INTRO: On with the Show
This week’s Locke-centric “The Substitute” was probably the best thing that could have happened to soothe all of the restless natives out in the LOST-iverse who cried “filler” after last week’s slow-but-steady focus on Kate Austen. I mean really, who doesn’t get a kick from Locke’s story? Even if he isn’t your favorite character, you have to admit that after all that has happened to the man, his tale is arguably the most epic of all of LOST’s characters. Now, in this final season, I feel somewhat saddened by the thought that this could very well have been the last episode which centers on this amazing man’s tale.
But enough of my mushy sentimentalizing. This is Locke’s time and there’s always more than plenty to cover in one of his installments. So let’s get to it!
Rain Fall Down
At this point I have totally lost count of how many times poor John has taken a fall or injured himself in the show. It wasn’t hard to guess what would happen in the opening scene as his wheelchair lift refused to lower him to the ground. I have a habit of trying to analyze whenever we see a form of water in the show, as it can symbolize so many different things depending on the situation. As Locke lay with his face to the earth and the sprinklers from his own lawn came on just at the right moment, I believe we were meant to be reminded of all the times on the Island when he was caught in the rain, or even predicted it, and welcomed it with his arms wide open. And just like those times before, he gave a little smile.
What I didn’t predict however was the fact that Helen would suddenly appear racing out of the house to his rescue. Seeing them together again might have been one of the happiest feelings I have had yet this season. Time-line X certainly has our characters in some very amazing circumstances, most notably Locke seeming to have a relationship with his father, and one that is positive enough to even have dad invited to their upcoming wedding. Say whaaaaat?
I suppose we can assume that Anthony Cooper is not responsible for Locke’s status as wheelchair bound in this time-line, and what did cause his disability is now a mystery. In fact, there are tons of questions to now ask about his “alternate” life here. Is Cooper still a con-man or is he now a decent fellow who was actually a part of John’s entire life? Or did Locke still share a kidney with his Dad when he needed it and they ended up bonding during this time? Was he still at some point, for some reason in anger management sessions, or did he and Helen meet some other way? No matter what the answers are I believe it is all just meant to show us that there are some things that still never change for our characters, as in some things will always fall into the category of that which is destined to be. Opposites. Black and white stuff. You know the deal.
John and Helen really are a beautiful couple, reminding me a lot of lovebirds Rose and Bernard. She really seems to support him no matter what the situation. In this iteration of their relationship, she is the one who seems to have more of a faith-based approach. When they discuss Jack Sheppard’s business card, John is somewhat dismissive as Helen reminds him that miracles do happen. This is almost directly opposite from the John we know from the original time-line who once said almost the exact same thing. The events that have molded him in time-line X must have somehow grounded him a bit more towards a logical approach to life. Perhaps it is because things have overall been a bit more positive for John, and he has not found such a strong need to believe in the intangible purely as a survival mechanism.
People in general tend to look towards faith the most when times are at their worst or when the unexplainable has occurred, as our brains have a strong need to make sense out of everything that happens to us. When they cannot, it is often chalked up to being the result of something higher than ourselves, or something outside of us and uncontrollable. Destiny and fate come into play at these moments and we look to our belief systems, our faith, as a substitute for a more logical, earthly explanation.
Then again, in this time-line John hadn’t (yet realized he had) been in a plane crash and awakened with the sudden ability to walk again, either. That would be enough to even turn Dr. Wizard, I mean Mr. Wizard himself into a believer I’m sure.
When the Whip Comes Down
However, we did learn that Locke is still a bit boxed in, literally, as just as in the original time-line he held a position at the box company under the management of one Randy “Douche-bag” Nations. As Randy immediately referred to Locke as “Colonel” we are let on to the fact Locke more than likely still enjoyed his war-games, and Randy still enjoyed teasing him for it. It is now safe to assume there's still a part of this version of Locke who on occasion turned to fantasy and escapism. Just as he pretended to Boone that he had been on a Walkabout, he tried to pretend to his boss that he had actually been to a conference in Sydney. And just like a typical micro-managing jerk-wad, Randy had checked up on John and caught him in his bluff. Poor Locke sat there trying to talk his way out of it, but Randy quickly fired him on the spot with a very cruel, sarcastic military salute.
