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'Lost' - 'The Substitute' Recap

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 17th 2010 8:05AM
'Lost' - 'The Substitute'
The numbers! The numbers!

Lindelof and Cuse have been teasing us for a while now that they might not reveal the significance of the numbers. Without doing so directly, I think they gave us something huge connected to them tonight. Finally, after a lackluster episode last week we're getting some information we can sink our teeth into. Locke-centric episodes always seem to be good for that.

The character connections in the flash-sideways reality were really coming at us hard and heavy tonight, with appearances by several favorites as we discovered how John's life could have been. It would appear that some things have definitely gone better for our paralyzed friend, while in some other respects he's the same sad sack John Locke we came to know and love over the past five seasons.

Locke was still on the flight because he tried to go on that walkabout, and got rejected. This time though, he had a fiance to come home to. Katey Sagal was back as Helen. In the Alpha-verse, Helen left Locke when he again want back to get screwed over by his father some more. Now, not only are they together and getting married, when Helen talked about their wedding, she suggested they do it shotgun style with just her parents and Locke's father. Does this mean they truly made amends in the Beta-verse? Considering Helen and Locke met after the first time Locke's dad screwed him out of a kidney, you have to assume that event still happened; though I guess it is possible they met under different circumstances.

Locke went back to work, where Randy was still a douche, but probably justified in firing him. The Australian trip was expensed to the company for a seminar which he didn't attend. It also looks like Beta-Locke didn't tell Randy about the trip at all before he went on it, while Alpha-Locke was planning it for awhile and even got teased about his plans by Randy. More little differences for us to ponder.

Nevertheless, an 815-Crossing helped Locke out. A chance encounter revealed that Hugo owns the company Locke just got fired from. The question of how Hugo Reyes could have possibly gotten out of his Hummer when it was parked so close to Locke's car did come up at my house, but there's always the possibility he had a driver.

Hugo sent Locke to a temp agency he also owns, which led directly to 815-Crossing #2: Rose. Beta-Rose is just as sweet and kind as her Alpha counterpart, but sadly is also saddled with the terminal cancer that the sunken island cured in the Alpha-verse. She hooked Locke up with a substitute teaching position, where he actually managed to look somewhat happy. There he met and shared another one of those oddly "knowing" glances with Benjamin Linus, a European History teacher. Somehow, the thought of Ben being a crotchety high school teacher without the influence of the island makes perfect sense to me.

After getting fired, Locke came clean to Helen about the walkabout and losing his job, and told her he didn't want her waiting for some miracle. He was tired of living as if he was expecting to walk again soon, because it isn't going to happen. Helen assured him that she loves him for who he is, and tears up Jack's card as proof.

When Ben told Ilana Locke killed the men in the Temple, she assumed Locke killed Jacob, too, and Ben's not one to miss an opportunity like that. Of course he agreed. She also offered up a little bit of information about the Man-in-Black-Locke. With no explanation of how she could know this, she insisted that he is now stuck in Locke's form, which means he can't take on the shape of other dead people, as he's been known to do, though the smoke monster form is still good to go.

She took a bit of Jacob's ashes with her before leaving the Temple, which should come in handy later, either to resurrect him or, if he is inside Sayid, to somehow manifest him there, perhaps (it could be related to the ashes Dogen blew on Sayid to diagnose him last week)? At the worst, she could sprinkle his ashes into the sea, or blow them into MiB-Locke's eyes if she needs to make a quick getaway sometime later.

MiB-Locke is on a recruiting drive, or so Ilana says, though for what purpose we're still not sure. Locke first tried to recruit Richard with promises of answers about the island, but when Richard refused he found a more willing recruit in Sawyer, as well as the location of the other survivors.

In his encounters with both men, Locke saw a young blonde boy in a brown vest and yellow shirt. With Richard, the boy had blood down his arms, but they were clean when he and Sawyer saw him. When Locke discovered Sawyer could see the boy as well, he gave chase, and for his troubles received admonishment. "You know the rules," the boy told him. "You can't kill him." This would seem to be indicating those rules between Jacob and the Man in Black, so is this boy an island manifestation of Jacob (same blonde hair) or something else entirely? Perhaps the Man in Black himself, and the blood is symbolic of Jacob's blood on his hands.

In a brief encounter, while Locke was chasing the boy, Richard tried to warn Sawyer away, telling him that Locke wanted him dead and everyone he cared about dead. "He won't stop--" Richard started to say, before dashing off when Locke returned. Seeing Richard battered and completely out of sorts isn't something I'm completely comfortable with, though with Jacob dead and Locke running about, it's understandable. It is indicative of the disarray on the island, and why everyone is seeking sanctuary at the Temple.

