Next: “The Substitute”

“Inside joke.” A great line. A provocative line. A dangerous line. Through some uncharacteristically straightforward expository scenes, this episode pulls back enough to give us the best view yet of the chess board. The game is afoot, our survivors are pawns, and presumably, despite the Man In Black’s plan to quit the island, there’s another showdown brewing. Yet, is it just a game? A battle between two eternal rivals? On many levels, this makes sense. Since Season 1, we’ve envisioned the entire show as an epic, but simple, contest between two sides. But will it be enough? Jen’s worried it may not be. I’m expecting there’s much more to the story.

The Man in Black is trapped. He sees only futility. He says Jacob is wasting lives to protect an island that doesn’t need protecting. Yet as he says this, we think immediately of the sunken island we saw in the premiere. Perhaps the island is not so invincible. And could its destruction bring about a greater, even global, calamity? Possibly.

Do we want this Man In Black running amok in the real world, in any case? Probably not.

Meanwhile, as we piece together this conflict, it’s less obvious that either Jacob or the Man In Black is noble, or good, or right. Jacob has certainly destroyed many lives in the name of protecting the island. And when The Man In Black learns that Jacob never gave Richard the whole story, his sympathy seems real. Neither player seems innocent. The scale with the black and white stones was a nearly too literal illustration of the balance between both sides. A balance that the Man In Black has apparently disrupted. And a balance that I think will prove to be necessary. No matter how frustrated or flawed, whatever forces Jacob and the Man In Black represent, we probably need them both to stick around.

Who was the young boy who appeared in the jungle? My daughter, fixated on his blonde hair, says Aaron… apparently through yet another twist in the space-time continuum. Maybe he was an embodiment of Jacob, in his original or now recycled form. But the way he reminded the Man In Black of the rules, and the way the Man In Black protested with Locke’s signature line, made me think he may actually represent something bigger, or on a higher plane, than MIB and Jacob.

Or maybe he’s just “special” in the way Walt was, giving some hope that there might be some explanation as to what was going on with him throughout the first half of the series.

We also see “The Numbers.” As MIB said, Jacob has a thing for numbers, and each of our iconic numbers is assigned to one of our survivors, who are merely the latest batch of “candidates.” There are other names on the cave wall, with different numbers, all crossed out. Is this the extent of the explanation we’ll get for the numbers? As someone who thought “The Numbers” might just be a McGuffin, I’m fine with that. But I’m hoping there’s just a little more to them.

The dialogue and flashbacks suggest that “Shepherd” is Jack, though it’s fun to think it could mean Christian, or Claire, or even Ray. The stated ambiguity of Kwon (Sun or Jin) is an interesting twist. And if we’re willing to entertain the thought that the boy in the forest is Aaron, why not add Ji Yeon to the list of possible name interpretations. Not depicted in the cave wall roll call? Austen. I’m not sure if that means anything, though, since there were a lot of names we didn’t see, and there were a lot of people on Oceanic 815 that probably didn’t make the list.

And MIB crossed out Locke, his current — and apparently semi-permanent — human form. He explains to Richard that he took Locke’s form to get to Jacob… but I don’t think that was “the loophole,” since it was Ben who did the stabbing. I also figure this can’t be the first time MIB took the form of a “candidate.” I really like the theory a listener shared on our “LA X” podcast that “the loophole” meant Jacob could only be killed by someone carrying his essence (i.e. Ben, infused in the temple spring). I still think, however, it has something to do with who’s the “leader” at any given time. “Unlocke” was allowed inside Jacob’s lair because everyone thought he was the real Locke and thus the island’s current leader, but the highest ranking person was actually Ben, who was therefore capable of killing him.

What does it mean, though, that MIB is “stuck” looking like Locke? He did change into smoke monster form in the premiere, and apparently again tonight in the eerie island flyover. (They definitely cranked up the mechanical elements of the smoke monster’s sound.) If he just can’t look like another person, can he still become a horse? An inanimate object?