Waiting on a Friend
“What are the odds of you just running into a spinal surgeon?”, Helen asked Locke earlier as he took a quiet bath. (More water, people!) Probably about the same as running into the owner of the company you were just fired from and learning that he feels the same way about your boss as you do. By the way, Helen's question was an exact mirror to what Ben once said back in season 3 in regards to Jack crashing on the Island right when he too needed such a specialized doctor.
But this time a sharp dressed Hugo was the man with the right info and the right attitude to give Locke the literal “lift” he needed at that exact moment. Just like the leader he had become in the main time-line, he gave John a new path and a new set of instructions. (Sound familiar? Like someone on the Island? Like, someone who used to live in a giant four-toed foot statue?)
Hugo's final words to John, “Chin up, it's gonna work out”, could even be the new, “Life up your eyes and look North.” And indeed Locke's frown was turned upside-down.
You Can't Always Get What You Want
It was great to see Lynn Karnoff, the fortune teller that Hugo's father hired in the original time-line, as one of Hugo's employees at the temp agency he owned, who attempted to “divine” what type of animal Locke most identified with. This was also one of the DHARMA Initiative “Octagon Global Recruiting” questions asked in the fan booth during the 2008 Comic Con.
But Locke would have none of that nonsense, and called over office supervisor Rose Nadler to see if she could get him an in as a construction site coordinator. Rose had always been the female counterpart to Locke on the Island. She too was healed, and she too carried a very mystical sensibility. I wonder now if we are starting to understand more about how she just knew without a doubt that Bernard was still alive way back in seasons one and two. Multiple iterations perhaps? Maybe...
But in this iteration, in this time-line, it would seem she indeed did still have the “Big C”. One could almost sense Locke's famous catch-phrase welling up when she suggested that working at a construction site was not the best idea for someone like him, meaning someone in a wheelchair. Instead however, he challenged her about being “realistic”, and that is when she dropped some hard knowledge on John in regards to how she learned to accept her illness and made the decision to live the rest of her life out the best that she could. It was then Rose who alluded to Locke's mantra by suggesting that she then would help him find something that he could do.
Something Happened to Me Yesterday
It was a nice touch to have Locke awaken to the sound of the Hatch countdown timer as his alarm clock beeping. As he faced himself in the mirror that morning, just as we had already seen with both Jack and Kate in this time-line, some kind of recognition seemed to take place. For a moment, John decided to call Dr. Sheppard’s office and actually give that miracle Helen mentioned a chance after all.
But then he froze, changed his mind, and hung up. Finally Locke began to confess to Helen that he had been fired from his job, that he had never been to that conference in Sydney, and that he had instead attempted to go on that Walkabout.
It is during this time when we were truly given a sense of how different this John Locke was from our “original” version. This John didn't want to continue to pretend he was something he wasn't. This John was tired of trying to fight the things he knows He Can't Do. This John no longer needed a suitcase full of knives to prove that he was any more of a man than he already was. This John was for once being realistic with his limitations, and being honest and open with both himself and the woman who confessed to love him for exactly who he already was.
With her black fingernails and her “Peace and Karma” shirt, Helen leaned in to give John one very righteous and much needed kiss of complete reassurance that she meant exactly what she said. It was truly one of the most heartfelt scenes between two characters since the phone reunion between Desmond and Penny in “The Constant”, and I personally became quite weepy-eyed by the end of it. That would be because the thing we learned overall here was that quite simply, John and Helen were each others' miracle.
Oh No, Not You Again
At last we saw Locke in the field it would seem that he was born for, substitute teaching. I loved how he was immediately shown to not only be coaching sports, but teaching biology, specifically the human reproductive system. The Locke we have come to know has always seemed to have a grasp on a large number of subjects, and this is why so many on the Island became much like pupils to him, most notably Boone, Charlie, and Walt.
But it wasn't until he found the teacher's lounge did destiny unknowingly kick him in the rear. Some whiny teacher was face to the wall jabbering on about responsibilities with the coffee machine. Time-line X John Locke, meet time-line X Benjamin Linus. I don't even want to begin to theorize how he ended up as a teacher off-island, but if anything, it was a fun and once again, fateful reveal.
