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'Lost' recap: Starting over

Jack and company take an audacious step to change their history in the shocking season finale, and we finally meet Jacob and begin to understand what’s at work on the Island

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Mario Perez/ABC

Lost

type:
Music
Current Status:
In Season
Producers:
Suave House, Universal

Ladies and gentlemen, please make the acquaintance of Jacob, the fishy-frying, list-writing maybe-God of the Island. About time, don’t you think? No longer an Easter egg flickering in the shadows of a derelict cabin (if he was ever that to begin with), the Ultimate Other of Lost became incarnate in last night’s exhilarating, heartbreaking, and I can’t believe they ended it THERE! infuriating season finale, entitled ”The Incident.” Curious fellow, this Jacob. He’s a sunny optimist — a big believer in evolutionary ”progress.” Ditto the whole notion of ”free will.” He’s also, like, really really nice, though he does have this weird thing about touching people. You caught that, right? In ”The Incident,” we got flashbacks showing that Jacob was present at key moments in the off-Island lives of many Lostaways, like when John Locke got tossed out the window by his bad dad or during Jack Shephard’s apocryphal ”count to five” fear-squelching episode. Each of these close encounters included a conspicuous touch — Jacob laying his hands on Jin and Sun at their wedding to offer a blessing, Jacob brushing fingers with Young James Ford as he gave him a pen, Jacob tapping Young Kate on the nose after bailing her out of a shoplifting jam. Everyone he met got touched.

Important? Absolutely, I think so, yes. My theory can be summarized in one word:

Failsafe.

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”The Incident” felt like the past four season finales rolled into one. It was as epic in scope as season 4, as game changing as season 3, as explosive as season 2, and as frustrating as season 1. Seriously: They couldn’t have given us just two more moments — one that revealed definitively if Lost history had been rebooted, and another that finally reunited all of the time-tossed castaways on the Island!? ARGH!

Back in the Dharma Days of the quantum leaping pastaways, former man of science turned destiny zealot Jack saw his bid to blow up history by detonating Jughead fulfilled at least in part by Juliet, who tumbled down the drill hole of the Swan and survived long enough to pull a Beneath The Planet of the Apes and Bang! Bang! Bang! on the bomb to trigger it. Earlier in the episode, Sawyer mentioned that it was July 1977 — the same month of the legendary, panic-inducing New York City blackout, caused by a pair of lightening strikes. (Wikipedia, my Lost super-computer, I will be missing our weekly investigations into arcana.) As Jughead KABOOMed! and the screen flooded as white as a clean slate — a reverse-negative of The Sopranos‘ infamous cut-to-black series final — we were left to wonder: Was paradox produced? Did the timeline collapse? If so, to what extent will things be different, if at all? And couldn’t Lost have given us the very next scene, the one that could have answered these questions? Again: ARRGGHH!

THEORY! Miles was completely correct when he suggested that Jack’s quantum suicide-bomber act would actually produce the very ”incident” they were trying to subvert — that they would be fulfilling history, not re-making it. At the same time, I think mad scientist Daniel Faraday was correct with his ”human variable” theory. There was a free radical among the time travelers, and her exercise of free will in last night’s episode made all the difference: Juliet ”I changed my mind” Burke. As a result of her Jughead-blowing anarchy, history has been rebooted. The Swan will never be built; Oceanic 815 will never crash. But the shape and form of the new timeline will be determined by now-former castaways, thanks to the two gifts given to them by Jacob in the finale: a second chance at life — and the freedom to create their own destiny. More explanation to come.

