By Jeff Jensen Feb 10, 2010
Meet Kate Austin, the Good Shepherdess. When the sheep wander off (to grieve dead girlfriends), or become stranded in the wild (i.e., the terrifying urban jungle of Los Angeles), the foxy fugitive will put her own security at risk to rescue the sad strays of her flighty flock, no matter where they go or where she may be in the multiverse. This is ''What Kate Does,'' to borrow the title of last night's episode of Lost. Yes, she runs, but only because she's got that I murdered my awful father but he deserved it, the battering-abusive bastard, and I'm not letting anyone — even my heartbroken mom, who now totally hates me for killing the very monster I was trying to save her from — tell me different murder charge over her head. When it comes to her natural/nurtured pathology, Kate is a caretaker — a chaser. On the Island, she chased after runaway Sawyer, and then wept for his Juliet grief. In Sideways Los Angeles, she first marooned, then chased after pregnant Claire, and then nursed her through emotional and physical crisis. Kate's story — as well as the subplot belonging to Lost's other shepherd, Jack — reminded me of that great line from one of the show's many conspicuous literary references, The Little Prince: ''You are responsible forever for what you have tamed.'' In the book, ''tamed'' is explicitly defined as ''to create ties.'' As in: The castaways are profoundly bonded — tied — to each other and are now forever responsible to and for each other. As in: What the Island has joined together, let no man put asunder. ''What Kate Does'' — which continued the season's early emphasis on binding symbols (shackles, cuffs, rings) — reminded us of the souls that she has most tamed and the specific responsibility she has carried across the forever of time, space, and multiple worlds: to pull a Paul Simon and facilitate a mother-child reunion between Claire and Aaron. She fulfilled her guardian angel responsibility to Claire in the Los Angeles story line. But it appears she'll have more of a challenge in the Island world now that our fair Claire has taken Rousseau the French Lady's place as Lost's Heavily Accented Mama Gone Loony Toons Native....
+++ Lost has a habit of following up its premiere extravaganzas with scaled-down follow-ups that seek to ground the audience and orient them to a more deliberate pace to the season. ''What Kate Does'' conformed to the mold, and I'm going to hazard a guess and say that not everyone here appreciated that choice, especially those who came to the final season expecting Lost to be all We've Got A Lot To Do And Not Much Time To Do It So Let's Just Rip Into This! Nope. Apparently, Lost has decided to ring itself out by continuing to do ''What Lost Does.'' Which has always been a pretty good thing, in my book, even if means so-so second episodes. And yet, as I write these words, ''What Kate Does'' grows more and more interesting the more I think about it. Granted, it's my job to think about Lost, like, a lot, but put the episode's good stuff on a scale and I'll wager it'll outweigh the lame stuff.
The stuff I loved: Josh Holloway's wrenching acting as he revealed the heartbreaking disclosure that he intended to propose to Juliet; the intrigue of ''infected'' and ''claimed'' Sayid; the hilarious irony of Dr. Ethan Goodspeed; the notable camaraderie of the Temple-stuck castaways, determined to survive their latest ordeal with ''live together, die alone'' idealism and great, knowing humor. (Hurley: ''You're not a zombie, right?'' Sayid: ''No, I am not a zombie.'') And don't look now, kids, but is Jack Shephard actually getting really likable again? I loved his sincere concern for Kate and Sayid, his willingness to accept Sawyer's seething anger, and his humbled self-awareness. When he told Dogen, ''I don't even trust myself,'' Jack may have uttered the most heroic statement of his wannabe hero life, because it was so painfully honest. Superman of Science? No. Superman of Faith? No. Just Jack. And in the end, one wonders if that's exactly what he needs to be to save the day for himself and his friends.
But I'm not as blind as Lady Justice; I saw and was bugged by the weak stuff, too. I felt the absence of Richard, Ben, and The Locke-ness Monster. I'm not bowled over by the new crop of Others; Temple Master Dogen and his BFF (barefooted freaky friend) Lennon are growing on me, but the Lenny and George pair of Aldo and Justin was a dopey combo that didn't flatter the Others' ominous mystique. And I'm already counting the minutes until the castaways escape the Temple. It's not that I don't like spending quality time in the Island's spiritual heart; I find the themes fascinating. But I'm through with the castaways being captives. And I miss the beach. I really do. Unless the Temple gets super-interesting next week, my guess is that we'll be starting with the Season 3/Hydra Station comparisons next week.
And it was a Kate episode. Now, to be clear, I've grown to appreciate Kate over the years. In the beginning, I couldn't quite reconcile the young ingénue with the shampoo commercial hair with the scrappy fugitive/jungle cat tomboy Lost wanted her to be. I wanted more psycho-spiritual angst — and less ''Sawyer or Jack?'' blah blah blah. But over time, as the character gained detail and damage, and as the actress grew in confidence and experience, Kate has become credible and compelling. ''What Kate Does'' — evenly divided between its Sideways vision of an early Kate that struggled to capture my imagination and the Island Kate I've grown to respect — only reminded me of my ambivalence for her. Especially when she was in shampoo commercial mode. That Marshal Mars may be a jerk, but damn if he doesn't make his captured quarry clean up nice for their trek to reckoning.
