Claire’s the new Rousseau! Sayid’s the new Robert! Sawyer’s the new Desmond! (Sorta.) These days, Lost is all about parallels to itself: everything’s different, but everything’s the same.
So far, season six is chugging along effectively. The writers were smart enough to get a few characters out of The Temple for now, thus avoiding the old Hatch/Polar Bear Cage Problem. And I like the newfound directness that the Losties have adopted: most of Lost’s mysteries could have been easily solved seasons ago, if the survivors had asked more specific questions of the natives they came across; now that the show is winding down, they’re finally asking them: like, “Who are you people?” which Jack asks of his new captors. Not that The Others are answering questions—“what is this, a press conference?” quipped that guy from It’s Always Sunny—but they always Tell It Like It Is: Dogen and Lennon criticizing Jack’s humorlessness was a particularly delicious moment, as was the follow-up in which they pointed out that people who try to help him out tend to…well, die. Take that, you arrogant fraud!
Most of “What Kate Does”’ pleasures came from these sorts of interdiegetic references, starting with the title, a present-tense play on Season 2’s “What Kate Did”. What did she do? She blew up her father. What does she do? She brandishes pistols, scares pregnant women and lily-livered cab drivers while thriving on the kindness of strangers who sympathize with outlaws, of whom there seem to be many more than I would have guessed. (Hey, it’s just like during the last Depression!) She’s also hooked up with Claire—in fact, “What Kate Does” was practically as much as a Claire episode as it was a Kate one: a nice way of killing two birds with one stone (there’s only so much time left!) and placating the Kate Haters.
Anyway, back to the episode’s many ironies and repetitions: Sayid is on the torture’s receiving end (again!); one of Kate’s love interests says “don’t come after me” and she doesn’t listen; Ethan—an L.A. doctor with a lovely bedside manner in Reality-X (OMG! OMG!)—is conscripted to treat Claire; oh, and he “doesn’t want to stick [her] with a bunch of needles” if he doesn’t have to; and, for good measure, he’s using his family name (Goodspeed) and not his nom de île (Rom).
All of these ironies, of course, serve as background noise to the show’s new mysteries: like, what has dirty jungle-Claire been up to? But, most prominently, what the heck is happening to Sayid? It seems the Man in Black and the famous “sickness” are possibly related but not identical; I had about given up on the sickness as the fantasy of a madwoman, so I’m excited that it might be real, and that those “QUARANTINE” labels may not have been a form of psychological control after all, as I’d come to assume.
But the episode’s biggest reward was the poignancy that the show continues to wring from the Sawyer/Juliet storyline. Lost has always had a bad habit of acting like days ago was weeks ago—it often seems to function on audience time, rather than character time. (By the time Sayid was battling Mikhail in his bunker, only 30 days had passed since Shannon died. Damned if he still showed any trace of mourning, though.) But Kate and Sawyer’s interaction on the pier touched on what happened “a few days ago” and underlined how deeply in love Sawyer really was, and thus how devastating his loss is: he was going to ask Juliet to marry him! Well, so much for that, and he tosses the ring into the ocean, recalling the time Desmond pitched a diamond meant for Penny into the Thames. Ah, just one more self-reference in a show that’s increasingly becoming about them—which is fine by me, as it gratifies the attentiveness of us obsessive fans: you know, the only people still watching the show.