We know more about John Locke than almost anybody on the island, from his very premature birth to his premature death. And two things have always been clear, he has never been wanted and he has always been confused. His mother gave him up for adoption, he grew up in foster care, he was beat up as a teenager. When his parents came back into his life, it only wreaked havoc, from destroying the only healthy relationship he ever had, to getting thrown out an eight-story window and landing in a wheelchair.
When he came to the island, his legs were given back to him, and he felt a sense of purpose, but he never could find out what that purpose was for. He thought it was to find the hatch and open it, even though that led to Boone's death. When he found out that there was a bachelor pad and a button that needed pushing, he followed that path, but he was never sure of it, which led to a crisis of faith that could have destroyed the world, and did destroy the hatch. Then he thought it was to protect the island, a path that led him to Jacob's cabin, where once again he was used, and eventually his efforts to protect the island ended up with it getting dislodged in time. Finally, he thought his purpose was to bring back those who had left the island--- and to do that, he would have to die. He left the island and made an effort, but the Oceanic 4 told him 'no'. This led him to his final destination: a filthy hotel room where he planned to end his life. He wasn't even given a choice here, because Ben talked him out of it, and then wrapped the very cord he was going to use around his neck.
That's the John Locke everybody on the show grew to love, a man who shouted against the world for being told what he couldn't do, even though, in many cases, he would've been better off not doing it. So when we see the sideways Locke arrive in his driveway, have his handicapped-accessible lift break down, and end up flat on his lawn, we expect him to start raving. But he doesn't, even when the sprinklers douse him, he smiles just as he did whenever it started raining on the island. And then--- Helen comes running out onto the lawn to get him!
This Locke seems more on an even-keel than he did at any other point on the island. He smiles more, he feels impatience but he doesn't yell, and he clearly doesn't believe in destiny. This is made clear in two points: when Helen spots Jack's card, and learns that he's a spinal surgeon, she says: "Maybe it's destiny." John says so, but he's smiling at the time. Then near the end, when he tells Helen why he got fired and why he went to Australia. Just like in the real world, he was turned away at the gate, but this time he acknowledges that they were absolutely right to do it, and that there are some things he just can't do. Oh, it's galling to see Helen tear up Jack's card, but not as much as it would've before. This is a Locke who has accepted his place in the world, and seems fine with it.
He's not the only one who seems better off here than they were before. After being fired by Randy (apparently John still works at the same box company he did in the 'real' world), he gets parked in by a huge car --- belonging to Hugo Reyes (who, just as in the real world, owns the company). The two of them have a very friendly exchange, with Hurley calling Randy a douche (and he should know), in which he offers to get him his job back, and then sends him to a temp agency, where he will get personal treatment. And this is more like the Hurley we know.
Working at the temp agency is Rose, who has cancer like she did on the island, but seems just as equipped to deal with it as she did before. She handles him with no nonsense, and has no problem guiding him to a new job. (I didn't realize it at the time, but apparently the vocational counselor was the fake psychic Mr. Reyes tried to use to con Hugo about removing his curse. We'll let this go, because it's possible she could've been doing anything.)
Eventually John gets a job as a substitute teacher at a local high school. When he ends up in the teacher's lounge, who does he run into bitching about coffee filters but Ben, who in this world appears to be a history teacher. The two exchange greetings, both completely unaware of the grief each caused the other. What will happen to these two in this world?