Like I said, though, the more I thought about the episode, the more I liked it, and better yet, the more I became convinced that it contained some extremely valuable ideas for making sense of the season's risky flash-sideways storytelling device. The recap you're about to read captures that process of discovery. Get yourself some coffee, and let's get started.
The Sideways World
Death Cab For Cuties!
In which in the process of making sober commentary about the Sideways story line, the author has an epiphany or two that suddenly super-charges his enthusiasm for the Sideways story line and gives him eyes to see its value. Hooray for the author! Throw him parade! Write him checks and give him chocolates! Please?
''What Kate Does'' showed us how the new Sideways storytelling device functions in a traditional, character-centric Lost episode. Kate's La-La Land adventure with Claire was easy enough to track and generally accessible to the Lost non-obsessive, though only modestly entertaining. The Sideways world story line very clearly mirrored the Island world story line. Kate chases after Sawyer; Kate chases after Claire. Is there a physical, cosmic connection between the two realities? Still TBD, though we were again given a few moments that seemed to suggest the Sideways characters were either intuitively recalling their Island experience or perhaps even channeling it. We've been told not to view the Sideways stuff as an inconsequential ''What if...?'' fairy tale about an uncrashed Oceanic 815. Yet most of ''What Kate Does'' felt exactly like that... until the final act, when we got the great comic irony of Tom Cruise's Evil Cousin serving as Claire's perfectly decent OB. By the end of the episode, I accepted Lost's first regular episode Sideways tale as a simplified pitch of the entire conceit. Nonetheless, I wished we had gotten more. Specifically: a clarifying peek into Sideways Kate past. Did this Kate also have a childhood pal with a fondness for toy airplanes? Did this Kate also murder her father? Did this Kate also marry a cop that looks like the guy Castle? The episode decided not to dote on the past.
Then again, that was the point, wasn't it? ''What Kate Does,'' with its present tense verb title and its narrow focus on the present moment in both its realities, was all about characters trying to get away from their past, successfully and unsuccessfully, for better and for worse. It was an episode about people trying to ditch burdensome, painful baggage (like heartbroken Sawyer and his ring) — or learning to embrace it (like Claire and her baby; like Jack and his failure). The Sideways episode began with a guy literally dropping his bags — that guy being Leslie Arzt and his toppled luggage cart. (''Hey! I'm walkin' here! I'm walking' here!'' grouched Arzt, channeling Ratso Rizzo from Midnight Cowboy.) That theme was mirrored in the episode's deep communion with past Lost episodes. The title itself is a riff on the season 2 episode ''What Kate Did,'' the episode that showed us the patricide Kate was wanted for and had Kate gnashing her teeth at the thought of coming from the same awful stock as her loathsome father, that he would ''always be part of her.'' ''What Kate Does'' echoed the idea with a subplot about Sayid's alleged spiritual corruption. Other examples of call-and-response? Season 1: Crashed-stressed Claire went into false labor. Last night: Carjacked-stressed Claire went into false labor. Season 1: Kate played midwife to Claire during Aaron's birth. Last night: Kate was there for the lonely Claire.
Now, all of this is neat. But is Lost doing this just to be all fancy-pants literary, or could it be that Lost is trying to tell us something? Could it be that the creative design of Lost's sixth season, embedded and suffused with past episode resonance, is a clue to resolving the mystery of its seemingly split reality? I am wondering — and perhaps you are, too — if these corresponding events across parallel realities are meaningful synchronicities. It's almost as if no matter the world, these people are destined to intersect and to play out variations of the same essential drama. THEORY! It's all about reincarnation. The Sideways world is basically the afterlife for the Island castaways. Their Sideways selves contain the experiences of their Island World identities within their genetic make-up/spiritual essence. Think I'm crazy? Then I refer you to last year's anagram clue, the Canton-Rainier (aka ''reincarnation'') Carpet Cleaning Company. See? Totally settled!
The Shepherdess and the Shephard
''We're in a strange relationship with our fiction, you see. Sometimes we fear it's taking us over, sometime we beg to be taken over by it... and sometimes we want to see what's inside of it.'' — Planetary, Chapter 9, ''Planet Fiction''
The Sideways story picked up where the premiere left off, with Kate carjacking Claire's cab. She put a gun to the wheelman's head. Drive, she said. As they took off, Kate looked out the window and saw Jack talking on his cell phone, and it looked to me like she had a moment of déjà vu akin to Jack's experiences last week. Now, there was another moment in the episode in which Kate looked at Jack and something like a rush of recognition filled her eyes. It was the tender moment in the Temple, when Jack grabbed her gently by the elbow and pulled her close and wished her well and a safe journey in her pursuit of Sawyer. His sincerity and absence of jealousy seemed to catch her off guard, and she seemed almost dazzled by the strong, selfless, self-confident man standing before her. The look in her eyes said, There you are. There's the man I love. The man who proposed to me and that I was ready to marry back in Los Angeles before you went all nutty-petty-untrusty on me. Welcome back. Kate seemed to take strength for the journey from his blessing, and she was off.
