Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LOST -- Episode 6.4 -- "The Substitute"

Substitute (n.): a person or thing acting or serving in place of another; a replacement.

Substitute (v.): 1. to put (a person or thing) in place of another. 2. to take the place of; replace.

On the surface, last night’s episode of “LOST” was about the substitute Locke (Flocke, NotLocke, Nemesis, Esau, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named), but as we know with this show, nothing is as it seems, especially titles. So, the question is: what is the substitute? How does this mysterious title play into the events of this important episode?


On the Island (2007)

1. The Nemesis tries to recruit Richard Alpert, but is unsuccessful. We do discover, though that Richard was not privy to information about “candidates” from Jacob. The Nemesis attempts to use this to sway Richard’s loyalty; it doesn’t work, and Richard runs.

2. After dealing with Richard, the Nemesis goes after Sawyer, who’s holed up in his Dharma house, drinking Dharma whiskey while feeding his own anger with Iggy and the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” from the album Raw Power. Sawyer seems swayed by the promise of answers, but leery of this Locke-a-like, who he knows immediately is NOT the real deal. “Locke was scared,” he explains. “Even when he was pretendin’ he wasn’t. But you? You ain’t scared.”

3. Ben lies to Ilana, who is crushed by the death of Jacob and her peeps, about the Nemesis killing Jacob. He tells her about the ashes of Jacob, which she immediately scoops into a black bag.

4. Sawyer follows the Nemesis on a trip across the Island for answers, but is held up when the Nemesis sees a strange, bloody-handed boy and chases him through the jungle. The Nemesis is told, “You know the rules. You can’t kill him.” This leads to the Nemesis shouting, Locke-style, “Don’t tell ME what I can’t do!” Meanwhile, Sawyer is confronted by a ragged, bloodied Richard Alpert, who tries to convince him to return to the Temple. Sawyer won’t go, so before Richard takes off again, he warns Sawyer not to trust the Nemesis. “He’s not gonna tell you anything! He’s gonna kill you!”

5. Ilana decides everyone should head for the Temple, but Sun is skeptical until Ilana plays the Jin-card. Apparently, it’s pretty easy to get Sun and Jin to do virtually anything as long as there is the promise they will be reunited. What I don’t understand is how Ilana would know the castaways are in the present. She knows a lot. Unfortunately, though, they can’t go to the Temple because Sun realizes they need to give Locke a proper burial.

6. Sawyer replays Of Mice and Men (echoes of season three’s “Every Man For Himself”) to the Nemesis, who is not aware of the book and states that it was before his time (meaning he’s pretty fucking old). Sawyer then plays the role of George and threatens to kill the Nemesis, but of course he’s stopped by more promises.

7. Locke is buried, and Ben gives a really sincere, yet creepy speech about how much he admired Locke, and how much he regretted killing him. No doubt he feels regret because he recognizes the consequences of his actions. Frank gives one of the episode’s great lines: “Weirdest damn funeral I’ve ever been to.”

8. The Nemesis takes Sawyer to a cliff (more shades of “Every Man For Himself”), and after a death-defying trip down the cliff on some very old ropes, they enter a cave where Sawyer learns the answer to a BIG question: they are on the Island because Jacob brought them there as candidates to replace him as the Island’s protector. The Nemesis then offers Sawyer a choice: do nothing, become the protector, or go home. Sawyer joins forces with the Nemesis and agrees to “go home.”

Off-Island (2004)

1. John Locke is living in suburbia with Helen (sweet Helen) and still working at the box company. We discover that he was supposed to have gone to a conference down under (why would there be a conference related to a box company all the way in Australia? Maybe I need to learn more about the industry), but he shirked his responsibilities to go on his walkabout. Once again, though, we learn he didn’t get to go because of his handicap. I guess the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t reach Australian shores. Too bad for Locke.

2. Because he abandoned his job in the Outback, Randy fires Locke. Randy is still a douche, but Locke deserved to be fired. Whether likable or not, he did a bad thing; the company paid for him to go to a conference, not to go on a spiritual journey. Randy’s a dickhead, but he’s right.

3. On his way to leave, Locke finds himself blocked in by a banana colored Hummer. Angrily, he tries to dent it with his wheelchair ramp, but it doesn’t work. He sets off the Hummer’s alarm and brings out the owner, none other than Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, dressed all dapper and smiling. Hurley is indeed the luckiest man alive, and because he hates Randy, he gives Locke another chance to get a good job by setting him up at a temp agency he owns.

