‘Lost’ in Thought: Across the Sea

“Every question I answer will simply lead to another question,” she says. You ain’t kiddin’, lady!

After I had expressed some mild disappointment that last week’s episode of ‘Lost’ didn’t address any of the show’s big mythological topics, this week’s episode gives us nothing but mythology. ‘Across the Sea’ is the long-rumored all-Jacob, all-Man in Black episode with (virtually) no appearances from any of the other regular cast. You wanted to know who these characters are and where they came from? Well, here are reams of brand new, never before revealed information about the island’s two most elusive and most important movers-and-shakers. And yet, true to the show’s form, the episode opens up countless new questions while answering very few of the ones we’ve been expecting. (Spoilers after the break.)

Here’s what we did learn:

My theory about Jacob and MiB being separate manifestations of the same person has been blown. They’re actually twin brothers, born on the island in some ancient time when their pregnant mother washed up on shore after a shipwreck. The mother, Claudia, speaks an unidentified foreign language. (Latin, perhaps? Somebody help me out with this.) After a few lines, the dialogue sneakily switches to English, ‘Hunt for Red October’-style. Shortly after arriving, Claudia runs into a mysterious older woman (Allison Janney from ‘The West Wing’) who tells her that she’s alone on the island. Then Claudia goes into labor. She wasn’t expecting twins, and only picked out a name for the first boy: Jacob, of course. The second child is born, and Janney clubs Claudia to death with a rock, then raises both boys as her own sons.

I don’t have enough time or space here to recap everything else that happened in the episode. I expect that anyone reading this is probably a fan of the show who’s already seen it anyway. So, I’ll just touch on some of the highlights:

It strikes me that Janney Momma acts an awfully lot like Rousseau, living alone like a crazy hermit in the jungle, pretending that she’s the only one on the island when she knows damn well that there are others about.

The Vikings/savages/whatever of course seem to be simply the earliest (that we’ve seen) manifestation of the various groups of “intruders” who visit the island trying to steal its secrets. Later on, the U.S. military, the Others (the early version led by young Widmore and Eloise), DHARMA, and now old Wildmore again will all try the same thing. Everything is cyclical.

The boy we’ve previously seen running around the jungle covered in blood, the one who told Man in Black that, “You can’t kill him,” whatever that meant, was young Jacob.

I find it interesting that Jacob and MiB have such profound mommy issues, when the show has previously always been dominated by characters with daddy issues. I don’t know what to make of that, but I find it interesting.

Momma sets the rule in place that Jacob and MiB cannot kill each other. This is just one of the island’s many mysterious rules. The rest are still only vaguely defined.

The cave with the light seems to be some sort of Fountain of Youth type thing, right? I have a feeling that will never be explained more than what we’ve seen. Momma claims that, “If the light goes out there, it goes out everywhere.” That sounds a lot like what Jacob claimed would happen if MiB ever got off the island. Would his getting off the island somehow cause the light in the cave to go out?

Momma passed on her responsibility as the island’s protector to Jacob by having him drink some special wine. Is that the same wine that Jacob had Richard drink? If so, why is Jacob still looking for Candidates to replace him?

MiB kills Momma with the same dagger that he will later give to Richard Alpert to kill Jacob, and that Dogan will give to Sayid to kill MiB. Critically, he stabs her with it before she can say a word. This seems also to be one of the island’s important rules. (Thanks to Beth for pointing this one out to me!)

Momma told Jacob that going in the cave is “much worse than dying.” When he throws MiB down there, MiB turns into the Smoke Monster. In his guise as Locke, MiB has insisted that he’s not dead. I suppose that means only metaphysically, because his body sure is. Is being physically dead what really prevents him from leaving the island?

Was Momma also a Smoke Monster? She sure wiped out all of those Viking-looking people pretty quickly.

Momma thanks MiB for killing her. She’s finally free of her responsibility to the island. Jacob wasn’t so happy about dying when Ben killed him. Is that only because he hadn’t found a suitable replacement yet? Again, what’s wrong with Richard?

Speaking of Ben killing Jacob, I seem to recall that Jacob talked to him a bit before Ben did the deed. Wouldn’t that contradict the above rule? Or does that rule only apply to Smoke Monster people who’ve been in the cave (which Jacob presumably hasn’t)? But that doesn’t really make sense either, because MiB told Richard that he had to kill Jacob before Jacob could speak.

MiB and his mother are the Adam and Eve skeletons that Jack and Kate discovered back in Season 1. Finally, one of the show’s earliest mysteries receives a definitive answer!

