Damon and Carlton have said that Richard is kind of the Panchen Lama (Wiki it. I had to) of the Others. Meaning, he's kind of the Number 2 for life and he's responsible for choosing the actual leader with Jacob's guidance.
I have a sneaky suspicion that in some twisted way, Richard IS the island, or at least an aspect of it, or bonded to it in a way that means he's not actually a living breathing human, and therefore never ages or dies.
Those are the two thoughts I've had on him. The latter being that Richard and who/whatever Jacob is were either the same person or symbiotic. either being the same person, or connected to or even part of the Island. That way the leader would be somewhat of a fall guy.
The thing about the time travel... so far it's been the conciousness travelling through different ages. Now it's the whole body and whatever they have with them. I wonder if theres any relevance to that. But I'm annoyed, not at the show, but at the fans on non-SF boards who don't get time travel and keep saying things that annoy me.
For all the little things, pacing and story these three episodes have been great - and I love every Desmon episode and am growing to love Faraday a little more every episode. I was slightly bemused that Miles now has him pointed out as the leader.
I'm loving this show again now it's back on track with everything tying together at a nice even pace - instead of the slow-motion plot development around S3.
Ten thumbs up