Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thoughts on Lost - The Substitute

Couple items of "old business" first:

- Evangeline Lilly was interviewed for the ABC video podcast last week, and she had a couple of interesting things to say.

  • In her opinion, Kate went back to the Island for NO other reason than to reunite Claire and Aaron. Sure, other things may happen or be resolved as a result of that decision, but that was her motivation. I'm glad to hear that...I would much rather it be that than a Jack/Sawyer thing. Not that I think that situation won't be addressed again at some point, but at least it's not the top priority.

  • She is intentionally playing "Sideways Kate" with more of an edge. In her opinion, the Kate we saw in the original flashbacks was scared, out of control, and just doing whatever she could to survive. She was miserable being a fugitive. Sideways Kate, on the other hand, LOVES being a fugitive, the adrenalin rush that comes from being on the run. She is MAKING things happen, rather than just dealing with what happens to her. In re-watching her scenes from last week, you can see the difference she's talking about, and it was cool to hear her thought process as to how she was portraying what is in a lot of ways an entirely different character than the one she has been playing the last five years.

- Lots of talk last week about the date on Claire's sonogram being 10-22-04, which is exactly one month later than you would expect it to be if this new Flight 815 was arriving on the same day as the original one.

Some people have pointed out the D: next to the date and said that it could mean "Due Date". Others have pointed out that Dr. Ethan said she was 36 weeks, while back on the Island she was 32 (I don't even remember if that's correct). Then Gregg Nations (the member of the production staff who is tasked with policing continuity issues...good grief, can you even IMAGINE?) went on the Fuselage fan site and implied that it may be a production error (he said part of the date was a hint and part of it was an assumption would be that the "2004" part would be a hint as to when all of this is happening, and the "10" was the error).

Bottom line...I have no clue. Again, I'm not going to break my brain trying to figure stuff like that out right now, because if it's important we'll know soon enough anyway...there are only around a dozen episodes left, after all.

But if we weren't obsessing over every little minute detail, even stuff that a typical TV fan would never even see, much less attempt to derive plot detail from it, we wouldn't be LOST fans, would we?

OK, on with the show...pack a lunch, buckle in, or whatever cliche you want to apply...I think this may be a long one.

- From the very first scene, we can see that there is something different about Locke in the X timeline. Whereas the Locke we all knew and pitied probably would have railed against the sprinkler in the face thing, or broken down crying and screaming a Nancy-Kerrigan-level "WHY?!?!" at the heavens, this Locke just...laughs it off.

Also, not sure if it was an intentional callback, but the image of the sprinklers hitting Locke in the face definitely reminded me of his upturned face as the rains poured down back on the Island in the Pilot episode.

- HELEN!! That is so awesome. Man, I really want John Locke to have a happy life. Is it wrong that I wish for good things to happen to this character moreso than I do for most of my friends and some of my family? It is? Moving on then...

- Another clue that this is September, not October? Helen tells the caterer (or whomever she is talking to) that the wedding is happening in OCTOBER, implying that this is probably sometime before that. I think. Check back with me next week.

- Yep, she totally said he should invite his dad to the wedding. Either that relationship is WAY different in this timeline, or Helen is really being insensitive by pressuring him to invite the kidney-stealing absentee dad who pushed him out an 8 story window and crippled him. More on that in a minute.

- I don't think John believes in destiny. Hmmm....

- How cool was the whole "Let's Take a Trip With Smokey Around The Island" thing? I especially liked the part where we stopped at Sawyer's window and you could see Smokey in the reflection of the window. Nice touch.

- "Alright, Richard...time to talk". Love it.

One of my favorite "little" things about this episode is how scared out of his mind Richard is. We have always seen Richard as being totally chill, kind of a "been there, done that" attitude, never freaking out. Not now. Dude is TERRIFIED of Smokey. I can't wait to find out what the history is there.

