Written by Carlton Cuse, Damon Lindelof
Directed by Jack Bender
I’ll be perfectly frank. By this point in Lost, I had begun to question whether or not Jacob even existed. Yes, we’d seen a cabin where he seemed to live, but all we’d ever gotten were little flashes, and it seemed that Christian Shephard lived there more than Jacob had. In the previous episode, Ben had just owned up to the fact that he’d never seen him (but then knowing Ben, that could have been another lie. Richard claimed to know Jacob as well, but we’ve learned so little about his history that we wonder how long it’s been since he’s seen Jacob.
Imagine, therefore, my shock to see the teaser of the Season 5 finale. A man dressed in white weaves a tapestry, and eats a white fish. Then he proceeds to have a very bizarre and tranquil conversation with another man who, for lack of a better term, we’ll call the Man in Black. The flashback seems to take place on the island around the same time that the Black Rock was sailing (we see the ship in the horizon) and it seems there having a gentleman’s agreement about the fate of man. Then the Man in Black mentions with the same banal tones of discussing eating a fish that he wants to kill the other, and that one day he’ll find a ‘loophole’. Then he walks off, casually calling him ‘Jacob’. And we finally get a full view of the statue, which would appear (so say the writers) to be the Egyptian goddess of fertility, Tarawet.
Now the first time I saw this episode, I wasn’t clear which one was Jacob or whether he was good or evil. Light and Dark have been themes of the show since the Pilot, but no one the show can be seen in such terms. So why should Jacob be any different. Another contingent of fans hold that the statue is Anubis, the god of the dead. (We’ve seen him in hieroglyphics throughout the island as well.) And even if Jacob was ‘good’, we’ve known that good can be read any number of ways. What we see during both parts of this episode is that Jacob has, at some critical time in the lives of the original passengers of Oceanic 815, literally touched them, and there is considerable question as to whether that touch is good or evil.
The first person we see him touch is Kate. She’s about ten or twelve, and she’s with her childhood sweetheart, Tom (We know because he’s using the miniature plane Kate robbed a bank in order to get way back in season 1.) This may be young Kate’s first venture into crime, as she attempts to steal a lunchbox that she and Tom will eventually use as a time capsule, and eventually dig up in ‘Born to Run’. As has been the case in almost all of Kate’s deceptions she gets caught, but this time she is saved by Jacob, who buys the lunchbox, thus saving the shop owner from calling the police. He touches her and tells her, “You’re not going to steal anymore, are you?” Did he save her, or show her she could get away with crime?
The next person we see him touch is James, the same day as his parent’s funeral. This touch is far less benevolent. James is writing the letter to the ‘Sawyer’ who he holds responsible for killing his parents, when his pen runs out of ink. Jacob hands him another pen, and tells him how sorry he is about what happened to him, but by giving him this pen, he had set him on a path that will lead straight to the island. Could James have heeded the words of his uncle that “what’s done is done” without getting this little push. Again, the evidence is contradictory,. We know James has a lot of trouble letting go, but he also held true to Dan’s advice that “what happened, happened.
Then we see Jacob touch Sayid. For the first time, he does so after someone came to the island and left, and in this case, the touch is far more insidious. Sayid is talking with Nadia about their anniversary when Jacob distracts him long enough to let his beloved walk into the middle of the road, and get crushed by a car. Up until now, we’ve assumed that this was somehow an act of Widmore, but is it possible that Jacob somehow caused it? And if he did so, was his touch to save Sayid or to stop him from saving Nadia (for we know how quick his reflexes are?)
The last castaways we see him touch (there is another, but we’ll get to her in a minute) are Jin and Sun on the day of their wedding. After they have made their vows (and this is the only time we have seen them together all season, by the way) Jacob comes, blesses their love, and tells them never to take it for granted. Knowing what we do about the Kwons marriage before they came to the island, was this a blessing or some kind of curse?
