Lost recaps: Season 6, Episode 8
‘Ab Eterno,’ Or: Put A Cork In it

Published March 24, 2010 on

Previously: Richard's kind of an advisor. He's been around for a very, very long time. And he's having an existential crisis.

The episode opens with the reunited beach and temple crews sitting around a fire, catching each other up on things. Sun explains the whole "candidates" thing. Great, so now what? Ilana recalls Jacob telling her to ask Ricardus. Only Richard isn't much help, because, well, he's actin' kinda crazy. Not "taken over by the sickness crazy," mind you; more, "my whole life's purpose is a lie" crazy. I understand; I went through a rough patch after graduating college, too. Richard does that losing-it laugh that everyone who's ever watched television is familiar with. He has no idea what to do next -- does trying to kill himself sound like someone with a plan? -- and everything Jacob ever said is a lie. Also, he continues, everyone's dead.

And not figuratively, Richard hastens to explain: The Island is actually Hell, so he's not interested in any more of what Jacob says. And then he stomps off into the jungle to find NotLocke. Meanwhile, Hurley speaks in Spanish with someone we don't seen, and Ben snarkily fills the party in on how Richard doesn't age. How did this happen? We're about to find out.

Good old-fashioned "Lost" flashback time!

So once upon a time -- 1867, to be exact -- there was this guy. His name was Ricardo, but we'll keep on calling him Richard, because we're lazy. Richard is a poor, horseback-riding hottie on the rainy Canary Island of Tenerife. His beloved wife, Isabella, is sick; though the illness is never specified, we know from the movies that if she's coughing up blood, it must be Teh Consumption. Richard declares he's going to fetch a doctor. She gives him her cross necklace to use as payment, should it be necessary. "We'll always be together," she wheezes, and sends him off.

Richard rides heroically through the rain to the well-appointed abode of the doctor. The doctor is completely uninterested in a half-day's ride through the rain. (This is how you know that the doctor is not heroic.) The doctor is willing to sell Richard a corked bottle o' medicine, but the money and the necklace are not enough to secure said medicine's purchase. Desperate Richard initiates a struggle, which, naturally, ends with a dead doctor. Richard bolts with the medicine, heroically riding home just in time to find Isabella... dead. Yeah, you knew that was going to happen just as soon as she promised they'd always be together.

Richard winds up in jail, glumly reading the book of Luke in his English-language Bible. When a persnickety priest asks him what's up with that, Richard explains that he'd been teaching himself English because he and Isabella were going to go to the New World. (The camera appears to linger over Luke 4:24: "And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country." This could be significant, or it could just be one of those numbers things.) The priest insists he can't absolve Richard for murder, that the only way he can get back in God's grace is through penance. Only he doesn't have time, because he's going to be hung the next day. Sorry, Richard; you're going to Hell. Now, even little ol' Jewish me knows that this isn't the theologically correct response, but apparently I paid more attention in class than the priest did. Or maybe, just maybe, he has an ulterior motive.

Ulterior motive it is, then, as the priest facilitates selling him into slavery. Now the property of Captain Magnus Hanso, Richard is chained to the hull of the Black Rock. As you may have surmised in the past, the Black Rock has a very stormy voyage. One of Richard's similarly-chained companions looks out to see land... and the devil. Well, really, it's the four-toed statue -- but not for long, as the wave-tossed ship smacks straight into it.

Somehow, the ship ends up catching a wave inland (that must've been one hell of a wave). The below-deck chained gang hear some officers talking about how Captain Hanso is dead, and they're in the middle of the bloody jungle. The guys below yell for help, and are ecstatic when one of the officers comes downstairs... and starts killing the men, becuase, you know, only so much fresh water to go around, and if he freed Richard then it would only be a miatter of time before he tried to kill the officer. Just as the officer is about to punctuate this with a sword to Richard's gut, we hear the unmistakeable sound of... Smokey! Well, we know it's Smokey, anyway. The various officers just know that something's killing them. Smokey even reaches down to grab Bo'sun Stabby before he can run his sword through Richard. Smokey returns -- but instead of grabbing Richard, Smokey slowly wafts around the area where Richard is chained, appearing as thoughtful as a column of black smoke possibly can. And then Smokey's gone, and Richard is alone, save for a bunch of dead bodies.

