The SubstituteJohn Locke drives home from the airport, though a mechanical fault with his wheelchair lift causes him to fall onto the grass just as the sprinklers come on. Helen rushes out of their house and helps Locke inside. Later, Locke is taking a bath while he and Helen sort out details for their wedding; Helen considers picking up her parents and Locke's dad and getting married shotgun-style in Vegas. She asks how the conference in Australia went, and Locke tells her it was boring. She also finds Jack's card and encourages Locke to give him a call.
Helen: What are the odds of you just running into a spinal surgeon? I mean, who knows? Maybe it's destiny.
The Man in Black transforms into the Smoke Monster and flies across the Island to the DHARMA Barracks, where he hears loud rock music and breaking glass from inside Sawyer's house. He flies back into the jungle, resumes the form of John Locke and cuts Richard out of the contraption he'd been using to trap him. "Okay, Richard," he says. "Time to talk."
Next morning, Locke goes to work at the box company. When asked by his boss, Randy, Locke says the conference in Australia was boring and not particularly educational, but Randy has already done some checking and learned that Locke skipped the conference altogether. He begs that the trip to Australia be written off as his vacation week, but Randy sarcastically notes that Locke wanted that week in October for his wedding. Locke apologises for lying but doesn't want to talk about what he was doing during the trip, and Randy (rather vindictively) fires him on the spot.
The Man in Black offers Richard some water and claims that all he wants now is what he's always wanted: for Richard to come with him. Richard asks why he looks like John Locke, and the Man in Black says it's because Locke was a "candidate", which allowed him access to Jacob. Richard doesn't understand what he means by "candidate".
The Man in Black: Oh, Richard, I'm sorry. You mean, you've been doing everything he told you all this time and he never said why? I would never have done that to you. I would never have kept you in the dark.The Man in Black promises to tell Richard everything if he comes along, but Richard refuses. Just then, the Man in Black sees a young boy standing in the jungle, with bloody hands and wearing the garb of the Others, but he's gone almost as soon as he appears. The Man in Black leaves, telling Richard that they'll see each other again soon. In the statue, Ben comes across Ilana, sitting in the middle of the dead bodies and crying. She asks what happened to them.
Ben: John Locke killed them. [...] He turned into a pillar of black smoke and killed them right before my eyes.
Ilana: Did he kill Jacob as well?
Ben: Yes.When she learns that Jacob's body burned up in the fire, Ilana grabs a handful of his ashes and puts them in a small bag. Ben asks why "Locke" carried Richard into the jungle and she says that "he's recruiting." At the DHARMA Barracks, the Man in Black walks into Sawyer's house and finds him drunk on the bedroom floor in his underwear. He realises almost immediately that the Man in Black is not the real John Locke.
The Man in Black: What makes you say that?
Sawyer: 'Cause Locke was scared. Even when he was pretendin' he wasn't. But you? You ain't scared.The Man in Black claims that he can answer the most important question in the world: why Sawyer is on the Island. Sawyer agrees to go with him and find out.
Locke leaves the box company with his personal effects and finds that he can't get into his van because a big yellow Hummer is parked too close. When the Hummer's owner—Hugo Reyes—arrives, Locke shouts at him about parking etiquette, though Hurley wonders why Locke didn't just use the handicap parking space. Once Locke calms down, he and Hugo introduce themselves to one another. When Hugo learns that Locke was fired by Randy ("That guy is a huge douche"), he tells him to go to the temp agency that Hugo owns and they'll get him a job.
Outside the statue, the Others have all left for the Temple, leaving only Sun, Ben, Lapidus, Ilana and the body of John Locke. Ilana recommends they head for the Temple as well ("Right now, that's the safest place on the Island"), telling Sun that Jin will probably be there too. However, Sun demands they bury Locke first. Hiking through the jungle, the Man in Black asks Sawyer questions about where the rest of the survivors are. He stops when the young boy reappears nearby, but this time Sawyer can see him as well. The boy runs away and Man in Black chases him through the trees until he trips over. Before he can get up, the boy appears in front of him.
Boy: You know the rules. You can't kill him.
The Man in Black: Don't tell me what I can't do. [the boy walks away] Don't tell me what I can't do!Sawyer is waiting in the jungle for the Man in Black to return when Richard shows up, telling him that "Locke" isn't really Locke and demanding that they head for the safety of the Temple. Sawyer says he knows it's not Locke, but he's going along anyway because he wants answers.
Richard: Don't be naive! He's not gonna tell you anthing, he's gonna kill you! [...] You don't understand what you're dealing with! He doesn't just want you dead, he wants everyone dead! Everyone you care about! All of 'em! And he won't stop—Richard leaves a few moments before the Man in Black returns. Both he and Sawyer deny they saw or spoke to anybody, and keep heading through the jungle.
Locke is being interviewed by the temp agency, having to answer questions like "what kind of animal would you describe yourself as?" Annoyed, he asks to speak with the interviewer's supervisor, who turns out to be Rose. She very quickly dispels Locke's unreasonable expectations about what he can and can't do by admitting that she has terminal cancer, and encourages him to stop fighting and start living whatever life he can.
