Feb 17 2010

Lost Review: “The Substitute”

Published by at 1:15 pm under Reviews,Television

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Because it seems we can’t have a season of Lost anymore without splitting the cast in half like its Heroes, this week we focused on the survivors on the other half of the island, away from the Fountain of Youth, undead Sayid and Rousseau-Claire. We return to Ben, Frank, Sun, Ilayna, Not-Locke and Richard, as the rest of the island’s dwindling population has decided to head to the temple to seek shelter from…whatever’s coming.

And what is coming? It’s not exactly clear. Not-Locke is on a mission to get off the island, and apparently needs to start “recruiting” to do it. After hauling Richard off into the jungle and somehow stringing him up in one of Rousseau’s traps, he asks him to join him on his journey, an offer which Richard promptly turns down. After smoke monstering his way around the island for awhile, he discovers Sawyer, drunk off his ass in Othertown in his old house clutching a bottle of Dharma whiskey. Sawyer doesn’t miss a beat when he realizes Locke is dead and the man standing there is someone else entirely, and gets up and follows him once Not-Locke promises him some answers as to why he’s on the island in the first place.

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“Guess I better put some pants on.”

Meanwhile, back in parallel universe-ville, Locke has returned home from his cancelled walkabout in Australia, and we discover that in this world, he’s ended up engaged to Helen. This was confusing for a lot of reasons. A) What about the island blowing up causes his life to change so he ends up engaged? B) What the hell was the deal with Helen before? I have always been pretty fuzzy about this. The scene in season one where he’s talking to a phone sex operator he’s calling Helen stands out in my mind, and then I guess she was with him when he went all crazy over his dad? What changed in this world to get us to this point?

Anyway, Locke finds himself fired from his job by his douchebag boss (I bet THAT guy never thought he’d show up on Lost again), but coincidentally he meets Hurley in the parking lot who hooks him up with a contact at his temp agency, who coincidentally happens to be Rose, and he gets a job as a substitute high school teacher working alongside someone who coincidentally happens to be Benjamin Linus, European History teacher.

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Really, without the island Ben just grew up to be a history nerd with a weird haircut? That’s it? 

I presume that all of these “alternate reality” flashes are going to include boatloads of cameos from the island, but are they meant to show that there is some sort of thread linking all of them despite the destruction of the island, or is it just a kind of lame plot device to give all the major and minor cast members a “where are they now” moment in the sun? I don’t really like the direction this alternate reality plotline is taking, as right now it seems a lot more like time-filler than something that is actually going to matter.

So what actually “mattered” this episode? Well, that would be of course, the end, where Not-Locke takes Sawyer to his secret hideaway cave which has a bluntly obvious metaphoric scale with a light and a dark colored rock balancing on it. When Not-Locke hurls the white rock away and Sawyer asks why? “Inside joke.” Ha. Ha.

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White is GOOD. Black is EVIL. They BALANCE each other out. Get it?

But what’s really important is inside the seaside cave, where Not-Locke shows Sawyer a wall full of scratched out names, but among them, a few remain uncrossed out, and each has a number next to them “because Jacob had a thing for numbers.” The names that remain? Locke, Reyes, Shepherd, Kwon, Jarrah, and Ford. The numbers next to each? 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. If you don’t remember those, you’re clearly not a fan of the show and therefore aren’t reading this post in the first place.

Not-Locke tells Sawyer that at one point everyone up here was a “candidate” to be “guardian of the island” like Jacob was. He tells him he can A) Do nothing and probably end up dead and crossed out the wall (he says this as he crosses out Locke’s name) B) He can take Jacob’s old job and protect the island from…well, nothing, he says or C) He can help him get off the island, and they can go home for good. Even though Sawyer has never been particularly eager to leave this place (I mean, what the hell does he have to go back to anyway?) he chooses C, and it’s a not as much of a cliffhanger ending as we normally see on the show. You know, except for the thousands of questions we still have.

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Hurley: God of the Island. I’d love it. 

