What Kate Does (S6, ep. 3)

Dogen: “You just have to trust me.”
Jack: “I don’t even trust myself. How am I supposed to trust you?”

• The general consensus on Tuesday night’s episode seems to be that it was average at best, boring and/or infuriating at worst. Personally, I enjoyed “What Kate Does,” much to my own surprise. Let’s be honest: fans of Lost know that each season’s Kate-centric episode is going to be something of a snoozer overall – a lot of running, and a sprinkling of intriguing mythology. It’s practically tradition at this point. As a result, I went in to tonight’s installment expecting Kate’s story to underwhelm me, and while I’m already more than ready to move on to next week (Anti-Locke and Sawyer! Is it next Tuesday yet? How about now?), I’m not writing this episode off at all.

Yes, it’s almost physically agonizing to go through an hour of the show at this point without much in the way of answers or seeming forward momentum. At the same time, Lost spent a good amount of time this week laying solid emotional groundwork in both its on-Island and off-Island scenes – something that I genuinely appreciate. I’m as eager/half-crazed for answers as everyone else, and while I wouldn’t try and argue that this was a great installment I will say that this is one of those episodes I suspect is going to play much better for people on the eventual DVD, because it’s a surprisingly potent character piece. I don’t know that Josh Holloway’s ever done better work on this show, and this might be the most grounded and ‘real’ Kate’s felt for me in a while, both on and off the Island. Knowing that you can put the next episode on right away is going to make this episode automatically much more enjoyable for some folks. Your mileage may vary, as always.

• Speaking of on/off the Island: I’ve cooked up a potential theory regarding the separate timelines/universes that we’re watching now, something I’m referring to as “the Second Snake.” If you’d like to read it you can do so here –  I’ll be referring to it later on.

• As a brief reminder: There are a ton of excellent sites out there offering full recaps of each show and running down exactly what happened in a given episode. I favor Drew McWeeny’s Hitfix recaps. They remind me of events without robbing me of the chance to do some thinking about an episode on my own. If you’ve got a suggested full-recap site for your fellow fans I encourage you to list it in the comments. These Chud columns are intended for those of you who have seen the episode in question, and they’re meant to help deepen your experience of watching the show, focusing on the themes, allusions, literary references, philosophical ideas, mythical touchstones, patterns, and minutia of Lost. I love writing about the show, but there’s no way for me to catch all the detail. Please post things I’ve missed in the comments.


• “What Kate Does” functions as a title-mirror to the Season 2 episode “What Kate Did,” and while there’s some nifty symmetry throughout this episode, it doesn’t appear to be thematically-important, so much as it is just consistent.

Lennon: “He’s alive.”

• The resurrection of Sayid Jarrah has left our favorite tortured torturer in a seeming state of confusion and amnesia. Like young Ben Linus, Sayid’s most recent memories appear to have vanished. In the comments for my “LA X” column, commenter “antilucid” suggested that the spring may work to physically push a person’s body back to the point in time just before they were hurt, causing their memory loss. This is the kind of off-the-wall idea that I love – nice theorizing, “antilucid.” Given that the spring does NOT appear to have worked, however, I’m wondering whether Sayid’s amnesia is genuine, and a result of the “infection,” or whether he’s faking his amnesia the way that Robert faked concern for Danielle.

• Looks like that “literal reincarnation of Jacob” thing was a wash, and I’m glad. To be honest, I didn’t love the notion and what we wound up with tonight is much, much cooler as far as I’m concerned. It’s possible that a “Jacob, reincarnated” storyline will still pop up, since we’re still waiting on the meaning of the term “candidates,” as well as an explanation for Jacob’s piñata-Ankh list (what, no candy?).

Great Sawyer Line: “’Course he’s fine. He’s an Iraqi torturer who shoots kids – he definitely deserves another go around.”

