This episode tells the backstory of Jacob and his brother as their pregnant mother is in a shipwreck and finds herself on the island. A woman finds her and they speak in Latin. The pregnant woman is named Claudia. The woman who found her says that she is alone, and that she got there the same way Claudia did: by accident. She tries to ask a question, but the woman says that any question she asks will only lead to more questions. Claudia gives birth, and has a boy, whom she names Jacob. But it turns out she has another baby, a second boy. Claudia says she only picked one name. Then the woman who helped deliver the children kills Claudia.
Jacob’s brother finds a game on the beach and the two of them play it. The brother makes Jacob promise not to tell mother, since she will take it away. She asks Jacob if he loves her, and then asks him to tell her what happened. She then goes to join Jacob’s brother on the beach. She says that Jacob does not know how to lie. She also says that he is special. He says that he thought the game came from across the sea. She insists that there is no place else, and when she mentions her mother being dead, he asks what “dead” is, and she says it is something he will never have to worry about.
When Jacob and his brother chase a boar, they find there are other people on the island. She says that those people are not like them, that they are here for a reason. She blindfolds them, and makes it so they can never hurt one another. Then she shows them the cave of light. She says that that is the reason they are here. She says that the warmest, brightest light is down there and they must make sure that no one ever finds it. She says that a little bit of that light is inside every man, but they always want more. She says that if the light goes out there, it goes out everywhere, and she cannot protect it forever, so it will have to be one of them.
Jacob’s brother sees the ghost of Claudia. Jacob cannot see her. She takes him across the island to see where he came from. There is a village of people who came 13 years ago, and that he comes from across the sea. She says that the woman he calls mother is not really his mother – she is. Jacob’s brother tries to take Jacob to join those people. But he won’t go and they fight. When “mother” intervenes, Jacob’s brother tells what he knows. He leaves but Jacob stays behind.
Then we see Jacob as an adult. He weaves and works with his mother. He also goes to visit his brother and play games. Jacob watches the village to see if they are bad. His brother says it is easy for Jacob to see them as good looking down from above, but living among them, he sees their greed and selfishness. He reveals that he has found a way off the island and shows the magnetic force of a well they dug. He says they have found sites all over the island where metal behaves strangely. When they do, they dig, and this time they found something. He says he has found a way off the island.
Later, Jacob tells mother that his brother said he has finally found a way to leave the island. She goes to see him. He says that he has walked the island for 30 years and never found that cave she took him to as a child. Then he realized he might be able to get to the light beneath the island another way. He has made a wheel, and they will make an opening, and attach a system that channels the water and the light, and when he attaches it he will be able to leave the island. She asks how he knows it will work, and he says it is because he is special. She begs him not to go, but he says he does not belong there, and so they say goodbye. She says she is sorry, then bangs his head against the wall. She then goes and wakes Jacob, taking him to the cave of light, making him its protector. She says that down there is life, death, rebirth – it is the heart of the island. She makes him promise that he will never go down there. She says that going down there would be worse than dying – much worse. Then she gives him to drink, accepting the responsibility to protect this place and then find someone else to replace him. Jacob says that she wanted it to be his brother, but she says that it was always supposed to be him – she sees that now. After he drinks, she says, “Now, you and I are the same.”
Jacob’s brother comes around, and sees the well filled in with earth, and the village set ablaze with all the people in it killed. He wrecks mother’s home, and then stabs her. She says she loves him, and thanks him, and then dies. Jacob comes home and attacks him. The brother tries to tell him about what she did. But Jacob drags him to the cave of light and throws him in. Then we see the smoke monster emerge. The brother’s body comes out the other side, and Jacob finds it, and places it together with mother in the cave where they lived, with a black and white playing piece from the game in a small bag. These are the skeletons that were found in the first season.
This was a great episode, answering questions while acknowledging that every answer leads to more questions. But watching again, I found the backstory even more consistent and satisfying than I had the first time around, when so many questions had piled up and so many mysteries been presented that it was hard to really keep track of whether one ought to feel satisfied or not!
I think the most important element in this episode is the clear depiction that Jacob and his brother are not simply good and evil. They are more like the passive and aggressive Kirks into which the captain is split in the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within.”