THINGS I NOTICED - THE SUBSTITUTE
As many of you know, I recently lost my home to a fire. As far as life experiences go, I can honestly say I wouldn't recommend it.
Losing the tons of crap I'd accumulated over the course of my life really didn't hurt that much - it's the sense of displacement that sucks most. All the little things you take for granted each day are suddenly radically different, from where you have your morning coffee to where your head hits the pillow. In a single word, it's weird.
Luckily everyone got out unscathed, and that's all that ever really mattered. My family is adjusting well, and plans for the rebuild are moving 10x faster than they should be due to some very cool friends in some very influential places. I'm lucky. By summertime I should have a brand new home and a Tabula Rasa, and that's about the only corny LOST reference I'll be drawing to this whole ordeal.
At this point I'd like to thank every single one of you who has written, commented, or even called me to see how things are going. I've read some very thoughtful things written by some awesome people, and this has helped make things a lot easier. You guys are fantastic, and I can't express how deeply appreciative I am. The emails, posts, links from other sites, and people who've bought my book to show support have been absolutely amazing, and I feel very, very loved. :)
The following recap may be a little short this week, but I wanted to get something out there. The Substitute was way too important an episode to just skip right over. Small disclaimer: I only got to watch the episode once, so don't ding me too hard if I missed stuff. Things I Noticed:
Join Us On The Ninth Green... Secret of the Pros
Ridicule, inadequacy, bastardization... the freefalling, kidney-swiping off-island world of John Locke has always been tough. His trusting nature and limitless gullibility has left room for cataclysmic failure in everything he's ever attempted to accomplish. In fact, life has left such a giant boot-print on Locke's ass that it was no big surprise to see his van platform's hydrolics fail in the episode's opening scene.
Once again, John pushes forward. Once again he fails. Yet as he falls to the grass and struggles like a turtle flipped onto its back, one big thing occurs before Helen comes out to help him: John's automatic sprinkler system just happens to kick on.
In LOST, everything happens for a reason. This was more than just a Happy Gilmore moment - more than a baptism reference or a slap in the balls by a sprinkler system trying to kick a man while he's down. Water, my friends, is important. Always has been... always will be.
For five whole seasons, we've seen people get wet at some VERY important times. We've seen John Locke call on the rain, and Walt seemingly call to stop it. Shannon's vision of a dripping-wet backward-speaking Walt ended up getting her killed in a torrential downpour, and Harper appeared (and disappeared) from out of nowhere to speak to Juliet during a similar storm. It rained when Charlie killed Ethan. It rained when Sawyer killed Frank Duckett. It rained when Desmond's boat ran aground on the island, and when Emily Locke was hit by a car. For a long, long time now, it's seemed that water has played an important role throughout LOST. And if you're asking me? I think it signifies - in very Matrix-like fashion - when something has for some reason been changed.
This is the point at which Helen walks out of the house, showing us that this time around things are markedly different. John Locke has a nice home and a loving, supportive fiance'. Although still proudly defiant of his condition, he's also realistic. His open-minded willingness to call Jack's number is tempered later on by his acceptance of his disability, and encouraged by Helen's acceptance of the fact that his condition isn't likely to change.
Even more important, LAX_John no longer has daddy issues. Unless he's forgiven an eight-story push, John's paralysis was caused in some other way. Maybe Anthony Cooper isn't a con man at all, which means that maybe James Ford's parents didn't bleed out all over the floor back when he eight years old. By this logic, "Sawyer" may not even exist in this timeline at all, and a whole host of other things are probably different.
The big thing to take away here, is that anything goes. Just because Claire's still pregnant and Kate's still a fugitive doesn't mean you can assume that the circumstances behind those constants will always be the same. This should unequivocally end the "If Widmore was killed when the island sank, then maybe Desmond never met Penny" arguments. Right now we can't assume anything happened or didn't happen - we can only watch as the story unfolds and accept things for the way they are now. That said, it's interesting to make a list of the universal unchangeables: Jack's father dying in Sydney, Rose having cancer, and here, John Locke struggling along with a broken back.
Answers and Respect... Courtesy of The Smoke Monster
Four episodes into the last season, we're finally starting to get answers to LOST's biggest questions. A few new mysteries shouldn't blind anyone to the fact that this new monster version of John Locke is all business and no bullshit, and we're getting big reveals as to his overall agenda.
