Short on answers but long on character development, “What Kate Does” put Kate Austen in the spotlight for an examination of what makes her tick — no matter where she finds herself.

It was a much more straightforward, easy-to-follow episode than the 2-hour brain-bender that came before it. And the few big answers (or rather, clues) it provided, had nothing to do with Kate at all, but with a certain someone else…

[Editor’s note: out of deference to the wishes of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse that the new reality presented to us in Season 6 not be referred to as an “alternate” reality, I’m adopting their preferred term of “sideways” reality instead.]

When Kate steals the cab at gunpoint, Claire begs to be let out, but Kate refuses. The cabbie drives just as she commands, but is forced to stop when Arzt stands in the middle of the road in front of them, having dropped his numerous pieces of luggage. While they’re waiting on Arzt to get his stuff out of the road, Kate spots Jack standing on the sidewalk, some ways away, talking on his phone. The two of them make eye contact for just a moment, and Kate gets an odd look on her face, like maybe she recognizes him, but not from the plane.

Claire tries to jump out of the car, but Kate pulls her back in at gunpoint. She tells the cabbie to just go ahead and drive over Arzt’s belongings, which gets a strong reaction from Arzt. When they’re barely out of the airport, the cabbie has to stop again at a red light, and this time he jumps out of the car and runs away on foot before Kate can stop him. Kate takes the wheel herself, ordering Claire to give her her purse. She pulls over on the side of the road and forces Claire out of the car, leaving her there alone with no possessions.

Kate drives to a garage, where she talks a friendly mechanic into cutting her handcuffs off. She uses the garage’s restroom to change clothes, but when she opens Claire’s bag and sees all the pregnancy supplies inside, she realizes what she’s done.

Kate returns to the area where she left Claire and rescues her, giving her back her things. She asks where Claire was headed, and offers to give her a ride there in the cab. Claire is naturally distrustful of the woman who hijacked her, but eventually concedes, explaining that she was headed to the home of the couple that’s adopting her baby.

In the cab, Claire confesses her nervousness at meeting the couple who’s going to adopt her child, because they failed to meet her at the airport as planned. When they arrive at the house, she asks Kate to come in with her, because she doesn’t want to go it alone. The teary-eyed woman who answers the door is shocked to see Claire, having forgotten about her impending arrival. She explains that her husband has left her, and despite how badly she’s always wanted a baby, she doesn’t think she can take on this challenge alone. Kate is about to dress the woman down for not calling Claire to deliver this news before she came all the way from Australia, when Claire starts having heavy contractions.

Kate rushes her to the hospital and follows her inside, where Claire is treated by none other than Ethan Rom! Only here he goes by his true last name, Goodspeed. He tells her that she’s in labor, and that if she wants, she’s far enough along (36 weeks) to go ahead and have the baby tonight. But if she doesn’t want to, they can give her drugs to stop the labor. She opts for the drugs, saying she’s not ready yet. The baby’s heartbeat stops suddenly and Claire panics, asking if “Aaron” is okay, but Ethan does a quick ultrasound and determines that the baby’s fine, he just moved out of position from the heart monitor. After Ethan reassures her that she’s doing great, Claire is still a basket case but looks over to realize that she’s been holding Kate’s reassuring hand the entire time.

Later, Claire is visited by a police detective, who asks about Kate. Claire lies, saying that she knew nothing of Kate’s fugitive status and that Kate left and moved on without saying where she was going. Meanwhile, Kate listens from the next room over. After the police are gone, Kate thanks Claire for covering for her, and Claire offers her a friendly smile. Claire asks what Kate did to become a fugitive, and Kate asks if Claire would believe her if she said she was innocent. Claire says that she would, in fact, and it’s clear that a sisterly bond has formed between them. When Kate is about to leave, Claire gives her a credit card to take with her. Kate compliments Claire’s choice of “Aaron” as her baby’s name, and Claire says she doesn’t really know why she said it. “It was like I knew it or something,” she says. Kate tells her that she should keep the baby, and the two of them wish each other luck before saying goodbye.

Immediately after Sayid rises from the dead, Lennon runs to get his boss, the Japanese master of the Temple, whose name we soon learn is Dogen. He tells Dogen that Sayid’s alive again, and Dogen reacts with alarm.

Jack is thrilled to see his friend alive and well, but Sayid is feeling lightheaded and confused about what’s happened. Across the room, Kate and Sawyer watch the excitement. Kate wonders how this is possible, but Sawyer expresses only bitterness that a man with as wicked a past as Sayid is getting a second chance at life, when Juliet remains dead. He has other thoughts on his mind, asking Kate how many guards she thinks currently stand between him and freedom.

