Image Credit: Mario Perez/ABCThey are not Cain and Abel. They are not Jacob and Esau. At least not the Jacob and Esau that we know from the Bible. They are not angels or demons, they are not gods or monsters, and they are certainly not incarnations of dead castaways like Juliet and Daniel Faraday. (Seriously! Whoever came up with that last idea was, like, totally stupid or totally high or totally nuts! Somebody shoot that guy before he hurts someone with nutty theories!) No, in the end, Jacob and the Man In Black turned out to have something in common with a lot of characters on Lost. [SPOILERS FOR “ACROSS THE SEA” FROM HERE ON OUT. REALLY.]

The two were revealed to be a pair of brothers who got royally screwed by some really crappy parenting.

Meet the mother of all Others–The Other Mother, if you will, in more ways than one. Nameless and lonely (and well played by The West Wing’s Allison Janney), she was the proto Rousseau, more fit to raise Claire’s fake squirrel baby than two human beings. She was a Wicked Wiccan Witch of the West, an earthy demi-goddess gone gonzo, an old world oracle-priestess gone dangerously loco. A long time ago, across the sea and far away, this wilderness mystic with the hair net tiara — Jacob’s immediate predecessor as Island guardian (and possibly The Island’s previous smoke monster, too?) — stumbled upon a shipwrecked castaway named Claudia gulping water from a stream. She took the pregnant woman to her camp, helped deliver her fraternal twin boys, and then took a rock and bashed in the poor woman’s head. (Happy Belated Mother’s Day!) She raised the children as her own. She filled their minds with interesting notions about the nature of reality and the nature of man. And through it all, she wove thread on her loom like some crafty fury of fate. What did she get out of the deal? Companionship. Motherhood. And perhaps… an ending to an eternal obligation? The Stork had dropped twin bundles on her dirty doorstep — but what may have dazzled her more was the prospect of a golden parachute offering an exit from an endless dead-end job. With her dying breath, she thanked the son she loved the most, the one that was most like her, the “special” one with the angry spirit – the dreamer, the gamer, the liar, the cynic — for stabbing her in the back and through the heart. Were the boys nothing but an escape plan for her? Did she raise one to take her job and the other to take her life? Is this the way The Island works?

“Across The Sea” promised oodles of noodle-cooking Island mythology, and we got just that — which is to say, a story that played like myth, albeit with a mean and sobering deconstructive streak. You got the sense that the drama that unfolded in this hour left some indelible grooves on the psychography of the living Island, laying track for all future drama to follow. We learned that The Island sits on a whirlpool of ethereal life-giving energy — a wellspring of eternal life, a wormhole into the afterlife, a weird-ass well of holy moley whatchamacallit. We learned that if you get tossed into this warm and fuzzy mystic maelstrom, your immortal soul gets severed from your mortal body. Behold the origin of Puffy The Magically Miffed Dragon, the spiritual portion of the Man In Black’s once-integrated person, exorcised from his coil after pissy Jacob punted his ass into the lacerating light for slaying their faux ma. And among many other things, we learned that the Adam and Eve skeletons belong to MIB’s first body and the woman who raised/warped him.

It’ll take days and weeks and probably longer for the willing to mine this sucker for all its implicit and explicit meaning. At the same time, I think we should be wary of coming to hard and fast conclusions about “Across The Sea.” In fact, I think “Across The Sea” stands as a cautionary tale about the whole business of “hard and fast” conclusions. The Other Mother said a lot of interesting stuff — but how much of it was true? Fake Locke was right: that woman was clearly a little bonkers. Regardless, the whole of her knowledge seemed to be a combination of inherited wisdom (which was probably flawed to begin with) and her own discovery and guesswork (which was surely distorted by her bias and instability). “Across The Sea” confirmed once and for all that The Island is a fundamentally spiritual place — but one that most likely defies human understanding, let alone a fundamentalist interpretation. Lost seems to be saying that the something like God actually exists — but anyone who claims to know who or what God is probably wrong, if not totally off their Jacob rocker.

“Across The Sea” was an unconventional outing that deserves props for benching its stars to give us a story that felt absolutely necessary for establishing the Big Picture context for the final act that is at last upon us. Still, I can’t say I loved it. I thought it was a collection of Grade A ideas in a Grade B package. I can sum up most of my quibbles with two words: kid actors. It really wasn’t until Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver showed up at the halfway mark that I leaned forward in my chair and got lost in the story… although even then, there were moments when I wondered if these two fine actors weren’t completely connecting with the material. (I wouldn’t be too surprised if some of you felt the same way. One man’s “This is meaningful stuff!” is another man’s “This is a bunch of murky bulls–t!”) More tomorrow in my recap. [UPDATE: Here it is!]Until then, consider doing these three things. 1. Clicking here to see if Herman Hesse has something to say about tonight’s episode. 2. Watching the new episode of Totally Lost, located below. 3. Posting your own thoughts about “Across The Sea” in the comments, located even further below.

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