For one, we find out that the dark man still needs help. When a terrified Richard asks what he wants, Flocke answers "What I've always wanted - For you to come with me". This is big: recruiting Richard has apparently been a long-term goal, which might make him an important piece of the puzzle. And although Jacob is seemingly dead, the dark man still hasn't accomplished all of the objectives needed for him to leave the island yet. To some degree, the game is still being played.
Richard's fear and dismay are genuine here, but so is his loyalty. Even when the dark man offers long-sought answers, Richard instantly refuses to go with him. This tells us two things:
First, Richard's loyalty to Jacob doesn't seem all that blind. Unlike Ben, I think Richard has seen and encountered Jacob. He probably even owes his immortality to him, which would make for some kickass future flashbacks. It seems a little more obvious to me that Richard hasn't been aimlessly pledging eternal allegiance to someone he's never met or seen before.
Second, Richard's distrust of the dark man runs deep. His brief moment of recognition before getting punched in the face seemed to infer a long history between these two characters, and it doesn't seem like a good one. Richard doesn't trust Flock as far as he can throw him, and probably never will. He recognizes him as an entity to be feared and avoided, right from the start.
The monster's assertion that he'd be seeing Richard "sooner than he thinks" was pretty ominous, but once again, free will plays a big role here. Flocke needs Richard to want to follow him - it's just the way things work. He can't force him, so he might not be able to kill him either. But unlike Sawyer (and us!), Richard isn't a playing piece that can be swayed or tempted by the promise of answers.
Can Someone Please Explain Illana's Deal To Me?
She's been around for quite a while now, and I'm still not sure of Illana's role. Sun's there as a S1 regular, and Lapidus is there to look wild and fly choppers. Illana however, has done nothing but burn down an empty cabin, slow down her expedition by carrying a 180lb body in a 200lb trunk, and most recently, mourn Bram's shitty plan.
Ben flat out lies to her, but no surprise there. It's still strange watching Ben play the helpless and confused role, and I'm hoping he pulls an ace from his sleeve soon. Old Ben kicked ass, but new Ben is getting to me. And don't even get me started on new new Ben...
This scene is necessary for two reasons only. First, it's somehow important that Illana saves Jacob's ash. If the smoke monster hated regular (volcanic?) ash, he's going to REALLY be unhappy with Illana's new version. The second main reason for this scene is so Illana can use the word "recruiting". Somehow, for some reason we don't yet know, the dark man needs to put an army together. This makes Widmore's words to Locke about an upcoming war seem much more prophetic.
Dead is Dead... Now Let's Do Some Shots
This was a very cool scene between Sawyer and fake Locke. Much like us, Sawyer is way past the point of being surprised by anything right now. Locke walking, talking, time-travelling... it's all the same to him. As Sawyer shoots whiskey and listens to tough music, it doesn't take him long to realize he's no longer looking at a living, breathing John Locke. Yet he pours him a drink anyway, because at this point, Sawyer could care less what happens to him next.
The place Sawyer chose to drown his sorrows is the only place he's ever really known happiness: the home he shared with Juliet. This makes makes Flocke's line about the place not really being Sawyer's house a lot more interesting and compelling. It stirs Sawyer up, and that's when the dark man offers him the one thing that just might get him to put some pants on: the finality of some hard answers.
Hurley - No Parking Spot, Even Though He's The Boss
The parking lot scene between Hurley and Locke was as funny as it was intriguing. Taking a closer look at some of the dialogue shared here, there's a lot to be said about Hurley's role - even in the off-island world of LAX.
First, Locke's wheelchair platform should've scraped the shit out of Hurley's Hummer. It didn't. And the reason it didn't, is because once again we're being shown that Hugo Reyes and everything he stands for is totally and completely untouchable.
"They were supposed to reserve a spot for me", Hurley tells Locke. "So... you know, I parked here". This one line pretty much sums up Hugo's existence on LOST. If you've followed past theories, there's a ton of evidence supporting the fact that Hurley was never supposed to be on the island in the first place, and therefore, is not a part of the game. He can park himself wherever he wants - Hurley will never be captured, shot, injured, tortured, beat up, drugged, or killed. Even his car is impervious to harm.
The fact that LAX_Hurley is the boss right now also mirrors the role he has (sort of) taken back on island as well. Miles words from a few episodes back: "Haven't you heard? Hugo's in charge now".