- Yes, Randy Nations is still a jerk (with totally sketchy facial hair). But he's also right. "Sorry I went on a trip to Australia that the company paid for and then never bothered to show up to the conference thingy I was supposed to be going to. Can't I just tell you that it was for 'personal reasons' and then you leave me alone about it?".

Ummm, no. You're FIRED.

- Did you catch the photos on Locke's desk at work? Obviously, he and his dad are on good terms (check the bottom picture)...interesting. So how DID he lose the use of his legs if it wasn't because his dear old dad shoved him out a window?

- OK, this conversation between Smocke and Richard was the first of several "That guy is totally SATAN!" moments that I had while watching this episode. Doesn't his little pitch to Richard remind you of the serpent in the Garden of Eden? "What, he didn't tell you? Wow, I never would have kept you in the dark like that. Come on, follow me, and I will tell you all the secrets. I'll put you on the same level as Jacob, knowing everything that he knows." Sound familiar?

But I think Richard has heard this pitch before, and he's not falling for it.

- Good grief, there's too much stuff to parse through in this exchange, particularly everything that comes out of Smocke's mouth:

"(I want) what I've always wanted. For you to come with me." - Again, I can't wait to get the history between these two. Apparently Richard was the number one draft pick when the sides were being picked.

"John's a candidate...or at least he WAS a candidate" - That one we'll get to later, obviously.

"People seldom get a second chance." - Is this part of the struggle between Jacob and Smocke? That Jacob believes people SHOULD get a 2nd chance and Smocke doesn't? Because this seems to fly in the face of the whole "Tabula Rasa" philosophy that we have seen so far on this show.

- Blond kid, with bloody arms, standing in a very Christ-like pose. Anybody got any ideas? At this point, I can only think of a couple of possibilities...that's either Jacob (my first choice, though I don't get the significance of why he is appearing as a child or the bloody arms...guess we would get more on that later), or maybe Aaron (though I don't know how that works with the timeline...he's obviously only around 3 years old in 2007). Or...maybe it's somebody else entirely, based on what we see later. More to come.

- Ilana to Ben: Did (Locke) kill Jacob as well?

He really can't help himself, can he. "I lied...that's WHAT I DO."

- Ilana scoops up the ashes of Jacob and puts them in her pouch. Yeah, I think it's safe to say that will be important later.

Maybe the ash that protects us from Smokey is the ashes of other former "Jacobs"? That is one theory I've seen, but there sure does seem to be a lot of ash to spread around, considering that Jacob has apparently been in this body since the Black Rock came.

Whatever...suffice to say that this is not the last time we will see this ash.

- I'm afraid Sawyer is attempting suicide by alcohol.

And Josh Holloway continues to knock it out of the park. Four years ago, I considered him to be the weak link on this show, acting-wise. He has really proved me wrong the last couple of seasons. Even "Redneck Loner" Sawyer, which he reverts to in this episode (seen very clearly in the later shot of him holding the gun on's an almost exact replica of the shot of him pointing the gun at the polar bear way back in the Pilot), seems to be deeper and more real now than it seemed then.

- "I don't give a ___ if you're dead, or time traveling, or the Ghost of Christmas Past. All I care about is this whiskey. So...bottom's up! Then get the ___ out of my house."

Kids, this is what we call hitting rock bottom.

- I thought it was really cool that we get to see Sawyer showing off some of the skills that made him such a successful con man...he has a great ability to read people. "You're not John Locke. Locke was scared, even when he was pretending he wasn't. And're not scared."

And while we're here, another great little moment for Terry O'Quinn. Watch his eyes as he drops the facade of trying to be John Locke and just starts playing it straight as Smocke. Awesome.

- "Well, I guess I better put on some pants!". This was my wife's LEAST favorite line of the episode.

- Back to the X timeline...Locke may be more well adjusted now than he was in the original timeline, but he's still a stubborn old fart. "Yeah, I know that's a handicapped parking spot...but I don't WANT to be handicapped! I can park wherever I want!".

I can't imagine very many parking lots that would allow him room to drop a wheelchair ramp in a non-handicap spot without hitting the vehicle next to him.