Jack and Jin help Sayid get outside for some fresh air. Jack observes that Sayid’s wound has all but completely healed. Sayid thanks Jack for saving his life, but before Jack can explain the truth, they’re interrupted by Dogen and Lennon, who ask Sayid to come with them to ask a few questions. Jack wants to come along, but Dogen refuses, though he promises to tell Jack everything he wants to know after they’ve talked to Sayid. But Jack points out that the Others are never so forthcoming with their secrets, and a fight breaks out between the survivors and the Others, over Sayid.

The fight is quickly interrupted by Sawyer, who fires a pistol to get everyone’s attention. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity to make for the exit, and announces his intentions to leave and never come back. He tells Lennon that the survivors aren’t his friends, and he doesn’t care what happens to them, that he only wants to be left alone. Speaking in English, Dogen pleads with him to stay, but Sawyer won’t hear of it, and angrily leaves, before looking straight at Kate and warning her not to follow him.

After Sawyer’s gone, the Others gain the upper hand, and drag Sayid away to Dogen’s office. Jack protests loudly, and several Others with guns appear, ordering them to calm down. One of them is the Other named Aldo (who was briefly seen as a guard in Season 3 when Kate, Sawyer, and Alex rescued Carl from Room 23). Lennon asks Jack where Sawyer went, but Jack has no idea. Kate steps forward and says that she can track him, bring him back, and convince him to stay. Jin volunteers to go with her, and Lennon allows it, though he sends Aldo and an Other named Justin to accompany them. Before they leave, Jack catches up to Kate and wishes her luck. They share a tender moment when it looks like they might kiss, but it doesn’t happen.

Dogen has Sayid strapped down to a table and tortures him. First he blows a handful of what looks like ash across his body, probably in an attempt to ensure that Sayid is not the Man in Black/smoke monster. When Sayid doesn’t react to that, he attaches electrodes to Sayid’s abdomen and cranks a generator up high. Sayid’s body seizes and convulses, but Dogen merely watches in detached interest. Sayid asks why he’s doing this, but Dogen never says a word. Instead, he goes to a fire and pulls out a red-hot poker, which he mashes painfully into Sayid’s chest. Dogen’s satisfied when Sayid reacts in agony, and allows Lennon to release him. Lennon apologizes for putting Sayid through this, but assures him that it was a test that Sayid passed. After Sayid’s taken out of the office and back to his friends, Lennon asks Dogen if he just lied to Sayid. Dogen says yes — Sayid did not pass the test.

In the jungle, Kate asks Aldo why the Others want her and her friends to stay at the Temple. Aldo says it’s to protect them — from the smoke monster. Jin asks if they know anything about the Ajira flight that landed on the island with his wife onboard, just a few days ago. Justin almost answers, but Aldo stops him. Kate steers them away from a decoy trail Sawyer left onto the real one, though Aldo doesn’t trust her. Justin saves Kate from tripping a trap that looks like something Rousseau would have set. When Jin suggests that very thing, Justin reminds them that Rousseau’s “been dead for years,” but before he can go on, Aldo stops him again. Kate confronts Aldo about his attitude, and Aldo explains his history with her, and that he’s obviously holding a grudge. Kate knocks him out with her canteen and then triggers the wire on the trap that Justin just saved her from, causing the trap to fall and knock him to the ground. She takes their guns and gives one to Jin, telling him that they’re escaping.

Sayid is returned to Jack and the others, and he tells them that Dogen tortured him, though he was never asked any questions. Furious, Jack storms into Dogen’s office and demands answers. Dogen and Lennon are unperturbed by his intrusion, and Lennon says they were expecting him. They tell Jack that Sayid is sick, that he’s infected. They weren’t torturing him, they were diagnosing him. Dogen prepares a green pill and gives it to Jack, instructing him to have Sayid take it. Jack’s amused by the request and flatly refuses to do it unless they’ll tell him what’s in the pill. Dogen appeals to Jack’s need for redemption, pointing out that Sayid was shot while helping Jack, and that there have been many others who died while under Jack’s leadership. He tells Jack that having Sayid take this pill is his chance to redeem himself, explaining that the pill contains medicine that Sayid needs. Jack asks what happens if Sayid doesn’t take the pill, and Dogen says ominously that the infection will spread.

Jack returns to Sayid, and privately shows him Dogen’s pill. He tells Sayid that despite his gratitude, he wasn’t responsible for saving Sayid’s life. The Others did that. Sayid says he doesn’t care, his priority is the people he trusts, and he trusts Jack. If Jack wants him to take the pill, he’ll take it. Jack considers the decision before him.

