Wednesday, February 10, 2010

LOST - Where Are We? - 6.03 - What Kate Does

A solid episode with more characterwork in it than action or mystery-busting, but fans crying foul on this one would do well to remember there was a time (yes, even last season) when not every episode had to provide major answers as long as it progressed the story. Yes, this is the final season, but if LOST stopped making room for its elaborate character archs, then it would lose it's identity. Episodes like this (and many more character-centred ones before it) will be thought of more kindly in the time-preserved DVD viewing cavalcade than they are now with everyone clamoring for answers. My stance? You can't do anything about it, so just sit back and enjoy what you're given! Personally, I didn't even notice this was a "slower" episode until I went online afterward and viewer comments informed me that it was. (Of course the ABC marketers aren't doing the writers any favors any by promising globe-shattering answers in ever commercial.)

But what did we learn?

The Altered Universe: We still don't have enough info yet to know where the writers are going with this, so all bets are off. But two varieties of clues appeared this episode that might help us start thinking in the right direction. Like Jack looking in the Flight 815 mirror last week, we were given a few more Recognitions - moments where characters seem to identify with people/things they wouldn't normally had it not been for occurences in the Original Timeline. First, while escaping from the airport in the taxi, Kate's focus lingered just a bit too long on Jack standing in line out the window. And, second, I'll be darned if the name "Aaron" didn't ring a dozen bells in Kate's head when Claire first spat it out. Of course Claire was surprised to have pulled the name out of nowhere as well, but she did this previously back in 1.23 (Exodus, Part I) so perhaps that's just something that can be chalked up to fate. Which brings me to the other clue variety: some things just seem to be destined, no matter what timeline we're in. Claire's destined to decide to keep Aaron as much as Kate's destined to set aside her selfish/criminal tendencies for their well-being. The Island might be on the bottom of the ocean in the Altered Universe, but you know what they say about "the more things change."

The Others and Who They Protect: As I mentioned last week, we'll know what these guys are up to when we understand the full agendas of Jacob and the Man in Black (MIB), but we did get a few more clues to cracking the code of their behavior this week. They may want Resurrected Sayid dead, but they seem pretty hell-bent on protecting the rest of our Temple-visiting heroes. Yeah, the Others are notorious liars, but I fully believed Dogen (the Japanese Temple-master) when he said he wanted to keep Sawyer at the Temple to protect him, and look at how quickly he jumped to protect Jack from the effects of that poison pill. Maybe it's just 'cause their names were on Jacob's note (from Hurley's ankh-filled guitar case), or maybe it's just 'cause they don't want them joining up with the MIB, but Jack and co. are clearly on the 'Good' list at the moment, or at least on the 'Keep Safe Until The Moment We Can Best Use Them" list. This was highlit near the end of the episode when overly-helpful Other Justin shouted "He might be one of them!" in protest to douchebag Other Aldo's attempt to shoot Jin. Someone must have neglected to give Aldo the memo.

The Others and The Free Will Factor: The other major answer-chunks we were given on the Others' methodologies were two examples of their needing our heroes to CHOOSE to do something rather then forcing an outcome on them. Dogen sent Kate after Sawyer because he needed Sawyer to choose to return. Likewise he wanted Jack to offer Sayid the "medicine" because Sayid need to choose to take it. Odd behavior from people who don't need to ask permission to torture someone. The survivors were like insects to these people ("shoot them.") until they found Jacob's note and realized they needed something from them. As soon as the Others need something from someone they have to ask. They don't play nice about it mind you - they're willing to set you up, lie, and use duped intermediaries to request something from you, but the Free Will Factor is somehow important. Part of the oft-mentioned "Rules" perhaps? Certain behaviors of theirs from past seasons follows this line of thinking: In 2.22 (Three Minutes) they couldn't just go free Ben from the Hatch -- they needed Michael to want to go free Ben. And they couldn't just kidnap Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Hurley this time - they needed Michael to convince them to come of their own free will. In 3.06 (I Do), Ben needed Jack to want to save his life (through spinal surgery). And of course, the big one, in 5.06 (316) Ben and his off-island Others needed the Oceanic 6 to choose to board Ajira Flight 316 - though an intermediary (Illana) was once again needed to trick Sayid into allowing it. Determining why and when this free will necessity rears its head in the Others' actions should prove a significant part of solving their (and Jacob's) agenda - and perhaps even the way the Island itself works.

