Tonight, we got some. A whole lot of 'em, actually.
Then again, that depends on who you believe. One of the most fascinating things about Lost is its dependency on unreliable narrators to tell the story. "Ab Aeterno" continued in that same vein. (For the record, I'm more apt to believe Jacob than MIB in regards to what they each told Richard, but I'll get to that later on.)
The episode's action started off with Richard telling Jack, Hurley, Sun, Lapidus, Ilana and Ben that they're all in hell, that they're all dead. I know from
Then, as we watched Richard running into the darkened jungle, we got a Richard flashback--not a sideways story, but an honest-to-goodness flashback, starting in 1867. In it, we saw:
* Richard's wife, Isabella, being sick
* Richard trying to convince the doctor to come save her--but he accidentally killed the douchey doctor
* Richard being jailed and told that the priest "cannot grant [him] absolution for murder"
* Because Richard knew English, instead of getting hanged, he got put aboard a ship, the Black Rock, to work for...Magnus Hanso. (So there's that Hanso person we've heard bits and pieces about...or we've at least heard about the Hanso Foundation, in any case)
* Richard was chained to the ship's walls. Waves caused the ship to crash into the statue of Tawaret, breaking the statue and beaching the ship in the middle of the jungle.
* A man (Hanso?) killing the other slaves on board because only 5 officers have survived and "if [he] freed [them], it would only be a matter of time before [they] killed [him]." Then Hanso (or whoever he was) got swallowed up by Smokey.
* Then Isabella appeared to Richard. But she's dead! We know she's dead! My suspicion: It's Smokey in disguise! And we find out why Richard believes he's in hell and they're all dead: It's because "Isabella" told him so.
* And then MIB appears, calling himself "a friend." (Riiiiight. Because if you have to say you're a friend, chances are you may be quite the opposite.) And this "friend" tries to convince Richard to go "kill the devil" so he (Richard) can see his wife again. (What got my ears perked up: MIB to Richard: "You'll do anything I ask?" Made me momentarily wonder if Richard had been working for MIB, not Jacob, all the time.)
* A mirror image: "It's good to see you out of those chains," MIB said to Richard. These were the same words he said to Richard in the present Island timeframe a few episodes ago, only this time he was cloaked in Locke's body. (No wonder Richard looked so freaked out then!)
* Another mirror image: MIB telling Richard to stab "the devil" before the devil even has a chance to speak. Sound familiar? It's what Dogen told Sayid to do to FLocke in "Sundown."
* We see Jacob administering some tough love to Richard, dunking him in the ocean to make Richard realize he didn't want to die (thanks, MIKE S, for pointing out to this little agnostic that that seems an awful lot like baptism!).
* And then--finally!--we begin to get some answers. Or what I believe are answers, anyway. My gut tells me to believe Jacob, not MIB. So if you, like me, believe Jacob, this is what you learn: Jacob brought the Black Rock to the Island. You can think of the Island's situation like a bottle of wine: here it--the darkness--is, swirling around in the bottle, unable to get out. If it got out, it would spread its darkness everywhere. The cork in the top of the bottle is the Island. That's what keeps the darkness from spreading. While MIB believes that all people are sinners, Jacob brings people to the Island to prove him wrong, to show him that people can change, be good, be moral. He will not force them to be moral; it's something they have to do on their own, to help themselves, to prove they can change--otherwise it's meaningless. If Richard would like to have a job being Jacob's intermediary, Richard can have it, and Jacob will give him something in exchange. Jacob cannot give him his wife back, nor can he grant him absolution of his sins. Because--I'm assuming--Richard knows he can't be absolved of his sins and wants to avoid going to hell, he asks to live forever. Wish granted.
* Later, we see Richard give MIB the white rock (from Jacob) that we saw several episodes before when we saw Flocke in the cave. At that time, the rock was on one side of a scale; the other side of that scale had a dark rock on it. MIB gives Richard the cross necklace that had once belonged to Isabella. Then Richard buries that cross (and we know nothing ever stays buried on the Island!).
* The flashback ends, and we see Richard wandering around in the light/daytime. He goes to unearth that cross. Holding it, he yells, "I've changed my mind! You said the offer would still stand! Does the offer still stand?" My interpretation: He was calling out to MIB; he missed his wife and wanted to see her again. And then Hurley shows up. "Your wife sent me. She wants to know why you buried her cross," he said. He told Richard that Isabella was standing right next to him; we saw that she was, although Richard did not. "Sometimes it takes people a while [to believe]," Hurley said. And then: "She wants you to close your eyes. I'll tell you what she says." Isabella says that it wasn't Richard's fault he couldn't save her--that it was her time. And then "My love--we are already together."
* Once Isabella disappeared, Hurley said, "She kinda said one more thing. Something you have to do. You have to stop the man in black from leaving the Island. If you don't, we all go to hell."
* Which begs the question(s):
--By "changing his mind," has Richard crossed over to the dark side?
--Was that really Isabella, or was that a MIB-made Isabella?
--If the former, then what does that mean, exactly?
--If the latter, then does that mean that all along, every dead person Hurley has seen/talked to has been a manifestation of MIB (even off-Island)? Also: if this Isabella was MIB-made, why did it then tell Richard to keep MIB from leaving the Island?
* Before the scene ends, we see FLocke looking rather...intense. What do you suppose he was thinking about?
We get one more flashback before the episode ends. It's an MIB/Jacob flashback. MIB tells Jacob he wants to leave the Island. Jacob tells MIB that as long as he himself is alive, MIB's not going anywhere. MIB mentions this is why he wants to kill Jacob, and Jacob tells him he'll find someone to take his (Jacob's) place if that happens (the candidates, obviously). Then Jacob hands MIB that bottle of wine: "Here's something for you to pass the time." And after Jacob leaves, MIB cracks that sucker open...letting all the darkness out, giving us a very Pandora's Box type of vibe (thanks for that one, DAVE S!).
So tonight we got some answers. Lots of answers (unless Jacob's a big ol' liar!). We got a lot of symbolism that hints at religious stuff (none of which I can talk about in too much detail because I have zero religious knowledge--so if you can fill me in, by all means do so!). We got a few speeches that were mirror images of things we've heard before. We got some very interesting backstory. We know why the candidates are on the Island, who brought them there, and that the Island sort of seems like the portal to hell--or the thing that keeps hellishness from spilling out into the rest of the world. We got a much better understanding of the Island's most mysterious character. I think this was a terrific episode, and just what we rabid fans needed. We've had a bunch of questions and not a whole lot of answers thrown at us lately, and an episode like this one quenched a bit of our thirst for information and allows us to settle back in for the rest of the ride. And I have a feeling it's gonna be a hell of a ride.
What other things did you notice about this episode? What parts of it did you love, love, love? Do any of you believe the MIB isn't such a baddie after all and that Jacob's really the bad guy? Whose side is Richard on now, anyway? Talk to me in the Comments section!