In the Island’s present: Creepytown. Locke’s quest to kill Jacob ended with the revelation that ”John Locke” wasn’t ”John Locke” at all, but rather some Island entity posing as baldie — Jacob’s furious philosophical adversary, the nameless man in black. Last week, I wondered if there was a villain hiding in plain sight, but I was certain the dirty one was Richard Alpert. I was wrong. Many of you suspected that Resurrected Locke really was all kinds of bogus, but the confirmation was mind-blowing, nonetheless. Alterna-Locke manipulated Ben into doing the actual dirty work of god slaying, and the humbled and defrocked leader/priest did so willingly, full of bitterness toward the god he had served faithfully and sight-unseen for decades without reward, without the assurance of his presence. ”Oh, so now after all this time, you’ve decided to stop ignoring me,” Ben bitched. ”I did what I was told. But when I dared to ask to see you myself I was told I had to wait…What was it that was so wrong with me? What about me?

The showdown was rife with spiritual subtext and will no doubt inspire a great many religion-major dissertations. (”Lost: Allegory For Mankind’s Angry Alienation From God In A Post-Eden World.”) It seemed to me that Jacob willingly submitted himself to death, all but baring his breast and walking his heart right into Ben’s knife. Yet we were left to wonder: Who was playing whom? Did Alterna-Locke’s plan work — or did he play right into Jacob’s touchy-feely hands? Has Ben really become Alterna-Locke’s stooge — or does the old puppet master still have a string or two to play?

NEXT: Good versus evil?

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THEORY! Much of the castaways? history — including the crash of Oceanic 815 — has been molded and manipulated by the entity that is the Nameless Man In Black, an intricate, divine conspiracy whose ultimate goal was to kill Jacob. That was the significance of Alterna-Locke?s gloating line: ?And you have no idea what I?ve gone through to be here.? But what the Adversary didn?t know was that Jacob had been doing some plotting of his own to counter all of his enemy’s moves. And in the last moment of the Jacob/Alterna-Locke/Ben showdown, I think what we saw was Alterna-Locke realizing that he?d been checkmated. ”They’re coming,” Jacob sputtered — referring, I believe, to Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the entire quantum leaping cavalry. I think the Adversary completely understood the significance of what Jacob was saying — and it pissed him off big time. Hence, why Alterna-Locke angrily kicked Jacob into the fire. Hence, that scowl on his face. It was the pout of defeat.

”The Incident” confirmed for me one of the few correct theories I’ve come up with this year: That season 5 was a mirror to season 2, they’ve been setting up a sixth season that will resemble season 1, thus completing the moebius strip narrative of Lost. ”The Incident” certainly resembled season 2’s finale, the title of which, ”Live Together, Die Alone,” was name-checked by Juliet last night. There was a story line involving castaway treachery (Michael = Alterna-Locke). Both episodes shared the Four Toed Statue as a plot point, although ”The Incident” gave us a better look at what it once looked like back in the day. (Was that a crocodile head?) Both episodes culminated with the destruction of the Hatch, perpetrated in each case by lovelorn characters hoping their sacrifice would somehow, someway save the lives of their friends. And finally, both episodes were about activating ”quibbles”. As in: A plot device, common to fantasy/science fiction, that allows a character to cheat the literal obligations of a promise, contract, or prophecy. Also see: loophole. Desmond had the failsafe, while Jacob had…

Oh, but we’ll get to that.

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THE MAN IN BLACK: ”Do you know how much I want to kill you?”

Jacob: ”Yes.”

The Lost producers have always likened their saga to a cosmic clash between good and evil akin to Stephen King’s The Stand or his time loop fantasy opus, The Dark Tower. And since the very beginning, we’ve been given hints, such as in the pilot, when Locke taught Walt the rules of backgammon. ”Two players. Two sides. One is light, one is dark.” The opening sequence officially activated this Big Idea. We now we see that the entire Lost saga is contextualized by a centuries-spanning conflict — or maybe just a game — between two beings, enchanted and long-lived but not necessarily immortal. On one side, there is Jacob. On the other side, there is…well, he didn’t drop a name. I know what you’re saying, especially those who know your Bible: ”Esau.” The ruddy, hairy older twin who got tricked out of his birthright by brother Jacob. The problem with this comparison is that Jacob and Esau ultimately forgave each other. I didn’t get sense that that kind grace and détente are possible for Lost‘s Jacob and…whomever. So who are these guys? Jesus and Satan? Set and Horus? Roland Deschaine and Randall Flagg? Yep: We’ll be excavating and debating for months.

