Analysis: 6.5 Lighthouse

To be honest I’d noticed this last week but didn’t really think it was going to bear out. And then this episode turned out to be Jack-centric and confirmed the pattern that has, initially at least, been paralleled. Season 6 is following the same template as Season 1. Both seasons started with a two-part opener featuring various characters, and then we’ve had Kate-centric episodes (S1: Tabula Rasa / S6: What Kate Does), then Locke-centric ones (S1: Walkabout / S6: The Substitute) and now a Jack-centric offering (S1: White Rabbit / S6: Lighthouse).

White Rabbit was referenced a lot, too. The whole drive of that Season 1 episode was for Jack, by chasing his dead father through the jungle, to stop pursuing this phantom and instead draw on his own qualities. As such he became self-appointed leader of the survivors with that “live together, die alone” speech. Here with the Lighthouse Jack was once again to be convinced he has what it takes to step up to the challenge he is destined for. Cue: pensive staring at the sea.

This episode even revisited the “rape caves”, showed us the empty coffin Jack once trashed and even, for those not picking up the references, had Jack pick up an actual white rabbit! The clear relation between Season 1 and Season 6, White Rabbit and Lighthouse, couldn’t be more apparent. Next week, with the episode Sundown, we can very much expect to see a Sun-centric episode. I’m not sure how they’ll stick to the pattern beyond that though, because the next episode that would follow is a Charlie-centric one!

But I’m getting way ahead of myself. There’s this Lighthouse in front of us that needs the door’s kicking down so we can get inside and see what’s what. Fundamentally the lighthouse served a similar function for Jack as the cave did for Sawyer in the previous episode: it pulled back the curtain to reveal a masterplan they were part of. Interestingly both men reached the same reaction (a sense of being cheated that their sense of free will was apparently superfluous). Yet whereas Nameless is utilising this emotion to recruit Sawyer, Jacob seems confident that Jack will eventually come around to realising it’s the better way.

As things stand, Jacob’s way is actually the harder sell. Nameless, with all his seductive talk of freedom and free will, no doubt has an easier time getting people to follow him. (Though I still recall the hard look in his eyes when he told Ben all he wanted was to go home, and Claire’s murderous qualities are no doubt formed through his manipulations, so I am still, mostly, reckoning he is a force of ‘evil’ though it’s hopefully not as strictly black and white as, well, black and white stones on a scale may indicate.)

The Alternate Timeline flashbacks are a hugely debatable aspect in this whole idea. We were shown Jack has not only wrestled with his ‘daddy issues’ to a far more mature level than he has managed on the Island, he’s a father himself and, by the end, actually making as good a job of it as he can.

Crucially, Lighthouse proffered another Alternate Timeline flashback that showed a character, if not so much finding outright happiness, at least finding contentment or a sense of moral rectitude. Again I wonder if the Alternate Timeline is a version of the world where Jacob had no hand in the lives of our main characters and what we are seeing is how things would have been without his interference.

Fact is, on the evidence so far, the Alternate Timeline is fairly damning of Jacob’s meddling and enforces Nameless’ opinion that he has done no good bringing people to the Island. But this brings me to an interesting question: Who are these Alternate Flashbacks for?

The regular flashbacks served two functions, basically. They gave us information about characters that helped us understand who they were on the Island (and, in the case of flashforwards, what became of them when they left) – to that end they were for us. But they were also fundamentally part of the characters. When Sawyer was chasing a boar through the jungle because of a whispered voice we learned it was because of the murder of Frank Duckett that he had done previously, plaguing his thoughts – to that end they were integral to the characters and events on the Island.

The Alternate Flashbacks aren’t cut from the same cloth. The events on the Island and the events in the Alt-Flashbacks are separate. At best they offer juxtaposition and irony (Jack’s remarks to Hurley about how he wouldn’t make a good father, for example) but in terms of integral meaning there’s a complete discrepancy. So I ask again: Who are these Alternate Flashbacks for? Because the immediate reaction is to consider them a pure narrative device designed entirely for us, the viewing audience.

I’ve got a couple of problems with this. For one it means that these Alternate Flashbacks are almost dispensable. To understand events on the Island we don’t need to see Alt-Flashbacks (and vice versa). And secondly, they undercut each other’s value. If everyone dies horribly on the Island then there’s always this entirely separate, out of nowhere version of events where everyone ends up happy. That, to me, feels like a cheat. If it’s to be the way of things that Jacob’s intervention means a miserable end for all concerned then so be it – don’t try and cushion the blow with this conjured-up happy ever after.