Jin chases after Kate as she plows through the jungle, asking what this was all about if she never had any intention of bringing Sawyer back to the Temple. She says she has no desire to be a prisoner there. So he takes a different tack, asking where Ajira 316 landed on the island. Kate doesn’t know (because she wasn’t onboard when it landed), and asserts that the Others aren’t going to help him find out because they don’t care about anyone but their own people. Jin asks what Kate cares about, but she doesn’t answer. He asks what she’s planning to do when she finds Sawyer, but she suggests that the two of them will figure that out when she gets there.

Kate tracks Sawyer back to the Barracks, to the house where he lived with Juliet. She hears him tearing apart the bedroom inside, and sneaks in to watch as he pulls up floorboards and retrieves a shoebox hidden there. Just as he pockets its contents, he realizes she’s there, and he asks why she followed him. She says she was worried about him, and he leaves the house without a word.

She catches up to him out at the Dharma dock, and she confesses to him the reason she came back to the island: to find Claire. She says that she followed Sawyer thinking that he could help her find Claire, and the two of them could take Claire back to Aaron. This would mean that everything they’d been through, including Juliet’s death, wouldn’t have been for nothing. But her tone indicates that she understands now what a useless idea it was to expect Sawyer to be interested in helping. He’s deep in grief over Juliet, and is likely to be for a long time, and she gets that. She apologizes for following him, but he ruefully asks which time that she followed him is she referring to. She apologizes a second time, this time for what happened to Juliet. Kate says that if she hadn’t convinced them to escape from the sub, then the two of them wouldn’t have returned to the island and Juliet would still be alive. But Sawyer absolves her of any guilt in the matter, saying that he knows that Juliet’s death was his own fault. He tells her of the moment, years ago, that took place in the exact spot where the two of them now sit, when he convinced Juliet to stay on the island so that he wouldn’t be alone. But he reckons that some of them are simply meant to be alone, implying that he deserves such a fate. He pulls the item out of his pocket that he retrieved at his house, and shows it to her: it’s an engagement ring. “I was going to ask her to marry me,” he says through his tears. He stands to his feet and tosses the ring into the ocean. He quietly suggests that Kate go back to the Temple and then walks away. Kate can no longer handle all this sorrow, and bursts into tears, grieving for Juliet and for Sawyer, too.

Jack returns to Dogen’s office, and they compare notes about leadership. Dogen explains that he uses a translator in front of his people because he has to remain separate from them. It makes it easier when they don’t like the decisions he makes for them, he says. Jack asks who Dogen is, and Dogen reveals his name and that he was brought here just like everybody else. When Jack asks what he means by “brought here,” Dogen tells him that Jack knows exactly what he means — they’ve all been brought here by fate, destiny, Jacob, the island, whatever you want to call it. He asks if Jack gave Sayid the green pill, and Jack says no, again asking what’s in it. Dogen says that Jack will just have to trust him, but Jack decides to put “trust” to the test, and swallows the pill himself. Dogen quickly kung-fu’s and Heimlich’s Jack into expelling the pill before his system dissolves it, and then he confirms Jack’s suspicions: the pill is poison, intended to kill Sayid.

At the Barracks, Kate watches as Sawyer returns to his old home alone, and he does not acknowledge her as he does so. She decides to abide by his wishes and leave him be, heading off into the jungle by herself.

At the Temple, Dogen and Lennon explain to Jack that they wanted to kill Sayid because they believe he’s been “claimed.” Jack asks what Sayid’s been claimed by, and Dogen replies, “There’s a darkness growing in him. And once it reaches his heart, everything your friend once was, will be gone.” Jack asks how they know this for sure. Dogen replies, “Because it happened to your sister.” Claire!

In the jungle, Jin is found by Aldo and Justin, who are angry about Kate’s attack on them. Jin claims that he’s going back to the Temple, but Aldo is too bent on revenge to care. Justin tries to stop him from shooting Jin, reminding Aldo that Jin is “one of them” — one of the ones Jacob instructed them to protect — but Aldo won’t hear it. Jin makes a break for it, but runs afoul of yet another trap, this one a metal claw that snaps painfully around his foot. Just as Aldo and Justin catch up to him and are about to shoot, the two of them are killed by gunshots fired from a distance. Jin looks up to the top of the ridge, where he sees a familiar face: it’s Claire! But she’s not the Claire he remembers; she’s toting a powerful rifle and she’s hardened, showing obvious signs of having lived on her own in the wilderness for the last three years.

