Gotta Break It Loose
"The Substitute" wastes no time in providing great scenes to support my Nature vs Nurture theory. To surmise - I believe that this season, and in particular the 'new' timeline, has less to do with the practicalities of Destiny and more to do with the philosophical debate of Nature vs Nurture - whether a person's actions are defined by their surroundings, their upbringing and their peers (Nurture) or if we are all inherently born evil or good, if our soul exists deep within us causing us to act on an instinctual level (Nature). The two debates - Free Will vs Destiny and Nature vs Nurture - can be somewhat compared - is it our Destiny to live out our inner Nature, or do we have the Free Will to choose, to not let how we were Nurtured guide us through the rest of our lives?
For the first few episodes ("LA X" and "What Kate Does") I had firmly placed myself on the side of Nature in this debate. In Hurley I saw a man deeply depressed and putting on a brave show for the public, just as he had done in the 'original' timeline. I saw Kate, an angry and selfish murderer, Jack, a Doctor with a debilitating 'hero complex', Sawyer, always looking for the long con, and Rose, a woman I thought was lying to her husband about a terminal disease to save him from pain.
Upon closer inspection, I may have chose my side too early. In the characters Locke, Hurley, Rose and Ben we see good examples of Nurture being the deciding factors to our soul. This 'new' Locke - smiling face-down on the ground as the occasional cruelty of life rains down upon him in the form of a garden sprinkler, is smiling. He seems happy almost, able to take a look at his situation and see the humour in it. This is not the same angry-Natured Locke we knew before.
This time around, he has his Helen. He has a relationship, at least in some form, with his father. Fate seems to be stopping him from making bad choices - scraping Hurley's car, for instance - and rewarding him for looking on the bright side of life - with a new job. Although he still has his shortcomings, his feelings of shame, being unjustly put upon by life, his Nature to lie, he has been Nurtured and rewarded for leaving those bad feelings behind and trying to change for the better.
Instead of lying to Helen, Locke makes the choice, utilises his Free Will, to tell her the complete truth of his situation, of his deceit - leaving himself bare to punishment and rejection. Instead, Helen rewards him, Nurtures him, reassures him, and he goes on to a better job and with a happy wedding looming in the near future. Locke, it would appear, is a case for Nurture truly defining a person.
All Aboard For Funtime
Hurley, at least this 'new' Hurley, is the embodiment of a man entirely comfortable with his surroundings and his life. I take back what I said previously - perhaps in this timeline he is genuinely happy and lucky.
Rose, it would appear, has come to terms with her disease in a more open an honest way than she had originally. Perhaps her and Bernard were visiting Australia for some reason other than seeking a healer. She at least appears to be exuding a happy and accepting disposition, one she had not truly developed until crashlanding on the Island during the 'first' iteration.
And then there is Ben. Although we have yet to see for sure, and although 'this' Ben retains some of the 'former' Ben's needling, needing, whining personality, I would be highly surprised if he turned out to be a mass murderer. Sure, he is an annoyance - much like Dr Arzt, who I hope to see pop up in these school scenes - but does he really strike you as a psychotic fiend?
So the argument has now taken a turn to the side of Nurture. Perhaps Smokey is right, perhaps with the Island gone and Jacob being unable to meddle in these fragile lives, our characters can experience a better Nurturing, can develop into mature, healed individuals, instead of the broken, Lost men and women we have come to know. For now all we can do is observe.
Seize The World
And Shake It Upside Down
Back now to the 'original' timeline, where we find a humbled and beaten Richard. Like Dogen and the rest of the Others, it seems the more humanised Richard becomes, the more endearing his character truly is.
For some reason, being humiliated, beaten up and left in fear of his seemingly-immortal life helps Richard connect with us, the mortal audience, without taking away any of his mystery and intrigue. I sincerely hope we get to see more of him this season, particularly I want a whole episode dedicated to Richard. In fact, he is my Do and Don't wishlist for the rest of the series.
Do focus on the following characters - Richard, Smokey, Hurley, Libby, Miles, Walt, Charles Widmore, Christian Shepherd, Mr Paik, Ben, Desmond, Claire, Charlie, Mr Eko, Daniel and Vincent. Well, one can dream.
Don't both with Jin, Sun, Sayid, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Ilana and Frank - not that I think these are all bad characters, I just feel I have seen all from them that I want to see.
As much as this is my personal preference, from a subjective point of view these are who I think will be getting focused on before the end - Jack, Jin/Sun, Sayid, Sawyer, Hurley, Richard, Ben, Ilana, Jacob/Smokey, Miles and Claire, with perhaps an ensemble episode thrown in there somewhere. Let's see how accurate I am when the final episode airs, and remember I want to remain spoiler free - that includes information on what episode titles are and who they focus on, so please, don't leave any information in the comments section!
I Don't Want Second Best
Now, it doesn't take the most expect sleuth to deduce that the scales appear to be depicting who was 'winning' between white and black. Black seemed to be slightly ahead of white, but all that subtlety went straight out the cave door along with white's stone. Smokey certainly seems confident that he has won and now it is time to claim his prize.
I don't doubt for a second that Smokey is entirely wrong and that Jacob is still very much in this 'game', so, with the obvious out of the way, here is something a bit less obvious to ponder. Compare for a moment the drawings in Smokey's tunnel lair with the list in Jacob's cave, and what do you notice?
It's 1969, Baby
Something I immediately noticed about the List was the absence of Kate, as well as the inclusion of both Pace (Charlie) and Straume (Miles), both scored out. Now, either this means that death is not the only way to be stricken off the List, else it means that Miles is, technically speaking, dead. At least a little bit. Hopefully this will be tied in to his 'powers' in a future episode, but for now it serves for some good debating.
Now, it is my opinion that neither Kate nor Sun are 'good' people. The likes of Jack, Sayid, Sawyer, etc have certainly been driven to do 'bad' things throughout their life, but each one of them have at least repented and tried to make up for it by doing good. Kate and Sun have not.
I have stated my feelings on this many times before, so for now I will simply say that I think Jin (or Ji Yeon) is the Kwon in question.
On another note, I have to wonder - do Jacob and Smokey make the trip down the ladder every time they need to cross a name off the List? I would have loved to have seen a spooky 'auto-cross' feature happen when someone loses Candidate status, but I guess these guys like their chalk.
Then again, if your main hobbies are playing centuries-long games and making epic tapestries, perhaps a long trek into a dangerous cave to cross a name off a List falls under the category of "fun"?
To Be Alone
A lot of people seem to have a problem with Ben's eulogy. I personally found it very poignant and beautifully revealing. I have high hopes that Ben can still come out of this season a winner, a hero, or at the very least repent somewhat and side with the 'good' guys, whoever that may be.
Then again, his immediate reaction when confronted by Ilana is to lie. Nature vs Nurture rears its head again here as, no matter how many times Locke, Jack, Smokey, 'Alex', Alex, Juliet etc try to convince Ben to change, no matter how many times he is humbled, been manipulated, and appeared to change, his essence will always remain that of schemer, liar, manipulator and shock merchant - selling sensationalist statements, such as killing Locke, without any hint of context or explanation. I can only wonder how Sun, Frank and Ilana are feeling right now.
Probably the same way the rest of us feel - we all have questions, but none of us have the answers. We're all very much still Lost.