The interplay between Sawyer and “Unlocke” was great. As many predicted last week, Sawyer with nothing to lose is a dangerous thing indeed. Having him allied with MIB makes things much more interesting, and I suspect we’ll see more of our survivors choosing different sides. Yet, for all MIB says about Jacob manipulating people, he conned Sawyer pretty good himself. Tapping into his vulnerabilities, offering answers, and even saving his life. It seems clear that dramatic ladder sequence on the cliffside was orchestrated by MIB to earn his trust.

Notes and Notions:

  • It was nice to see Jacob’s off-island visits with our survivors pay off, but really, Jacob’s “master plan” to push all of them to the Island was only introduced in the Season 5 finale. I’m hoping the writers do a little more, and reach a bit further back, to illustrate that they knew where everything was going from the beginning. Until then… it’s still interesting to note that some of his visits were pre-crash, and some were after the Oceanic 6 returned. Why?
  • The off-island stuff is still surprisingly compelling. Locke living with Helen, but ready to give up miracles? A wedding where his father would be welcome? An alarm clock that sounds like the Swan hatch? Hurley slams Randy and offers Locke a lifeline. We see both Hurley’s psychic and Rose at the temp agency. And Benjamin Linus as a whiny European History teacher was spot on.
  • On the “miracles” question, we’re of two minds. On one hand, it seems like Locke’s life off the island is devoid of worth and meaning. Yet what Rose and Helen tell him aren’t exactly “give up.” The message seems more an argument for reason, practicality, comfort and peace. He rips up Jack’s card because he’s done resenting his disability and daydreaming, and ready to start living.
  • Jen asked if Locke somehow never saw Rose on Oceanic 815. It would’ve been great for there to be a glimmer of recognition in their scene together, which of course could be interpreted different ways.
  • The temp agency scene? That was filmed in my office. They took over our entire IT department. Take a look at all the detail work that went into setting up the cubicles shown briefly in the background… even though you didn’t see any of it on screen!
  • Other locations: Locke’s house with Helen is on Alelo Street in Waikele, literally across the street from the home Locke inspected for Nadia. The box company office where Randy fired Locke was in the Hawaiian Telcom building downtown. The parking lot where Locke met Hurley is behind the Gentry Pacific Design Center in Iwilei, across the street from my office. For details, check out my new site, LOST Locations.
  • Books & Music: It was great to hear Sawyer talk about “Of Mice and Men” again. And Jen was impressed in Sawyer’s punk rock playlist: “Search and Destroy,” by Iggy and the Stooges.

What did you think? Please share your thoughts on “The Substitute” (Episode 6×04)! Commenting below is the best way to have your say. You can also email us at, or call the LOSTline at (815) 310-0808.

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278 Responses to Next: “The Substitute”

  1. Mimi says:

    To Connie in Oregon: God cast Lucifer out of Heaven… not Satan. (I know, I know, same thing) Biblical scholars and theologians will tell you thou, that it was much much later that the church decided to pool them all (Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, etc) into and identify them as the same entity.

  2. Rebekka says:

    I was just rewatching the first season and in one of the first episodes Lock invites Walt to play backgammon and explains to him that there is two sides ”One is dark and one is light”. I know Jen has had some thoughts about Lock being taken by the smoke monster already in the beginning and I was just thinking that maybe this was a hint. What do you guys think?

  3. Mattfromnd says:

    If Sawyer becomes the new Jacob, any future candidates will be given funny nicknames.

  4. soko says:

    @Mattfromnd: the cave walls would say names like
    and no one would be able to figure out the clues

  5. Aaron says:

    I’m pretty bad for posting big “wall of text” entries, so i thought i’d just post a couple of thoughts.

    The second time we see the blonde kid Locke is surprised that Sawyer can see him. Lets talk about that. Hurley can see people that other people can’t. They’re either in his imagination, or they’re dead. Perhaps this is also true here. fake-Locke assumes this boy is a manifestation of the dead, but as soon as he finds out that Sawyer can see him he realises the kid is real – hence the chase.

    “You know the rules, you can’t kill him”. Seems obvious that he’s talking about Sawyer here. Sawyer is a candidate, you can’t kill candidates. As I mentioned previously it seems that fake-Locke had to work pretty hard to get Ben to kill Locke (a candidate) so perhaps the kid is just reminding fake-Locke that he can’t simply do away with Sawyer himself.