Now here's the crazy thought I had — an alternative to past-life/reincarnation theory. I submit that when Kate saw Jack at the airport, she established a psycho-spiritual circuit with her doppelganger self on he Island, and specifically the moment between Jack and Kate in Temple. This circuit facilitated a transference of psychic energy that flowed from Island Kate to Sideways Kate — or rather, from Redeemed Kate to one of her Fallen Kate selves in another world. That energy? Strength. Selflessness. A sense of sacrifice. A sense of ''You All Everybody'' idealism. All qualities that Kate embodied in her Island story — and all qualities that Kate gained during her Sideways story.
To put it more simply: Island Kate inspired Sideways Kate. Bottom line: The Sideways-Island relationship is a metaphor for our relationship to fiction. It's about how fantasy redeems reality. Like last week's literary reference Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Lost is telling us a story about the redemptive value of storytelling itself. Haroun asks, What's the use of stories that aren't even true? Lost answers, They teach us how to make the real world a better place.
It's nice to see you out of those chains...
Last week, the Locke-ness Monster strolled out of the Four Toed Statue and ''greeted'' Richard Alpert with the above quote... and then a swift hard knee to the groin. This week, we got a scene that made a big show out of Kate seeking out a chop-shop mechanic for help in freeing herself from Marshal Mars' handcuffs. He was clearly a criminal in his own right, and despite his mucho unattractiveness, they seemed to have a flirty rapport. I thought: Sawyer analog? CRAZY TANGENT OF THEORY! Chop shop: legal or illegal establishment that makes new vehicles out of old, stolen, or recycled parts. In other words... another reincarnation/afterlfe metaphor! CRAZY TANGENT OF THEORY 2! If there was a Greek god most likely to run a chop shop, it would be Hephaestus, the Greek deity of metallurgy and toolmaking. Hephaestus, who was also famous for being very ugly, built all the chariots for all the gods. He also constructed their shackles, too. One of his most famous jobs was making the manacles used to bind the rogue god Prometheus, who earned Zeus' enmity for giving fire to mankind. Fire = free will and humanity's empowerment to forge their own destiny apart from the Gods. Depending on who's telling the story, Prometheus is either the devil or man's best friend. Why am I tell you all this? To paraphrase Dogen from last night's episode: You KNOW why I'm telling you this.
After her liberation, Kate went to the bathroom to paw through Claire's baggage. Kate saw a picture of pregnant Claire. Stopped her cold. Then she saw the plush killer whale. Stopped her really, really cold. Kate looked in the mirror. The ''déjà vu-or-guilt?'' expression wrinkled across her face. It would totally make sense to me if that killer whale poked at her Island-past life memory, because after all, in the Island world... it was Kate who gave Aaron that killer whale, not Claire. FLASHBACK-WHOOSH TO... the season 4 episode ''Something Nice Back Home,'' the episode in which Aaron's killer whale made its most prominent (and I think its only) appearance. This was the story in which Claire disappeared into the jungle with Ghost Christian, setting in motion the events that would send Aaron off the Island with Kate. This was also the episode in which Sawyer began to step up as a selfless castaway leader, setting in motion the events that would lead him to his own kind of ''something nice back home,'' domestic bliss with Juliet in the Dharma ‘70s. This was also the episode that Jack proposed marriage to Kate — and then drove her away with his suspicion that her heart still belonged to Sawyer. This was also the episode where a bleeping smoke detector led Jack out in the waiting area of his hospital suite, where he found Ghost Christian sitting there, waiting for him. This was also the episode in which Jin made arrangements with Charlotte to make sure Sun got a spot on the helicopter that would get her off the Island, setting in motion the chain of events that would separate them. In various ways, all of these plot points from ''Something Nice Back Home'' were implicitly referenced in the Island-set portion of ''What Kate Does.'' I'll identify them as we go — just look for handy-dandy SHAMU ALERT!
Killer whales belong to a long line of fish references in Lost. In season 3, we learned that the Hydra Station experimented on dolphins and sharks in their aquarium. In the season 4 premiere, Hurley's sanitarium was swimming in big fish imagery, from a drawing in the day room to the graphic on Ghost Charlie's short. At the end of season 5, we saw Jacob eating fish for breakfast. And of course, now we have... the Locke-ness Monster. You laugh — but then, you forget Claire's disturbing nightmare from her season 1 episode ''Raised By Another,'' which was suffused with her Aaron anxiety and future foreboding, and in which she encountered a creepy looking John Locke, one eye black, one eye white. Killer whale colors. Interesting. Especially interesting given our cultural affection for killer whales. See: Shamu, Free Willy, and one of favorite movies from my youth, Orca, the Killer Whale!, in which this boy killer whale goes crazy psycho on evil whalers for killing his pregnant girlfriend killer-whale mate. So very damn sad. IMPLICATION: FLocke, the Locke-ness Monster, may look fearsome and scary, but really, he's our protector and friend. Just like Willy. Just like Prometheus.
