Even after all his efforts, Richard doesn’t ride back with Juliet and Ethan on the submarine. He says he needs to check up on someone.
As Ben walks her to the camp that will be her home for the next six months, she asks, “How is Dr. Alpert going to get back?”
“He has his own means of transportation.”
It’s entirely too soon for Juliet to think of reading anything into that.
It’s an overwhelming first week, between meeting a campful of new people, dealing with the intensity of Ben, acclimating to the humidity, and generally trying to settle in. Juliet’s too busy and exhausted by it all to let herself ask some of the questions she knows deep down she should be asking. What do these people do? What exactly is Ben the leader of?
And most of all: Why is there a sonic fence around the barracks?
Ben explains, “It’s to keep out wild animals. And stuff.”
She almost hears the period in the middle of the sentence. But it doesn’t matter. She wouldn’t even know where to begin imagining.
Juliet has spent the last few years of her life in relative isolation. She’s the type to throw herself into her work, and since the divorce, she’s let her determination ruin her social life. She’s out of practice making friends.
At first, she tries to stick to Ethan. She’d known him, if only a little bit, before coming here, and his presence as a link between both worlds is comforting. However, Juliet soon gives up on this plan. Ethan is cold, and weird. He has little interest in being her friend or having any relationship with her outside of the medical meetings that they have from time to time. She’s even more alone than she’d been at home.
“Dr. Alpert!” Juliet cries when she sees him walking through the camp for the first time since her arrival. She runs to catch up with him while he waits for her, wary and impatient. Breathlessly, she asks, “When did you get back?”
“A couple of days ago.”
“During that horrible storm?” She remembers hiding from the wind and the lightning in her little house, reading books and listening to the funny 70s records in the bookshelf. It was the kind of storm that reminded her of the outside world, and worries for sailors and airplanes that may have been passing through.
“Yeah, around then.”
“I haven’t seen you.” Juliet doesn’t really know him, and deep down, she still can’t shake the feeling that her ex’s death was not an accident, but she’s glad to see his face.
“I had some business to take care of on the other side of the island,” he replies. “By the way---”
“You should just call me Richard. I’m not actually part of the medical staff.”
Juliet’s been here just long enough to wonder what exactly he’s trying to tell her.
Six months go by and there’s no word of her going home. Something changes at that point, and it isn’t just her mood. People start looking at her in a new way. A meeting is called to which she isn’t invited. Ben tells her that it’s because she isn’t yet a full member of the community.
She doesn’t really care, though. The only way she can see getting out of here is to stay single-minded to her work, not to start getting sucked in by the mysteries of the island.
Sometimes, though, she hears distant rumblings, as if trees are being uprooted. She never asks anyone what the noise is.
One day she sees Tom with a new file. “Desmond Hume.”
“Who’s that?” Juliet asks casually.
“Oh, just a new guy. Got here just a little bit after you did.”
“But the sub’s been here the whole time!”
“Had his own means of transportation.”
It’s the second time she’s heard this phrase, but Juliet is too busy feeling excited to think about it. Just as she’d been irrationally thrilled to see Richard that first week, the idea of someone almost as new to the community as herself is invigorating.
“Well, where’s he been?”
“In a Dharma station down near the other side of the island. It’s an underground, isolation assignment. You won’t see him. None of us will.” Tom opens the file to show her the photo, taunting her. “Pity, though, isn’t it? Good looking guy. Nice accent, too, I’m guessing from the nationality.”
Juliet rolls her eyes.
She has already started steeling herself against feeling disappointment for more than a minute.
She doesn’t mean to eavesdrop, she really doesn’t. Juliet’s just admiring the flowers outside Richard’s house---he has the greenest thumb of all of them---when she hears his voice, followed by Ben’s.
“She isn’t.” Ben sounds petulant, like a child who’s older brother has taken away his favorite toy. “She still needs to complete her task.”
“You and I both know she never will. No human ever could. Or should. The fertility experiments were always an excuse, a convenient reason to bring her here. Jacob wanted her here, and now she’s ready to become one of us.”
Juliet is frozen, her nose still stuck in the daisies, and she wonders who Jacob is, conjecturing that perhaps he’s wherever that Desmond person she never got to meet is.
“She isn’t going to care,” Ben continues to argue. “She isn’t going to believe.”
“Jacob doesn’t need people to believe. Belief is just a bonus.”
Juliet keeps her head down as she crawls past the window so they don’t see her. Afterwards, she stands up straight, her head held high. She doesn’t care who Jacob is or what reason it is that Richard thinks she’s really here for. Juliet came here to save lives, and she’s going to continue trying for as long as she’s stuck here, no matter what anyone says.
The next day, Tom approaches her in the lab. “Juliet, can I talk to you? It’s important.”
With Tom, almost nothing is important; he’s usually Mr. Jolly, so this has to be big. “Sure, Tom.”
“Let’s go around to my place for a beer.”
Well, apparently even when things are big, he’s still Mr. Jolly.
He seats her in his living room---which looks depressingly just like her living room---and gets them drinks.
“How are you liking it here, Juliet?” he asks as a starter.
“I’d like to go home,” she replies.
Tom waves her remark away. “I know, I know, but in the meanwhile, how are you liking it here?”
It’s the first time anyone but Goodwin has asked her for her opinion about life on Nameless Island, and Tom’s one of the people who’s friendliest towards her, so she decides to give honesty a go.
“It’s hot. It’s humid. I don’t understand what anyone does here or what purpose this commune serves. I think it’s a shame that we live on a beautiful tropical island, but hardly ever have a chance to explore. For all I know, there’s a Westin just a couple of miles away.”
