Season 6 Episode 4

The Substitute

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Feb 16, 2010 on ABC
out of 10
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1,132 votes

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Episode Summary

Locke goes in search of aid to further help his cause.

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  • So is John Locke's life better by never going to the island?

    The best thing about the alternate reality we're seeing this season (really don't want to use the term flash-sideways) is that despite being killed last year Locke is still a part of the show, not just Terry O'Quinn. This episode wasn't a tradition centric episode as it really focussed on two separate characters, but it was great to watch nonetheless.

    I'll start with the alternate reality in which we find Locke returning home after not being allowed on his walkabout. The main argument I could see against this new timeline is that it doesn't really answer any mysteries due to the fact everything seems to have changed a bit. Also, if you don't listen to the official podcasts, there's no indication if these scenes will have any relevance to the main timeline. However I find that more than balanced out by the way it seems to reward hardcore fans of the show. My mum watches Lost but I doubt she could've told you if Locke and Helen were together before he boarded flight 815, so that difference feels like something that's a reward for the fans that obsess about the show such as myself.

    The other thing that makes these scenes so great is the reason we're all here in the first place: quality drama and storytelling. Against the more epic stuff on the island these lighter stories work nicely, especially when they're as well told as it was here. John Locke had found a purpose on the island and had been healed from being in a wheelchair; but what if that had never happened. What if the man of faith was simply wrong and had to go on living his life. That is the story told here and it was great to watch. After four seasons of flashbacks to before Locke got to the island we'd seen basically everything, so these flash-sideways (fine I'll say it) allow us to see a different and new story with the same character.

    And it was great to see Locke continue to battle against his disability, openly refusing to accept it. From insisting he could work a construction job to simply not wanting to park in a disabled spot all wrung true for the character. To that end him openly admitting to everything to Helen at the end was a huge moment, and was played out very nicely by the superb Terry O'Quinn. So it was a very human story with a lot of heart as well as a few easter eggs that may or may not be important to the overall mystery of this reality. But as far as character links go the best was saved for last. We've seen The fantastic Michael Emerson play Ben as manipulative, controlling, borderline evil and even loving (towards his mother and Alex); but we'd never seen him petty before and it was fantastic. Sure the fact Ben is alive and off the island could be a large part of the overall puzzle, but just seeing him as school teacher annoyed about a coffee pot was fantastic and something I never even thought would happen on the show! When comedy can mix with drama and mystery so well you know they're onto a winner!

    On the island the reveal of Claire alive as well as the temple folk was overlooked to concentrate on the Monster version of Locke and the main characters who were outside Jacob's home. This was an issue I had last season, and pretty much have had all through the show, that it's annoying when plot threads need to be overlooked because there's so much going on. It's great that the show is so complex and intriguing, but it would've been nice if we'd gotten a bit from the temple. Still what we did get was still great fun to watch.

    The opening shot of the Monster moving through the island was pretty cool, although I didn't like the flash cuts but I guess they were needed as doing it all in a sweeping one shot would've been borderline impossible. The focus being on our fake Locke was very entertaining and gave us a bit more about him, without truly answering anything in typical Lost fashion. The main new mystery introduced here was him seeing a young boy. It was kind of surreal as the Monster has appeared like that to people before, to see something/ someone appear to him in the same manner was a bit weird. Also while I'm fully on board with compelling storytelling, the sudden introduction of this seemingly new character is similar to the man in black turning up as a major player at the start of the season 5 finale. Is it not too little too late to be introducing such huge characters? Still I guess that man in black turned out to be the Monster and therefore in it longer than Jacob, so I'm withholding judgement on this kid for now.

    As for the rest of Monster Locke's time it was mainly spent with Sawyer. So many times over the course of the show something terrible has happened to Sawyer that has made me think his character will suffer quality-wise as a result, but every time he becomes more compelling because of it. The death of Juliet has been no different so far and while drunk in his underpants when we first ran into him here he was still as awesome as ever. I loved that he new Locke wasn't the real Locke almost straight away. As a con man it made perfect sense that he could read people so well and after everything he's seen on the island just because this guy had the same face didn't rule out the possibility of him not being John Locke. Also from a story point of view it allowed us to avoid the awkward explanation scene of how this Locke ties into everything which allowed for it to move on at a nice pace.