    I want to talk about something here, a series of books close to my heart. Written by a Russian author called Sergei Lukyanenko they follow the struggle between two sides – light and dark, who have sworn to uphold a balance between them. The members of these two sides are abnormal humans with certain abilities. Whenever a new person of this kind is “tapped” he is unaligned, somewhere between the two sides. Neither side is allowed to directly force the person to join, but instead can try to guide them to find their own path – select their own side.

    This scene reminded me of the books. We’re talking about two sides, who have rules, and are portrayed as light and dark. Perhaps Jacob and Man In Black have spent all this time maintaining balance, influencing people to join their respective sides. Jacob kept bringing people to the island to try to tip the balance into his favour, but Man In Black thought the whole thing was a waste of time. He’s sick of it, he just wants to end it all. He’s playing dirty now, killing people. Perhaps this kid is just reminding fake-Locke that, if he wants to do something, the most he can do is influence Sawyer, not just kill him. Or maybe not.

    As usual, I wrote a big blog post about this episode. People who don’t object to wall of text brain dumps (knives munroe? :D) are more than welcome to click my name and have a read!

    aaron from scotland

  6. Gregoire from NYC says:

    Greetings from New York, Jen and Ryan!

    Sometimes I concoct theories and then realize what I’m pulling together is just the effect of a bad prop or awful special effect.

    For instance, when I saw the boy in the jungle, I immediately thought it was actually a YOUNG LOCKE.

    Within minutes, I realized I thought that because the boy’s bad wig resembled the awful hair piece Terry O’Quinn had to wear in his ‘young-man John Locke’ flashbacks.

  7. Bill says:

    @Mattfromnd: and don’t forget my favorite – LARD ASS

  8. SOKO says:

    Is Sawyer playing the long con?
    He knows that Locke isn’t Locke and he read the Bad Twin.
    He wants info and he’s willing to stick around to get in close

  9. Preston in Michigan says:

    I think the kid that MiB and Sawyer saw is actually Jacob and Aaron. I think Jacob and Aaron are one in the same. Obviously this means more time jumping.

  10. @ SOKO
    Omg, that is true.

  11. Rich in Cleveland says:

    Jiminey Cricket
    Mr. Clean

    He’s been so great. However…..

    @ Soko @ Knives
    “You’ve come so far. It would be a shame to turn back now.” It was almost preordained that he would go over to the dark side. Make no mistake, that’s the direction Jasper Alabama is headed.

  12. EricFromOhio says:

    @Knives – I don’t believe the Purgatory thing anymore, because the writers have said that it is not Purgatory, but interestingly enough… When we first met Ben Linus and they showed his “Henry Gale” picture and information, I used Google Maps and searched for the address that was on the ID.(I’m a freak, I know!)The address came up VERY close to a park that happened to be named……wait for it….”Purgatory Park”. I love the details that they add. Check it out.

  13. Carol from Boston says:

    Still wondering what role Lapidus will play in all of this. He must be important if they brought him back for another season. Thoughts?

  14. David says:

    About the side-flash noise (Just getting a bit tired of flash-sideways). At first you could hear what sounded like an airplane flying past underneath the bigger effect. But in this last episode, I noticed another noise. Just after the temp agency scene, it sounds like wood creaking on a ship. Kind of like, oh I don’t know, a 19th century sailing ship we might know of. Actually, that’s kind of cool since that’s how two of the groups got to the island. Strangely enough, from the Itunes copy, this is at 23 minutes and 23 seconds. I’m scared now.

  15. Sarah says:

    I for one am not so sure we were in Jacob’s cave at all. Jacob seemed to live and work in the four-toed statue. What if the cave, like the cabin before it, seems like Jacob’s space but really belongs to Mr. Flocke? Perhaps the list was his attempt to deduce who was and was not on Jacob’s “list”? There are some noticeable omissions: Lapidus (my guess at the island’s next leader) and kate. I fear Faux Llocke is conning Sawyer here, and that he is going to use the faux list as a kill list for Sawyer (just as Ben recruited Sayid to be his assassin)–and that that is why Kate is not on the cave-list (yet).

