Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Substitute | On Second Thought

So - here we go: looking more closely at things in the background, etc, etc, while watching the episode over after digesting all that happened last time.

We preface with James's state of mind, Smokey's last actions from the pilot, John Locke's story from the flashsideways.

Sideways land:
Locke's story
This is the first we've experienced him unloading his van while in a wheelchair. Truth be told, in all our time with Locke on the Island and off the Island in flashbacks, we never really got a very good taste of what his life was like while he was in his wheelchair. And this is important for us

The wedding is in October, which Helen says. Helen's recommendation that they take her parents and his father to Vegas for a quick wedding insinuates that Locke and his father are buddies for real in the world.

Jack Shephard's spinal surgery makes Helen excited - she's keen on having Locke getting his back fixed. As far as we know, Helen knows Locke from before his paralysis.

Locke is back in his cubicle at the box company (was that in Arizona?) and Randy Nations is still his asshole boss. Now, Randy has every right to be upset with Locke considering Locke did what he did. He's still a dick about it - but hey, we're all looking for a way to make our jobs more interesting. Flaunting our power over insubordinate subordinates is just a thing we like to do.

"Where I was ... it's personal and I don't really want to talk about it."

Was he really on a walkabout? How did he wind up in a wheelchair? We'll find out when Locke and Shephard get together.

As for now, Locke is stuck carrying his belongings from his office down to his dysfunctional van when he finds that he can't get in because Hurley parked his Hummer too close to him. Locke is so upset with being handicapped that he won't park in a handicapped spot. Awesome - that's really great. Hugo and Locke share a distaste for Randy. Hugo owns a Temp Agency - and he is the picture of good luck and a positive attitude, which is the opposite of our real Hugo.

Locke wakes up one morning and he wants to call Jack Shephard, and he doesn't talk to the receptionist (Jack has his own office, not just a gig at a hospital). Basically this scene shows us that Locke has lost faith - he is not a man of faith. He's what Smokey called him in the pilot ... to paraphrase, a loser. A irreconcilable loser.

Locke planned on a Walkabout, but he wasn't allowed to go on it, and Locke still yells, "You can't tell me what I can't do," but in this world, he's sick of imagining what his life would be like out of his chair. Locke's confident there are no such things as miracles. Helen is an instigator of hope and faith in him - I hope she doesn't die (though we know that she'll have a brain anurism (sp?) shortly and pass away from Season 5.)

So Rose gets Locke a job as a substitute teacher where he teaches about the human reproductive system and suicide drills (a call out to season 5 where Locke tries to kill himself?) when he goes to the staff room and he meets Ben Linus, a teacher of European history.

Island land:
Smokey's journey
Smokey-eye view of the Island is very cool. I liked that - a great directorial/editorial choice. Smokey checks on James before picking up a machete and getting Richard Alpert. Now, Smokey says: "Alright Richard, time to talk." Does Richard have information Smokey wants? Or does Smokey have something he needs to tell Richard?

Smokey offers Richard water, which he drinks desperately. He's been hanging up there for a while. Smokey has always wanted to have Richard follow him (Smokey's interested in Richard's help?). Why does he look like Locke? John was a candidate. So, what's a candidate and did Richard know that Smokey could change shape? Did Jacob know all of this? And did Smokey really know what was going on?

Perhaps in their past, Smokey and Jacob both attempted to recruit Richard? Alpert, as we can see, has existed on the Island for a very, very long time. In fact, I am of the persuasion that he's protected by the Island - considering he's not been killed in all the hostilities that have occurred (including an Hydrogen bomb). So when he's scared for his life, I can only imagine that Smokey (at some point in their shared past) almost killed him once - and scared him enough to fear for his life. What could that have been?

Plus, we've got to figure out what candidates are for?

Then there's the vision of the small blonde boy with blood all over his arms that Richard couldn't see. Has Richard ever seen visions? If MIB can have visions, perhaps he's not the one influencing visions all over the Island.

James is wasted and despondent. He wants to be alone - and doesn't seem responsive to Locke being alive any longer. We realize that James doesn't fall for Locke's tricks.

