Previously on LOST: Across the Sea


Previously on LOST is a weekly column recapping and analyzing each episode from the final season of Lost. (Warning: May contain spoilers!)

I had been aware of the basic premise of “Across the Sea” for most of the season. It was an episode that featured none of the main characters but focused strictly on the relationship between Jacob and the Man in Black. In my mind, this was going to be THE episode of the season, and I had hyped it up to a completely unfair level. My guess is that most viewers had generated the same lofty expectations, within the first few minutes of the episode.

By the reactions on the internet and from people I’ve spoken to, the fallout seems to be extreme disappointment, particularly in the fact that the episode raised more questions than it answered. I, however, thought it was one of the better episodes this season and maintain that if it would have aired at any point except the end of the series that people would have loved it.

I thought the episode did a great job of explaining the motivations for the characters of Jacob and his brother, and I found their story to be a compelling one. It gave context to two characters that we really knew very little about. I do wish that more of the story had been moved out of the hands of child actors, as it detracted from the episode, and the emotions and story would have been served just as well if they were older.

While the episode was a success from a character standpoint, mythologically it was a grab bag. As I stated before, most people find it frustrating that this episode raised more questions than it answered. To name a few:

  • Who is Allison Janney’s character? How did she kill all of the “other” people? Are her true intentions good or evil?
  • Are the smoke monster and the Man in Black one and the same? Or does the smoke monster choose to appear as Jacob’s brother? Is the smoke monster the corruption of the light of the island?
  • What is the name of the Man in Black?!?

I don’t have much to say about Allison Janney’s character, other than there were apples near the bodies of the burned victims which might suggest poisoning. I do think that the smoke monster and the Man in Black are connected at some level. The writers have been deliberate about other characters on the show knowing that The Smoke Monster is certainly NOT Locke. But Jacob has definitely always spoken to the Man in Black as his brother and not an impersonator from my recollection.

Finally, the name of the MiB has been tiptoed around so much, I think that at this point, it has to bear huge significance in the context of the show or it will remain a mystery. I am okay with never learning his name and it leads me to another point. I find that the show is weaker when it is deliberately trying to answer questions. The ridiculous explanation of the wheel that moves the island was a testament to this. How disappointing would it be to find out that the Jacob’s brother’s name is Larry? I hope that the writers will adhere to the motto, “If you can’t explain it well, don’t explain it at all.”

While I may not love the decisions the writers made in adding to the LOST Canon, I will give them the benefit of the doubt and let them conclude the series the way they intended. I am more frustrated when the characters’ motives and emotions are inconsistent for the sake of plot, or when the writing is dull.

I strongly believe that “Across the Sea” is being unfairly targeted as “the episode that should have answered questions” and is a victim of its placement in the series. After re-watching it, and accepting it for what it is rather than what it should have been, I think it is one of the best this season.

Discussion Topics

  • Who is Allison Janney’s character? Will her own origin ever be explained?
  • How did people feel about the “light” of the island?
  • Was Richard immortalized by Jacob’s touch or by the wine? If it’s the wine, now that the bottle is broken, who can replace Jacob permanently?
  • How did people feel about the Adam and Eve explanation?

SCORE: 3.5 stars

  • Frank

    MiB’s name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

  • bard

    This was a disappointing episode because of the fact that it raised more questions with only 3.5 hours left in the series. I know this same mentality has been regurgitated so much since Tuesday, so I’m not going to delve further into it.

    I did however realize why it was so disappointing to me:

    My fascination with this show is primarily because of the mythology, not the character development. I enjoy the character development episodes, but overall, I’m infinitely interested in figuring out or seeing the mythology unfold before my eyes.

    With episodes like “Across the Sea” I was pretty disappointed to come to the realization that I will most likely be let down by the final two episodes, as it’s pretty obvious that they care way more about the character arc’s than the mythology.

    Either way, I’m going to watch the final two of course, and hopefully will be pleasantly surprised.

  • bard

    Also, why does it matter what his name is? I doubt that they’ll ever say, but it truly doesn’t matter.

  • Ben

    The fanbase push to have questions answered is to blame for anything negative about this episode (and many others for that matter). That’s right, I blame all you “We HAVE to know what ‘this’ means” people. Because sometimes the writers cave and try to give you what you want while still maintaining the integrity of what they’re trying to do and it fucks their formula up.


