Two Men on an Island

Two men sit on the beach of a very unusual island. One man wears white and goes by the name of Jacob. The other, dressed in black, never gives his name. No one knows how long they've been on this island, but given the ruins of a giant four-toed statue resembling Set, and other Egyptian symbols and artifacts found on the island, perhaps they've been there for thousands of years.

Each claims the other to be evil. Jacob lives in the base of the statue of a god of storms and chaos. The man in black alternately wears the form of a dead man, or drifts around as a cloud of black smoke with a raging electrical storm inside. As the smoke he usually uproots trees and crushes people, tossing them around like ragdolls. On a few occasions, he seems to scan their memories, and for some reason, spare them. The one thing those he's spared all have in common is faith, be it in some religion or the island itself, but there's always something in them the smoke can manipulate. The smoke man behaves like the traditional Christian devil, making promises and tempting people. All he wants to do is leave the island.

Jacob behaves like both a prison guard and the Christian God. He does not interfere, at least not directly. He keeps the smoke on the island, and brings people there to prove to the smoke that man is good. He allows people to exercise free will and make their own choices, and more often than not they make the right ones. Making the right choice does not always mean they survive. Many have died, either from a direct attack from the smoke or some other tragedy or selfless sacrifice. But Jacob maintains that the smoke is pure evil, and that the island is like the cork on a bottle of wine, keeping the evil in, keeping it from the rest of the world. The smoke, due to some unexplained rules, cannot kill Jacob. It keeps trying to get others to do it, using some ritualistic knife. It claims Jacob is the reason it has no true body of its own. If Jacob is Set or a representation of Set, is the smoke Anubis, Set's son in some ancient accounts and the god of the afterlife? Or is the reason the smoke has no form is because it is a part of Jacob, two sides of the same coin, the dark side of a Backgammon piece? Is Jacob one being split into his good and evil sides?

The cycle continues. In the 1800s, Jacob apparently conjures a storm which brings a slave ship known as The Black Rock to the island, smashing his statue in the process. The captain, Magnus Hanso, and many men are killed in the crash. Jonas Whitfield, one of the surviving slave traders, proceeds to kill the slaves chained below deck, so they won't turn on him later. The smoke appears, and kills Whitfield and the rest of the crew, but spares the last slave, Ricardo Alpert, after scanning him. Alpert had accidentally killed a doctor while trying to procure medicine for his dying wife, and had been sold in to slavery by a corrupt priest who refused to grant the devout Spanish Catholic absolution for murder, even an accidental one for which he was repentant. Feeling great guilt, Alpert wasn't entirely sure the island wasn't hell.

Eventually the smoke, in the form of the man in black, freed Alpert, and sent him to kill Jacob, promising he'd see his dead wife again if he did so. Jacob bested Alpert, disarming him of the ritualistic dagger he had been given, and convinced him they weren't dead or in hell by dipping him in the ocean four times, a sequence with strong baptismal overtones. Indeed, Alpert was reborn in that moment and subsequently granted eternal life by Jacob. Over the years Alpert, eventually known as Richard(though Jacob would call him “Ricardus”), would serve as an intermediary between Jacob and those who came to the island. In the 1970s, an organization known as the Hanso Foundation(note the family name of the Black Rock captain in there) would fund the Dharma Initiative, and a series of research stations would be set up to study the electromagnetic energy beneath the island and other strange phenomena. These newcomers would clash with the “native” people, Richard and the Others who were there before them. In 1992, Ben Linus of the Dharma Initiative turned on his own people after growing up on the island, and sided with Richard. Ben led a great purge and killed everyone with poison gas, usurping their position.

In 2004, Oceanic Airlines flight 815 is torn asunder after the electromagnetic forces on the island are unleashed when Desmond Hume, a man in one of the key Dharma stations, fails to enter a certain sequence of numbers and press a button. The survivors are diverse, and many of their paths seem to have overlapped in some way before all ending up on that same fateful flight. Many of their names appear on a list given to Ben Linus from Jacob through Richard, though Linus does not know the list indicates those individuals as candidates to replace Jacob in keeping the smoke trapped on the island. Eventually, after enduring conflicts with the natives and the smoke and other hardships, a small group of eight escape on a helicopter while the island is dislodged in time. It was Ben who turned a wheel which dislodged the island, and later John Locke who stabilized it. This left several of the 815 trapped on the island in the 1970s, where they assimilated in to the Dharma initiative. Three years later, several of their friends who had escaped the island would return on another plane, and find themselves transported back to the ‘70s as well. Hoping to change the future, Dr. Jack Shephard, the generally accepted leader of the 815ers, and candidate #23 to replace Jacob, formulated a plan to stop their plane from ever crashing by having a nuclear warhead detonated at the construction site of the station which brought them down. The resulting explosion seemed to only send them back to their present of 2007, where nothing had changed. Even worse, the smoke in the guise of John Locke convinced Ben to stab Jacob, seemingly breaking the cycle of captor and captive. Ben had murdered the real Locke and brought his body back to the island, thinking he had come back to life when he saw the smoke in its disguise.

