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Every Answer Simply Leads to Another Question: The Latest Internet Lost Theories

"Why won't you let me be shirtless, Jacob?"

Since airing Tuesday night, "Across the Sea" has become this season's most polarizing episode, and one of the most divisive turning points in Lost's history. While some people loved tuning in for an epic mythology download, others felt the Jacob and Man in Black–centric hour was a waste of time at this late juncture, complaining that the episode ultimately raised more questions than it answered. But you heard Allison Janney's meta-warning, right? "Every question I answer will simply lead to another question," she told Claudia (and us). Well, she was right, but more questions lead to more exciting theories, so we turned to our favorite minds for the latest and greatest predictions about what this background episode really means for the series.

Note: Because the writers neglected to tell us the names of these characters, we're going to be using the following naming conventions in this roundup: Allison Janney's character will be referred to as Mother. As for the Man in Black, we're calling his young self BiB (for Boy in Black), his pre–magic spring self MiB, and his current form Smokey. Of course, if you want to call him Voldemort, that's fine with us.

• Alan Sepinwall finds that this episode proves that the island has no unified agenda. The force that allows Boy in Black to see his dead mother runs counter to the force that wants Mother and her successors to protect the magic light. [What’s Alan Watching?/HitFix]

• How did Mother know so much about the golden stream? How did she destroy the well and take out the village? Why did she thank MIB for killing her? All signs point to Mother being a smoke monster herself. [Tuned In/Time]

• What if Jacob wasn't looking for a candidate to protect the island, but a candidate to destroy it? [It Happened Last Night]

• The Washington Post's dueling bloggers agree that Mother reminded us of another island mother we've seen: Rousseau. Both women kept to themselves, avoided others on the island at all costs, and took the first baby they could get their hands on. Was this the first sign that island history repeats itself? There were certainly more echoes of the future throughout the episode. MiB, while using the original Others as a means to an end, wasn't inherently evil as a person; he only became so when he went down the magic spring. Fast-forward 2,000 years to a young, injured Ben Linus: unhappy, but not a bad person until he was healed in the temple's magic hot tub, which these bloggers are assuming was built over the magic spring. The episode also drove home the idea that it's not soul mates who drive the show, but the relationships between parent and child — we've seen how those relationships have shaped all of our main characters, including now Jacob and MiB/Smokey. With that said, could Smokey be behind the childbirth problems on the island? Could he be trying to save other children from what he went through, or punishing mothers for losing his to the island? [Celebritology/WP]

• If the hunters never found the cave and MiB never found the golden stream again, then Jacob and Mother must have the power to conceal or camouflage certain island locales. Such an ability would also explain the seemingly random appearance of the lighthouse this season. [Cultural Learnings]

• MiB does seem more special then Jacob, so did everything go wrong because the wrong man became the island’s protector? It’s also interesting to note that Jacob has spent centuries playing a game with an evil entity he inadvertently created, but one that also presumably assisted in protecting the island from outsiders. [AV Club]

• Mother says of men looking for the light, ''No. But they can try. And if they try they can put it out. And if it goes out here, it goes out everywhere.'' Doc Jensen thinks these are the stakes for the final hours of the series. Could the desire for more of the light be the real reason Widmore came back to the island? Is it safe to access the light from anywhere other than the spring? Considering that use of the wheel leads to nose bleeds and time-travel death, probably not. Also, it appears Dogan was correct when he told Sayid he couldn't let Smokey speak before stabbing him — MiB used the exact same knife to kill Mother, and stabbed her before she had been able to say a word. Did he set that precedent? Or had those "rules" been in existence already? Speaking of rules, does being the island protector mean you get to make them up? [Totally Lost/EW]

• This episode wasn't the first time the writers have used "across the sea." Think way back to season one, when Shannon (who appeared to "special" John Locke, and had "special" Walt appear to her) sang "La Mer," the French version of "Beyond the Sea" from Finding Nemo. However, how did the donkey wheel end up frozen? Also, if it's the magic wine that makes you immortal, can anyone be immortal now that Smokey's smashed the bottle? [Nik at Nite]

• What exactly is Smokey? If the magic light absorbed all of MiB’s good qualities, then all that’s left is his evil side, manifested in this powerful, shape-shifting entity. It seems likely that the same fate will befall Widmore, who probably has some false notions about the power of that light, which he’s going to use Desmond to get access to. [Magic Lamp]

• Did Mother show Jacob and BiB the magic spring because she knew that MiB would eventually be the one to kill her, understanding that his need to explore the island and beyond would lead to that moment? It seems that she wanted him to kill her, seeing as she thanked him for doing so. Also, how did MiB figure out that tapping into the golden light would allow him to leave the island? [Televisionary]