The biggest revelation came in the cliff cave that Locke took Sawyer to. In it, he showed a ceiling and wall full of names, corresponding to numbers. Most are crossed out by this time, indicating their deaths, but a few remain. And those few numbers are very familiar, even if Locke doesn't offer any explanations as to their significance here. The names, with their corresponding numbers, are:

4 - Locke (John)
8 - Reyes (Hurley)
15 - Ford (Sawyer)
16 - Jarrah (Sayid)
23 - Shephard (Jack)
42 - Kwon (Sun or Jin -- we don't know)

Jacob wrote the names, according to Locke. All those chance encounters the passengers of Flight 815 had in their pasts with Jacob were Jacob's way of manipulating events here and there to lead them all to the island. He was recruiting them to potentially replace him as guardians of the island, which according to Locke is unnecessary anyway. There's nothing to protect the island from, he said, but considering he's Jacob's mortal enemy for who knows how long, I'll take that with a pillar of salt.

He advised Sawyer that the recruits had three options:

1) Do nothing and see how things play out; with the risk of having their names crossed out
2) Take the job as the island'sprotector
3) Leave the island and never come back

Sawyer asked how they can accomplish the latter, which Locke answered simply. "Together." When asked if he's ready to go home, Sawyer answered, "Hell yes." I'm not sure why Sawyer is going along on this ride. I know he's emotionally distraught, and possibly still a little buzzed, but he knows this isn't the real Locke, and he got most of Richard's warning.

Sawyer is not a trusting guy by nature. He was wary enough to almost kill Locke Of Mice and Men style, but didn't. I suspect he's either gambling that Locke can get him out, because he has nothing else to lose, or he's just working this angle to get more information before he makes his move. He is a con-man, after all.

Jacob's manipulation of past events in the Alpha-verse throws into light the passenger list of Flight 815 in the Beta-verse. Even with the island sunk, the majority of the original passengers were still on that flight, with the exception of Shannon, and addition of Desmond that we know of so far.

If the Beta-verse doesn't have an island, then wouldn't it stand to reason that it doesn't have Jacob pushing these passengers onto that flight so they can crash on the island? Which means that either they got on of their own coincidental free will, or Jacob (or some other force) still needed them to share that flight for some reason. Perhaps it is Jacob, or something like him, reconnecting them to try and save the island in the Beta-verse. Maybe the Alpha and Beta realities are fractured, or incomplete, and they must be united or they'll both be destroyed.

It is interesting that MiB-Locke uttered Alpha-Locke's catch-phrase to the boy: "Don't tell me what I can't do." At the same time, Beta-Locke abandons that philosophy after the plane flight, and begins to learn to embrace and accept himself for who he is now; a lesson he learned from Rose's revelation about her own limitations in life. There's no reason for the Man in Black to utter that mantra twice, and so vehemently. Is there an aspect of Alpha-Locke within him somehow? Did it find its way to MiB-Locke when Beta-Locke abandoned it (yeah, that's probably a bit much).

In closing, I'd like to quote the very moving and touching eulogy Benjamin Linus gave over Alpha-Locke's hurriedly dug grave. "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."

"This is the weirdest damned funeral I've ever been to," Frank replied. Amen brothers. Amen.


---"I think the cumulative effect of not truly understanding many characters' motivations is starting to wear on me a bit." [Chicago Tribune]

---"...and then to a cave with familiar names scrawled on the ceiling, each with a familiar number beside it. That's classic Lost right there-not just the answers that aren't really answers, but that sense of being led by torchlight to the kind of secret room that all the best stories contain." [The A.V. Club]

---"For some time now, I've been claiming Ben has always essentially been a good guy, and now I feel vindicated." [Mania]

---"If numbers can accurately predict the path of a comet or the proper combination of atoms to form basic building blocks of human life, why can't they predict the kind of people that can advance humanity to the next stage?" [Zap2It]

---"If John Locke Version 1.0 was searching for answers, John Locke 2.0 (in the flash sideways) seems content with what he's found, while the Man in Black has all of the answers but seems unable to accomplish his goals." [Cultural Learnings]

[Watch clips and full episodes of 'Lost' over at SlashControl.]

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Otaku Castle

one of the best series ever! breath-taking and a very intelligent one. good thing i listened to my friend when he said i need to watch it. no regrets in doing so.