    The two shared some great and well written scenes. Sawyer's tirade about why he was stuck on the island against Locke telling him otherwise was great, as was Sawyer's bit about "Of Mice and Men". Of course the episode's big reveal was all the names on in the cave with numbers by them. It was a great moment that nicely followed on from Jacob meeting and touching everyone in the season 5 finale (I said at the time the physical contact bit was important). It was that great kind of Lost moment that throws out loads of theories, some a bit daft (Shephard must be Jack not Christian) while still moving the plot forward. Locke then saying that the island doesn't need protecting was an interesting point and it'll be interesting to see if he truly believes that or if he was simply playing Sawyer. Sawyer's agreeing to leave the island with him was a big moment that was a cool ending leaving us satisfied with what we'd got this week, while also hungry to see what happens next.

    As well as all that there were also some cool scenes on the island with Sun, Illana, Frank and Ben. Illana revealing that she knows about Jin was played subtly enough that it worked nicely with the other info we got this week and Ben admitting to Locke's murder seemed like a rare genuine moment for the character. Still while a great episode it wasn't perfect. As already mentioned the lack of many of the main characters in any episode is always annoying and, maybe we were spoiled a bit in the premiere but, the episode wasn't as fast paced as I would've liked. Sure a lot happened, but with only 14 hours left I wanted a bit more. Still none of that really takes away from what was another great entry in this finale season of Lost.moreless
  • Loved this locke centric episode

    Loved this episode. Beats out the second part of LA X for best episode this season and it might even get mentions in the future for one of the great episodes of the Lost Series. In the flash-sideways lockes no longer a man of faith, he accepts what has happened to him. There was the smokey cam where we follow locke or smoke monster what ever you want to call it through the jungle. Not-Locke's amazing soliloquy: "I know what it's like to feel joy, to feel pain, anger, fear, to experience betrayal. I know what it's like to lose someone you love. If you want to shoot me, shoot me, but you are so close, James. It would be such a shame to turn back now." The sawyer part of the episode was the part which makes this episode so f'n great. Listening to the stooges while getting completely trashed.moreless
  • John Locke !!

    First of all , The brilliant acting of Terry O Quinn deserves an Emmy. and so is Sawyer at least a nomination for his last season and his amazing performance throw all the seasons 1 til 6 ! . as for the episode what i can say that it's one the best unique ones of the Lost . Locke's Lines : ( I know what it's like to feel joy

    , to feel pain, anger, fear, to experience betrayal

    . I know what it's like to lose someone you love. If you want to shoot me, shoot me, but you are so close ) it was really one of the best lines i ever heard on a Screen . and Ben's Lines : ( I'm sorry I murdered you )

    was really Amazing that he said it just like that !! . and who's the Blond kid ? what he means by "you know the rules... you cant kill him" ?. and THE Numbers are relived ? and what does it mean ? and The Cave ? Black rock and white rock ? The Episode was so full of excitement ! 10/10moreless
  • For people who hated last week's episode, this one should be a return to form.

    So compared to last week's episode that infuriated so many fans, "The Substitute" should be a great way to bounce back. Chockful of little tidbits of information, this episode allowed us to get one of the clearest images of what's going on with the Island and the rest of the surviviors. Whether or not it's something that was worth waiting this long for is up for each viewer to decide themselves, but as for me, I'm intrigued. A little confused, of course, but intrigued nonetheless.

    Locke episodes always tend to be some of the better episodes of Lost, if only because Locke is one of the better characters and one of the most mysterious characters on television period. He's gone through more in his life than most fictional characters, and he's been killed, reborn via a mysterious plume of black smoke and had his faith shattered more times than one. Watching Locke maneuver his way through life, on and off the Island, is endlessly entertaining. This episode was no exception. We got to see through the eyes of the Man in Black in smoke-form for the first time (and he's been around for AWHILE, so this is a pretty big deal) and got to see the Man in Black slowly beginning to take shape in terms of motives and what he's really like. Hearing his speech to Sawyer about he feels all the same human emotions as anybody else and has lost people he's loved as well was a completely different side of him. However, it's hard to know who to trust, especially with Richard so terrified of him. More on the last scene later..

    There were plenty of little moments throughout the episode that were superb that DIDN'T involve the Man in Black. Ben's eulogy to Locke was superb, humorous in that dark way that only Benjamin Linus can pull off.. and equally funny was Lapidus' reaction. In fact, although the other characters barely had a chance to speak, they all did a good job. Ilana is still a strange character, in that we have no idea what her purpose is quite yet, but seeing her pick up Jacob's ashes is interesting, especially since it's ashes that keep the Man in Black out of places in the first place. Hopefully we'll have an episode that focuses a little on Ilana so she doesn't end up being a pointless character with no direction.

