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Richard Alpert (Lost)

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Richard Alpert
First appearance"Not in Portland"
NameRichard Alpert
Portrayed byNestor Carbonell

Richard Alpert is a fictional character played by Nestor Carbonell in the American ABC television series Lost. Alpert is introduced in a flashback of the character Juliet Burke (Elizabeth Mitchell), where he claims to be a doctor for a bioscience company called Mittelos Bioscience; however, he is later revealed to be a member of a native island faction called the Others, where he plays a role in the group's hierarchy that has been compared to that of the Panchen Lama in Buddhism by the series' producers. A major facet of the character is his seeming agelessness; he has been seen with a similar physical appearance both in the show's present events in 2004 as well as flashbacks dating as far back as the mid-1950s.

Originally introduced as a guest star in the third season episode "Not in Portland", Alpert reappears throughout the third season, both in flashbacks and present-day island events; however, in the spring of 2007, shortly before the conclusion of Lost's third season, Carbonell was contracted as a regular on the CBS television series Cane, which jeopardized his future on Lost. Nevertheless, the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike caused Cane to be cancelled and allowed Carbonell to return for the final three episodes of the fourth season and several in the fifth. Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse confirmed in January 2009 that Carbonell had been contracted for the show's sixth and final season in 2010.


Character biography

The earliest chronological time period in which Alpert has been seen is 1954 in the episode "Jughead", where he is leading a group of Others which had recently killed a detachment of eighteen US military soldiers who landed on the island with a hydrogen bomb.[1] Alpert first asked the troops to leave peacefully, but was "forced" to kill them when they refused. He hints that he was ordered to by someone higher in his chain of command.

The Others capture Daniel Faraday (Jeremy Davies), Miles Straume (Ken Leung) and Charlotte Lewis (Rebecca Mader) in the jungle after their third skip through time to 1954, a result of the island having been moved in "There's No Place Like Home". Alpert is under the mistaken impression that the three were sent by the military to retrieve the bomb; Faraday plays along in order to gain access to the bomb and repair a crack in the casing. Alpert reluctantly allows Faraday to see the bomb after Faraday professes his love for Charlotte as a way of proving he does not intend to detonate it. As Faraday works, John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) walks into the camp, having followed a young Charles Widmore (younger, Tom Connolly; older, Alan Dale) to their location. Locke attempts to continue a conversation he began with Alpert in the future, but is met with skepticism. His mention of Jacob, the Others' leader, and the compass given to him in the future by Alpert himself (an ontological paradox), convinces Alpert to at least hear him out. He tells a reluctant Alpert that if he is suspicious of Locke's claims of time travel, Alpert should visit Locke's birthplace in two years for proof. However, Locke is unable to convince Alpert to tell him how to leave the island before another time skip occurs.

Alpert takes Locke's advice and visits the newborn Locke two years later on May 30, 1956 in the episode "Cabin Fever". Five years later, he visits a five-year old Locke, giving him a test not unlike those administered by the Panchen Lama to Dalai Lama potentials, under the guise that he was recruiting children for a special school. He shows Locke several items, including the compass, and asks Locke to identify which items belong to him. Along with several other items, Locke picks a knife; angered by Locke's failure, Alpert leaves in a hurry, claiming Locke was "not ready" for his school. Alpert tries to recruit Locke again in the 1970s, this time into an internship program with Mittelos Laboratories in Portland, Oregon, but a teenage Locke turns it down.

In 1973, in "The Man Behind the Curtain", Alpert encounters a young Benjamin Linus (younger, Sterling Beaumon; older, Michael Emerson) in the jungle. Ben expresses a desire to run away from his father, a member of the scientific research group called the Dharma Initiative, and join the Others. Alpert realizes Ben is special when Ben mentions seeing his deceased mother (Carrie Preston) in the jungle. He agrees to Ben's request, but tells Ben that it will require time and patience.