Jacob first, well played by Dexter‘s Mark Pellegrino. We met him as he was making thread, first with a foot-treadle floor loom that he powered with his sandled foot, then with a high warp loom in which fibers are hung vertically; the latter is used to make large tapestries like the ones that hung on the walls in Jacob’s chamber. I suddenly thought: Wanted, the 2008 Angelina Jolie/James McAvoy film, in which a league of assassins enforces the will of destiny by taking kill orders from ”the loom of fate.” Of course, Wanted wasn’t making that idea up from whole cloth. Kismet-making looms can be traced back to ancient mythology and to the Fates, who spun, measured and cut the destinies of individual souls out of thread. There is the ”spindle of necessity,” part of the Myth of Er, a resurrection story from Greece that tells of souls dropping from the sky like falling stars, then getting sent back to Earth in new bodies. Also see: ”metempsychosis” — transmigration of the soul — the buzz word from the season’s second most important literary reference, James Joyce’s Ulysses. Irrelevant? Ask Alterna-Locke and the now-obliterated Dharma pastaways. Bookmark this stuff: We’re coming back to it when I spell out my Quibbling Jacob Theory.

Look, I’m not saying that Jacob’s textile machinery is magical. I got the sense it was something of a spiritual discipline, an exercise designed to hone his spiritual worldview, and a visual metaphor for the elaborate, cross-time conspiracy that he and/or his adversary weave through individual lives and groups of people.

NEXT: Jacob and Nameless

After Jacob completed his morning routine of arts and crafts, he waded into the ocean, snagged a fish using a trap, then sliced off a fillet and cooked it on a hot stone. This made me feel very hungry. In the Christian tradition, fish is a symbol for both Jesus Christ and the soul (”Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” JC in Matthew 4:19), and watching Jacob fetch his finny breakfast from that wicker trap, I couldn’t help but think of Sting’s song ”The Soul Cages,” about a boy who descends into a hellacious harbor town and challenges the ”king of the sea” to a drinking game for the release of his dead father’s soul, which the mythic fisherman has caught in his traps. The boy succeeds; in the end, he and his father set sail for ”the island of souls.” Judging from the conversation that unfolded between Jacob and his nameless adversary as they watched a sailing ship approach the Island, Jacob is not dissimilar to Sting’s ”king of the sea,” a ”fisherman” in the business of drawing and trapping souls — but why? To what end? Is Jacob good or evil? Or is he beyond such absolutes?

ABOUT THE SHIP: The Black Rock? If so, then it would date the opening sequence circa 1845. It looked very much like the boat-in-a-bottle that Alpert was building last week. Were we witnessing the ageless enigma’s Island arrival?)

Jacob’s crusty companion was a sleepy looking dude clad in dark hues, played by Titus Welliver, one of my favorite actors from HBO’s brilliant western, Deadwood. He looked like he had just rolled out of bed — or maybe we should say billowed out of bed, because at first, I got a total Smokey-in-human-flesh vibe from him. Jacob offered him some fish. ”No thanks,” he said, ”I just ate.” I was thinking: And what was on the menu today? Some unredeemable soul leftover from the last bunch of castaways to crash on The Island? I also wondered if maybe Nameless was Richard Alpert’s predecessor, but backed off that by episode’s end due to the Alterna-Locke reveal.

The dialogue between these two rivals dripped with tension and subtext. Nameless accused Jacob of bringing the boat to the Island. Jacob didn’t deny it. The man in black sighed deeply and oozed a deeply cynical perspective on the drama that the ship was about to trigger on the Island:

NAMELESS: You’re trying to prove me wrong.

