Key Points from "The Substitute"
Season 6, Episode 4
Episode Air Date: 02/16/10
Remember when Locke and Sawyer tag-teamed on Cooper? They were an odd couple, to be sure, but dammit, those guys got stuff done. Men of action! Men of conviction!
And yet, strangling Cooper in the bowels of the Black Rock was but a mere prelude to what Sawyer and the artist formerly known as Locke may truly accomplish. Their latest partnership (or new partnership, if you want to get technical about it) appears to revolve around two of the sixth season's biggest questions: Why does Flocke/Smokey/Man in Black want to get off the island? And related to that, how will he get off the island?
After this latest episode, we still don't know the why, but I'm guessing the how involves assistance from a scraggly-haired grieving con-man who really, truly, couldn't give a damn about anything at this point. (Except his whiskey. He does love his whiskey.)
In addition to this unusual new partnership, we also learn a few important details about Flocke himself (the usual disclaimers about distrust of dubious characters applies to what follows ... caveat emptor and all that):
-- Flocke claims to have been "trapped" for a very long time. Who trapped him hasn't been clarified. The likely suspect is Jacob, but there may be a higher power at play as well. More on that in a moment.
-- The Man in Black / Smokey used to take on multiple forms (Christian Shephard, Yemi, etc.), but Ilana reveals he's now stuck in Locke's body. How she knows this is beyond me.
-- Flocke found the Jacob administration's policy of non-disclosure quite silly. He's flabbergasted to learn that Richard really had no idea why Jacob did the things he did.
-- Flocke says he was once a man who felt joy, fear, anger, betrayal, loss, sunburn, spider bites, mild nausea after consuming dairy ... all that fun human stuff. But seeing as he can now dent bullets and take the form of a smoke pillar, I'm guessing he's traded all that complicated emotion for something more fundamental: revenge. Whether that revenge is justified is another matter.
-- He's occasionally visited by a pre-teen blond-haired boy who likes to flash his blood-stained hands. This boy -- who just has to be some type of Jacob apparition -- reminds Flocke about the "rules," specifically the one that forbids killing "him." Don't you just love it when tween ghost boys use open-ended phrasing? We have no idea what governing body sets these rules (that's the higher power I was alluding to a moment ago). Nor do we know who the "him" in question is here. It could be Sawyer. That would seem reasonable. But it could also be Richard ... or Jack, Jin, Sayid, Hurley, Miles, Frank, Ben, Lennon, Dogen or any other living or sorta-living island male. (Note: Sawyer sees the blond boy, too. This doesn't seem like Hurley/dead people redux.)
-- Flocke has access to a secluded beachside cave that he once timeshared with Jacob. They chose a Spartan aesthetic for the place: a simple scale -- one side holding a black rock, the other a white -- was once the foyer's most dominant element. But Flocke never cared much for that white rock. Down the hall, a little to the right, you'll find a dark study where Jacob (allegedly) wrote castaway names and numbers on the walls. Most of the names are crossed out, but Flocke points out a few that are still in play: Reyes, 8; Ford, 15; Jarrah, 16; Kwon, 42; Shephard, 23.
Let's spend a moment on this cave business. Besides being the most TiVo-worthy moment since Radzinksy's map was uncovered, it also plugs into the series' long-percolating destiny vs. free will motif. If Flocke is to be believed, Jacob has for centuries -- millennia perhaps -- manipulated the life choices of potential "candidates" so they'll come to the island and someday take over Jacob's role as island protector. We saw hints of this in the season five finale (we also saw oddly overt flashbacks to those same moments in this episode -- anyone else find that jarring?).
So the cave stuff filled my head with a bunch of questions. In no particular order:
- Jacob seemed content with his position -- smug even -- so why bother looking for a replacement? Is that part of the job description? "Must train successor"?
- I didn't see Kate's name on the wall and it's unclear if "Kwon" refers to Sun or Jin.
All the other names were men. Is the island exhibiting a little male chauvinism here?As eagle-eyed commenter Mizzed notes in comment #14 below, the wall includes the names Burke (Juliet), Rousseau (Danielle) and Littleton (Claire). I offer my sincere apologies to the island. Clearly, it's an equal opportunity life destroyer.
- Flocke raises a good point: What, exactly, was Jacob protecting the island from?
Update 2/17/10 Lost-Media has a bunch of high-resolution screencaps showing the cave walls.
There's lots more to consider with this Flocke/cave business, but let's move on for now.
In this episode's alternate timeline scenes, John Locke loses his job but finds a more suitable one as a substitute teacher (with assists from Rose and Hurley); he finds a potential friend in fellow teacher Benjamin Linus (a European History instructor ... of course); he's engaged to Helen; and, best of all, he finally admits there are things he can't do, and maybe, just maybe, that's okay.
It's such an interesting shift for this character. The John Locke we've known for years needed external validation. He needed someone else -- or something else -- to deem him special. But the alt-timeline version of Locke seems to find the peace Original Locke never could. And he does it quietly, by just letting go.
Granted, a peaceful resolution doesn't make for high drama, but I wonder if the writers will use the same driving question -- What would happen if these people weren't crazyballs? -- to explore characters in the alt timeline.
One other thing from the alt universe: Oceanic found Locke's missing knives. I really thought certain props would be plucked from the alt timeline and used as breadcrumbs back to the original timeline. So much for that idea.
The assorted characters who spent the last four episodes milling about the statue have now scattered to the winds. Most are headed for the temple. Ilana, Ben, Sun and Frank are going that way, too, but first they have to bury Locke in the Oceanic castaways' cemetery. There isn't a whole lot of action in this storyline, but we do see Ilana scoop and save a handful of ash from Jacob's extinguished fire. Jacob's remains are supposedly mixed in with that ash, so I wonder if it'll later reappear as some sort of super-repellant in a future run-in with Smokey.
These scenes are also interesting because Ben freely (and awkwardly) admits to killing Locke but he lies to Ilana about Jacob's murder. Good to see Mr. Linus is in fine duplicitous form.
A few closing questions and observations:
- Best Line: "Well I guess I better put some pants on." -- Sawyer to Flocke.
- Second Best Line: "This is the weirdest damn funeral I've ever been to." -- Frank, muttering to himself after Ben's awkward eulogy/confession.
- Third Best Line: "Randy Nations ... that guy is a huge douche." -- Hurley to Locke.
- Sun and Jin are never going to reunite. I'm convinced of it now. Ilana tells Sun that Jin -- if he's alive -- will be hiding out at the temple. But as we know from last week, Jin is now in Claire's clutches. These two are doomed to wander the island and miss each other by mere seconds over and over again.
- The producers have noted a number of times that season six will be a bookend to season one. So far, it's more like a mirror. The first four episodes of season one went like this: pilot 1 & 2 (all characters, but most of the focus on Jack), "Tabula Rasa" (Kate-centric), "Walkabout" (Locke-centric). Compare that to season six: "LA X" 1 & 2 (all characters, but most of the focus on Jack), "What Kate Does" (Kate-centric), "The Substitute" (Locke-centric). And it looks like the pattern will hold next week: season one, episode five ("White Rabbit") was Jack-centric; season six, episode five also appears to be Jack-centric.
That's all I've got!
"Lighthouse" -- We take another dip into Jack's on-island angst and alt-timelline adventures. Airs Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010 at 9 p.m. on ABC.
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