    The only real issue I, personally, had with this episode was the clips used when Jacob was laying his brother and mother to rest in the cave. It was out of form for them to be so heavy handed with a reference like that. Especially considering “Adam and Eve” were referenced only a few episodes ago.

  • RaphNL

    Wow, good to see you liked it (wasn’t expecting it). MANY haters out there indeed. It’s certainly not up there with the best LOST episodes ever, but definitely not one of the worst. I’d personally give it 3 or 3.5 stars.

    MIB’s name: The name not being given must matter in some thematic way. Maybe we’ll understand why the writers chose no name after the finale? If his name doesn’t matter at all why not give him a simple name (which should’ve been given earlier in the season, now any name would be anti-climactic)
    Mother character: Who cares where she came from, if they answer that then people will start asking where the people before her came from etc etc (“Every question you ask just leads to more questions”).
    The light: Isn’t this just the electromagnetism? Ofcourse they wouldn’t have a real scientific name for it in those times.

    Mythologically it brings up a few other interesting things:
    – Did the purge happen because the DI got too close to misusing the light/electromagnetism?
    – The writers said they might explain Walt’s character through another character. MiB was called ‘special’ in this episode, any connections?
    – Was the mother the smoke monster? Killing all those people and closing the well on her own is a bit unbelievable.

  • Ben

    Regarding his name, I’ve got a couple ideas.

    First, this could just be like how they started using “others” and “tailies” within the show after fans started using those terms. Since fans kind of latched onto him not having been given an actual name at first, they may just leave him nameless.

    Next, the name could have significance at some point. It can’t just be Larry if they’re going to actually give him one.

    Finally, the very fact that he’s never been given a name may be the significant part. Their “mother” seems to favor him his whole life yet never even names him? Seems rife with implications.

    I do think that the significance of Walt and Aaron has been explained a bit just by the developments this season in general. The whole candidate scenario does give meaning to a lot of the actions of the others from early on. Especially if you take into account that they were working with limited and likely incorrect interpretations of what is actually going on.

  • GORT

    I think you hit the nail on the head. The people who disliked this episode had built it up in their head and revolted when it came out entirely different. I must admit when I first saw the episode I was slightly disappointed. I was expecting some kind of grand answer-fest but the episode gave me a character story about these three people with a couple of answers sprinkled in. But upon rewatch I absolutely fell in love with the episode. I woudn’t say this is the best of the season since I liked ‘The Substitute’, ‘Happily Ever After’ and ‘The Candidate’ a lot but it’s definitely up there. I think once people clear their heads of what they want the episode to be and try to watch it for what it’s trying to do they will appreciate all the thematic nuances and appreciate the episode.

  • Goon

    Well I guess I’m with Frank on this one finally :P

    Good episode

  • Teo

    Frank is hard to please – so if he liked it enough to give it 3.5 then its damn good! I watched it a few days ago and I loved it. I thought it answered enough basic questions that needed to be answered. Other questions were raised but I dont think they’re that significant…like how did “Mother” kill all the others…really, who cares. Great episode and I can’t wait for the finale.

  • Søren

    Another question to ponder:

    Who is Benjamin and MiB’s mother’s mother?

  • Bryan

    I think it was kind of obvious that the “mother” was the smoke monster. The clues would be she appeared as MiB’s real mom and brought him to the others. Also, when she approached MiB in front of the wheel, the camera suggested she was smoke with the Evil Dead-esqu camera move they give Locke in present time.

  • NervousRex

    Why can’t writers come up with complicated meaningful endings to complicated stories. Instead it always comes down to the good guy versus the bad guy or the divine light versus the corrupt darkness, etc. Ho hum. Basic infantile wish fulfillment climax with grandiose undertones. Why have a plausible, semi scientificly based explanation, when introducing metaphysics allows you to get away with anything. Let me guess, in the last twenty minutes of the series, Walt will show up with the baby and they will have glowing light coming out of their eyes that will miraculously stop whatever disaster is about to happen. Well, at least no angels have shown up yet.

  • Søren


    Yes I get that part, though you can’t be sure she is in fact the black smoke since she could have killed the other men on the island without the sheer force of the black smoke by e.g. poisoning them or some other way.

    But from who or what does Allison Janney’s character descend, if she was the very first individual living on the island?

    She must have quite immense power as the fact was that she was able to give Benjamin eternal life, among other things.