You had a lot of questions, “Lost” fans,” about “The Substitute.” Luckily, I’m here with answers. OK, maybe “answers” isn’t the correct word at this stage of the game, when things seem so hopelessly confusing that pinning down any definitive take on things seems an impossible task. So let me change “answers” with “insights” to save myself the inevitable wrath.
(Quick programming note: be sure to go here and learn about our next live chat, dropping this Tuesday.)
In today’s edition: Numbers! Creepy kids! Professor Linus! Let’s get to it.
How do we know that, that was even Jacob’s writings in the “Cave of Numerology?” Could it have been possible that “Smokey/Locke or whomever he was at an earlier date” had written it there so that Sawyer would think Jacob had done it?
To me, this question is symptomatic of a larger trend in “Lost” fandom right now, and it’s one I understand. The trend: not accepting any answers at all that are given in the show. And I get it: After five plus years of mysteries, half-truths, and double-backs on the part of the writers and the plot, why should fans take things such as “Jacob wrote the names and numbers on the cave walls” at face value? Having Smocke cross out Locke’s name only fueled the fire.
As such, I’ve jokingly started referring to Darlton as “The Boys that Cried ‘Lost’.” Not because I think they’ve earned that moniker, but that’s what seems to be happening here. I can’t imagine it’s a fun way to watch the show: seeing scene after scene and being unable to definitively take anything away from them. It would be like watching one of those David Mamet grifter flicks where everyone’s trying to stay seven steps ahead of everyone else just to be the one to walk away with a shiny gold coin or something.
But in terms of what you SHOULD take away as truths from this scene, let’s get to Tempest’s question.
OK, sorry if someone already asked this (or if I missed the discussion) . . . but to what extent do you think we can trust Smocke’s (love the name!) explanation of the list/names/numbers in the cave and why our folks are on the island?
Here’s my take: Yes, Jacob did make the lists. Yes, Jacob did have a “thing for numbers,” but that the numbers were just a way to throw The Man in Black off the scent. (It’s the people, not the numbers, who are important. The importance of the former informs the importance of the latter.) No, the Island is NOT just an Island, unworthy of protection. Yes, The Man in Black believes there are only three options for a candidate. But there’s a fourth option, as I outlined in “Course Corrections.” It’s an option that’s only known to Jacob, and it’s the option upon which the entire show hinges. What’s that option? Er, give me a few weeks. I’m working on it. All I have so far is “wrap the candidate in a Snuggie and have him go on a pub crawl.” Which I’m guessing isn’t Jacob’s mystery option.
What’s the significance of Kate or Aaron or one of the Kwons not having their names tied to one of the Numbers? Does not being one of the Numbers mean you won’t be significant to the endgame? Because Kate’s not one of them, Claire (or Aaron) is crossed out, and only one of the Kwons is represented, yet all of these people are still important to the endgame according to what the narrative arc of Season 6 is telling us so far…
I don’t think not being a candidate precludes a character from being significant to the endgame. At least, I hope not. Having your female lead revealed as insignificant to the end game with 14 hours to go? Weak. Sauce. Then again, if Jin, not Sun, is the one on the wall, then we have 6 male candidates. No women. There might be an explanation that doesn’t leave a sour taste in my mouth about that, but I can’t think of it yet.
I’m guessing Kate’s role all along was to keep Claire and Aaron safe, a pretty seismic job but one separate from candidacy. Sun’s role: you got me. The show needs to give her something more to do, and fast. But I’m loving The Fantastic Four of Sun, Ben, Ilana, and Lapidus, vibe-wise. A really interesting group dynamic there. I’d watch those four rent an RV and travel coast to coast, checking out the sites, sounds, and smells of America. We can call it, “We’re Not Going to Guam, Are We?” I’d watch that show. Hell, I’d Season Pass it.
Significant or no: Sawyer could see BoyJacob.
Brian of the North
(Oh, did you want me to elaborate? I think it’s significant beyond anything to do with Sawyer’s candidacy because seeing that boy, coupled with Richard’s appearance, forced Sawyer to shake off the cobwebs and put up his BS detector. Sawyer realizes that he has to stop Smocke, but is seeing how things play out, looking for weaknesses. That boy? Weakness No. 1. Weakness No. 2? Rogaine!)
Ryan, two-part question:
a) Why is it so difficult to assume the boy in the jungle wasn’t Aaron? We have spent years discussing how special these children of the Island are (Walt, Aaron, Ji Seon, etc.), and since we know Walt was able to make flash appearances on the Island after he had left, isn’t it believable Aaron can do the same thing?
b) Ilana mentions how notLocke is now “frozen” and can’t change shape, but hasn’t he already shifted shape when he took the form of Christian to Sun & Lapidus and he took the form of Ben’s daughter Alex in the cave. So since he shifted twice from Locke to two other people, shouldn’t we assume that Ilana is wrong with her assessment?