JACOB: You are wrong.

NAMELESS: They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same.

JACOB: It can only end once. Everything before that is progress.

That exchange blew my mind. The conversational shorthand between these two familiars made for much interpretive obliqueness. Nameless seemed to see history — or at least, history on the Island — as an endless cycle of darkness and despair. You also got the sense he was weary of playing whatever role it is he plays in this drama. Jacob, on the other hand, seemed to see history/just Island history as a forward moving saga marked by incremental progress. These castaway dramas he stages on the Island are building upon each other and leading toward something that he desires very, very much. Nameless, on the other hand, expressed homicidal contempt for Jacob and his ambitions. ”Do you have any idea how much I want to kill you?” The line reading chilled me to the bone. So did Jacob’s response: ”Yes.”

So these boys have issues. But they are also bound by rules, too. Nameless openly yearned for ”a loophole” that would allow him to put Jacob down — but what’s the rule he’s trying to skirt? My guess: Nameless and Jacob are prohibited from spilling each other’s blood. The Biblical legend of Cain and Abel tells us that Cain’s punishment for slaying his brother was to wander the world for eternity. But Cain remained mortal; indeed, he was kept alive by a mark that warned people away from messing with him lest they wanted to get smitten by God. Cain then settled east of Eden, in the mythical ”land of Nod,” or ”land of wanderers.” Separately, there are Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, which chronicle the adventures of a dysfunctional family of entities known as The Endless, that embody ideas: death, destruction, destiny, dream, desire, delirium, and despair. The larger saga has Desire hatching an intricate scheme over time to orchestrate the death of her brother, Dream, through proxies; she can’t do it herself, because again, there are rules. So: Could Jacob be Cain or a Cain-like figure? Or might he be the Endless-like incarnation of an idea? Given how much Jacob clucked about the ability to choose one’s fate, perhaps he stands for the idea of free will. Or given his optimistic belief in progress, maybe he stands for redemption…

Unless he stands for damnation. Because despite his sensitive, soothing demeanor, I find myself nagged by the prospect that Jacob could be playing with the dark pieces in this cosmic game. The final moments of the opening sequence may have offered a clue that Jacob is more charismatic Lucifer Morningstar than feel-good sexy Jesus. As Loophole McNameless walked away, head full of hate and schemes, the camera tilted up and we got a full-scale profile shot of the Statue, which was still intact in the 19th century. The mug on the edifice sure didn’t look like a jackal to me, thus ruling out the Egyptian God Anubis, protector of the dead. No, that face looked like a crocodile, which gets you Sobek, a morally ambiguous dark god who oversees dark waters and preys on sinful souls in the afterlife. (Very Smokey.) Even worse, Set, the Egyptian god of chaos and evil, was a shapeshifter who often morphed into crocodiles and hippos (another candidate for Four Toed’s face) in his clashes with archenemy Horus. Set was linked to infertility (seems Horus once ripped off Set’s testicles) (serious!) (and ouch!) and was partial to fish and lettuce. Hey…didn’t we see Jacob munching on a filet-o-fish lettuce wrap last night? And aren’t devilish gods all for the concept of choice and free will?

If these mythological readings are correct, then we must wonder: What’s a seemingly nice guy like Jacob doing on an Island like this? And why the hell is he living in a statue like that? A Christ-like figure dwelling within a statue that’s a monument to evil makes for a nifty metaphor for redemption. But it could mean Jacob is the devil. Time will tell.

NEXT: Jacob goes on his touching tour

Since the first season, many of us have been wondering if some or all of the castaways are linked by some common denominator or connected by a subtle, unseen thread. The answer now appears to be yes. The flashback story line saw Jacob paying quick visits to various characters at pivotal points in their pre- or post-Island lives. His gracious, empathetic demeanor in each scenario was conspicuous, as was whom he visited — and whom he didn?t. I strongly believe the flashbacks held the clue to how the Jughead-obliterated pastaways will find their way back to land of the living — and I also suspect we?ll be revisiting each of these flashbacks early next season. But before I get all theoretical, let?s just simply recap what happened in the flashbacks, in the order in which they appeared.

