Monday, February 15, 2010

Lost - "The Substitute"

Before we get to this week's episode, I have to point out the counter on the right hand side of the Blog. We're less than 3000 hits away from hitting ONE MILLION. That's insanity. Back when the Blog first started, I would be excited when I came home from work and saw that there were more than 10 hits to the page. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd max out the counter before the series ended. Thank you to all the viewers out there for making this happen.

The bigger question is "what in the hell is going to happen when we hit a million"? Will the counter stay stuck at 999,999? Will it reset back to zero? Will the world come to an end? I don't know, but I'm excited to find out.

It's times like these I wish the Blog was in some way profitable, so that I could have some prize for the one millionth visitor. But it's not. I'd still be curious to see who the one millionth visitor is, so if you happen to visit the Blog and see the counter at 999,999 (or 0!), please let me know!

On to the task at hand...

Episode Title: “The Substitute”

Brian’s Deeper Meaning Guess: When I first read the title of this episode, my thoughts instantly went to John Locke – seeing as there are currently two “versions” of Locke on the Island, it seems as though one would have to be a “substitute”. Once I saw the episode description and guest stars (yes, there is a guest star listing for the first time this season!), it confirmed my suspicions – this is a Locke-centric episode.

Which makes sense, I suppose.

Remember back to Season One? It started with a two hour premiere (that lacked centricity), then had a Kate-centric episode (“Tabula Rasa”), then the all-time classic Locke-centric episode “Walkabout”. Compare it to Season Six, which started with a two hour premiere (that lacked centricity), then a Kate-centric episode (“What Kate Does”), and now a Locke-centric episode. But there’s no way that this episode can be as mind-blowing as “Walkabout”, right? And to hope for that would be an exercise in setting unrealistically high expectations that will only surely lead to disappointment and anger?


I think this episode could be huge.

There are fifteen episodes of Lost left. At this point, we still don’t really understand who the “good guys” or “bad guys” are for this final season. We don’t understand what’s going on with the Off-Island action, and we don’t know what the big “mission” or “purpose” of the On-Island action is going to be for the season. Is it defeating SmokeLocke? Sinking the Island to the bottom of the ocean? Getting ALL our Survivors off the Island once and for all? Saving the world? All of the above?

It’s pretty important that the audience begins to understand the direction of the season sooner rather than later because it’s the only way to build up the suspense, tension, and drama on the Island. For the first four seasons of Lost, there was a big picture goal that drove the actions of the majority of the characters – getting off the Island. Last season, there were a few big picture goals, depending on the characters. Some wanted off the Island (still) and some wanted to get back to the Island (irony!)… and some wanted to live happily ever after (less exciting).

But right now, what’s the big picture goal for our Survivors? Kate, Sun, and Jin are the only characters who have a purpose on the show right now – and everyone else is trying to figure out what the destiny / purpose is on the Island… including the audience.

It’s time for the writers to lay out the mission for the season.

What better way to do it than through explaining SmokeLocke? Why does Anti-Jacob remain in the form of Locke instead of switching to someone else? Is there a reason that he needs to appear as a “substitute” Locke to everyone else on the Island? Is he going to need to stand-in for something that Locke was supposed to do on the Island, before being killed by Ben? Or is it merely an appearance that makes it handy to trick our Survivors and the Others? What did he mean when he said that he “wants to go home”? Where is home? Why can’t he go there? Who or what is stopping him? Exactly what is the nature between the apparent “battle” between Anti-Jacob and the Others? I’m not looking for a simple statement of who is good and who is evil – but what are the fundamental differences between the two sides? What is each side looking to accomplish?

A few answers to questions like these would go a long way in driving the On-Island action for the rest of the season. We can then start to see the repercussions of the actions that our Survivors take, see them struggle with which side of the “battle” to come down on, and then see how it all plays out. All the characters are finally in place – back on the Island, back in the same time period, grouped accordingly – now it’s time to start pushing them into action.

So what about the episode title? I think it’s a pretty obvious reference to SmokeLocke being a “substitute” for the original Locke. Where’s the traditional Losty double meaning? Well, it’s a bit of wishful thinking on my part, but what if we discover that “the Substitute” also refers to all the characters in the Off-Island action? I don’t see how it would neatly fit into any of my prior theories, but what if the versions of the characters we see Off-Island are merely “substitutes” for the REAL versions of those characters who are On-Island? Could all the time-traveling antics of our Survivors have somehow pulled them outside the space-time continuum, leading the universe to create “substitutes” for them that safely landed in LAX in 2004, to prevent the universe from ripping apart at the seams?