4. Locke goes to the temp agency and deals with a stupid person trying to personality profile him, but upon asking for help from management is assisted by Rose Nadler. Rose puts Locke in his place after he lobbies to get a job in construction by confessing her own bout with terminal cancer. Locke makes the realization that while he might be limited by his condition, it doesn’t mean he’s less of a man.

5. Locke confesses his sins to Helen, and decides he doesn’t want to seek the help of Dr. Jack. He makes it clear that he is no longer a man of faith. He doesn’t believe in miracles.

6. The job he gets from the temp agency is a substitute teaching job at a middle school. He finds himself working in a biology class, and upon going to the staff lounge during lunch meets a bitchy history teacher named Benjamin Linus. Now, I have some issues with Locke being a substitute teacher – not big ones, but an issue nonetheless. I’m a teacher, and I used to substitute before I got a permanent position. The requirements to be a substitute in California are not easily met, and are very time consuming. First of all, you have to have a Bachelor’s degree; you must pass the California Basic Skills Test (CBST); and you must apply for a temporary credential. I hate nitpicking “LOST” because everyone does it, but a temp agency would not place a substitute teacher, and Locke would not enter the job that quickly without meeting the requirements. Who knows? Maybe in this parallel reality, he has a college degree, and meets all the requirements. But if that’s the case, why the fuck is he working at a box company when he could have been working towards being a teacher? Oh well, I’ll step off my soapbox and enjoy the ride.


But I'm a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
I look pretty young, but I'm just back-dated, yeah

Substitute your lies for fact
I can see right through your plastic mask
I look all white, but my dad was black
My fine looking suit is really made out of sack

These lyrics, from the classic Who song, “Substitute,” seem to perfectly describe the different versions of Locke we see in this episode. Lies for fact (or fact for lies). Plastic masks. White and black. Simple things are all complicated. Appearances can be deceiving. On the surface, the Nemesis appears to be a no-bullshit kind of guy. He offers Richard all the information Jacob withheld. He promises answers to Sawyer. He’s substituting lies for fact.

Or so we think.

The scene in which the Nemesis discovers Jacob withheld certain secrets from Richard reminded me of the classic temptation scene in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are hanging around the Tree of Life when the Serpent slithers on by and basically says, “Guess what? God’s got a LOT of information, but he’s not gonna share it with you. I can, though; just eat from this tree.” Adam and Eve are not as strong as Richard, although in their defense, they didn’t have their asses kicked by the serpent before he laid the temptation on them. Nonetheless, this scene, above all the others with the Nemesis, is the one that makes it clear to me that he is evil.

He’s offering answers, but as with most of the things Satan does, he’s intertwining truth and lie. He shows Sawyer the cave wall and tells him why the castaways were brought to the Island – Jacob brought them to be heirs to his throne, candidates to become Island protector. This is most likely the truth, but the lie is in the details: the numbers, according to Nemesis, have no meaning. The detail that is most significant, though, is when he tells Sawyer that the Island doesn’t need protecting. I think there is some truth in that, but the lie is what he’s covering up – it’s not the Island that needs protection, it’s the world outside that needs protecting. From what, though?

I think Nemesis is being held captive on the Island because he is a harbinger of doom – the one who can bring apocalypse in some form to the world at large. Jacob was his keeper on the Island, but Jacob knew his time was running short and someone would need to take his place to keep the world safe from his Nemesis.

I don’t know how to completely connect this to other pieces of the “LOST” puzzle. If this is true, why did Jacob say, “It only ends once; the rest is just progress?” Why are he and Nemesis talking like old friends? What the hell does the button and 108 minutes have to do with this, since it was also put in place to save the world. If Jacob was looking to protect the world from his Nemesis, why did he recruit such a vast number of people to become the Others?

Regardless, our friend, Jacob’s Nemesis, is substituting lies for fact so he can bring his brand of evil to unleash upon the world; and he needs Sawyer’s help to do it.

Coming soon: thoughts on the bloody boy, Locke’s flash-sideways, and candidates.


  1. Great recap! I was frustrated too by Locke being a substitute teacher...I'm certainly not in California, but I sure know that in Ontario they don't find substitute teachers at temp agencies! It's funny how an episode can be so awesome, but something silly like that can really irk you. I suppose it was worth it to see Ben Linus as a high school teacher freaking about about coffee.

  2. In some states they do hire subs from temp agencies. They are thoroughly screened through the temp agency.