When it comes to good and evil, the characters of Lost have always been harder to pin down than the symbolism surrounding them.
Take, for example, the scales in the Cliffside Cave, where a black rock and a white rock balance each other out, eternally opposed. So of course, Flocke immediately grabs the white rock and chucks it into the ocean. The symbolism may be obvious, but Flocke's ideological alignment? Not so much.
I for one believe that our friend Flocke is evil, is in fact the very embodiment of evil, and I will present my evidence later in this post. But after watching "The Substitute", it's impossible not to wonder whether Jacob really loves you at all.
Before I get there, a couple of things. Thank you once again for the enormous number of comments on my last recap. For those of you who reacted negatively, I know it doesn't feel good to read an hour of TV that you enjoyed getting trash talked. Hopefully, you understood some of my frustrations even if you liked the episode. I know I was harsh, but I promise you that I don't like Lost any less!
Also, as you may know, Dark has informed us that Vozzek is going through a very difficult time right now and needs our support. Vozzek, reading your recaps was always the thing I looked forward to the day after a new episode, and your excellent insights are part of what inspired me to start doing my own recaps. My thoughts and prayers are with you, my friend. You're still the best, and I can't wait to hear your thoughts on "The Substitute."
For my part, I was highly satisfied with tonight's episode. I'm a John fan, so maybe I'm biased - though judging by the current episode rankings, it looks like we're all John fans.
Again, I think it makes sense to recap the ATL (alternate timeline), then Ilana and Co. in the MTL (main timeline), and finally Flocke and Sawyer.
Helen emerges from his house and gets him inside, where we learn that she and John are getting married. This delighted me. Helen is such a perfect companion for job, and it's really nice to see them together in the ATL. She also encourages John to go see Dr. Shephard, wondering if running into a spinal surgeon from the flight was fate rather than coincidence. The whole thing reminded me of Ben citing Jack's appearance on the island right when he needed a spinal surgeon as proof of God's existence. Sometimes we forget (probably because Jack has emphatically denied fate so often) that the doctor is a certified miracle worker.
But there was a sort-of major question raised in this exchange, when Helen weighs the merits of just going and getting married immediately rather than waiting until October (side note: this should confirm that the flight did take place on September 22, just like the original one, which has been in dispute since Claire's hospital visit). Helen says: "What do you say we just get my parents, and your dad, and do it shotgun style in Vegas."
Anthony Cooper is invited to the wedding? Really? That must mean he's not such a bad guy in this timeline. I wonder if he still only met John a few years ago, or if he's raised him his whole life.
My girlfriend pointed out to me that if Cooper is a good guy and has always been a good guy in the ATL, maybe he didn't cause the deaths of Sawyer's parents. This would of course drastically change Sawyer's character in the ATL. If he's not been scarred for life by what Cooper did, what was he in Australia for? Did he actually kill anyone and get kicked out of the country?
It's of course possible that when Helen mention's John's father, she isn't talking about Cooper at all. Maybe John has a different father, or a foster father, in this reality.
But now we're going to have to take a little diversion to address a counterargument I know I'm bound to run into.
Not so. If in 1977 the incident created an alternate reality where the island is destroyed from that point forward (as was the case, I believe), then everything after that point will be different. We know that in 2004, 815 won't crash, and there's no island for it to crash on, anyway. Since our heroes aren't on the island, they don't do any Frozen Wheel time-traveling. We know that the time flashes of season 5 brought them as early as 1954, though possibly much earlier as they were in several unknown times, at least one of which featured the Statue of Tawaret still standing.
Thanks to the Butterfly Effect (the scientific theory, not the awful Ashton Kutcher movie), it is believed that even minuscule changes can cause widely different events, the metaphor being that a butterfly flapping its wings can cause minute changes to the weather and atmosphere and bring about a hurricane in some other part of the world. Basically, because Sawyer, John, Juliet, Miles, Charlotte and Daniel never visit the past, they completely change it from the earliest point they visit and onward. So in the ATL, anything and everything can be different, regardless of when it happened.