Speaking of Ben, it's Island time now!
Sweet Black Angel
I just want to give quick a shout out to “Smokey-Cam”, one of the coolest effects I think I've enjoyed on LOST in a good long time. The smokiness around the screen edges were a nice touch, too. I hope to see more of it, because I was fascinated with viewing the landscape through the eyes of the Monster himself.
Good old Ben. Once a liar...well, he'll always have issues I believe. And really, why would he tell a mourning Illana that he was really the one who killed Jacob, which in turn led to her team's destruction? Ben was visibly still in shock and had gone into self-preservation mode, I believe. I don't think he was ready to admit that he was just conned after being so used to being the master con-man himself. It will be interesting to see what is done with his character from this point out. Ben was once such a HUGE force on the show, and now he has been reduced to the fool who may have just screwed everything up for everyone, including the Island he so desperately tried to protect for most of his life.
As Illana gathered up some of Jacob's ashes, I felt a bit of foreshadowing of a showdown to come with the Lockeness Monster, and really I can't wait. Illana is the only one left now of her group of “good guys”, and was specifically asked by Jacob himself for help when she was totally mummified in bandages at that strange hospital last season. One thing that I've always wondered is if he helped to heal her or not, as we were made sure to notice that he did not actually touch her as he did with the rest of our survivors.
In addition, after all of the talk about free-will, and how everyone involved had to want to return to the Island on their own accord, we had Sayid being brought on that fateful Ajira flight in cuffs specifically against his will after being caught in Illana's ruse. Um, Jacob, that was more than just a little push.
Finally, I just wanted to note the lovely, haunting theme that we have centering around Jacob that we hear whenever he now shows up in his non-corporeal form. Once again Michael Giacchino shows off his mad, award-winning scoring skills.
Tell Me (You're Coming Back)
How rude it was of the Beach Others to just up and leave Frank, Sun, Ben, and Illana for the Temple. They are such a pitiful bunch these days, reminding me a bit of the queen-less aliens from the film “District 9”. Without Jacob, or Richard, or any leadership at all it seems they are like aimless sheep who have now scurried off to save their own hides when they should have stayed behind to help protect any of the remaining potential “candidates”. Then again, if Richard didn't know about Jacob's plans, I suppose they didn't either.
But before the rest of the party could join them, Sun had enough courtesy and respect for the Real John Locke to suggest the bury the poor man. Frank called it when he said it was one of the weirdest damn funerals he'd ever been to, as a touching eulogy by Ben revealed his thought that Locke was a better man than he, and that he was sorry for murdering him. Yeah, Ben is definitely feeling like the guy with the dunce cap on these days. This could have also tipped off Illana to the fact that Ben might not be someone she should be trusting in regards to what really went down inside the foot statue. That was one strange look she gave the Benster. One thing I keep wondering is why Jacob has not yet come to visit her in his “dead but here” form.
We've seen a lot of funerals on the Island, but I believe this one happened for a major reason or two. For one, it reminded us how important it is to bury the dead, lest they be claimed as we have seen with some of the unfortunate bodies left above ground. Of course Christian Sheppard and Yemi immediately come to mind. From the WW2 soldiers, to Keamy's freighter team, to the Others, and even the DHARMA Initiative, it seemed that everyone made sure to put the no-longer-living into the ground as quickly as possible. I think that this pretty much sealed the deal on the theory that MIB can take the form of anyone who had died and had been left unburied. However, in this situation we already have him taking the form of our dear, dead Locke.
Therefore, I think this burial also served a second purpose. For those of us who had been hoping for some kind of true reincarnation of the Real John Locke, I believe those hopes were also now sadly laid into their final resting place.
By the way, did you notice how both men, Ben and Frank were in white, while the ladies Illana and Sun, wore black?
The Last Time
We also learned something quite interesting from Illana as the group had carried John Locke's body to the beach camp graveyard. Apparently MIB could no longer just change his appearance at whim like we had seen before, as I suppose he had been doing since season one starting with Christian. He's now “stuck” in the body of Locke. Well, stuck in that body but not without his ability to change into his Smokier-self. So what does this mean? Heck if I know, but I'm sure it has something to do with Jacob's death and the loophole that MIB used to kill him.