The Island and The Fate Factor: In what may have been the most important moment of the night, Jack asks Temple-master Dogen how he came to be on the Island, Dogen tells us he was "brought here like everyone else". When Jack asks what he means, Dogen says "You know exactly what I mean." Jack does know exactly what Dogen means. So does Michael. When Mr. Friendly told Michael that the Island wouldn't let him commit suicide in 4.08 (Meet Kevin Johnson) it was because the Island wasn't finished with him yet. We can infer from this that the same Island-hold was on Jack when his suicide attempt was serindipitously thrwarted in 3.22 (Through The Looking Glass)'s first flash-forward. Before this, the Island haunted Jack into a broken man through Hurley's comments, visions of his father -- as seen in 4.10 (Something Nice Back Home) -- and Locke's pleas -- as seen in 5.07 (The Life and Death of Jermey Benthem). The Island doesn't let people go easily, but apparently it selects them from the beginning -- much as Locke argued as early as Season 1. Thanks to 5.16 (The Incident) we know that Jacob touched many of our heroes at various points in their lives. We also know that the MIB accused Jacob of having "brought" the distantly seen pirate ship (presumably the Black Rock) to the Island in the opening of the same episode. So whether it's the Island's doing or Jacob's, our heroes have something in common with all the Others (and apparently "everyone else" on the Island) -- they were brought here. No indiginous inhabitence about it.

The Sickness: This one's exciting. Two mysteries I defined last week -- "The MIB and Possession" and "Sayid's Ressurrection" can now be lumped together under the heading of a very old and early mystery: the Sickness, dating back to 1.09 (Solitary) when Sayid first met Danielle Rousseau who claimed to have shot her fellow French scientist because they got sick. We then got to see this first hand through time-travelling Jin in 5.05 (This Place is Death). It seemed directly associated with the Smoke Monster... but perhaps it wasn't. Yes, we still need the answers to what the Sickness is and where it comes from, but at least we're pulling all these loose threads together finally. Dogen's best explanation of it is that Sayid has been "claimed" - I think it's important to note that he did not use the word "possessed" - there is NOT another entity/being inside Sayid's body (in the same way the MIB is dressed up as Locke), but Sayid is losing his self. Is this the same thing that happened when Richard warned Kate and Sawyer that there would be consequences if the Others healed Little Ben in 5.11 (Whatever Happened, Happened)? I think not. The Others seemed to rate Ben's recovery as a success. Sayid's Ressurrection has clearly been viewed as something entirely different. We did end this topic exploration with one last revelation-bomb, however: Dogen tells us that what's happeing to Sayid -- happened to Claire (referred to as Jack's sister). This is frightening news for our favorite Australian mother, though it does throw the "What Happened to Claire?" mystery neatly into the same pile as the others mentioned above. And some people complain things aren't coming together!

Miles' Power: Miles has a very different power than Hurley's. Hurley sees visions; Miles reads minds -- dead minds, mosty -- from which he extracts their final thoughts. But Miles has given us reason to believe his ability can also tap into the minds of the living to some extent in 4.08 (Meet Kevin Johnson) when he told Michael on the Freighter that he knew Michael was lying about his name being Kevin, and that "80% of the people on this boat are lying about something." Maybe he doesn't know what precisely, but he's clearly got connections. So when Miles stares intently at Ressurrected Sayid in this episode with a look of worried consternation, you know something's up with Sayid - and it ain't good. And I'm sure it's no coincidence that the last time we caught Miles staring intently at someone like this was in the side-plot of 4.10 (Something Nice Back Home) when he, Sawyer, and Claire were journeying back to the beach from the destroyed Dharma barracks. Sawyer comedically puts a "restraining order" on Miles when he catches Miles staring at Claire. This is shortly before Miles becomes the only person to have witnessed Claire walk off into the jungle with her ghost-dad, Christian Shepard (The MIB?). Some people actually speculated if Claire were already somehow dead at this point. Now we know she had somehow contracted the Sickness. But Miles knew right away that something was up with then, and Sayid now. Watch for Miles to be an important player in figuring the Sickness out.

Jacob's Agenda: This is a vast mystery topic, of course, but I do want to raise attention to a single curiousity. The Others (Jacob's Followers) clearly want Sayid dead now, but it was under Jacob's orders that Hurley brought Sayid to the Temple in the first place. Were the Others simply too late in helping Sayid, or did Jacob predict, expect, and want Sayid to become "claimed" by the Sickness? Hopefully, we'll know soon.

That's it for mysteries, but here are a couple "CharacterWatch" items in which I'll track the motivations, behavior, and story-archs of the central characters:

CharacterWatch - Jack:
I wanted to cheer for Jack last night: this is the first time he's stood up and said "NO, I WILL NOT PUT UP WITH YOUR BULLS**T, ISLAND" since he's returned. He took a bullet for Sayid here by refusing to accept Dogen's "medicine" pill and risking his own safety to discover the truth -- and that's the Jack I remember and love from Seasons 1 - 3. Season 4 Jack was unable to look reality in the face and doggedly pushed to get off Island no matter what ugly truths came to surface about their would-be-rescuers from the freighter. Season 5 Jack bitterly realized what a blinded jerkface Season 4 Jack had been and after a lot of drinking and pill-popping set off on a "wherever the wind blows me" faith-in-the-island-centered return. Since then he's been apathetic toward everything (including the wellbeing of his fellow survivors) except the Farday-given, destiny-fulfiling mission to blow up the future in 5.16 (The Incident). But something's changed in our doctor: I think Juliet's death has woken old Jack up again. And, no, he won't lose the component of faith he gained, but nor will he remain the wind-blown apathetic jerkface of yester-season. Welcome back, Jack!