MORE FUN FACTS ABOUT KILLER WHALES THAT HAVE LOST RESONANCE BUT MAY ACTUALLY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH LOST. From Wikipedia's entry on killer whales: ''The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast feature killer whales throughout their history, art, spirituality and religion. The Haida regarded killer whales as the most powerful animals in the ocean, and their mythology tells of killer whales living in houses and towns under the sea. According to these myths, killer whales took on human form when under water, and humans who drowned went to live with them.'' Think: Sunken Island; Shape-shifting Smokey; Drowned Charlie; and Drowned-Revived-Infected/Claimed Sayid. (Wikipedia also notes: ''For the Kwakwaka'wakw, the killer whale was regarded as the ruler of the undersea world, with sea lions for slaves and dolphins for warriors. In Kwakwaka'wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth mythology, killer whales may embody the souls of deceased chiefs.'')
It's kinda like Juno. Okay, probably not.
Unshackled Kate re-packed up her baggage (emotional; symbolic; Claire' stuff) and her heavily loaded killer whale symbol Shamu-Locke and went hunting for Claire in the wilderness of Los Angeles. And she found her! Easily! (As the Island story reminded us, Kate is a very good tracker. She's like Lady Wolverine!) Kate then offered to drive Claire to (Robert) Langdon Street in Brentwood to find the couple that wanted to adopt Aaron and were supposed to meet her at the airport but didn't. And Claire did! Claire totally got in the cab with the crazy lady who carjacked her and put a gun to her head and stole her stuff! Because... because... she's forgiving? Trusting? Prodded by the Island Claire soul encoded in her reincarnated genetic material? Fate? Destiny? Plot convenience? Something like that.
Our cab driving cuties drove to (Robert) Langdon Street. Claire went on and on about the nice couple who lived on the nice street and how they were going to take her kid, never mind the weird fact that they stood her up at the airport. Kate kept shooting her incredulous looks, like she had some kind of unsightly and inexplicable bloody nick on her neck or something. Claire thought Kate was silently calling her naive — but I think Kate was actually having another past life brain fart. Pfffffflllllllttt!
Kate and Claire knocked on the door of Mr. and Mrs. Baskum. Claire struck me as very Ellen Page/Juno in that moment, showing up looking spunky-cute on Jennifer Garner's doorstep with J.K. Simmons, who really is a dead ringer for Evangeline Lilly when you think about it. (Don't think about it.) And Mrs. Lindsey Baskum struck me as very... Claire. Did you catch Lindsey's sadsack story of wanting to give up on (Claire's) baby because her husband had left her? That's Claire's backstory, too! (Or at least the Island Claire backstory.) FLASHBACK-WHOOSH TO... the season 1 episode ''Raised By Another.'' Claire got pregnant and was initially wary of being a young mom, but Boyfriend Thomas was all ''We can do this!'', which got Claire all psyched to have the baby. Then Boyfriend Thomas got cold feet and dumped her, and Claire decided (at the prodding of a psychic) to give the baby up for adoption.
Now, if Sideways Claire had the same backstory as her Island doppelganger, then perhaps she would have reacted to Mrs. Baskum's tale of martial woe with... well, I don't know. I was about to say empathy. But she responded with self-righteous indignation, which makes sense, too; after all, Lady Baskum embodied Claire's mixed-feelings/guilt about giving up her baby, so getting pissy with Lindsey was really about getting pissy with herself. And listen to me talk like I understand psychology, because I totally don't! So let me tell you more about mythology instead. Did you know Juno is also the name of the Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth? Did you know her big brother was Jupiter, chief of the gods? Do you think Juno = Claire and Jupiter = Jack?
Distraught and stressed, Claire suddenly went into labor. Kate jetted her to the hospital, checking in under the name Joan Hart, as in Melissa Joan Hart, star of Sabrina The Teenage Witch and who has a passing resemblance to Claire. If you squint. Like squinty Claire. FLASHBACK-WHOOSH TO... the season 1 episode ''Born To Run,'' in which Kate — sporting dyed blonde hair — used the Joan Hart alias to check into a motel, then sneak into a hospital to visit her dying mother. This was also the episode where Kate and her childhood friend dug up the time capsule (inside: toy airplane — and a baseball), as well as the episode where Kate and Sun conspired to poison Jin so that he wouldn't leave the Island on the raft. We saw all those beats mirrored and referenced in last night's episode, too, in various forms — mostly in the sensational scene between Kate and Sawyer. More on that in a minute.
At the hospital, Kate hustled to scare up a good doctor for Claire, and found one in the form of... scary Ethan (Rom) Goodpseed, the creepy Other who abducted Claire during season 1 and poked her with all sorts of needles and drugs as part of his fixation with Baby Aaron. So to hear Doc Ethan say ''I don't want to have to stick you with needles if I don't have to'' and ''I have a feeling Aaron is going to be a handful,'' but this time exuding pure (mister) friendly(ness) — just really funny. I thought this decision was genius — an LOL expression of the kind of entertainment that the Sideways storytelling can produce. (Although maybe my reaction was unique, a product of my in-too-deep Lostness. My wife, who has seen every single episode of Lost, turned to me and said, ''What was so funny about that?'') Hopefully the whole of the Sideways saga will be rich with resonance like this; these bits help provide hooks for this tricky-to-rationalize story line.