May 18 2012 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ho, and for the theories of the blond kid being Aaron - i think you're right. i mean, he is essential to the island's mythology, right? And the whole growing up fast part? Well, the last special kid (WALT) grew up faster than the 40-something days he spent on the island, especially after being taken by the others. what if the kids on the island grow up faster or something? I mean, they'd have to factor that in when building the structure of the show...

February 22 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Okay, Kate was never on any real list. Ben made a list designed to save his life. Kate was nothing more than a pawn to manipulate Jack. And guess what she's been doing on the island for the best five seasons? She's a pawn to help the others, but never herself. To take Aaron, or help Jack's new crazy plan, or calm down Sawyer or whatever. not everyone who were brought were candidates, and not everyone who were on the plane were on Jacob's list initially. He probably added them later, since the number are obviously not chronological (just look for Dharam folks and U.S. Military names at places that are like 100+). By the way, the Kwon has to be Jin. last episode, Justin said "they're on Jacob's list" and Aldo replied "you don't know both of them are" or something like that. Well, kate isn't on the list, so...

Plus, Fake-Locke is sooo lying. Jacob said before he died "They're coming". And Wildmore did tell Locke last season that a war is about to take place on the island. so...

February 22 2010 at 2:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mike: I actually think I understand what you are saying. Good job!

Nico: Ok, I understand you too. Now that you've spouted off, why don't you just go away and let those of us who enjoy the show do so.

February 22 2010 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

And BTW, Mike, I LOVE your explanations. I think they have been the best so far to help understand what is going on. Even though I love this show to death, I have to admit I still get pretty confused and could never come up with this stuff on my own. THANK YOU!

February 19 2010 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

To those of you saying this season sucks and that they are not answering questions like they said they would -- don't forget that the season JUST STARTED... obviously they are not going to answer all questions right off the bat, what would be left to watch?? I'm amazed that you would put what you have into watching the show thus far just to so quickly dismiss the fact that the writers WILL TAKE US THERE. Have a little faith. This is the best damn show ever.

February 19 2010 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to aryn's comment
nico toscani

aryn, I respectfully have to disagree with you. The tag-line for this season is "no more questions". Yet three episodes in and not only have they not explained ANYTHING, they have in fact raised EVEN MORE QUESTIONS. So I guess I'm supposed to sit back and wait for the final episode where they will rush through all the Island's mysteries, right? WRONG! What will instead happen is most of the questions will simply NEVER be answered or be answered so ambiguously nobody will understand them anyway. I mean, the whole "beta universe" thing is just a rip off of Donnie Darko and is totally being driven by cast availability. How convenient that Maggie Grace's character decided no to come back with her brother in this alternate reality since Grace wouldn't come back to do the show (not to mention the fact the brother's character was only in it for 2 minutes, despite being critical in Locke's story because he's in that vampire show on the CW). It is OBVIOUS to anybody who is looking at this show with a truly critical eye that the writers have been yanking our chains.

February 19 2010 at 5:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


First of, promotional lines are choises taken by the studio and network, not the writers. So when ABC says of each episode "time for questions are over", they are doing so because they believe they can best publish the show this way, not the writers!

Second, Damon and Cuse promised things that happened in the beginning will make sense. They gave Adam & Eve (the corpses in the caves) as example, but think of other events.

And you're only three episodes in! What did you expect? to get everything off the bat and spend the last episodes in the dark? they've spent years building up to something and you're saying "well, stop building the end, just give it away". If they've done that - no one will be pleased, and more people would be complaining.

And about the cast availibility - you're right. But to say its' a driving force in the storyline would be wrong. its' a minor factor, which slowly they overcome. Harlod (Michael) said "no" to coming back for the season 3 finale, so they didn't reveal he was on the frighter than, only in season 4 when he became available. In future episodes, you will see Shannon back, and Libby, and Juliet and lots more. Shannon not being on the plane may be affected by Maggie Grave scheduling conflict but serves to the general idea - things are different. they could have solved this by just saying "hey, lets' not show her" (like the tail setion, for example) but they gave us a different angle, a possible one.

And lighten up... three episodes in and 14 more to go. The number of question is giniourmous and its' going ot take time to slowly start revealing them (and hey, what do you know, they've actually begun doing that... slowly, in a true-storytelling way...)

February 22 2010 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nico toscani

If this final season isn't proof the writers have been making this sh*t up as they go along, I don't know what is. They are desperately trying to shoe-horn in all these ideas from seasons past as the clock winds down. No more questions my a**.

February 18 2010 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to nico toscani's comment

I agree 100 %.
Making stuff up as they go.