CharacterWatch - Kate:
Kate seems to get a lot of flak from LOST fans. This is probably a combination of two things: Her story-arch often seems removed from the mythology elements of the show, and her flip-flopping of feelings between Jack and Sawyer drives anyone who prefers a single one of those pairings mad. And of course those people drive everyone else mad, so everyone else tires of hearing about the "Love Triangle" plot at all even though it only takes up a small amount of actual screen time in the scheme of the show. Yet other fans go on and on ceaselessly about how selfish she is. It's not that the other characters aren't selfish at times, too, mind you, it's just that they're far better at being "Super Cool" while doing it.

While Kate's far from my favorite character on the show, I DO enjoy her storyline quite a bit, and don't find it to be as much of a muddle as some who claim there's no rhyme or reason to why she'll favor Sawyer or Jack at any given moment. The answer to this is simple: she favors them both. She loves Jack for the ideals and heroism he embodies; She loves Sawyer because she identifies with him. She shies away from Jack at times because his ideals can be oppressive; and she shies away from Sawyer at times because she doesn't LIKE the part of herself he embodies - the selfish, born to run part. This dynamic is set up very clearly in 2.09 (What Kate Did) and she has followed it very consistantly ever since.

She constantly goes out of her way to "save" both of the men she loves - an action that never seems to be fully appreciated by either, frustrating her and sending her ping-ponging back and forth between them. Once the abandoned Aaron is dropped in her lap, however, she's given new purpose and refocuses her devotions from the guys to Aaron. But the Island beckons, and she soon realizes her motherood is a lie and devotes herself to rescuing Claire as presented in 5.11 (Whatever Happened, Happened). Sure her feelings for both Jack and Sawyer are still in play when she returns to the Island in Season 5 (such things never go away completely), but her ultimate goal has new definition and displays impressive heroism.

Which brings us to Season 6. She's the same Kate -- she's still "born to run," she's nice to Jack, and she once again tries to "save" Sawyer -- but she's also still focused on her central goal of rescuing Claire, and this weeks' outing was named "What Kate Does" for a reason. By episode's end, she made a decision -- a difficult one, and what felt like a very final one: she walked away from Sawyer. After a heartfelt cry for Juliet, for Sawyer, and - yes - for herself. There comes a moment in all impossible relationships (or potential relationships) when you realize that it's finally, truly, completely OVER. There can be no going back. The end of an era has arrived and what remains... is emptiness. Kate breaks down under that reality, but after letting it out, she fills up her canteen, puts her torch for Sawyer to rest, and sets out after Claire, accepting that, as Sawyer said at the dock, "Some people are meant to be alone." The rest of the season may prove me wrong, but I think this episode will prove to be a pretty important climax to Kate's "love triangle" and "attachment" character archs. Hopefully she can find redemption in helping Claire somehow.

And that's where we are!


JS said...

Nice write up!

Rufus said...

Wonderful review. So far this season I've been waiting for everyone to join up in the two realities. I still want to see how many others end up in the sideways reality and what they would have been like.

With Jacob, well I don't think that he is perfect and that he and the MIB have some sort of contest going on but what the outcome is who knows right now.

Kate, well the actress is a nice Canadian girl so how can I dislike her. Who will she be if she no longer serves as a catalyst between Jack and Sawyer. Her real future could be linked as much to Claire as to the men.

Chris said...

Well, that used up more time than I would have liked. :)

A thought:

Jacob's note told the Temple Others that "if Sayid dies, we're all in a lot of trouble." This motivated the Temple Others to try and save his life. Well, they failed, and Sayid DID die. Is his subsequent resurrection a part of the "big trouble" we're all in, since he officially died? And is that the reason that the Temple Others have gone from "save Sayid" to "kill Sayid" so quickly?

-Chris, your roommate

Teebore said...

I, too, am wondering about Jacob's intentions regarding Sayid. Part of me feels like he probably knew the spa water was bad, so maybe Sayid's resurrection and infection are part of his plan.

Then again, he might have just been hoping to get Sayid there before he was too far gone that even tainted healing water couldn't heal, and in that respect, the Losties failed and are screwed.

We shall see, of course.

PS I'm not sure if you check your old posts for comments, but I left one of your Franchise Retrospective. I figured this probably wasn't the best place to go on about Star Wars. :)