1. KATE

WHEN: The late eighties, during the New Kids On The Block era.

WHAT SHE DID: Got caught stealing a NKOTB lunchbox at the local grocery with her best bud Tom, he of the tiny toy airplane, who got shot and killed as an adult while being in fugitive Kate?s company. The owner of the store was going to call her parents….

WHAT JACOB DID: But Jacob intervened and bought the lunchbox, thus squaring her debt. ?As long as someone pays for it, no harm done,? the storeowner said. Then, Jacob got all ET with Kate, binking her on the nose with his finger and telling her to Beeeee gooooood. He also said: ?You?re not going to steal anymore, are you? Be good, Kate.? Again, note the strong Christ-like shadings of Jacob: Paying off someone?s debt; expecting a good life in response to his grace.

2. SAWYER

WHEN: June, 1977

WHAT HE DID: Following the funeral for his swindled, murder-suicide parents, James Ford, age 8, begins writing the ?Dear Sawyer? letter that will define his adult identity and drive him to vengeance — but then his pen runs out of ink.

WHAT JACOB DID: He gave James a pen and told him to keep it. ?I am very sorry about your mother and father, James,? Jacob said. It was the first of a few occasions in which the Island maybe-God offered condolences to fate-screwed characters, as if he was apologizing on behalf of a cosmology that allows bad things to happen to good people. But more interesting was what happened next, when a friend approached James and said, ?I know you?re angry at the man who did this to your mommy and day, and you have every right to be. But you?ve got to move on. There?s nothing you can do to change that. What is done is done. Now promise me you won?t finish that letter.? We?ve seen Sawyer really embrace the ?What?s done is done? philosophy during his time travel arc this season — a perspective impressed upon him by Locke, actually — and we?ve also seen how it helped Sawyer flourish with new maturity. So imagine, then, what kind of awesome-blossom life Sawyer may have had if he embraced that perspective when it was first articulated to him as a child at his parents? funeral? I submit to you that young Jim Ford will get such a chance early next season. More in a minute.

3. SAYID

WHEN: Sometime shortly after the Oceanic 6?s escape from the Island.

WHAT HE DID: Newly married and very happy Sayid and Nadia are about to cross a busy L.A. intersection when a stranger asks the former soldier for directions. Nadia, who has stepped into the street, is struck and killed by a hit and run driver.

WHAT JACOB DID: He was the stranger, of course. But besides that and a touch — nothing. The most impersonal and quiet of Jacob?s castaway interactions. Which disturbed me. As he lay dying on the Island, Sayid said, ?Nothing can save me.? Clearly, he was speaking of his damned soul, not his health. Is Sayid really beyond redemption?

NEXT: Jin and Sun’s unknown wedding guest

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4. ILANA

WHEN: Unknown.

WHAT SHE DID: Fragged in a firefight? Bounty hunter assignment gone wrong? Bad facelift? A mystery for next season. We saw her wounded and woozy, face covered with bandages, resting in some kind of infirmary.

WHAT JACOB DID: ?I?m sorry I couldn?t get here earlier,? he said, and then he requested her help for some unspecified something. Did you get the sense they had an existing relationship, or did I read that wrong?

5. LOCKE

WHEN: Circa 2000, four years before coming to the Island.

WHAT HE DID: Well, he fell. As in, Anthony Cooper threw him out the window. He plunged eight stories. Baldie went splat and should have died….

