Usually, I hate an episode devoted to Kate, but for once I think the writers and Evangeline Lilly really found the emotional core of this episode by explaining how Kate Austen changed from an outlaw to a Madonna, and why she left Aaron behind. And when she said goodbye to the boy she fostered, peacefully sleeping in that motel room two doors down from Grandma Littleton, and my favorite of Michael Giacchino’s reunion/parting themes played in the background, I have to admit that I cried a little bit – tears I usually reserve for episodes about Jin/Sun, Charlie Pace or Desmond. This episode changed a lot of how I view Kate, actually, and I’m beginning to see her as another character fulfilling the archetype created by Sarah Connor, the Warrior Mother. But she only accepts that role on the island, because off-island, outside of the realm of fantasy and magic, she’s just the same as any other single mother, struggling to raise a child without any guidance, always minutes away from losing him in a grocery store to a woman who looks suspiciously like his Ghost Mom. Off-island, she hangs with Cassidy and little darling Clementine, bonding over the man that abandoned them (Sawyer) and learning to make that leap from outlaw to mother, raising children on their own. I have always been fond of the convergence of Kate and Cassidy, and imagine that the two of them could have made a good Thelma & Louise duo . . . and still could, should Kate ever return from that island and should Cassidy ever decide to abandon her daughter. (Unlikely. Cassidy may be a con artist, but I don’t think she’d be able to abandon Clementine. No one with a heart would leave that poor girl without any parents at all.) Instead, the two former outlaws share a kind of sororal love, bound together by their many common threads. But still, that isn’t enough to keep Kate from going back to the island. She’s not supposed to be with Aaron, and she knows it, especially when he leaves her for his Substitute Claire in that grocery store. So with a heavy heart, because Kate has, in fact, become a mother to this boy, she hands him over to Grandma Littleton, briefly explaining the complicated lie she’s been leading, and carrying the tears of a woman who’s left her child all the way to the airport. Those sunglasses she was sporting? They weren’t to look bad-ass, they were to hide the fact that she’d been crying all night.
So what am I saying when I say that this now-childless woman is taking up the mantle of the Warrior Mother? I’m talking about Kate’s instrumental role in saving Lil’ Ben’s life, and essentially doing everything to protect the boy the way she should have, would have protected Aaron had she stayed in L.A. As everyone debates their fate and the possibility of entering a time travel paradox should Ben die (thanks, Miles and Hurley, for playing the Great Internet Debate about the nature of time travel on Lost!), Lil’ Ben lies bleeding to death in Juliet’s OR. They need a real surgeon to save him, but Jack refuses, even when Kate begs him, just as she will 30 years from now to remove the tumor from Ben’s spine so that Sawyer won’t die. He’s saved Ben Linus once, Jack reckons. He doesn’t need to do it again. So Kate, perhaps seeing a bit of Aaron in the dying Ben, signs up to give the boy blood, because she’s a universal donor. And when Juliet tells her that she can do no more to save him, it’s Kate who heads up the rescue operation to send Ben into Hostile territory, hoping that she can plead with Richard Alpert to save the boy. Sawyer, who has become a hero contrary to Cassidy’s suggestion that he jumped off the chopper to get away from Kate and Aaron, arrives just before Kate has to cross that sonic fence of doom and agrees to help her deliver the boy to Alpert.
“Because no matter what he grows up to be, it’s wrong to let a kid die. I’m doing this for her.”
I assume that “her” Sawyer speaks of is his own daughter, for whom he would certainly give his life, now that living in 70s Dharmaville has taught him to grow up and accept his responsibilities. The two are soon captured by the Others, and brought before Alpert only at Sawyer’s threat of war should they refuse to help Ben. Kate insists on carrying Ben the whole way, like some kind of pieta, and finally hands Ben over to Alpert, even though he warns them that if he takes him, he will never be the same. His innocence will be lost and he will forget that all of this ever happened. And so he takes the dying boy into the temple, to become the thing he so desperately wanted to be: an Other.
“He will always be one of us.”