Fortunately there’s still very much the prospect that these timelines are linked and will ultimately come to be meaningful to each other, and as in the first episodes it seems Jack is that throughline. Just like he had a small nick on his neck on Oceanic 815, here we saw him puzzling over an appendectomy scar he had no recollection of. His mother’s assurance that it was an event that occurred when he was nine still didn’t really register and that seems very improbable; if you’d had surgery at nine-years-old and bore the scar for the rest of your life you wouldn’t need reminding about it. You’d just know.

What seems to be really the case is that the scar is a remnant of Jack’s time on the Island – at the end of Season 4 when Juliet performed surgery on him.

Trace recollections and physical reminders of the Island persist into the Alternate Timeline. Dogen’s appearance at the piano recital, like Ethan’s appearance in What Kate Does, draws together the feeling of fate rather than coincidence. These people find each other because of their shared Island heritage they can scarcely recall. I can’t help but be reminded of Desmond in Flashes Before Your Eyes – travelling mentally back in time to his life with Penny and all the numerous Island references that eventually awoke his memory and, with a whack from a cricket bat, sent him right back to the jungle.

I will linger on this to make just one more point that is a potential justification of the Alternate Timeline and the reason why they appear to have such positive, happy results. Perhaps the shape of the show’s conclusion, and the result of whatever happens on the Island, will fulfil whatever masterplan Jacob has and these Alternate Flashbacks are the finished resolution. In effect, we’re seeing the ends already – on the Island we’re just watching what our characters did to reach them.

I’m not crash hot on that last idea but it’s sitting in my mind so I figured I’d give it an airing. Getting back to the topic of scars, Claire showed us her own branding mark she had apparently received at the hands of Dogen and the Temple Others.

I thought it was interesting that Claire’s scar hasn’t healed. Is this a physical presentation that Jacob’s healing powers no longer apply to her, since she was claimed by Nameless? I believe so. I think we can better understand what happened to Sayid now. It was the talk of ‘sickness’ that was misleading. Better was the explanation that he had been “claimed”. I now think of it like ‘stained’ – that Nameless managed to put his mark on Sayid, like an invisible blanket.

Claire, being claimed, doesn’t seem in full control of her mind. I don’t think she’s doing the bidding of Nameless, rather she’s more amenable to coercion and has had her mind twisted by deceit (fuelled by the missing Aaron) and provoked into vengeance by years in the wilderness. Claire isn’t the astrological Earth mother – she’s an axe-wielding lunatic. She claims to be in contact with two people – her father and her friend. It would be interesting to know if Christian ever appears again to her. At the moment I believe that Christian’s appearance was Nameless in disguise. But if Nameless really is now locked in Locke’s form then an appearance by Christian would completely dispel that notion.

It seems easiest to believe Nameless has taken various forms – Christian, Yemi, Alex, Locke – to manipulate people into doing his bidding. That we last saw Claire in Jacob’s cabin with Christian, where Nameless had apparently taken up residence given Ilana’s findings and burning of the place after seeing the circle of ash was broken, only further validates that idea. Claire got taken away, ‘claimed’, and had her mind warped beyond rational thinking. The only hope for her, and Sayid, is that somehow putting a stop to Nameless permanently will release the hold he has on them, otherwise I don’t fancy Claire will ever be fit for motherhood again!

Claire reveals her friend, Nameless, as Locke, at the end of the episode.

Curiously she corrected Jin when he identified Locke, stating it wasn’t him. Explanation? Either Nameless doesn’t look like Locke to Claire (perhaps he looks like the guy we saw talking to Jacob, the man in black, at the start of The Incident), or Claire’s ‘claimed’ mind understands enough about Nameless to know that, though he may look like Locke, he isn’t Locke yet he is not someone to be feared. I go with the latter. He managed to turn Sawyer around in a day (or, at least, so it appears, though I still want Sawyer to be running a long con about this!) so over the course of a few years there’s no telling how twisted Claire’s beliefs have been screwed.

Jin, of course, is now in a pretty tight spot.