- Hugo needs to reintroduce himself to his razor. Those mutton chops are WAY over the top.

- I can't shake the feeling that Hurley is going to be the one who is the "leader" by the end, especially in light of what we see in the end of this episode? He tells Locke, "Chin up...things are gonna work out", and I think that is foreshadowing something other than just Locke's job placement.

- Was that a spider on John's rapidly decaying head? Cause if so, that's pretty disgusting.

- So Jin is heading to the beach, and Sun is heading to the Temple. I'm still OK with this now, but if they keep this "just missing each other" thing going until the finale I'm going to be pretty ticked.

- "What were you doin' alone in that house, James?"


- Now Sawyer can see the little blond boy too. What does that mean? I have no idea.

- Two things I thought of while Smocke was chasing the boy through the jungle: Number one, why doesn't he just turn to Smokey if he wants to catch him so bad. Number two, why doesn't he ever take that backpack off? WHAT'S IN THE BACKPACK?

- Now we get a better look at the kid. Yes, he looks a LOT like a younger version of Jacob. But seeing as how Smocke is still acting as if he thinks Jacob is dead when they get to the cave, I'm thinking it may not be him.

Of course, I have to think that there is a higher being than either Jacob or Smocke involved here...SOMEBODY had to set the "rules", right? So maybe this is that Higher Power? Just spitballin'....



There is obviously still some residue of Locke left in this "entity" that Smokey has taken over. I think that when Smocke told Ben what Locke's last thought was back in "LA X", it wasn't because he was's because it was still bouncing around in his head when Smocke took up residence.

- Hee. Richard is SCARED. Not sure why that cracks me up so much.

- "Who were you talking to?"
"Nobody. Where's the kid?"
"What kid?"

Awwwww....just like all great relationships, it looks like this one will be built on a solid foundation of mutual trust and honesty.

- I admit I didn't catch this, but I saw it in a writeup later...the "what animal would you describe yourself as" temp agency worker was the woman who Hurley's dad hired as a fake psychic back when he was trying to convince Hurley that he wasn't crazy.

And Locke's reactions to her were priceless.

- ROSE!!

- Was it a little odd that they didn't recognize each other? Weren't they just on the same plane yesterday? Locke, for sure, has a pretty unique look to him...

Also, why was billionaire Hurley flying on a commercial plane?

Anyway, not important...

- LOVED how Rose completely cut right through Locke's B.S. about being a construction site coordinator. Locke is one of those people who would pick something like that intentionally, just so the other person will say no, just so he can accuse them of being prejudiced against them because of their disability. You know the type. Rose nailed him.

- Dang. Rose still has cancer.

Dang. That really sucks.

- Back on the Island, Sawyer pulls a little Ben Linus on Smocke with the "Of Mice and Men" reference...this was the same book Ben quoted to Sawyer way back in Season 3 when he took him up on the hill to show him that he was on a totally different island from the rest of the Losties.

- Smocke's plea to Sawyer:

"What I am is trapped. And I've been trapped for so long that I don't even remember what it feels like to be free. Maybe you can understand that. But before I was trapped, I was a man, James. Just like you....I know what it's like to feel joy... to feel pain, anger, fear... to experience betrayal. I know what it's like to lose someone you love."

OK, so how much of this is truth and how much of is just to manipulate Sawyer? I DO think he's trapped...but I don't know if he's ever been a "man" the way he is describing it to Sawyer. What he and Jacob are is obviously still up in the air, but I don't think "human" is high on my list of possibilities.

- "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."

You know what? I believe him.


(hold on, I think I have something in my eye...)

- "Weirdest ___ funeral I've ever been to."

Yeah? Frank obviously missed Boone's funeral. That one was pretty wild, too.

- That whole scene with Locke confessing to Helen that he got fired for not going to his conference, I was thinking that the universe was going to course-correct and Helen was going to leave him again, just like she did before, and I was dreading it. So, no matter how cheesy the whole "The only thing I was waiting on was you" line was, I was just so happy to see something good happen to Locke that I was digging it.