• Judging from the apparent passage of time, it’s been less than 24 hours since Sawyer lost Juliet and, unlike Claire’s non-reaction to the death of Charlie, it’s hitting him hard and it’s hitting him consistently. From his character’s point of view, Sayid’s Lazarus act is bitterly offensive and ironic, and that reaction is utterly human. I love the way that Holloway sells this scene. There’s nothing “fair” about what’s happened to Sawyer, and there’s no comfort or peace to Juliet’s passing. From his perspective, Sayid’s resurrection is a dark joke, a thumb in the eye from “God” or fate or whatever. James Ford has never been more vulnerable or more open to potential manipulation than he is right now, and that’s something Anti-Locke will likely try to take advantage of next week.

Miles’ unease around Sayid recalls his unease around Claire in Season 4. What triggered that S4 unease in Miles? Well, Claire’s house got blowed up real good. In my Rewatch Column for that episode, I suggested that Claire might have died in the explosion, but her apparent survival after the fact made that suggestion more than a little wonky to say the least. Now it seems as though she may not have survived, that her brush with death may have somehow “infected” her, or (more likely) that her as-yet-unseen time with Christian lead to her “infection.” On Chud’s Season 6 thread, someone suggested that Christian may have talked Claire into breaking the circle of ash around the cabin – an idea I really dig.

• Miles’ ability to sense potential weirdness around “the infected” should come in handy later in the season, when I presume there may be questions about who’s infected and who’s not, about who can be trusted.

• Arzt’s ass makes its triumphant first appearance on the show. I enjoyed this character when he popped up at the end of Season One, but I’m enjoying him much less so this time around. Really, Arzt? A Dustin Hoffman riff?

• As Kate is attempting to run (run, Kate, run!) from Her Favorite Marshall, she glimpses Jack waiting outside of the airport. There’s a moment of definite déjà vu/recognition there (as well as the swelling sound of that on-Island/off-Island transition-whoosh), and it brings up the theory I was tossing around before Season 6 began – that the Jughead detonation would send memories/knowledge of their Island life back in time to their ‘past’ selves the way that we see Eloise the rat experience in The Constant. Are we seeing something along these lines here?

• I was half-convinced that Claire wasn’t pregnant when Kate kicked her out of the car, but I was wrong. She’s very, very pregnant here, off-Island, just as she was in the first season flashbacks. As in the first season, Claire has flown to LA in order to give her baby up for adoption. We don’t know whether or not she’s had her creepy interactions with Richard Malkin in this “universe,” but judging from the way people’s pre-crash lives have already been shown to be altered, it’s possible that they never crossed paths, and that Claire was never warned that she had to raise her child.

• Jack and Co. help Sayid out into the sunlight, where there’s a nice comfortable above-ground tomb for him to sit on. The bullet wound that Sayid received from Roger Linus has healed almost completely, leaving a small mass of scar tissue. We saw that the spring’s muddy waters weren’t capable of healing the Temple Master’s hand in “LA X,” so how is it that Sayid’s wound has closed? Is rapid healing a ‘side benefit’ of infection?

• Lennon proves himself kind of shaggily likable, but utterly untrustworthy, when he tells Sawyer that they won’t hurt Sayid.

• Sawyer’s command to Kate (“Don’t come after me”) and his self-exile darkly mirrors Jack’s similar command and self-exile among the Others in Season 3.

• The Others appear to be protecting the castaways from Smokey, but we’re still not clear on why. Simple humanitarianism is pretty much out of the question – these folks are pretty casual with their murder when they want to be – and so it seems safe to assume that they’re being protected because they were on the list, a nice echo of the fact that most of these people were pointedly not on Jacob’s Season One lists.

• Aldo the Other makes his first reappearance on the show since Season 3’s “Not In Portland,” where he was shown cold-chilling reading Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” before being knocked the heck out. He’s played by Rob McElhenney, best known as Mac from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” and I want him to die.

• Continuing Lost’s admirable tradition of hiring great character actors, the creepy, grizzled dude who helps Kate with her cuffs is played by Jeff Kober, one of those “hey, I know that guy” guys. I know Kober best from his work as the psychotic vampire unleashed on a depowered Buffy in “Helpless,” and as the bad guy in the near-forgotten Lou Diamond Phillips movie “The First Power.” His IMDB credits read like a listing of every show on television. Whether you were watching XFiles or Sons of Anarchy, you know creepy grizzled dude’s face.