It was really sad to see a Locke-centric episode while we now that the island Locke we know and love is (probably) dead forever. Sawyer was right, he looks like him, but this man isn’t John Locke, and alternate universe Locke is just kind of boring. I really hope somehow Locke ends up pulling a Lazarus and taking his rightful place on the island as Jacob’s replacement.

I’m very skeptical of the whole name/number association with the writing on the wall. Is this really some half-assed explanation of what the numbers have meant this entire time? Just because these six are the “candidates” left alive to take over the island? And what, no love for Kate or Sun? We kept seeing flashbacks of Jacob touching each survivor, sparking their destiny to end up at the island, but conveniently, Kate’s Jacob flashback (of her stealing in the store as a child) was left out. Island god sexism at work! And if these are the six who were “destined” to be left (though now Locke is dead and Sayid pretty much is as well) what was the point of all the other people who have come to the island? Were Charlie and Boone and Eko and Ana-Lucia and Artz all just useless pawns who happened to be on the same flight? Or did Jacob go and touch them all in flashbacks we never saw? This all seems kind of sloppily cobbled together if you ask me.

What larger implications does this wall have for the “game” it seems Jacob and Not-Locke are playing with each other for all these centuries? Jacob brings people to the island and trains them to be him, Not-Locke tries to kill everyone and if he does he can leave? This would make sense as to why everyone keeps saying he wants to kill everyone on the island, but lingering questions from this episode include Illana saying that he is now stuck in Locke form (why?) and just who the hell that kid was in the jungle telling Not-Locke he broke the rules, but even more strangely, why Sawyer could see him but Richard couldn’t. He looked an awful lot like a mini-Jacob to me (or possibly a grown-up Aaron?). I’m half surprised it wasn’t Walt. Or have we completely forgotten about him and his alleged significance?

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Who the…? What the…? Sigh. 

This episode gives me an uneasy feeling that I’m not going to like where things are heading. I’m getting a vague picture of this grand cosmic struggle between the island’s forces of good and evil, but it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and all the little Lost mysteries we’ve wanted explained for so long I feel are going to get lost in the shuffle. But I guess, as always, we’ll see.





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21 responses so far

  • NY not NYC

    Great recap. Out of all the random sites I check out, this is the only one that doesn’t give a line by line re-narration of the story (takes just as long to read the thing as it did to watch it).

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    Thanks, I hate reviews that are pure recap and nothing else.

  • Bazinga

    I’m wondering why side reality Locke is in a wheelchair. Apparently he is on good terms with his dad so… Seems he was just cursed from birth.

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    What makes you say he’s on good terms with his dad?

  • LAO

    Helen suggested inviting her parents and his dad to a shotgun wedding instead of having to keep planning a formal wedding.

  • ChanceofFleurys

    we’ve been dragged about thus far, whats one more season?

  • XenoIrish

    I’m pretty sure the phone sex operator Locke used to talk to wasn’t Helen, i remember him just calling her Helen when he talked to her because that’s what he wanted her name to be. A sad and pathetic connection to happier times in his life i suppose.

    I really hope they combine the story lines on the island together soon, and that the alternate LA stories have significance. The last season should be moving a lot faster than this.

    I also hope they have better explanations for the islands mysteries than Jacob having “a thing for numbers”.

  • Lagrange

    You say “Really, without the island Ben just grew up to be a history nerd with a weird haircut? That’s it?” but remember that Ben is quite old. When the Hydrogen bomb blew up in the 70’s he was ON THE ISLAND. He was a 10 year old kid getting healed/personality changed by Richard i.e. the temple. The fact that he now seams to be a not-psycho is an indication that the flash sideways are not a direct consequence of the season 5 finale. Thats also more whatever happened happened style.

    I like the idea that the flash sideways is a flash foreward. That maybe the flash sideway is the epilog of lost (or the other way around). Maybe its even more fucked up that the flash sideways is the prelude of the whole Jacob thing.

    I’m think too that the blond boy is Jacob, or maybe Aaron. Maybe these two are the same person anyhow.