One more thought: That credit card that Claire gave Kate? You KNOW that's going to come into play sometime this season. (I wonder what the numbers might be on that piece of plastic? Maybe... the Numbers themselves?) Oh, and one more thought: readers are telling me that on Aaron's ultrasound, it indicated the date was actually October 2004, not September, as it should be. True? Final thought! Serious this time! About Claire's choice of Aaron for a name, which she said just popped in her head, just as it did for Island Claire. ''I don't know why I said it. It was like I knew it.'' My theory? Psycho-spiritual circuit, baby! One that connects to the crazed gun-toting mama somewhere across the universe, a place I like to call...
This Island Earth!
In which we are reminded of two essential human truths. (1) Sometimes, a baseball is just a baseball. (2) When you take a bath in dirty hot tub, you're going to catch a nasty fungus.
Where do bad folks go when they die/
They don't go to heaven where the angels fly/
They go to a lake of fire and fry/
See you again on the Fourth of July
''Lake of Fire,'' Meat Puppets
Last week, Sayid mulled his afterlife destination. His prospects left him spooked. ''Wherever I'm going,'' he worried to Hurley, ''it will be very unpleasant.'' Sayid subsequently died in the magic spring gone bad that is the dirty hot tub within the Others' House of Healing Day Spa, but then... he woke up. Hooray? Not for Sayid, whose second-chance life took on the texture of hell when Temple Master Dogen strapped him to a table inside his hothouse bunker and began acting the part of torturing devil-sadist. First, he blew ash on him. Kinky-creepy! Then he clamped electrodes to his nipples and hand-cranked homemade electricity into him. Kinky-ouchie! Then he warmed up a poker and scalded him with it. Kinky-kinky — err, ouchie-ouchie! (Freudian slip, I guess.)
But Sayid wasn't being punished by a demon — he was being tested for one. Dogen's cryptic and painful pressure tactics were attempts to smoke out hidden Smokeyness in Sayid's soul. (SHAMU ALERT! ''Something Nice Back Home'' connection: Dogen's testing/Jack's smoke alarm.) Sayid was told that he had passed, but he knew they were lying, and we later learned Dogen's true diagnosis. Sayid had been ''infected.'' He had been ''claimed.'' Dogen's elaboration: ''There is darkness growing in him. Once it reaches his heart, everything your friend once was will be gone.'' What evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only the Dogen knows. And just like the Shadow, Dogen's cure for damned men is death, in the form of a poison pill that looked a lot like a bullet to me. FLASHBACK-WHOOSH TO... ''Born To Run''; the Jin/Sun/Kate poison subplot. FUN FACT 1! ''Poison Pill'' is the term for a strategic defense against hostile takeover by another company or entity in which the targeted company or entity debases itself to depreciate its value. FUN FACT 2! When you Google ''Devil Poker,'' the first thing that comes up is a description of ''Zen Poker.'' Dogen is named after a famed Zen master — was he basically trying to flush out Sayid's tells, hoping to see if he possessed a killer hand? (I know, I know. This recap makes as much sense as Lady GaGa's lyrics, doesn't it? Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-roma-mamaa!)
All of this hellish intrigue begged questions. How exactly did Sayid fail Dogen's test? What would have passing the test looked like? That discussion probably needs to begin with figuring out what should have happened to Sayid if the Others' magic hot tub had been working properly. Many people suspect Sayid became imbued with Jacob's spirit, like he became a vessel for some or all of Jacob's soul — a living Harry Potter horcrux. Maybe Dogen was trying to jar Jacob loose, bring him to the surface of Sayid's consciousness. Honestly, watching Sayid suffer last night, my first thought was that Sayid should have... well, died. It looked like Dogen was inflicting way too much punishment, and Sayid's tolerance struck me as almost superhuman — and superhuman ain't natural. And here's this observation from my colleague and fellow Lost friend Adam B. Vary. He noted that for a guy who went into death convinced he was going to hell, Sayid sure didn't act like he was being punished, be it fairly or unfairly. His only frame of reference for his experience was one he knew full well: torture. He told Dogen that he had no information to share, nothing that he was hiding. Was that the ''tell'' Dogen was looking for? We must recall last season, when Richard indicated that one of the side effects of the holy hot tub process was forgetfulness. Maybe Sayid remembers too much; maybe if the spring had worked, he wouldn't have processed his experience through the lens of his old, damned life. Regardless: Sayid said and did all the wrong things for Dogen. FAIL! Time will tell if his grading is correct.
