What Kate Did (S2, ep. 9)

Sawyer: “Are we saved?”
Kate: “No, Sawyer. Not yet.”

Lost is a kind of mirror. We look into it, and we see reflected back to us what we bring to the show: our personal beliefs, our faith or atheism, our perspective on the world. How we interpret Lost’s mysteries depends in large part on how we view life, and most of the smaller mysteries on Lost, such as the horse in “What Kate Did,” offer two potential explanations – one ordinary and rational, one extraordinary and irrational. I’m convinced that this aspect of the show is intentional on the part of Lost’s creators given how consistent it is. “What Kate Did” provides a perfect example of this phenomenon.

Granted, all art is arguably a mirror. But Lost takes things several steps further, not only by consciously creating mysteries that can be answered in ways both mundane and magical, but in other, seemingly-deliberate ways as well.

The show further develops this aspect of itself by including references and allusions to stories of myth and allegory in books like Watership Down and the Bible, in the overt use of religious symbolism in the form of the Dharma Initiative, and in the quick, deliberate mentions of myths and legends, from the god Apollo to the warrior Gilgamesh. All of these references point toward the notion of creating stories to explain, make sense of, or illuminate the world around us, and indeed, Lost itself is just such a story. The show gives its audience an opportunity to reflect on ourselves as much as on the mysteries at hand. Are we quick to assign a spiritual/supernatural explanation to something? Are we quick to do the opposite? What does this say about the way we make sense of things? Are you a man of science, or a man of faith?


• What Kate did is wrong, by society’s standards and by my own. But where Kate is hounded by the law for her crime off the Island, John Locke is actively encouraged to commit the same crime on-Island, and this act is portrayed as ‘good’ or at the least ‘necessary’ by both Ben and Richard.

Is murder not wrong in and of itself amongst the Others? Are there times where it is justified? In our own society there are instances where murder is considered either justified or excusable, dependant on the reasons for the action and the circumstances surrounding it. Are there Other laws that lay out similar exceptions? Is ‘it’s totally cool to kill people who play you for a sucker’ one of them?

• Judging from the way Jin strolls out of his tent, I’d say this is the episode where Sun becomes pregnant.

• A black horse appears to Kate in the jungle and gives us the perfect illustration of how Lost’s mysteries seem to be intentionally both potentially supernatural and surprisingly mundane at the same time. A horse is not as uncommon a sight as a polar bear might be but it’s an animal we’ve never seen before on the Island and, as we’ll see later in this episode, it bears a remarkable resemblance to a horse that Kate saw off-Island during her first escape attempt.

So, there are two basic possible explanations for the horse: (1) it’s a horse, on the Island, and no one’s seen it until now, (2) the horse is supernatural or science-fictional in some way.

Given the appearance of Jack’s dead father on the Island, the fact that Kate sees a very similar horse in her flashback, and the instances of SGWS (Sudden Ghost-Walt Syndrome) that Sayid and Shannon experienced, it makes a certain amount of sense to interpret this horse as a kind of sign or omen or, just possibly, as another apparent manifestation on the Island not unlike Christian, Claire, Walt, etc.

We’ve seen that some entity on the Island (or perhaps the Island itself) can create simulacrums – images of the dead made alive again in flesh. Some, me included, have speculated that the Man In Black (variously known as the MiB, the Adversary, and Esau among fans) or the Monster could be assuming these forms.

It’s also possible that the Island itself is creating these apparent ‘ghosts,’ in much the same way that the planet Solaris creates images of the dead for reasons that go beyond the ability of humanity to comprehend.

Both these options are arguably intriguing/exciting, but there’s a third option now on re-watch, and it underscores the importance of keeping an open mind about this show. We’ve seen Charles Widmore and a companion ride horses on this Island before. In Season 5 Widmore & friend are shown riding into the Others’ camp. It’s just as possible that the horse Kate sees is on the Island as a result of having been imported or born there.

And anyway, what’s arguably important about the horse isn’t whether it’s actually made of smoke; it’s that the horse’s appearance allows Kate to make a kind of peace with a portion of her past. What Lost appears to be saying: it doesn’t matter if you view this event as supernatural or natural. What matters is coming to terms with who you’ve been, and using the totality of those past experiences to rise up, to become a better person.

Sawyer: “You killed me. Why did you kill me?”

As Kate is flashing back to the murder of Wayne and her mother’s subsequent ‘betrayal’ she’s taking care of Sawyer, who is in the throes of an infection. He wakes suddenly, grips her by the throat, and utters the above-quoted line. There are a few sites out there that claim it’s actually Wayne’s voice you hear when Sawyer speaks, but I don’t hear that and I frankly believe that this is another instance of the audience mythologizing the show as they watch it – much like ancient legends, where the deeds of probably-existent men and women were made greater and more spectacular with re-telling, or where unexplained events were given miraculous explanations.

Far more likely is the possibility that Sawyer is in a feverish haze and is speaking not to Kate, but to the nameless man that shot him.

A supernatural explanation for this: dead Wayne is somehow being ‘channeled’ by Sawyer. A science-fictional explanation: a Matrix-esque twist, where the memories and experiences of this group are slowly running together, intermixing, and becoming confused as the 815ers are mentally held prisoner in some as-yet-unidentified place.