In 1974, Richard enters the Dharma Initiative's barracks in "LaFleur" and demands the whereabouts of two members of his people, the two having been killed and buried by Juliet Burke (Elizabeth Mitchell) and James "Sawyer" Ford (Josh Holloway) following Locke's successful attempt to stop the time skips. Sawyer manages to appease Richard by taking responsibility and revealing knowledge of Alpert's encounter with Locke in the 1950s. In 1977, Richard again encounters Sawyer in the jungle in "Whatever Happened, Happened", this time with Kate Austen (Evangeline Lilly) and a wounded Ben Linus, whom they want healed. He warns Sawyer and Kate that by saving Ben's life, Ben won't retain any memory of the event and will lose his innocence. Sawyer and Kate acknowledge this and Richard takes Ben to the temple. Shortly after this exchange, Alpert tells several of the Others that he does not answer to Charles Widmore or to Ellie (Alice Evans), then leader of the Others. Regardless, he is briefly berated by a middle-aged Charles Widmore (David S. Lee) in "Dead is Dead" for bringing Ben to the camp.

Later on, he has another encounter with Daniel Faraday in "The Variable", who frantically demands to see Ellie and the bomb he told their people to bury. Ellie shoots Daniel in the back, much to Alpert's displeasure, and he listens as Daniel explains to Ellie that she is his mother. Ellie is convinced that Daniel is telling the truth, and Alpert joins her, Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox), and later, Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews) in retrieving the hydrogen bomb in "Follow the Leader". During this mission, Richard confides in Jack that he has been keeping tabs on John Locke and that "he is not that special". Jack insists that Richard have faith in Locke.

In 1988, Alpert observes the tensions between Charles Widmore and Ben Linus in "Dead is Dead" when Ben was given the order to kill Danielle Rousseau; Ben spared her and instead stole her child, Alex. Alpert says nothing in this exchange. As an adult in the early 1990s, Ben assists Alpert in killing the members of the Dharma Initiative with poison gas in "The Man Behind the Curtain". After the purge, in 1992, Richard is shown consorting with Ben and preparing to banish Charles Widmore.

In 2001, Alpert attempts to recruit Juliet into Mittelos Bioscience in "Not in Portland". Juliet initially denies the offer, offhandedly joking that the only way she could go is if her employer, her ex-husband, were hit by a bus; Alpert sees to it that this "joke" becomes reality in short order.[2] Alpert claims to have forgotten Juliet's joke when she mentions it later, and she takes the job. Alpert then admits that the company is not really in Portland, and Juliet is taken to the island. Three years later, when Oceanic Airlines flight 815 crashes on the island, Alpert was in Miami, Florida, filming Juliet's formerly cancer-stricken sister playing with her young son, footage Ben shows to Juliet in "One of Us".

Alpert encounters Locke once again, in 2004, when the latter infiltrates the Barracks, now the Others' community, in "The Man from Tallahassee". Locke destroys their submarine to prevent Jack and Juliet from leaving the island and is captured. At Ben's request, Alpert fetches Anthony Cooper (Kevin Tighe), Locke's father. Ben arranges for Locke to kill Cooper in front of the Others as his initiation in "The Brig", knowing Locke would not be able to. Locke is thus publicly humiliated when he refuses. The next day, Alpert hints to Locke that he is unhappy with Ben's leadership and informs him that Sawyer has a connection to Cooper that would make him kill the latter, Cooper having been the man whose con inspired the murder/suicide of his parents. Alpert is then instructed by Ben to take the Others to "the Temple," a safe haven, while Ben negotiates with the Flight 815 survivors in "Through the Looking Glass".

After Ben is taken into custody by Martin Keamy (Kevin Durand) and the mercenary team sent to the island by Charles Widmore, Alpert captures Kate and Sayid to enlist their aid in retrieving him in part 1 of "There's No Place Like Home". In part 2, Ben is rescued and Keamy is shot several times by Alpert; Keamy's bulletproof vest saves his life. Once Ben ventures to the Dharma station called the Orchid and moves the island, time begins skipping for the survivors while Alpert and the Others remain in the present.

During one skip, in "Because You Left", Alpert tracks down Locke, who had been wounded in the last skip, and treats a bullet hole in his leg. He gives Locke the compass that Locke would give Alpert himself in 1954, and tells Locke that the only way to save the island is to get the Oceanic Six, the six survivors who left the island, to return. When Locke asks how he could do this, Alpert responds that Locke would have to die. In "Follow the Leader", Locke is shown to have directed Alpert to do this, an apparent ontological paradox (see below). At the Others' camp, Sun-Hwa Kwon (Yunjin Kim) asks Alpert if he remembers the survivors trapped in the past. He confirms that he does, and says that he watched them die.

