Between this being a Locke episode and the audience becoming more comfortable with the “Flash Sideways” concept, “The Substitute” is the first Revisited of the final season that really feels like its delving into hints and topics that I may have missed the first time around.
Now, before we get to last week’s episode, there is an important matter we have to discuss. Quite simply, we really can’t avoid this topic any longer….it’s something we have to deal with in order to continue on with this season. And that matter is – what are we going to call the Smoke Monster in Locke clothing? The most frequent nicknames are as follows: Smocke (a combination of “Smokey” and “Locke), Un-Locke (clever in a cutesy way), and The Locke Ness Monster (my personal favorite). So unless anybody has any better suggestions, I’m going to go with my preference. So from here on out, I’ll refer to Fake Locke as “The Locke Ness Monster.” There ya’ go.
Also, in last week’s original review I noted that while I did recognize that the numbers next to each Losties’ name was one of THE Numbers, I didn’t quite catch whose name was attached to which number. I now have that information:
Locke: 4; [Hurley] Reyes: 8; [James ”Sawyer”] Ford: 15; [Sayid] Jarrah: 16; [Jack] Shephard: 23; [Jin or Sun?] Kwon: 42
I know my Revisited column typically attempts to unravel theories, but I’m going to open this particular topic up for discussion throughout the season. Any idea what these numbers mean? However, there is one tidbit that’s fun to consider. If you remember way back when, one of the Others mentioned that Jack wasn’t on Jacob’s list. Yet we clearly saw “Shephard” on the cave wall. Over on his Twitter page, the very talented author of the EW.com Lost reviews offered this idea:
So maybe “Shephard” doesn’t refer to Jack. Maybe it refers to…. Christian?
After all, there definitely seems to be several similarities between Jacob and Christian. Both have a proclivity for popping up in the lives of the Losties before they ended up on the island. Sometimes in very significant ways. And Christian has appeared on the island more than any other dead person. Plus he shacked up in Jacob’s cabin and he’s responsible for that whole island moving thing. There could be something to this.
Before I get to some more observations and comments I picked up from my e-mails and other reviews, I thought I would discuss a fun idea that didn’t quite occur to me after I initially viewed last week’s episode. For the first five seasons of Lost, we’ve been acting on this theory that the island saved these characters from an overall unhappy existence. Kate was a fugitive guilty of murdering her father. Sawyer was a conman, without a family and fueled by vengeance. Locke was paralyzed, stuck in a body that could never fulfill his greatest desires. Jack was obsessed with fixing things and controlling every situation he encountered. Sun and Jin were in a deteriorating marriage. Yet, the island allowed them to escape from these lives, and after their “rebirth” on the island, they were eventually able to overcome these insecurities. So the island saved the, right?
Not so simple.
One of the neat parts of the Flash Sideways is not that it shows what would have happened if they never crashed, but instead it shows what would have happened if the island essentially never existed. “The Substitute” revealed to us, should we choose to believe the Locke Ness Monster, that Jacob had essentially arranged for these characters to end up on the island. Well, if that’s true, we learned that if these interventions were never made, the characters (so far) would have lived a far happier and better adjusted life than what they ended up having. Before this season, one could have argued that there was something noble and altruistic about Jacob and the island. That’s a little harder to swallow now.
This idea was echoed in some of the comments left on the EW.com episode review. One person noted:
Enough of this faith nonsense. Locke was finally happy because he had transcended the need for faith.
I think this is a fair point. In a lot of ways, Locke’s blind faith is a crutch that he completely relies on. Not to sound like Monk or Spider-Man, but it was a curse just as much as it was a gift. Much like Jack, who once refused to acknowledge the supernatural – even as they were happening in front of his eyes – because of his inability to accept anything that could not be explained by science, Locke was hindered by his absolute faith in, well, faith. Hell, he was willing to commit suicide because a bunch of people, most of whom he had never even met before, told him that he had to die.
Perhaps what Locke really needs is to not be a man of faith or a man of science. He just needs to be a man – one who isn’t defined by his beliefs. Here was a somewhat related remark:
Surprised by Locke’s glee in the sprinkler? If we follow the similarities to the original timeline, that to me just echoed locke sitting on the beach smiling peacefully as the rain came down on his face.
That’s a fun point, but you also have to acknowledge that the sentiment between their smiling is quite different. In the former, Locke was able to find humor in an unlucky situation. In the latter, he felt a sense of peace and belonging in an otherwise unsettling situation. Visually they were quite similar (and I’d like to give the writers the benefit of the doubt here and assume that was purposeful), but thematically there are some disparities.
Okay, so let’s take a look at some of the theories that popped up in the recent EW.com episode review. The first is a rather throwaway observation, but one I still enjoyed:
For the third straight episode, the episode’s lead character was given a conspicuous moment in the bathroom, looking long and hard in the mirror.