Tom slaps his knee and laughs. “Good point, there.”
But Juliet’s learned by now to read into everything. She pauses. “Wait, there isn’t really a Westin, is there?”
“No, just a Sheraton.” When her eyes go wide, he punches her lightly on the arm. “Just kidding. Nobody here but the people you see here every day.”
“What about Desmond?” she asks, and then in an unexpected act of bravery, she tests, “What about Jacob?”
That does the trick. Tom stiffens. “What do you know about Jacob?”
“Nothing,” she replies disingenuously. “I’ve just overheard the name.”
“Well, that’s sort of what I wanted to talk to you about. Actually, everything you just said. How would you like to explore more of the island, understand more about this place?”
Juliet shrugs. “I’d prefer to go home, but if you’re offering me something to help pass the time…”
“Sure! Think of it like that. We’d like to make you one of us, Juliet.” He puts his hand up when he sees her about to interrupt. “Don’t worry. You’ll still be able to go home. It just means that while you’re here, you get… let’s call it ‘freer reign’.”
Almost a year on this island has taught her to question everyone’s motives. “Whose decision was this?”
“Ben’s,” Tom says quickly, and then amends, “Well, Ben and Richard’s.”
Richard’s, Juliet thinks to herself. Aloud she says, “Not Jacob’s?”
Tom’s eyes narrow again. “How much do you already know?”
Juliet takes an innocent sip of Dharma beer. “I told you. I’ve only overheard the name. I thought you were going to tell me about this Jacob. I thought that he was what you wanted to talk to me about.”
And so Tom tells her. Something about the island being a very special place, a place that it is their community’s job to protect at all costs. A magical place. Juliet wants to scoff, but a little part of her acknowledges that she is studying a place where women’s uteruses age at three times the normal rate and where sperm counts go through the roof, so…
He tells her that their leader is a man named Jacob. A great and powerful man, and Juliet represses a little laugh when something about Tom’s tone of voice reminds her of someone in The Wizard of Oz describing the wizard. And just like the wizard, no one ever sees him, no one except Richard.
“Not Ben?” she asks, rearranging the entire pecking order of the island in her head.
“Richard’s more of a constant than Ben. Leaders can come and go, but Richard will always be here, so he’s the one Jacob has chosen.”
“What happens when Richard dies?”
“That won’t happen.”
Juliet stares at him blankly, lips pursed and brow slightly furrowed. This conversation has moved into an entirely different realm.
In the end, she decides to go through with it. She has many reasons. The first is because she’s bored. The second is because no one, let alone Juliet, likes to be left out of the loop, even if that loop is insane. The third is because Goodwin asks her to.
“We won’t have to keep secrets from one another anymore. We can both be in this together,” he urges.
“Do you believe in all this? About Jacob? About the island being magic? About Richard being…?” She still can’t quite say the word.
He nods. Juliet knows that Goodwin isn’t crazy. She isn’t sure what to think.
Richard takes her for a hike, in a direction from camp that she’s never been in before. He suddenly starts talking much more than she’s ever heard him talk before. He tells her about the beauty of the island, and some of its recent history. He tells her about the Dharma Initiative and its various stations (so that’s where the Desmond guy is, and where Goodwin got that chemical burn). He tells her about what Ben did to the Initiative (Juliet actually stops to vomit, and Richard looks on, impassively). He tells her about Jacob and his mysterious power (she still doesn’t quite believe in that part). He tells her of The Black Rock, a ship they pass on the way to wherever they’re going (he looks somewhat wistful there).
By the time he’s finished telling her everything, she’s barely noticed how far they’ve walked. But now they’ve arrived at a kind of ancient ruin, the most incredible sight Juliet has ever seen.
“What is this place?” It’s the first time since she’s stepped foot on this island that she’s actually been impressed.
“It’s the temple.” Something Juliet appreciates about Richard is how calm he is, no matter what. Anyone else would have tried to sound spooky and mysterious when announcing that; Richard says it just as he would tell her what the time is.
After all that, it’s a pretty low-key “ceremony.” Richard talks to the wall a bit in Latin. Juliet understands some of it from her medical training, but not enough to know what he’s saying. And then he tells her to repeat some vows.
It’s all quite silly, and somehow, the process underwhelms the magnificence of the ruin they’re in. She thinks it’s a little sad, actually. These people must have found an island---like Easter Island---and decided that it had to be magical and have a god by the totally pedestrian name of Jacob, and they made up a little religion to go along with the nonsense.
After it’s all done, she and Richard head home again. He tells her that things will be different for her now: she’ll have ‘training’, which apparently consists of rifle practice, exploration of the island, Latin lessons, etc. It all sounds pretty arbitrary.
She remembers Richard’s argument with Ben. “What about my work on the fertility problem?”
He shrugs. “You can still fit it into your schedule, but you should also make this a priority.”
They’re silent for a minute. And then, “Richard, how old are you?”
“I don’t remember.”
When she gets home, there are flowers and a card from Ben, congratulating her on having completed her initiation.
Although she doesn’t actually care about what’s just happened, Juliet feels shaky. There are still too many questions. She makes some tea and decides to listen to read a book she’s never read before. She scans the bookshelves, and picks The Lord of the Rings. It feels appropriate.
As she curls up with it on the couch, a note falls out. A note written in her own handwriting.
But don’t worry about it. It still doesn’t have to mean anything.
You will be happy. You’ll take a funny journey to get there, but you will be.
Of all the vaguely freaky things that have happened so far, this is the one that breaks the camel’s back.