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By People Staff
Updated March 24, 2010 12:00 AM
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Credit: Mario Carbonell/ABC

“Once you get sucked into something as unconventional as this,” says Nestor Carbonell of Lost, “it’s tough to go back to reality.”

Amen! What self-respecting fan couldn’t help but get swept up in Tuesday’s epic Carbonell showcase, a heady mix of mythology, faith and enduring love? Oh, and those Big Answers viewers have long been clamoring for? There was no shortage of ‘em. Consider the following:

What is the island? In a nutshell, it’s what keeps the worst sort of wickedness from seeping out into the world. As powerful island figure Jacob so poetically explained to Carbonell’s Richard Alpert: “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.” Who knew all it took to get the enigmatic Jacob to finally open up was a little alcohol?

Is the Man in Black Lost’s Big Bad? In case you still had any doubts, yes. According to Jacob, he “believes that everyone is corruptible because it’s in their very nature to sin. I bring here to prove him wrong.”

What’s the story with ageless Alpert? Once upon a time — 1867 — in a land far, far away (Tenerife, Canary Islands), Alpert was a humble Man of Faith who accidentally killed a doctor in his desperate quest to save sick wife Isabella. Like fellow Lost romantic Desmond, who was consumed with reuniting with his love Penny, Alpert yearned to be with his wife again, and nearly sold his soul to the devilish MIB twice in an effort to make it happen. In exchange for hooking up with man-with-the-magic-touch Jacob instead, he was gifted with eternal youth. (With friends like that, who needs a portrait of Dorian Gray?) No one was more surprised — or invigorated — by Alpert’s tortured history than the man who plays him. “Not knowing who exactly this man was for so long, you come up with your own backstory and hope you’re just somewhere in the ballpark,” Carbonell tells PEOPLE. “But no, I didn’t come anywhere near close to where he was actually from. It was a really exciting surprise.”

How did the Black Rock ship wind up on the island, and what happened to the rest of Jacob’s statuesque home? Saved from a sentence of death by hanging — but sold into slavery to Capt. Magnus Hanso — 19th-century Alpert was aboard the Black Rock, which was beckoned to the island by Jacob. But stormy waters led the ship to collide with Jacob’s statue, which was destroyed, save for the now-infamous giant foot, and the Black Rock ultimately wound up beached in the jungle, where the Oceanic 815-ers first stumbled upon it so many seasons ago.

When is Lost finally gonna get around to doing an homage to Ghost? Check that one off the list! Near the end of the episode, Hurley went all Whoopi Goldberg and helped Alpert reconnect with his lost love by relaying some beyond-the-grave messages. Anybody out there NOT shed a tear?

Which Kwon is a candidate? According to Sun, she’s the one who’s been nominated to replace Jacob in running the island. Expect more intel on Sun and husband Jin in next week’s episode!

Where does Lost go from here? Hurley’s message to Richard, via Isabella, certainly seemed like the set-up for the final stretch of episodes: “You have to stop the Man in Black from leaving the island. Cause if you don’t, we all go to hell.”

With his faith renewed, Alpert would seem to be board with that mission. In real life, Carbonell finds himself yearning to remain island-bound as well. “I’m just getting warmed up,” the actor says of life in Hawaii. “The show ending is tough, in the sense that I’d like to stay a little longer. It’s a pretty special place, and pretty addicting. ” Just like a certain show we know. –Shawna Malcom

Tell us: Was this an answer-satisfying episode? Adam Larkey/ABC