So instead of being intimidated, he pours Smokey a drink. Smokey appears to be unfamiliar with drinking. James is so upset he absolutely disregards Locke's "presence." Then Smokey puts the drink down - can he not drink? Does he have no interest in drinking? Is he some sort of puritan?

Smokey doesn't hide that he's not Locke, which is good to hear. They traipse out into the jungle and Smokey is surprised to find James all alone - nobody seems to call him Sawyer anymore. Then the blond kid shows up and James can see him, which also surprises Smokey. Is this important? Before a commercial break, we have a very interesting moment. The vision of a boy reminds Smokey that "You know the rules. You can't kill him." We should think that this means James - but ... instead of saying he's not going to kill anyone, Smokey becomes defiant: "Don't tell me what I can't do!" Exactly like Locke - but this line has been given by more than one character throughout the series. Jack says it, and I think Ben says it, but I don't recall.

So James is left alone calling for Locke, when Richard shows up and is scared shitless. Richard wants to take James back to the Temple (it must be a safe place indeed). Richard says that Smokey wants everyone dead. Everyone. Cool. The two agree not to talk as they "get on with it."

While they're walking, Smokey reveals that Steinbeck is "a little after my time." James makes Of Mice and Men into an allegory for his intentions. James wants to shoot Smokey, which worked out poorly for the guys at the Four-Toed Statue. Smokey relates to James, they have things in common, and he uses this to recruit.

Smokey insists that James is so close to answers, that it would be a change to turn back now.

The two reach a crazy wicked cliff and descend an awfully weathered ladder into a cliff-side cave.

They enter a cave and Smokey finds a black stone and a white stone on a scale (balance) and he throws the white one out into the water (as an inside joke). So Smokey brings James into a cavern beyond the cave and it's a cave wall covered in names and numbers.

Jacob wrote all the names - and Smokey's not upset that he died a few days ago. The names are all crossed out when someone dies, as we can presume when Smokey crosses out Locke's name. What is Jacob's thing for numbers? Is 42 Sun or Jin? What does it mean that4 is gone now that Locke is dead? 'Last but not least' is number 15 - James.

Jacob pushes you to the Island, because he's a candidate. Jacob thought he was the protector of the Island. So, there are three choices. James could do nothing, accept the job, or they just go and get the hell off the Island and never look back.

The recruitment finalizes with James saying: Hell yes.
The folks at the Four-Toed Statue
Ilana cries in the Four-Toed Statue when Ben interrupts. She goes from weeping to sultry in a moment as Ben explains what happened. Though Ben lies about killing Jacob - does he have interests in manipulating Ilana? Then Ilana takes some ash. Ben asks Ilana questions, she knows more about Smokey than Ben does?

Smokey is "recruiting." Which segues into Smokey searching out James.

Then Ilana, Ben, Sun and Frank are ready to get safe by going to the Temple. Ilana compels Sun to follow her because of Jin's presence on the Island. But apparently more important to immediately finding Jin is burying Locke. Is that in character with Sun? [My instinct says no, but someone's got to get it done.)

What kind of animal would we describe Locke as? Is he a people-person? Do we care? Rose Nadler is the office supervisor at the temp agency. Locke wants to be a construction site coordinator. Rose is the one person that relates to Locke. On the Island they were united by faith in season two as they agreed that the Island was a good thing for both of them considering they were both saved by the Island.

Ilana seems to know a lot about what's going on on the Island. For Ben, who spent most of his life there working for the forces that be, it's very odd that he would be out of the loop. Then again, he was off the Island for a bunch of years - perhaps that puts someone out of the loop. So, Ben questions why Ilana (and her now dead crew) would bring Locke's dead body all the way from the Hydra Island to the Four Toed Statue, and she knew it was so people would realize that they were up against a shape-shifting manipulator. She also reveals that Smokey is "stuck this way" meaning he can't change forms either again, or anymore.

Frank and Ben dig the hole while Ilana and Sun ... look pretty. Ilana didn't know Locke and asks if others wanted to say words at his funeral.

"John Locke was a believer. He was a man of faith. He was a much better man than I will ever be. And I'm very sorry I murdered him," says Ben. Frank makes a joke while they shovel dirt onto Locke, but ... basically, this marks a turning point for Ben, I think. We should expect some good things from him in the very near future, I hope.

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