    And I don’t know, I don’t see a “bad” thing in not-Locke at all. You write it as if he was pictured as the bad one, but as for now he’s just having a plan. Jacob is actually more to blame, since he brings people to the island.
    He is always wearing a white shirt and not-locke is the black fog and at the “eating red herring” scene from the beginning of the finale of season 5 he was wearing a black shirt. White stone=good, black stone=bad is an option but the white stone stands for jacob one way or another.

  • Ashweee

    Dear Paul,
    I have been reading these reviews consistently and I must say, this one I can’t trek through like the last two. I feel as though you are only watching the show because you have to because you have to write reviews for it. I feel as though you have a little bit of unwillingness to suspend your disbelief. I just wish your reviews mirrored the fans more than questioning why they haven’t explained things yet or how this happened. Everything is going to tie to the other timeline and everyone still has to meet, even the others. Some things are still going to happen the way they did on the island, for example, Kate and Ethan BOTH being a part of Claire’s baby. You just seem a little skeptical of the show and it’s obvious in your reviews.

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    Dear Ashweee,

    Despite what you may think, I actually love Lost and it’s my third favorite show of all time behind Arrested Development and The Wire. I AM skeptical of it as you say (especially so far in this season), but as a fan, I am allowed that right, and I don’t really dig the direction of the season so far, so I’m going to say that in my review. Though even a “bad” episode or two of Lost is better than anything else currently on TV.

    You think I haven’t suspended belief to watch this show, with its polar bears, smoke monsters and time traveling? Please, it’s not even POSSIBLE to watch this show without throwing reality out the window, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    I don’t know how far into my review you got, but I am skeptical of things like the number revelation in this episode, and it all just seems very inconsistent and hastily put together. I’m not sure what you mean by wanting my reviews to “sounds more like the fans” as all the fans I know share similar sentiments of bewilderment and confusion after most of the episodes, which is of course, why we love the show so much.

    Anyway, sorry you feel I’m not a fan and only writing these reviews because I “have” to, but I promise neither of those statements are true, and I hope to see you here next week.

  • t3chg1rl

    The numbers thing was explained in a side-game. They ran an ARG (alternate reality game) “The Lost Experience” where you found out that they were part of an equation, and are why Dharma is/was on the island. The writers have said that they were not going to explain anymore what the numbers were. There’s a good explanation at Lostpedia (great site but contains spoilers!) http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Numbers

  • NY not NYC

    Lostopedia is a great resource to recheck facts – but have you seen some of the discussion on theories? Locke is Jesus, they are all magic time travelers, some of it is outright hilarious.

    Honestly, though, I can’t wait for the show to be over. I’m a big fan of Cowboy Bebop – there’s a show, there’s the plot, and its moving toward the end.

    I watch Lost and I’m just sort of -meh- about the characters and stuff. I just want to know what happens, I could care less about who it happens to.

  • chelsea

    i question your grasp of what you “know” about the show… what makes you think the island does blow up? it was underwater in the first episode. did you ever think that the epic “war” that was coming was between good and evil and it’s outcome changes the events of EVERYTHING? not just the plane crash?

    i don’t think locke got into the wheelchair the same way and i think he and his dad are on good terms. in fact, it may be possible that locke’s dad isn’t even a con man in the alternate reality (which i do believe is the “epilogue” as another reader put it). the producer’s are showing you this at the same time to wrap things up in one season and to help you keep from wondering “what happens after?”. what if locke’s dad never was a con man and the events never transpired ending in sawyer’s parents’ death?

    i disagree that the show is moving slow or putting in “filler” (with the slight exception of last week’s episode). if you are a fan of the show then you are because the producers have a clear vision and keep the story going while answering questions that NEED to be answered. you should have faith in the show instead of doubting. judge the way it ends when it ends, don’t waste time hypothesizing that you won’t like what happens after each episode.

    i post a blog myself after each episode and it always seems to be the polar opposite of yours. to each their own, i guess.

  • http://paul@unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    @chelsea

    You’re right about the Locke dad thing, which I did miss in the episode. I’m confused about how what happened on the island with the H-bomb has to do with his dad being a con man or not, but hopefully that question is answered. And yes, it would be cool to see what non-fucked up Sawyer would be like as a result of that.

