I, like many other Losties, went into this past week's episode of Lost, "What Kate Does," expecting answers about the nature of the flash-sideways and its relation to the "real" timeline. Moreover, knowing the title of the episode, I was expecting some great revelation of what both Kates do to further their respective plots. I was disappointed on both accounts. Now, I wasn't ready to throw Molotov cocktails into the windows of the Lost writers' room like many across the net (a coworker called this "the worst episode ever" of Lost), but I did think, initially, that this was not a strong effort. Upon reflection, a second viewing, and some commentary from the inimitable Doc Jensen, I realized that while this was a set-up episode, it was a well-executed and important episode as well. Here are my thoughts on What Kate Does":
*So what does Kate do? Nothing we didn't know before -- she runs. In 2007, she runs after Sawyer to escape the Temple Others, and to see if he will assist her search for Claire. In 2004 (oddly, October 2004 according to Claire's sonogram, instead of September 2004), Kate is running from Marshall Mars, again. I really thought there would be something more to what Kate does, but there just wasn't. In fact, the last we saw of 2007 Kate was her filling up her canteen and watching Sawyer go back into his New Otherton house. That was it. So weird. I think this lack of progress for Kate is what caused so many people to be disenchanted with the episode.
*Speaking of Sawyer, how great was Josh Holloway in this episode? Yes, ever since "LaFleur," Holloway has been on absolute fire. However, his seething nihilistic pain, just an absolute hatred of what his life has become, was palpable. From his disgust at the cosmic joke that an "Iraqi torturer who shoots kids" gets a second chance, to the resigned despair with which he admitted his guilt over Juliet's death were dead on. I don't know how anyone will be able to defeat Terry O'Quinn in the Emmys this year, but Holloway's agents should definitely submit this episode because this may have been his best work in the series to date. One other note: how far as Sawyer's personality developed over the series? Well, he was going to propose to Juliet! The conman settling down? Unbelievable during Season 1.
*Sayid is in some trouble, methinks. When he was tortured before (by Rousseau), he was more defiant, more willing to play the game he knows too well. This time, though, he seemed to be willing to give up anything he would have been asked. Is this because of all he has gone through over the past five seasons, or because of his dip in the dirty hot tub of doom? I hope we receive more information on this "test" soon, because it certainly was interesting. I first thought Dogen was testing Sayid to see if he had been taken over by Smokey, hence the blowing of ash across Sayid's body (presumably, Sayid would have reacted to the ash if he was indeed Smokey). But then it was revealed that Sayid had failed the test. If Sayid has not been reanimated by Jacob or Smokey, then what brought him back to life? How did he become infected? Who "claimed" Sayid? What is the process by which the "darkness" is growing inside Sayid? And if Claire had been consumed by the darkness as well, does that mean that she died too? So many questions. I thought we were supposed to be getting answers!
*The thing that stood out for me about Jack was his humility. Between his admission to Sayid that he didn't save the Iraqi and his lack of knowledge about the contents of the pill Dogen wants Jack to feed Sayid, the good doctor seems to have made a lasting change. He no longer believes he has the answer to everything. He is willing to doubt, to ask questions, to listen to others. This doesn't mean he has abdicated his leadership position, as is evidenced by his ingestion of the poison pill to protect Sayid. Rather, he understands his limitations now. He is no longer the complete man of science we saw in Seasons 1-4, nor the ineffectual and passive man of faith from Season 5. Perhaps Jack has finally learned to find the happy medium and will be the effective leader the Lostaways need. All that said, I imagine this new version of Jack will end up working very well with Dogen against Smokey, as Dogen seemed to recognize jack's commitment to his friends when he swallowed the pill and subsequent conversation about a leader maintaining his distance from the people under his charge.
*Probably the most important development of the episode, of course, was the return of Claire, looking very much like the new Rousseau. It appears she set the traps Kate, Jin, Justin and Aldo discovered/tripped, and she was sporting quite the disheveled, living-in-the-woods-for-three-years look last found on the crazy French woman. As we were told by Dogen, the same "darkness" that infected Sayid first claimed Claire. I asked above whether that means Claire died at some point as well. What does it mean if she did? I don't know To me, she didn't look like she had died. Not that I should be guessing at anything. Just writing about this is getting me all angry again that more questions are being asked at this point in the series. I need to remember that they have to set up the big reveals about the show, and that was what this episode was doing. As far as Sideways 2004 Claire, it was interesting to see that even if the original Oceanic 815 had landed, she still was going to have to raise Aaron. Some on the 'net have posited that Mrs. Baskem is going to have some further significance. I don't think so; I think she was there just to show Claire would raise Aaron herself, and to provide an inciting event for Claire to go into labor.
*It was nice to see Jin and Kate have interactions together. I can't think of a time it has ever been just those two.
*Sometimes a baseball is just a baseball, but how long has Dogen been on the Island? If he knows about baseball, he must have come relatively recently, right? I mean, he wasn't born on the Island.
*Having Ethan Goodspeed (not Ethan Rom?) be Claire's doctor in L.A. was a stroke of brilliance. Plus, his lines about not wanting to stick Claire with needles if he doesn't have to, and that Aaron will be a handful were just fantastic.
*Will Claire's credit card come back into play later in the season? I would imagine it would as there would be no reason to show the scene if it had no significance.
*LOVED when Hurley asked Sayid if he was a zombie. Listeners to Damon & Carlton's Official Lost Podcast know that they have joked that the final season would be the zombie season. So, having this line was a nice shout-out to the audience.
*I really kind of missed what was going on at the beach. I figure we'll be concentrating on them next week.
*We had a couple more instances of people in the 2004 Sideways timeline recognizing something from the 2007 timeline. When Kate saw Jack at the airport, found the stuffed whale in Claire's bag, and heard Aaron's name, you could see flashes of recognition cross her face.
I know this post seems to have rambled and lacked coherence, but that's kind of the way I feel about the episode. I strongly disliked it the first time through because I felt it didn't do enough to advance the story quickly vis a vis the number of hours left in the series. Further, it didn't bring us closer to an answer to the question of whether the Sideways timeline will have significance to the 2007 timeline. This is the problem I think most people have with the season right now: people don't want to be led down a path that eventually is a dead end. I certainly felt that way, at first. However, upon second viewing, I realized that the set-up the episode accomplished (Claire/Rousseau, Sayid infected, Sawyer despondent, Jack on track, Kate...uh...I still don't know) was necessary to really move the final season forward. The pump has now been primed, and is ready to deliver the goods. Next week's episode, "The Substitute," is, allegedly, a Locke episode, so you know the show will be hitting the afterburners.
OK, that's it. Please be sure to check out the usual places for more coverage of "What Kate Does." I'll get up some thoughts on "The Substitute," on Monday night or Tuesday morning. I hope you all have a Happy Valentine's Day and are enjoying the Olympics. See you on Tuesday. Until then, I'm off to the food court.