What wasn’t answered this week:

Man in Black’s real name!! How can we have an entire episode about the guy’s backstory and still not learn his damn name? As she was dying, his mother said something unintelligible to him. Did anyone catch that or have captions? I swear, it sounded to me like she said “Jose.” No offense to anyone out there named Jose, but I refuse to believe that’s the Man in Black’s name. I assume that whatever she said wasn’t a name. So, what did she say?

For that matter, what is the Mother’s name? Who is she? Where is she from? How does she know the island’s secrets? How did she establish these Rules that the boys must obey? What are the rest of the rules?

Why can Man in Black see a vision of his real mother’s ghost, but Jacob can’t?

How does Jacob manage to leave the island so regularly to recruit his Candidates?

Don’t get me wrong, this was a very good episode. In fact, if it had aired earlier, I may have called it a mind-blower. But coming so very late in the game, it really frustrates me that the show’s writers are so clearly still jerking us around. I don’t necessarily need all of the show’s big mysteries spelled out for me, but this just isn’t the time to be opening up Pandora’s Box all over again. Color me somewhat disappointed in what I assumed would be a more revelatory episode.


  1. besch64

    Here’s how I see it:

    1: This episode on its initial viewing seemed to be worthy of a 7/10. It was interesting, but it didn’t lead as far into the rabbit hole as one might have hoped. Furthermore, the writing and acting weren’t quite up to par with what Lost has given us in the past, especially for an episode written by Darlton.

    2: If they had aired this episode at 6.02 instead of 6.15, it would have been worthy of an 8/10. I can’t help but feel that some of this might have been better to show the audience prior to Ab Aeterno. And in general, laying out essential groundwork so close to the end of a story isn’t exactly a great idea.

    3: Once you realize that Mother was ACTUALLY trying to find her replacement as the Smoke Monster and not the guardian of the Island, it jumps up to a 9/10. It’s pretty ingenious, and I’m almost willing to lay down money on the fact that that is what we were watching last night. Mother must have possessed Smokey powers, based on what she did to that entire community and the well. Also, she thanks Esau/MIB/whatever after he kills her, possibly because she knows that he has released her and now he is taking on her responsibilities as the Monster (whatever undisclosed responsibilities those may be).

  2. Andy Gilleand

    Wow I never even thought of the mother being a smoke monster. In fact, while watching it I sort of thought of the mother as the island itself. Like, the spirit of the island. Now, by the end I’m not so sure, especially considering the light.

    As for MIB’s name. I think it was pretty obvious that he didn’t have one. Jacob and MIB’s real mother only chose the name Jacob. I don’t think ‘Momma’ named MIB anything. What mother would constantly refer to him as “your brother” instead of an actual name? It’s because he doesn’t have a name.

  3. ganthc

    So if Mamma CJ was the Smoke Monster that needed a replacement, who was her counterpart or her Jacob that was supposed to protect the island? It seems there was a need for balance, and Mamma couldn’t have been the Smoke Monster without having a corresponding Jacob figure to keep her in check.

    Also, are we now to agree that the ghosts have their own agenda, separate from Smoke Monster and Jacob? Seems like MIB’s mom was not on the same side as Jacob and Mamma. Same as when Ghost Michael seemed to give Hurley some bad advice to trust Smocke. So what do the ghosts want?

    • Josh Zyber

      I don’t think the Smoke Monster is inherently evil. I think it’s possible to be both the Smoke Monster and the island’s protector. But MiB was desperate to get off the island long before he became the Smoke Monster. He hasn’t changed in that respect. He’s just more powerful.

  4. EM

    I’m not sure the Smoke Monster is actually Jacob’s brother. After all, we’ve already seen that the Monster has the power to mimic people who have died, and we’ve seen that Jacob’s brother corporeally died before he and the Monster became associated with one another.

    • Josh Zyber

      My wife floated this theory to me this evening as well. Perhaps MiB didn’t turn into the Smoke Monster. Rather, he released the Smoke Monster, which then took the form of his body, much as it has recently taken the form of John Locke.

      The only problem with this theory is that Smokey/Locke seems to be driven by the same thing that drove Jacob’s brother — a desire to leave the island and go “home”. Perhaps they merged into one? But if so, then where’s the original Locke in all this?

      • EM

        If my and Mrs. Zyber’s suggestion is correct, it could be that at least in some ways, the Monster and Jacob’s brother just happen to be kindred spirits. However, another possibility is that the Monster, without being a survival of Jacob’s twin, nevertheless somehow absorbed some aspect or aspects of his personality, soul, or whatever.