So, let’s take a second to talk about Miles’ explanation of time travel in accordance with this episode’s title. Miles asserts that whatever happened, happened, and so the folks who ended up in 1970 were always supposed to end up there and participate in what they are currently experiencing. Only, they’re not in the past. The “past” is their “present” because time is not linear. That’s why they don’t remember being in the 70s; for them, it hadn’t happened yet. So why, Hurley asks, wouldn’t Ben, who had met them all in the 70s, remember Sayid shooting him or remember meeting any of the castaways? Miles replies that he hadn’t thought of that yet, which was really funny for those amongst us who think that Darlton are just making shit up as they go along (for really, yo, you don’t think writers have massive mytharcs totally storyboarded?), but swiftly solved with Alpert’s announcement that the mystical act which will change Ben into an Other will remove his innocence and his memories of the events surrounding his near-death. It’s island magic, people. Sometimes, you just have to accept island magic. And I really hope they show us Ben’s apotheosis, his transformation from mere man to mystical, deified Other, because I am expecting some spectacular shit there.
I thought this was one of the stronger filling-in-the-story episodes, particularly because of the strength of Kate’s emotional performance and her island destiny of being the person who made Ben into what he is today. She’s the Warrior Mother for protecting him, that’s for sure, carrying on her off-island protect Aaron mission with yet another surrogate boy on-island. But there’s also an element of the Dangerous Mother in Kate, as well, because of what her mothering arc with Ben ultimately gives birth to (the monstrous Ben), and because of her abandonment of Aaron. There is a richness and a depth to this episode like I have never seen in a Kate-sode before, and for that I really appreciate it.
I also really appreciate that the writers are adhering to the reality of how time travel would work. Way to geek out, guys. None of that Back to the Future-disappearing bullshit. Whatever happened, happened.
And here’s the other major problem is the Back to the Future style of time travel. (I consider myself a completely amateur scholar of pop culture time travel stories, and generally adhere to the Bill & Ted Theorem.) In Back to the Future 2, Marty travels into the future and sees his future life as a father of two stubborn kids, but Present Marty doesn’t get busted when Father Marty sees him in his house, for Father Marty’s son looks just like Michael J. Fox and thus simply his son. But if we are to believe Present Marty’s timeline (living in the 80s, going back to the 50s, going into the future, going into the Old West and back into modern times), then wouldn’t Father Marty remember that he, decades earlier, had pretended to be Father Marty’s son when he traveled into the future? Brain explodey! Oh wait…there’s little Elijah Wood playing an arcade game at the diner. Explodey reduced.
I think the Lost version of time travel makes absolute sense, and I don’t really know how people would be confused, but I’m glad that Hurley is the one to be confused, so we could just get it out the way while at the same time mocking all y’all bitches who never bothered to ponder the inherent paradoxes of time travel.
And people are also complaining about the fact that, once Richard takes Ben, Ben will not longer remember all these incidents, and its being a complete cheat in the timeline of Lost. How convenient that he will forget Sayid. Well, while Ben may or may not have been lying in s2 (or was it early s3), he claims that he believes he was born on this island. So this “cheat” is okay. It’s far more thought out than the C-3PO controversy of 2005, where all of us Star Wars fans complained about the following fact – if C-3PO had already met Obi-Wan during the prequels and was INVENTED ON TATTOOINE by none other than Anakin Skywalker, why in Episode IV was he so confused by this planet and later meeting Old Obi-Wan? Well, at the end of Episode III there is a complete throwaway line where C-3PO is commanded to have his memory erased. There, it was obvious Lucas was just plugging up a hole. Here, I’m not so sure, because whether or not you want to admit it, there’s a whole lot more stuff going on over on Lost, mentally speaking, than there ever was in the six Star Wars films.
I do have to take umbrage with Kate, though, because while I get her mommy issues, I still don’t think she would have gone through all this trouble to save Little Ben knowing his future evil. Yes, Little Ben’s rescue was always bound to happen, but I think she might want to deal with a little less future guilt had she let the original Dharma people, along with the Hostiles, deal with Little Ben themselves and then, perhaps, give the Losties some big answers with how things were done on that island in any form or fashion. But instead of getting answers, she just asserted herself, because she’s Kate. (Stop making eyes at Roger “Workman” Linus. He’s a piece of shit.) Alls I know is that next week, which promises much Smokey the Smoke Monster, better have some ridiculous awesomeness happening.
Maybe I just love every single second Richard Alpert is onscreen. Because Nestor Carbonell is awesome, whether he is an immortal island deity (who may or may not have four toes on each foot), the mayor of Gotham, or even a money-grubbing brother on a shitty one-season CBS show about the sugar trade.