Last week, I pitilessly expressed my indifference to Sayid's revival, not because I don't like him, but because I hurt for his internal angst and wished to see him at peace... or out of his misery. So I guess what I'm really saying is that I'm probably feeling exactly what Lost wants me to feel about Sayid. Here's my thematic read on Sayid. I see a guy who became damned because he was convinced he was damned, that he was beyond redemption. It's a form of dangerous, self-destructive spiritual arrogance that's equal to its total opposite, which was expressed best by Mr. Eko shortly before his Smokey death when he told Ghost/Smokey Yemi, ''I have done nothing wrong.'' Sayid took his bad belief into his new life, and it has poisoned the very well of his soul. If he even has a soul. Perhaps Sayid is the antithesis of the Death Cab For Cutie song ''When Soul Meets Body.'' When Sayid woke up after dying in the dirty hot tub, maybe his soul missed his body.
But it's hard to tell WTH? at this point, as New Flawed Sayid so resembles Old Flawed Sayid. And with that simple phrasing, maybe that's the whole point. The thing that alarmed Dogen was the simple fact that after having experienced resurrection in the spring and endured torture on the table, Sayid exhibited no discernable difference between his old self and new self. This brings us to the Hurley-Sayid zombie exchange. It was funny moment that nodded to the Lost fan culture and specifically Team Darlton's frequent joking that the last season of Lost would be ''the zombie season of Lost.'' But I also have to wonder if Lost last night was poking at the whole notion of ''Philosophical Zombies.'' The basic notion is this: If there is no discernable difference between being human and being a zombie — and many philosophers would say there isn't — then what does it mean to be human? What's the difference being ''alive,'' ''dead,'' or ''undead''? Interestingly enough, the common example given in these debates — and the first one offered by Wikipedia — involves a tool Dogen used last night: a poker. ''When a zombie is poked with a sharp object it does not feel any pain. While it behaves exactly as if it does feel pain (it may say "ouch" and recoil from the stimulus, or tell us that it is in intense pain), it does not actually have the experience of pain as a putative 'normal' person does.''
Yep, we're getting Lady Gaga again. Perhaps the curious bit of business about Dogen's baseball provided us with a simpler Robert Langdonesque codex for Sayid's predicament. (SHAMU ALERT! ''Something Nice Back Home'' reference: Dogen's baseball = Jack reading about the Red Sox/Yankees game in the sports section. Also see: ''Born To Run;'' the baseball in Kate/Tom's time capsule.) Jack walked into Dogen's parlor, spotted the baseball, and asked, ''What is that?'' Dogen's deadpan response: ''It's a baseball.'' (This totally echoed Alpert/Locke/compass joke from last year's season premiere, ''Because You Left.'') Sometimes in Lost, a damn baseball is just a damn baseball — and a damned Sayid is just a damned Sayid.
BORN AGAIN JACK
In the kabuki theater that is the Temple's fake afterlife, Dogen played multiple roles. To Sayid, he was a torturing demon. But to Jack, he played chiding angel, and attempted to trick him into feeding Sayid his poison pill by pushing Jack's guilt buttons. ''So it was your fault'' Sayid was shot, Dogen said. ''And there have been others who have been hurt or died helping you. Well, this is your redemption.'' Dogen's mechanizations reminded me of Hydra Station/season 3, when Ben and Juliet tried to break Doc Shephard down and ''change his perspective'' in order to get him to save Ben's life by removing that tumor on his spine. The Others would like you to think they believe in free will (see: Lennon praising Jack last night for voluntarily coming to them), but it's a rigged game; they have no problem with telling half-truths, outright lies, or just plain nothing to get you to do what they want you to do. Which is interesting. If the Island was a corporate culture, you might say the Others specialize in managing upward, i.e., bending the bosses to your will but making them think everything is their idea. For this analogy to be correct, you have to view the Others as being subordinate to the castaways — and there was proof last night that this is exactly the case. But we'll get to Annoying Aldo in a minute.
Jack wasn't falling for it, anyway. The New and Improved With 70% More Likability Jack that brought some dazzle back to Kate's eyes was clearly a man who had learned some lessons about how the Others do business. He resisted Dogen's manipulations, but that didn't mean he knew the right thing to do, and Jack's best, most inspiring moments last night came when he candidly and without shame confessed the limits of his knowledge and power. He told Sayid he wasn't the one who fixed him, and told him he had no idea if Dogen's pill would help or hurt him. Sayid then put Jack in an interesting position — he told him he trusted him enough to take Jack's advice, no matter what. Depending on Sayid's true spiritual state, we must wonder if Sayid, too, was trying to manipulate Jack. Still, Jack cut to the heart of the matter — and showed his heart — when he responded to Dogen's plea for trust by saying he really didn't know what to do because he didn't trust himself. ''So let's see how far trust gets us,'' Jack replied, and swallowed the pill. Dogen flipped and sprung, giving Jack a life-saving Heimlich. It was a brilliant bluff call. Now that's how you play Zen poker, bitch!