        Earlier in this season, when un-Locke was talking about having a crazy mother, it was generally assumed this was a description of the Man in Black’s mother; while I bore that interpretation in mind as I watched that scene, I simultaneously thought of Locke’s own birth mother. Interestingly, “Across the Sea” doesn’t seem to clarify the issue at all. Jacob’s foster mother very well may have been seen as insane by Jacob’s brother, though it’s not clear to me whether she really was. (She certainly did things that, at first glance, seemed insane, but they may have had some rational basis. Killing Claudia seemed psycho to me at the time, but later she did give at least a partial justification.) And it’s entirely possible that she wasn’t the only mother that Jacob’s brother knew. We know little of the several years after Jacob’s brother joined with Claudia’s people; he may have received a new foster mother among them, and he may have continued a relationship with the ghost of Claudia herself. Possibly Claudia’s ghost and/or the hypothetical second foster mother may have been insane or eventually seemed insane to Jacob’s brother. I’m sure many viewers think “Across the Sea” clarifies the “crazy mother” claim, but I find it actually muddies it more than ever!

        I hope not all mysteries get wrapped up in a neat bow by the end of the final episode. I do need some to be solved, but I will be dissatisfied if there no longer is any room for questions and speculation.

        (Note: It is somewhat vexing to still not have a name for Jacob’s brother. I assume he grew up with one. Perhaps he was given a name in Latin, which, yes, was the language spoken at the beginning of the episode. I suggest that this other brother was named “Alter”, which in Latin means “the Other” [just to confuse the mythology more, ha] and which in English is an appropriate description of a shapeshifter.)

  5. My girlfriend also presented the possibility of the smoke monster not being MiB. It made perfect sense to me at the time that she presented that theory, but I’m having doubts now. In makes perfect sense in some ways, yet none in others. Maybe we have continuity issues?
    In a show this long, there are bound to be some things that got a little bit tweaked. Jacob’s brother was clearly dead. Jack and Kate found his skeleton…

  6. I too took it that the smoke monster was released, and took the form of MiB after he died, same as how he did with Locke. The only thing that makes me doubt it is that Flocke does seem to speak as if he is MiB, talking about his crazy mother and wanting to go home.

    I don’t see how the crazy mother reference earlier in the season could not be referring to anything but Mamma from this episode. MiB definitely had mommy issues, and he blamed her for keeping him in the dark and on the island. Most of the answers are seeming to be pretty simple ones really, so I wouldn’t look at this any other way than the earlier reference to be about what we saw in this episode.

  7. Bob Page

    So this episode totally set the internets abalaze. It layed out the basic philosphical, black/white, good/evil, protector/unleasher aspect. Everyone is crying thinking this all we are going to get, I got some very concrete vibes out of this and I posit the following;

    Island Mama was an alien with an agenda.

    Our favorite Island is really a stranded space craft that has been here so long that the island has formed around it’s remains.

    There are powerful energies and technologies on board and the woman was the sole or last survivor and also posses grat power and immortality.

    The energy from the ship helped accelerate life on this planet and when people are in closer proximity, like right on the island, it can effect miraculous cures. Think the Eric Von Donaken theories of “Chariots of the Gods” of aliens having influenced EGYPTIAN and Mayan cultures.

    Mama is tired of being stranded for eternity on this rock guarding thos power form being used and consumed by people that would be corrupted by it. Think the One Ring.

    She needs a canidate that is untouched by evil to live in this eden and protect this great power.

    She gets her chance with the advent of the two new born babies, so to insure that they will be untouched by the outside world and able to fulfill her role, she knocks off their natural mother.

    Jacob is good. MIB has no name because you don’t mention the devil’s or Lord Voldemort’s name. Now the writersin this episode humanized both these characters showed that it wasn’t entirely black and white, they were manipulated, frustrated and gave in to anger.

    The power of the Island can appear to certain people, in non coporal form such as the birth mother appearing to MIB and tempting him to side of man. She is probably the one who is telling them how to construct the Donkey wheel because he wants to get out and about. The tempting Devil.

    Mama gets wind of this and knocks out MIB, uses her power, might also be a smoke monster or a fire monster, wipes out all the other people and buries the well to prevent this from happening.

    She knows her time is near because there is going to be one pissed off MIB so she gives Jacob a shot of alien super juice which gives immortality to Jacob.

    MIB in anger comes and kills alien Mother, which she dioesn’t fight and actually thanks him for freeing her this eternity.

    Jacob now loses it and possibly beats his brother to death and as a fitting grace note sends him down the golden river because that river is what all the fussina nd fighting has been about.

    This gives the force in the cave an avatar, it scans his memory and absorbs his soul and anger and frustrations and magnifies it to the nth power and is set frr from the cave.