That's assuming that the ATL is a parallel reality rather than just some point in the future of the main reality, which is a theory that seems to be gaining steam. There's also some evidence that even if this is an alternate reality, it has less to do with the jughead and more to do with Jacob's death. These may be valid, but I can't wrap my head around how they work in practice, so for now I'm going with what we've got, and what we've got is Juliet saying "It worked" in response to what I believe was the jughead reset plan.
As he's trying to get out of the parking lot, he's parked next to Hurley, who owns the box company just like he does in the MTL. Luckily for John, Hurley is a nice guy regardless of whether he's unlucky or lucky, and sends him off to a temp worker to get a new job, saying that things are going to work out just fine. If I worked for a box company, I would want Hurley as my boss, too.
At the temp agency, John interacts with two familiar faces: Lynne Karnoff (the psychic from the the MTL that Mr. Reyes hired to convince Hurley that the curse could be cured) and Rose. We learn that Rose is indeed dying of terminal cancer in this reality. Kind of a reminder that not all things are necessarily better for everybody in the ATL. For someone like Rose, the crash was a very, very good thing.
Their conversation revolves around the idea of what John can and can't do, a theme of Locke-centric episodes. But for once, the person who wants to be realistic about John's capabilities doesn't sound so cruel. This, coupled with Flocke's speech on Locke being pathetic, seems to be sending the message that maybe John would be better off if he gave up his life motto. Is that really the final thought that the producers want to give us on John? That he was a deluded fool who should have settled for the life he was able to have, not the one he wanted? Who was outsmarted and outmatched by pretty much everybody else?
This topic of discussion continues when the lost knives arrive at home and John tells Helen about his failed attempt to go on a Walkabout (she did look relieved, though, that he wasn't secretly a serial killer). John admits that they were right not to let him go into the Outback. It was so sad hearing him admit it, though. Are we being told that it's better to accept your limits?
In any case, Helen loves John for who he is, even if he'll never walk again, and proudly rips up the calling card of Dr. Jack Shephard, Spinal Surgeon ("But the number is still saved on his cell phone!" observed a friend who watched the episode with me). Helen is in every way the perfect match for John. I believe that in both timelines she was the inspiration for much of his faith. She believes in miracles, but isn't demanding one. And Katey Sagal really shines in this roll - she and Terry O'Quinn have terrific chemistry.
I still hope John does end up going to see Jack. After everything John's character has been through, it would be nice to see him finally get that miracle, for real.
Think about it: John was happiest, most useful and most appreciated in the bulk of seasons 1 and 2. That's because he was doing the thing that, oddly enough, fits him best - giving advice to other people in a variety of different subjects. Think about all those times that John just showed up randomly to help out: Jack falling off a cliff, Charlie's drug problem, Kate and Sawyer's boar hunt, Claire's crib, etc. Also John relates well to young people, as evidenced by his relationship with Walt.
And of course, he has the opportunity to make friends with the teaching staff, which includes alternate reality Ben Linus! This was one of my favorite moments of the episode. I'm extremely interested to see what Ben is like in the ATL, and I really hope there's a Ben-centric coming up. But in the meantime, the possibility of a friendship between Ben and John is surprisingly heart-warming. It's also nicely fitting that John has Ben's respect in the ATL, "Now that's a gentleman's drink!" I'm also glad it's European History - that strikes me as something Ben would teach.
Anyway, this was likely John Locke's final centric episode. I hope we see more of him in the ATL. Assuming that Jack and Ben have centric episodes still to come, I bet that we will.
2) If Anthony Cooper is not a bad guy, John might hot have gone to group therapy and met Helen. I wonder how they met in the ATL.