Locke convinces Alpert to take him and the Others present (a second group remains at the Temple) to see Jacob. Alpert expresses displeasure at Locke's style of command, which Ben points out is why he tried to kill Locke. Richard leads them to the broken base of the statue, within which is Jacob's home. Locke goes in with Ben despite Richard's statement that only the current leader is allowed to request an audience. As Ben and Locke speak with Jacob, Ilana (Zuleikha Robinson) and her group arrive at the camp. She addresses Richard as "Ricardus" and asks him, "What lies in the shadow of the statue?" He replies, "Ille qui nos omnes servabit" (Latin for "He who will save us all."[3]). She opens the crate her people brought with her, revealing Locke's dead body; the man visiting Jacob is an impostor. And since it wasn't actually John Locke who told Richard to treat the injured Locke, give him the compass and tell him the only way to save the island was to die, there's no ontological paradox in that scene.


The mysteries surrounding his ageless character were heavily discussed among the fan community.[4] Although being present in scenes from the 1950s to the 2000s, Richard does not appear to age. In "The Man Behind the Curtain" Ben says "You do remember birthdays, don't you?" to Richard. When asked at the 2008 Comic-Con International how old Richard is, lead Lost actor Matthew Fox guessed 125, which Lost producer Damon Lindelof said was wrong.[5] When Locke asks Juliet how old Richard is in "Jughead", she simply replies "old".[1] In "This Place Is Death", Christian seemed to suggest that Richard Alpert and he are somewhat familiar with each other and their agendas for the Island, but did not elaborate. In "Follow the Leader", Ben compares Richard's role as that of an advisor "who has had that position for a long, long time." In "The Incident", Richard mentions that he doesn't age because Jacob made it so.


Richard shares his name with Richard Alpert, an Eastern-influenced writer and figure from the 1960s and 70s.[6] Lost producer Damon Lindelof confirmed that Richard is named after someone famous, but did not elaborate.[7] Nestor Carbonell was originally contracted to guest star in "Not in Portland", with the possibility of the role becoming recurring.[8] After the producers enjoyed his performance,[9] his contract was extended to five further appearances in season three.[8] During production of "The Man Behind the Curtain", Carbonell shot the pilot for CBS drama Cane.[9]

While producing the final episodes of the third season, Carbonell was cast in a starring role on the new CBS series Cane. The writers modified their original story plan for the third season in anticipation for Carbonell's potential unavailability. Despite Carbonell's willingness to return to Lost, CBS president Nina Tassler ruled out another Lost guest appearance.[10] Cane was canceled during the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, freeing Carbonell from his contract with CBS.[11] Executive producer Carlton Cuse cited this as an unintended positive consequence of the strike.[12]


When Richard made his first appearance, Erin Martell of AOL's TV Squad was disappointed that Carbonell did not use the accent he used in Suddenly Susan.[13] Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen was pleased when Richard returned in "One of Us", saying "[Carbonell's] Slick Willy performance as Mittelos exec Richard Alpert is on par with his superb embodiment of the half-bat, half-lothario superhero known as Batmanuel in the gone-too-soon sitcom The Tick".[14] He also "loved [Richard's] matter-of-fact way of telling Juliet that he had spiked her orange juice with a massive amount of tranquilizer ... his silver-tongued temptation was so persuasive, I think any of us would have gulped down that [orange juice]".[14] Chris Carabott from IGN thought Richard featuring in Ben's flashback as a Hostile was "one of the more surprising revelations of ["The Man Behind the Curtain", because] Alpert doesn't seem to have aged a day in thirty-plus years".[15]