• Everyone seems to think the smoke monster was created when MiB entered the magic light, but what if it had existed since the beginning of time and was merely dormant until it was awakened by this event? Perhaps old Smokey really is an age-old “security system,” as Ben described it so many seasons ago. [Buddy TV]

• If MiB and Smokey are separate entities (remember, we've seen MiB's dead body), why do they have the same goal of getting off the island and going home? The answer might not matter — perhaps when Jack (or another candidate) accepts the position of Jacob replacement, that will mean that Jacob wins, as Jack's growth and development would mean there's still hope for mankind. But does Jacob winning mean Smokey is destroyed? [Long Live Locke]

• Wondering what game Jacob and MiB loved so much? An ancient Egyptian (!) game called Senet. Perhaps it has ties to the statue and hieroglyphs. [ArtsBeat/NYT]

• This blogger thinks this week's episode would have been much better earlier in the season, as a companion to Richard-centric "Ab Aeterno" [Eds: We agree]. Regardless, the writer wonders if the fact that Hurley and BiB sharing the ability to see dead people means that Hurley is the best candidate — or the biggest threat to Smokey. Either way, watch for this skill to come into play in a big way in the final hours, especially since it's likely Sayid's soul will be trapped on the island. Will this ability help them destroy Smokey, putting the magic light out forever, and perhaps sinking the island? Bonus: What would have happened to Smokey had he drank the wine Jacob offered him in "Ab Aeterno," instead of smashing the bottle? [JOpinionated]

• Damon Lindelof says, "Aaron is important; he definitely figures in the end of the show. Not integral, but important." Is he a candidate? Ilana had said there were six candidates left, but we only knew of five. Is Aaron the person who was at 108 degrees in the lighthouse? [Watch with Kristen/E! Online]

• Tom and Lorenzo still think Sideways Locke might be Smokey. If the light on the island goes out, and it sinks, and Smokey leaves the island, what body would he use? MiB's body is a skeleton, but he's already using Locke's body. It seems like he wants to get off the island badly enough that he'd be okay being stuck in a wheelchair to do it. [Tom and Lorenzo]

• Mark Pellegrino, the actor who plays Jacob, thinks that Jacob went from mama's boy to the man we know when he drank the wine, that a transformation happened in that moment. He also says [minor SPOILER ALERT] that the idea of good and evil when it comes to Jacob will be clearer after the next episode, and that while all questions won't be answered, many people will be satisfied. [TV Guide]

• Mother tells Jacob and BiB that they can't hurt each other, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Not only was Jacob able to knock his brother unconscious, but he threw him down the magic spring, effectively killing him. Does that mean that the rules don't actually exist? [Ed: Or did it die with her? If so, did Jacob's rules die with him?] [Lost Blog/Filmfodder]

• Mother places a lot of importance on Jacob staying good. Could she have placed a curse of sorts on other island inhabitants, preventing people who aren't "good" from being able to carry out a pregnancy? [BuzzSugar]

• What’s the deal with the Source, the glowing light that Jacob became the protector of? It’s a collection of the souls who can’t “pass on,” as Michael explained to Hurley. And if the light goes out, as Mother warned, then it means the souls would have no shot at redemption. [Mistaking Coincidence for Fate]

• With so much crucial information about Mother withheld, it’s hard to know what to make of her motives and actions. She does seem a lot like Eve, though, since her original sin of withholding information from Jacob and BiB leads to pain, suffering, and centuries of bloodshed. [Watcher/Chicago Tribune]

• With regards to the supposed Egyptian connection to the island, it’s a red herring. With the brothers’ favorite pastime being the ancient Egyptian game of Senet, maybe the statue and the temple were built by one of them as some sort of tribute to off-island life. [Slate]

• A lot of what we saw in this episode, if not everything, was part of Mother’s elaborate setup. She’s the one who brought Claudia to the island in the first place. Many years later, she also realized that Jacob would never be able to guard the island by himself, so she set off a course of events that would lead to MiB’s transformation into a smoke monster, which would permanently trap him on the island and keep him in the service of protecting the Source against his will. [Vozzek69/Dark UFO]

• Commenter oxfordcomma wonders if it was Jacob who ordered the Dharma genocide.

JREESE3 spotted an interesting connection between Ben and BiB: both were able to see their dead mothers, and both of them were led to the Others on the island by said mothers.

TadAllagash thinks that Smokey might be the island, personified, and that it's the island itself that is the evil force at work here.

R_Claw is disturbed by how attractive BiB was. No judgment here.

Right82 was fairly satisfied by the number of answers we received, but thought this episode would have been a great place to answer some major, obvious questions, including why Jacob and the candidates' deaths will allow Smokey to leave the island.

Photo: Courtesy of ABC