3) It probably wasn't Matthew Abbadon who sent John on the Walkabout in the ATL. Charles Widmore pretty much has to be dead in this timeline, meaning Abbadon is not an employee of his. Maybe I'm thinking about these differences too much (yeah, yeah, I know the producers said to just think of them as the same characters) but I can't help but wonder.
Before they leave, Ilana collects some of the ash from the fire where Jacob's body burned up. Yes, I was thinking the same thing as the rest of you - is the ash that encircled the cabin, that the Smoke Monster can't cross, this same ash? Are all instances of the magic ash the remains of Jacob's burned body? Time travel of course makes it possible that all the ash comes from Jacob's body in this fire pit, because I have a hard time believing that Jacob sets himself on fire every time he needs to put up a Smokey barrier. Bram brought his magic ash from off island, presumably, since we didn't see him gathering it after the Ajira crash. Whatever the case, hopefully we'll know more about the ash sometime soon.
Ilana and Ben rejoin Sun and Frank outside the Statue, where they learn that the Others have all split for the Temple. I know I did plenty of hating on the Others last week, but they continue to disappoint. Why would they just leave Sun, Frank, Ben and Ilana? They must know that at the very least, Ilana has critical information and shouldn't be left behind. And Aldo and Justin knew that Jin, Kate and Sawyer were important, so I don't know why any other Others would think it would be okay to just forget about Sun. I'm picturing the Statue Others just wandering aimlessly into the jungle like confused sheep. Remember when these people scared us? How times change. If anyone is going to pose a serious threat to Flocke, it won't be these people.
Sun suggests that they bury Locke before they do anything else (I cringed quite a bit when some crab or spider thing was crawling on his head). So they head all the way back to the graveyard near the Beach Camp and bury John in the shadow of Eko's unfinished church.
On the way, Ilana reveals a crucial bit of information, though I wish they would have pressed her for more. Anyway, she explains that Flocke can no longer change form. I have some ideas for why this could be (none of them fullproof, I assure you), but I'll address them in the Flocke section.
Ben says a few words, admitting that John was the better man and that he's sorry he killed him. Only Ben could confess to murder and earn our immediate sympathy, but I was shedding a tear for Mr. Linus and his touching eulogy. It's interesting to think about what has come of Ben's character, and what will be a satisfactory conclusion for him. It seems likely for Ben that most of this season will be about him coming to terms with the horrible things he's done, especially the murders of John and Jacob. I think he realizes now how badly he's erred, not only for the forces of good, but also personally - he's murdered two of the most important people in his life. But his touching words about John nicely paralleled the respect he shows him when they meet in the ATL, and that was cool.
I must admit, my insistence that John will resurrect died a sudden, jarring death as they piled dirt atop his body. I have an idea how John may still influence events on the island in a big way, but I'll get to that a little later.
My my, Smokey sure had no trouble getting over that Sonic Fence Barrier, hm? I mean, it could just be that it isn't on anymore, although I still don't understand why the Monster couldn't just go over it when chasing Juliet and Kate in "Left Behind". After all, it got around Bram's ash barrier pretty successfully, and I would expect the ash to be a more effective shield than some old Dharma device.
After checking on Sawyer, Smokey whisks back to a captive Richard in the jungle. Flocke extends an olive branch, if Richard will only answer some of his questions. Unfortunately, unless Richard is lying, it seems that the Ageless Alpert is the bajillionth island leader without a clue about what he's doing, as he doesn't seem to know anything about Jacob's candidate program. But whatever a candidate is, we learn that Locke was one of them.
Flocke's argument is pretty convincing. "I would have never have left you in the dark," he says. He doesn't think the servile, secretive way that Jacob has treated his followers was fair. This is a key glimpse at Flocke's ideology. He could just be saying whatever to try and win Alpert over, but I don't think so. He basically told the Others that they were idiots for following a man they've never seen, and he seemed delighted at having freed Bram from the need to protect Jacob. Flocke is no man of faith. He would have us believe that he is some sort of pro-liberty revolutionary against Jacob's tyrannical, paternalistic rule.
