"The Substitute" was a much better episode than last week's, but the third night into a Lost season (fourth hour in seasons with a 2-hour premiere) always seems to be the one that kicks things into high gear, and that's definitely the case here.
On the island, it's mostly the Smokey and Sawyer show, where we see our anti-hero start to step outside the mourning funk he's been in and back to the sarcastic quipster from days of old. As Smokey approaches Sawyer's Dharma accommodations, we hear The Stooges' "Search & Destroy," a fitting song in so many ways. The song was written after an article in Time describing one of the US military's battle tactics in the Vietnam War. Search for the enemy, kill, then get out. It took Essau/Smokey/Man in Black/NotLocke years to kill Jacob, but now he's trying to make his exodus. How's that going to work, I wonder... and who is that mysterious kid who is telling him he "broke the rules"? A young Jacob, perhaps... "the world's forgotten boy?"
I enjoyed Smokey taking the black rock from the scales and tossing it into the ocean. "Inside joke," he tells Sawyer. How many games of backgammon did the Man in Black lose to Jacob, I wonder? It's here we get a peek at what the numbers are all about. Jacob associates the numbers with 'candidates,' and on the ceiling/wall there are a plenty of recognizable names, going back, no doubt, to at least the Black Rock ship (certainly, the US Army from the 50s is well represented). The way SmokeyLockManinBlack explains it, candidates are there to eventually take Jacob's (and, I imagine, SmokeyLockManinBlack's place) and perhaps Sawyer is being set up to be his substitute -- with Jack possibly acting as Jacob's? It reminded me of Desmond in Season 2, waiting for his replacement in the hatch, like Jacob and MiB are just pushing their own button until they get relieved of their duty by some poor substitute.
Between the numbers and the cave off the ocean, Lost has never seemed more like The Prisoner than this. The concept of free will and destiny were always there, but now that our castaways were also assigned numbers, the shadow of Patrick McGoohan's creation is more apparent than ever.
The alt-story line of Locke as mostly well-adjusted was also more interesting than what we saw w/ Kate's post LA X storyline. He's not the pathetic Daddy-issues Locke from the flashbacks, that's why Helen (welcome back Katy Seagal) is still with him. And any reason to show Ben Linus as a pretentious European History teacher is a fine story indeed.
Song: "Search & Destroy" - Iggy & the Stooges