A blue butterfly flits through the scene, and we go into this whole long sequence of Richard trying to free himself, drink rainwater, etc. Everything he needs is tantalizingly just out of reach. This goes on for several days and night, plenty of time for you to go look up the myth of Tantalus. Seriously, a boar even has time to come in and snack on the dead people. And then Richard hears a voice: Isabella. She's shot in the soft focus that's reserved for delirious hallucinations and Barbara Walters, but Richard does not have our television vocabulary. Isabella tells him that they're both dead, in Hell, and she's here to save him from the devil. She works to free him, but then there's the Smokey's-coming noises, and he tells her to run, and she does, and Richard hears her scream. Richard sobs. You guys, I'm starting to think that maybe he's not in the best emotional shape.

And then, at night, some guy comes into the cabin with a lamp and some water. This guy is the Man in Black. (Not Johnny Cash. The other one.) He touches Richard's shoulder to wake him and gives him water. The MiB tells Richard that he's been here since long before the ship; and, also, "he" probably has her. As luck would have it, MiB found some keys outside, but he wants some assurances first. See, MiB wants to be free, too, and he wants to know that Richard will help him. Richard agrees. (Like he's going to refuse?) So, MiB unlocks his shackles and helps Richard out of the ship to begin recouperating. Because, you know, there's only one way to escape from hell: You have to kill the devil.

MiB hangs out on a convenient bench and watches as Richard wolfs down some roast boar. Take that, maneating boar! MiB instructs Richard to go west, to the beach. At the ocean, he'll be able to see the remnants of the statue (again: one hell of a wave), and he'll find the devil. And Richard will only have one chance to run this dagger through the devil's chest -- which Richard must do before he speaks, as he can be very persuasive -- and, yes, this is precisely what Dogen told Sayid a few episodes ago and 140 years in the future. Richard, who cares little for checking past recaps, asks if the other guy is the black smoke. MiB admits that he, himself, is the black smoke. But, no, Isabella wasn't running from MiB -- he was running from that other guy and couldn't do anything to stop him taking her. Richard's all, uh, dude? You're tantrumy, rampagey Smokey -- and, PS, doesn't this mean you killed the officers? MiB meanders down a conversation path about how Richard's not the only one lost; "the devil" betrayed him, took his body and his humanity, and Richard needs to kill the devil if he wants his wife back. Richard's still caught on that whole "murder is wrong" thing. MiB finally asks if Richard ever wants to see his wife again. Richard does, so he accepts the dagger, looking conflicted as he does so.

Richard walks to the beach and goes to the foot of the statue. He sees a door at the base, so he walks towards it -- and gets felled by a punch. And another one. And another. This goes on for a while. Finally, Jacob asks -- quite sensibly -- who Richard is and who gave him the dagger. Richard just wants to know where is wife is. Jacob's all, what, half-dead guy? They establish that Isabella did not come on the ship, and that she is, in fact, dead. Jacob asks -- again, quite sensibly -- why Richard's asking him where his dead wife is -- and, wait, did you meet a man dressed in black? Why, yes, Richard confirms; and this man in black said Jacob's the devil and that killing him's the only way Richard will see his wife again. This made perfect sense to Richard, because he's convinced he's dead and in hell. Exasperated, Jacob drags Richard into the water, and dunks his head under. "Still think you're dead?" Jacob shouts at him, before dunking him again. After the fourth time (not third, I counted), Richard sensibly cries that he wants to live. Okay, then.

