Alone I can never be.
Others before me going and away from me flowing
Were weaving, weaving at the I that is me.
– Rainer Maria Rilke
As we begin this long season’s journey into the end of LOST, each milestone we pass is like a sad old friend we’re saying goodbye to. It occurred to me watching What Kate Does that we may have been watching the last Kate-centric episode of LOST ever.
Kate-centrics have their own peculiar flavor out in the LOST-o-sphere. LOST fans have a decidedly love-hate relationship with their freckled femme fatale. Actually, a lot of the time, it seems like they mostly have a hate relationship with her. Message boards the day after a Kate-centric episode will inevitably erupt in a collective fanboy bitchfest. They haaaate Kaaaate!!!! They wish she would die already. Because she’s useless. And they want her to Shut. Up. Kate.
I don’t get it myself. But I can definitely tell that they don’t like her.
Maybe the writers have to take some responsibility for not doing their best by Kate over the years. It’s true they have written her into a bunch of shitty little corners – like making her a father killer who doesn’t really much care that she did that, or by having her raise Claire’s baby and lie about it, or by having her – incredibly – not be able to decide between Jack or Sawyer all these years. That last one has definitely ruffled the most feathers.
But perhaps we should get into that later.
It might seem like she’s only remembering the guy whose pocket she just picked on the plane. Or maybe she’s doing a double take and asking herself,
It was interesting to see in this episode that Kate and OtherKate seemed, on the surface at least, to be almost exactly the same person. We saw last week that many OtherLosties are different, but this does not seem to be the case with Kate. Like our old beloved Kate, OtherKate is a murderer on the run, and like original flavored Kate, she is a damn fine escape artist. She’s almost a girl version of Jason Bourne.
Like Kate, OtherKate has a fractious relationship with motor vehicles.
She is well acquainted with the best methods of extricating oneself from handcuffs.
It does make sense that Kate would like that show. After all, Melissa Joan Hart’s Aunt Zelda on the show (top left) is Kate’s mother!
OtherKate was similar to Kate in many ways. We have always known that Kate is a helpful person.
Kate may be a world class screwup, but when she remembers where it is, her heart is always in the right place. The thing is, a lot of the time she forgets. And when she does – watch out!
In Season Three’s Left Behind, Kate met Cassidy in a gas station, then went off on a Girls in Cars adventure before convincing her pregnant friend to do the right thing by her baby – who turned out to be Sawyer’s daughter.
In What Kate Does, Kate went through Claire’s bag in a gas station – after a Girls in Cars adventure – and then convinced her pregnant friend to do right by her baby – who turned out to be Kate’s sorta kinda “son”.
The symmetry of the seasons is beginning to synch up. Old references are bubbling up, reminding us of questions we never realized we forgot to ask. The same baffling patterns that we remember from seasons past are re-weaving themselves into our new altered reality.
In Do No Harm, Kate delivered Aaron on the jungle floor. In OtherLOST, she made sure that Claire made it to the hospital to have him.
In Maternity Leave, Ethan Rom was very pleasant to Claire, as he prepared to rip her baby from her in the Others’ medical dungeon.
Maybe they’re trying to tell us that even though Ethan is super extra creepy, his motives for doing evil are always good.
Claire goes to the home of the infamous “nice couple in L.A.” but finds only a weepy woman too distraught about her lousy husband to give a young girl the courtesy of a phone call before she flew across the Pacific eight months pregnant to a city where she knew no one.
It’s out of date now that we’ve been back and forth to the future so many times, but it’s still interesting to see how thickly this tangled web has been woven, right from the start. Over time it has only gotten denser, but for Kate, as the chart above shows, one connection has been constant. As has almost always been the case, in a Kate-centric episode, Sawyer’s story takes a dramatic turn.
In this episode, we see Sawyer more lost than we have ever seen him. He has cut all emotional ties. He makes it clear to the templefolk that they can kill anyone they want – they aren’t his friends. He orders Kate not to follow him. He runs.
Naturally, having gotten wind of this prediction, I was curious to see how it would all work out. It seems an odd point in the series for such an endpoint to arrive, but stranger things have certainly happened on LOST. The title of this episode, What Kate Does, was an obvious cross reference to the Season Two episode where we first found out What Kate Did. You may or may not have realized it, depending on how closely you follow this sort of thing, but that particular episode was a pivotal one for the love triangle.
In Season Six, Jack pulls Kate to him again, but this time she barely stops for a quick goodbye. She’s running to Sawyer again, and this time when Jack goes in for the kiss, all he gets is a mouthful of hair. It is a striking change in tone.