He's Gettin' Pretty Ripe!
Nice one, Frank.
The Mystery of The Disappearing Blonde Boy (Hmmm... Now Where Have We Seen That Before?)
Obviously, the little blonde boy running through the jungle is incredibly important. The fact that Sawyer can see him is even more so. Richard however, cannot... which makes it seem like only Jacob's chosen candidates have the special ability to see things that may or may not be there.
Quick tangent: let's go back to Kate and Sawyer's horse for a moment, during the middle of season two. Both of these characters were able to see the stallion, as unlikely as a horse standing in the middle of the jungle might be. I need to mention this now, because later on, the fact that Kate can see the horse is fairly important.
So who's the little blonde boy that pisses off Flocke so badly? My first instinct was that we were looking at young Jacob. Maybe not a real live Jacob, but the ghost of past Jacob come back to torment his nemesis for slaying him. The blood on his arms was an obvious representation of the blood the dark man now has on his hands, even though he used a loophole.
My immediate second thought: Aaron. So far, Aaron has played a very minor role in the show. For someone who seemed so monumentally important in the first season, and who was talked and dreamt about all the time, Aaron has slowly faded back into obscurity. If there was ever a time that Aaron's role should finally be fleshed out, that time is now.
A third and equally cool possibility brought up by Anil on the ODI Podcast this week: the boy is a referee or guardian come to remind Flocke of "the rules". The concept of outside forces or 'watchers' has been a common theme throughout the show, and it would make sense that someone or something is ultimately in charge of Jacob and the dark man's game. This would also lend new significance to Jacob's final words "They're coming". In this case, "they" might just be the people or beings responsible for setting up the gameboard itself, and making sure the rules are followed.
In any case, the short chase scene between Flocke and the blonde boy told us a great deal. As he trips over a convenient root, here we see the first real signs of weakness in the smoke monster's persona. In fact, for a brief instant his actions become almost suspiciously Locke-ish. As he fell, I was quickly reminded of John Locke trying to keep up with Boone in Deus Ex Machina. John lost the use of his legs in that episode, just as the dark man loses his footing in this very scene. Immediately afterward, he steals Locke's very own line, shouting "Don't tell me what I can't do!" - twice, no less.
This total loss of control is uncharacteristic of Jacob's enemy - at least from what we've seen of him so far. It's also another example of the real John Locke shining through, whether Flocke wants it or not. Ever since his heartfelt conversation with Sun last season, I've wondered whether or not the true Locke lay buried somewhere deep inside his doppelganger replacement. Temporarily at least, it seems that the smoke monster/dark man isn't always in complete command.
Equally open to interpretation are the boy's words to Flocke: "You know the rules. You can't kill him". The word 'him' could mean Jacob himself, the boy reminding the dark man of the fact that neither opponent is allowed to kill the other. That scenario isn't likely however, because it seems as if Jacob is definitely dead... something he himself confirmed while talking to Hurley in episode one.
"Him" could also mean Sawyer, or even Richard since he was nearby. I like the Sawyer idea because it would mean that the dark man can't touch any of Jacob's chosen candidates. Anyone Jacob touched in The Incident flashbacks would be safe from the smoke monster's physical touch... but not necessarily safe from being conned into recruitment. That would make Locke's turning of Sawyer a simple case of "If you can't beat em, join em".
Finally, the "him" that the boy refers to could also mean someone entirely different: a person or player that we haven't seen yet. No matter what, the dark man is recruiting an army for some specific yet unknown purpose. Killing Jacob was definitely a goal, but there's still work to be done.
Sorry, But I Still Think Rose Is in on the Whole Thing...
Go back to any season of LOST, and you'll always see Rose in an advisory role. Here she plays a recruitment officer, opposite the on-island recruitment that's going on with Jacob's dark-shirted nemesis.
Rose's boss is Hurley, and according to her, she has to do whatever Hugo tells her to do. "If he said that, I can make it happen for you", she tells Locke, lending more importance to Hurley's overall role both on and off the island.
Finding out that Rose still has cancer might seem important, but I'm not too sure of that. What is important though, is her acceptance. "I had a hard time getting through it", she explains to John, "But eventually... I got past the denial part".