  • What is the origin of the infection? Is the Man in Black responsible for it?
  • How did Claire fall victim to this infection? Was it when she encountered her father Christian in the jungle? Was she, like Sayid, dead or near death when the infection took her?
  • Is the infection irreversible?
  • If Claire is infected, why has she been running around the jungle going all Danielle Rousseau (planting traps and presumably living alone) for three years?
  • Sideways Reality: How did Ethan Rom/Goodspeed presumably escape the island as an infant, before it was sunken to the bottom of the ocean, to grow up in America? Did he and his mother leave on the Dharma submarine prior to the Incident, along with all of the other women and children? Or is there another explanation?
  • Sideways Reality: Kate suggested that she’s innocent of the crime she was accused of. Is she?

For a mythology-lite episode, we did get some mega-sized hints about what’s doing with Sayid — and Claire, who’s finally back! But I’ll get back to that in a bit. Let’s start small and work our way up.

The episode’s title has been discussed already, as most fans assumed it was meant as an homage to the Season 2 episode, “What Kate Did,” which explained to us how and why Kate wound up a fugitive — by murdering her father. But despite the titular connection, I was reminded more of Kate’s very first spotlight episode, in Season 1, “Tabula Rasa,” where she befriended the farmer in Australia, who later turned her in. Had Claire ratted her out in the hospital, the parallels would have been stronger. I think the takeaway is that Kate has a tendency to help those in need, regardless of her own circumstances. (And also, that she’s really, really adept at escaping.)

One of the big topics of conversation between Jack and Kate when the bomb/history reset was being discussed last season, was that its success would reunite Claire with Aaron. Kate argued that Claire had intended to give Aaron up for adoption, but Jack pointed out that things could go differently than she planned when it came time to give the baby away. As it turns out, fate had plans of its own to ensure that Claire wasn’t separated from Aaron this go round (at least, not so far), when the couple she planned to give Aaron to was no longer a couple. And Kate herself was involved in convincing Claire to keep the little tyke. How fitting.

Okay, so… Dogen. The more I see of this guy, the more I like him. Actor Hiroyuki Sanada chews the scenery every time he’s on screen, so that probably has something to do with it. Even the character hasn’t done much to ingratiate himself to the audience, but there’s something always appealing about a character that has a strong sense of self. I’m looking forward to learning more about him, like how he got to the island and how he was appointed Temple Master. (And if that baseball was some kind of hint about his past.)

The zen-like Temple has me feeling that at last we’ve found the heart of the island, the place where its deepest, most important secrets are kept. I picture Dogen and Lennon and Cindy and Aldo and everyone else living in isolation here, for years on end, uninvolved in the endlessly tumultuous events happening elsewhere on the island. Story-wise, this place is meant to emphasize the mystical side of both the island and the Others, rejecting the more corporate feel that the Others adopted under Ben’s leadership. The Temple has a serious monastery vibe, like these Others have been appointed here to protect and keep the island’s most important stuff — like the Spring — safe. And that theory may not be far off, considering that the Temple Others consider protecting this place from the Man in Black to be their highest priority. Is a showdown building between the Man in Black & his “infected” (don’t worry, still getting to that) vs. Jacob and his Others? A showdown set at the Temple? I wouldn’t be surprised.

Hurley’s amusing query to Sayid, “You’re not a zombie, right?” was no doubt a wink at the audience from the show’s producers, who have for years jokingly threatened to unleash a “zombie season” upon us right before the show ends.

I laughed out loud at Miles’ “food court” line. It’s good to know that without Sawyer to count on for great comedic zingers (’cause he’s going to the dark place), we still have Miles.

Ethan Rom/Goodspeed’s appearance had to be the best twist of the episode. I can just see the writers plotting out Claire’s sudden need to rush to the hospital, and realizing that making Ethan her OB doctor would be too much fun to pass up. They even filled his appearance with tons of inside jokes, like the “I don’t want to stick you with needles if I don’t have to” bit, which is exactly what Ethan did to Claire over and over on the island. We saw Ethan’s kinder, gentler side in this reality, and I was left wondering if he turned out this way because he never became an Other.

And just how did that happen, exactly? Did he and his mother leave the island on the sub, before the Incident? It seems like the obvious answer, but I’m willing to bet we’re going to see more island natives turning up in the sideways reality, who can’t be explained so easily as escaping on the sub. How do they fit in to this new timeline? I can’t wait to find out.

