Lost Review: “The Substitute”


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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?


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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