Back in the very first episode of Lost, Charlie asked perhaps the central question of this whole series: “Guys… where are we?” Well, if Lost’s sixth season is meant to evoke its first—as the creators have insisted—then last week’s season premiere introduced a new defining question, courtesy of the reincarnated Sayid. “What happened?”
Let’s see if we can work our way towards some answers:
1. What happened to Sayid is that he died, got dipped in some muddy water, and then came back to life, making The Temple Others suspicious that he might be “infected.” So the T.O.’s leader, Dogen, administers a highly ironic test, that has Sayid being tortured in order to prove… something. I initially assumed that they were trying to make sure Sayid wasn’t Smokey in disguise, in which case his screaming in pain and having his flesh burnt would mean he “passed” the test. But then Dogen’s right-hand man and translator, Lennon, says that Sayid in fact didn’t pass. So just what is this “infection?” More in a moment.
2. What happened to Jack is that he felt terribly guilty about Sayid’s death, and so he takes a proprietary interest in what the T.O.’s decide to do with his reanimated body. When he finds out Sayid’s been tortured, he storms into Dogen’s lair with questions he wants answered immediately. Instead, Dogen and Lennon dodge (in a very Lost-y fashion) and spout some mumbo jumbo about how Jack needs to give Sayid a pill to stop the infection, which will thus allow Jack to “redeem himself” for all the mistakes he’s made and the people who’ve died or been hurt because of him. Instead, Jack swallows the pill himself, alarming Dogen, who informs him that the pill contains poison.
3. What happened to Sawyer is that he lost the love his life, and has subsequently lost interest in being drawn into any conflict involving Jack, The Others or Sayid. (Regarding Sayid’s resurrection, Sawyer sarcastically hisses, “He’s an Iraqi torturer who shoots kids. He definitely deserves another go-round.”) So he brandishes a gun, threatens his way out of The Temple, and heads back to Dharmaville where he finds his old home with Juliet and the box he once hid there, containing the ring he’d planned to give her.
4. What happened to Kate is that she registered the chaos inside The Temple and saw a way to get herself out of there, by promising to track down Sawyer and bring him back to safety. In fact, she has no intention of returning. Now that she’s in 2007, where she always meant to be, Kate’s planning on finding Claire, preferably with Sawyer’s help. So she treks out into the jungle with Jin (who has his own ulterior motive, to find Sun) and a pair of Temple Others, Aldo and Justin, whom Kate and Jin promptly ditch. Then they go their separate ways.
5. Oh and what also happened to Kate—or Alterna-Kate, if you’d rather—is that she landed safely on Oceanic 815, escaped the authorities, and hijacked a cab with Alterna-Claire in the backseat. After stealing Claire’s purse and suitcase, Kate finds a mechanic who helps her get her cuffs off, but then Kate’s moved by the stuffed killer whale she finds in Claire’s bags, so she returns to Claire, gives her the luggage back, and offers to drive her to meet the couple that’s going to adopt her baby. Only the couple has recently split up, and the ex-wife tearfully turns Claire away at the door, right before Claire begins having contractions. Kate rushes Claire to the hospital, while keeping an eye out for the law.
For the first half of “What Kate Does,” I confess to being a little antsy. Beyond my usual anxiety over “Kate episodes”—which tend to be among Lost’s weakest—I worried that Lost was falling back into multiple bad habits. In the second half hour, a lot of my fears were allayed. Cases in point:
-Kate telling Dogen that she could bring Sawyer back had me concerned that Lost was setting up another multi-episode game of Island Chutes & Ladders, where characters make dramatic exits and walk off purposefully to places, just so they can turn around a few days later and walk back. Instead though, Kate, Jin and Sawyer appear to be off on their own journeys now, with no plans to return to The Temple.
(As an aside, I have to hand it to Josh Holloway and the writers for making Sawyer’s grief over Juliet so palpable. Lost has never been all that good at lingering emotional responses, but Sawyer’s desperate need to get the hell out of The Temple and get back to the last place he and Juliet were happy was about as believable a motivation for action as I’ve ever seen on this show. His scene with Kate on the dock, making apologies and plans, went a long way to making me feel better about “What Kate Does.”)