If Jacob is truly as all-knowing and all-seeing as he appears to be, he must therefore know exactly what the newly confident John Locke is bringing to him as he leads the Others towards the statue. The people coming with him seem far less sure. Richard, who has begun to lose the unflappability he seemed to have throughout season 3 and 4, seems at a loss to explain how John was dead, and is now walking around. John says he wants to thank Jacob for that, but we know better. A more important conversation is going on between him and Ben, who seems to have been deflating with every episode. It’s now clear that seeing Alex has truly done something to break him, and when Locke tells him that he wants Ben to kill Jacob, he doesn’t even seem to blink. More importantly, when they finally reach the old campsite where the survivors of Oceanic 815 spent the first three seasons of the show, Ben seems far less inclined to reminisce than Locke is. Learning that Locke has been chosen in a way that Ben never truly was seems to have unhinged him too. So when Locke manipulates Ben for the first time since the two have met, he doesn’t seem to recognize what is being done to him. Either that, or he’s fundamentally broken now in some way we can’t understand.
Meanwhile, Ilana, Bram, and several of the others from the Ajira flight have taken Frank and are rowing him to the main island. It’s hard to know why they have taken him or are protecting him, but for the first time, we get a real hint. Apparently, years ago, when Ilana was in a Russian hospital, Jacob came to see her and told her that he needed her help. What is unclear is whether he touched her (he was wearing black gloves at the time, so it’s even harder to know if that would have meant anything) But she has no trouble locating the cabin that eluded Locke so often while he was on the island. For the first time, we see it in the daylight, and what a difference. For starters, that line of ash that we were never quite clear whether it was keeping something in or out has been broken. For another, the cabin looks a lot more decrepit, and the jars of fluid and pictures are gone. When Ilana leaves she tells us that Jacob hasn’t been there for a very long time, and that someone else has been using it. She has it set on fire. At the time, Frank speculates that this could torch the whole jungle, but this may have just been another hole in the plot. (It should be worth noting when it’s set on fire, none of the trees or grass catch fire. Maybe it’s got very specific rules. ) And we still don’t know what’s in that crate they’ve been carrying since ‘Dead is Dead’, but judging by Frank’s reaction when he gets a glimpse its nothing good.
Thirty years in the past, Jack seems just as hell-bent on seeing Dan’s mission through to the end. Sayid and Ellie seem equally determined but for different reasons. Richard seems even more troubled than he was in the last episode, and now we get a clear idea why— Ellie appears to be the leader of the Others, not Widmore. He tries to protect her, damn the consequences, and leaves Sayid and Jack to their business. We find out that one of the tunnels in the island (man a lot of this island seems hollow) leads right into Horace’s house. Jack and Sayid try to make their way out through the Dharma alert, but are spotted by no one less than Roger Linus, who puts a bullet in Sayid’s gut. The only thing that saves them all right there is the sudden arrival of a Dharma bus with Hurley, Jin and Miles. They start driving, but things look bleak for Sayid.
On the sub, James seems more than willing to let the island go up in a mushroom cloud, but Juliet who seems a lot more wrecked than the others, changes her mind, and leads a minor insurrection. When Kate, Juliet and Sawyer finally hit dry land, they run into Vincent, who we haven’t seen all season, and two other people who’ve been persona non grata for most of Season 5 — Rose and Bernard. And they do not look that happy to be reunited. Considering that when we learned their back story all the way back in season 2, it makes sense why the two of them seem to have set up shop here. But I can’t help but think as if Rose and Bernard are supposed to somehow represent the non-regular viewer of Lost¸ especially for this season. They were willing to put up with the madness for a time, but after a while, they just said, “Hell with it,” and have decided they’ll just stay here to the end. They don’t seem at all bothered by what might happen if the bomb goes off, and seem to finally give the location of the Dharma barracks with the greatest of reluctance. They seem to have taken the path to whatever happens, happens, but don’t seem as guided to destiny as much as any of the others have been.
The episode ends within a matter of minutes before ‘The Incident’, and what seems to be a major faceoff between Jack and Sawyer, with a similar one between Jacob and Locke awaiting. We are on the brink of something impressive, but almost as a throwaway we witness something that may be critical. Richard tells Jack while the bomb is being made mobile about his meeting with Locke in 1954, and that he’s gone off the island three times, but each of those times he saw nothing to indicate that he was particularly special. Jack— once upon a time the last man in the world to even hint at destiny— tells him he knows John and that he shouldn’t give up on him. Has Jack told the truth just because he thinks he’s about to change all their destinies irrevocably? Or has he guaranteed that Locke’s path will be even more hazardous than anyone can imagine? Whatever it is, we seem to be locked on a course that only Jacob seems able to see. And that’s not really comforting