Overcoming denial and getting past self-made obstacles is what LOST has traditionally been all about. It's also what set Rose and Bernard apart from everyone else in 70's Dharma. This is why they were able to eke out a living on the beach, gorging on unlimited canned goods in that pseudo-blueprint of Jacob's cabin. They suddenly stopped running, ditched the guns, and flipped off the island's every threat. By the time Sawyer, Kate, and Juliet had caught up with them during The Incident, Rose and Bernard had already removed themselves from the game, totally and completely, and placed themselves firmly on the other side.
I'm pretty sure the same thing applies in the LAX universe. Literally, Rose is trying to get Locke to accept his role as a cripple. Instead of trying to prove himself by flying halfway across the world with a case of razor-sharp knives, Rose is urging John to stop fighting his disability. Figuratively, Rose is trying to help John wake up and realize the same thing she and Bernard have already figured out: happiness is right there in front of him, if only he'll look. We are the causes of our own suffering, and only fools are enslaved by time and space.
Of Mice and Men
Ever the con man, Sawyer is one step ahead of the fake John Locke as he slyly puts him at gunpoint. The dark man however, isn't the slightest bit interested in playing Sawyer's game. He's already demonstrated a complete lack of fear, and he knows he's got James right where he wants him. Sawyer can pull the trigger and go back to drinking whiskey, or he can plod ahead and hope for some promised answers. With nothing much better to do, Sawyer sighs and puts away his gun.
Symbolically, I think we're seeing the end of pistolpalooza. In this last home stretch of LOST, none of our bigger answers will come at the business end of a rifle. So many times the 815 survivors have used weaponry in an attempt to figure out what's going on - from the smallest knife all the way up to the biggest nuclear warhead. Yet throughout five years of gunplay, no one was ever really able to obtain substantial answers this way. Maybe Sawyer even realizes this as he lowers his weapon.
"I've been trapped for so long, I don't even know what it's like to be free". These are the dark man's words, and spoken through John's lips they have the bitter ring of truth. The dark man has been trapped - both on the island and perhaps even within it. "But before I was trapped I was a man, James. Just like you."
This is a pretty big revelation, here. Perhaps Jacob and his enemy aren't demigods after all, but men who were brought to the island just like everyone else. These men however, are bound here and locked in some eternal struggle or game. Until they figure out how to end such a game (or get someone to take their place...), they can't leave. How they got started, and who started them? These now become the real questions.
Weirdest Damn Funeral I've Ever Been To!
I think Jeff Fahey may be writing his own lines. If so, I'm all for it.
Before the first shovelful of dirt hit poor John's face, I realized the significance of burying him. Like everyone on the island, this scene was here for a reason... and in the end, I think that reason will turn out to be extra important.
Burial has long been an issue within LOST. People have gone out of their way to bury people on the island, and sometimes with little or no reason. A while ago I called Keamy's men out on this very issue, because it didn't seem necessary for them to bury Danielle Rousseau and Karl. As their mercenary killing machine mowed down anyone and everyone on the way to New Otherton, it seemed oddly out of place that they'd stop to bury two of their victims instead of just kicking their corpses off the path and into the lush jungle undergrowth.
If burial is important, maybe it's because the smoke monster can only possess the above-ground dead. Christian Shepherd... Yemi... John Locke... these corpses crashed into the island and never received a proper burial, which might be why smokie was able to manifest itself in these forms. If this theory holds true, what would happen to this already morphed version of Flocke as John Locke's funeral progresses? Now that he's buried, will the dark man lose some sort of power or control over him?
"He can't (change) anymore. He's stuck this way". Seems like Illana knows a hell of a lot about exactly how the smoke monster works. Maybe she should've shared this information with Bram, who went up against Flocke with nothing more than a rifle and a bag of ash. Assuming the dark man is stuck in Locke's body for the rest of the series, I'm betting that some of his power may have been inadvertently and unknowingly lost at the burial of John Locke. There was more to this out-of-place scene than just a simple funeral.
Broken Record Reference Aside, History Teacher Ben Just Plain Sucks
Not a big fan of tea-drinking Ben. If Benjamin Linus the whiny professor turns out to be the antithesis of Benjamin Linus the king of liars, I'm hoping this storyline dead-ends as fast as possible. Maybe you guys are into it, but the whole thing seemed over-the-top corny to me.
