"The Substitute" Review
HONEY, I’M HOME
We begin with Alternative Time Line (ATL) Locke. He’s pulled into the driveway of a nice suburban home in his minivan. As he’s leaving his van he has trouble with the lift that takes his wheelchair from van to ground. He’s not quite at ground level, so he tries to jump it. Unfortunately, it appears that ATL Locke hasn’t been participating in those games and competitions for people with handicaps and he wipes out, big time. Cue sprinklers. LA X Locke is all wet. But don’t dispair, Helen comes out and helps him regain his dignity.
And as we watch Locke bathe, we learn that they are engaged. Helen finds Jack’s card, asks who he is. Locke explains that he’s a spinal surgeon, "met him at lost luggage. He lost something, too." Helen tells Locke to call the doc. "Maybe it’s destiny." Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m really glad to see Helen is with John in the ATL. All John has really ever wanted was to be loved and Helen loves him. Really loves him.
YOU CAN FLY, YOU CAN FLY, YOU CAN FLY
Back to the island and the Main Time Line, the smoke monster is on the move. This is pretty damned cool. We get the perspective of Smokey as he zooms around the island. I don’t recall this ever happening before. While Jacob could apparently leave the island, the dark man could turn into smokey and fly. We zip around the island from Smokey Smoke’s perspective, jumping from island setting to setting, white flashes marking each transition, all the while making the usual mechanical grinding noises. Smokey stays on the grind! Smokey stops to pick up a machete. Now it’s turned into Smokey Locke. He cuts down something tied up in a tree. It’s Richard Alpert. "Time to talk," says Smokey Locke.
WORKIN’ 9 TO 5
Back to ATL Locke. He’s rolling off the elevator and getting to work. He gets welcomed back by his asshole boss Randy. Randy plays games with John over his trip to Australia. Locke makes excuses, but the guy is stringing him along, he already checked and knows Locke didn’t go. Locke says it was personal, asks if it can be counted as a vacation week, pleads a bit and so on I’m embarrassed for John. Nothing worse than a boss that gets wood from making his subordinates grovel. Randy fires him. Let’s all pray that Randy gets Erectile Dysfunction that isn’t cured by the little blue pill.
ASHES TO ASHES
ATL! Smokey Locke apologizes to Richard. Richard looks like he was in that bag with a dozen wildcats. He looks bad. Richard wants to know what Smokey Locke wants, and why he looks like Locke. He wants Richard to come with him, and he knew the Locke look could get him access to Jacob, because "John’s a candidate. Or at least he was a candidate." Richard doesn’t get it. "Didn’t Jacob tell you any of this?" Richard is clueless. Smokey Lock tries a bit of the ol’ triangulation to paint himself as more trustworthy than Jacob, again asks Richard to come with him. Richard is not going for the hustle.
On the beach, inside the foot statue, Ilana asks Ben what happened, you know, with Locke and all. Ben tells her that John Locke turned into a pillar of black smoke and killed everyone. She asks if the pillar of black smoke killed Jacob, too. "Uh, yeah playa, you right," lies Ben. She asks why his body isn’t there. Is this Law & Order? Ben explains that Locke kicked Jacob into the fire. Ilana takes some ashes out of the fire pit and puts them in a bag. Ben continues to stare with Bette Davis eyes. Ben asks why "Locke" took Richard into the jungle. "He’s recruiting," says Ilana. It’s like The Stand, only more drawn out. Think if it took this long to meet Randall Flagg. I’m now a little worried that I’ve committed 6 years to this program and it’s just a rehash of The Stand.
At the barracks, Smokey Locke follows the sound of loud music to find Sawyer drinking whiskey in his underwear. Serves you right for popping in unannounced, Smokey. Sawyer takes a good, long, drunken look at him. "I thought you were dead."
Sawyer pours a second glass of Dharma whiskey for his visitor. "Here’s to being dead," says Sawyer. Smokey remarks that Sawyer’s taking the appearance of a dead man rather well. "I don’t give a damn if you’re dead, or time traveling or the Ghost of Christmas Past. All I care about is this whiskey. So bottoms up, and get the hell out of my house."
Smokey Locke disputes Sawyer’s ownership of the house. "Who are you?" asks Sawyer. "Cause you sure as hell ain’t John Locke." Sawyer astutely points out that John was always scared, even when he didn’t act scared. But Smokey Locke ain’t never scared. Hum. Seems Sawyer has been paying a lot more attention that he let in all the previous seasons.
Then things pick up a bit. "What if I told you I was the person who could answer the most important question in the world?" What’s that? "Why you’re here." Sawyer explains that his plane crashed, etc. "That’s not why you’re here," says Smokey Ls. "And if you come with me, I can prove it."