By the way, Illana also mentioned back at the foot statue that the reason MIB took Richard is because he is “recruiting”. Um, recruiting for what may I ask? An army? A dark army?! An ARMY OF DARKNESS?!?! Please, please tell me that Bruce Campbell is going to show up too, because that would just be way super cooooool!
The Spider and the Fly
I loved how Lockeness actually apologized to Richard for knocking him out and dragging him into the jungle. Apparently he had “always wanted” Richard to be part of his team. To me this not only suggested a much richer history between the two besides mere familiarity, but also that Richard might even be special to MIB in some yet unknown way. If Richard is very old as has been suggested, then perhaps they even knew each other once when they were more like, um, normal men.
It also seemed strange to me that Richard seemed totally oblivious to Jacob's Replacement Candidate System. The Temple Others certainly seemed to know about it. Heck, even Illana and her company knew about it. But here, Richard was surprised to even hear the word. I hope that he was just bluffing and protecting what he knew, perhaps in an attempt to protect the candidates themselves from Lockeness' prodding. Lockeness promised Richard that he would have never had kept him in the dark about such important matters, and that he would have treated Richard with respect. Yeah, I don't know about you, but I didn't believe a lot of what Lockeness said, as to me it reeked of manipulation. I think he was just telling Richard what he thought he wanted to hear, and needed Richard for some yet unknown reason. After asking Richard once more to join him, Lockeness made a statement that got right to the heart of not only one of the Real John's beliefs, but one of LOST's overall themes from the very beginning. “...People seldom get a second chance”, he said in response to Richard's defiant refusal to follow along.
Cue freaky boy with bloody hands suddenly standing in the jungle in a Christ-like pose!
It appears that even Lockeness can be spooked, but the boy was gone faster than Richard could turn around to see what had suddenly changed the expression on his nemesis' face. More on the kid in a bit.
Sawyer has some killer taste in music! And yet another reference to the spinning record was revealed to us as Lockeness made James his next pit stop on the recruiting tour.
Sawyer also had some funky-stained drawers! But what did he care? He had his whiskey, his Iggy, and his memories of when his life was actually a happy one. One when he wasn't alone, in mourning, inside a home that now mirrored his own inner self all shattered and broken.
The fact that a dead John Locke walked in didn't even phase him, and without blinking he recognized the intruder as an imposter. In a bit of a cold exchange, Lockeness told Sawyer that house was never really his home, which added a bit of insult to his already drunken injury. Lockeness then used the same song and dance with Sawyer that he attempted with Richard in the form of the promise of answers. At that point it seemed that James was either a bit fogged by the drinky-drink, had a death-wish, or that he really was looking for some semblance of meaning to it all. Surprisingly, he actually agreed to go with Lockeness with the hope to find out exactly why he became stuck on Craphole Island in the first place.
2000 Light Years from Home
One of my favorite exchanges in the episode came during the trek that Sawyer and Lockeness made through the jungle, as James decided to strike up a little bit of small-talk on the subject of reading. We were given a clue here that MIB was quite old indeed, more than likely ancient, as when James mentioned his favorite book “Of Mice and Men”, Lockeness replied that one was before his time. That was the second time the famous Steinbeck story had been brought up on LOST in regards to Sawyer, as the first time was when Ben pulled a long con on the con-man himself. This time however it was James who attempted to pull a fast one in the form of a gun on the imposter leading his way. One could almost see Lockeness begging Sawyer to shoot at him, as that would have most likely allowed him to unleash his Smokiness, and some major raging would have certainly ensued.
Instead James was a bit flustered by the lack of fear from his companion, and asked once more, “What are you?”. In a quick soliloquy we learned a lot more about MIB, and how he had been “trapped” for a long, long time. He claimed he was indeed once a real man who had experienced all of the same emotions; pain, fear, love, and betrayal as someone like Sawyer had. This time I think I believed him, but I also still believe he has an amazing knack for telling people what they need to hear most. MIB could just as easily had been feeding off of his host, just as he seemed to know the mind of Locke and his final thoughts before his death. The overall intent of this reveal however was to put himself more on the same level as Sawyer, and gain a bit more of his trust in the process. Slowly but surely he was trying to lure James over to his side, but before the hugs and bonding could take place, cue Creepy Jungle Kid once again!
Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)
Three major occurrences happened in the scene with the Creepy Jungle Kid (CJK). The first is that we learned Sawyer could also see the little guy, which totally took Lockeness by surprise. I believe this is because Sawyer is special, as we learned way back in the day when he also saw Kate's vision of the black horse from her past in the jungle. The second thing that happened here was when Lockeness took off running after the CJK, then tripped and fell to find the kid just standing over him. Just like a disapproving parent, the kid muttered something about “the Rules”, which we have heard so many times on the show, and told Lockeness that he can't “kill him”.
If I am right in my assumption that this is a younger version or spirit of Jacob from a time when he and MIB once knew each other during more “human” times, then he was there to serve as a reminder that his crew of specifically “touched” survivors could not be directly murdered by his nemesis. This would refer to people like Sawyer, whom Lockeness was obviously trying to bring over to the dark side.
The final revelation, and my favorite, was Lockeness' response to the CJK as he walked away. Let's all now repeat in unison, “Don't tell me what I can't do!...DON'T TELL ME WHAT I CAN'T DO!!”.
Wait. Is it...? Could it be...? Is part of the Real John Locke somewhere in there, shining through without MIB even being aware of it, or able to stop it? I am willing to place bets that this might have related to the funeral. Remember John's words to Jack back in the “LA X” baggage claim? The “person” and the “body” are separate, and who knows where the “person” really goes when they die? We haven't lost Locke, we've just lost his body. And I believe right now that our dear, Real John Locke lives on somewhere inside this MIB-infected version, and is slowly-but-steadily beginning to reveal himself.
One more little thing needs to be mentioned here: Richard's sudden appearance out of the jungle as Sawyer waited alone for Lockeness to return from his chase. Richard told James that he must come to the Temple where he would be safe, and that MIB planned to not only kill him, but everyone he loved, everyone on the Island. Of course James refused, as he has already been to the Temple party and it was a dead-end of its own in his eyes. It was pretty evident that Richard was as terrified as a man could be, and upon MIB's return he disappeared just as quick as that first scene of the CJK.
Paint It, Black
Finally the dynamic duo reached a cliff-side and a very sketchy rope ladder down one very high ocean-facing wall. I loved not only the symbolic reference to “Jacob's Ladder”, but also how it was split into two sides, just like so many things in LOST. Once again I had some “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” flashbacks as Sawyer climbed down after Lockeness and the ladder suddenly broke apart and sent him slamming against the rocks and scrambling for his life. I think this may have been another part of Lockeness' plan, sort of like one of those trust-fall exercises, and he helped Sawyer gain his footing once again. Lockeness still needed Sawyer for something, and he was not just going to allow him to plummet to his death. Or at least, not yet anyway.
Once inside the cave, we were shown a set of scales with one white and one black rock on each side, in virtual balance. Lockeness proudly grabbed the white rock and then tossed it out into the sea. When Sawyer grumpily asked what that was all about, Lockeness simply replied, “Inside joke”. That statement was definitely made for the audience who has been seeing black and white stones since John Locke first explained to Walt the two sides in backgammon. And just like in that game, this one had a Light and a Dark player. It would seem the Dark Side had indeed now literally tipped the scales to his favor.
Shine a Light
Of course the greatest reveal of the entire episode came from deeper inside the cave, where Lockeness led Sawyer with torch in hand to a room with the ceiling and walls covered in some kind of writing. We were then shown that the writing was made up of the names of the very people we have come to know and love on the Island, and that each one in turn also corresponded to a number. Lockeness told Sawyer that these names represented the “candidates” that were in line to take Jacob's place as head honcho of the Island. Many of these names had been crossed out, possibly either because they had died, been claimed by MIB, or for some other reason had been proven unfit for service.
The six names left that were not already crossed out directly corresponded to THE Numbers themselves, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. Apparently Jacob not only had a thing for lists but had “a thing for numbers”, as Lockeness put it. Even though I believe there is more to the Numbers that just this, I have a feeling this reveal of their meaning will probably go no deeper on the show.
