"Ab Aeterno" is the ninth television episode of the American Broadcasting Company's sixth season of the serial drama television series Lost and 112th episode overall. The episode aired on March 23, 2010.
|Episode no.||Season 6|
|Directed by||Tucker Gates|
|Written by||Melinda Hsu Taylor|
|Original air date||March 23, 2010|
|Running time||47 minutes|
In an extended flashback, after the death of his wife, Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell) arrives on the island as a slave on the Black Rock in the 19th century. He then encounters the Man in Black (Titus Welliver) and Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), both of whom offer him different deals in exchange for his allegiance.
The title is Latin for "from eternity", a phrase used to mean "since the beginning" or "for long ages" (very loosely translated as "your life now will be either heaven or hell throughout eternity"); this references the agelessness granted to Richard by Jacob as a reward for his service. "Ab Aeterno" was watched by 9 million American viewers and received critical acclaim by critics and audiences alike.
Prior to her arrival on the island in 2007, Ilana (Zuleikha Robinson) is visited by Jacob in a Russian hospital, where he tells her to protect his remaining candidates (this continues from her flashback in "The Incident"). Following the events of the episode "Dr. Linus", Ilana explains to the group of survivors at the beach that Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), Sun Kwon (Yunjin Kim) and Hugo "Hurley" Reyes (Jorge Garcia) are candidates to replace Jacob, the man in charge of the island, who was recently murdered by Ben. When asked what to do next, she says that Richard Alpert (Nestor Carbonell) knows. Richard, who has become suicidal since Jacob's death, says he does not know and leaves the camp.
An extended and uninterrupted series of flashbacks detailing Richard Alpert's origins now begins. They begin in 1867; Alpert, known as Ricardo, lives in Tenerife with his dying wife, Isabella (Mirelly Taylor). He travels to a doctor in order to obtain medicine, but the doctor refuses Ricardo's meager payment, and Ricardo accidentally kills the man when they struggle over the medicine. Ricardo returns home to find that his wife has died, and he is subsequently arrested for murdering the doctor. In prison, he is visited by a priest (Juan Carlos Cantu), who, after learning that Ricardo has been learning English in preparation for beginning a new life in the New World, tells him that he cannot be forgiven and will be hanged. The priest, however, accepts a bribe and allows Ricardo to be taken as a slave to the New World aboard the Black Rock. The ship is caught in a violent storm and a tsunami sweeps it inshore onto the mysterious Island; it crashes through and shatters the (presumably already quite weakened) statue of Taweret, explaining why the statue in the modern day appears to be four-toed (only a leg from the bottom down was left standing), while the Black Rock runs aground into the jungle.
The next day, one of the crew members begins executing the captives and is about to execute Ricardo last, but the smoke monster saves Ricardo's life in the nick of time by killing all the workers onboard, leaving Ricardo alone albeit still chained on the boat. As he works to free himself, a vision of his wife appears and tells him that they are in Hell. She is then apparently killed by the Monster. After six grueling days, the Man in Black appears and frees Ricardo. Revealing to Ricardo that he is the black smoke, he claims that Jacob is the devil, and that he has his wife, and that Ricardo must kill Jacob to leave the island and get his wife back. Ricardo attempts to kill Jacob, but is easily outmaneuvered.
Jacob explains the function of the island, using a wine bottle as an analogy: the island acts as a cork that "is the only thing keeping the darkness [literally the wine, metaphorically some unknown embodiment of evil, perhaps even the Man in Black] where it belongs." Without the "cork", the darkness would escape and spread. As the Man in Black sees it, people are inherently evil, while Jacob believes they are inherently good. To this end, Jacob brings people to the island, so that they may disprove the Man in Black; however, he does not believe in telling people what to do, since this would negate their free will to choose good. When Ricardo points out that the Man in Black will corrupt them as he himself was corrupted, Jacob suggests that Ricardo become his representative to the people he brings to the Island. In return, Jacob will offer him a reward of his choice. After having to turn down Ricardo's requests to see his dead wife, and to be absolved for his sins, Jacob grants Ricardo immortality. Ricardo returns to the Man in Black, who states that his offer is still open should Ricardo change his mind. He gives Ricardo the cross necklace that Isabella gave him just before she died, and Ricardo buries it on the island.