-The revelation that “the nice couple in Los Angeles who want to adopt your baby” were a couple of nobodies smacked a little of last year’s “This Place Is Death,” an episode which seemed largely designed to prove to fans that a Rousseau flashback wouldn’t be as revelatory as they’d hoped. One of the minor mysteries that Lost hadn’t solved prior to tonight was just who was planning to take Aaron off Claire’s hands. And in the Alterna-815 reality at least, it appears that this was a mystery with a mundane, insignificant answer. But as if to compensate, “What Kate Does” gives us a tingly moment at the hospital, as Claire’s doctor is revealed as none other than Ethan Goodspeed! (Now if I ask for more background on how he ended up in L.A., will I be disappointed in the reply?)
-The whole business between Jack, Dogen, Lennon and Sayid started out as Lost at its worst. Jack demands answers, then backs off when Dogen hands him a pill? Jack’s going to give Sayid this pill, without even finding out what’s in it, to “redeem” himself? Jack’s done some stupid stuff on this show, and for some stupid reasons, but if he’d convinced Sayid to take the pill, I think I would’ve thrown in the towel on “What Kate Does” and regrouped for next week. But hey, whaddaya know? Jack doesn’t give Sayid the pill. Instead they talk! They actually talk! And then he returns to Dogen’s lair and they talk! And then he forces answers out of Dogen and Lennon by saying, insightfully, “I don’t trust myself. How am I supposed to trust you?” before swallowing the pill himself. I’m in favor of all of this.
I’m also in favor of the way this episode ends, with Dogen telling Jack more about “the infection” that will blacken Sayid’s heart and how, “It happened to your sister.” Then, as if on cue, Jack’s sister Claire emerges from the jungle, rifle in hand, and shoots Aldo and Justin just before Aldo can kill Jin.
That ending is exciting enough, but even more exciting is what we can extrapolate from this. Follow me here: Sayid was dead, but now he’s alive, revived by something “dark.” Claire was (probably) dead, but she’s up and about now, and according to Dogen she’s taken a turn as well. Christian arrived on The Island as a corpse, but has been seen alive several times. Is he dark? Is the phenomenon at work here different from Smokey taking the form of Locke? If so, is it possible that The Corpse Of Locke will eventually rise, and stand in opposition to—or in concert with—Not-Locke?
I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued.
-Record-keeping alert: Because “LA X” was officially listed as a two-parter, I’m calling this Episode Three, and will proceed accordingly this season.
-I’m still not used to the “flash-sideways” sound. It’s disorienting me.
-I’m also still withholding judgment on the effectiveness of “flash-sideways” storytelling technique. In the previous seasons, the “flashbacks” and “flash-forwards” have provided us with information we needed to know, while—at their best, anyway—infusing the present-day action with an extra note of poignancy. I thought the flashes in “LA X, Part 1” accomplished both of those goals, but I haven’t quite felt that with “LA X, Part 2” or “What Kate Does.”
-Hurley, asking a fanboyish question of Sayid: “You’re not a zombie, right?”
-“As you can see, Hugo here has assumed the leadership position.”
-One byproduct of the split realities is that I have to keep reminding myself who remembers what. When Aldo showed up, I briefly wondered whether the encounter between him and Kate in Season Three actually happened. (The answer? Oh yeah. Kate may not have remembered, but Aldo sure did.) I also have to remind myself that Jack and Kate and Hurley also retain the memories of getting off The Island. Which means that this Jack knows about his half-sister, Claire.
-Dogen “doesn’t really have a sense of humor.” What Other does?
-Actually, there was some comic relief from The Other camp tonight, courtesy of Aldo and Justin. Aldo, played by It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Rob McElhenney, gets in some good lines, whether he’ describing the dangers in the jungle (“Ever see a big pillar of black smoke, makes a tikka-tikka sound, gets real pissed off?”) or griping at Justin for being too chatty.
-I have to say that the preview for the Jimmy Fallon Lost parody that starts airing this Friday looks pretty clever.