On the island, the real John Locke is dead, and is starting to ripen. Those left behind --- Sun, Ilana, Frank and Ben--- decide that they should bury John, and eventually they find the same graveyard the Oceanic's buried their dead in three years ago. It may have been a huge laugh to everyone that Ben ended up giving Locke's eulogy, but the fact is, he did know John better than anybody else on the island, certainly anyone on the plane. But I honestly thought there was sincerity behind Ben's eulogy. He was sorry he murdered Locke, not just because of everything the Man in Black seems to be doing in his skin, but because his life is now in complete shambles. The facade is gone. Oh, he lies to Ilana about how Jacob died, but it seemed a half-hearted one, and he doesn't seem to have the energy for deception any more
Meanwhile, the UnLocke seems to be carrying on with his plans. After going to spy on James (and how cool was that POV shot from the perspective of the smoke monster?) he comes to Richard, and the two speak as though they have a history. Remember how many times we wished the people on the island would just talk to each other? It now seems that this was going on among the Others from the top on down. Richard now seems to have spent his entire life in service to Jacob, but when UnLocke talks to him about 'candidates', he is honestly blank, and we know Ilana and her crew seemed to know all about that. What power did Jacob have to make these people follow him with no reason why? And what does that say about Jacob?
Old Smokey then goes back to the barracks and calls upon a thoroughly disheveled James. James is now so blotto, he not only doesn't seem disturbed to find himself talking to a corpse, when he realizes that this person is in no way John Locke (maybe it takes a con man to recognize someone running a con), he seems only mildly disturbed by this. And when Richard tries desperately to convince James to get the hell away from UnLocke, he doesn't seem bothered by this. He wants answers (so do we) and brother, does he get them.
After a harrowing trek down the face of the cliff (one has to wonder how Jacob managed to avoid killing himself if he had to go there as often as he must have), Unlocke and James find themselves in an old cave. And written on the walls are hundreds of names. (I can imagine millions of Lost fans frantically pausing and going through the caves in slow motion trying to see the names of the people on the cave walls.) All of them seems to have been numbered, most of them seem to have been crossed off, and a lot of them are very familiar. From what we see here and in the next episode, it now seems that everybody who came to the island was brought here by Jacob. This includes most of the people who survived the Oceanic crash, members of the Others, members of the Dharma Initiative, the people on the freighter, and half the French science team (Rousseau's name is very obvious.) We don't yet understand the significance of the numbers (again this will become obvious in the next episode), but they seem to have meant something to Jacob, and it definitely means something that the numbers that haven't been crossed off are the ones that have been following the people on this island since they got here: 4 is Locke, 8 is Reyes, 15 is Ford, 16, Jarrah, 23, Shephard, and 42 Kwon (even Smokey doesn't know whether it's Sun or Jin)
Everybody on the plane seems to have been manipulated their entire lives to end up on here to end up being, as UnLocke puts it, Jacob's successor. Can there be a greater irony that the man who probably would have been the best possible choice for the job was used to remove Jacob from the picture? So, what now. UnLocke says there are three choices awaiting James:
1. Do nothing, and see how this will play out. As a result, your name might get crossed off. (The implication would appear to be the only way to stop being a candidate is to die. But several people--- Kate is the most obvious example, you can also see Linus, Littleton, and Straume---- are still alive, and there names have been crossed off. Is this just a reason we can't believe what UnLocke says?)
2. Become the protector of the island. But when James asks from what,, Unlocke tells him that this is just an island (something Locke would never say) and it will be perfectly fine without any protection. Again the question would seem to be, can we trust Smokey?
3. To go, and leave the island. All of them. In this, UnLocke has probably made the best possible choice (if, as Ilana tells Ben, he really has started recruiting) James Ford has wanted to leave this island more than anyone, and has had every chance thwarted. Now, with Juliet dead, he has lost any reason to keep on going. He might not trust a word out of the mouth of the thing wearing Locke's skin, but he wants to leave as badly as anyone here.
But can we believe anything the Man In Black says? More importantly, does the Man in Black believe it? While interrogating Richard, he sees a young boy with white-blond hair (and who really looks like Jacob) but when he blinks, it's gone. Later, while walking, we see the boy again, and this time James sees him too. UnLocke chases him, and the young boy tells him "You can't kill him. And the Man In Black says the phrase most commonly associated with Locke (though rarely delivered with more force) "Don't tell me what I can't do!" Is there some part of John still lodged in Old Smokey's guise? Or is he, like everyone else on the island, no more clear of the rules than anyone else?
My score: 4.5 out of 5 stars