Back to 2007, Richard visits the site where he has buried his wife's necklace on the island, shouting that he has changed his mind and wishes to join the Man in Black; “Does the offer still stand?” Instead, Hurley arrives and, using his ability to communicate with the dead, acts as an intermediary between Richard and his wife Isabella. She explains that Richard must stop the Man in Black from leaving the island, or else "we all go to Hell." The Man in Black, in the form of John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), is shown to be watching them from a distance.
In another flashback, Jacob visits the Man in Black and tells him that he will never let him leave the island. The Man in Black insists he'll kill Jacob some day, but Jacob retorts that another will just take his place; the former responds that he will simply kill them too. Jacob then gives him the aforementioned corked wine bottle, which the Man in Black breaks by smashing it against a log.
The episode was written by producer Melinda Hsu Taylor and co-producer Greggory Nations and directed by Tucker Gates. The episode is centered on Richard Alpert and is the first episode in season six to return to the old traditional flashback and to not show a "flash-sideways". Despite Alpert being the centric character, centric flashbacks are also shown for Ilana Verdansky and The Man in Black (furthermore, Jacob plays large roles in all three characters' backstories).
"Ab Aeterno" was met with critical acclaim. Review aggregate website Metacritic gave the episode a score of 93 out of 100, indicating "Universal Acclaim". The score was up on the previous week's score of 76, making the episode tied for the highest-reviewed episode of the season, along with "Happily Ever After". IGN's Chris Carbot highly praised the episode, stating "the overall story of Lost benefits immensely from the clarity that this week’s episode provides." Overall, he gave the episode a score of 9.8. Emily VanDerWerff of Los Angeles Times gave the episode a perfect score, calling it "awesome" and "another all-timer for the show." Maureen Ryan of Chicago Tribune also praised the episode, stating "what was great about "Ab [Aeterno]" is that it showed us a story about one imperfect, well-intentioned man caught up in this terrible struggle." Steven Kurutz of The Wall Street Journal deemed it as one of the best hours of TV, "Richard’s story was so dramatic that I found it totally compelling. Tonight’s show both told a self-contained story and worked within the larger framework of the show by illuminating the power struggle between Jacob and Smokey."
Critics also praised Nestor Carbonell's performance as Richard. Alan Sepinwell of Star Ledger stated "for three-plus seasons, Richard's been the serene, all-knowing man of mystery, and Carbonell was superb at showing both a cracked, suicidal Richard who has decided he actually knows nothing, and then at showing the very human man he was before Jacob made him immortal." Chris Carbot called Carbonell's performance "outstanding." James Poniewozik of Time thought Carbonell "made Richard into another character, showing us the decent, desperate, heartbroken man who would be transformed over 140 years as Jacob's ambassador on the Island."
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- Dietz, Jason (March 24, 2010), ": Last Night's Lost, Season 6, Ep. 9: 'Ab Aeterno'", Metacritic.
- Carabott, Chris (April 15, 2010). "Lost: "Ab Aeterno" Review". IGN. Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
- VanDerWerff, Emily (February 26, 2010). "'Lost': Richard Alpert, starring in a David Lean film". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
- Ryan, Maureen (March 26, 2010). "The Watcher: Let's talk 'Lost': Live Forever". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
- Kung, Michelle; Kurutz, Steven (March 26, 2010). "'Lost' Season 6, Episode 9, "Ab Aeterno": TV Recap". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
- Sepinwell, Alan (March 26, 2010), "Lost, "Ab Aeterno": The man behind the shackles", Star Ledger. Retrieved on March 26, 2010.
- Carabott, Chris, (March 24, 2010) "Ab Aeterno Review", IGN. Retrieved on March 26, 2010.
- Poniewozik, James (March 26, 2010), "Lostwatch: See You in Hell", Time. Retrieved on March 26, 2010.
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