He further draws himself in contrast to Jacob by telling Richard that "we seldom get a second chance." If we think back to his encounters with the Losties over the years (in the flashbacks of "The Incident"), Jacob was all about second chances - that everything we do can be made right. "It only ends once. Everything that happens before that is just progress." Flocke is more pessimistic, and has every reason to be, as he is inhabiting the body of a man whose faith was taken advantage of unto his dying breath.
Flocke chases the kid through the jungle, tripping over a log. I thought this might be meant to show us that Flocke is starting to feel the limitations of John's body - a body that, according to Ilana, he's stuck in. Why is this? Here are my two guesses.
1) The Man in Black willingly chose to become stuck in Locke's body. If we assume that the apparitions of Christian Sheppard are also the Man in Black, remember that it seemed like the Christian-form couldn't directly interfere in things. Remember when the real John fell down the Wheel well and ghost-Christian couldn't help him? But Flocke is quite capable of doing physical things (like beating up Richard). Maybe the Man in Black has the ability to designate a certain form, and then he becomes more than just a ghost but can only take that form (and the Smoke Monster). If Ilana knew about this ability, then she would also know that he can't change anymore because she watched him beat up Richard.
Caveat - Christian appeared to Frank and Sun in the Barracks, but this was technically before (right before) the Man in Black showed up on Hydra Island in John's form. Perhaps that was his last appearance as Christian. As evidenced by how quickly he got around the island in Smoke Monster form at the start of the episode, it would be pretty easy for him to appear as Christian and then zip across the ocean to the Hydra Island and become Flocke.
2) Jacob's death makes him unable to change form. I'm not sure why this would be, but if Jacob was the source of Richard's agelessness, it could also be that he was the source of the Man in Black's metamorphoses. If this is the case, expect Richard to start aging, fast.
When Flocke falls, the boy appears right in front of him and says, "You know the rules. You can't kill him," to which Flocke responds, "Don't tell me what I can't do." Ah, so much to process here!
First, those darn rules again. Are these the same ones that governed the interactions of Widmore and Ben? Is their struggle even important enough anymore for us to have it answered? If so, maybe Ben knows more than it seems. And who was the kid talking about? He could have meant it retroactively about Jacob, though technically, Flocke didn't kill him. He could also mean Richard or Sawyer. I think Sawyer seems the likely choice, though I'm not sure why. Is the boy merely stating that Flocke shouldn't kill Sawyer? Because being a candidate certainly doesn't exempt you from death, as John has discovered.
But who is this boy, anyway? It seems most fans have settle on one of two options, though I will present a third.
1) It's Jacob. Yeah, that makes sense, I guess. But is young Jacob a time traveler? Is that how he can appear to Flocke, despite being dead? I don't know... it seems like this role should be filled by someone who is above the Man in Black and Jacob.
2) It's Aaron. The boy, like toddler Aaron, is blond-haired and blue eyed, so I could buy that, too. Of course, we'd have to see how he came back to the island and how he gained authority over Flocke. But I would say this is more likely than scenario 1, just because it would be cool, a little shocking, and give some importance to Aaron's character.
3) It's Isaac. "Wait, who?" you ask. Well, Isaac is the Biblical father of Jacob and Esau (who could be the Man in Black). This definitely could be a Bible affair, as Flocke mentioned being "betrayed" - Esau was also betrayed and cheated out of his birth right by his mother (Rebekah) and Jacob. I'm not sure why Isaac would appear as a child to Flocke, but my girlfriend suggested that perhaps the real authority isn't this boy, but his mother - some sort of Tawaret goddess (remember, Tawaret is the goddess of childbirth). I know I'm kind of jumping from theory to theory here, but I kind of like this one, too. Maybe Flocke destroyed the Statue of Tawaret out of revenge for his mother or grandmother betraying him.
In any case, I don't know why he has blood on his arms at first, unless he's supposed to be a murdered Jacob. I'd love to hear your theories on that.