Many reviewers were pleased when Richard returned in season four's "Cabin Fever" after being absent for ten episodes. Jay Glatfelter of The Huffington Post called him a "fan favorite" and speculated that although it is less plausible that his appearance at Locke's birth is due to time travel, this seemed more believable than Richard not aging.[16] Carabott called it "The biggest and most welcome surprise" because "He's one of the most enigmatic characters on the series and his appearance in Locke's past is an exciting and shocking revelation."[17] Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune said "I get absurdly excited every time Richard Alpert (the wonderfully spooky Nestor Carbonell) arrives on the scene. I just know he’s going to bust out some major-league Dharma Initiative goodness one of these days, and his mere presence boosted my enjoyment level of an already good episode."[18] Cynthia Littleton from Variety said "Just the sight of Richard puts me on edge. Actor Nestor Carbonell is fantastic."[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Jughead". Rod Holcomb, Writ. Elizabeth Sarnoff & Paul Zbyszewski. Lost. ABC. 2009-01-28. No. 3, season 5.
  2. Ford Sullivan, Brian (July 27, 2009). "Rants & Reviews - Live at the San Diego Comic-Con: "Lost"". The Futon Critic. http://www.thefutoncritic.com/rant.aspx?id=20090725_lost. Retrieved July 29, 2009. 
  3. Godwin, Jennifer (May 13, 2009). "Lost Redux: What Just Happened?!". E!. http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/watch_with_kristin/b123839_lost_redux_what_just_happened.html. Retrieved May 19, 2009. 
  4. Lachonis, Jon (2007-07-18). "Cane Star Nestor Carbonell Leaves Lost Future in Doubt". BuddyTV. http://www.buddytv.com/articles/lost/cane-star-nestor-carbonell-lea-8398.aspx. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  5. Lindelof, Damon, Cuse, Carlton & Fox, Matthew, (August 1, 2008) "Official Lost Audio Podcast", ABC. Retrieved on January 29, 2009.
  6. Ryan, Maureen (May 9, 2008). "'Lost' recap found: Alpert, Jacob and Keamy, oh my!". Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2008/05/lost-recap-foun.html. Retrieved January 30, 2009. 
  7. Jacobs, Evan (December 10, 2007). "Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof Explain Lost: The Complete Third Season". Movieweb. http://www.movieweb.com/news/NEuxzxxAYwtGyz. Retrieved January 30, 2009. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Topel, Fred (January 29, 2009). "What's up with Lost's Nestor Carbonell not aging? And the 'guyliner'?". Sci Fi Wire. http://scifiwire.com/2009/01/whats-up-with-losts-nestor-carbonell-not-aging-and-the-guyliner.php. Retrieved January 30, 2009. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Lindelof, Damon & Cuse, Carlton, (September 21, 2008) "Official Lost Audio Podcast", ABC. Retrieved on January 30, 2009.
  10. Sepinwall, Alan (2007-07-18). "Lost at CBS". The Star-Ledger. http://blog.nj.com/alltv/2007/07/lost_at_cbs.html. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  11. Ausiello, Michael (2008-03-12). "Ausiello on Grey's, Lost, Smallville, Tree Hill and More!". TV Guide. http://www.tvguide.com/Ask-Ausiello/080312. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  12. Jensen, Jeff (2008-02-22). "7 Writers' Strike Postscripts". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20179357,00.html. Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  13. Martell, Erin (February 8, 2007). "Lost:Not in Portland". TV Squad. http://www.tvsquad.com/2007/02/08/lost-not-in-portland/. Retrieved 30 January, 2008. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Jensen, Jeff (April 12, 2007). "Bringing Up Babies". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1550612_20247060_20034600,00.html. Retrieved January 30, 2008. 
  15. Carabott, Chris (May 10, 2007). "IGN: The Man Behind the Curtain". IGN. http://uk.tv.ign.com/articles/787/787049p1.html. Retrieved 30 January, 2008. 
  16. Glatfelter, Jay (May 9, 2008). "On Lost: "Cabin Fever"". The Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jay-glatfelter/on-ilosti-cabin-fever_b_100971.html. Retrieved 30 January, 2008. 
  17. Carabott, Chris (May 9, 2008). "IGN: Cabin Fever". IGN. http://uk.tv.ign.com/articles/872/872893p1.html. Retrieved 30 January, 2008. 
  18. Ryan, Maureen (May 9, 2008). "'Lost' recap found: Alpert, Jacob and Keamy, oh my!". Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/entertainment_tv/2008/05/lost-recap-foun.html. Retrieved 30 January, 2008. 
  19. Littleton, Cynthia (May 9, 2008). ""Lost": Episode 11, "Cabin Fever"". Variety. http://weblogs.variety.com/on_the_air/2008/05/lost-episode-11.html?query=lost+cabin+fever. Retrieved 30 January, 2008. 

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