"LOST" RETROSPECT: (2.09) "What Kate Did"
Kate Austen has to be one of the most divisive characters on the ABC series, "LOST". The character has generated some very extreme reactions from the show's fans. The latter have either loved her or hated her. I had harbored a good deal of dislike toward Kate, myself for a long period. However, my dislike stemmed from the writers' handling of her character and a good number of the fans' attitude toward the mistakes and crimes she had committed. A good example of this attitude could be found in the general reaction to the Season Two episode called (2.09) "What Kate Did".
This episode followed up on the disastrous first meeting between the remaining Tail Section survivors and the Fuselage survivors in episodes (2.06) "Abandoned" and (2.08) "Collision". Ana-Lucia Cortez and her fellow Tailies finally made it to the Fuselage camp, but with tragedy in their wake. Ana-Lucia had accidentally shot and killed Shannon Rutherford, after mistaking the younger woman for the Others, following the disappearance of stewardess Cindy Chandler. James "Sawyer" Ford; who had been badly wounded by one of the Others in the Season One finale, (1.24) "Exodus, Part II", while trying to prevent ten year-old Walt Lloyd from being kidnapped; finally received decent medical attention from leader Dr. Jack Shephard. There was a good deal of marital reconciliations that occurred. Rose Nadler finally reconciled with her husband, Tail Section survivor Bernard Nadler, in the previous episode. And the series' favorite South Korean couple, Jin and Sun Kwon, celebrated their reconciliation after four days with . . . well, with sex.
Everything seemed to be going well with everyone . . . except for fugitive and Fuselage survivor Kate Austen. While gathering fruit from a tree, she spots a black horse in the jungle. Later, while feeding the semi-conscious Sawyer with the fruit, he grabs her by the neck and demands to know why she killed him. The black horse and Sawyer's attack leads Kate to speculate on whether the former had been possessed by the spirit of her dead stepfather, Wayne Janssen. Three years earlier, Kate had discovered that her stepfather was actually her real father. Due to Wayne's physical abuse of her mother Diane and alcoholism, Kate harbors hatred of him. But the realization that he is her biological father leads her to murder him via an explosion of the Janssen house and commit insurance fraud in order to provide for her mother. Although U.S. Marshal Edward Mars manages to capture her before she could purchase a bus ticket to Tallahassee, Kate eventually escapes and spends the next three years as a fugitive from justice. The episode's subplot revolved around the DHARMA film reel discovered by John Locke in a previous episode. While showing the film clip to Michael Dawson and Mr. Eko inside the DHARMA hatch (aka the Swan Station), the latter reveals a small reel of film he had found several days ago inside the empty DHARMA Arrow Station.
Most "LOST" fans tend to regard any episode Kate-centric episode with wary eyes. If I must be honest, most of the episodes featuring Kate Austen as a main character tend to range from mediocre to piss poor. However, there are at least two or possibly three that have struck me as above-average. And "What Kate Did" happens to be one of them. Mind you, it had a few flaws. The episode never really hinted what led Kate to start thinking of her father in the first place. Was the island responsible for Sawyer being possessed by the spirit of Wayne Janssen? Did a badly wounded Sawyer, who reminded Kate of her father, brought back the memories of Wayne's murder? Inquiring minds . . . well, my inquiring mind would like to know. And why was U.S. Federal Marshal Edward Mars the one to arrest Kate at the bus station? Would she have to successfully flee across a state line before being hunted by a U.S. Marshal? Judging from the comments in many reviews for the episode, I noticed that many fans and critics were intrigued by the subplot featuring the DHARMA 16mm film. I was not. I was not intrigued when I first saw "What Kate Did". And five years later, I still remain bored. I was bored by Locke's drama queen antics in revealing the film to Michael and Mr. Eko in the first place. I was bored by Eko's little biblical story about King Judah. Looking back, I realize this subplot was basically another addition to the mystery about the Swan Station, which was revealed in late Season Five. But I do not care, because I found this subplot's presentation rather dull. Only one aspect of this subplot struck me as interesting - namely Michael's tinkering with the hatch's computer, and the possibility that he may have contacted his kidnapped son at the end of the episode.
Surprisingly, it was the main plot regarding Kate's backstory about the murder of her father that proved to be the episode's backbone. Many fans had assumed that Kate had been forced to commit a crime on behalf of a loved one or framed for a major crime. As it turned out, Kate committed murder with malice aforethought and a good deal of personal insecurity. I believe she best revealed her reason for killing her father in the following infamous soliloquy:
"Can you hear me? Sawyer? -- Wayne? [Sawyer stirs.] I'm probably crazy and this doesn't matter, but maybe you're in there somehow. But you asked me a question. You asked me why I -- why I did it. It wasn't because you drove my father away, or the way you looked at me, or because you beat her. It's because I hated that you were a part of me -- that I would never be good. That I would never have anything good. And every time that I look at Sawyer -- every time I feel something for him -- I see you, Wayne. It makes me sick.".