By the way, I find Flocke's response to the boy equally interesting - a thunderous, John-like, "Don't tell me what I can't do!" It can't be coincidence that Flocke uses John's catchphrase like that. So here's what I think: Deep, deep down in Flocke's subconscious, there is a trace of John Locke left. I think this is supported by the fact that Flocke has John's memories. He isn't simply impersonating - in some ways, he is him.
This is just about the only thing that gives me hope concerning John at this point. But perhaps my beloved Locke will be able to rise up, out of Flocke's subconscious, and sidetrack or injure him at a crucial juncture. I think it would be really, really, really cool to see John and Flocke waging an inner war for control of the same body. The sheer opportunities for amazing acting on the part of Terry O'Quinn would be reason enough to do it.
After making it down a rope ladder (I thought for sure Sawyer would fall off and Flocke would have to turn into Smokey to rescue him), they enter this mysterious cavern. Immediately, our attention is drawn to the scales with the white stone and black stone. We have of course seen this image many times, most notably when Locke explained Backgammon to Walt in "Pilot, Part 2".
We're constantly presented with these polar opposites - good and evil, light and dark, right and wrong (even destiny and free will, and faith and science, perhaps). And yet rarely do we come across a character who nicely fits into one of those categories. Our "good" people have all had times of struggle, or times when they've done something bad. And evil characters like Ben and Widmore always end up having redeeming qualities that cause us to constantly reassess whether they are actually villains.
Sure, an objective baddie like Anthony Cooper or Martin Keamy are thrown our way now and then, but even these guys might not be all bad in all timelines. We have every reason to believe that Anthony Cooper is a perfectly good guy in the ATL. Maybe in the ATL Keamy will be in the Peace Corps or something.
Beyond the scale, we get a huge reveal - the cavern walls and ceiling are covered with last names and corresponding numbers. Lostpedia currently has an excellent list of which names are up there, and I highly suggest checking it out. Suffice it to say, these are people who have come to the island - from the French team, the mercenaries, the U.S. army, Others, Losties, etc. But only 6 names are not crossed off when Sawyer and Flocke arrive, and each corresponds to one of the Numbers.
They are: 4-Locke, 8-Reyes, 15-Ford, 16-Jarrah, 23-Shephard, 42-Kwon. With one notable exception, these are the people whom Jacob touched in the flashbacks of "The Incident".
Flocke explains that Jacob has manipulated them to come to the island, depriving them of free will and "choice". He also explains that Sawyer, like the rest of the people written on the wall (at least the one's whose names are not crossed out) is a "candidate" to succeed Jacob as protector of the island.
It's important to note some of the names that are up there but already crossed out. Most of them seem to be crossed out because they are dead, but there are also several people up there - Straume (Miles), Linus (if it's Ben), Littleton (Claire or Aaron) - who are not dead. Crossing off their names seems a little premptive... and probably not a good sign for these characters living much longer. Either that, or there is something fundamentally different about them that has already made them ineligible for the job. I can see that for Ben - maybe Jacob figured he already had his chance, and kind of blew it. If Claire is "sick" that might have ruled her out. Miles is the one that bothers me. I really don't know why he is crossed off.
And that of course brings us to what is perhaps the major question of this episode: WHAT ABOUT KATE? ("What about her?" Jacob coldly replies inside my head.) She doesn't get one of the special numbers (there's only six of them to go around, though, and Flocke says he doesn't know whether KWON refers to Jin or Sun), and isn't on the wall at all as far as we can tell.
I believe that there are two ways to read this.
1) Kate is cosmically insignificant. I mean, even Shannon got a number. The fact that Kate isn't up there at all could mean that Kate dies, and that Jacob knew she was dead all along. The reason I think this theory has some credibility is that Kate isn't popular with the fan community - she is perhaps the least popular main character (Don't hate me, Kate fans! I'm sorry, that's just how a lot of people feel! I have polls to back me up!). I could see her getting destroyed to appease him.