Yeah, I don’t know what that really means either – but I do like the idea that the Off-Island characters are fakes and imposters, mostly because I don’t like or understand them (yet).

Guest Stars: L. Scott Caldwell as Rose, Katey Sagal as Helen, Billy Ray Gallion as Randy, Suzanne Krull as Lynn Karnoff, Kenton Duty as teenage boy, Eddie L. Cavett as courier and Joshua Smith as school kid.

Guest Star Breakdown: Rose appearing, but not Bernard? Strange, but I’m going to chalk it up to a similar scene to Jack in last week’s episode – something fleeting and not a major player in the Off-Island action, unless one would think that Bernard would be there too.

The other guest stars are old friends, deserving of a brief audience refresher:

Helen – Locke’s girlfriend and almost fiancé. She and Locke dated, and got pretty hot and heavy before Locke’s obsession with his father (Anthony Cooper) got in the way. Locke proposed to her and she turned him down. Helen died of a brain aneurysm in 2006 in the original storyline.


Randy – although Randy also worked for / was the boss of Hurley in his flashbacks, I’m guessing we should focus on his past with Locke (PS – yes, it’s pretty weird that he has appeared in both Hurley and Locke’s flashbacks in a managerial role). To Locke, Randy was a typical jerk boss (just like me!) at the ol’ Box Factory, he made fun of Locke and told him he would never be able to go on his walkabout.

Lynn – truth be told, I didn’t even remember this character. She was the fortune teller in one of Hurley’s flashbacks that told him he would die unless she cured him of the “Curse of the Numbers”. Hurley then bribes her to admit that her fortune-telling was all a hoax put on by Hurley’s Father, putting her true psychic powers in question.

Given that it’s a Locke-centric episode, Helen and Randy’s inclusion makes total sense. I’ll be curious to see if Lynn appears as a legit fortune teller this episode, telling Locke about his future – or if it’s going to be another case of a former character appearing for a “curtain call” on the show as a minor background character – similar to the nurse in “What Kate Does” being the same as Aaron’s Nanny in “Eggtown”. It’s just another way to show the inter-connectedness of all the characters even if the Oceanic 815 never crashed on the Island.

The last three guest stars raise a red flag for me. Whenever the writers leave out character names, it means one of two things:

  1. The characters will be so minor they didn’t take time to give them a name.
  2. The characters will be so surprising they don’t want the name to give away the secret.

For “Courier” and “School Kid”, I’m leaning towards the first explanation. But what about “Teenage Boy”? Let’s take a look at him:


I’m guessing that in “The Substitute” we’re going to find out that things have gone quite differently in this version of John Locke’s life. Just like Hurley, who apparently has had nothing but good luck in the “LA X” Universe, John Locke is going to be the same way. Randy will be less of a jerk to him, maybe he really did go on his walkabout after all, and most importantly, he’s going to be married to Helen… with a son.

Again, if I cared more about the Off-Island action more, this would be pretty shocking. For now, it provides a stark contrast to the life of John Locke that we know from the first five seasons of the show, reminding us how absolutely crappy it was for him. Hopefully this is all building up to Locke finding the ultimate redemption on the Island, and we’ll realize that even though LA X John Locke had a better life, Oceanic 815 John Locke did something more important with his life.

Here’s hoping.

Episode Description: Locke goes in search of help to further his cause.

Episode Breakdown: Ten paltry words, but a ton of potential meaning. We have to assume that the “Locke” in question is SmokeLocke / Anti-Jacob. The last time we saw him, he told the Others that he was very disappointed in them (just like my mom right before I graduated from college!) and stormed off with Richard Alpert slung over his shoulder. Where is he heading? What is his cause? These are those big questions I was talking about earlier! Big questions that we need to have answered to understand the drive of this season’s storytelling!

The one word that jumps out at me in the episode description is “help”. We’ve seen SmokeLocke take out a handful of gun-wielding Friends of Jacob without breaking a sweat. He can turn into Smokey at will, bullets bounce off him, and he knows some semi-kung fu moves (as evidenced during his takedown of Alpert). What help does he need? Is this indicative of him building an army on the Island? Or is this “help” about going home?

