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.