This is the episode we've all been waiting for, made all the more satisfying after last week's less than compelling action. Although there weren't a ton of new answers or major action, it just reaffirmed my comments from last week - we don't need a ton of reveals as long as the plot progresses, and that's exactly what the On-Island story did. The overall Season Six storyline is gaining some traction, moving in a direction, just like I was hoping. "The Substitute" was a solid episode that laid the foundation for some even more awesome episodes to come.
So what do discuss?
THE NUMBERS. Remember how the Lost ARG taught us the the 4-8-15-16-23-42 Numbers represented the variables in the Valenzetti Equation, which predicted the end of the world? Well apparently they also represented the characters who are "candidates" to protect the Island. As SmokeLocke put it, "Jacob had a thing for numbers."
4 - Locke
8 - Reyes
15 - Ford
16 - Jarrah
23 - Shephard
42 - Kwon
The first thing that jumps out at me? Kate is missing. We saw that Jacob touched Kate in her youth, yet she isn't on the list of candidates. Has Jacob already eliminated her for some reason? Does this portend Kate's impending death on the Island? Out of all the characters, she's the only one who has an alternate purpose on the Island right now (finding Claire), so I guess it's possible Jacob brought her back to allow her to carry out that purpose - yet it's still pretty interesting that her name wasn't even shown anywhere in the cave that I could see (although I did see some other pretty humorous names - like Troup, author of "Bad Twin").
The Candidates. So who are these candidates? Well, according to SmokeLocke, Jacob brought these people to the Island as replacements for him - people who could "protect the Island". For one, this seems to indicate that Jacob, although he seemed to have spent many, MANY years on the Island, knew that he wouldn't be there forever. It also kinda throws a wrench in my "Jacob's Loop" theories, as well as the ones that involve Jacob and Anti-Jacob being gods. Instead, they seem to be people who gained eternal life on the Island (or something). Heck, even SmokeLocke said that he read books - but that "Of Mice and Men" was "after his time", meaning at one point he might have been a regular person brought to the Island as well, and wasn't just born from a SmokeMom and SmokeDad.
Here's where things get a little tricky. Do we take what SmokeLocke told Sawyer at face value, or do we assume that he is manipulating him to help him get off the Island? If we believe him, he's spent a really long time on the Island listening to Jacob blabber on about needing to protect it, but has never seen anything needing protecting. This makes Jacob's lists and candidates a "waste of time" - and the lives of those candidates, brought to the Island. To SmokeLocke, "it's just an Island" and "it doesn't need protecting".
Of course this is setting the stage for the forthcoming "War for the Island", which either SmokeLocke doesn't see coming (and it's going to be a super ironic for him), or he knows perfectly well what's about to happen - and he doesn't care. He just wants to get off the Island, and could care less what happens to it.
A lot of this stuff ties back to some of my earlier theories about Jacob and Anti-Jacob both being on the same side, but using different methods. Jacob pulled strings and pushed people to get them to the Island. He took the proactive approach of seeking people out. Anti-Jacob feels that this is a foolish endeavor - and even if at one point he loved the Island as much as Jacob, he's grown tired of it, and just wants to be done with it.
Based on Locke's death (and burial) on the Island, he's crossed off the list, leaving only four other candidates to become the "New Jacob". Smart money has to be on Jack Shephard stepping into those shoes, which would potentially give us the Locke vs. Jack showdown that has been hinted at since the show began. But we'll analyze this more in our full analysis.
SmokeLocke. For one, how freaking cool was it to see things from the perspective of SmokeLocke, soaring around on the Island, spying on people, and then settling into John Locke form when he wanted to do something? I liked that a lot. I also found it interesting that Ilana said that he is now "stuck" in John Locke form - that he can't shapeshift into some other being. Why? How? No idea - but it's curious that for the past five seasons, we've assumed that Smokey could take the appearance of anyone and anything (Christian Shephard, Yemi, Kate's Black Horse, Alex) - but perhaps there are some "rules" around this, and he's not so all-powerful after all.
The good news is, this makes life far less confusing, since we don't have to worry about any other Fake Characters running around on the Island confusing us, the viewers.
Ilana and Alpert. The other weird thing about this episode is that Ilana seems to know a whole lot more than Alpert. She collected Jacob's ash (which will undoubtedly come into play later), knew about SmokeLocke's form, and details about Sun and Jin / the Temple, which indicate that she knows exactly what's going on. SmokeLocke's speech with Alpert almost made him appear less important on the Island, and more of a helper monkey to Jacob rather than a second in command who knows the master plan. SmokeLocke almost felt pity for Alpert on finding out how little he actually knows. Now perhaps Alpert is playing dumb to protect himself / the Others / the Island, but all I know is that a sit down conversation between Ilana and Alpert would probably answer all our questions about the Island in about 3 minutes. Make that happen, Lost writers!
Creepy Bloody Kid. So... that was Jacob in a childhood form on the Island? He spoke to SmokeLocke about not being allowed to kill Sawyer and "the rules", which pretty much confirms it, right? Does this mean Jacob just gets reborn on the Island after he dies and quickly ages back to adult form? Or was that the form that Jacob had when he first arrived on the Island, when Anti-Jacob first met him? It's interesting that Alpert didn't see him, but Sawyer did - is this because Sawyer is a candidate and Alpert is not? Is it a hallucination like Hurley sees on the Island? Does this somehow tie into all the other weird images that characters have seen on the Island over the years?
No good answers to this one yet. But we'll get there.
Is everyone else much more excited about Lost now than they were a week ago? Amazing what one week can do!