The other strange wording in the description? The phrase “his cause”. If it was as simple as Anti-Jacob “going home”, that’s not really a “cause”, is it? A cause is more of a principle or movement to be supported (like charities) rather than a simple action like going somewhere. Perhaps this is the episode we learn what Anti-Jacob really wants. Is it to defend the Island? To destroy it? Or something far greater, like rubbing out humanity once and for all?

Big questions, right?

Call me a sucker, but I think this is the episode we get some of them. In a huge bounce back from last week, I’m thinking this week’s episode is going to be out of control good.

Happy Losting!


Sean said...

This episode has the potential to be epic. I really, really hope it doesn't disappoint.

Rebecca said...

I JUST realized that Randy was in Hurley & Locke's episodes...bad Lost obsessed fan, bad.

I'm giddy over this epi and hoping for some answers/things revealed too. I hope that Locke's off island life in the side flash is a happier one and he & Helen live happily ever after. The poor guy deserves a break somewhere/when.

jack said...

congrats Brian for approaching your 1 million mark. Great accomplishment indeed but no surprise to me and presumably many of the folks who have come to rely on your blog to help enhance our viewing pleasure as well as to sort through and aid in the ongoing deliberation of all things LOST.

As for the upcoming may be thrilling to learn why SmokeLocke needs or chose to use the likeness of Locke's body as a vessle as opposed to inhabiting his physical body.

Also, wasn't it touched on as to why Locke was chosen (he was the only one that, virtually from the start, desired to make the Island his home)?

Janet said...

This is off-topic (unless anything Lost is on-topic), but last week's episode showed us a very different Cindy than the one who talked to Jack through the bars of the polar bear cage on Alcatraz. It made me wonder whether Cindy skipped through time too.

We know that the primary 815-ers skipped, and that freighter people skipped, and that Juliet skipped... it seems like Cindy should have been skipping as well. Maybe Juliet wasn't a real Other, and "real" others like Cindy would have some sort of skipping protection? Or maybe the temple has some kind of anti-skipping protective bubble? Both of those answers seem kind of feeble.

Boston Jon said...

Imagine, Brian, if everyone of your million hits produced just one dollar . . . and a dollar, in my opionion, is a great deal for your quality blog. Can't thank you enough for all the years.

D-Bone said...

From the episode titled "316":

JACK: What's this?

ELOISE: It's John Locke's suicide note.

JACK: [Sighs] Uh... I, uh... I didn't know.

ELOISE: Well, why would you? Obituaries don't see fit to mention when people hang themselves, Jack.

JACK: [Sighs] Why would he kill himself?

ELOISE: Ohh... there are many reasons, I'm sure, but the only one that matters is this--he is going to help you get back. John is going to be a proxy. A substitute.

JACK: A substitute for who?

ELOISE: Jack... who do you think? You need to, as best you can, recreate the conditions of the original flight... which is why you need to give John something of your father's. You have to get something that belonged to your father, and you need to give it to John.

Thoughts on if this relates to the title of this episode?

Brian said...

Good catch. I think I blocked that portion of the episode out of my memory because the whole "recreating the flight as closely as possible" part seemed silly to me.

Seems to confirm that we're talking about John Locke here - but raises the question as to which side Eloise Hawking is on... Jacob or Anti-Jacob? She was an Other, after all. But the other Others are seemingly afraid of Anti-Jacob.

Intriguing... (or coincidence)

Lisa said...

Brian, I am a long-time reader, first-time poster but I think the substitute could have another meaning, after watching the teaser for this week's episode.

AntiLocke is seen talking with Sawyer, and trying to convince Sawyer to come with him. It reminded me of when John lied to Sawyer to get him to the Black Rock to kill Anthony Cooper. Is there something that AntiLocke can't do that he needs Sawyer to do? Makes me wonder if he is going to "con" Sawyer into getting him into the Temple...

Anonymous said...

I got 999021 on the counter!

Kelly said...

999426 on the counter... you can bet you'll hit that million mark before tonight's show! What a great way to celebrate... with a mind-blowing episode of Lost!

Congrats on your success!

P.S. Set up a paypal account to receive donations. Tons of us regular readers will gladly donate $$$$!

noemailformeadows said...

Brian - Just found your Blog last week. Eloise was brought into the mix by Christian, before he told Locke to turn the wheel. That makes me think she would be on team Anti.