WHAT JACOB DID: He calmly closed his book, Flannery O?Connor?s short story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge, and walked over to Locke and touched him on the shoulder — and suddenly, Locke was very much alive. Again, another apology on behalf of the Powers That Be: ?Don?t worry. Everything is going to be all right. I?m sorry this happened to you.? Again, Jacob extends empathy, even apologizing for fate. But I also got the sense that Jacob infused Locke with some of the Island?s patented healing power. No wonder he survived that fall!

ABOUT THE BOOK: O?Connor, Catholic and Southern, was known for her ironic redemption stories. She had a penchant for violence but felt it was in keeping with the nature of revelation — that it comes upon you unexpectedly, shockingly, horribly. In her yarns, the righteous are skewed and exposed as hypocrites, while the worst sinners end up becoming unwitting or unwilling conduits for God?s grace. As for Everything That Rises…, reader Adam Sroufe sent me this quote from critic Madsen Hardy characterizing O?Connor?s ambition: ”O’Connor…claims that it is her specific goal to offer a glimpse of God’s mystery and, thus, to lead readers — whom she sees as, for the most part, spiritually lost in the modern, secular world — back toward the path of redemption.” That could indeed be Jacobesque, provided he?s good, and certainly fits into my Quibbling theory?

6. JIN AND SUN

WHEN: Mid-to-late 90s, most likely.

WHAT THEY DID: They got married.

WHAT JACOB DID: He showed up at the wedding and offered a blessing — in excellent Korean, no less. ?Your love is a very special thing. Never take it for granted.? Again, we know that they will take their love for granted — and again, consider what might happen if they were able to do it all over again, beginning from this moment, with awareness of what had happened the first time around?.

7. JACK

WHEN: Mid-to-late 90s, most likely.

WHAT HE DID: During the course of his first major surgery, Jack accidentally slit a sack, threatening his patient with paralysis. Jack started to freeze up

but then his father intervened and coached him to bury his fear. The advice came with an ultimatum: Do it, or dad would take over the surgery. Jack got it together, but afterward confronted his father about humiliating him in front of his team by basically giving him a time out. The flashback mirrored his on-Island arc, where Jack found his leadership and manhood threatened by Sawyer. Never mind Jack?s ridiculous stated motivation for changing time (to get a second chance with Kate? Really?!) — ?The Incident? reminded us that Jack is as blind as Oedipus to the forces that motivate him, that he?s been stuck in an extended time-out of limited to no personal growth. Going into season 6, Jack?s essential challenge will be to make peace with the dark matters in his heart that drives him.

WHAT JACOB DID: Gave him the Apollo candy bar that got stuck in the machine when Jack first tried to buy it. ?I guess it needed just a little push.?

8. JULIET

WHEN: Late 80s?

WHAT SHE DID: Emotionally imploded after learning that her parents no longer believed they were meant to be together and announced that they were divorcing.

WHAT JACOB DID: Nothing — because he wasn?t part of this flashback. Ominous.

9. HURLEY

WHEN: 2007, one day before boarding Ajira Airways 316.

WHAT HE DID:He was released from jail and hopped in a cab already occupied by Jacob — and a guitar case.

WHAT JACOB DID: He encouraged Hurley to think of his I-see-dead-people ability as a blessing not curse. He also pitched him on returning to the Island via Ajira Airways 316. But once again, he underscored the concept of free will. ”It?s your choice, Hugo. You don?t have to do anything you don?t want to.? The guitar case? ?That?s not mine,? Jacob smirked.

NEXT: Jacob was putting the pieces together…or apart

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You will notice that all the Dharma pastaways who were at ground zero of the Swan/Jughead event last night got visited by Jacob — except Juliet and Miles (who got no flashback at all). That?s significant, I think. Which brings me to my Quibbling Jacob Theory. There are two ways to explain this: the Perry Cuomo way, and the way that hurts your head. We shall do both:

1. THE PERRY CUOMO WAY Back in the episode ?Whatever Happened, Happened,? we heard Kate sing the song ?Catch a Falling Star? to Baby Aaron. The lyrics that Lost gave us were these: ?Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket/never let it fade away.? Think of stars as the souls of the Jughead-obliterated castaways falling into oblivion — and think of Jacob as the catcher, gathering them and putting them back in orbit so they live once more. More precisely, what Jacob was doing…oh, wait. I promised to hurt you, didn?t I?