So I guess “looking at your reflection” is the new “eye close up” token effect on Lost, huh? And while I suppose this can also be considered a throwaway observation, as the information was revealed in the passing, but I have a feeling this may prove to be a lot more significant:
We were told nothing about how this Locke and Helen met. But we were told they have an October wedding date, and given that it’s late September in the Sideways world, I’m predicting that their Big Day will serve as a key moment for the entire Sideways arc — perhaps the time and place when all the disparate story lines will converge.
I actually quite like this idea. We’re starting to see the characters come together in different ways, so I can totally buy the idea that somehow, some way, they all end up at Locke’s wedding. Could this also coincide with when the castaways all reunite on the island? Speaking of the Locke nuptials…..
We know from season 1 that Boone Carlyle’s mother, Sabrina Carlyle, owned a massively successful wedding business, and that Boone served as the company’s chief operating officer. Methinks the Carlyle family biz will play a role in solving Helen’s catering crisis….
There were a few miscellaneous observations that I thought I’d touch upon, such as the identity of the boy that appeared throughout the episode. I initially figured it was a young version of Jacob, and that perhaps only “candidates” could see him (hence why Richard didn’t). The EW.com article proposed this idea, however:
The boy functions as a referee in the Jacob-Man In Black skirmish. He got that honor because the boy represents the first person the Man In Black ever killed.
Now that I think about it, I actually quite like the possibility that this boy is the Man in Black’s first kill. Besides which, visually, the adult Jacob that we were just introduced to would be a more compelling casting choice, in my opinion. Speaking of casting decisions, this comes courtesy of the comments section of the EW.com review:
The woman at the temp agency who asked Locke what kind of animal he would be was the actress who played the phony spiritual reader in Tricia Tenaka Is Dead.
Building this idea of rules and referees, there’s this observation from Mees and Only Mees, who left a comment on my original review:
I think it’s interesting how there are “rules” that Jacob and MIB know about, yet thre were also rules that Ben and Penny’s father knew about. Where is Penny’s father anyway?
It’s funny that you mention that, because during last week’s episode, one idea that popped into my mind (rather randomly) was: I really hope that Widmore doesn’t end up as a passing thought in the grand scheme of things. His role was made so much more significant last season. I really hope he plays a crucial role this year as well.
And on the topic of the candidates, this comes from david, who also commented on my original review page:
There seens to be a balance…black and white. jacob and MIB.
Since Jacob is looking for a replacement, does that mean that MIB will have a replacement as well? maybe Sawyer is his replacement??
Ilana seems to know what is going on and who Smokey was and about the temple etc. im pretty sure she would know the rule about the MIB not being able to kill Jacob directly. so does that mean she knows Ben was lying when he said he MIB killed Jacob?
I think a fair argument could be made that Locke was the Man in Black’s replacement. I mean, he essentially took over his body and mind (memories, anyway). Perhaps this “replacement” idea isn’t necessarily physical (after all, Locke’s actual body has been buried) but a spiritual and visual thing, instead. And I’m not sure if Ilana knows that Ben was lying, but I’m sure she has her suspicions.
And this excellent point comes from the comments section as well:
If Ben is alive in the sideways world, then there is an issue with the bomb destroying the island in 1977. Ben would have been killed when the island sank. He was at the temple at the time of the explosion and could not have been on the submarine.
Ah, very interesting point. In last week’s Revisited column I was corrected that Ethan was likely on the submarine. But, based on what we saw last season, Ben was still in the Temple with the Others when the Incident occurred. So how did Ben survive and get off the island? Apparently there’s a Richard Flash Sideways episode coming up this season (on a side note, it’s a bit disappointing that this guy never got a FLASHBACK!) and I have a feeling we might get the answer to that question then. And now, let’s end things with a final thought from the EW.com review:
Because I believe as heartbroken and furious as Sawyer may be… he ain’t betraying the castaways to this monster.
While I do agree with the popular theory that Sawyer is essentially “using” the Locke Ness Monster in order to gain important information, let us not forget that just one season ago he was more than willing to leave everybody he cares about (including former flame Kate and best friend Hurley), knowing full well that they were being left in a life threatening situation.
Oh, one final idea I’d like to briefly bring up: Do you believe the Locke Ness Monster when he claims that the cave belonged to Jacob? There was definitely something a bit “gates of hell” about that cave. This leads me to believe that the Man in Black actually lived there. This could make sense thematically, with the supposedly “evil” Man in Black finding residence in the dark, dreaded cave surrounded by sharp rocks, while the allegedly “good” Jacob lives out in the open in paradise. Of course there’s also the biblical “Jacob’s Ladder,” which is a ladder to heaven. So who knows?
Anyway, next week’s review is going to be a little late. Tuesday night I’m going to see my alma mater, Rutgers, face off against my dad’s alma mater, Seton Hall, in some college basketball fun. But I’ll try to have it posted late Tuesday night, depending on how late I get home. Go Scarlet Knights!
Matt Basilo has been writing for Inside Pulse since April 2005, providing his insight into popular television shows such as Lost, 24, Heroes, and Smallville. Be sure to visit his blog at [a case of the blog] and follow him on Twitter.