Question - Just got Season 5 the other day and was rewatching some episodes. When Whidmore is talking to Locke in the Tunisian hospital he brings up the whole "you need to be back on the island before the war comes or the 'wrong side' will win"... then his skinny black employee tells Locke, after reminding him that he was the orderly that got Locke to go on the walkabout and got him to Australia/on the island in the first place, that Skinny Blacks "works for Whidmore to get people where they need to be" which sounds like the whole Jacob / Anti bringing people they need to the island for their game.

Made me think Whidmore may be on team Anti and this is why he was exiled from the island and also why he and Ben are on different teams b/c until Ben killed Jacob - he seemed to be firmly on team Jacob (now he is on no team i guess).

Hopefully this hasn't been discussed in the past, but I haven't gone back past the LAX Blog to see.

Sam said...

i think the recreation of flight 815 was necessary for all of them to flash back. slight deviations may have caused some not to flash back. this might explain why Sun didn't flash back. Something about her was different - pregnancy perhaps, although I forget when she became preggers. I think we may learn what the reason was that she didn't flash.

Ann said...

Brian- your visitor count is entirely attributed to how awesome you analyze and write about LOST. You are awesome & have enhanced the viewing of this show immensely! Congrats!

Anonymous said...

WELL... I came on here and saw 999,994 on the counter.. so I figured I'd cheat a little and refresh the page and saw this:

CONGRATULATIONS BRIAN! Ya hooked me 2 1/2 years ago and I dont think I've missed a Blog since, I'm not sure why your blog is so addicting, but I do know that you're damn good at it, and deserve this honor, CONGRATS!

Sam said...

yes, Brian analyzes the show like I analyze the show. not so/too deep like some others (Doc J), but deep enough where you have to really follow the show to understand the analysis. and with a good sense of humor.

congrats on going platinum.

Férenc Meszaros said...

Hmmm... I guess there's not just one claiming the prize...

Caro said...

I was 1 000 025

Caro said...

before I read your post, I looked at the kid' pic and really thought it looked like a young Jacob.
But it wouldn't make any sense :-P

Sam said...

I was looking at the Lost Supper pics from the promos, and in picture #1 it seems as though the characters to the left of Locke (Sawyer, Kate, Sayid & Claire) have either ditched the temple or been 'infected'. Richard & Ilana are on this side as well.

While those on the right side of the pic (Jack, Miles, Hugo) are staying with the temple people. Jin is on this side as well (is he officially AWOL on the temple or just trying to find Sun and bring her back?). Also on this side of Locke are Sun, Ben & Lapidus. I can see Sun & Lapidus getting to the temple people with JIn. Not sure about Ben.

But, maybe these will be the two sides that form in the 'war'? So far it looks like they are moving in that direction.

Could Richard actually end up on Smokey's team, and could he have been there the whole time? It makes me think to the finale last year, when Locke questioned Richard about never aging, Richard replied, "Jacob made me this way," and he didn't seem to happy about it.

i am sure that i am over-thinking this.

jack said...

I wonder when we'll get a back-story, of some sort, on Richard Albert???

Carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

AFTER REWATCHING Just the beginning I caught something I didn't before.

Helen talks to Locke about just getting her parent and "YOUR DAD" and doing a small wedding... with a smile on her face, and Locke brushes over it as if nothing she said was weird.

Which, I could only take to mean that Locke has some kind of HEALTHY relationship with his father... one that would probably include NOT Pushing Locke out of a window?

But... As far as John Locke's dad goes, Sawyer said himself, his parents died 1 year before the Hydrogen bomb went off.. meaning theres no changing that... crazy

Anonymous said...


Fake Locke's "INSIDE JOKE" Line = Absolutely Hilarious.

and pretty much reminds us he's the BLACK and Jacobs THE WHITE

Anonymous said...


Fake Locke's "INSIDE JOKE" Line = Absolutely Hilarious.

and pretty much reminds us he's the BLACK and Jacobs THE WHITE

Rocket Science Mom said...

Let me throw this in here in response to your 1 millionth hit and a wistful thought of profiting from it. Collect these analyses into a book and self publish it. I'd buy it. :)

I don't know if you started from episode one, season one, because I didn't find you then. I think I stumbled here in season three. Either way, I'd sit down with my coffee and your book and relive the thoughts as you go, ending in a huge chapter once it's all said and done where you looked at where you thought they were going and then at where they actually did.

Just a thought. :)