Analysis: 6.4 The Substitute

It’s OK. All is well with the world. Lost as we know it has been restored to full working order. There are those of us that spent all of Season 5 consumed with a sense that something was missing, something integral to the Lost universe had been mislaid. Mercifully, Season 6 rectified this state of affairs. With The Substitute we finally had an appearance of uber-douche Randy Nations.

Randy has featured in almost every single season of Lost and he was a glaring omission from Season 5. This has now been put right. All is well with the world. And, amazingly enough, Randy’s appearance in The Substitute didn’t even turn out to be the most interesting thing about the episode! Imagine that! Oh no, instead, this top notch Locke-centric instalment proffered up some mighty morsels for us to feast our brains upon.

It’s worth tackling the Alternate Timeline story first, not because the intricacies and crop of character appearances were particularly illuminating but because of the potential larger idea that may be developing. Although it is worth pointing out that this Hurley. . .

. . . knew this Rose, as she was his employee. . .

. . . and both of them were on the same flight from Sydney to L.A.! Whether they realised this or not, it’s curious enough to mention. How many times have you been on a long haul flight someplace and bumped into someone you work with making the same journey!?

But that’s by the by. The bigger idea is what the state of things are with the Alternate Timeline. Locke, for example, appeared to have a vastly different life than the history we already know. He was in a wheelchair, yes. And he went to Australia and failed to make a Walkabout journey. Fair enough. But in this timeline he is getting married to Helen. And, more startlingly, he appears to be in good relations with his father, Anthony Cooper.

Now Cooper isn’t expressly mentioned by name so let’s not go riding right out on any assumptions – but I personally think the intended point was explicit: in this timeline Cooper was not the guy that robbed Locke of a kidney or shoved him out of a high storey window. Does this, then, mean Cooper was also not ‘the real Sawyer’? Was he not the guy that would trigger a chain of events that would lead Sawyer to a lifetime pursuit of revenge?

Only if this is so, then who is Sawyer in the Alternate Timeline? The finer details aren’t important, but what I am driving at here is this fundamental point: If Anthony Cooper didn’t swindle James Ford’s parents then James, as a boy, would never have attended their funeral and so begun a letter of vengeance that Jacob would offer up a pen for.

We were made very aware of these visitations Jacob made in the Island Timeline, affording us a direct counterpoint of comparison. The brazen idea is that Jacob never ‘touched’ the lives of our main characters in the Alternate Timeline, and this may be a very important point. Hang on to it for the moment.

In the same vein, we were also introduced to this rather fey version of Ben in the Alternate Timeline.

As well as comically inducing memories of that time Ben wore an apron and minced around the kitchen cooking for Juliet, and posing questions about this timeline Ben’s sexuality, we have to question if this Ben was ever on the Island at all.

Consider that in 1977, at the time of Jughead and ‘the incident’, Ben had been stolen away into The Temple to be revived. We have rationalised that, in the Alternate Timeline, 'the incident' occurred and the likes of the Dharma people evacuated the Island before it sank under the ocean. Hence Ethan Goodspeed. . .

. . . surely transported off the Island as a baby and raised by Horace and Amy Goodspeed? Right now, for simplicity, that’s my interpretation. When the sunken Island was shown we saw it had Dharma Barracks there, so we know that even in the Alternate Timeline it was an Island that had existed much as we knew it had up to 1977. I just leave a small caveat about Ben. Maybe he was taken off the Island after being revived in The Temple, or maybe he really was never there at all. As though ‘the incident’, as well as creating an Alternate Timeline future also sent ripples of distortion into history that changed the past – like a kind of retro course correction.

Like, yeah, Dharma did find the Island and set up Barracks there. But Horace and Amy weren’t part of it. They were course corrected to find each other in the regular world and there they had a son together, and they called him Ethan, and he grew up to be a surgeon and none of them ever knew the Island at all.

As such, does this ‘retro course correction’, or Alternate Timeline history, therefore extend to periods before 1977 for other characters? Such as Jacob coming to see Sawyer? Is the Alternate Timeline actually presenting us with how the world would have been for our main characters had Jacob not intervened?

Nameless seduced Sawyer with promises of answers and basically proposed the idea that Sawyer’s entire life’s course had been because of Jacob’s intervention. The insinuation was that Sawyer’s life was worse because of Jacob’s actions. Potentially the Alternate Timeline will serve to suggest, amongst other things, that it either isn’t or that, really, it wasn’t that much different at all.

Locke may have seemed happier in this version of 2004, perhaps. But he was still in a wheelchair – his spine still got broken somehow. And who’s to say that in Alternate Timeline 2007 Locke won’t still be just as dead as he is in the Island Timeline?