"Well, I guess I better put some pants on."
Back in ATL, Locke, his meager belonging on his lap as he leaves his office is having yet another problem with his chair lift. This time, a yellow Hummer is blocking it. Because John is refusing to accept his paralysis he didn’t park in the handicapped space and he can’t access his chair lift. Locke hits the monstrous car with his hand, a car alarm sounds and the driver shows up. It’s Hurley! It’s Hugo!
Locke lays into him for parking poorly. Turns out Hugo owns the company. He offers to talk to "huge douche" Randy and get his job back, but Locke declines. So he sets Locke up with a temp agency he also owns. They’ll hook him up with a new job, pronto. Great. Hurley seems pretty powerful in this ATL world, and he seems to be a helluva lot happier. Perhaps wiser than he’s letting on. Wonder what’s up with that.
WHO’S THE KID?
On the island and MTL, Ilana gets her crew together on the beach and makes plans to hit the Temple. She tells Sun that Jin will be at the Temple. Sun insists that they have to bury Locke.
Out in the jungle, Smokey Locke asks Sawyer where his friends are. He tells him they’re at the Temple. Smokey presses some more, but Sawyer doesn’t want to talk. He just wants to get those sweet answers. The boy appears in the woods again. Sawyer asks who the hell it is, which shocks the usually cool Smokey, who didn’t think Sawyer could see the kid. Smokey Locke runs through the jungle to catch the boy. He trips on a vine. And guess who’s looking down at him.
The boy says, "You know the rules. You can’t kill him." Smokey Locke yells at the boy about not telling him what he can’t do, but the boy just nods his head "No" and bounces. Smokey yells some more. He’s not looking all that powerful in this scene. And, it appears that the real John Locke’s personality has surfaced in this unsettling encounter.
Meanwhile, as Sawyer yells for Locke even though he knows it’s not Locke, a frantic Richard Alpert appears. He tells Sawyer to hustle it up and get back to the Temple. He explains that Smokey Locke isn’t John Locke, and that Smokey Locke wants everyone dead. Then Richard hears Smokey returning and runs away. Smokey Locke wants to know who Sawyer was talking to and he says no one. Sawyer asks about the kid, but Smokey Locke says, "What kid?" Right, says Sawyer. Back to the walk.
ARE YOU A PEOPLE PERSON?
Back in ATL, John Locke struggles through an odd interview at the temp agency. He doesn’t like the weird psych-profiling questions from the woman who looks like she should be teaching at Hogwarts, so he asks to see the interviewer’s supervisor. She obliges. The supervisor is Rose! Locke wants to cut the crap, so to speak, and Rose is happy to help, metaphorically speaking.
Locke points out a construction job on the vacancies available. Rose politely tries to talk him out of it, but Locke is getting that walkabout attitude. Rose asks him to be more realistic, and Locke gets snippy: "What do you know about realistic?" Funny you should ask, son. Rose tells him that she has terminal cancer, she was in denial about it before, then she got over it. Get over it, John Locke. He gets over it a little. Now let’s get you a job that someone in a wheelchair can do, John Locke. He acquiesces.
OF MICE AND MEN
Smokey Locke and Sawyer continue their joyless journey through the jungle in MTL. Sawyer starts talking about how he likes Steinbeck, particularly Of Mice And Men. Know that one, Locke? "Nope, a little after my time," says Smokey Locke. Smokey Locke is so old, he owes Jesus a food stamp.
Apparently Sawyer is fixated on making an Of Mice And Men reference, even though Smokey Locke has not read the book, in order to make the buildup to Sawyer pulling a gun more literary. Smokey isn’t fazed, of course. He lays down his pimp talk on Sawyer. "What I am is trapped. But before I was trapped, I was a man, James. Just like you." He lays it down strong. "You’re so close, James. it would be such a shame to turn back now." Is this Lost, or Love And Death On Long Island?
Back by the beach, Ilana and the gang carry Locke’s body to his fresh grave which is where Boone and his sister and everyone else is burried. Ilana says she brought Locke to the beach so that everyone would know who they were up against. But couldn’t he change again, asks Ben? Ilana lets us in on something significant: Smokey Locke can’t change his appearance again. "He’s stuck this way," she says. Interesting.
Who’s going to say something about this guy? Anyone? Ben steps up. "John Locke was a…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." Ilana and Sun make pants-crapping faces.
Frank Lapidus says, "That’s the weirdest damn funeral I’ve ever been to." Then he starts to shovel dirt over Locke. Magic dirt?