Which of those explanations would Occam have supported?

• Michael notices the blast doors in the Hatch – a feature that Locke has apparently not noticed (if we’re feeling generous we could suggest that this points towards Locke’s fatal obliviousness to ominous details). We know now that they’re intended to seal the Swan in the event of electromagnetic overload. 

Kate: “I am sorry I’m not as perfect as you. I’m sorry that I’m not as good.”

There’s that word again – good.

• Kate continues her habit of passionately kissing/sleeping with the closest man in her physical proximity whenever she’s upset/confused. And hey, I just realized something: Jack’s the rebound guy.

• Locke shares the Dharma video with Michael and Eko. Michael is skeptical and Locke, as per usual, isn’t skeptical enough.

Michael: “What about all the missing pieces?”
Locke: “Oh, you mean the splices. Yeah. Just a frame here and there – nothing important.”

It’s those figurative splices – the “frames” of information that John fails to account for – that will allow for his inglorious death.

• Shannon gets her funeral and it’s saddish I guess, but I’m ready to move on.

• Kate and Sayid have a haunted moment together at Shannon’s grave. Kate tells him about the horse and he tells her about seeing Walt. I want some sort of explanation for this, and I’m hopeful we’ll get one in the last season.

• We learn that you cannot just put The Numbers into the computer whenever you want. This enforces, simultaneously, the potential Skinner Box aspect of the Hatch, as well as the electromagnetism build up that we’ve since learned about.

Eko: “At that time the temple where the people worshipped was in ruin. And so the people worshipped idols – false gods. And so the kingdom was in disarray. Josiah, since he was a good king, sent his secretary to the treasury and said: ‘We must rebuild the temple. Give all the gold to the workers so that this will be done.’ But when the secretary returned he had no gold. And when Josiah asked why this was, the secretary replied: ‘We found a book.’ Do you know this story?”

• The worship of false idols is something Locke has begun to engage in, and this worship will deepen into something tragic. What’s notable about this quote is how it continues. Eko tells Locke that this book was the Book of Law, otherwise known as the Old Testament. When Richard visits Locke in S5, a Book of Law is prominently featured as one of the objects that Locke may choose from.

It’s not too much of a stretch to connect these two things and to suggest that Richard’s offering of the book is meant to echo (Eko?) its earlier mention in S2. Allegorically, Richard is the secretary, who brings Locke (Josiah) the Book expecting him to rebuild the temple (and note that The Temple has since become a major mystery on the show). But apparently, Richard was worshipping a false idol.

Eko gives Locke the Bible that he found in the Arrow Station – within it is a part of the missing film for the Swan station video – film which warns the Swan workers not to use the computer to contact ‘the outside world.’

But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! – 2 Chronicles 6:18

That’s the passage cited on the page that Locke opens the Bible to. And it indirectly addresses those who seek spiritual/supernatural answers to The Island’s mysteries. Will God (Jacob/the Island) really dwell on earth with men? Can ‘God’ be reduced to something containable? Describable? Are the miracles you claim to see actually miracles? Or are they too small to qualify? To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a horse is just a horse.

Great Hurley Line: “So….Rose’s husband is white. Didn’t see that one coming.”

• Hurley makes explicit what has typically been implicit, in noting that Jack is ‘twinning’ Sawyer by chopping wood the way that Sawyer used to do.

• Sayid is briefly seen on the television behind Kate when she enters the Army offices of the man she thought was her father. Is this some evidence of interconnectivity/divine intervention/fate? Is it coincidence? A hint that the connectivity between these people is somehow artificial?

• The revelation of What Kate Did was considered a disappointment by quite a few folks when the episode first aired, but like most things Kate-related, on re-watch I’m finding a lot to like. Her arc is sad, and her character is both scarily cold and vulnerably warm all at once.

Eko: “Don’t mistake coincidence for fate.”

Eko echoes my musings above with this iconic line. Locke is all to ready to believe in signs and miracles, as is the audience. It’s a fake Priest – a man who has lived as a soulless killer and as a man of God – who reminds us of the importance of keeping an open mind and not allowing either science or faith to monopolize the way in which we choose to see the world.

• Kate helping Sawyer out of bed and out of the Hatch is a mirror of the way she helped Wayne into bed at this episode’s beginning. Kate began this hour assisting someone to their death. She ends it by helping to nurse a similar man back to life. The horse reappears, and Kate approaches and touches it – implying to us that she’s making a kind of peace with her memories and her guilt.

Jack: “Tequila and tonic – that’s your drink, right?”
Ana Lucia: “Where’s the tonic?”
Jack: “We’re running a little low on mixers.”

• It’s touching to see Jack reach out to Ana. Even though we suspect that this is in part due to Kate’s behavior (and Sawyer’s fevered admission that he loves ‘her’) it still reinforces the positive values of attempting connection.

• And just when we’re thinking that it’s time for the episode to end, we flash over to the Hatch again, and a single word on the computer screen sets Michael and the audience on edge:

(You can catch up on what you’ve missed by visiting www.LostTheRewatch.blogspot.com, where I’m in the process of posting all of the re-caps written so far on one easy-to-navigate blog. You can also visit the Lost: Rewatch thread here at Chud, where a phenomenal group of people dissects and expands upon these rambling thoughts in a fun and enlightening way every day.)