    On another note, Sawyer seemed particularly “special” in this episode–able to see through Flocke when others couldn’t and able to see the blonde, bloody boy too, even after it was established that Richard couldn’t. Casting back to earlier seasons: how is it possible that Anthony Cooper came to be on the island to see his son and face Sawyer? Was it really Cooper or was it Smoky in the form of Cooper, pushing Sawyer towards revenge and murder, just as he claims Jacob “pushed” our Losties toward the island?

    Finally: a word on destiny. I thought this episode was a lesson in course correction. Locke’s destiny–the elements of his life that were “course corrected”–were telling. He was not destined to be abandoned and betrayed by his father, it seems. But he is destined to be denied his walkabout, to be in the chair (for whatever reason), and to not always be honest with the people in his life. Many fans seem to see a happier version of Locke here–so maybe affect is not destiny. But the wheelchair is.

  16. Yann From France says:

    Best advice I can give you right now, we’ve seen that the centric character episode follow the same patern as season1… WATCH White Rabbit before next episode! Watching season1 episode before the new episode really shed some new light into what we are seeing!
    Live Together Die Alone!

  17. Kyle from Pittsburgh says:

    Just a few thoughts – maybe what we’re seeing in the flash-sideways, is not only an account of Oceanic 815 landing safely, but also a demonstration of what would happen if the island were to be left unprotected? In that universe, the island sunk some time after the Dharma Initiative arrived…

    So if Jacob had never been around to interfere with people’s lives,

    – Sawyer would never have finished his letter, and may not have become obsessed with revenge. In fact, after warning Hugo to be wary of con artists, I’m wondering if he’s a cop, and if he caught Anthony Cooper some time before Locke met him, or some time after Locke met Helen, but before his obsession ruined their relationship.

    – Kate would have been punished for stealing, leading to…I don’t know what.

    (as an aside, while I’m writing this, I’m finding all sorts of holes in this idea.)

    – Jack would never have gotten his candy bar.

    – Jin would never have been amazed by Jacob’s excellent Korean.

    – Ben would be happy, anal-retentive, and passive-aggressive.

    My point is, though, that what we’re seeing in the parallel timeline is the result of the absence of Jacob’s influence. If none of the Oceanic 815ers ever came to the island, then they would never have traveled back in time to detonate Jughead which negated the results of the incident. Maybe that un-negated release of energy sunk the island. I dunno.

    Perhaps the reason that Jacob egged Ben on in the season 5 finale (“What _about_ you?”), was his bid to truly establish free will in the world by taking advantage of the loophole that his nemesis discovered, and allowing himself to die, so there would no longer be an embodiment of destiny, and people would be allowed to think freely and make their own decisions.

    I’m probably wrong, but tell me what you think.

  18. Keara says:

    I’m really leaning toward the belief that Rousseau was the one that had been claimed/had the sickness all along. We always took her at her word that her team was “sick” and that she was justified in killing them all, but she did do some things (like steal Aaron) that were a bit suspect. Now I begin to wonder if Rousseau was not so innocent after all and if now we will see Claire in her place.

    The other thing that makes my radar perk up is that MIB/Smokey = the black rock on the scale (supposedly) and the ship that is wrecked in the middle of the island is The Black Rock. Coincidence? Interesting, certainly.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    This episode confused me, but I must admit that the road this is going is disappointing. I feel as if the story could have been told in one season if all it is in the end is Jacob v the MIB. Maybe I am expecting too much? I really just wanted to respond to several of the posts assuming that Flock meant off island when he said ” I just want to go home” Do we have any real info that says home for Flock is off island?

    I love your podcast. Keep up the good work!

  20. Laura says:

    Echoing Mirepoix — what of Charlie Hume?

    And we spent a lot of time thinking that the game, or the good/evil struggle, was between Widmore and Ben. And with the whole freighter arc, it seems that Widmore is also able to bring people to the island. But they were clearly after Ben, not Jacob or MIB.

    Not sure I even have a point, just that I’m finding it awfully hard to keep track of which side everyone is on, or what the ultimate goals are.

