Tuesday's episode of Lost answered a lot of questions, but ultimately felt like a padded hour, an unnecessary detour from the action this late in the game. "Across the Sea" fills in the backstory of Jacob and the Man in Black, and how their relationship with a third person has shaped their island existence. It's a rhetorically rigorous journey, what with so many things having been said rather than done. Let's see what we learned.
(For more Lost scoopage, go to ABC.com and watch full episodes with commentary from the foremost Lost experts. Spoiler alert! The souped-up version of "The Candidate" was narrated by a handsome fella named Mickey O'Connor. Wink.)
What's C.J. Cregg doing on the island?
Allison Janney (The West Wing) joins the island family as a character called "Woman" by IMDb. (Burning question: Will "Woman" sing "The Jackal"? Please?)
This unnamed woman lives on the island with her two "adopted" twin sons, Jacob and the Man in Black, who frustratingly remains nameless throughout this entire hour. Calling them adopted is more than charitable, as the Woman bashed in the boys' birth mother's head with a rock immediately after she delivered them.
What were Jacob and the Man in Black like as kids?
Let's hear it for the boys! Kenton Duty and Ryan Bradford play Jacob and the Man in Black at 13, and they're fantastic actors.
The twins are best pals, roaming the island and exploring. (For the record, IMDb calls young Jacob's brother the Boy in Black. So that's what I'll do.) BIB finds a senet game — black stones vs. white stones, sound familiar? — and the pair begins their first in what will be countless battles of wit and strategy, both on and off the board. BIB asks Jacob not to tell their mother about the game, since he thinks she'll take it away.
But Teen Jacob is kind of a wuss who can't lie to his mother. "Do you love me, Jacob?" she asks. "Yes," he replies cautiously. "Then tell me what happened," she insists. And he folds like a cheap suit. Putting aside the emotional blackmail that is The Woman's particular brand of parenting for now, let's consider that just minutes later she tells BIB that he's special because he knows how to lie. She also lets it slip that BIB may be immortal.
Out boar hunting one day, they come across a band of hunters — the original "savages"? When the boys tell their mother about their new island neighbors, she all but does a spit take, warning the boys to stay away from "the people." "They're not like us. They don't belong here. We're here for a reason. It's not time yet." she says in rapid succession.
"They come, fight, destroy, and corrupt. It always ends the same. That's the way the people are," she says, in a clever echo of what MIB said to Jacob on the beach in last season's finale. When Jacob and BIB ask why they don't hurt each other, since they're people, the crafty minx has an answer at the ready. "I've made it so you can never hurt each other," she says. I guess that's why MIB needed a loophole to off his bro.
What's in that damn river cave?
Remember on The Simpsons when Lisa went to Duff Gardens and drank the water in the It's a Small World-type riverboat ride and ended up tripping? This is essentially where the Woman takes her young sons to show them a strange golden light emanating from a river that runs into a cave. What's down there? Let's let The Woman explain: "Light -- the warmest, brightest light you've ever seen. A little bit of this light is inside every man. But they always want more. If the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere."
Way to be specific, Woman. She tells her sons that she protects the light, but that someday it'll have to be one of them who takes over her duties. It's an interesting echo of Jacob's replacement-seeking.
Who are those other people on the island?
I liked this line. During a senet match, it appears that BIB has made up his own rules to the game, which displeases whiny Jacob. "One day you can make up your own game, and everyone will have to follow your rules," BIB tells his brother. Wow, did he take that advice to heart!
Just when the boys are ready to drink their mother's Kool-Aid and get ready for this awesome new forever duty on Funhouse Island, BIB sees a vision of Claudia, their birth mother. Jacob can't see her because she's dead, she explains. So MIB can be and see dead people. Claudia tells BIB that she is his mother, and that the "others" (nudgenudge) are his people, who came from across the sea. This is a problem because BIB's adoptive mother has told him and Jacob that there is nothing in the world except the island.
Why are Jacob and the Man in Black fighting all these years later?
We fast-forward to 30-year-old versions of the twins, who disagree about the truthfulness of their mother's account of events. MIB wants to "go home," he says significantly, and by home he means he wants to join the "others" and eventually leave the island. And then he's off.
But Jacob wants to believe her so he stays. They even weave together! "You are never to leave this island," Mother says to Jacob, as his testicles sit in a decorative clay urn that sits on a shelf next to the scary evil wine decanter. "Why do you love him more than me?" Jacob whines. "I love you in different ways," she replies. (Um, isn't there supposed to be an "equally" in that sentence?)
Why can't the Man in Black leave the island?
After MIB leaves the maternal nest, he and Jacob continue to meet. He tells his brother that he has found a way off the island, and it has something to do with a well that appears to be magnetic when he throws a knife at it. (I bet you can guess what's under that well.) Jacob tells Mother and she is not happy.
Mother goes to see MIB and asks him not to go. He says he doesn't belong on the island. She appeared to reach for a hug and wish him well, but instead she apologizes and bashes his head into a stone wall. She sure is a fan of blunt-force trauma to the cranium.
What is Jacob's job on the island?
While MIB is unconscious, she gathers Jacob and announces that it's time. She lies and says that she let him leave. She brings Jacob to the light and tells him that he's going to protect it now. "What's down there?" he asks. (I mean, besides rancid Duff beer.) Mother's answer is significantly less enlightening, which is a bummer, since it's a river basically made of light. "It's life, death, rebirth. It's the source, the heart of the island," she says.
"Just promise me you won't ever go down there," she adds, saying it would be worst than dying. She pours wine from a familiar-looking decanter, says a quicky prayer and offers it to Jacob. If he drinks it, he accepts the responsibility of protecting Old Man Light River. He wants no part of it, since he's jealous that MIB was Mother's first choice. Baby. Of course, he drinks. "Now you and I are the same," she says ominously. That's all it took? A swig of wine and a few Hail Marys?
How was the Smoke Monster born?
When MIB comes to, he finds that while he was snoozing, his mother had a little purge of her own, killing everyone and setting fire to the village. While Jacob is out picking up firewood, MIB comes up from behind her and stabs her. "Why wouldn't you let me leave?" he asks, as she bleeds. "Because I love you," she replies. "Thank you." And then she dies. I'm guessing that this kind of death frees her from her island-based responsibilities.
Jacob isn't so grateful In fact, he's so distraught that he wrestles his brother to the ground and then throws him into the golden river cave. Who/what comes out? Yep, Smokey.
Who are the Adam and Eve skeletons?
Jacob finds MIB's lifeless body lying on the rocks. He brings him back to his camp, where he arranges his mother's and brother's bodies next to each other. He puts a white rock and a black rock in a bag and — voila! — a six-season-long mystery is solved. The Man in Black and his mother are the Adam and Eve skeletons. In case we didn't catch it, though, we flash back to a scene from Season 1, where Kate, Jack and Locke find the bones and speculate on their identities. Speculate no more!
As much as I appreciate the backstory, I can't help but question the decision to introduce such central characters this late in the game. If the producers knew, for example, the identities of the skeletons from the beginning, why did we not meet one of those characters until the end of Season 5 and the other this week? It can help but lack resonance with the audience.
I'm crossing my fingers and toes that the final three-and-a-half hours will reward us all for our loyalty (I'm optimistic), but between "Ab Aeterno" and "Across the Sea," I'm definitely concerned about wrapping up all these discrete plot strands.
Are you concerned? What's your emotional state going into finale week? Excited? Nervous? Fed up? Sound off in the comments section below.
Watch full episodes of Lost in our Online Video Guide or with our My TVGuide.com DVR and follow TV Guide.com on Twitter for more breaking news and scoop