Nameless doesn’t know if he is or isn’t a candidate, which would therefore suggest that he’s going to try and recruit him just to be on the safe side. However, as Jacob has warned, next stop would appear to be The Temple. Claire will be all set for killing (cannot wait to see what happens when she and Kate catch up!), and Nameless will no doubt be exploiting her to get access. Jin is sure to be dragged along and I expect he’s going to be Miles’ best chance of getting out of there alive, and Miles might just be his – carrying him out of there on his injured leg. That is unless Nameless manages to recruit Jin first. . .

All the rest of the candidates have managed to move themselves out of this apparent firing line. Jacob got both Hurley and Jack out of there (loving Hurley’s Obi-Wan reference) with his usual blend of benign cryptic benevolence. Question: what the hell was he fishing for in the Temple pool?

Ah, probably he was just trying to return his healing powers to the water but you know what, never mind; there’s bigger fish (ha!) to fry. Such as:

The lighthouse that no one has seen before now because they weren’t looking for it (I don’t read anything profoundly ‘magic box’ like about this – I think it was the writers using Hurley to make a joke, similar to his musings about going back to “dinosaur times” to wind up becoming Adam and/or Eve). At the top of the tower, a wheel of names attached to a mirror; a mirror that reflects back the world of the person connected to the bearing; the mechanism Jacob used to watch over his candidates from the Island and guide them in.

We briefly saw Kwon and Sawyer’s home world, as well as the house that Jack grew up in – that prompted him to get smash-happy. It’s all as farfetched as it is reasonable. This is Lost. There’s an Island with a lighthouse on it with a mirror on the top that a guy used to view people he wanted to bring there. OK. Fine. If you say so. There were two interesting pieces of information, though.

First, Kate Austen was present as one of the names on the wheel: Number 51. Aside from being ‘15’ backwards it would take some tenuous maths to force her into being one of the key ‘candidate’ 4 8 15 16 23 42 numbers. I suspect the whole list of names and numbers indicates everyone Jacob has brought to the Island (them being crossed off indicating when they’ve either died or served their purpose) so it does, at least, indicate Kate serves some purpose.

Jacob also instructed Hurley to move the dial to ‘108’, a number occupied by a crossed-out name ‘Wallace’, to ensure someone came to the Island.

There’s speculation that this person due to arrive on the Island could be Desmond – he’s the one key character suspiciously out of the frame at present. Quite how Desmond Hume fits to the name Wallace is beyond me. I’m torn between wondering whether anyone is actually coming to the Island at all, or whether Jacob simply picked the number ‘108’ to ensure the wheel got turned and Jack would look in the mirror and catch glimpses of his old house.

My heart says, Let Desmond be due to arrive. My head says, There’s no reason for such hope.

But let’s have some faith. Jack, staring out to sea, is slowly finding his way to becoming the same kind of man of faith that Locke once was when he first arrived on the Island. Nameless may have claimed John Locke, but there’s another man slowly realising that there was nothing accidental about his arrival on the Island. That there is a fate and a destiny and, most importantly of all, he’s got what it takes.

Analysis: 6.4 The Substitute

It’s OK. All is well with the world. Lost as we know it has been restored to full working order. There are those of us that spent all of Season 5 consumed with a sense that something was missing, something integral to the Lost universe had been mislaid. Mercifully, Season 6 rectified this state of affairs. With The Substitute we finally had an appearance of uber-douche Randy Nations.

Randy has featured in almost every single season of Lost and he was a glaring omission from Season 5. This has now been put right. All is well with the world. And, amazingly enough, Randy’s appearance in The Substitute didn’t even turn out to be the most interesting thing about the episode! Imagine that! Oh no, instead, this top notch Locke-centric instalment proffered up some mighty morsels for us to feast our brains upon.

It’s worth tackling the Alternate Timeline story first, not because the intricacies and crop of character appearances were particularly illuminating but because of the potential larger idea that may be developing. Although it is worth pointing out that this Hurley. . .

. . . knew this Rose, as she was his employee. . .

. . . and both of them were on the same flight from Sydney to L.A.! Whether they realised this or not, it’s curious enough to mention. How many times have you been on a long haul flight someplace and bumped into someone you work with making the same journey!?

But that’s by the by. The bigger idea is what the state of things are with the Alternate Timeline. Locke, for example, appeared to have a vastly different life than the history we already know. He was in a wheelchair, yes. And he went to Australia and failed to make a Walkabout journey. Fair enough. But in this timeline he is getting married to Helen. And, more startlingly, he appears to be in good relations with his father, Anthony Cooper.