The sad thing is that many fans - especially female fans - refused to accept Kate's confession as the truth. Many began to speculate that "dear" Daddy Wayne not only physically abuse his wife, Kate's mother, but also sexually molested Kate when she was a child. Kate's soliloquy and the rest of the series never verified this. But many preferred to believe this theory than accept the fact that Kate had never been molested by her father. When the molestation theory failed to pan out, many decided that Kate had killed her father in order to protect Diane from further abuse. This theory became very popular after the Season Three episode, (3.15) "Left Behind" aired. Kate used this excuse to lie to her mother, but Diane exposed her in the end. Nowadays, it is popular to deride Kate Austen as a badly written character. In a way, I agree . . . but for reasons that had nothing to do with Kate's act of murder. Many had used the reason behind Kate's murder of her father as a reason why she was badly written. Apparently, an act of cold-blooded murder by a television series' leading female character is a no-no with fans. Sexism, even when exposed in the form of feminist sensibilities, reared its ugly head.
I have to give kudos to screenwriters Steven Maeda and Craig Wright for not exposing Kate's motive for murdering her father. They revealed the actual murder at the beginning of the episode and spent the remainder slowly unveiling not only Kate's family history, but also her motive. I found this narrative structure very clever. I was also impressed by how Maeda and Wright utilized another subplot about the aftereffects of Shannon's death into the main story. It seemed that Kate's murder of her father failed to wipe out her own personal insecurities. One particular scene in "What Kate Did" makes it apparently clear that Kate had yet to overcome those insecurities. When Jack confronted her for leaving behind the seriously injured and unconscious Sawyer on the hatch's floor, Kate responded in a vehement manner:
"Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I am not as perfect as you! I'm sorry that I'm not as good!"
Fans are aware that Jack had suffered from his own insecurities due to some advice handed to him by his father. But listening to those words come out of Kate's mouth made wonder if part of her problems with Jack stemmed from this belief that he was some kind of figure of perfection. And if Sawyer reminded her of Wayne, why would she become emotionally attached to him, as well? Is it because she suspected that deep down, she shared a good number of character traits with her despised father? I have always felt so. Perhaps it was easier for Kate to bond with someone who strongly reminded her of Wayne, and through familial extension, herself. Who knows?
If there is one thing I cannot deny, "What Kate Did" featured some first-rate acting. Despite my annoyance at the subplot featuring the DHARMA film, it was easy for me to see that Terry O'Quinn, Harold Perrineau and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje gave fine performances. Naveen Andrews continued his superb portrayal of a grief stricken Sayid Jarrah. The episode featured solid, yet minonr performances from cast members like Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, Emilie de Ravin, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Watros, L. Scott Caldwell, Sam Anderson and especially Dominic Monaghan. I certainly cannot complain about the performances from the episode's guest stars. Beth Broderick, Lindsey Ginter and James Horan gave first-rate performances as Kate's mother, step-father and father respectively. I was especially impressed with each actor/actress' individual scenes with Evangeline Lilly. Fredric Lane continued his colorful performance as Kate's nemesis, U.S. Marshal Edward Mars. However, there were moments I found his performance a little too theatrical.
The two best performances in the episode came from Matthew Fox and especially, Evangeline Lilly. Fox, was excellent, as always. I was especially impressed how he conveyed both Jack's love for Kate and his frustration with her occasionally flaky behavior. Also, he and Lilly had a great kissing scene. I find this surprising, considering that when Season Two first aired, I never considered them as a really potential on-screen couple. However, Lilly proved to be the real surprise in this episode. I believe this is the first time she really proved her potential to be an excellent actress. She managed to convey the various emotions that Kate felt throughout the episode without resorting to mechanical acting tricks she utilized during the series' first season.
I had a few complaints about "What Kate Did". As I had earlier pointed out, one of them was the dull subplot featuring the DHARMA training film clip. My real disappointment with the episode happened off-screen and in the future. I feel that producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse did a piss poor and half-ass job in effectively developing and drawing the plot regarding Kate's crime to a close. Despite these disappointment, I cannot deny that "What Kate Did" was a well-written episode that did an excellent job in exploring Kate's personal demons and the crime that led to her becoming a fugitive, thanks to Steven Maeda and Craig Wright's screenplay. Their work was helped not only by solid direction from Paul Edwards, but also excellent performances from a cast led by Evangeline Lilly and Matthew Fox.