Even more interesting was the fact that each of The Numbers matched up with one of our main survivors. 4 was for Locke, who was quickly crossed off by MIB, since John was obviously no longer available. 8 was for Hugo. 15, Sawyer. 16 matched up with Sayid. 23 was for Jack, and 42 was for either Jin or Sun Kwon. Surprisingly absent was Kate's name, but I think she was on there somewhere not shown to us, as she too was “touched” by Jacob just as all these other folks listed had been.
Please Go Home
After Sawyer started to come to grips with this freaky realization that his name had been carved and numbered on the wall of this Island cave, the true mind-play began. Lockeness went on to tell Sawyer that he had been manipulated all his life by Jacob for the purpose of being brought to the Island, and that his whole life's worth of decisions could have very well been the product of Jacob's direct influence.
Finally, he gave Sawyer three choices. Lockeness said that he could just do nothing and see how things turned out. I think it was easy to tell that “seeing how things turned out” very well meant facing certain death. The second option was to take Jacob's place as leader of the Island. But then Lockeness told James that the Island wasn't special at all, that it was all just a farce, and that it never needed protecting in the first place. I think we all know that this was a big fat lie if there ever was one.
The third choice was to leave the Island, together. To go Home. I think this must be what the recruiting is all about. Wherever MIB is heading, he must also need some live and able bodies to come along for the homecoming reunion. And if it somehow actually involves the End of the World altogether, then the more souls along for the dark ride, the better chances he must have at succeeding with this overall plan. Lockeness was such the master at manipulating Sawyer in this scene, and so good at pressing all the right buttons, Sawyer finally agreed that “home” was exactly where he too wanted to go.
Let's hope that Sawyer was just playing along here, and is once more planning some larger con himself on Lockeness. Because I personally do not believe for one second that James Ford, con-men of all con-men, is going to so easily allow himself to be fooled EVER again.
CONCLUSION: Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind
The combination of the LOST writers’ incredible storytelling and understanding of the character and Terry O’ Quinn’s brilliant Emmy-winning portrayal has made John Locke without a doubt (in my humble opinion) the most intriguing man on the show. I am quite confident that he will probably go down in TV history as one of the most iconic characters to have ever graced the screen.
From his very first moment fresh from the crash of 815 on through to the present, John Locke has always been “special”; mysterious, wise, complex, emotional, and undoubtedly troubled. We have seen his heart broken, his body shattered, his confidence dissipated, his legs destroyed again and again, and his life totally taken from him, yet after all of this he still remains one of the most important, if not THE most important survivor of the entire series. This isn’t even taking into account the high level of mythology that surrounds him. He has taken the highest position as the faith-based Yin to Jack’s scientific Yang and is the very embodiment of the blind belief in destiny.
Sure, there are those of you who would debate this statement and defend Jack as the main character of LOST, and the one at the head of the line to become the ultimate “hero” of the show. But it was Locke who eventually triggered that change in Jack’s perception of his role in the grand scheme of things, gave him a new faith in destiny, and helped motivate him to take that Ajira Flight that brought him back where he was meant to be. Throughout the show John has always been the one most connected to the Island, and as the Man-in-Black-as-Locke put it, “…the only one of them that didn't wanna leave. The only one, who realized how pitiful the life he'd left behind actually was.”
It is difficult for me to think of Locke as no longer a man of faith, but this is exactly what he seems to have been revealed to be in this episode, or at least in this iteration. Instead, he is a man of acceptance, of realistic thinking, and as a result, a man of a much more balanced perspective of his life. His limitations only forced him to find his true calling, which seems to be teaching others. Overall, I really like the Locke of time-line X.
As Penny wrote in her letter to Desmond, “...all we really need to survive is one person who truly loves us.“ John Locke is not only happy, but he is loved, and that I believe is the most important thing of all.
Until next time,
*I write about LOST because I love the challenge of deciphering the clues and adding the pieces together. My thoughts are based solely on the show, the LOST Experience, and random research, as I try to avoid spoilers, promos, and even future episode titles. I love to guess what is going on, but I also like to do so in a way that leaves some of the conclusions still up to you. I do not know the answers and am often wrong. Whatever the truth turns out to be, it has been the journey that has meant the most to me.*