“If you don’t, he will.”

Ab Aeterno • Season 6 • Episode 9

David, 32 —Bayonne (New Jersey, USA):

I was just starting my first year of high school when Lost began to air on TV. I was intrigued by it from the moment I saw a commercial for a few months before it premiered. By the fifth episode, “White Rabbit”, I was hooked.

Lost was the first show to make me look inside myself and ask what kind of person I was and what I believed in. The conversations I would have with friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers would awaken a burning passion in me, one I still feel today. It still remains my favorite show of all time.

In the Season 1 finale of Lost, “Exodus”, John Locke and Jack Shepherd had their iconic conversation where Locke said: “Each one of us was brought here for a reason.” In the seasons that followed, we continued to ask why the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, and many others before them, were brought to a mysterious island somewhere in the South Pacific.

The Season 6 episode “Ab Aeterno” gave us the definitive answer. As we are finally told the story of Richard Alpert’s past and how he came to the island aboard the Black Rock, we witness his first meeting with Jacob and watch as his life is changed forever. Richard is convinced that he is trapped in Hell when the Man in Black tells him that’s where he is, and sends him on his way to kill Jacob, who the MiB refers to as the Devil. When Jacob tells Richard that he protects the island and that he brought Richard’s ship here, Richard asks the obvious: why?

This is the answer Jacob gives:

“Think of this wine as what you keep calling hell. There’s many other names for it too: malevolence, evil, darkness. And here it is, swirling around in the bottle, unable to get out because if it did, it would spread. The cork is this island and it’s the only thing keeping the darkness where it belongs. That man who sent you to kill me believes that everyone is corruptible because it’s in their very nature to sin. I bring people here to prove him wrong. And when they get here, their past doesn’t matter.”

When Richard asks if others were brought here before him, Jacob tells him there were and that they’re all dead, killed by themselves or the Man in Black. Of course, Richard is confused. If Jacob brought others here before, why didn’t he help them?

As Jacob gives his answer, he asks: “Why should I have to step in?”

Richard’s answer? “If you don’t, he will.”

This changes Jacob’s perspective on how he’s been doing things on the island, leading him to appoint Richard as his right-hand man to act on his behalf with others that will be brought to the island in the future.

And there you have it. After six seasons and up to 112 episodes at this point, we were given the ultimate answer of what the show was all about by the man behind the curtain. From the island’s nature to the reason so many others found themselves here before our main characters.

What I love about this moment is how Jacob and Richard are set up. Jacob is obviously the all-knowing God and Richard is Christ (he even looks like him with the long hair and beard). Jacob’s explanation to Richard about his troubled relationship with the Man in Black is very much in tune to God’s relationship with the Devil. And Richard asking Jacob why he never helped anyone he brought to island before him is all too similar to one of life’s oldest questions: “If there’s an all-knowing, all-loving God, why does he let bad things happen?”

I don’t believe in organized religion (it’s fine if you do), but I do believe in God. And while this may be a TV show, I have always seen truth in Jacob’s response:

“I wanted them to help themselves. To know the difference between right and wrong without me having to tell them. It’s all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything.”

That first conversation with Jacob and Richard is my favorite moment from Lost because it says everything that the show had always been about while mirroring our own questions about why we’re here. And Jacob’s theme, “The Tangled Web”, playing in the background is the icing on the cake.