ATL Locke’s alarm clock goes off. It sounds a lot like the hatch. He gives Dr. Jack Shephard a call, but then Helen walks in and he changes his mind, hanging up on the receptionist. Helen asks who it was, and Locke admits it was Jack after some prodding. But he’s not going to go, he says. What’s the drill, asks Helen. Locke tells her about getting fired.
BRRRRING! Special delivery! It’s that lost luggage that Locke lost. Locke confesses that he lied, he didn’t go to the conference in Sydney. He tells her to open the case, which she does, and it’s a little freaky to open a suitcase and see a bunch of knives out of context, so I’m not sure why he took that approach. He then provides the context, tells her how he tried to go on a walkabout, but Australians are huge haters. He tells her about the yelling scene. He says he’ll see doctors if she wants him to, but that there’s no point, there are no miracles. Man of grumpy cynicism!
Helen says that’s cool, the only thing she was ever waiting for was Locke. And she tears up Jack’s card.
WE’RE ALMOST THERE
Now it’s time for Smokey Locke and Sawyer to climb down a cliff. Sawyer says there’s no way he’s climbing down first. Climb down second? Okay! Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Cliffhanger as Sawyer stumbles, Sawyer falls, Smokey Locke helps him and finally they get down to an interesting little hideout, a hole in the cliff.
The hideout features a scale with a black rock and white rock, balancing each other. Smokey takes the white rock and skips it across the water. Inside joke, he says. Sawyer wants to know if he’s here to see this crappy room with rocks and crap. Smokey takes him to the other room. "That’s why you’re here," says Smokey Smoke, gesturing upwards with a torch. "That, James, is why you’re all here!" The torch reveals a ceiling covered with words, ostensibly names, mostly crossed out. We see a couple of familiar names, like Jarrah, and numbers, like 16. I wouldn’t qualify this as a full-on answer to the question of why they’re all here, but Sawyer seems impressed. I’m wondering if the numbers by the Survivors names all coincide with Hurley’s numbers. I’m gonna have to watch this scene again.
ATL again, where Locke has found a suitable job as a substitute teacher. He yells at kids in gym, he yells at kids in class. He’s the perfect substitute teacher. He rolls into the teacher’s lounge at lunch, where a familiar voice is chiding the room for improper coffee preparation. He turns to Locke.
"I don’t believe we’ve met," he says. "Ben Linus, European History."
THE ANSWER – SORT OF
Back to the cave! Sawyer asks who wrote all of this. Smokey says Jacob. Sawyer asks why all the names are crossed out. "They’re not all crossed out."
We see one such name: 23 – SHEPHARD. There’s a flashback of Jacob giving Jack the Apollo Bar. Next up, 8 – REYES. "That’s Hugo, right?" Right, Sawyer. "What’s the 8 about?"
"Jacob had a thing for numbers," says Smokey Locke. Really? That’s all we get?
"16 – JARRAH. 42 – KWON. I don’t know if it’s Sun or if it’s Jin. Here: 4 – LOCKE. I think we both know him. Last but not least, number 15 – FORD. That would be you."
"Why would he write my name on this wall? I never even met the guy."
"Oh, no. I’m sure you did meet Jacob. At some point in your life, James, probably when you were young, when you were miserable and vulnerable, he came to you, manipulated you. Pulled your strings like you were a puppet. And as a result, choices that you thought you made were never really choices at all. He was pushing you, James. Pushing you to the island."
"Why the hell would he do that?"
"Because you’re a candidate."
"Candidate for what?"
"He thought he was the protector of this place. And you, James, have been nominated to take over that job."
"What does that mean?"
"It means you’ve got three choices. First, you can do nothing, and see how this all plays out. And possibly, your name will get crossed out. Second option, you can accept the job, become the new Jacob, and protect the island."
"Protect it from what?"
"From nothing, James. That’s the joke. There’s nothing to protect it from. It’s just a damned island. And it will be perfectly fine without Jacob, or you, or any of the other people whose lives he wasted."
"You said there were three choices."
"The third choice, James, is that we just go. We just get the hell off this island. And we never look back."
"And how do we do that?"
This gives Sawyer pause.
"So what do you say, James? Are you ready to go home?"
Sawyer considers for another moment. Squints his eyes and says, "Hell, yes."
This episode put some interesting people together: Sawyer and Smokey; ATL Locke and Helen; ATL Locke, Ben and Hurley. But to what end? Methinks we’re still getting the runaround when it comes to who and what is really important and how this is all going to tie together neatly. And I really hope I am wrong that this is simply a rehash of The Stand.