Hey, now, wait a minute! Is it possible the spoiler snitches got the whole thing backwards and the angle of the triangle that’s shutting down is actually … Jack and Kate?
In What Kate Does, Kate and Sawyer again have a beautiful scene, alone, this time on the very dock where Sawyer once convinced Juliet to stay and keep him company. And again, secrets are revealed. Kate tells Sawyer, finally, about her mission to return Aaron to his true mother. Sawyer tells Kate something that he had never even told Juliet – that he was planning to give her a ring.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t explain to Kate why exactly he never did ask Juliet to marry him back when the poor soul was fretting herself into a lather about Kate’s return. And he doesn’t explain why he buried the damn thing so deep into the foundation of his house that he needed a wrecking bar and a sledgehammer to retrieve it. Who was he hiding it from exactly – Juliet or himself?
But he does tell her why he feels so guilty, and perhaps what he is telling her, much like she did back in What Kate Did, is that from now on, whenever he looks at Kate, he will always remember why Juliet died.
I know the poor man needs his space, but he’s going to have to snap out of it pretty quick. We’ve only got three months left! I don’t want to see him dressing up in her clothes and building a shrine to her in his attic or anything like that.
I’ve noticed a creeping necrophilia in the romantic tastes of the online LOST fandom, but I really hope they don’t have Sawyer go all Norman on us. I’ve seen those avis the Sawyer/Juliet fans have been circulating, and I know you all are grieving. But when you find yourself kvelling over something like this:
That is the fundamental question of the Buddha Dharma.?
Is it a joyous thing to live long?
Life is not that way.?
Is it sorrowful to die after a short life??
Life is not that way.?
The question is how we shall live.
Early in the episode, Sawyer is bitter as he and Kate watch Sayid return from the dead. The good woman Juliet is dead. The Iraqi torturer who shoots kids has been given a second life. Or has he? Just as Kate’s theme is running, Sayid’s theme is torture. He continues to reap his karmic penalty, even in his reincarnation.
The mystery of what happened to Sayid only deepens in this episode. Again there was a reprise from Season One. In Solitary, Rousseau tortured the torturer in her primitive chamber of horrors.
Our new Samurai Other, Dogen, also favors electroshock therapy on his subject. And like Rousseau, he is not looking for answers from Sayid. He is “diagnosing” him.
What happened to Sayid when they drowned him in the dirty water? We are told that he was “claimed”, although that definition is only approximated from the Japanese word misuru, which translates more as “bewitched” or “charmed”. He has been diagnosed with an Infection, one that will spread to his heart like a darkness until he is no more. So is it the Infection that has “claimed” him?
“The plague had swallowed up everything and everyone. No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and the emotions shared by all.” – Albert Camus, The Plague
Injections and vaccines are a big part of LOST imagery.
It certainly makes sense to look at The Infection as a metaphor – although what it might be a metaphor of is not clear. Infection is an evil thing. If The Infection is creeping towards Sayid’s heart, perhaps we can expect to see him becoming ever darker and more evil as the story continues. But that metaphor doesn’t seem to fit. We’ve been watching Sayid’s heart darken since the story began, and especially the last few years. There’s nothing new in that. It seems to me the important place to look for clues is – as always – in the connections.
If Ben is one of the claimants, that might explain a lot. It might explain what turned the sweet bespectacled boy into the heartless killer and conniver we all love to hate. But it would also seem, if Ben is infected, that The Infection doesn’t kill people and it doesn’t make them unable to love or to feel. It may be that what the Infection does is imbue its host body with some power that others lack. Was Ben able to kill Jacob precisely because he was “claimed”? Was The Infection the agent that turned Ben into The Loophole?
It’s another indication that the choices we saw Jacob making in last season’s finale were the equivalent of Jacob assembling his team. When Sawyer tries to escape from the temple, Dogen’s reaction is to protect him. He orders his soldiers to hold their fire. He tells Sawyer, almost plaintively, that he “has to stay.”
We are back among the language of games, which is one of the favorite dialects of LOST. I’m sure everyone sat up and took notice when the scene came up on Dogen sitting behind his desk contemplating a baseball.
Baseballs are always important totems on LOST. In one of Kate’s great flashbacks, Born to Run, a baseball (cryptically autographed by a name that looks like “John Locke”) is among the items she and Tom retrieve from their time capsule. Is this baseball there only to remind us of that one?
Maybe it means that Dogen, like Jack, is a Red Sox fan. Maybe we’ll see OtherDogen sitting next row down from Other Jack at Fenway Park in some sideways flash a few episodes from now.
