Lost: Previewing Episode 6.04 "The Substitute"
Lost: Previewing Episode 6.04 "The Substitute"
Let's start the set-up by looking again at the title of tonight's Lost episode. It's called "The Substitute", seemingly a mathematical term that perfectly ties in to previous episodes "The Constant" and "The Variable". That's what many thought, too. But alas, Daniel Faraday is dead, and I don't think the producers will introduce another aspect to their version of time travel that will force us off track (unless you could the parallel timelines that define this season). And besides, this is a Locke-centric episode. This should be something totally different.

But first, Daniel's theory at the end of the fifth season: that they aren't supposed to crash on the Island, and that if they remove one element of the ill-fated Oceanic 815--the Swan, which caused the Incident, which caused the crash--then everything will change. "I haven't thought about the variables," he admits. So, for swapping that one concept with another--a substitute--things will change, right?

Well, that doesn't really follow. Substitutes are different from the real thing, but are equal, much like artificial sweetener is to refined sugar. It's like Ben boarding Ajira 316 at the very last minute, like Hurley did on Oceanic 815. It's like Locke's body on 316 taking the place of Christian's body on 815. The idea was, with the circumstances recreated, we'll get the same result.

But sometimes substitutes are employed to get another result. If I'm a diabetic, I'll have to use artificial sweetener: it's not sugar, so my blood sugar levels won't spike, but I still get the sweet flavor I want. Perhaps that is the tactic the Man in Black is employing. For one, he can't kill Jacob like he always wanted, so he exploited a loophole by having Ben do the deed: the concept of substitutes at work. But for Ben to do the deed, MIB had to let go of his smokey form and substitute another: Locke's.

Ahh, so we're getting somewhere, right? If all indicators are correct, this season of Lost is shaping up to be a good vs. evil thing, sides that both Jacob and MIB are taking respectively. Jacob's already got some people on his side, so MIB has his work cut out, but who in his right mind would align with black smoke that has a mechanical sound and kills people? Surely that's where Locke (Flocke? Smocke?) comes in.

On tonight's episode, Locke seeks out other people who will help him in his cause. Judging from the photos, I'm guessing he'll try to recruit Ilana. Maybe Richard, if he gets back to his senses. Perhaps Sun and Frank, too? That would be hard, since they both knew Locke when he was alive, and they wouldn't just follow someone masquerading as their friend. The one thing I'm sure will happen: Locke will try to woo Sawyer, who last week escaped the Temple to get himself some alone time. I'll go on a limb and predict Sawyer will join the cause. I mean, what's a disillusioned survivor to do?

Some fans have said that last week's Lost was one of the worst. Me, I still think they're setting up the premise of the entire season. Last week we were reintroduced to the idea of Rousseau's infection, and how Sayid and Claire figure in it. This week we will be introduced to the other side, and after tonight, except the war to be a little clearer. At least until you think that both sides involve the Man in Black, and that isn't right...

...unless Jacob is actually masquerading as the Man in Black masquerading as Locke? And the Man in Black is actually dead? Ahh, whatever. A new episode of Lost, featuring the returns of Rose, Helen and Randy Nations, airs tonight from 9pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)