In the jungle, Sawyer gets fed up with the situation and draws his gun, wondering what would happen if he shot "Locke" in the head. When the Man in Black appears completely cool about a bullet to the head, Sawyer asks, "What are you?"
The Man in Black: What I am is trapped. And I've been trapped for so long that I don't even remember what it feels like to be free. Maybe you can understand that. But before I was trapped, I was a man, James. Just like you.
Sawyer: I'm havin' a hard time believin' that.
The Man in Black: You can believe whatever you want, that's the truth. I know what it's like to feel joy. To feel pain, anger, fear. To experience betrayal. I know what it's like to lose someone you love. So if you wanna shoot me, shoot me. But you're so close, James. It would be such a shame to turn back now.The Man in Black walks into the jungle, and the conman follows. On the beach, Sun, Ben, Lapidus and Ilana are walking back to the Oceanic 815 survivors' old camp, carrying Locke's body. Ben asks why Ilana brought the body to the statue and what's to stop the Man in Black from taking a new form; she replies that the Others needed to see what they were up against, and that he's no longer long able to change form, he's stuck looking like John Locke. When they arrive at the survivors' graveyard, Ben and Lapidus dig a plot for Locke and they all lower him in.
Ilana: Does anyone want to say anything? [no one answers] Didn't any of you know him?
Ben: Alright, I know him. John Locke was a believer, he was a man of faith. He was... a much better man than I will ever be, and I'm very sorry I murdered him.
Sun and Ilana: [glance at Ben with looks of "wait, what?!?" on their faces]
Lapidus: [grabbing his shovel] Weirdest damn funeral I've ever been to.
As he goes about his morning routine, Locke notices Jack's business card. He calls the number but hangs up immediately. When Helen asks why he won't go see a spinal surgeon for a free consult, he admits to having been fired. Just then, a courier from Oceanic Airlines arrives with Locke's missing case of knives. He tells Helen about going to the Walkabout Tours office in Melbourne and being told he couldn't go.
Locke: I sat there yelling at them, shouting at them that they couldn't tell me what I can't do. But they were right. I'm sick of imagining of what my life could be out of this chair, Helen. What it would be like to walk down the isle with you, because its not gonna happen. So if you need me to see more doctors, have more consults, if you need me to get out of this chair, I don't blame you. But I don't want you to spend your life waiting for a miracle because there is no such thing.
Helen: There are miracles, John. And the only thing I was ever waiting for was you.Helen rips up Jack's business card.
The Man in Black and Sawyer arrive at the top of a cliff and climb down an especially precarious ladder; at one point, the ladder breaks and Sawyer almost falls into the ocean, only to be saved by the Man in Black. At the bottom of the ladder is a cave set into the side of the cliff, with a white rock and a black rock on either side of a balanced scale. The Man in Black picks up the white rock and throws it into the ocean ("Inside joke") before taking Sawyer deeper into the cave, to a small rock cavern, every inch of which has been covered by names and numbers written in chalk, the names of almost every person who has ever stepped foot on the Island in the whole history of the show.
Locke goes to his new job as a substitute PE teacher. At lunch, he goes to the teachers' lounge and makes friends with the European History teacher: Dr. Benjamin Linus.
The Man in Black claims that the names—a giant list, each name corresponding to a number—were written by Jacob. There are at least two hundred names on the walls and roof of the cavern, and every one of them has been crossed out except for six: "4 - LOCKE", "8 - REYES", "15 - FORD", "16 - JARRAH", "23 - SHEPHARD" and "42 - KWON". The Man in Black believes that everyone on the list was visited by Jacob at some point in their lives, a time when they were vulnerable, and were manipulated by him into eventually coming to the Island. (There are brief flashbacks to each of the people on the list—Locke, Hurley, Sawyer, Sayid, Jack and both Sun and Jin—being visited by Jacob and physically touched by him, i.e. on the arm or shoulder.) Everyone on the list is a "Candidate" to take over Jacob's role as protector of the Island, but now there are only six Candidates remaining.
The Man in Black: [Jacob] thought he was the protector of this place. And you, James, have been nominated to take that job.
Sawyer: And what does that mean?
The Man in Black: It means you have three choices. First, you can do nothing and see how all this plays out. And possibly, your name will get crossed out. [picks up a piece of chalk and crosses out Locke's name] Second option. You can accept the job. Become the new Jacob. And protect the island.
Sawyer: Protect it from what?
The Man in Black: From nothing, James. That's the joke: there is nothing to protect it from. It's just a damn island, and it will be perfectly fine without Jacob, or you, or any of the other people whose lives he wasted.
Sawyer: You said there were three choices?
The Man in Black: The third choice, James, is that we just go. We just get the hell off this Island. We never look back.
Sawyer: How do we do that?
The Man in Black: Together. So what do you say, James? Are you ready to go home?
Sawyer: Hell yes.