The episode begins with John Locke getting home in a van that is designed to accomodate his wheelchair. He falls and then the sprinklers go off. Helen comes out and we learn that they are together and soon to be married. She suggests that it might be destiny that he met a spinal surgeon at lost luggage. At work, we discover that Locke lied to his employer, being paid to travel to Sydney for a conference but then going in a walkabout, and so he gets fired. In the parking lot, he meets Hugo Reyes, who owns his company, and he gives him his number to find him another job. At the temp agency, Rose is in charge. At home, he tells Helen that he got fired, because he lied to Randy and didn’t go to the conference in Sydney. Instead he tried to go on a walkabout, but they wouldn’t let him. He says he is sick of imagining his life can be different, and he doesn’t want her to spend her life waiting for a miracle because there is no such thing. Helen says that there are miracles, and the only thing she was ever waiting for was him. At John’s new job as substitute teacher, he meets Ben Linus who teaches European History.
We also see the jungle from Smokey’s perspective, and then he takes John Locke’s form, and then lets Richard Alpert down from a bag suspended from a rope that he had him tied up in. We learn that Jacob did not tell Richard about the candidates to replace him, and why he was doing what he was doing. Ben finds Ilana in the statue base, crying. When he tells her that Jacob’s body burned away, she takes the ash in a bag. Ilana says that Smokey is recruiting. When they are going to bury the corpse of the real John Locke, Ilana tells Ben that Smokey is stuck in that form now. Ben says a few words: He says John Locke was a believer, a man of faith, a much better man than he will ever be, and that he is very sorry that he murdered him. Lapidus says this is the weirdest funeral he’s ever been to.
Smokey pays a visit to Sawyer. Sawyer recognizes he is not John Locke. Smokey offers to tell him the answer to the most important question: why is he on this island. Sawyer says he is on the island because his plane crashed, his raft blew up, and his chopper was riding one too heavy. But Smokey says that isn’t the real reason. Walking through the jungle, Smokey sees young Jacob and chases him. He tells him that he knows the rules, and he can’t kill Sawyer. Smokey shouts, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” While he is away, Richard tries to persuade Sawyer to come with him. After talking about Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, Smokey says that he is trapped, and has been trapped for so long that he has forgotten what it is like to be free. But before that he was a man like him. He tales Sawyer down a ladder to a cave in a cliff face by the ocean. In the cave there is a dark and a light rock on scales, with the dark one heavier. Smokey throws the white one in the ocean, saying it is an inside joke. Then he shows Sawyer where the names of the Oceanic 815 passengers are written on a wall, with some crossed out, and numbers – the numbers – next to their names. Smokey tells Sawyer that Jacob wrote the names. He says that Jacob had a thing for numbers. He says that at some point he must have met Jacob. He would have come to him when he was young, miserable, and vulnerable, and pulled his strings, pushing him to the island. He says he is a candidate – Jacob thought he was the protector of the island, and was looking for a replacement. He says he has three options: do nothing, accept the job and become the new Jacob protecting the island from nothing since the island will be fine, or leave together. He asks him if he is ready to go home. His response is “Hell, yes.”
The biggest issue I can see for retconning this into earlier seasons is the killing of Eko by the smoke monster. He must surely have been a candidate. But perhaps they didn’t become candidates until after Jacob brought them to the island and tested them? And perhaps Eko’s unrepentant attitude made him ineligible? Is there a way to reconcile the focus on candidates in the final season, and a rule preventing Smokey from simply killing them, with details from earlier seasons?