    It is not realy MIB anymore, he dumps the body he can just manifest in coporal form as MIB or as pure smokey power at his will. Think the ID monster from Forbiden Planet.

    Jacob has stayed trapped on the Island with smokey MIB for thousands of years, neither able to dierectly kill each other, waitng for a canidate to come to prove themself pure of heart. He can assist but they must chose their own pure actions of their own free will. MIB is looking for a way to lie and trick someone else into killing Jacob so he can leave.

    Eventually he does just that with a combination of using Ben’s daughter’s form and his Locke form, he gets Ben to kill Jacob.

    But there is a true group of canidates now and he has to get them to off themselves so he will at last be able to leave the Island.

    Dharma Initiative, Widmore just people trying to get at the power. Richard and the others,
    helping Jacob keep the Island safe.

    Somebody didn’t believe in the rules of the island and everthing went crazy and the island started tripping through time. Daniel and Juliet’s Big Bomb stabilzed the timejumping but created Two separate realities. The Island story and the story if they hadn’t crashed and the plane had landed.

    Smokey MIB will have to be contained and neutralized, probably why the island/ship gets sunk under water.

    And there will be sacrifices aplenty but the end result will be that the sideways reality
    becomes the real reality. I’m thinking that who ever dies on the island gets to live on but someone has to stay alive in the Jacob role at the bottom of the sea, possibly Jack, and he will die in the sideways world. Jack’s son David’s mother will be revealed to be Juliet. A tragic but noble end for our heor Jack.

    • Josh Zyber

      “Island Mama was an alien with an agenda.

      Our favorite Island is really a stranded space craft that has been here so long that the island has formed around it’s remains.”

      All I have to say is, if any of that turns out to be true, I’m gonna be PISSED. 🙂

  8. Bob Page

    You have my permission to correct my rapid typing spelling errors in the above post 😉

    Thank you, that is all.

  9. jgslima

    I think Momma was the previous monster (mainly because what happened with the village people), and I also believe her tought was the MiB should replace her. The main reason for this is her line “You’re special” she said to MiB. Writers wouldn’t put this speech with no purpose. For me it makes clear she knew what would be the future for MiB. But, to make things not completely clear, this line of thought does not fit with what she said in the wine scene, when it seems she admited to Jacob that MiB was supposed to be the one to be the guardian of the light cave. 🙁

    And I go with Scott, I prefer to stay with the simplest answers. In this way, I think the smoke indeed is Jacob’s brother. When in some episode the “Lockzilla” said he once had a body but lost his humanity, I believe he as referencing what we watched in this episode.

  10. Bob Page


    You would really rather it be a magical mystical cave of golden light rather than an albeit Sci Fi but tangible answer to the mysteries.

    Ben, ” we have to move the island. ”

    How do you move an island ?

    But you could rev up the disabled engine enough to move it in time or space slightly.

    Well, we will all find out on next Sunday night !

    • Josh Zyber

      Mark my words, there is NO chance that the final episode will end with the revelation that they’re space aliens. The writers are smart enough to know that they will be hunted down and brutally murdered by a mob of thousands of angry fans if they did that.

      I don’t think we will ever be given a concrete answer to what they are. They’re clearly some sort of god-like beings that have connections to ancient human history. Beyond that, I think the writers will leave it up to us to decide for ourselves what we want them to be.

      If you want them to be aliens, so be it. Just know that you are in a very, very, VERY small minority with that.

  11. I can also confirm it was Latin. So Jacob and his brother are probably about two millenia old. Interesting.

    LOST viewing tip: Used closed captioning if unsure. Closed captioning would tell you “[Speaking Latin]” when the characters speak. It’s how I figured out the guys in Penny’s artic watch station spoke Portuguese.

  12. MassacreXxX

    Why did “Momma” dress Jacob in white (Good) and MIB…in black (Evil)? It is like she planned for MIB to do what he did all along (Kill Her).

    What if the smoke monster has been around all along? what if when Jacob smashes MIB in the head and he floats into the ‘light cave’ the monster just morphs into his form ‘like it did with Christian and Locke’?

    I think the story is even bigger than we think, we all thought DHARMA was something big, but they ended up being puppets in a master plan still to be unraveled.

    This is my theory, it is probably really wrong. It is better than the alien theory above though…

    • Josh Zyber

      About the black & white thing, perhaps we need to consider that these beings go back so far that they actually ORIGINATED the “white = good / black = bad” trope.

      Just a random thought.

  13. Lost Lostie

    Josh Zyber, you clearly had insight into the ending of “Lost”

    Makes one wonder if “Zyber” isn’t your true last name, but ‘Whedon’ perhaps??

    Either that or you’re a bigger Lostie than I am LOL…