For a second, I thought Sawyer might be planning to escape from the Temple so that he could go dig up Juliet’s body and dunk her in the Spring, too. I’m sure there’s some reason why that wouldn’t work — possibly because she’s already dead whereas Sayid was still clinging to life when he was dunked — but don’t you think Sawyer would want to at least try it?

I shed my manhood for a moment when Sawyer pulled out the engagement ring, actually gasping out loud. That whole scene where he confessed to feeling responsible for Juliet’s death was brutal. Tragedy of tragedies, how much more salt can be poured into Sawyer’s wounds? (Probably plenty.)

Speaking of Sawyer… Is Josh Holloway knocking his scenes out of the park this season, or what? I’m still in awe of how the character that nobody liked after the first episode has over time become the most sympathetic one on the show. What amazing growth and development, yet at his core he’s still the same Sawyer.

Him throwing that engagement ring into the ocean echoed the same action Desmond undertook in Season 3’s “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” Sawyer had a way better reason for doing it, though.

I’m struck by how two of the biggest lingering mysteries to be answered in Season 6 — what is the smoke monster, and what happened to Claire — have both been answered, after a fashion. Both answers were given as subtleties, letting us reason out their full implications on our own. Neither answer was spelled out implicitly, we were just given hints that let us infer an adequate explanation. Will we be given more detail than this, or is this the method we can expect all of the biggest explanations to use?

The top headline this week is Claire and this infection business. We’re meant to conclude that Claire disappeared alongside her dead father, way back at the end of Season 4, because she was hit with this infection, and as Dogen put it, everything she once was is gone.

Is it true? It would explain why she didn’t jump through time with the rest of the survivors who were left behind on the island, in Season 5. And it looks like the Others have been aware of Claire’s presence on the island for the last three years, but have intentionally steered clear of her. This can only mean that they’re avoiding her because they know what she is.

The question is… If she’s not Claire anymore — at least not the Claire we remember — then who or what is she? Is she a servant of the Man in Black? Does she have free will? Did he imbue her with some kind of desire to create chaos, and set her loose?

Are there any others like her on the island? Is this what Christian Shephard is? Is he infected, too? Does that explain what he is? He was dead before Oceanic 815 ever crashed, but then his body disappeared from its coffin on the island, and he started popping up all over the place. He’s proven he can interact with the environment, and although he claimed to have been speaking for Jacob when he told Locke to move the island, there’s ample evidence to suggest that he wasn’t working for Jacob at all, but the Man in Black. Maybe we finally have an answer to the longstanding question of Christian Shephard. I’m going to wait a bit longer to declare it resolved.

What about Ben? His life was saved as a boy after he was taken to the Temple, just like Sayid. (We assume that the Spring had clear water then, but the Spring has not been established as the source of Sayid’s infection, so it may be beside the point.) Is it possible he was infected as a child?

And speaking of Ben, is it more than a coincidence that the Spring is now murky water and the smoke monster-summoning puddle beneath Ben’s house was also comprised of murky water?

But back to the matter at hand. Here’s my big theory. I think all of this goes back to when her Barracks house was destroyed in Season 4. She must’ve become infected almost immediately after nearing death due to that blast. There’s even evidence to support this: just like Sayid, she complained of feeling lightheaded and weak when Sawyer fished her out of the rubble.

This also explains why Miles watched her with such interest after her miraculous survival of the bomb blast; it was the same way he watched Sayid with a certain confused interest right after Sayid supposedly died. In both instances, I think Miles was sensing that something was off regarding Claire and Sayid. Call it a splinter in Miles’ mind. Whatever it is, he knows that they don’t fall under the usual categories of “alive” or “dead” that he’s used to. They’re something different.

(Hey, maybe we’re getting that long-promised zombie season after all! Maybe more of the castaways will die off and be brought back as the Man in Black’s zombie army…)

The notion that these infected people could be servants of the Man in Black has a certain synchronicity to it. MiB himself is believed to only be able to use his shape-shifty powers to take the form of people who are dead. It kinda makes sense that his acolytes would be made up of people who are somewhere closer to death than they are to life.

If Claire has gone over to the dark side, and (as it appears) there’s no hope for her, then the implication is clear: her only chance getting at a happy ending is for the sideways reality to become the final, permanent one, a la my big theory from last week.

So here’s the ultimate question: Whatever this infection is… is it reversible? Can it be undone? The Others seem to think that death by poison is the only cure. But what if the Man in Black — who is undoubtedly the source of the illness — is killed or defeated? If the infection represents some hold he has over Claire and now Sayid, then will that proverbial spell be broken if he’s out of the picture?

The floor is yours.