Lost Season 6 Episode 4: The Substitute
Much like the ghost of Rousseau hanging heavily over last episode’s developments, the ghost of John Locke, our John Locke, whose life we’ve been following for the past 5 seasons, hung heavily over this episode.
Okay, there was a ten-minute pause as we stared at our monitor trying to bridge that last sentence to the thoughts to follow. We’re just gonna have to break it down.
John Locke finally gets his funeral. We’ve been staring at his corpse for how many seasons now, as it awaited burial? This scene made us happy for a couple of reasons. For one, we’ve always been deeply affected by how tragic a character John has always been. As UnLocke put it a couple weeks back, an irrevocably broken man, bouncing from job to job, belief system to belief system and getting smacked down every time, until he came to the island and got shoved around a chess board because he wanted desperately to believe he had a higher purpose, and in the end he died, never understanding what it was all about. If anyone deserved a proper burial – and John would have definitely wanted to be buried on the island – it was him.
And that leads to our second reason for loving this scene. This show has always had a … relationship with death, we guess is how we’d put it, that was unusual for a network adventure drama. Not only did it always have a high body count, which gave it an “anything can happen” vibe as former main characters dropped like flies, it also had a tendency to write some fairly emotionally gripping death scenes (Charlie, Juliet, Boone, Shannon, Libby, Charlotte, Faraday, Naomi), and to follow that up with some equally emotionally gripping funeral/memorial scenes. In fact, every season has been full of both childbirth and funeral scenes, a cycle that repeats over and over. Anyway, we were pleased to see them return to this because there’s been so much death on this show that if you don’t take the time to acknowledge it, the characters come off a little cold and the deaths become a little less meaningful. Add to this that Ben Linus managed to give a eulogy that was both heartbreaking (“John Locke was … a believer… a better man than me…”) and hilarious (“I’m sorry I murdered him.”) and Frank’s pitch-perfect “Weirdest damn funeral I’ve ever been to,” and it made for a very satisfying close to our John Locke’s life.
Except, it wasn’t, because we were also shown the Locke that could have been. Except it wasn’t quite that either. This B-timeline isn’t just about what would have happened if 815 hadn’t crashed because the histories of the characters in the B timeline are shaping up to be significantly different. Here’s a Locke engaged to Helen. Here’s a Helen talking about inviting Locke’s father to their wedding. They’re only hints, but they’re hints of a significantly different John Locke. So different that he can laugh when he finds himself in a humiliating position on his front lawn; so different that he just wants to move forward from the past and look to the future he can have with Helen. So different that this is a John Locke who CAN be told what he can’t do.
As an aside — ROSE NADLER, Y’ALL! We love every scene she’s in . And like all the B-timeline meetups, they’re between characters who had significant relationships in the A timeline. On the island, Rose and Locke shared a secret, the secret of the island’s healing powers, and they both knew that the other knew it. Once again, destiny forces them to connect on a powerful level as she uses her cancer to get him to wake up to reality.
And of course, of all the relationships John Locke had on the island, none were as important (and ultimately, destructive) as the one he had with Ben Linus. If a Ben Linus existed in timeline-B, you knew he’d show up and they’d hit it off. But this kind of forces the question: WHY does a Ben Linus exist in timeline-B? If we assume that the island sunk when the bomb went off, then wouldn’t Ben be dead, as he was off getting healed with the others at the time? So okay, let’s assume that the island sunk at some point after The Incident, in this timeline. Wouldn’t that still mean that this is an “Other’d” Ben Linus teaching European History? Questions, questions.
One final thought about the B-timeline and then we’ll head on back over to the island. Hugo was another person who had a significant relationship with John Locke and whose appearance here further illustrates just how off this timeline is. A confident, self-assured, business casual Hugo is a jarring sight to see, but we were happy to see this relationship acknowledged. They established ages ago that Hugo owned the box company John worked at, so it’s nice to see the writers pick up on that and use it.
Okay, now. The island. Just as in the B-timeline, the life of John Locke was center stage and not just in the funeral scene. Along with Rose and Hugo, Sawyer always had a highly unique relationship with Locke and we JUST LOVED that he took one look at Smokey and immediately realized it wasn’t him. You can’t con a con man. Not even Ben Linus figured it out. In fact, Ben went right on believing Smokey was Locke up until Richard shoved his face in Locke’s corpse.
There’s something else that stuck out about Sawyer in this episode. He could see that blond kid running around and Smokey was surprised about that. Richard couldn’t see him. This is notable because we remembered another time Sawyer got tuned in to someone else’s vision: the time he saw Kate’s horse with her outside the hatch. Coincidence? Or does Sawyer have some sort of connection with the island that we haven’t discovered yet? And just who is that kid, anyway? We suspect he’s a version of Jacob, not least because he resembles him so much and in his first vision had blood all over him. “You know the rules. You can’t kill him,” he says to a visibly angry Smokey, who responds with an alarming “DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN’T DO!” The very John Locke mantra that the B-version was rejecting in this same episode. How much of an effect is the dead John Locke having on the being wearing his form on the island now? How much of Locke’s personality is going to come through? And who can’t he kill? Sawyer? And what does this have to do with the “rules” that prevented Ben from killing Charles Widmore?
Smokey tells Sawyer he’s trapped on the island, but “Before I was trapped I was a man just like you.” Should we believe him? Should we believe any of what he told Sawyer this episode? We’re still inclined to think of Jacob as the good guy. and Smokey as the bad guy in this scenario, but it’s hard to think of Jacob as good when he’s apparently been manipulating all the main characters their whole lives. As Smokey put it to Sawyer, “the choices you thought you made, you never really made at all.” These are almost exactly the same words Sawyer used to describe the long con to Cassidy. Smokey has to know that. He’s manipulating James into following him. As Ilana said, “He’s recruiting.”
And what are we to make of the names on the cave wall? For one, Kate is noticeably absent. There were a lot of names on that wall, but it appeared that they were all crossed off, except for the ones noted by Smokey:
Why the numbers? Because “Jacob had a thing for numbers,” according to Smokey. So the numbers we’ve been hearing about since Season 1 represent the position on the list of the remaining characters, except for Kate and one of the Kwons. Remember, Justin and Aldo, the two Others shot by Claire at the end of last episode, had an argument about killing Jin because “he might be one of them.” The Others know a Kwon is on Jacob’s list, but not which Kwon. If Jin is the “chosen” Kwon, this may explain why Sun didn’t wind up in the ’70s, although it doesn’t explain why Kate did, if she’s not a candidate. And why isn’t Kate a candidate? She was one of the ones Jacob “touched” last season.
One final tidbit and we’ll turn the floor over to you to tell us what we missed or what we’re crazy for thinking: With the exception of Hugo Reyes, the remaining names on Jacob’s list are John (since crossed out), Jack, James, Jin, and Jarrah. Discuss.