Lost: Richard Alpert Returns!


Sit right back and you'll hear a tale.

A tale of a fateful trip

They started from this tropic port (psst — Canary Islands)

Aboard this tiny ship

The weather started getting rough

The tiny ship – named the Black Rock — was tossed

If not for the powers of a guy wearing an off-white robe

Black Rock would be lost

Black Rock would be lost!

With all due respect to Gilligan et al, Richard Alpert is the most badass shipwreck survivor in TV history. Oh so enigmatic, the man doesn't age, puts up with Ben for decades and has the eyelashes of a Madame Alexander doll. When he became unglued in the wake of Jacob's death and begged Jack to kill him, it was one of the more unsettling scenes in recent Lost history. But frankly, I didn't buy it. After all this time, why would Jacob's sage and level-headed consigliere have a sudden and frantic death wish?

The answers — and much more — were revealed in the March 23 episode. Part Ghost, part telenovella, this cinematic-like effort may not have crackled with tense action, but it was a mythology bonanza. And a bilingual one at that.

The whoosh brings us to 1867. Richard has a pretty wife named Isabella. She's ill. He's in a panic. They speak Spanish. His name is actually Ricardo. He tries to get her medicine from the local doctor and winds up accidentally killing him. Isabella dies anyway. He's sentenced to death.

But. Richard. Wants. To. Live! (Sorry for the annoying punctuation, but this wish/theme will come back to haunt him for eternity).

The priest notices that Richard is reading an English-language bible. (It's a Luke passage; Tragically, I'm not smart enough to interpret it.) A-ha! A window. The next morning, Richard gets sold as a slave en route to the "new world."

Richard's new world = the island. (See above ditty for how this transpired; the theme song is nothing if not informative). He narrowly avoids certain death once more thanks to the man in black. "It's nice to see you out of those chains," Man in Black tells Richard after unlocking his shackles. Yep, the same phrase fake-Locke tells Richard in the wake of Jacob's death. (We all saw that symmetry coming, right?)

Here's where it gets so wonderfully fuzzy. According to the MIB, Richard is trapped in hell and Jacob is the devil. There's only one way for both of them to escape — stab Jacob before he utters a single word. Sound familiar? Of course it does! Why, just a few weeks back (140 years in the future, in Lost time), Dogen instructed an infected Sayid to kill fake-Locke in the exact same manner using the exact same weapon.

But in both cases, the men failed in their missions. Seems the devil is equipped both with magical powers and the gift of gab. Surely this is no coincidence. But who is the real devil? The answer conveniently ping-pongs in every episode. Jacob convinces Richard that he is single-handedly containing hell — and if he uncorks the island (there is a nifty show-and-tell presentation involving a wine flask), hell will break loose. Seems there is good in everybody, and Jacob is determined to prove this to the MIB. Yes, even if the castaways — all sent to the island via Jacob — die in the process. He asks Richard to advise all the incomers and protect them from the smoke whisperer. In return, he gets the gift of never-ending life.

The MIB doesn't buy it. And now that he's morphed into Locke, he's doing an excellent job persuading the castaways — and viewers — that perhaps Jacob isn't such the do-gooder after all. Ultimately, I suspect that both men have black and white tendencies. This is Lost, people. Nothing is ever clear-cut, and redemption lies within us all.

Including the island's advisor. In the most touching scene, Isabella talks with a distraught, present-day Richard, by way of Hurley. (In Ghost terms, Hurley is Oda Mae; Isabella is Sam; and Richard is Molly). Before you can sing "Unchained Melody," the two spiritually reconnect and Richard is able to get his emotional strength back. But not before he gets an ominous message: He must stop fake-Locke from leaving the island. Or else.

What will Richard do? Let's drink some wine and try to figure out.

— By Mara Reinstein for UsMagazine.com

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