I mean, we’re definitely all now sure that Locke’s dead, right? Right? Because me, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t just a little flicker of Locke ticking away inside the body that Nameless has approximated. We know Nameless took Locke’s memories, his thoughts up to the very last one – so what’s to say that Locke’s personality and spirit hasn’t also somehow survived the transition and are simply struggling to surface? Claire once had a dream where Locke featured – his form sporting a black eye and a white eye. It would be a neat symbolisation of the ‘white’ of Locke co-existing within the ‘black’ of Nameless, would it not?

I believe we were very much shown that Nameless, as Locke, is perhaps at his most vulnerable. He’s taken a risk to get what he wants, to get “home”. The moment he ran through the jungle and fell was a fine example. Compare and contrast with the swift and speedy rush through the jungle and Barracks in the form of the Black Smoke with the clumsy human form. There’s no doubt Nameless is formidably dangerous, but he may not be invulnerable – and Ilana’s remark about how he is now permanent in Locke’s form was incredibly important and frustratingly vague. How does she even know?

And if Nameless genuinely is stuck in Locke’s body then, seriously, what the hell does that mean for Sayid?

I guess we can safely assume that whatever Sayid is, he isn’t another counterpart of Nameless/Black Smoke. I don’t know what he is (my first instinct was that he is pretty much Sayid as we knew him brought back but with a little bit of Jacob inside him – I’m not discounting it yet) the same way I don’t know why Nameless could go from being able to shift into, say, Alex to being a permanent resident in the form of John Locke. The only significant event between ‘the Alex appearance’ and Nameless being ‘locked in Locke’ was the death of Jacob, and it’s certainly the only crucial knowledge Ilana has been made aware of to form her judgement. So I don’t know why but that’s the reason for it. Now Jacob is dead Nameless is stuck in the form he took when it happened.

Just go with it, I guess. We’ve got a whole lot of other complications to occupy our sense of sensibility. Like this kid:

Nameless saw him, and it freaked him out. Alpert couldn’t see him. But like the time Kate saw a Black Horse in the jungle, Sawyer could see the child as well. Perhaps it's the fact Kate and Sawyer have both been touched by Jacob, as has Locke. (There’s that idea, again, that suggests Locke’s still ‘in there’, somewhere – “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”). If the child is a Young Jacob (my first instinct) there’s a sensible enough logic to be arrived at. That’s a big if, though. The child remarked, “You know the rules. You can’t kill him.”

We naturally reach the assumption the ‘him’ meant Jacob. But if this child was a Young Jacob (reasonably close approximation in terms of physical looks, I should add). . .

. . . then it’s an odd turn of phrase to talk about himself like that. So whilst it seems like a nice fit I have to figure it’s not the case. There’s a popular idea that the boy is a more grown-up Aaron. Maybe he is. I can’t rationally dispute it for precisely the same reason I can’t rationally support it. That he had blood on his arms seemed important, mind. Blood on the hands symbolises guilt. Blood on the hands and arms? Maybe symbolises a lot of guilt.

Nameless, as Locke, spoke of how he had once been a regular man. He said, “I know what it’s like to feel joy. . . to experience betrayal. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love.”

Maybe the boy was Nameless’ son, the someone he loved that he lost. Or the boy is some higher power, responsible for Nameless being trapped and direct cause of his knowledge of betrayal. But mostly I think that Nameless is a top class liar and there’s no reason not to believe that when he says he’s experienced betrayal it’s because he was the betrayer. Maybe the boy so shocked him and made him lose his cool, made him so quickly want to forget, because it was a death he was responsible for – like the time Mr. Eko was visited by the ghoulish apparitions of the gangsters he slaughtered. One thing seems certain: this boy is an aspect of Nameless’ past coming back to keep him on the ‘right’ path. Is that not what all the weird apparitions have functioned as, more or less?

But let’s steer towards a conclusion with the idea that Nameless isn’t being as honest and upfront with Sawyer as he seems. Richard Alpert, despite having the same promise of answers dangled before him, wasn’t so easily swayed. Whilst I like the idea that Nameless is being portrayed with more than jet-black villainous qualities, he’s still the guy that used Ben’s dead daughter to make him murder Jacob whilst pretending to be Locke – he is, until I know better, the black to Jacob’s white.

The tossing away of the white stone, heavily signifying the balance of power had shifted in favour of black, pretty much stated where Nameless considers himself, in-joke or not. The big hope is that Sawyer, that confidence trickster, hasn’t been as hooked in by all of what he has heard but is just playing along until he spies an advantage. Surely he wouldn’t have taken Alpert’s warning that everyone he cared about would be killed in complete disregard? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

And so we come to the numbers. Ever the conundrum, more enlightenment leads to further perplexion. Here we saw that our core values – 4 8 15 16 23 42 – had been carved into the rock and attributed to key characters.