Not that Jack and Dogen are natural enemies. Quite the opposite. I got the sense the two were bonding through their tension. Jack seemed to understand where Dogen was coming from when the Temple Master explained his habit of speaking Japanese instead of English — that it created a necessary distance between him and his followers. And then there was that poignant beat of Dogen sitting at his desk, sadly bouncing that baseball and radiating complex humanity. I hope we get his backstory — especially after his disclosure that he had been ''brought'' to the Island. Jack played dumb. Dogen called his bluff: ''You know what I mean.'' Obviously, he meant Jacob, and while I'm not sure Jack was putting that name to it in his shell-shocked head, his ruffled reaction indicated that that he clearly understood that a precocious providence was responsible for his Island fate. And while he may not like it, he seems to have accepted it. This is part of the new Jack, too. He's now a guy who can roll with the weird. The nervous laughter he shared with Hurley about inexplicable supernatural hoo-ha stood in stark contrast to how Jack responded to Hurley in the episode — SHAMU ALERT! — ''Something Nice Back Home,'' when an almost zombified Hurley told Jack he had been speaking with the dead and Jack flipped out on him, and told him to get back to... swallowing his pills. IMPORTANT? In that ''Something Nice'' encounter, Hurley had an important message for Jack via Dead Charlie: ''You're not supposed to bring him back.'' Hurley commented, ''Do you think he means Aaron?'' Maybe. But that seems too easy. Today, I'm wondering if that scene was foreshadowing for this year's resurrection/reincarnation season, and if ''the him'' in Charlie's warning was/is... Locke? Sayid? Maybe someone else? Maybe... Jack's dad?
One final Jack thought. The self-awareness he evidenced last night would be something that I think Dogen's historical namesake would applaud. Dogen = Dogen Zenji, the 13th century Japanese Zen Buddhist master, founder of the Soto School of Zen. I'm no Zen expert, but my understanding is that Dogen emphasized the practice of sitting in silent meditation. But he put even more emphasis on the idea that there should be no distinction between daily living and spiritual discipline, that they should be integrated in a kind of lifestyle/mindset of constant, moment-to-moment enlightenment seeking, or what Christians might call ''ceaseless prayer.'' In doing so, ''the Truth appears, there being no delusion. If you understand this, you are completely free...'' Now, if you ask me, I'd say this Born Again Jack we're seeing in the Temple feels very Dogen-brand Zen to me. Living without blinders, aware of past and future without being burdened by or anxious about either, grounded in the present tense — just like the title of the episode. In other words, the total opposite of....
Living is easy with eyes closed. So is Lost theorizing.
The show opened on Lennon's bare feet striding through the Temple. Seems there are two different kinds of Others on the Island: Those who wear shoes and those who don't. What's the difference? I supposed I could work up a bare sole/bare soul metaphor here. But given we're talking about a character named after a dead Beatle, perhaps Lennon's bare feet was a wink at the infamous ''Paul is dead'' urban legend from 1969, in which it was claimed that Paul McCartney had died and that the Beatles had replaced him with a look-alike. Very Locke/Fake Locke. Maybe very Sayid, too? Was Dogen's cranking on the electrical generator a reference to the source of the rumor — the ''Turn me on, dead man'' bit in Revolution No. 9? And hey! Is it just coincidence that two University of Michigan students played key roles in feeding this hoax — U of M being off-Island HQ for The Dharma Initiative?
Penny for your psychic thoughts, Miles?
I keep waiting for SOMEONE to ask the Ghost-Hustler for his Talks With Dead People perspective on Sayid. Given his wary-spooked eyeballing, I get the sense he's got something to say, if only someone would ask him. Or maybe he's just holding out until someone finals pays him his $3.2 million.
Three things we learned from two irritating Others
Yes, Aldo and Justin annoyed me. But I'd rather spend my words doting on some genuinely interesting bits of info they have us.
A Brief (Missing) History of Time Aldo got up in Kate's grill and reminded her that he was the all-grown-up-now Stephen Hawking-reading Other-boy that she and Sawyer assaulted outside Room 23 back in season 3. In doing so, Lost was cleverly reminding us of a significant gap in the Island's story. The Oceanic 6 left the Island on the same day that the LeftBehinders started time traveling. That was around January of 2005. The dating of the current Island drama: December 2007/January 2008. That's about 36 months of Island history that we have not seen. During that time, Aldo grew up. What else changed during that window? Well, for starters, someone disturbed the circle of ash around Jacob's cabin and ransacked the joint. Also: Richard's tribe of Others set up camp on the beach. Perhaps season 6 will help fill in the blanks.
Suspiciously Shushing Aldo It was curious to me that whenever Justin tried to debrief Kate and Jin on a few things they didn't know — the presence of Ajira 316 on Hydra Island; the death of Rousseau — Aldo told him to shut up. Why was Bitter Bearded Boy so invested in keeping the castaway pair ignorant of recent Island developments? Yes, the simplest answer would be that Aldo was just being a jerk. Another possibility: the Others are prohibited from playing newsman to the castaways because doing so might unduly tamper with them in someway — as if it's absolutely necessary that the castaways either discover stuff on their own, or are denied info that they don't need to know, or don't need to know yet. As if the Others know what the castaways are destined to do or be and are tasked with making sure that nothing they do unduly influences their destiny. How can we be sure the castaways are really so special? Well, besides their anointing/Ankh letter listing by Jacob....