2. THE HURT YOUR HEAD WAY As it happens, Flannery O?Connor?s aforementioned book takes its title — Everything That Rises Must Converge — from a phrase coined by an egghead and fellow Catholic provocateur named Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who concocted a theory of evolution called ?Omega Point.? Basically, it?s the idea that there is some kind of transcendent entity or consciousness that is guiding everyone and everything toward greater complexity and enlightenment, until everyone and everything becomes transcendent, too. I think. More simply, it?s Jacob?s view: There is a single end; everything before then is progress. Chardin believed his Omega entity was basically Jesus Christ himself. His phrase, ?everything that rises must converge,? is a poetical expression of a key Christian idea known in the Greek apokatastasis. It?s like the opposite of apocalypse, or rather, what comes after apocalypse. I?m not trying to get all religious on you, but it is what it is: apokatastasis is the idea that in the end, Satan will be defeated and that all of creation will be redeemed and unified under Christ. ?Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.? (John 12:31-32) Or, again, to use a line from the show: ?He who will save us all.? That, my friends, is the answer, translated from Richard Alpert?s Latin, to Ilana?s riddle: ?What lies in the shadow of the statue??

CONCLUSION Jacob was ?quibbling? during his flashbacks; he was building loopholes and failsafe devices into each castaway?s life that will allow them to cheat death by Jughead. By physically touching each of them, he marked them in a magical way. And now, he?s going to draw them to himself, i.e., the Island, just like the electromagnetic anomaly at the Swan site started drawing anything metal into is powerful singularity. Perhaps they will all be immediately beamed to the Island in reincarnated bodies. (The promo for next season seemed to imply as much, what with Jack?s eye shooting open and reflecting back the jungle.) Or maybe it will be like this: the souls of the annihilated castaways will migrate into their bodies at the point in time that Jacob touched them. And more, I?ll bet you that they will retain all the memories of their past lives. Which means, for example, that Young James Ford will have knowledge of his fate — and can choose to try to change it, if he wishes. This is part of the great gift Jacob has given them: Not only new life, but the capacity to create their own destinies — a destiny which could include, if they wish, to go to the Island of their own free will. And they will. Remember Jacob?s last, bloody sputter: ?They?re coming.?

MY ALTERNATIVE JACOB-FLASHBACK THEORY It?s the Harry Potter/Horcrux idea. Also see: Spock downloading his mind into McCoy in the second Star Trek movie. Jacob was imbuing each of the castaways with the essence of himself or parts of his soul. Now that he?s been gutted and his life is imperiled, he?s going to summon the castaways to the present to collect his missing pieces to heal himself.

RICHARD ALPERT The ageless enigma told Jack that he had traveled away from the Island three times in the 20 years between Jughead ?54 and Dharma ?77. He said two of those trips were to scout out John Locke; we saw both those trips last season in ?Cabin Fever.? So, when was the third trip, and what was the purpose?

MISC. JUGHEAD INTRIGUE It was interesting to me that Jack made a point of announcing aloud that he was taking and packing up Faraday?s notebook. I wonder if we?ll be seeing it again? And remember when, after Sayid got shot, he told Jack he had to modify the bomb so that it could detonate on impact? Well…it didn?t. Which made me wonder if Sayid did the job he told Jack he was going to do. In other words: Did Sayid get cold feet about the Jughead play and try to sabotage it?