Answering Part A: Yes, it’s fun to see what people will suddenly assume is completely out of bounds in the realm of possibility. To me, watching half the show’s characters changing their minds in order for “Lost” to get its big characters to the Swan site in time for Jughead’s detonation was 100 times less believable than the fact that that child might be some version of Aaron. But hey, you say tomato, I say “Peter Pan.”
You’re smart to remember the shifts to Christian and Alex in Season 5. Other astute readers have pointed this out as well. When Ilana mentioned the “frozen” aspect, I was just thrilled I wasn’t going to have to watch another show in which I can’t be certain that the person I’m looking at is the person I’m looking at. Really frustrating narrative trick. My guess at how the show will square this circle? Upon Jacob’s death, he froze. Until then, he was malleable. Just a guess, though.
And now, the biggest question I got all week: “Professor Ben Linus, WTF?”
So what the heck do we make of the sideways timeline NOW? I had assumed that the bomb sunk the island, killing everyone left on it, resulting in an alternate timeline from 1977 on. (Kind of like Biff with the sports almanac in Back to the Future II).
However, I see no way that Ben can exist in the sideways timeline if this is what happened. So … what DID happen? That epilogue theory is starting to seem a lot more likely….
My biggest question of the night was how Ben could still be alive. We all seemed to be working off the theory that the bomb/event/whatever split the timelines and those who were off the island when it went off in 1977 survived and those who were on the island (like all of the others) were killed. Well, Ben was with the others and wasn’t removed from the island with all of the women and children like Ethan was – so ho
w is he alive?
Sherri in Issaquah
Like others I’m a bit confused about how Ben is alive in the Alt timeline. But let’s assume that somehow Richard was able to get him, Eloise and maybe Widmire off. Will Alt-Ben still be affected by what happened to him at the Temple even though the island sunk?
Also, prediction: since Ben is teaching European history, we will see him teach about The Black Rock.
First up: It’s OK to be confused. We’re absolutely supposed to be confused at this point. But trying to describe why Ben SHOULDN’T be in this timeline seems fruitless. He’s there! Shouldn’t we be spending our energies figuring out why he IS there versus why it’s supposedly impossible for him to be so?
Secondly: I still don’t like the epilogue theory. Seems to me like we’re watching the last chapter of the “Harry Potter” series intercut with the final book, and I’m not sure that makes any sense at all. For these two timelines to have meaning as a viewer, they have to be related. “But an epilogue IS related,” you reply. “It’s the conclusion to the Island storyline! I hate you and your bald head.” Now, see, that’s just mean. No need to talk about my chrome dome here. I am not saying the epilogue theory is bogus, because it could turn out to be true. Again: we just…don’t…know. But for have everything in the sideways universe be a series of grace notes with minimal strife for these people to overcome in the wake of whatever will happen on the Island timeline seems like the least interesting way this sideways storyline could play out. (OK, fine, “it’s all in Vincent’s head” would be less interesting. You caught me.)
When I say related, I mean these two storylines, although separated by three years in what we mere mortals perceive as spacetime, are currently interwoven, playing out alongside each other in ways neither side truly understands. Think back to the message in Room 23: “Only fools are enslaved by time and space.” (Newly amended version: “Only fools are enslaved by their pants on the ground.”) Looking at Sideways Locke as a byproduct of what’s going down on the Island now is less interesting than looking at how that version of Locke might have something to do with Smocke uttering, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!” to the mysterious child. In “LA X” and “What Kate Does,” we saw instances in which the sideways world caught glimpses of the Island one. In “The Substitute,” we may have seen our first example of it working the other way. Conversely, I’m excited to see how Ben’s eulogy passes energy back to the sideways world.
One quick specific thing I want to clear up about the sideways timeline: While I do not come close to full understanding how it works, I think you have to go much further back than 1977 to start looking for changes. I think you have to go back at least until 1954, the year in which John Locke told Richard Alpert to start keeping tabs on him. If the butterfly effect from that meeting in The Others’ camp not happening leads to a world in which the Dharma Initiative never goes to the Island (or is even created in the first place), then having people like Ben and Ethan off-Island becomes easier to understand.
But remember: “easier to understand” is all relative at this point. There’s no way any of us have nearly enough information to make an informed opinion about what’s going on in the sideways universe. And I’m sympathetic (and agree with) those that want more information on what’s going on. I want more synergy between the two. I want an object from one world to pop up in another. I want more Desmond and his time-travelling Obi-Wan routine. But for now, since I’m certain this sideways timeline has meaning in the long-run, the answers to these questions can wait for now. But not terribly much longer. If we’re still this clueless in a month’s time, I might need to be medicated. And if you think I make a lot of typos now, oh boy, you just wait.
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Photo credit: ABC