- OK, let's take a closer look at Locke's dialogue here, in comparison to similar things he has said in prior episodes:

"The Substitute" dialogue: "My walkabout. An adventure in the outback. Man against nature."

"Walkabout" dialogue: "Not that you would understand, but a Walkabout is a journey of spiritual renewal, where one derives strength from the earth. And becomes inseparable from it."

See the difference? It's subtle (sort of), but I think it's intentional. In the initial timeline, it's all about becoming ONE with the X timeline, it's man AGAINST nature.

"The Substitute" dialogue: "And I sat there yelling at them. Shouting at them that they couldn't tell me what I can't do. But they were right. I'm sick of imagining of what my life could be out of this chair, Helen. What it would be like to walk down the isle with you because its not gonna happen. So if you need me to see more doctors, have more consults, if you need me to get out of this chair, I don't blame you. But I don't want you to spend your life waiting for a miracle because there is no such thing."

"There's No Place Like Home" dialogue: "It's not an island. It's a place where miracles happen."

Obviously, there are more examples of destiny-loving, miracle-believing Locke, but the point is the same...yes, this Locke seems more well-adjusted and content than the "original" Locke, but what has he had to give up for it? He's SETTLING, and that is not the Locke we know and love.

I'm thinking that business card gets taped back together before too long.

- Of course, the way to Jacob's cave is...Jacob's Ladder. Do with that what you will.

- Didn't that look like the same place that Hurley almost jumped off the cliff in "Dave"? I thought we were about to get some confirmation that "Dave" was really Smokey, and now he was trying to get Sawyer to take the plunge the same way he tried with Hurley...

- Count me as one who thinks that Smocke somehow orchestrated Sawyer's "near death" experience to engender more trust in him.

Before we continue, a sort of "disclaimer"...I don't think LOST is a Bible story. But there have been TONS of religious references and overtones throughout the entire show, and not just Christian ones...we've seen Roman and Greek mythology, Egyptian gods, Islam, Catholicism, etc, etc. But, more than anything else, there has been the overpowering themes of light vs. darkness and good vs. evil.

Now, coming from a Christian background, my natural inclination is to apply those themes in a certain way, specific to the Christian religion and the Bible. But every religion has a "Good" higher power and an "Evil" adversary, they just call them different things.

So I don't think I'm reading too much into it when I say that, based on everything we've seen in the show (especially this episode), Jacob is a picture of "God" and Smocke is a picture of "Satan".

I bring that up now, because that belief is central to my theories about what we are about to see next...

- OK, the rocks on the scale: Obviously, the white one represents Jacob, and the black one represents Smocke. They have been equals for all of these years, and the scales have remained in balance. But now...Jacob is dead, so Smocke yanks his rock off the scale and flings it in the ocean. The scales are forever tilted in his favor.

Except...Jacob's not really dead, is he? We saw him talking to Hurley an hour after Ben "killed" him. So maybe Smocke is being a little premature in his celebration?

I couldn't help but make this parallel: Just like Smokey "inhabited" John Locke and then manipulated him to cause the death of Jacob (with Ben's help, of course), the Bible tells us that Satan inhabited Judas in order to bring about the death of Christ. Satan thought that this signified his victory, when in fact the death of Christ was part of God's plan all along. Could it be that by killing Jacob, Smocke may have somehow brought his own demise? Remember, a lot of us noticed in last season's finale that Jacob seemed to OFFER himself to Ben's knife, and did not attempt to fight back in any way...even Ben pointed it out to Smocke in the aftermath, which is why I thought it would definitely have importance later. Just like Christ OFFERED Himself up, as a Lamb to the slaughter, and did not fight back against those who were crucifying Him.

Again, I don't think that the story of LOST is supposed to mirror the Bible...but I definitely think the writers draw parallels to the Bible as much as they do other "books", especially in the case of what are turning out to be the two central protagonists.