  21. Steve says:

    Did any one else notice that the numbers agaisnt the names in the cave are the same that turn up all the time the winning lottery ticket on the hatch on the computer.4 8 15 16 23 42

    also that when he put a line through locks name his number was 4 the first number on the list maybe Dark lock has to get all the numbers marked out before he can leave? a sort of heaven VS hell bingo

    love the podcast love the sow love the feedback

  22. Aaron from perth says:

    I dont know if any one else has said this before , but lost is starting to mirror Steven Kings the Stand? Not directly but little things like un locke asking sawyer to join his side. In the stand The devil gives every thing for free, and god mskes you work for it, or make sacrifieces to show your faith. I hope in the end its not a religous ending, like the end of the stand when the hand of god appears, and the rest of the story becomes unbelievable. If the producers pull something like that i will be making a trip back to hawaii to kick some ass!!!
    oh wait the writers dont live there do they.
    note to self, find writers home address.

  23. cherie bennett says:

    You guys, I have been wondering about smokie so much and I remembered the carvings around the “altar” where Ben stood to be judged by Smokie. Here is a screen cap
    What do you guys make of this? Is Anubis/Toweret making an offering to the Smoke monster? Is Anubis/Toweret bowing down to Smoke Monster? Is there a temple behind the smoke monster and a snake behind Anubis/Toweret? I am wondering how these images play into Jacob and Smokie/MIB’s relationship? Any ideas?

  24. Danielle says:

    Just a few random thoughts:
    -in terms of season 1 vs 6, Hurley on the plane says that he’s the luckiest guy in the world. In season 1, while playing backgammon against Hurley and rolling successfully twice, Walt tells him that he’s the luckiest guy in the world.
    -It was pointed out (a little too obviously) that Un-Locke is now trapped in Locke’s body and can’t get out. Maybe when he gets off the island, he gets trapped in Locke’s “off-island” body…as in, confined to a wheelchair.
    -What is the importance of the children that was continually alluded to in the beginning of the series? A lot of the names on the cave could be referring to children or children-of-the-island: Littleton (Aaron, and the reason that Claire had to raise him was so that he would have her last name), Goodspeed (Nathan), Linus (Ben or Alex), Rousseau (another Alex possibility), Farraday (Daniel), Lewis (Charlotte), Kwon (Ji Yeon). It’s not a complete theory but considering how much the show focuses on daddy issues, it’s a possibility. Jacob likes to start his influencing on young kids, so maybe that’s why they’re considered special.
    -I wouldn’t get stuck into theorizing one religion. Lost contains obvious elements of Egyptian religion (the ankh, Tawaret, heiroglyphs in the temple, a scale), Hinduism and Buddhism (Dharma, the 4 Noble Truths), Judeo-Christian (The Story of Job, Adam and Eve in the caves in Season 1, resurrection, “Christian Shepherd”), and of course I’m sure that I’m missing a ton.

    What do you think?

  25. corivee says:

    Rebekka: Good comment about Locke teaching Walt the backgammon game in season 1. Especially the comment he makes about black and white. Clearly this was foreshadowing. Locke has always been my favorite character and if I remember correctly, he lied about seeing the smlke monster in season one. He was the only one to face it and not die. Others hid and survived but not Locke. I am leaning toward the theory that Locke has been under the influence of something else for some time….

  26. corivee says:

    Rebekka: Good comment about Locke teaching Walt the backgammon game in season 1. Especially the comment he makes about black and white. Clearly this was foreshadowing. Locke has always been my favorite character and if I remember correctly, he lied about seeing the smoke monster in season one. He was the only one to face it and not die. Others hid and survived but not Locke. I am leaning toward the theory that Locke has been under the influence of something else for some time….

  27. corivee says:

    Can we talk about the kid in the jungle some more? I say, of course it is Aaron. First, his eyes look exactly like Clarie’s, perfect casting. But also, Aaron is special, the island was after him all along. We never really found out why. He has some kind of power or destiny that threatens MIB. What if the baby that left the island with Kate was not Aaron? What if it was some kind of changling replacing Aaron? And the real Aaron dissappeared with Clarie and has been on the island with Claire all along. This explains his age being different than the Aaron Kate left in LA with Claire’s mom. Someone already mentioned that wierd comment little Aaron made to Kate when he was watching cartoons. He saw something that scared him. Something about a tunnel. That was significant. And maybe the vision of Claire telling Kate not to bring him back is because IT IS NOT AARON. It is evil.

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