Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lost Episode Review 6.04: "The Substitute"

"What I am is trapped. And I've been trapped for so long
I don't even remember what it's like to be free.."

(Thanks to Dark UFO for the screencap).

I think any reservations I had about the alternate timeline (the Alt, from now on) have been totally put to rest with this episode. Even if the Alt is simply a "what if" and has nothing to do with the actual outcome of the show and the resolution of the present day conflict on the Island, it's become so much fun to see what would have, could have happened to these characters had Jacob not come into their lives.

And how can you not like the Alt Locke, who certainly seems in a much better place than the original, largely thanks to Helen (and, perhaps, his new friend, Alt Ben). While I think the on-Island stuff certainly riveted me a lot more than the Alt this episode, I'm greatly looking forward to seeing more of our favorite Alt characters interact.

But then there's all that on-Island stuff.

Whoa. Some of my favorite highlights:

- Moving along the Island from Smokey's P.O.V., especially loved his reflection in Sawyer's window
- Young Jacob running around the Island
- Virtually every conversation on the Island. Hey, it's Season 6, guess we should all start talking about important things now!
- Alt Locke and Alt Hurley. Love the sideburns, dude.
- Alt Locke and Alt Rose. Was that a great scene or what? And I think it's touching that Rose be the one who makes Locke realize he needs to come to terms with who he really is.
- Locke's funeral. It was touching, but I nearly died laughing at Ben's eulogy.
- Jacob's Wall with the Numbers and candidates

So much classic stuff this episode. At the end of the day, there will likely be three, possibly four Locke-centric episodes in my Top 10. That certainly says something about the character.

Five questions:

1) How were the candidates chosen by Jacob?

I haven't had a chance to totally go over The Wall frame-by-frame (but Dark UFO has screencaps if you're interested), but it seems nearly everyone on Flight 815 (or at least everyone who survived) was a candidate to replace Jacob (which seems very Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to me - who's going to give up their Everlasting Gobstopper, eh)? The Numbers represent six of our favorites:

4 - Locke
8 - Hurley
15 - Sawyer
16 - Sayid
23 - Jack
42 - Sun or Jin

Locke's name is now crossed out and I imagine Sayid's name will be too now that he's infected. And if Sawyer goes along with Smokey and doesn't double cross him (which is a distinct possibility, don't forget), Sawyer will also be out. This leaves Hurley, Jack and Sun or Jin. As for the latter two, I'm thinking it's Jin since Sun wasn't transported back in time on Flight 316. Of course, neither was Frank and he's a candidate according to Ilana, but perhaps she hasn't seen an updated list yet. Another possibility: Jacob did touch both Sun and Jin - maybe they can only be a candidate together.

This also explains why the Temple people are so desperate to save as many of the non-crossed off candidates as they can - they seem to represent their only chance of getting Jacob back. And with Sayid possessed and Sawyer and Jin on the run, that leaves only Hurley and Jack in the relative safety of the Temple.

But how did Jacob originally choose all of these people? What qualities did he look for in selecting them? Are they all in need of redemption? Originally I thought he might be offering them a chance at a better life, but clearly from the Alt we know that's at least not the case with Locke, who seems considerably happier than he was in the original universe. What qualities does one have to have to become a god, eh? Of course, that begs the question...

2) What causes a candidate to get crossed off?

Without specifically asking anyone whether or not they'd like to be the new Jacob, how are the candidates crossed off the list? Is it in their actions on the Island? You would think Sayid and Sawyer have done enough to get themselves crossed off the list.

But you have to imagine that one of the remaining four (or five) of Jack, Hurley, Jin, Sun and Sawyer is going to become the new Jacob. And at this point you have to figure Jack is the odds-on favorite. Looks like Jack might have some work to do...

3) What are the rules between Jacob and Smokey?

And moreover, why is Smokey stuck as Locke now? I guess he won't be impersonating Christian again anytime soon. So what do we know about the rules so far:

1) Smokey isn't allowed to kill Jacob unless he finds a loophole
2) Smokey isn't allowed to leave the Island
3) Smokey isn't allowed to kill the candidates (at least certain ones)

We can probably also add that Smokey has to protect the Island when summoned (as Ben did in the Barracks) and he needs help in order to leave the Island (which seems why he's trying to "recruit" Sawyer and Richard).

It certainly seems that Jacob makes most of the rules and Smokey tries to find ways to break them. This kinda paints a picture whereby...

4) So is the Island simply a giant prison for Smokey with Jacob as the warden?

