"What if I told you I was the person who could answer the most important question in the world?" -- Flocke.

And who would that be? Who IS the person who promises to answer the existential questions, the what-is-the-point and why-am-I-here yearnings of the soul? He would have to earn trust, to make a pleasing case. This Devil would not carry a pitchfork and be a scary horned demon. He'd come through on some promises, get you asking questions like, "Is that REALLY a rule? Are we really not supposed to do this? Have we really been told 'what we can't do'?"

It's much more theological musing ahead, as this episode, "The Substitute," was overly ripe with religious dialogue.

THE SUBSTITUTE

Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, put it this way:

"The whole pith and marrow of the religion of Christianity lies in the doctrine of substitution, and I hesitate not to affirm my conviction that a very large proportion of Christians are not Christians at all, for they do not understand the fundamental doctrine of the Christian creed; and alas! there are preachers who do not preach, or even believe, this cardinal truth. They speak of the blood of Jesus in an indistinct kind of way, and descant upon the death of Christ in a hazy style of poetry, but they do not strike this nail on the head, and lay it down that the way of salvation is by Christ's becoming a substitute for guilty man. "This shall make me the more plain and definite. Sin is an accursed thing. God, from the necessity of his holiness, must curse it; he must punish men for committing it; but the Lord's Christ, the glorious Son of the everlasting Father, became a man, and suffered in his own proper person the curse which was due to the sons of men, that so, by a vicarious offering, God having been just in punishing sin, could extend his bounteous mercy towards those who believe in the Substitute." — C. H. Spurgeon, "Christ Made A Curse For Us," May 30, 1869

Don't make the mistake of thinking that Locke was made a substitute only in the new-815 timeline, where he finds some purpose as a substitute teacher. LOST has, since the beginning, been largely about redemption, but all along there was a crucial part (to a Christian understanding, anyway) missing - the atonement through substitution. Now, LOST is not a direct allegory to Christianity, and doesn't even have to be watched this way. There is no 1-to-1 correspondence between any of these characters and Jesus. We don't even know if the Substitute of the title is Dead Locke, who might rise again, or if it is Sawyer, the one who is given the choice to replace Jacob or join the dark side, or if it was Jacob, who died (perhaps that others might live? MIB makes the point of stating that Jacob has been dead one day. Anyone want to wager for three?). The point is that the stakes have been raised in the game that goes on within this show. We've long since left Widmore vs. Ben behind, and even longer back grew out of Jack vs. Locke. We've graduated to Jacob vs. His Nemesis, and are being treated to the playing out of everything we have wanted to see ever since their opening scene in the Season Five finale: are people called and purposed, or an accident? Is there choice or manipulation? Is there progress and learning, or merely continued failure through sinful imperfection?

We're starting to get those answers as LOST would define them. In the end, though, a word of caution - the show is not likely to take a side, or at least a side that you agree with at the deepest core of your beliefs. Like most media, it will leave this open for you to see what you want to see, just as it has done since the beginning by questioning our assumptions and beliefs about black-and-white, duality, good-and-evil, good guys and bad guys. We have rooted for murderers, torturers, and control freaks... why? Why DID we give them the good guy stamp of approval? We have booed protectors, guardians, and those who withhold truths... why? Has anyone on this show actually been truly good, or truly bad? Have any of us? Games like backgammon and chess have been omnipresent since Season One. In those games, neither the black nor the white side is inherently good or bad; they are just sides which are in opposition. They exist in harmony, balance; they exist within Eastern symbols like yin and yang (and on our scales in the cave in this episode).