"Lost" Season Six, Episode Three: "The Substitute" Review

2/17/2010 Posted by Admin

Television Review

"Lost" Season Six, Episode Three: "The Substitute"

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

With the final season well underway and only a dozen or so episodes to go, I suppose it was about time showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse started giving us some answers instead of bringing up handfuls of new questions. Well, after two excellent episodes in a row, "Lost" is back this week with what may be the best Locke-centric episode since season one's "Walkabout," and one of the most mythological and answer-filled episodes so far this season.

Spoilers herein.

"The Substitute" picks up with Flocke and Richard right where we left them last time we saw them in "LAX." Flocke has Richard captive and he tells him he promises to explain everything if he'll just come with him. Richard refuses--he still, after everything that's happening, swears loyalty to the late Jacob. Flocke leaves him and goes to find other recruits for his as-yet unclear cause. We actually get a pretty cute moment where we see Flocke zoom across the island from his point-of-view as the smoke monster.

Elsewhere, Ilana, Frank, Sun and Ben still stand outside the four-toed statue, flabbergasted by recent events, and left with very little to do. Ilana suggests fleeing to the Temple, which she claims is the only safe haven left on the island, but before they do that, Sun suggests they give the real John Locke a proper burial. This leads to one of the best moments of the episode, where Ben says some kind words and shows real regret for being responsible for John's death. It's pretty clear that after everything that's happened, Ben finally is overwhelmed and he's feeling the mistakes he's made.

The flash-sideways--while not particularly revelatory about what exactly they have to do with the first timeline--give us a glimpse of John Locke's life following the landing at LAX. Evidently in this timeline, Locke is still with Helen Norwood (the girlfriend he lost in the original timeline due to his obsession with his con man father) and they plan to get married. We return to Locke's cubicle from "Walkabout," as well, and Randy--Locke's vehemently unlikable boss from that episode--returns as well, firing John for apparently not attending the conference for which he was flown to Australia. We soon discover, though, that in this timeline, Hurley owns the company Locke works for, and he says he can get John any job he wants through a temp agency he owns. Little connections like this are interesting, but no light is really shed on what they mean just yet.

The on-island plotline is where things are really starting to get interesting. We don't see any of Jack, Kate or Jin in this episode--so we don't get any answers about Sayid or Claire either--but we do see Sawyer, still walled up in his former house in Dharmaville and drinking up a storm. But it's not long before Flocke shows up and tells Sawyer that if he goes with him, all the answers he's ever wanted--especially the BIG one, why he's on the island--he can give him.

And boy, answers we certainly get. The numbers, the people Jacob touched in "The Incident," Jacob's overall purpose on the island--we get some very solid buts of information about all of these, and the more that's revealed the more Flocke's cause seems almost honorable. The episode as a whole, despite traditionally being Locke-centric, is really both Locke and Smokey-centric. Whereas the flash-sideways show us Locke, the on-island story tells us a great deal about Flocke, and the episode succeeds mostly because of how much of his personality is finally coming out. He's not just a one-note enigma, nor just a villain. Despite the show's focus on duality, it's clear Flocke's conflicts are not just black and white. The show has only vaguely hinted at the possibility that Jacob isn't all good until now, where we get outright proof he may be manipulative and self-serving. The last scene of the episode especially has a lot of huge implications about Flocke and Jacob, and the entire purpose of the survivors being on the island is becoming very suspect and strange.

My primary point is this: I think a focal point of this season from the viewer's standpoint is going to be, quite simply, which side are you on? Jacob's or Flocke's? I think Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have given and will provide further evidence for both sides, and I think a major aspect of the season will end up being who you ultimately agree with. This is pretty brilliant, really--it completely eliminates the tired "good versus evil" formula of so many stories out there and really leaves it to the audience to decide. That's just a theory, however. For all I know, Flocke could eat babies and burn villages. I suppose we'll find out eventually.

I can certainly see now what "LA X" and "What Kate Did" hinted at--Terry O'Quinn and Josh Holloway are really going to be the stand-outs this season. Their performances as Locke/Flocke and Sawyer here are at their very best, and the exciting climax says we'll be seeing some of their best moments this season. Michael Emerson was also a definite stand-out this week, with his brief funeral speech and super-surprising scene near the end of the episode promising lots of great things as well.

Overall, "The Substitute" is a definite improvement over "What Kate Does" (not the bad episode a lot of viewers seem to think it is, but nothing particularly breathtaking) and one of the best Locke episodes of the series. This season really becomes more and more promising as it goes along.

Grade: A

  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • StumbleUpon
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • Facebook
  • TwitThis
  • MySpace
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Google
  • Reddit
  • Sphinn
  • Propeller
  • Slashdot
  • Netvibes


  1. Anonymous said...

    Nice review, thanks! I agree that this episode has cemented the idea that there's no good/evil side - just black or white like in Chess (which featured in the first few episodes of Season 1 with Locke and Walt). But this, along with some of the emerging themes of leadership (where Jacob commands unquestioning followers, and Smokie supposedly offers transparent leadership), this makes me wonder whether this show is about answering the question about "What makes something (or someone) good?"

    I think it was Socrates who posed the question of whether something is good because it is commanded as such (Jacobean), or because as a choice among others (Smokiean) it is chosen as good. And of choice involves a choice to be evil as well as good. Can an action - or a life we choose to lead - be considered good in the absence of the choice to do bad (and to redeem ourselves therefrom)?

    Deep stuff :-)