Seems like it right now. And this also explains Smokey's snarky comment to Richard in LA X where he comments that it's good to see him "out of those chains," with the chains being his servitude to Jacob.

I do think it might be more than that in some ways. After all, the Others call the Island home and Jacob does seem to use it for testing potential candidates, but perhaps Smokey's prison is the primary use. No wonder the Others revolted when DHARMA started messing around on the Island - some of DHARMA were likely candidates (the name "Goodspeed" was on Jacob's Wall and I have to imagine Ben was a prime candidate until Sayid shot him), but I imagine most of them, especially the ones DHARMA recruited, were not. And you just don't mess around with the prison for the Doomsday Monster.

5) So are the Numbers just related to the candidates or are they really part of the Valenzetti Equation as well?

You can click the link above for the full lowdown on Valenzetti, but the short of it is:
According to the 1975 orientation film in the Sri Lanka Video, the Valenzetti Equation "predicts the exact number of years and months until humanity extinguishes itself." During the video, Alvar Hanso also states that the radio transmitter on the Island, will "broadcast the core numerical values of the Valenzetti Equation." The numbers, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42, are explained in the Sri Lanka Video, as the numerical values to the core environmental and human factors of the Valenzetti Equation. Alvar Hanso also states in the video that the purpose of the DHARMA Initiative is to change the numerical values of any one of the core factors in the equation in order to give humanity a chance to survive by, effectively, changing doomsday.
Now these explanations are not mutually exclusive. I could easily see Jacob's six candidates as being the variables that could prevent Doomsday (Smokey) from destroying the world. The interesting thing to me is that you need to change one of the variables to prevent destruction. Is this what Jacob is trying to do, get the candidates to change, possibly through redemption on the Island? I think that's a really, really neat concept, don't you?


Some observations from this alt timeline:

* Locke is going to marry Helen and appears to have a better relationship with Cooper, considering Helen suggested they invite him to the wedding. Of course, Locke is also still in a wheelchair, something his father was the cause of in the original universe. Did Locke end up in a wheelchair in some other way in the Alt?
* We also got confirmation that the walkabout office scene occurred exactly as before.
* Randy is still an asshole
* Hurley is awesome (and happy with himself, as we saw from LA X)
* Rose works for Hurley and is still dying of cancer
* Ben is a European History teacher!!!
* Most importantly Locke, with the help of Rose and Helen, Locke comes to accept who he is.

- Just as an aside, I would love to see more of Locke and Ben. Specifically, I'd like to see Locke and Ben playing Axis and Allies. Darlton, please make it so!!! :)

- Some other names and numbers on Jacob's Wall:

10 - Mattingly (my guess, though he wore #23, which was already taken)
14 - Lewis
40 - Troupe (possibly?)
222 - O'Toole
291 - Domingo
313 - Littleton (Claire)

Also seen: Goodspeed (couldn't make out the number), 20 - Roup? Lots more too - want to look those over again.

- Sawyer's dirty wifebeater made me laugh

- Alt Rose's conversation with Alt Locke kinda paralleled her conversation with him in S.O.S., where Rose reveals she knows he was in a wheelchair before the plane crash. There she tried to convince him to have faith in the Island. Here, in the absence of the Island, she's trying to convince him to accept the reality of who he is. An interesting and powerful turnaround for me. And, it seems, for Locke.

- "Yeah, that guy is a huge douche."

- Double dose of Frank hilarity with "The guy's startin' to get ripe" and "Weirdest damn funeral I've ever been to." And Ben's eulogy to Locke may go down in history as one of the funniest scenes of the entire series.

- I liked Ilana picking up Jacob's ashes. I wonder if they're more powerful than regular ashes?

- "Jacob had a thing for numbers" - wanted to make this my quote, but kinda figured the other one was more appropriate

- The white and black rock on the scale was a rather obvious bit of symbolism, but could it be foreshadowing too? Could Adam and Eve, who had a black and white rock in a pouch on them, really be Jacob and Smokey (or perhaps two of their former candidates)?

- Other stuff on Jacob's Table:

I see a compass and... a lot of junk. Messy workshop, Jacob.

- Nice seeing Sawyer referencing "Of Mice and Men" again. Also loved how Smokey said he'd never read it because it was "after his time."

- So I guess "The Substitute" referred not only to the candidates and Smokey, but to Locke's new occupation too. I love it.


