Lost Roundtable: “The Substitute”

Welcome to another of our weekly Lost round table discussions, this time featuring bloggers Bridget McGovern and Rajan Khanna. Theresa DeLucci is currently skipping through time.  Fair warning: spoilers abound below the fold; if you’re cool with that, please join us and chime in with your thoughts, opinions, insanely complex conspiracy theories, rants, and predictions for this final season….

Raj: After last week’s episode, this one was a welcome change. We take a break from the people in the temple (and more importantly, Kate) and get to see Silas, Sun, Ben and the others on their side of the island as well as seeing the Earth-2 Locke. But more importantly, we get some answers. We now know what the numbers mean—they correspond to the people (possibly in addition to some other meaning). And we know that Hurley, Sawyer, Jack and either Sun or Jin (or possibly both) could be Jacob’s successor. Also Locke could have been had he survived.

Speaking of Locke and not surviving, one of my favorite parts of the episode was when Ben showed remorse for killing him. He delighted in making Locke his pawn only to end up being a far bigger pawn with far greater consequences. I realize that I miss having Ben front and center. We need more of him.

I also liked Sawyer’s subtle awareness. After all he’s been through, he knows that Locke isn’t Locke, and he isn’t necessarily phased by what he might be. Sawyer, out of everyone, I think, has shown the most growth as a character and has had, for me, the most fulfilling arc. I think only Hurley has had as significant a journey, though his leadership qualities have only recently come out.

Finally, I think that I’m not convinced that I should be against Silas/Locke. Richard fears him. No one seems to trust him. But there’s something about him that I find sympathetic. I thought Jacob might have been about free will, but now it seem that Silas might be. The question now is: why is he trapped there? Who is he really? And why does Jacob think the island needs protecting? Is it a protector it needs? Or a jailor?

I’m eagerly looking forward to next week….

Bridget: I’m a little bit obsessed with the title of this episode at the moment. Clearly, it refers directly to Locke’s stint as a substitute teacher in the post-LAX reality, but when you start teasing out all of its potential definitions and applications, the word becomes completely overdetermined. I keep coming back to the idea that the concept of substitution, like so many other aspects of the show, may eventually be revealed as hugely meaningful in a way that can only be understood when all of the pieces finally fall into place, but I’m getting really tired of juggling all these variables and ambiguities with so few constants in sight. That said, “The Substitute” finally provided some forward motion in a season that has been drunkenly hopscotching sideways and backwards (not in an uninteresting way—I’ve always considered drunken hopscotch the sport of champions). But it’s the last season, and I’m jonesing for sweet, sweet answers, not more exposition.

Not only did this episode edge us closer to some ultimate explanation of the Numbers, the nature of Jacob and his Adversary, and the reason why the Losties were brought there in the first place, but it felt like it was gathering threads together in really fascinating ways. I can’t help wondering whether Locke’s suitcase full of knives connect back at all to his early interview with Richard in the fourth season episode “Cabin Fever,” in which he chooses a knife over a book of laws and seemingly fails the test. Plus, he appears to be on good terms with his father in this reality, given Helen’s comments and the photograph of father and son in his cubicle…unless he’s still being conned. The reappearance of Helen (yay, Katey Sagal!) and the interlocking encounters with Randy, Hurley, Rose, and Snarky Teacher Ben were all really gratifying.

Ben exists! Aside from opening up a whole new batch of questions and possibilities about this reality, I don’t want to consider a world bereft of Ben Linus’s deadpan bitchery. And yeah, the funeral scene was exquisite, too.

Back on the Island, pairing Smoky Locke with Sawyer was an inspired choice. Raj, I totally see what you’re saying about him—I mean, we don’t really know that he’s evil, or that Jacob is necessarily good. At the same time, I can’t help feeling that there’s something vaguely satanic about Fake Locke’s promises of answers, his attempts to win Richard over to his side by promising to fill in the blanks Jacob left empty—after all, the Tree of Knowledge was the source of the first temptation and original sin, right? I like that Sawyer, even plastered and rocking his face off to The Stooges, is still able to see through the ersatz Locke immediately (and I have to say, “Search and Destroy” was the perfect soundtrack to Sawyer’s grief/rage spiral. Somehow I don’t think Mama Cass or Petula Clark would have cut it this time). The Adversary seems intent on convincing Sawyer that he’s been conned out of his free will by Jacob, but he’s clearly got a vested interest in “recruiting” followers to the dark side; if there’s anyone on that Island steely and shrewd enough to play this crazy game out to the end, it’s the lifelong con man with nothing left to lose.

Finally, some questions: Are we all assuming that the blond kid in the jungle was a manifestation of Jacob? And why can Sawyer see him, but Richard can’t? Also, what’s the deal with the names: Locke (4), Reyes (8), Ford (15), Jarrah (16), Shephard (23), and Kwon (42)? Most of the other discernible, crossed-out names were unfamiliar (O’Toole, Mattingly, Jones, Grant, etc.), although “Goodspeed” was prominent in several shots, so clearly Horace was a candidate at some point. I wonder about Richard Alpert, Charles Widmore, and Ben Linus—whether they fit into Jacob’s plan, and how—not to mention Kate, who was touched by Jacob but seems to have been left off this particular list. Thoughts? Comments? Crackpot theories? Really, I think we can all start going to town at this point….


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