    I say “blown up” just to reference what happened on the island with the H-bomb. I don’t you can actually sink an island by blowing a giant hole in it, but who knows, maybe you can.

    I can have faith or I can doubt, I’m entitled to either. I think thinks seem shaky now, but yes, the showrunners have always delivered so far, and I do expect them to in the end, but I doubt we’re going to get a lot of “hard answers.” I’m really just trying to avoid having too much be “open to interpretation” at the end, and making me hunt through Lostpedia to find all the answers to lingering questions.

    Got a link to your blog? I’d be interested in reading it.

  • chelsea

    here’s a link to my blog if you want to read.

    http://chelseahoffman.tumblr.com/

    i completely agree with you about the hard answers. sadly, i think the only way the producers will get away without too much backlash is to have some things open for interpretation. i kinda like the idea of being able to talk with fans of the show for years to come and say what you think this or that meant.

    i also think each fan has their own idea of what the important questions are. hopefully the ending will satiate us!

  • Sean

    Locke met Helen. They fall in love and then the deal with his “dad” causes them to split up. Then he gets paralyzed and starts phoning a sex line operated calling her “Helen”.

    BTW, was that sarcasm I detect in the quote under the white-black balance?

  • XenoIrish

    I saw a picture on I09 that had a close up of Locke’s cubical wall right before he got fired, and there was a picture of him and his dad acting all chummy. Locke still had hair in it, so it could be from before the accident, but just the fact that he has it up kind of points to his dad not being the same douche as before.

    As that relates to Sawyer, i thought it was weird when on the plane he warned Hurley about being taken advantage of, all i could think of at the time was that Con Man Sawyer would see that as more of an opportunity than anything else. So that too could point to Locke’s dad not being the same as before, or i could just be reading far too much into that one scene….

  • CNA

    Jacob’s list doesn’t seem to be solid, to me it seems fluid. Yes, names can be crossed off, but just as easily they can be added, even if originally they never were “candidates.”

    Back in season three, Mikhail (the pirate patch Other) noted that Sayid )because he is frightened) and Locke (for being angry) were both not on the list, but by the time Sawyer sees the list they both are on it (assumingly because they have changed and are no longer frightened and angry).

    One of the others earlier in season three mentioned that Jack was not on Jacob’s list. I have two running theories on how “Shepard” came to be on the list. The first being that, it is referring to either Aaron or Christian (After all, when Sawyer asks if it means Jack Shepard, Locke only replies that “he’s not the only one” and walks towards the other names. Not the only name, or not the only Shepard?). The second being that, shortly after this was mentioned, Jack saved Ben’s life with surgery, and possibly Jacob added him to the list after that.

  • http://lovelyentropy@wordpress.com Lola

    that wasn’t Helen on the phone with Locke back in season #1, that was some phone sex worker who Locke called “Helen” because he had just broken up with the real…uh, Helen.

    Locke’s boss has been in every season so far. (i think he’s the only secondary character to have that privileged, even though the woman at the temp agency was also the fake psychic Cheech took Hurley to see a few seasons back).

    when Not-John was showing Not-Drunk-Sawyer the names written on the rock, he pointed out the name “Kwon” and said he didn’t know if it referred to Jin or Sun (i’m willing to bet it’s Sun, she’s always had a more important role than Jin).

    as for what will happen next, i think it’ll all come down to a massive fight between Not-Locke and an all powerful Lapidus; then, in the last shot, we’ll find out that this was some geologist’s nightmare/wet dream.

  • Ashweee

    @ Chelsea and Paul

    Paul, I was trying to say something along the line of Chelsea, I am happy with this season so far and I have faith in the writers that they won’t drop the ball. Of course a lot of it is going to be open ended because they don’t want to make anyone mad or because our expectations are gonna be higher than the answer we get. I’ve come to terms with that. but also you do seem to have some questionings of what’s going on when it’s clearly stated. I guess they are just small things that you miss.

    I think where we are really differing here is that I have faith and you have doubt. I have high expectations for this last season and even if they don’t answer certain things I am going to be okay with that.

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