Nothing really matter, there is always another man behind another curtain.
Now they are making up a "Island Protector".
Another man behind the curtain that suppose to control it all.
This is the LAST SEASON start explain stuff instead of making more stuff up.

I'm very disappointed , I was hoping for a LOT more, last season was great maybe the best .... but this.... :(

February 18 2010 at 10:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think you're completely wrong. This is the best television show ever written. You only believe there are contradictions and things which don't make sense, because your view is not complete. You're looking at a 6 foot wide painting from 3 inches away. I don't know why you're so bitter and backed up, but you may want to try adding more fiber to your diet.

February 20 2010 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wasn't anyone surprised that Sawyer didn't recognize the numbers after having pushed the button too for a while?

"What's the eight about?"
"Don't worry, Jacob had a thing for numbers."

Lostpedia lists 31 names that they see on the wall. A few of them are passed away Oceanic passengers, some Others, French team and Dharmas. Quite interesting is, that Miles Straume's name is crossed out too. What's with Miles? Didn't he qualify?

And I wonder where that ladder at the far end of the cave leads to. Well nothing spectacular probably but it's there.

February 18 2010 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So, they're presenting two concepts of time travel theory in this series. The first, which we saw in the flashes and everything that occurs in the alpha is a closed timeline. For TNG fans it's akin to Time's Arrow, where they find Data's head, only to make manifest his head being in the past. What happened, happened. This season they are showing the results of an open timeline and changes therein... akin to what happens as a result of ST:First Contact, ie the events hadn't previously happened and the universe they return to is slightly different than the one they had originated in, but close enough and better than being all Borg.

The betaverse is the result of an action in the alpha which results in a change to the past which hadn't previously happened. This is likely going to be Desmond's doing, or perhaps some of our 815ers... however it happens, they will cause a change to the fundamental timeline... the first we can confirm seeing (beyond LA X's betaverse in itself).

Until the opening of this season we have NEVER seen a change happen to the timeline as presented in the first 5 seasons. Faraday's mother kills him, finds out who he is, and then 30 years later intentionally sent him to the island to fulfill his destiny. She says as much to Widmore. He tries to avert the timeline with Charlotte. He tries to avert it with the bomb... all his actions in the alphaverse were static, set. And so were everyone else's, up to the point we've seen in 2007. The possible exception is Desmond, but that's never been confirmed. It's possible he simply remembered Faraday and we were presented it as though it was a new thought... Desmond might be the one who can change things, he might not be. Regardless, at some point time travel will AGAIN come into play, as it must.

Something fundamental will happen in 2007 that results in the island's being sunk. I would conjecture that the island we see in the betaverse is actually the alpha island from 2007. But regardless of how it is done, events from the actions taken on the island in the metaphysical and physical fight between the forces of UnLocke and Jacob will result in a fundamental reset of the timestream.

What does that mean? Well, it means that it doesn't matter that we're seeing 2004 in the betaverse, the betaverse is a fully fledged universe, from the beginning of time to its end. We're just looking at what happens in 2004 in said universe.

Interestingly enough, that does mean that 2007 is the end of time, so to speak, in the alphaverse...

Time is like light, it operates as both wave and particle, depending on how you view it. Within the timestream it appears to be a wave, taking you through the current of time in one direction, forward. But when viewed from outside the timestream, all time has happened, is happening, and will happen... but they are static events, particles of time. The static events of the alphaverse are exactly what we have seen and are exactly what we will see. Nothing is deviant, nothing can be. That the alphaverse is destined to end by being rewritten into the betaverse is inevitable... and perfect.

February 18 2010 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment
nico toscani

Please do us all a favor: pull your head out of your a** and just admit the writers have NO idea what they're doing and have been making the plot up as they go along. There have been SO many contradictions already this season, it's clear this "tightest sci-fi epic in history" has been more driven by cast availability than storytelling. All your pontificating isn't going to save this hollow shell of what used to be a great show from staggering to the finish line with nothing but unresolved questions and discarded plot points.

February 19 2010 at 2:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


Your theory makes the most sense to me, but how can the betaverse be an extention of the alpha if the alpha is taking place in 2007 and the plane (beta) landed in 2004?

I cannot work this out, but I think you can.

February 18 2010 at 12:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sean's comment

I post an extensive response to you below, but to put it succinctly, the beta isn't an extension of the alpha as much as the full replacement. In an open timeline, which I talk about below, any change to the past results in a complete rewrite of subsequent events.

So, why are we seeing September 22, 2004 instead of 2007? Because that's the moment in the alphaverse when we started watching, so they're mirroring it with the beta... just a storytelling device.

February 18 2010 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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