Last night's Lost was much better than we'd expected from a Kate-centric episode. Partly, this was because Kate did a teeny bit of growing as a person. And partly it was because Jack and Sawyer stole the show. Spoilers avast...
So both Kates realized, last night, that they owed something to poor Claire Littleton. The only difference is, one of them made this realization in time, and the other one had the epiphany far, far too late.
A bit of housekeeping: According to Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, we're not supposed to call the "Flight 815 landed safely" universe the alt-universe, because that implies that it's not "real" or that it's second best. Far be it from me to encourage bigotry against an entire universe — so let's call the two timelines the LA-verse and the Island-verse, shall we?
So in the LA-verse, Kate has a moment of — what's that unfamiliar feeling? — altruism, and goes back to rescue the pregnant woman she dumped in the middle of nowhere. She helps Claire deal with the callow woman (Jenni Blong) who was supposed to adopt Claire's baby with her husband — was this the couple recommended by Richard Malkin? — and then takes her to the hospital. You're definitely left with a sense that Kate and Claire share some kind of bond, which has to do with Aaron, and this is probably going to be significant in future episodes.
Meanwhile, Island-Kate runs after Sawyer, and it's only after he reveals quite how much he really did love Juliet that Kate suddenly decides that she actually wants to find Claire and reunite her with the baby that Kate stole. Is this something Kate decided on the spur of the moment? She claims it's the reason she came back to the island in the first place — which I guess jibes with what she told Claire's mum in "Whatever Happened, Happened." But when Jin asks her, just minutes earlier, what she has in mind, she acts as though once she finds Sawyer, they'll figure out something together. Maybe Sawyer will fall into her arms, and he'll realize that she's the one he always wanted, and maybe then they'll build a jungle gym together in the ruins of Dharmaville, and they can run free together forever. But whether this is a plan Kate hatches when it's clear Sawyer's not coming back to her, or it's something she's had in mind for ages — she's way too late, in either case. For reasons we'll go into in a moment.
In any case, the linchpin of the episode seems to be the bit where Jin asks Kate what she cares about, and Kate doesn't really have a good answer. It seems like, by the end of the episode, Island-Kate has realized that the person she cares about is Aaron. Meanwhile, alt-Kate seems to have made a genuine connection with Claire. It's hard not to think that the show is setting up something in which the fate of both Aarons will be vital to everybody.
Another clue to the importance of Aaron, of course, is the reappearance of the not-particularly-lamented Ethan, who's now going by Dr. Goodspeed. How is he even in L.A.? If the Island sank in 1977, shouldn't he have still been there? (Was baby Ethan evacuated on the Dharma sub? I didn't think so.) Either the island sank later, or there was enough warning for people to evacuate. In any case, Ethan, who of course kidnapped Claire in the Island-verse, still seems very interested in her and her baby. It could just be a coincidence, but a theme of this show seems to be that coincidences are often more than they appear.
But yeah, it's way too late for Claire in the Island-verse — she's been claimed by the same ick that's now in the process of claiming Sayid. She certainly looks pretty feral and messed up, and has no compunction about shooting Aldo dead. (And thank goodness, really. At least he'll never fall for the Wookiee prisoner trick again.) Assuming Dogen is telling the truth — which we can't assume, of course — then Claire is in bad shape.
So as I mentioned above, Jack and Sawyer pretty much stole the episode — and Jack was the most fun to watch he's been in ages. Something about his brilliant masterplan apparently crashing and burning has brought out a nihilistic side to Jack, and he seems to have less to lose than ever. He's still Guilt Guy — especially in the bit where he admits that it's his fault Sayid got shot — but he's also willing to take crazy chances. Like taking that pill, for instance.
So the Others were testing Sayid when they burned him and electrocuted him — but it really seemed like the one they were testing this episode was Jack. I mean, it's possible that their little poison pill wouldn't have killed Sayid unless Jack administered it himself, but even on the mystical Island it seems unlikely. And Sayid's not bulletproof, as far as I can tell. So if their goal was to kill Sayid, they had plenty of ways to make that happen. The real object of that exercise was to get Jack to fall for their little trick and feed poison to his friend.
Jack's scene with Sayid, where Sayid places his life in Jack's hands and makes it clear he still trusts Jack after everything that's happened, was great. And it's like having at least one person still believe in him gave Jack a shot in the arm. He goes and confronts Dogen and Lennon (apparently that character is really named Lennon), and plays a fantastic game of brinksmanship with them, until the moment when he takes their assurances that the pill is medicine at face value — although, of course, medicine can be harmful too. In any case, Jack's laughter is pretty amazing, and his gutsy move goes a long way towards punting him back towards the top of the "cool characters" list.
Sawyer, meanwhile, does more to convince us of his love for Juliet than he ever quite managed when she was alive. He finds that ring, still buried under the floorboards of their old house, and throws it in the water, while talking about how he talked Juliet out of leaving the island in 1974 because he didn't want to be alone. The bit where he says "Which time?" to Kate is one of my fave moments of the season so far. Sawyer is just a raw, open wound, talking about how he was going to ask Juliet to marry him and how some people are just destined to be alone. Every time Sawyer was on the screen, it made every other character's concerns, even the grandiose stuff about the future of the Island, feel petty and minor next to the enormity of his loss.
So. What have we learned? There's an "infection" that's claiming Sayid and which has already claimed Claire — and presumably it's connected to the Man In Black aka Flocke, who was impersonating Christian Shephard before. (I'm wondering if one of Smokey's powers is that he can impersonate any dead person who's body is on the island?) The infection took Claire after she was separated from her baby, and took Sayid after he shot a little kid and then got shot in return. And it's somehow connected to the fouling of the baptismal waters in the Temple, as if it's a kind of pollution of the Island's life-essence and healing energy. It could be because Jacob was killed, or could it be because the universe was split in two, and energy is bleeding from one universe to the other?
Your guess is probably way better than mine. So what did you think?