island that he continued his work and dug the well again. It’s the only thing that seems to make sense since we see the finished well in “This Place is Death” when Locke lowers himself into the well just before another time flash sends them all forward in time to when the well was filled in, yet the chamber and wheel were intact.
Perhaps MiB manipulated more of the people that inhabited the Island over time, “guiding” these Others as he did the modern Others in building and taking care of things for him. He could have appeared to the leader of some Others trapped on the Island and gotten the people to excavate the well and install the wheel. Still, if it was installed way back when, why wouldn’t MiB have had it turned before he convinced Ben to do so? Was it all in the timing, somehow?
Also, in this episode when mother discovers the wheel, it’s only half-finished. I’m pretty sure that the original prop used in the chamber is only half a wheel, as well, meaning the production team didn’t feel like building a complete wheel.
And while I’m asking questions here, why was it so cold down in the wheel chamber when Ben used the wheel, but there doesn’t seem to be the same level of cold when Locke uses the wheel, or while MiB is building it? Granted, MiB had a roaring coal fire going to keep him warm, but there was no sign of a frigid climate.
DON’T HATE THE PLAYER, HATE THE GAME
If there was one detail about this episode that I really did like, it was the backstory of the game between light and dark that the boys have been playing against each other since the day that BiB found the Senet box on the beach. The theme and symbology harkens back to early season one when Locke teaches Walt the rules and history of Backgammon, a game which is a direct descendant of Senet.
In this screen shot, they’ve finally gotten the rules down pat. Earlier, when the boys started playing, they were all over the grid. I get the feeling that the cast might have actually played a few rounds of Senet between takes.
For those not familiar with Senet, it is widely considered the oldest known board game in history. Typically, the pieces are represented by two sets of shapes, usually three pyramids or cones, and three circles or cylinders. In the Lost version of Senet, the shapes are replaced by light and dark stones, but that’s cool. The “official” rules of Senet are lost to the sands of time, but scholars have recreated the rules as best they could from clues and artifacts discovered throughout the years. The object of the game is to move your pieces from the home row, snaking them around the grid on the board, until they exit the board at the end of the grid. The movement of the pieces is determined by throwing sticks or rocks – one side is light, the other dark, with the light side representing a single number. Players can jump over other pieces, and if your piece lands on a square occupied by an opponent’s piece, you may remove that piece from the board, sending it back “home,” much like the now-familiar board game Sorry. The first person to successfully move all of his pieces off the board by exiting the grid wins the game. There are variants, of course. Although rudimentary, the game is actually quite fun, and custom Senet sets are still made and sold today.
You can even play a simple version online. Check it out.
On a deeper, and very Lost-related note, the game became a symbol of protection from beyond in Egyptian culture. Since it involved a bit of luck, it was believed that a good player was favored by the gods, and some people were buried with Senet sets to protect them in their journey through the afterlife. I suppose it could also be used to help them pass the time. Interestingly enough, Jacob thought to lay his brother to rest with pieces from his beloved Senet set, just as the ancient Egyptians once did.
THE RANDOM BITS
The Others have always been MiB’s “people” and he’s been seemingly guiding them from the beginning, whether in Jacob’s name or his own. It’s still a bit confusing as to who has been telling which group of people what they should do, and who they should follow. A lot of the modern Others’ actions make sense in the context of what Jacob would want in protecting the Island, but many of the actions by the Others as led by Ben seem far more nefarious.
Some of the flowers around the cave of light – they’re anthuriums. You know, just in case anyone out there is keeping score.
Allison Janney, when questioned by Claudia: “Every question I answer will simply lead to another question.” Sister, ain’t that the truth. If anyone wants to know the secret of the Island, there’s your simple answer.
How can MIB just “know” how things work? Does he have extrasensory perception? Perhaps he has interdimensional perception, like Desmond. This would explain not only his knowledge of Senet and the building of the great wheel, but also his knowledge of how things might change if variables are shifted, such as the deaths of the candidates.
So … Ben. Ben was supposedly following orders from Jacob, but it’s unclear if he actually was now. Way back in season three when Locke is first taken to the cabin, Locke hears “Jacob” but Ben is stunned because he can’t see or hear him. What’s up with that? That’s indicative of the “undead” not MIB or Jacob. Any time that MiB has wanted to speak to someone, he takes on someone else’s form. Yet when Ben and Locke first visit Jacob’s cabin, there seems to be no corporeal form. Of course, later Christian Shephard shows up and it’s probably MiB in full effect.
So what’s the deal with the heart of the Island in LA X? it would be underwater at this point, as would Ol’ Smokey. Does that mean he’s dead in LA X? Mother told them that if the light goes out there, then the light goes out everywhere. If that’s the case, is the light still burning bright underwater in LA X? Could that come into play, somehow in the finale?
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m always a little annoyed when someone gives birth on a TV show and they don’t take the basketball out from underneath the lady’s dress. Claudia just gave birth to twins, and in the background her stomach is still just as big as when she went into labor. I don’t know, that lack of detail just bugs me.
So what IS Ol’ Smokey, anyway? Since Jacob found his brother’s body after Cerberus exited the golden vent, Smokey is not totally MiB. Perhaps smokey is the embodiment of MiB’s soul, given form – strange as it may seem – by the heart and source of the Island. Perhaps smokey is part of an alien race of some sort, long laying dormant until it’s able to graft itself to a life essence that’s sent down into its hibernation chamber. Or perhaps the smoke monster is an interdimensional being, trapped in the vortex that summons others and holds the inhabitants in its grasp. Whatever the case, the options for the true purpose or origins of the Island are mind-boggling: an interdimensional gateway, a crashed alien ship, an ancient interdimensional device that was piloted by a race of smokey monsters, a gateway to heaven or hell or a prison.
And that about wraps it up for this week. Only one more episode before the huge, mega-spectacular Lost finale event we’ve all been waiting for and dreading. There’s still some time left to sort things through and ponder before then, so put on your thinking caps and as always, if you have an epiphany, tell me something good.
Chris Kirkman is a graphic designer/photographer/journalist/geek extraordinaire with way too many Bruce Campbell movies in his library. Michael Emerson, Lost’s Benjamin Linus, called Kirkman’s recaps “one of the smartest articles I’ve ever read about what goes on on our show.” Kirkman is still hoping that Lost will end when Bob Newhart wakes up next to Suzanne Pleshette, complaining of a strange, strange dream. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.