''One of Them'' Yet another iteration of this classic Lost phrase, originally intended as a derogatory demonization of the Others by the castaways and certainly proof that all of Lost is a metaphorical exploration of Hegelian dialectic and post-modern Otherness. But I doubt such big thoughts were on dimwitted Justin's mind when he wondered if Jin was ''one of them.'' The implication: Some or all of the castaways are special or significant in some way. Which reminds me again of ''The Candidate.'' Last year, Jacob's bodyguards discussed the possibility that Frank Lapidus could be ''a candidate.'' Is there a connection between the ''one of them'' and ''candidate'' intrigue? If we find out, it probably won't becoming from Aldo and Justin, who in the final moments of the episode were shot and killed by the Island's new Rousseau...
CLAIRE! GONE! WILD!
The last time we saw Claire in the Island narrative, she was hanging with her father, Christian Shephard, in Jacob's shack. We suspected that like Christian, she, too, was dead, killed during Keamy's mercenary raid on New Otherton. In light of the revelation that Fake Locke is Smokey, and knowing that Smokey can animate or take the form of the dead, we should be wondering if back then, Ghost Christian and Ghost Claire were Smokey manifestations, too. Then again, this frizzy-haired crazy Claire that we saw last night came off as human. We were told by Dogen that Claire had been ''claimed'' by the same ''darkness'' currently spreading within Sayid. So many pieces of info, desperately needing clarifying context. I'm still crunching it. In the meantime, I'm going to theorize that Scary-Pale Claire is the Solomon Grundy of the Island... or a golem. And I'm not going to tell you what the hell I mean by that either!
YOUR SECOND TO LAST SHAMU ALERT!
Jin went looking for Sun, correctly suspecting her plane was somewhere on the premises. He defended his rogue mission to Kate by putting a question to her: ''Who do you care about, Kate?'' Who's your ''constant,'' Ms. Austen? She didn't answer. SHAMU ALERT! Jin's quest for Sun linked back to ''Something Nice Back Home,'' for that was the episode in which he made arrangements to send her away. But it looks like he'll have to contend with White Hunter Black Heart Claire first before he can give us the reunion we've been waiting for.
Somewhere under the sea, a fish is at a pawn shop asking, ''How many clams will you give me for this ring?''
I am worried for our friend Sawyer. The episode opened with the heartbroken La Fleur cynically meditating on the Island's dubious resurrection policy. ''He's an Iraqi torturer who shoots kids. He definitely deserves another go around.'' Translation: How come he got to come back but Juliet didn't? Sawyer then told Kate he was ditching the Temple scene. ''I'm thinking about running, Kate.'' Very pointed. Even kind of cruel, as if he was meanly poking at her issues. Sawyer told her not to chase after him. Little miss born to run-and-chase did, anyway.
Kate tracked him down at the Dharma barracks and found him prying up the floorboards and pulling out an old shoebox full of mementos and one very precious item — an engagement ring for Juliet. (Shoebox = Kate and Tom's time capsule, ''Born To Run'') On the Dharma docks, Sawyer allowed himself to be consumed by guilt for Juliet's death, believing that if he hadn't convinced her to stay on the Island out of his own fear of being alone, she'd still be alive. He then connected his experience to Kate in a vaguely accusatory way. ''You understand that, don't you?'' Perhaps Sawyer was referencing all the times she essentially chose Jack over him; perhaps he was alluding to ''Born To Run,'' and the Sun/Kate conspiracy to keep Jin on the Island for Sun's sake. And then, after revealing he had intended to propose to Juliet, he threw the ring into the drink, just as Desmond did back in ''Flashes Before Your Eyes'' when he became convinced destiny was conspiring to keep him and Penelope apart. He announced to Kate that he wanted to be left alone, and he walked away, leaving her in tears as she looked out on Sawyer's Dharma home, his ''something nice,'' now ruined. I think she was genuinely heartbroken for Sawyer. She might have blamed herself, as her well-intentioned time traveling rescue mission was a catalyst for his unhappy ending. But she certainly had more than enough life experience to empathize, as her own damned soul had cost her so much true love, from Tom (''Born To Run'') to her ex-husband Kevin Callis (''I Do'') to even Jack Shephard, who had once given her an engagement ring, too. SHAMU ALERT! ''Something Nice Back Home.''
And with that, Kate began her trek back to the Temple, her quest a failure. She watched Sawyer skulk past her and retreat into his ruined home, his Goodspeedesque love shack-turned-haunted house — his version of Jacob's cabin. Let us be afraid, very afraid for Sawyer. From his anger toward the Island gods at the beginning of the episode to his near misanthropy at the end, Sawyer has suddenly crawled into a dark place, the kind that can infect a heart and claim a soul. You have to wonder if some (demon) seeds have been planted. You have to wonder if Sawyer might soon follow Claire and quite possibly Sayid into the dark embrace of the Man In Black, aka the Locke-ness Monster, aka.... SHAMU ALERT!
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