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-There was one other fairly tingly moment at the hospital with Claire and Kate: when Claire spontaneously decides to name her baby “Aaron,” and Kate has a weird look on her face akin to the one that crossed Jack’s face on 815 last week. Deja vu?
-By the way, way back in “Pilot,” Claire also worried that her baby wasn’t moving, just like what happened in this episode. And she had a sudden intuition that the baby would be a boy, just as she had a sudden impulse to call him “Aaron” tonight.
-I know Damon and Carlton have said they don’t like the use of the word “alternative” for the reality where Oceanic 815 landed safely, because they feel that implies that it’s somehow not “real.” (When in fact it’s “Not a dream! Not a hoax! Not an imaginary tale!”) But I’m using “alternative” in the sense of “other,” and am going to keep on with that for now. When Juliet hit Jughead, two things happened. Our heroes materializing in 2007 is one. Their flight landing safely in 2004 is the “other.”
-I had some wild Lost dreams last night, mostly involving theories both implausible and plausible. Implausible? All our heroes are actually microscopic. (In my dream, this explains the significance of Kate’s tiny plane.) Plausible? The reality of these characters is like software, receiving regular upgrades and reinstallations. The safe landing of 815 is like one of those upgrades; the 2007 story is like an older, archived version. (I promise, it all made sense in my dream.)
-I invite you to check out regular commenter Barefoot Jim’s theory about how the two realities might merge this season, which has some similarities to the time-travel nosebleeds of last year. No indication tonight that Jim’s right, aside from Alterna-Kate finding the name “Aaron” familiar. Anyway, if Jim’s theory holds, Sawyer should be the next one to start “bleeding” between the two realities, right?
-Justin says that Aldo can’t kill Jin because Jin’s “one of them.” To which Aldo replies, “He may be one of them.” Who are “them?” People on Jacob’s List?
-Aldo and Justin know about Rousseau. And they know she’s been “dead for years.”
-I think we’re starting to understand a little more about how it is that Mikhail could keep coming back. Either Temple Bath or Reanimation.
-Any significance to the objects we see Dogen fiddling with tonight? A manual typewiter? A baseball?
-Dogen claims that he prefers not to speak English because it allows him to remain separate from his people, so that he can make decisions that affect them with some measure of emotional distance. That’s an entirely different model of leadership than we’ve seen from Jack, Ben, Locke or Sawyer. I like that Lost keeps offering up alternate examples of how to be a hero.
-Dogen says to Jack that he was “brought here, like everyone else,” and claims that Jack will know what that means. But when? And from where? And is anyone on The Island a native?
-I loved last week’s episode, and so did most Lost fans it seems, but I’ve read a few complaints here and there—in our comments section, on other entertainment sites, etc.—that the Season Six premiere was “confusing” or “frustrating” or even “boring.” I confess to being a little perplexed by the “confusing” criticism. Once you realize that there are two realities at work, what’s there to be confused about? It’s not like it’s difficult to tell which reality is which. (Here’s a hint: One’s on The Island, one’s in L.A.) “Frustrating” I can accept, because people are ready for Lost to start winding down, and the introduction of new mysteries and new characters means that we’ve now got a lot more hallways to walk through before we get to The Magic Answer Door. I fully expect that a lot of the viewers who flocked back to Lost last week—bumping the ratings back up to Season Two levels—will flock away again for a while, until the final episodes. But honestly, I couldn’t imagine a Lost where we get a lot of answers in the first episode of a season. What would happen in the next 16 hours or so? Just action? Would a show like that really be Lost? As for “boring,” we’ll just have to agree to disagree there. I thought it was an uncommonly strong season-opener, with the action and the acting already up to midseason form. The hiatuses between TV seasons can be real momentum-killers, both for the creative teams behind a show (who have to find the rhythm of the characters’ dialogue again) and for fans (who have months to let their memories of the show and their expectations for the future grow out of proportion to reality). The highest compliment I can pay to “LA X” is that to me it felt like a seamless transition from “The Incident,” which I’d watched a couple of weeks prior. And “What Kate Does” felt like a typical “next” episode for Lost, transitioning out of the premiere and into the meat of the season. And by the end of this week's episode, that meat was starting to look pretty juicy.