- Back to the X timeline for a minute...Locke is now a substitute teacher, teaching biology...remember when his guidance counselor tried to encourage him to go to Science camp?

- "I don't believe we've met...Ben Linus. European History."
"John Locke. Substitute."


Oh, and he's exactly right. If you empty the coffee pot, START ANOTHER POT. We live in a SOCIETY, for crying out loud.

- Back to Candidate Cave...I'll go into which names are on the walls (and which ones AREN'T) in a minute, but for now let's just deal with Smocke's explanation.

- All of the people on this wall were "chosen" as candidates, and from then on they had a seemingly unavoidable destiny. Jacob was "pulling the strings", as Smocke says, in order to get them to the Island. Once there, they would be somehow vetted and then "crossed out" if they didn't meet muster.

Flash back to last season's finale, when we first meet Jacob and his adversary:
- "They come. They fight. They corrupt. They destroy. It always ends the same."
"It only ends ONCE. Anything that happens before that is just progress."

(side note...I think that as long as there is a "Jacob", then the adversary is not allowed to leave. That's what he means by "trapped". Now that Jacob is supposedly dead, he thinks he's found his way out)

So...apparently Jacob has brought all of these people to the Island over the years, looking for a replacement, and the search has yet to be successful.

At first glance, this paints Jacob as...really awful. Think about the things that we have seen these characters go through in order to end up here. Jacob CAUSED all of those things to happen, just so he could bring them here to this Island?

But...we're only hearing one side of the story, and just like Satan, Smocke knows just how much truth to leave out and how much to mix in with his lies that it makes it hard to tell the difference. I think that what we will ultimately find is that, yes, those things did happen because Jacob needed them on this Island...but that ultimately, it is for the Greater Good (another early episode title, by the way). He knows more than we do, so what seems to be "manipulative" and "unfair" to us has positive outcomes that we can't see yet.

Now, I don't know if Smocke knows that and is just not telling Sawyer, or if this is really what he believes...but either way, I think Sawyer is only getting part of the story.

- Why does Jacob need a "replacement" if he's still on the Island?

- Oh...and Smocke ain't taking Sawyer "home". That much I can pretty much guarantee.

OK, on to the names on the wall...Lostpedia has a great breakdown HERE.

Some items of interest:

- Obviously, all of the most familar names to us have all been assigned the "numbers".

4 - Locke
8 - Hurley
15 - Sawyer
16 - Sayid
23 - Jack
42 - Jin/Sun (I personally think it's Sun, but that's mainly due to the whole Paik Industries thing that you can read about HERE)

Remember that the Numbers are factors in the Valenzetti Equation...some math-geek talk is coming up, so skip down if you so choose.

We've had an episode called The Constant, and we've had an episode called The Variable. A variable in a mathematical equation is a symbol that stands for an unknown value in the equation. Once you assign a number or value to that variable, that number or value is called...the Substitute, which is the name of this episode. Maybe Jacob has finally found the factors that will solve the equation?

What equation? I don't know...probably not the Valenzetti exactly, but...something else. I'm still working on this theory, obviously.

- Some other familiar names are already crossed out: Pace (Charlie), Rutherford (Shannon), Littleton (Claire...I'm assuming).

Also, Mattingly and Jones, which were two names that we saw on Army uniforms that the Others were wearing last season.

- The big missing name, of course, is Kate Austen. I REALLY don't know what's up with that. We were showed in no uncertain terms last season that Jacob showed up in young Kate's life and "touched" her on the nose. So isn't she a "Candidate"? Maybe Jacob got as tired of her as the rest of us did...

- One other thing that confused me...Hurley and Sayid were not visited and touched by Jacob until AFTER they got off the Island originally, but before they went back on Ajira 316. So were they not candidates before, but then maybe became candidates because of their actions on the Island?

Look, I obviously don't know what all of this means yet...but I do believe that we just saw what this entire show is about in a very cool nutshell.

How will they ever top THIS one?



Shan said...