2) Kate is really, really, REALLY important. Maybe later they will show us that she is attached to the number 108, for example. Or maybe she isn't a candidate because she's going to somehow end up ultimately in charge of even Jacob and the Man in Black. If the little blond boy was an older Aaron, and Claire gets killed, maybe Kate becomes his caretaker again, and is some sort of all-powerful mother deity worshiped like Tawaret.
I've heard the all-male theory, but why then are any females on the wall at all? Rutherford has to be a female - Shannon. It could be that only the ones that come with the Numbers are candidates. Oh, and where does this leave Candidate Frank? Didn't see his name anywhere.
In any case, Kate was touched by Jacob. And the producers know what they're doing. They certainly want us to be talking about Kate's missing name. It's going to be very important, somehow.
Flocke gives Sawyer his options, crossing off John's name as he does. Sawyer can do nothing, and it is implied that he will die, just like John. Or he can take the job of island protector. Or they can leave the island together.
Flocke insists that the island is just that - an island. It doesn't need protecting. Here, he sounds remarkably like Jack in "There's No Place Like Home". He assures Sawyer that the island would have been fine all along, and didn't require the sacrifices of all the people whom Jacob has used and discarded. And Sawyer appears to believe him.
It's not quite clear whether Flocke is about to pull a long con on Sawyer (Sawyer might just be playing along), but the pro-Jacob forces look to be in serious trouble. Sawyer and Flocke are quite a powerful combination. In many ways it makes sense for Sawyer to trust him, because even though Flocke is not technically John, there's a part of John inside him. Sawyer has typically been a supporter of John, sharing key moments with him in seasons 3, 4 and 5. But we'll have to wait and see what comes of this alliance.
Well, I think Flocke is full of it, and is every bit the villain we were expecting. My reason for thinking so is because he reminds me so much of Randall Flagg, an archvillain of Stephen King's books. We know for a fact that the creators are major King fans, and that King's books, particularly The Stand and The Dark Tower series, have influenced the show. Having read and loved those books, I feel I can offer some good commentary on the villain, Flagg.
NOTE: I don't really think what I'm about to say would spoil your enjoyment of any Stephen King books, but if you're about to read The Stand or want to know nothing, absolutely nothing about The Dark Tower, you may want to skip this.
Basically, Randall Flagg is a sort of demi-god/demon who shows up in many different universes with slightly different personalities and appearances, but is always a malevolent, quasi-immortal being with considerable powers and cunning (he's even charming in some incarnations). Like the Man in Black, he goes by many many, many names, though his real one is Walter o'Dim (if MIB's real name turns out to be Walter, me and every other Lost fan will be furiously reading or re-reading The Dark Tower series). "The Man in Black" actually is a nickname for Walter in The Dark Tower series, as is "the Dark Man" in The Stand.
What had me thinking about their similarities tonight was a scene from The Stand. DON'T READ THIS IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW. Again, it won't ruin the book by any means, but I want to be careful. Okay, so a woman from the good civilization is sent to spy on Flagg's evil civilization. Flagg catches her and brings her to his chambers, where he is charming as ever. He tells her that there's no reason for them to fight, all is well, etc. He makes open overtures of peace. The whole time, she's thinking, "Oh my gosh... and I was worried! This guy is great!" Until he asks her to reveal her fellow spy. Then she realizes that it was all for show, and as he turns into his monster form to torture her to death, she kills herself with a shard of glass.
This scene was very firmly in my mind as I watched all of Flocke's interactions last night. He wants to seem like the good guy, like a victim, a friend. But I don't think he is. Not by a long shot.
I could certainly be wrong. Perhaps Jacob and the Man in Black are just flawed, complicated, not all-good or all-bad, like everybody else on the show. Only time will tell.
Until next week, thank you for reading.
- Robby "Robz888"