Two weeks ago, when I peeked ahead at Lost’s upcoming episode titles (and the character flashbacks associated with them), the only one that didn’t immediately interest me was this week’s episode, the Kate-centered “Whatever Happened, Happened.” I don’t think I need to explain why. “Kate episodes” tend to be something of a necessary evil that we Lost fans have to endurein order to move the story forward and get back to the characters and scenarios we care more about.
But while “Whatever Happened, Happened” was hardly the best episode of this season—or even in the Top 8—there were times when it reminded me of Season One, when Kate was one of the show’s most complicated figures, and the stories about her actually engaged me. Chalk up my renewed interest tonight to a strong Evangeline Lilly performance. The actress has gone on record as saying she doesn’t really understand (or “enjoy”) Lost’s more fantastical elements, but she dug in hard on several emotional one-to-one/human-scaled scenes in "Whatever Happened, Happened," and none were better than the night’s first flashback.
At long last, we got to see Kate reunite with her old con-buddy Cassidy, post-“Oceanic Six,” and we got to see her fulfill her promise to Sawyer to take care of his and Cassidy’s daughter, Clementine. And though the episode conveniently cut to commercial during the part where Kate explained how she knew Sawyer and how/why the O6 lied about their rescue, we did get to see some wary camaraderie between the two ladies, and to hear Cassidy’s coldly dismissive theory that Sawyer jumped off the helicopter not to save everyone's life but because he didn’t want the hassle of being Kate’s boyfriend or Clementine’s father. It was a nice little scene between the two ladies, and one that put all of the craziness of Kate’s life in a relatable context. And when Kate smiled through her tears and told Cassidy that she lies about Aaron being her son “because I have to,” I found that I didn’t care that the flashback didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know or hadn’t already assumed. The moment was strong.
In fact, I thought the flashback structure was handled particularly adroitly tonight all around. Kate’s reunion with Cassidy comes right after we hear Roger Linus shout “That’s my kid,” asLil’ Ben’s bloody body is brought into the compound, which sets up lousy single dad Roger as a contrast to the overpoweringly maternal fake-mom Kate. Similarly, what Cassidy has to say about Sawyer’s commitment issues is contrasted just a scene or two later with the real live Sawyer, standing in front of Kate and scrambling to hold onto the life he’s built with Juliet amid a community of new friends.
Unfortunately, Kate shouldn’t be standing in front of Sawyer at that particular moment, while the whole DHARMA section of the island is on full alert following Ben’s shooting. In this new hierarchy, Kate’s a nobody, just like Jack, who's refusing to lift a finger to help Lil’ Ben, despite Über-Mommy Kate’s pleas. (Jack has his own little internal, off-camera flashback while Kate’s asking him to save Ben’s life, remembering the last time he saved Ben because she begged him to. That time was to save Sawyer’s life—and so is this time, in a way.) Kate may hate to see a little boy die, and may want to do whatever she can to help, but showing up in secret underground DHARMA facilities to talk to “LaFleur” really ain’t that helpful.
I have some qualms about this episode that I’ll get to in a minute, but when I think back on it in the weeks, months and years to come, I’ll remember “Whatever Happened, Happened” for a couple of things. For Lilly’s performance, as already noted, and for the scenes of Miles trying to explain the rules of time travel to that perpetual audience surrogate Hurley, who thinks that if Ben dies, he’ll disappear (just like in Back To The Future!) I liked this conversation because it was funny, and because it helped drive home the theme of the episode. Dig this: According to Miles, Ben will live no matter what Kate, Jack, or anyone else does. So the question for Jack in particular is: Should he participate? Should he play surgeon and save Ben’s life? If the outcome is preordained, should Jack at least be a hero while that outcome plays out? What kind of person is he, anyway?
It turns out Jack has an answer to that: “I don’t know yet.” When Juliet confronts him about his abandoning his Hippocratic Oath (for like the hundredth time on this show), he lays down some Locke-ian mumbo-jumbo about how he’s waiting for the island to speak to him and tell him his purpose, and until then, he’s just staying out of the way. Much like Lilly, I thought Matthew Fox was quite good tonight, especially in that scene, and in the delivery of the “I don’t know yet” line. There was a sort of quiet desperation around his eyes—a fear.
Because here’s the thing with Jack—and Kate for that matter. Even though it’s been three years since they left the island, and even though they were only on the island for a hundred days, and even though they’re in the freakin’ past, part of them has to feel just a little proprietary towards the ground beneath their feet. Jack’s been biting his tongue the best he can (while Kate’s been doing her best to stay out of the way and stare dreamily into space), but it doesn’t take much to rekindle Jack’s obstinate side, especially since, as Future Man, he can’t help but adopt an attitude of superiority to these poor, doomed DHARMA dudes.