This episode easily makes my personal top ten. So many classic moments, so many big reveals. But it also had a nice mix of touching scenes, laughs and one-liners along the way. Is it better than Walkabout? Perhaps not. Is it better than Lockdown or The Man From Tallahassee? Yeah, I think it might be. And those two episodes both made my top ten last time. All-in-all a solid 4.6/5. Can't wait for next week! :)


mastaiti said...

Good review Jay,

I think I saw Faraday's name on the wall also. I really hope they do more with Alt Ben and Locke also, that would be so much fun!

mastaiti said...

And another good quote

"Well I guess I better put some pants on."

Classic, I hope this means we don't have to see Sawyer cry again. It is like watching Wolverine cry.

Missie said...

I was going to put the pants line up too!

I liked Smokey echoing Locke's line of "Don't tell me what I can't do" back to Jacob.

The comment about Smokey "recruiting" makes me think we're going to get a battle of some kind. Are we to assume that Sayid and Claire are recruits since they're "infected"? The fact that Sawyer is withholding info from "Locke" would indicate that he's by no means committed to his side yet. In fact, as you pointed out, he could be working on another long con.

Back to Claire for a moment- after rewatching last week's episode, I started thinking about "Raised by Another" and how it was said that Aaron being raised by someone other than Claire could have disastorous results. I think we were being led to believe tha Aaron was the key part of that disaster, but now I'm thinking that it was important to Claire's fate that she raise Aaron. We see what's happened to her since Kate became Aaron's mother, and now both Island Kate and Alt Kate are trying to get/keep Claire and Aaron together. Perhaps Aaron is Claire's redemption? (Kate is also the one who helped Claire through her birth. Maybe Kate's sole purpose in being on the Island is tied up in Claire's fate?)

Missie said...

I also liked how Sawyer had the insight to pick up on Locke not being Locke. No one else who has encountered this new Locke on the Island has done that.

Patrick said...

What about Kwon being Ji Yeon Kwon, Sun and Jin's daughter?

Carly said...

I like the review! Loved the Valenzetti stuff. I thought the episode was going to be great as soon as I saw the Smokey POV.
So no Kate as a candidate anymore huh? She must have been at one point, but I didn't see her name either way last night.
My thoughts on the rules run along the same lines as yours Jay, if Smokey can't kill Jacob, the loophole must be that he can still get other people to do it. He manipulated Ben into killing him. Now to me it seems that his only way to ensure Jacob can't come back is to eliminate the candidates that Jacob could use to come back. Since he can't kill the candidates themselves, he has to recruit others to do it. He is manipulating Sawyer, playing on his current impassive state of mind and desire to get away from this place that reminds him of Juliet, to possibly get Jack eliminated. I mean if you think about it he needs more then one person to do it. An army like Missie said. I can see Sawyer being convinced to kill Jack, but not Hurley. He seems to be a master manipulator, very Devilish. He discredits Jacob, making people question him and dismisses the need for the island to be protected. He dangles their desire to know why they are there in front of them, sort of Biblical (Satan and the tree of knowledge of good and bad). He obviously had a good reason for inhabiting Locke's body, he got people to believe and trust him. I mean after seeing him and listening to him, wouldn't you? Just great acting going on.
The Jacob's ladder thing was cool.
Rose still has cancer! That just broke my heart.
I agree that there is more to the island then just being a prison, but as Lost always does, we are left with more questions! Aagh, but I totally love it!

James said...

i thought the kid locke saw was aaron, not young jacob. he looks a lot like claire i think. also maybe this means walt is the new smoke monster.

and when the smoke monster stares someone down, he's looking for something that disqualifies them from candidacy so then it's ok for him to kill them?

stefanie said...

i'm curious about why Kate isn't a candidate---something I didn't realize until this morning!

Jay said...

Thanks for all the comments. I'm working on a long follow-up post to the episode to address some of the questions here.

Really a lot to write up this episode - kind of a weird feeling to have a lot of pretty cool information to discuss, eh? :)

Jay said...

Oh, a couple quick things to discuss in the meantime:

The "Littleton" that was crossed out on Jacob's Wall probably referred to Aaron, not Claire. The kid being Aaron rather than Jacob an interesting idea too - and rather plausible.

And, not to be sexist, but anyone else notice that if Jin is #42, the main six candidates will all have been male? And while I like the idea that Kwon could refer to Ji Yeon, I'm thinking the male thing might be significant.

I like the idea of Smokey as a manipulator too, especially since Smokey is likely free in the Alt universe and it's not a smoking post-apocalyptic future. He's probably an investment banker or something. :)