NEXT: Sawyer’s grief

JACOB?S SHACK Though nobody ever came right out and said it, I think we were suppose to infer from the episode that the flickering entity that we thought was Jacob in Jacob?s shack was actually not Jacob at all. First of all, I always interpreted that haunted house, with its circle of occult ash, to be a kind of prison for the being inside it. But during Jacob?s visit with Hurley, he specifically said he had never been in jail. There was also Ben?s confession that he was just pretending to commune with Jacob. In truth, he had never seen him. What I?m wondering now is if the Shack was a prison for Jacob?s adversary, the nameless Man in Black. And as part of his loophole conspiracy, he duped both Locke and Ben into thinking it was Jacob inside. I was also intrigued by the break in the ash circle, which implied to me something of a prison break; whatever was trapped inside the Shack managed to find its way out, probably due to some help from foolish mortals. Regardless, remember: The current Island story takes place in 2007 — and the last time we saw Locke and Ben at the Shack, the year was 2004. Given that the cabin looked pretty trashed, it?s safe to assume to there?s a story or some stories to be told about these three missing years of missing Island history.

BERNARD AND ROSE See? There they are. And just in time for Rose to cut the A-team castaways down to size with a couple of knowing quips about show dynamics. I?m going to call it: They?re the Adam and Eve skeletons.

WHAT?S A CANDIDATE? Just asking.

BEN IN CRISIS No one believes him. Happens when you?re a liar. But the tricky thing for Lost is this: Can the audience believe him? The past couple weeks have asked Michael Emerson to play a humbled, defeated, exposed Ben — but just like Sun, I have to admit, I don?t really believe him. He told at least one lie last night. He said to Locke that he was a Pisces (another fish reference for you) — but according to established mythology of his birthday (Dec. 19), he?s actually a Sagittarius. I was moved by Ben?s anger toward Jacob, his bitterness and resentment toward his Island god for being so distant from him, for insisting on distance. At the same time, watching the final bloody scene between Ben and Jacob, I couldn?t help but wonder if everything was proceeding according to some prearranged plan between the two of them. For now, I?m going think otherwise. I was really intrigued by Jacob?s response to Ben?s angry question, ?What about me?? When Jacob redirected the question back to Ben — ?What about you?? — it landed like a dismissive insult to Ben. But, thinking all the best of Jacob, I don?t think that was his intention. Instead, I saw a face full of sympathy for guy whose life has been marked by a lot of neglect, a guy who, like Jack, really has no clue who he is or wants to be. I don?t think Jacob was trying to hurt Ben as much start him on the road to enlightenment. Of course, as Flannery O?Connor can attest, revelation and redemption are often, by necessity, painful, searing experiences. I look forward to seeing if Ben can find a real sense of self next season.

UNRESOLVED I was bummed that we didn?t get to see the reunion we had been waiting all season for: Jin and Sun, together in the same time period. (Sorry, the flashback doesn?t count.) Also: Remember when Sawyer, Locke, and company were flashing through time and they were at sea in the outrigger and another boat fired them upon. Who were those guys?

GOODBYE? No! Especially since I have a nagging feeling that I?m leaving some stones unturned. I?m giving short shrift to all the Jack-Kate and Kate-Sawyer and Sawyer-Juliet ?shippers out there. Quickly: I got choked up over Juliet?s sacrifice and Sawyer?s grief, and rolled my eyes over Jack?s second chance yearning for Kate. Sawyer?s exasperation with Jack was mine, and the beat down he administered offered some catharsis. Seriously: I hope he beat some sense into him. (Again, a sentiment that?s very Flannery O?Connor.) I?ll have some thoughts about the finale and the season in my final Doc Jensen column of the year, as well as the next episode of ?Totally Lost,? both posting Wednesday. But let me take the opportunity to say that I have greatly enjoyed the privilege of guiding you through the season…and leaving you feeling more lost than ever before. Theoretical physics, Utilitarian philosophy, Gnostic gospels, Egyptian mythology, New Age mysticism — we went down some rabbit holes, didn?t we? Thank you, by the way, for your patience, your indulgence, and your good humor. Be well — and be seeing you.