So again, the question that “Whatever Happened, Happened” raises—and it’s right there in the title, folks—is whether these characters we know so well aren’t just bound by the rules of time-travel but by their own natures. Will Jack always be Jack, no matter how much he’s trying to change? (Kate claims to miss the old take-charge Jack, but he won’t hear it, sighing, “You didn’t like the old me, Kate.”) Will Sawyer, as Cassidy implies, always be Sawyer, unable to settle down? (He seems to answer that question when he asks Kate about Clementine, and stresses that whatever he does to help Kate and Lil’ Ben, he’s really doing it for Juliet.)
I have to say though, while I found the theme of this episode compelling and some of the individual scenes moving, I thought on the whole that “Whatever Happened, Happened” was maybe a little too much about delineating these quandaries and letting the characters express their feelings, and not enough about moving the story forward. I mean, I’ve just written a thousand words about this episode, and most of it is about what’s between the lines. Plot? There wasn’t much. Mainly we had to wait through some dot-connecting until we got to the two scenes we were waiting for:
1. In the past (or future, I guess), Kate gives Aaron up to Claire’s mother, after telling her the whole truth about Oceanic 815 and promising that she’s returning to the island “to find your daughter.” (For my money, Carole Littleton buys into all this far too easily, but if it’s plausible enough to keep the story moving, I’ll allow it.)
2. Sawyer and Kate take Lil’ Ben to The Hostiles, where Richard reluctantly admits that he can save the kids life, though “If I take him, he’s not ever going to be the same again.” (Richard adds: “Blah blah … forgetting … blah blah … lost innocence.” Honestly, his explanation struck me as a little convenient, but I’m withholding final judgment until next week.) We also got to see Richard disappear into one of the temples, after hissing to a skeptical fellow Hostile that “I don’t answer to” Charles or Ellie.
On one level, I’m impressed with the way that Lost is structuring its stories right now. Each episode kind of passes the baton on the episode that comes next, so that we can learn what we need to know before the baton gets passed on again. (Next week: The Origin Of Ben, Part Two!) But I also feel like this whole DHARMA excursion has been kind of a mini-movie that’ll play better in one big chunk on DVD. In real time, watching week to week, I’m starting to get a little impatient for the rest of the cast to be brought back into the fold.
But not too impatient, because I know a little about what’s coming. Tonight was light on mythology, outside of filling in some pieces of Kate backstory that pretty much everyone had figured out on their own. Next week looks like it’s going to be so myth-heavy that we’ll be poring through encyclopedias when it’s over. We survived the Kate episode! What rewards await us?
-There are times when I feel like Darlton and company are throwing in sops to the fans that are kind of distracting, like when a character talks something that the blogosphere has been griping about for months. But Hurley’s conversation with Miles was most decidedly not one of those moments, because the writers put together that scene a while ago, before we all started asking questions about how Sayid could’ve shot Ben without Ben ever mentioning it decades later. They anticipated our confusion, and let Hurley stand in for us. Brilliant.
- Jack chooses to assert himself at exactly the wrong time, speaking up to Horace just when Horace is looking for the “workman” who helped Sayid escape. I wonder if this will cause complications later on?
-The commercials two weeks ago made it look like Juliet was going to be all catty to Kate, but that never really happened in this episode or in “He’s Our You.” They were far more sisterly. That was kind of recurring motif tonight, extending to the scenes between Kate and Cassidy, but I confess I found the second Kate/Cassidy scene a little strange. It’s hard for actors to play “commiserating” when they’re asked to talk about impossible journeys to mysterious islands.
-Part of the “underscoring the emotion” element of tonight’s episode comes from a scene where Kate loses Aaron in a supermarket, and begins to understand what she has to give up. I know how she feels. I lost my kid in a Target once for about two minutes. Absolutely terrifying.
-Best Miles line of the night: “You’re all free to leave whenever you want. But I’ll shoot you in the leg.”
-Best Hurley line (in response to Juliet’s pissy “Where’s Jack?”): “Is he in trouble?”
-Judging by the episode descriptions, the rest of this season’s Losts are going to rock the cradle of love.
Clues, coincidences and crazy-ass theories:
-So does everyone at DHARMA know that Juliet’s a doctor now? She was rockin’ the greasemonkey garb a day ago, and now she’s in starched white scrubs.
-I thought for a moment that the bearded dude talking to Richard at the end might be a younger Mr. Friendly, but he spoke with kind of a British accent, if I heard it right.
-When Jack talks to Kate about how familiar it is that he be asked to save Ben’s life… well, I think there’s something there. It is familiar: Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Juliet and Ben, doomed to repeat the same scenario. I don’t think that’s lazy writing; I think that may be a clue to the way the island works. It repeats things until it gets the sequence right, like a computer trying to crack a code.
-The irony of course is that by Jack not saving Ben, he’s making Ben into the monster he’ll inevitably become, by forcing him into the arms of The Hostiles. Just like Sayid, by shooting Ben, created Ben. Our heroes just can’t win.
-That’s all I really got this week, folks. Like I said, it was a mythology-light episode.