All may not be as it seems. Jacob still appears to Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, a man who can see ghosts for some reason. And in some sideways parallel timeline, we see how events would have played out if, perhaps as a result of that nuke going off in 1977, the island was on the bottom of the ocean and 815 didn't crash. The plane not crashing would not be the only thing changed by the butterfly effect, and if the island was indeed the cork trapping the pure evil of the smoke, then the evil is free and unleashed on the world in that timeline. Many of the people on that flight still cross paths, despite leading very different lives with changed careers or families. Even people from the island have roles in their new reality, so even though it's a new tapestry it's made with the same threads, just interwoven differently. For some, life seems to be happier, the ideal they always wanted. For others, the same demons still haunt them, and the same rewards still elude them. Life in the new version of 2004 seems to parallel life in the unchanged 2007, and decisions one version of a person might make will echo those of his or her counterpart in the other reality.

The man in white had his newly recruited Richard give the man in black a white stone. Not long after, Jacob visited the man in black in person, and gave him another gift to pass the time and prod his captive, a corked bottle of wine. After Jacob departed, the man in black smashed that bottle on a log. Does this symbolize the loophole of the new reality? Can two divergent paths coexist, or are they destined to collide? With Jacob seemingly out of the picture and no candidate chosen to replace him, will the smoke now escape? Are you as LOST as I am, or are you simply lost?

Don't worry, folks. There are only seven episodes left to figure this all out. With answers coming faster and more furious, many of us are theory-crazed. Truth be told, we've been theory-crazed for six years even when we had the barest snippets of information. Now that most of the blanks have been filled in, we're getting a more accurate picture of what it's all about. Even so, we're probably wrong. I remember a few seasons ago when I thought the smoke was a cluster of nanobots, and the electricity was its power signature when it was scanning a person’s memories, what we the audience would see as a flashback. When we found out a sonic fence could repel the smoke, I thought it lent credence to my theory. Then the show took a more supernatural turn, with a circle of ashes keeping out the smoke. And with all the mythological and religious symbolism cropping up, the explanation is seeming less and less scientific(although Dharma projects did include things like longevity, healing, and other things attributed to Jacob). And I can't help but wonder if it's all as clear cut as one good being and one evil being. Mark Pellegrino, who portrays Jacob, has also portrayed the human host of Lucifer on Supernatural. Maybe he's the evil one. Maybe they're both evil. Maybe they're beyond good and evil, and more like ancient Greek or Roman deities who competed with each other and played with mortals for sport, to alleviate their boredom. Whatever it is, I hope they can address as much as possible in the next two months. Then I can get on with my life.

It's either that or move on to obsessing over FlashForward....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel terrible saying this, but dude you need to get a life. I am older and perhaps not wiser, but I have not watched TV in almost 8 years, excluding the Olynpics, and I actually read your whole "Two Men on an Island" blog, and felt sorry for you.On a good note, I pretty much only comment on blogs that make me laugh. PS: why did you put T2 in your movie list but not T1?

3/25/2010 4:20 AM  
Anonymous MCF said...

If you don't watch TV, what did you think a post called "Two Men on an Island" was going to be about when you decided to read it?

3/25/2010 9:43 AM  
Blogger Spockgirl said...

Sorry, no offense intended, considering I was reading blogs at 1AM. When I saw the Title of your blog together with the Title of your post, I figured it would be an either hilarious or profound parable, which technically it is...I'm also very new to this blogging thing, and it is sometimes difficult to whittle down what I want to say, and subsequently my intended humour is lost in the edit. Apologies.

3/26/2010 3:00 AM  
Blogger Lorna said...

I am in awe. I've been watching the same series as you and I've missed some of the most important things. I can however tell you that Claire had her hair permed on the island.

3/26/2010 11:53 AM  

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