Monday, March 1, 2010

Lost 6.04: "The Substitute"

“John Locke was a believer. He was a man of faith. He was a much better man than I will ever be. And I’m very sorry I murdered him.”


I found “The Substitute” to be yet another satisfying episode of Lost’s final season. The sideways-verse story was compelling, offered more tantalizing character connections, and offered a lovely glimpse into what could have been. On the Island, we got the beginnings of a concrete answer to one of the show’s biggest questions- why were the Oceanic 815 passengers brought to the Island in the first place. We also said final goodbyes to an old friend. I don’t think there’s really anything more I can ask of an episode of this show, especially in its final season.

The sideways-verse story in this episode focused on Locke, and I am not generally a fan of Locke. The Locke of the Lost universe we’re more familiar with was rather pathetic, and he had a tendency to lash out and do really stupid things when reminded of that fact. The Locke of the sideways-verse, while he can still be a drama queen, is the happiest I’ve ever seen him. In his first scene, as he pulls up to his house in a stereotypical suburban subdivision, he’s all smiles. He even smiles when he falls off of the wheelchair lift of his van, and to add insult to injury, the sprinklers go off as he lies on the lawn. I think the image was supposed to evoke how Locke would predict the rain and embrace it on the Island, but like I said, I was mostly struck by how happy and at peace he seemed.

Locke’s happiness could be due to one big change between our universe and the sideways-verse. Helen is still alive and engaged to Locke. She’s a little stressed with wedding planning, but otherwise okay. An especially interesting aspect to the scene where the talks about wedding planning is that she tells Locke that part of her thinks they should have a ceremony where only her parents and his dad are invited. The fact that she just tossed out a mention of Locke’s dad so casually makes me think that Locke’s relationship with his father is much different in the sideways-verse. This also leads me to wonder how Locke became paralyzed in the sideways-verse if his dad didn’t push him out of a high rise office building.

The sideways-verse story in this episode was just chock full of fun connections to characters we already know from the original timeline. Randy Nations was still Locke’s supervisor at the box company, Hurley made an appearance as the owner of the box company, Rose was a supervisor at a temp agency, and Ben was a high school European history teacher. My favorite of these appearances was Ben’s. He was a whiny faculty room tyrant, lecturing his co-workers about cleaning the coffee pot. It was hilarious, and made so much sense. Of course that’s what Ben would be like in the “real world.”

Hurley and Rose’s appearances also had plenty to enjoy. It was nice to see Hurley content and competent is a position of power. Locke is fired from the box company because he tried to go on his walkabout instead of to a conference when the company sent him to Australia. Hurley’s car (a tricked out Hummer) happens to be parked next to Locke’s as Locke leaves the office in disgrace. Hurley, presumably remembering what it was like to work for Randy, tells Locke that he owns a temp agency, and if Locke calls the agency, Hurley will make sure he’s hooked up with a new job. The person at the temp agency who ends up finding Locke that job (substitute teacher at the school where Ben works) is none other than Rose, who unfortunately, has terminal cancer in the sideways-verse, too.

Sideways-verse Locke eventually comes to accept his wheelchair-bound state, which isn’t something that the first Locke we met ever really did. That acceptance is mostly thanks to Rose, who reveals her diagnosis and gives Locke a bit of a wake-up call about accepting your lot in life and living the life you’ve got left to the fullest. Locke decides not to call Jack for a consult- he feels like it would just keep delaying the inevitable. The scene where Locke confesses to Helen what he was really doing in Australia and tells her that he’s done trying to deny his condition is extremely touching, and it makes me wish Helen was still around in the original universe.

On the Island, Monster!Locke has begun “recruiting,” as Iliana puts it. Before he really gets to the recruiting, though, he wants some answers, and he thinks he might get those answers from Richard. He also thinks that the best way to get those answers out of Richard is to put him in a sling-like device, tie it to a tree, and leave him there all day. Richard actually doesn’t know much of anything, surprisingly, so Locke’s plan doesn’t really work. The term “candidate” doesn’t register with Richard at all. I was actually pretty shocked at how little Richard knew about Jacob’s plans. It kind of takes away some of the mystery of Richard to know he’s just been blindly following Jacob all these years without at all knowing why.

Locke’s recruiting efforts are more successful than his information-gathering efforts. His first target is Sawyer, who is in his old house at the Barracks, listening to loud music and getting really, really drunk. Locke easily lures Sawyer because he promises the one thing nobody on the Island has ever, ever given. Answers. Locke tells Sawyer that he knows why everyone was brought to the Island. After a brief run in with an apparition of a strange child that kind of freaks Locke out (a young Jacob, perhaps) and a harrowing climb down a cliff face via bamboo ladders that kind of freaks Sawyer out, the two arrive at their destination. A cave hollowed out of the aforementioned cliff. Names are scrawled across all the walls of the cave, and some names are crossed out. The names that aren’t crossed out are all very familiar to us. Reyes, Shepherd, Kwon, Jarrah, and Ford, to name a few. What makes the whole thing creepier is that there’s a number next to each name, and these numbers all happen to be one of The Numbers. Locke brushes it off, just saying that Jacob had a “thing for numbers.”

It turns out that what Jacob was looking for all this time was a replacement. The Losties are all “candidates” to be that replacement. Locke tells Sawyer he has three choices, wait and see what happens, accept the job, or join with Locke and try to escape the Island. Sawyer opts for escape. Which, given his current state of mind, makes sense. He wants to get far, far away from the life he knew with Juliet. I’m anxious to see just how dark Sawyer will go now that he’s allied himself with the smokemonster itself.

The episode also pays a brief visit to Ben, Sun, Frank and Ilana. Ilana grills Ben on what exactly happened to Jacob and the other “Shadow of the Statute” folks. Ben says that Locke killed them all. Which is sort of, but not entirely true, of course. Would you expect anything less from Ben Linus? Although not much happens in this subplot (the group decides they should probably go to the Temple), there is one moment that was truly priceless. Sun says they should bury Locke before the head away from the beach, and Ben gives a truly spectacular eulogy, which just happens to be the Quote of the Episode. Franks reaction is that it’s the “weirdest damn funeral” he’s ever been to. Clearly he hasn’t been spending much time with the Losties!

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