Thoughts on ‘Lost’ Episode 4: “The Substitute”

Arguably the best character in the “Lost” saga, Locke gets his first sideways-centric episode of our final season. So much happened in “The Substitute” there’s almost too much to digest. So, let’s start off-island.

As we learned in the premiere, Locke is still paralyzed in sideways land, but we soon learn, perhaps not as frustrated. This becomes apparent right away when he falls getting out of his van and the sprinklers turn on in his yard, adding insult to injury. But instead of pounding his fist and shouting “why are you doing this to me?” he smiles and with good reason because he’s getting married to Helen.

Back in season one, in the first Locke episode “Walkabout”, Helen was only a phone sex operator that Locke just talked to on the phone. In subsequent episodes, we learn Helen was real and not just a phone sex operator, they dated and Locke was going to ask Helen to marry him. But his obsession with his “I stole your kidney” father got in the way and she left him. Last season we found out Helen had died by the time Locke got off the island in 2007.

But back in sideways 2004, none of those things has happened. This world has shifted so much for him that his father may not have even abandoned him, stolen his kidney or pushed him out a window. While Locke is looking at paint samples in the tub, Helen exasperated with wedding vendors tells Locke “why don’t we just grab my parents and your dad” and get married now. So in this time line, it would appear Locke and old con man papa are close. Interesting twist.

Sideways Locke does still keep things pretty close to the vest though. He lies to his box factory boss, still Randy the jerk who figures out that Locke tried to go to his walkabout instead of a company paid for conference. Seems unlikely that a company that makes boxes would have a conference all the way in Australia. But we’re talking about a show with smoke monsters, time travel and sideways worlds, so I’ll digress. Anyway, Randy fires Locke for duping the company and to top John’s bad day off someone parked too close to his van for him to get in it with his personal belongings. But our Losties are still destined to cross paths even in our sideways world and it turns out the lovable Hugo Reyes aka Hurley is the owner of the truck and the box company. Something Hurley briefly mentioned in the season one episode “Numbers” as I recall.

Locke also meets up with Rose. She works as the manager of an employment agency which Hurley also owns and sent Locke to find a new job. Locke, as always doesn’t want to be told what he “can’t do”, but Rose, still dying of cancer, tells him to deal with the life he has been given. Something Locke has never been able to deal with. This scene seemed to echo the ending of “Walkabout” in season one where the program director tells Locke he can’t come because of his condition just how Rose tells Locke he can’t work at a construction site. Later, Locke contemplates calling Dr. Jack Shephard to perhaps make him walk again, but ends up tearing apart his card instead.

Our last flash sideways with Locke features the wheelchair bound man doing what our episode title references “substituting” at his old high school. Could it also be indicating what Jacob wants his candidates to do on the island? Substitute for him once he’s gone? But I’m getting ahead of myself, more on that in a minute. Guess who’s teaching European history and hates when other teachers don’t throw out the old coffee grounds? Benjamin Linus.

This is just another indication that the Others were never formed on the island. Just like Ethan Goodspeed in last week’s episode, Ben seems to be alive but not his evil self. So, as a big fan, I’m interested to see how these sideways flashes will intertwine with our current time in 2007. But, I’m guessing casual fans may be getting a bit confused/frustrated as to what meaning these have. Many things seem better for our Lost crew (especially the Others, who are now doctors, teachers rather than baby thieves and murderers living in an island kibbutz) while some stuff remains painful. Locke is still paralyzed, Kate’s still on the run, Jack still lost his dad, Rose still has cancer, Randy’s still a “douche”. My advice to casual fans is stick it out, I’m confident these two time lines will collide.

Whew…now to on-island antics.

Smokie-vision. We got a first person look at how the monster roams around the island and stopped at Sawyer’s house before going back to ask a tied up Richard if he would come with him. Smokie Locke or Smocke tells Richard that’s “what he’s always wanted” for Richard to come with him. Richard says no and is allowed to leave. But later turns up to advise Sawyer to NOT go with Smocke. Advice Sawyer does not heed.

Not a ton happened on the island in this episode, most of it was Smocke and Sawyer’s journey to Jacob’s makeshift home in a cave near the ocean. But it was very important to listen to what the characters were saying. A lot of interesting tidbits there.

For instance,

1. Smocke tells Sawyer “I was once a man like you.” Really? How does a man become a smoke monster? Cursed by God? Jacob?

2. The phantom boy Smocke sees, Richard can’t but Sawyer does…a young Jacob perhaps?…tells Smocke “you know the rules, you can’t kill any of them.” This sounds similar to what one of the Others said last week about Jin. Has Jacob instructed everyone not to harm any of the chosen ones?

3. When Sawyer asks Smocke if he’s read “Of Mice and Men”, Smocke says “that’s a little after my time.” Not surprisingly smokie has been around a while.

When Sawyer and Smocke finally reach Jacob’s seaside estate, we find a scale with one white rock and one dark. Smocke whips the white one into the ocean signifying Jacob’s death and telling Sawyer it was an inside joke.

Then he shows Sawyer the “writing on the wall” as it were. A phrase that often means very bad things are on the way and has its origins from the book of Daniel in the bible where supernatural writing foretells the demise of the Babylonian Empire.

The scrawl features many names you can’t see and six that are specifically pointed out by Smocke all with a number next to them.

Locke 4

Hurley 8

Sawyer 15

Sayid 16

Jack 23

Kwon, Sun or Jin 42

Those are all apparently Jacob’s candidates to take over as caretaker of the island. Something Smocke says no one actually needs to do.

Jacob touched all of those people in last season’s finale, but what about Kate? The only one he touched that was not on the list. Did he decide that she’s not actually a candidate? Or is she really the real candidate? And I guessing that’s the last example of the numbers were going to get, a bit disappointing but I would consider that mystery “solved”.

I’ve got to get going, so a few final quick hits…

Interesting that Llana takes some of Jacob’s ashes. A chance for reincarnation perhaps?

And I must once again pose the question who is good and who is evil? I feel like the producers initially tried to portray smokie as the bad guy and are now trying to make it seem like Jacob is really the puppet master. But will the rug get pulled out from under us by season/series end?

I’m sure I missed something…What did you see? Do you love/hate sideways world? And since Locke’s dad isn’t a con man, I guess that means Sawyer is not a con man and still has mom and dad.

Until next week…

posted by Seth Szilagyi in Lost and have Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Thoughts on ‘Lost’ Episode 4: “The Substitute””

  1. Janice says:

    wow, great summary! I love the “Smocke” references very funny! I also agree this will be the end of the numbers story line, which is a little disappointing since those numbers were on everything from the lottery ticket…to the hatch…but I guess the producers can’t explain every last detail. I guess my only observation….that you didn’t note was jacob’s ashes..possibly being used…to keep the smoke monster at bay, since some sort of ash was used previously.

  2. Sera says:

    Janice.. good observation about the ashes and keeping the smoke monster at bay.
    I am guessing that eventually everyone will meet up at the temple since that “appears” to be the place where everyone goes to be safe. Will there be a battle at the temple with good versus evil??
    I also liked how Hurley is much more confident in the sideways world. Patch says he does not seem like a misfit.
    Once again, your observations are remarkable and go way beyond anything that I would ever catch on the show.

  3. Seth Szilagyi says:

    Thank you both for your comments. It appears this week’s episode is a Jack flash sideways. Should be fun. I expect to be writing quite a bit come Tuesday night/Wednesday morning.

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