Welcome to this week's edition of the Lost Round Table, in which we analyze one of the most fascinating, mythology-revealing episodes in show history.
Read our overall take on "The Substitute" and then let's discuss the topics broached below. Reader feedback is always encouraged...
So... the numbers were assigned to the castaways by Jacob. Is this a satisfactory resolution to that issue?
M.L. House: Absolutely. Some critics will complain that we need to know every last detail about why these numbers cursed Hurley and why they kept appearing throughout the series. But it's more than enough for me to understand they were applied to various castaways and, therefore, were simply hanging around them for years.
LJ Gibbs: For now. We still need Jacob to tell us if there was any reason to the numbers each received, and if others had been granted numbers in the past and what happened to them. Of course, his participation is questionable, as he's out with a dead body. Also, I hope Bumpy Johnson doesn't catch wind of Jacob's operation. Everyone knows Bumpy runs the numbers in this town.
Mr. Probst: I'm glad the show brought the numbers concept up again, something I was afraid they wouldn't. While I'd be satisfied with just this, I think they're going to do more with it. My guess is that Jacob numbered his candidates arbitrarily and it is a product of the numbers that the ones who were left happened to be 4, 15, 16, 23, and 42.
Who was the boy in the jungle?
M.L. House: Jacob. Don't ask me how. But Fake Locke has only reacted in anger and even terror - as he did here with "DON'T TELL ME WHAT I CAN'T DO!" - when faced with Jacob. Option number-two: Widmore.
LJ Gibbs: My guess is he arrived at the island at the same time as Jacob and DeathLocke, given his style of clothing. Perhaps he was killed as a child and his ghost serves as the island's referee between Jacob and DeathLocke.
Mr. Probst: Aaron. While the kid doesn't look like the three-year old he should theoretically be, nothing is ever linear in Lost, so I can buy that he's older now (seemed about nine). My initial reaction was that it was Jacob, coming back to life already, but then the child referred to Jacob in the third person, so that seems less likely.
The 2004 sideways timeline: Still annoying or starting to make sense?
M.L. House: It stills feels like a distraction, but Locke's story intrigued me. Chalk a lot of that up to Terry O'Quinn's performance, but there seems to be a growing connection here. Locke's new 2004 life is turning out very well, as he's overcome the issues (i.e. father related and wheelchair related) that plagued him originally. Might these parallel timelines be the castaways' second chance at happiness, based on lessons learned and trials undergone on the island?
On a sidenote: I'd totally watch a Lost spin-off with Ben as a high school teacher.
LJ Gibbs: While I have every confidence that the alternate storyline will eventually make sense, it remains annoying just because of the time constraint of this being the final season. Every time we flash to Other 2004, I can feel valuable island mystery minutes ticking away.
Mr. Probst: Still annoying?!?! It was never annoying! I've always loved it. I still can't find much connection to the normal world, however.
Are you sure Jacob is the good guy?
M.L. House: No. Think about what we've seen of Smokey: he kills people that do not repent or see the error in their ways (sorry, Mr. Eko). Think about what we know of Fake Locke: he wants to set Sawyer and everyone free, after Jacob manipulated them into coming to the island. Might he be full of crap? Of course. But there are few, if any, solid pieces of evidence that make this issue as black and white as those stones.
LJ Gibbs: At this point, the only thing Lost-related that I'm sure of is that it airs on Tuesday nights.
Mr. Probst: No and this is one of the most fascinating themes of Lost: the blurring of good and bad. On one hand, Lost tries to set up both the viewers and the characters with obvious good vs. bad, black vs. white. Then they give us the bad guy's perspective and the audience and characters start asking themselves "who's the good guy?" I found myself doing that during FLocke's impassioned "three choices" speech to Sawyer in the Names Cave.
What are the main questions this episode left you with?
M.L. House: What does Ilana know and what is her mission? Why didn't Kate have a number? Where is Fake Locke's home? What his is connection to Richard? How did he get trapped in his current form? How incredible must Sawyer's tolerance be?
LJ Gibbs: Who or what is in Sayid? If it's "darkness," is it Jacob? Does that make DeathLocke good? Why could Jacob leave the island at will, but not DeathLocke?
Mr. Probst: We've tackled two of them here (the boy and the numbers), but what I really want to know is how Sawyer is going to get back up to the surface now that he broke the rope ladder. Perhaps there's another exit? FLocke seemed to be leaning towards that exit when Sawyer gave him the "hell yes."