Randall Flag, Robz888, and the Candidate Cave
First, a quick shoutout to Robz888 who put out a rock solid recap on DarkUFO this week. Rob, I appreciate the kind mention as well.
Flocke and Sawyer's arrival at Jacob's cave was a pretty historic moment in LOST lore. For as long as we can remember, we've always wondered how our heroes arrived on the island, and what specific purpose they were brought there for. Here, we took a giant step closer to learning those answers, and even the numbers were assigned a partial meaning.
The scales we see at the mouth of the cave are nearly balanced with black and white stones. The dark man grabs the white one and hurls it defiantly into the ocean... and just like that, we instantly know who's represented by black and who's represented by white. Good and evil however, are still in the eye of the beholder. It was also cool to notice that the black side of the scale was slightly lower than the white, as if that side were currently winning.
Jacob has a thing for numbers, and in season one, so did we all. The names on his wall include names we're familiar with - characters we've seen all throughout the show. Each name is assigned a number, but the numbers that are important to us - OUR numbers - are assigned to some of the most important and vital characters within LOST.
Shephard, Reyes, Jarrah, Kwon, Locke, Ford... with the exception of John Locke, all of these are characters who have made it to the end of our story. These are Jacob's candidates, and maybe even his champions. They're the people he went back and touched, either as children or adults, in order to mark his playing pieces in the future game to be played on the island.
"At some point in your life, James, probably when you were young and miserable and vulnerable, he came to you... he manipulated you, pulled your strings like you were a puppet."
Rob was 1000% right to draw a Randall Flag reference, because that's what's going on here. For those who haven't read The Stand by Stephen King, this is the way Randall Flag - also known as the dark man - spoke to his own potential recruits. Although thoroughly evil, Flagg presented his case strongly and logically, pointing out how he'd give his followers a choice rather than a predefined destiny. He also uses the same phrase Flocke used on Richard earlier this episode, describing how he'd never treat people in such a way that would keep them in the dark.
This is all stuff that James Ford wants to hear right now. The fact that Jacob brought him to the island is undeniable. There's no debating whether or not he had a choice in the matter, and leaving was never possible - not while Jacob still had an agenda in mind. All of these things culminated in what happened to Juliet, and in Sawyer's eyes this makes Jacob directly responsible. This is what puts Sawyer's interests directly in line with those of the dark man, and this is why he joins him with a "hell yes".
It gave me a shudder to think of how long that cave had been there... of how many times through LOST's loop it had taken Jacob to finally decide which characters were important to his ultimate goal. 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 - it turns out they're just numbers after all, with no mathematical significance whatsoever. These numbers just happened to be the ones assigned to the people Jacob deemed necessary to achieve victory - dead or not dead, one or more of these playing pieces will be used to put his opponent into checkmate.
There's one person Jacob went back and touched that's decidedly absent from the names on his cave wall: Austin. Rewatching The Incident, you'll see that Jacob touched all six of the characters represented by the numbers... plus Kate.
Whether Kate's name is up there and crossed out or whether she's absent from the wall altogether doesn't make a whole lot of difference. The cool thing is that in a way, Kate now becomes Jacob's secret weapon. She's the one person his enemy is not aware of: because the dark man doesn't think she's a candidate, he'll likely gloss right over her. As an apparent non-factor, Kate still retains whatever power or importance she received from Jacob's touch. And at the same time, the dark man is busy recruiting and chasing after those other five names that he deems important or dangerous.
Protect It From Nothing, James. It's Just a Damned Island.
Although a lot of what Flocke said this episode had the ring of truth, this is where I think Sawyer's being conned. To Jacob's enemy the island may be nothing more than a prison, but one thing we can all agree upon is that it's most definitely more than just an island.
Even more ominous are the dark man's words regarding Sawyer becoming Jacob's successor. "You can accept the job. Become the new Jacob, and protect the island." Seems to me like this would be a shit job to have, but it also seems like it could easily be Jacob's ultimate goal. Imagine if LOST's end game was resolved by one of our biggest heroes (::cough::: Jack ::cough::) becoming the new Jacob, and one of our other heroes - possibly even John Locke himself - becoming the new dark-shirted nemesis. Imagine them sitting on the beach during LOST's final scene, hanging out, shooting the shit, arguing science vs. faith as they split a rack of wild boar...
Sorry this was so late. Happy LOST day!
THINGS I NOTICED - THE SUBSTITUTE