Lost: Are You Team Jacob or Team Smoke Monster?

As the penultimate episode before the show’s two-and-a-half-hour finale May 23rd, last night’s Lost was a definite game changer. While last week saw the death of three beloved original characters, this episode took place almost entirely in the distant past, beginning with the birth of Jacob and his dark, mysterious brother and guest starring… The West Wing‘s Alison Janney? Without revealing any spoilers (those are safely after the jump), we will say this: It was an episode that made us seriously rethink our allegiances vis-a-vis the epic battle between Jacob and the smoke monster.

Before we get into that tussle, though, this must be said: Last night’s affair was perhaps the WTF-iest Lost episode yet, and considering we’re talking about Lost here, that’s saying a lot. First, a dark-skinned woman shipwrecked on the island gives birth to two lily-white babies (yes, the Jacob and Esau imagery was exactly as obvious as we feared it might be) who exit the womb unburdened by a single drop of blood or placenta. Then, Janney conks the new mom on the head and raises the twins on her own, where they frolic around the forest in medieval garb, speaking in a biblically inflected language whose every word is saturated with heavy-handed symbolism. And don’t even get us started on the island’s secret core, a light-filled cave that, according to Janney, basically makes the world go ’round. She actually says, “A little bit of this light is in every man.” Then, of course, we learn that one of her two sons will be chosen to succeed her as its guardian. We kind of wanted to throw things at the TV.

But the real drama starts when Esau (who, obviously, is the mysterious “Man in Black”/smoke monster who’s now occupying Locke’s body) meets the ghost of his mother in the woods and she leads him to a colony on the other side of the island where “her people” live. She tells him what really happened the day he was born, and he abandons Janney and Jacob to make a life among the settlers and resolves to leave the island. To that end, he spends 30 years searching for a way back to the light, which he’s convinced can transport him to a different part of the world. (Considering that what he ends up building looks a lot like the well/wheel contraption that gets Ben and Locke off the island hundreds of years later, he seems to have the right idea.) Then Jacob goes and ruins it all by learning about smoke monster’s plans and relaying them to Janney, who promptly shows up to bop her estranged son over the head and, while he’s unconscious, fill in the well he’s dug and murder everyone else in the settlement.

So who can blame smoke monster for tracking down Janney and piercing her heart with an arrow, just after she’s formally turned the tunnel of light over to Jacob? And then who can blame Jacob (who we’re starting to suspect is a bit “simple,” if you know what we mean) for feeding his brother to glowing maw? Who (other than a devoted Lostie) would have suspected that the fate worse than death that Janney warns Jacob would be the result of entering the tunnel would turn out to be an afterlife as a vengeful smoke monster? Hey, at least Jacob buries Janney and his brother’s bodies in a recognizable cave, where a brief flashback to Jack and Kate confirm that they are, in fact, the Adam and Eve skeletons the survivors discovered way back in the show’s first season.

Lost is finally starting answer questions — in fact, it’s answering a lot of them, and quickly. But the resolutions, from Jin, Sun, and Sayid’s death to the skeletons to the Jacob-and-Esau origin story are feeling rushed and overly simplistic. That said, here’s what’s really occupying our thoughts now: Is Jacob really good? Is the smoke monster actually evil? When the former is willing to forgive his seemingly paranoid, mass-murdering mother and commit all kinds of similar atrocities in the name of some obscure faith in a glowing tunnel that somehow represents all of human nature and dictates the fate of the world… this may just be our religious skepticism, but we may have to side with the dude who wants to get the fuck away from all that crazy.

How about you? It’s time to pick a side: Are you Team Jacob or Team Smoke Monster?