Jacob and Richard have a little sit-down on the beach. (Not inside; no one comes in unless Jacob invites them.) Jacob has brought a corked bottle o' wine, which he uncorks and pours a couple of cups. Richard asks if he's the devil. Jacob patiently explains that no, his name is Jacob, and he's the one who brought the ship to the island. Richard, sensibly, asks why. Jacob lifts the wine bottle. "Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell," Jacob says. (You can also call it malevolence, evil, darkness or Daisy. Doesn't matter.) "Here it is, swirling in a bottle, unable to get out. If it did, it would spread." He corks the bottle, explaining that the cork is the Island -- "and it's the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs". In a karaoke bar in 2006? Oh, wait, not The Darkness. Just darkness. So, wait: The Island is the Hellmouth? I think I need some of that wine. Aaaanyway.... the MiB sent Richard to kill Jacob because MiB thinks everyone is corruptable because it's in their nature to sin, and Jacob brings people here to prove him wrong. And, yes, there were others before Richard, but they're all dead. Jacob didn't help them because he wanted them to make the right decision on their own; "It's all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?" Richard, sensibly: "If you don't, he will." Jacob ponders for a moment, and then offers Richard a job: Be Jacob's intermediary between him and the people he brings to the Island. What does Richard want in return? His wife back. Nope, Jacob can't do that. Can he absolve Richard of his sins so he doesn't go to hell? Nope, can't do that either. In that case, Richard says, he wants to live forever, so he doesn't go to hell. Now that, Jacob can do. And so, with a touch on the shoulder, Richard's hired -- and ageless.

Richard's first work assignment: Return to MiB. "You let him talk to you, didn't you?" MiB surmises. Richard hands over Jacob's message: A small white rock. MiB understands that Jacob can be very convincing, but warns Richard that if he goes with Jacob, he'll never see his wife again. But, hey, if Richard ever -- EVER -- changes his mind, the offer to join Team Smokey still stands. And, PS, MiB has something for Richard, somethign he must have dropped on the ship. It's Isabella's cross, of course. Sobbing, Richard buries it near the bench.

So now, back in the present day, Richard tramps along, not stopping until he reaches the spot where he buried the necklace. He unearths it. "I've changed my mind," he yells. "You said I could change my mind, and the offer would still stand. Does the offer still stand?" He yells this last phrase several times, until he hears someone coming towards him, and it's... Hurley. "What offer, dude?" Hurley asks Richard, sensibly. Richard, wild-eyed, asks if Hurley followed him. Well, kind of: Richard's wife sent him, and she wants to know why you buried her cross. Also, Isabella's standing right next to Richard. Well, at least to Hurley, she is. Through Hurley -- translator of both language and deadness -- she tells Richard that his English is awesome. And, also, it wasn't Richard's fault she died; it was her time. She says he's suffered enough. He'd do anything for themto be together again. She says they're already together, kisses his cheek, and vanishes. Hurley confirms that Isabella's wrong. Looking quite sad, Richard puts on the necklace. Oh, and by the way, Hurley reports, Isabella kinda said there was something Richard has to do: Stop the Man in Black from leaving the island. Because if he doesn't, todos nos vamos al ifierno - we all go to hell.

NotLocke, all knowing, looks pissed. Or maybe thoughtful. Or constipated. It's hard to tell with these supernatural entities.

Back in the day, MiB sit and broods, tossing the white rock between his hands. Jacob joins him. "I see you got my present," he says. "Don't gloat, Jacob. It doesn't become you," MiB snarks -- which is exactly what my first college roommate said to me about swearing, but that's another story. Jacob asks why MiB tried to kill him. "I want to leave. Let me leave, Jacob," he almost pleads. But they both know that MiB's not going anywhere as long as Jacob's alive -- which is why MiB wants to kill him. Jacob points out that if he does, someone else will take Jacob's place. "Well, I'll kill them, too," MiB grumbles. Jacob hands MiB the jug o' wine -- something to help him pass the time -- and, with a curt "See you around," Jacob leaves MiB alone. "Sooner than you think," MiB mutters, turning the bottle of wine upside down so that the cork keeps holding in the liquid. And then MiB smashes the bottle, letting the wine flow everywhere. Because, I suppose, if there is a crack in everything and that's how the light gets in (not that I'm still bitter about no Leonard Cohen last week), it's just possible that that's also how darkess gets out.

So, to sum up: Richard is caught in the middle of some supernatural pissing match, the Island contains badness, and Hurley is seriously this show's expositional MVP.

Next week: Possible Sun-Jin reconciliation, overshadowed by improper subject-verb agreement in the promo.

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