• Look at that, Claire’s gotten her unborn baby a stuffed killer whale, and Kate comes across it as she rummages through Claire’s things. In Season 4’s “Something Nice Back Home,” it’s Kate that gives a then-three year old Aaron an identical stuffed whale.

Unexpectedly amusing exchange:

Aldo: “You better not slow us down.”
Kate: “You better not slow me down.”

• If I had a quarter for every time someone packed a bag or filled/drank from a water bottle on this show I’d be a rich man.

Sayid: “Please…whatever you’re thinking of doing…”

• Sayid’s words here are a direct echo of Season One’s “Solitary,” where Sayid is first captured by a crazy-eyed Rousseau. The torture he undergoes here also mirrors that episode, and it reaffirms something we’ve known from the beginning – Sayid gives Locke a real run for his money in the “unluckiest man alive” division. He’s watched three women he’s loved die before his eyes, he’s been tortured on a regularly-scheduled basis, he’s been shot, beaten, manipulated, murdered and now, infected. The dude cannot catch a break.

• Speaking of torture: what’s up with the Others’ holistic Pit of Despair? First, the Temple Master blows dust all over Sayid, then electrocutes him, then burns him with a hot iron. What’s going on here? For one, the tests seem to revolve around three of the so-called “classical elements” – air, earth and fire (and water featured heavily during Sayid’s ‘drowning’ in the last episode). Is it ash that’s shaken over Sayid’s chest? Are they looking for some physical reaction to its touch? Are they looking to see whether Sayid is slowly ‘ghosting,’ allowing some of the dust thrown to settle through him? You’d think that Sayid’s OBVIOUS, EXCRUCIATING PAIN would maybe reassure them. Instead, the Others seem genuinely troubled by what these “tests” tell them. More on this below.

• Sayid is branded here by the Others in a manner that for me recalls Juliet’s branding in Season 3. He’s marked as an “outsider” by the touch of the iron, albeit in a much different sense. That thematic thread runs through this episode.

• We get solid confirmation that the Others are protecting the castaways from Smokey, thanks to AldoOther. Kate’s ability to spot a decoy trail recalls both her tracking of Naomi and their initial rescue attempt of Claire.

• I like JustinOther. I’d like to see him stick around. He’s a regular Chatty Cathy compared to the rest of the Others, and the dynamic between he and Aldo is an amusing one. Unfortunately, the end of this episode suggests our time with surprisingly-likable JustinOther may have come to a close.

• Every show is made better with the addition of certain elements. Giant bags full of rocks definitely belongs on that list. Someone’s been setting booby-traps up in the jungle again ala Rousseau who, as Justin notes, has been dead for years.

Sayid: “They didn’t ask me any questions.”

• First potential Star Wars reference of the season? Lost has a fondness for Lucas’ space-opera (Michael and Jin = Solo and Chewie at the end of Season One), and once in a while it likes to slip an homage in. Sayid’s line recalls Solo’s line toward the end of Empire.

• Jack gets a great Badass Moment at the Temple, ordering the Others to step aside. It becomes less badass when I remember that the Others have been waiting for Jack to come and talk to them.

Lennon: “He’s…yeah, it’s…there’s not really a literal translation. The closest thing would be…‘infected.’”

• Now there’s a word we haven’t heard in awhile. Waaaay back in Season One, Rousseau told the castaways that her crew had become “infected” when they arrived on the Island. In Season 5, we saw that this “infection” turned Robert, Rousseau’s babydaddy, into a duplicitous would-be murderer. If Rousseau hadn’t removed his firing pin he would have killed his lover and his unborn child without apparent remorse or hesitation. Is that the same infection now threatening Sayid? It seems likely. Based on the ending of this episode, it looks as though we’ll get more first-hand info on this concept of infection before long. Apparently, all that torture stuff was a “diagnosis,” which is messed up. The Temple Master was clearly watching Sayid’s face when he burned him with the iron – what exactly did he see there that convinced him the man was “beyond saving”?