    Off the Island, things were pretty tame as usual. I'm usually not that interested in what's going on in this sideways/alternate/whatever people are calling it universe, and Locke's, for the most part, wasn't anything too special, but what made it above average was the interactions that he had with the people from the island. Seeing the "lucky" Hurley interact with the Locke who seems to be no longer a man of faith but a man who doesn't believe in miracles anymore was a pretty great scene, and just seeing all of these smaller supporting characters (Helen, Randy Nations) was great. However, the clincher was seeing Benjamin Linus as a professor at the same school that Locke teaches at. Very strange indeed. That being said, I feel like all of these sideways universe scenes are setting us up for something larger.. almost like they're showing us what happens with each character before they finally carry on the plot. I really hope all of this sideways universe isn't for nothing.. even if the creators already said there was a purpose.

    As for the final scene, well.. let's just say it gives a whole new possible meaning to these numbers. It appears that the people saying Jacob was pulling a long con on everybody were correct. The fake Locke explains to Sawyer in a mysterious cave with all their names written on it, and certain numbers (the 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 ones) next to certain people's names. It was really strange to hear fake Locke saying that somebody would have to be the "next Jacob" (Locke's exact words) and that it would have to be one of the six names remaining on the walls. This sets up a really interesting plot for the rest of the season for Sawyer, who essentially has teamed up with the Man in Black to help him get off the island.

    Sure, it's easy to scoff at the show for being slow, introducing too many questions with not enough answers, but the scene at the end reminds us that while there's still more questions yet to be answered, they're paving the path for us to learn more things. Personally, I have a theory that I'm sticking with, which is Jacob was the protector of the Island, which is basically a Pandora's Box, and that the Man in Black is the thing that needs to be prevented from getting out. Who knows, I could be WAY off, but it's fun to see where the show leads you. This week was a great hour of television, and while it may have been slower than some people may have liked, it gave us a new way to look at the numbers and why these specific people were on the island.moreless
  • The new Locke and the old Locke in the parallel time lines. Old Locke in LA, c.2004 is great Lost, wry humour, bittersweet, meetings with familar faces, intriguing storyline developing.

    Meanwhile on the island the new Locke gets a despondent but literary Sawyer to tag along, and some questions are answered, or not. A pre-teen boy appears, a new Other/superbeing, Aaron? Cliffside ladder sequence was nicely done, an actual stunt. The names on the roof of the cave (no Austin?), possibly new Locke is BS-ing on the 3 choices but an island upheaval is coming. Back to LA, how the heck does an affable Ben Linus end up teaching European History in high school? Oh and that Volkswagen punch buggy commercial was pretty good too. The numbers are still a mystery, maybe the island football team uniform numbers.moreless
Nestor Carbonell

Nestor Carbonell

Richard Alpert (Season 6, recurring previously)

Matthew Fox

Matthew Fox

Jack Shephard

Daniel Dae Kim

Daniel Dae Kim

Jin-Soo Kwon

Josh Holloway

Josh Holloway

James "Sawyer" Ford

Yunjin Kim

Yunjin Kim

Sun Kwon

Terry O'Quinn

Terry O'Quinn

John Locke

Billy Ray Gallion

Billy Ray Gallion


Guest Star

Suzanne Krull

Suzanne Krull

Lynn Karnoff

Guest Star

Kenton Duty

Kenton Duty

Teenage Boy

Guest Star

L. Scott Caldwell

L. Scott Caldwell


Recurring Role

Katey Sagal

Katey Sagal


Recurring Role

Mark Pellegrino

Mark Pellegrino


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (16)

    • A photo seen on Locke's desk of Locke and Anthony Cooper is actually a still from "Deus Ex Machina".

    • Lynn Karnoffis the same person Hurley's father hired to convince Hurley that The Numbers weren't cursed in "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead".

    • While substituting at the school Locke is teaching the students about human reproduction from Chapter 4 of the textbook. 4 is one of The Numbers.

    • Hurley's Hummer was parked too close to Locke's van, which would not have allowed Hurley enough room to exit his vehicle from the driver's side door.

    • Locke uses the same brand of alarm clock as Desmond in Flashes Before Your Eyes.

    • On the t-shirt Helen is wearing printed with Chinese text, the text on the left is "精神啟示" which means "revelation to/for spirit". The text on the right is "喚醒的靈魂" which means "awakening soul".

    • The box that held Locke's dead body is labeled with the numbers 823. 8 and 23 are two of The Numbers.

    • It is revealed that several of the main survivors of Oceanic 815 correspond to one of The Numbers: 4-Locke, 8-Reyes, 15-Ford, 16-Jarrah, 23-Shephard, 42-Kwon.