4 – Locke; 8 – Reyes; 15 – Ford; 16 – Jarrah; 23-Shephard; 42 – Kwon

Daniel Faraday’s chatter of people being variables primed us for this moment: to accept key characters as being values in the equation that, purportedly, calculates the end of mankind. Potentially, Dharma and Valenzetti all just somehow tapped into this cosmic set of numbers but, being unable to comprehend an unscientific entity such as Jacob, reached conclusions about the equation’s results that don’t align entirely with what Jacob himself was calculating.

But enough with the heady mathematical theory, how about the white elephant in the room? How about the complete non-appearance of Kate Austen amongst the numbers? I got three ideas – two simple, one a massive theory that I’ll end on. So the two simple ideas are that Kate was not present as one of the regular numbers because she is more important – her role is bigger than the other variables. (I’m not really keen on this, to be honest.)

The second idea is the opposite of her being important, it’s her being entirely unimportant. When Jacob touched her on the nose as a little girl, marking her out as a candidate, he told her that she should stay out of trouble. Murder, robbery and a fugitive life later, it’s fair to say she didn’t maintain that side of the bargain.

As such, maybe Jacob struck her off the list of candidates. Maybe he then went to Hurley (he who wasn’t even supposed to make the Oceanic 815 flight, if you remember, maybe he’s the substitute!), and marked him out as a candidate rather than Kate – perhaps her kidnap of Aaron was the final straw? (I do like a lot about this theory except for the fact that it rather callously throws Kate on the scrapheap. She’s worth more than that treatment, surely?)

However, the last alternative is also a rather cute one that paves a theory to one of Lost’s long-standing mysteries. Consider ‘Kwon’. Nameless remarked that he didn’t know if it referred to Jin or Sun. However, it was pointedly shown that Jacob touched both of them.

Kwon, therefore, could stand for the pair of them. Jin and Sun. They, together, are the variable number 42. And so what if – and just run with me here – Kate was also looped into the candidate list in a similar way? Like, you know, if she happened to marry a certain spinal surgeon, she would then become a ‘Shephard’. (He already proposed and she already said yes – they just didn’t seal the deal!)

It seems crazy, but I can imagine a little Island beach wedding ceremony taking place. Jack and Kate, Lost’s leading couple, getting together in perfect circumstances. And furthermore, maybe they would then become the permanent candidates for the Island’s protection. A couple united on the Island, calibrating a perfect balance between black and white. And hey, wasn’t there a certain other male and female couple on the Island with a black stone and white stone on them? Our Adam and Eve, skeleton cave couple? Maybe their bodies were laid to rest there, permanently, whilst their eternal spirits presided over the Island. Maybe they really are Jack and Kate after all. Mr and Mrs. Shephard: variable number 23.


cilcost said...

"Now Cooper isn’t expressly mentioned by name so let’s not go riding right out on any assumptions – but I personally think the intended point was explicit" ... here is a little gem to conclude any doubt you may have. Enjoy, Love all your stuff. Keep it up. I also liked the 23 Shepard couple idea.Tight.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis AC and thanks for clearing that up Cilcost. Some of my own observations.

- Loving Hugo's executive pony tail.

- Locke's missus, I've said it before and I'll say it again what a MILF and a great rack to boot.

- Ben, funeral speech and coffee filter tantrum - comedy gold.

For a theory I think that everyone on the island is as good as dead but we are seeing their alternate happy endings in the alternate timelines.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, two more observations

- I can't believe sawyer made it down that ladder after a bottle of JD.

- Lockes missus had black nail polish, shes a bit old for a goth

Matt_The_Gooner said...

Very good observations and theories as always, I just have one problem with the piece.

"Perhaps it's the fact Kate and Sawyer have both been touched by Jacob, as has Locke" (referring to why Alpert couldn't see the child).

If Alpert hasn't been 'touched' by Jacob, then why doesn't he age? He seems to know Jacob more than anyone maybe other than Nameless, and your telling me he has never touched him?

I personally just think it's as simple as Alpert wasn't meant to see him. What does he gain out of hearing what he said? We know the child isn't a physical form, and the island creates circumstances for individuals (like with Kate and the horse) and I think this is the case.

Rasty said...

Matt: dunno about Alpert's immortality.. he could have just gotten into his "blessed" status through some other device we either know (the pool) or don't know yet.

We can't say for sure.

Instead, someone pointed out that Illana's statement about Nameless being stuck into Locke form may not be correct since it's probably based on the information she received from Ben who told her that Nameless killed Jacob.
This could have been read by her as "Nameless broke the rules" and therefore he'd be stuck in Locke's body.

We know better.

And thanks again AC for the analysis!

cilcost said...

