If last week's "Lost" opener was all about the thrill ride of glimpsing how the plot will thicken in this final season, episode two, "What Kate Does," was all about reminding us who these people are at their emotional core. Particularly three of our primary heroes/anti-heroes, Jack, Kate and Sawyer.
We also got a boat-load of examples of eerie twists and parallels between the new 2004 L.A.-based storyline and the old 2004 storyline as it was told through the first five seasons of the show. In the seg penned by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and helmed by Paul Edwards, we were also treated to a return visit from the great William Mapother as Ethan -- except that he wasn't going by Ethan Rom but Dr. Goodspeed (great name for a baby doctor), which as we all know was the surname of the genial Dharma Initiative manager Horace Goodspeed. (Update: How could I forget?? Ethan is Horace's son!! D'oh.)
And as a bonus shoutout to the hardcore fans, a nod to the years of joking about the "zombie season" of "Lost" from Hurley when he asks Sayid 2.0: "You're not a zombie, right?"
Now, go figure. Of the show's central love triangle, Jack seems to be the only one who's actually showing some emotional growth as he struggles to deal with yet another baffling and frustrating set of circumstances. He's well past the "man of science" days of denying the possibility of the metaphysical hijinks that take place on this island. He's willing to suspend his med-school education and believe that Sayid could be miraculously healed by the murky spa waters of the Temple.
But at the same time he's got the courage of his convictions as he's tested with the pill at the hands of Dogen and Lennon. (The translator with the wire-rimmed glasses has been dubbed Lennon in the "Lost" blog-o-sphere for obvious reasons. I was calling the Japanese guy "Ono" in my notes but then he had to go and offer his character's name.)
Jack is deeply troubled, no doubt, especially after being rebuffed by Kate, yet again, but I still say that in the 2007 island thread he's slowly but surely getting himself to a stronger place than he's been since well before the Flight 815 crash. He can at least articulate that he does not trust anyone because he does not trust himself. He seems to have his fixer mentality somewhat in check. And as much as Dogen and Lennon try to push Jack's guilt buttons with the promise that he'll be redeemed if he can just get Sayid to swallow their homeopathic concoction, Jack answers to the higher calling of "First, do no harm."
As for Kate and Sawyer, I thought that this episode underscored nicely how much they are birds of a feather. Avenging angels-cum-fugitives who'll never settle down, never be at peace with themselves. Sawyer found a little piece of happiness through a hiccup in the space-time continuum that deposited him in the mid-1970s with his beautiful Juliet. But it was not meant to be, and Sawyer rues the day that he selfishly convinced her not to leave the island while she could still get out of 2004 alive.
"I think some of us are meant to be alone," he broods.
I think the scene with Kate on the dock was the sign that he's going to pursue his own suicidal death wish rather than vengeance against Jack. He may be persuaded or forced by circumstance to join Kate's crusade to find Claire, but for the moment he's sinking in grief just like the wedding ring he pitched into the ocean. When Sawyer tells Kate "you can make it back to the Temple before nightfall" he really means she may as well go back to Jack, already.
Kate' crusade on behalf of Claire and Aaron is genuine, but let's face it, she went after Sawyer in a misguided effort to rekindle their spark, and it's killing her that he's not falling for Freckles the way he used to. Can't blame her for trying -- good grief it's Josh Holloway after all -- but I don't think the depth of his feeling for Juliet was driven home until the scene at the dock. Great stuff from Holloway and Evangeline Lilly. I also liked the parallel of Sawyer ordering Kate "Don't come after me" to the command that Jack gave her way back in season three.
Back on the mean streets of L.A. on a smoggy September day in 2004, the saga of Claire was fraught with weirdness. Kate helps her through a critical moment of her pregnancy, just as she does on the island, and so does Ethan, in his own weird way under a different name. Claire's cries of "What is happening to my baby!" gave me goosebumps.
At the very end of the seg I couldn't stop thinking about the moment in season four when Claire visits Kate in L.A. circa 2007 and admonishes "Don't you dare bring him back" to the island. Her hair in that scene did look pretty stringy, just as it did at the end of tonight's seg when she encounters Jin. Hmmmm.
Perhaps some of the most straightforward stuff in the episode was the exchanges between Kate and the new-Others guys Aldo and Justin. As I understood it, Aldo's talk of the smoke monster and the plane and Kate hitting him on the head with the butt of a gun when she staged a prison break (that must've been during the polar bear cage period in season three, right?) was a way of confirming to us that the people who are now led by Dogen were the former Ben followers who were told by Ben to go to the Temple for safety when the freighter folk invaded the island, etc.
Another recurring theme touched on in the first two episodes of the season is the notion that our core characters are on some kind of cosmic list. Justin warns Aldo not to shoot Jin, caught in a polar bear trap, because he's "one of them." Aldo retorts "He may be one of them" but pretty soon the debate is over because hot-head Aldo and jumpy Justin are dead thanks to Claire's good aim.
Also, when Dogen and Jack are talking over a cup of tea late in the episode, Dogen matter of factly tells Jack "I was brought here like everyone else," and he won't indulge Jack's pesky WTF-does-it-all-mean queries: "You know exactly what I mean," Dogen hisses.
Now, what to make of Claire and the notion that she's been "claimed," as Dogen informs Jack regarding his "sister." I suppose its a casualty of hanging out with Christian Shephard as Claire did back in season four. The whole question about Sayid's "infection," and "the darkness growing in him" and Claire's status raises yet again the larger question of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys here? Heck if I know.
** "I don't have any secrets," Sayid wails as he's burned with the hot iron poker. OK, now we know he's possessed by another being.
** "I'm sorry, is this a press conference?" from hot-head Aldo. Nice call-back to the Oceanic 6 newser.
** "We'll be in the food court if you need us." Miles hasn't lost his sense of humor. Or his professional curiosity, as he presses Sayid for details on what it's like to die. "No white light?"
** Kate signs in to the hospital as Joan Hart? I guess Sabrina the Teenage Witch would have been a total giveaway.
** Claire gives Kate her credit card and Kate tells her to keep the baby she's already named Aaron. Claire's gonna need the credit card. Huggies don't grow on trees!
-- Cynthia Littleton