    • While Locke contemplates calling Jack's office for the free consult that was offered to him, different versions of Jack's business card are shown.

    • When Locke comes back to his office and takes a time to rest, his wristwatch stands still at 11:05:15.

    • Locke's wheelchair lift malfunctioned just prior to hitting Hurley's Hummer, as in the new timeline Hurley is lucky.

    • The title of this episode, "The Substitute", has multiple meanings. It refers to the choice the characters must make, to become a substitute for Jacob or not; John Locke becoming a substitute teacher; Locke's body on Ajira 316 substituting for Christian's on Oceanic 815; etc.

    • This episode follows the current pattern of copying season 1's centricities. The pilot and LA X were multi-centric, episode 3 of season 1 and 6 were Kate-centric, and the fourth episodes of season 1 and 6 are Locke-centric. If this is any indication for future episodes, the next one will be Jack-centric.

    • The two color swatches that Locke and Helen compare for their wedding chairs, two bluish/greyish shades, resemble the colors ABC uses in the advertising graphics for Lost.

    • In the teachers' lounge at the school where Locke works as a substitute, a wall banner in the background reads: "Live in the present, plan for the future".

    • Certain sounds in the flash-sideways sequence resemble sounds on the island throughout the series. Locke's wheelchair ramp breaking down resembled the clicking mechanical sounds of the Smoke Monster. His alarm clock resembled the beeping of the alarm at the Swan station.

  • QUOTES (4)

  • NOTES (7)

    • Original International Air Dates:
      Canada: February 16, 2010 on A
      United Kingdom: February 19, 2010 on Sky1
      Portugal: February 23, 2010 on Fox
      Spain: February 23, 2010 on FOX
      Latin America: March 2, 2010 on AXN
      New Zealand: March 3, 2010 on TV2
      Finland: March 11, 2010 on Nelonen
      Norway: March 24, 2010 on TVNorge
      Germany: April 7, 2010 on FOX
      Sweden: April 21, 2010 on TV4
      Czech Republic: April 26, 2010 on AXN

    • Music: "Search and Destroy" by The Stooges.

      James Ford is listening to The Stooges' "Search and Destroy." Which offers in the refrain the lyrics, "I am the world's forgotten boy; the one who searches, searches to destroy," plus reference to nuclear/hydrogen bombs. The lyrics also plead "Somebody better save my soul."

    • Katey Sagal (Helen) appears for the first time since the Season 2 episode "Lockdown".
      Suzanne Krull (Lynn Karnoff), appears for the first time since the Season 3 episode "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead".

    • Naveen Andrews (Sayid), Matthew Fox (Jack), and Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) only appear in archive footage from "The Incident, Parts 1 & 2".
      Also, Mark Pellegrino appears as Jacob in archive footage from "The Incident, Parts 1 & 2".

    • Although credited, Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond), Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Ken Leung (Miles) and Evangeline Lilly (Kate) do not appear in this episode.

    • The title "The Substitute" refers to Eloise telling Jack in "316" that John will be a "substitute".

    • This is a Locke-centric episode.


    • The Dark Tower: In the final book of this series by Stephen King, several of the protagonists share a vision of a bleeding teenage boy symbolizing the damage being done by the antagonists.

    • A Christmas Carol: After the Man in Black confronts James, he claims that James is not so put off by him being there, to which James no longer cares if Locke (as The Man in Black) is dead or if he were the Ghost of Christmas Past.

    • Jacob's Ladder: Sawyer and Jacob's Nemesis "Jacob's Ladder" and arrive at a cave formerly inhabited by Jacob. A Jacob's Ladder has significance in both the Jewish and Christian religions, having many interpretations, among them that it is a bridge between heaven and earth. Saint John Climacus (also known as John of the Ladder) wrote a book called "Ladder of the Divine Ascent" which uses Jacob's Ladder as an analogy for the ascetic life. It is frequently read by Orthodox Christians during the Lent season before Easter. The episode "The Substitute" originally aired the night before the start of non-Orthodox Lent (Ash Wednesday) (which does not coincide with Orthodox Great Lent).

    • Plato's Allegory of the Cave: The cave that the Man in Black takes Sawyer to can be a reference to this philosophical concept attributed to Plato. The idea that people live their lives and form ideas that are not indicative of reality is mirrored in the Man in Black's view that Jacob manipulated everyone he brought to the Island into believing certain ideas.

    • Of Mice and Men: James wanted to kill the Man in Black the same way in which George killed Lennie in the novella, after pointing to Steinbeck as author of the books he most liked to read.