Im imagining that the boy is part of the crowd that are responsible for the Whispers, and all non MIB visions.Possible 'Gatekeepers', but live in bewteen the light.-----(this is why they cant be seen) only candidates can see them at will) ---- Its like sugar and hot water. The sugar melts to molocules so small, that the hide behind the molecules of water. They may not be seen , but they are still there in between the spaces/light... ps. this reminds me further of when farday said " the light, it flickers" along those lines anyways. He pointed out that it was different on the Island.

Anonymous said...

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BennyTN said...

If you look at the picture on Alt Locke's desk, it is of him and Cooper so that pretty much confirms it for me that when they talk about Locke's dad, they are talking about Cooper.

My idea for "Kwon" is that it is Ji Yeon. Jacob touched both of them, and Ji Yeon is both of them. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Nice points on Rose and Hurley. Ha!Ha! I didn't pick up on that stuff. I think your right about there being a little bit of Locke left in Nameless. I can't say that I like it though.

I think that kid is a young Jacob. Perhaps they were brothers and Nameless is remembering a time before they began this game. Funny Island though, Sawyer and Nameless saw him, Richard doesn't, something weird is going on there. Good point on the symbol of guilt and the hands.

I'm not sure why Kate's name is not up there. I like your first idea best. The only pause I would have with your closing is that Jacob didn't touch them at the same time as he did with Jin and Sun. Other than that, the idea is one I would favor.

The lost freak in me has to bring up that I thought Locke and Helen were planning there wedding. You know I have an idea that the Alt Locke we see is a con man. Did you see the way he was sizing up Ben Linus in the Teachers Lounge. At least it seemed that way. Maybe him and Pops are on the take together this time around. Good read thanks

Luis Afonso Xavier said...

I had a strange feeling, an enlightment almost, when MIB Locke said "Jacob has a thing for numbers", that that does it, the explanation for "the numbers" is given...
I mean, one of the strong points of Lost is the hability to make us wonder "What the hell does that mean?" or "How is that going to be explained?" in the way that we assume "it's gonna pay off" because "it can't be left unexplained (too big of a mystery)". Then what happens is that it was really too mysterious and there isn't just imagination in the world capable of "tiyng up the laces" (or they just don't bother) and they create a new mystery and people stop demanding the previous one, etc. It's being like that since season one..

And the numbers are just one of those (to the scientific eye the "Valenzetti" attempt is gibberish); and the writers are simply gonna left us with that: no signigicance, of course, that Jacob guy just has a thing for numbers... Am I alone here, ou someone else had this feeling?

P.S. Sorry about my grammar, not a native

cilcost said...

I agree. THats the numbers explained. And when you think about it, its fair enough. what more could they do? Im happy with it.(but only just)

LAX said...

yes, you are right, nothing more can be done.. but it leaves a taste of disappointment in the mouth - which I guess it's my fault, for letting myself be astound with something that clearly couldn't have any meaning - numbers constantly repeated by a lunatic, then used to win the lottery, followed by bad luck for those who surround the winner, numbers used to save the world, allways surronding the lives of those who survive the crash; etc, etc, etc...

And more will come, of stuff that not even with a superficial "...has thing for..." will be treated - like, why the hell Ben couldn't kill Widmore, or why Widmore wouldn't kill Ben; who were the murdered by Ben/Saiyd and what the hell were they doing in "Widmore organization", why was so important for Ben to have them killed... and this is just what comes to my mind now.
Good remaining series for all!

cilcost said...

Hurley bird anyone?

Bobbi said...

Very good analysis, AC.

My thoughts on the Rose & Hurley being on the same plane thing: Who's to say they even have to recognize one another? Hugo might just be the occupant of the temp agency in the same manner he owns the box company where Locke just got fired. The scene shared by John and Hugo clearly showed that Hurley doesn't know each and every employee.

The Ben Linus issue is a bit more complected. Your idea about the alternative timeline featuring the 815er's life freed of Jacob's interference is persuasive. If you follow this thought then there were no Jack & Co. during the swan sight incident in this timeline. Ben, if he really was on that Island, would not have been shot by Sayid and surely would not have needed the Others' prescription of one drowning in a mysterious Temple pool. Ben and Roger simply would have been evacuated by submarine, I suspect.

Acharaisthekey said...

Very nice write up and a very intriguing look into the episode.

I for one beleive Kate is on the list and has already been crossed out...specifically when she killed her dad....thought the marriage twist was very original!!

Anonymous said...

Regarding Ben being off-island: If Sayid never crashed on the island, Ben wouldn't have gotten shot and would have left the island with the other Dharma folk.

This reinforces my view that setting off the bomb was what stopped the island from sinking. A massive explosion seems to me to be the only way to stop a massive implosion, and this would avoid the paradox of the Losties blowing up the island, stopping the Losties from ever going to the island.

Also, Kate is number 51.