“I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan … I believe in the Church of Baseball.”– Annie Savoy, Bull Durham
It could be a reminder that baseball is the most Eastern of Western games.
This year’s Other is named after Dogen – a 13th century Japanese monk who was a great proponent of the practice of zazen, or sitting meditation. By training the body to be still, the mind becomes like a mirror, reflecting in itself a transcendant enlightenment that cannot be described in words. Dogen said, “you hear the sound of the dharma…. with the body first and the mind last.”
Zen monks have developed arts to help them attain this most indescribable of states – archery, for instance, and brush painting. For Americans, perhaps the closest approximation of this kind of active meditation might be baseball. As Yogi Berra explained it, “You can’t think and hit at the same time.” You need to shut off the mind to let the perfect self shine through and do its thing.
This is what, I think, Jack Shephard is currently trying to do. He isn’t thinking any longer. He’s just acting on instinct, without any more need to try and control the outcomes of his actions. It’s a big change, as we saw last week, to the point that Jack almost seems like more of a different person than any of the people in OtherLOST do. He’s like a 12 Stepper who has finally gone all in and accepted that all he needs to do is “let go and let God.”
“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.”
– Lu t’ung
After Dogen heimlichs the pill out of him, he offers Jack tea. And even though he knows this guy just conjured up a poison pill for his friend, Jack accepts. You almost get the sense that if Dogen wanted to handcuff Jack to a polar bear, this new Jack would go along with it, just to see what kind of head trip it might turn out to be.
Whatever it is that Dogen is selling, and for whatever reason, Jack is buying it. Dogen explains to Jack that he doesn’t speak English in front of his people because it’s important that he keep himself isolated from them. Leaders do not get to mingle with the minions. It’s something Jack has known for some time.
Jack didn’t choose this life. It was thrust upon him, against and in spite of his own free will. And what’s making it even worse is that he doesn’t even understand yet what it is he doesn’t get to have any choice about. The never ending dilemma of fate vs. volition continues to generate new ripples within the story.
Jack and Locke, Kate and Sawyer, Hurley and Sayid, Sun and Jin – all were brought to the Island by Fate. Dogen says that he was also “brought” to the Island. It’s an Island of immigrants, where everyone is imported from somewhere else. There are no indigenous people. Who brings them there and for what purpose? That is the question we are now circling in an ever decreasing orbit, but it doesn’t seem to me that Free Will has much of anything to do with it.
We saw in OtherLOST that Kate is fated always to be a part of Aaron’s story. OtherClaire names her son the same way Claire did back in Exodus. The name just blurts out of her: “Is my baby ok? Is Aaron ok?” We have heard her say almost exactly the same lines on the Island. Both times, she says that she has no idea how the name came to be. It just happened. Claire never chose Aaron’s name. It was destined that he be named Aaron. It’s a punctuation point that’s been made twice now, so I am guessing there is a reason it is important.
OtherLOST also provides a window into just how much things stay the same, even in decoherent coexisting parallel realities. Horace and Amy’s baby boy must have been evacuated off of the Island just prior to The Incident, but even though he never became Ethan Rom, the Other Man, he still became the world’s creepiest OBGYN. And he still ended up poking around and taking an interest in Claire’s unborn son.
At some point after The Incident, Christian Shephard apparently still played around on his wife with a mistress in Australia, still fathered and abandoned a daughter. Claire still went on to become a teenage mother, who handed over her credit card to the woman who just carjacked her while she was running from a U. S. Marshall.
However tenuous its existence, Free Will is a concept near and dear to all our hearts. Most of the time we don’t even care if it’s true or not. We just choose to believe that we have the power to choose.
The pill that Dogen wants Sayid to take must be taken willingly, or apparently it will not do its intended work. But Sayid has acquiesced his free will to Jack and is asking to be told what to do. Since being claimed, Sayid doesn’t want to think for himself any longer. So while he may take the pill willingly, if Jack tells him to, it can’t really be said that it’s Sayid’s free will that is choosing. Jack, on the other hand, does demonstrate free will when he tries to take the pill himself. But Dogen’s quick reaction immediately prevents his will from working its way.
Although Fate seems to be the power player thus far in this story, it’s impossible for us to rule out the dark horse potential of Free Will. In Season Two’s What Kate Did, one of LOST’s most enigmatic moments happened when Kate and Sawyer witnessed the dark horse in the forest. That magical image has never been explained, or even referenced, in all the episodes since.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. – Buddha
Why does he keep telling his buddy to shut up? What is the big secret?
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