Some random thoughts:

SmokeyVision? Awesome.

That photo of X-Locke's dad certainly begs a lot of questions about this universe. And not just about Locke's situation, history and paralysis. What about X Sawyer? Were his parents still conned by X Anthony Cooper? Conned at all, if X Coop appears to be a good guy with a healthy relationship with his son? And if not, then why was Sawyer in Australia, and then on X 815?

I had the same two thoughts about "bloody kid." And in the conversation about "you can't kill him," it's pretty apparent (though not conclusively, like everything on this show) that he was talking about Sawyer. Because he's a "candidate?' And candidates have to CHOOSE their "fate?" Maybe?

"Kids, this is what we call hitting rock bottom."

Really? I prefer to think of this as "valid life philosophy."

DAMN, was TOQ good here. (JH, too, of course).

Frank obviously missed Nicki & Paulo's funeral, too. This island could keep Fisher & Sons in business.

Yes, the "only thing I was waiting on" line was definitely cheesy. But Katey Sagal totally sold it (just lke she does as Gemma Teller every week on "Sons of Anarchy." She's a bad mofo.

If "Esau" (aka MIB, aka Smokey, aka Smocke) and "Jacob" are supposed to be ying/yang, then it does raise some interesting questions about their "powers." For example, if there are "rules" that they can't kill each other, what happened to the Titus Welliver "meat suit?" Who killed it, or where did it go? Or, could Smokey always change forms (Dave, Christian, Alex, corporeal black smoke monster, etc., before getting, as Ilana points out, "stuck" in the Smocke form - yet still now able to go between TWO forms -- smoke and Smocke). From all we've seen, Jacob has always appeared as Jacob, from the beach flashback (with the TW meat suit) though all the little "pushes" off island for the "candidates" and even AFTER his death (when he told Hurley to get Sayid to the temple). And how can Jacob appear off island, yet (again, only from what we've seen) Smokey can't?

I'm a BIG coffee drinker. 2 pots a day at least, and I can tell you that nothing is as infuriating as what Ben Linus, European History Teacher was complaining about. In fact, if I had to face that a couple of times a week, I guarantee I would quickly evolve into a lying, baby-stealing, cripple-strangling lunatic.

This...was a GREAT episode. A+. In the Pantheon of all timers for Lost. Do I wish I knew what it all meant at this point? Yeah, but there were fantastic character moments, brilliantly portrayed, and enough forward momentum to keep me on the edge of my seat. The one thing that worries me is that I don't want this "epic struggle" to invalidate our core characters' agency or experiences (by having them simply be pawns). I have faith that Darlton are keenly aware of this, and ultimately we'll have the "rules" of the grand conflict explained, yet still have the choices the individual make be the crux of the ending.

Scott said...

Great stuff as always, Shan...

Nikki and Paulo's funeral was different, for sure...but nothing can beat "John Locke shows up covered in the deceased's blood, proclaims his complicity in the death of the guest of honor, and then gets attacked and beaten down by the attending physician, who(by the way) seriously considered cutting the dead guy's leg off with a door." Not in my opinion, anyway.

I meant to address Ilana's comments about Smocke being "stuck" and then totally blew past it in my notes. How awesome is this show that you can compose a carpal-tunnel-inducing opus about an episode, and still leave out big mythological puzzle pieces like that one?

Anyway, I'm not sure why he's stuck now...maybe a result of the loophole?

I definitely think that it's going to turn out that, whatever the rules are, the fate of the characters will be based on the decisions that they make. There's been too many examples of the Island only being able to help those who help themselves for me to believe otherwise.

Hobnail_Boot said...

I view Jacob an Smocke as brothers, and I don't see all of the black/white symbolism as good/evil so much as yin/yang.

Smocke has been trapped in Jacob's game/time loop of bringing people to the island over and over again, and finally through the Locke loophole, he might have found a way to end it.

Anonymous said...

I believe that was a crab climbing around on Locke's head, not a spider, but creepy nonetheless.

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