Now Cooper isn’t expressly mentioned by name so let’s not go riding right out on any assumptions – but I personally think the intended point was explicit: in this timeline Cooper was not the guy that robbed Locke of a kidney or shoved him out of a high storey window. Does this, then, mean Cooper was also not ‘the real Sawyer’? Was he not the guy that would trigger a chain of events that would lead Sawyer to a lifetime pursuit of revenge?

Only if this is so, then who is Sawyer in the Alternate Timeline? The finer details aren’t important, but what I am driving at here is this fundamental point: If Anthony Cooper didn’t swindle James Ford’s parents then James, as a boy, would never have attended their funeral and so begun a letter of vengeance that Jacob would offer up a pen for.

We were made very aware of these visitations Jacob made in the Island Timeline, affording us a direct counterpoint of comparison. The brazen idea is that Jacob never ‘touched’ the lives of our main characters in the Alternate Timeline, and this may be a very important point. Hang on to it for the moment.

In the same vein, we were also introduced to this rather fey version of Ben in the Alternate Timeline.

As well as comically inducing memories of that time Ben wore an apron and minced around the kitchen cooking for Juliet, and posing questions about this timeline Ben’s sexuality, we have to question if this Ben was ever on the Island at all.

Consider that in 1977, at the time of Jughead and ‘the incident’, Ben had been stolen away into The Temple to be revived. We have rationalised that, in the Alternate Timeline, 'the incident' occurred and the likes of the Dharma people evacuated the Island before it sank under the ocean. Hence Ethan Goodspeed. . .

. . . surely transported off the Island as a baby and raised by Horace and Amy Goodspeed? Right now, for simplicity, that’s my interpretation. When the sunken Island was shown we saw it had Dharma Barracks there, so we know that even in the Alternate Timeline it was an Island that had existed much as we knew it had up to 1977. I just leave a small caveat about Ben. Maybe he was taken off the Island after being revived in The Temple, or maybe he really was never there at all. As though ‘the incident’, as well as creating an Alternate Timeline future also sent ripples of distortion into history that changed the past – like a kind of retro course correction.

Like, yeah, Dharma did find the Island and set up Barracks there. But Horace and Amy weren’t part of it. They were course corrected to find each other in the regular world and there they had a son together, and they called him Ethan, and he grew up to be a surgeon and none of them ever knew the Island at all.

As such, does this ‘retro course correction’, or Alternate Timeline history, therefore extend to periods before 1977 for other characters? Such as Jacob coming to see Sawyer? Is the Alternate Timeline actually presenting us with how the world would have been for our main characters had Jacob not intervened?

Nameless seduced Sawyer with promises of answers and basically proposed the idea that Sawyer’s entire life’s course had been because of Jacob’s intervention. The insinuation was that Sawyer’s life was worse because of Jacob’s actions. Potentially the Alternate Timeline will serve to suggest, amongst other things, that it either isn’t or that, really, it wasn’t that much different at all.

Locke may have seemed happier in this version of 2004, perhaps. But he was still in a wheelchair – his spine still got broken somehow. And who’s to say that in Alternate Timeline 2007 Locke won’t still be just as dead as he is in the Island Timeline?

I mean, we’re definitely all now sure that Locke’s dead, right? Right? Because me, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t just a little flicker of Locke ticking away inside the body that Nameless has approximated. We know Nameless took Locke’s memories, his thoughts up to the very last one – so what’s to say that Locke’s personality and spirit hasn’t also somehow survived the transition and are simply struggling to surface? Claire once had a dream where Locke featured – his form sporting a black eye and a white eye. It would be a neat symbolisation of the ‘white’ of Locke co-existing within the ‘black’ of Nameless, would it not?

I believe we were very much shown that Nameless, as Locke, is perhaps at his most vulnerable. He’s taken a risk to get what he wants, to get “home”. The moment he ran through the jungle and fell was a fine example. Compare and contrast with the swift and speedy rush through the jungle and Barracks in the form of the Black Smoke with the clumsy human form. There’s no doubt Nameless is formidably dangerous, but he may not be invulnerable – and Ilana’s remark about how he is now permanent in Locke’s form was incredibly important and frustratingly vague. How does she even know?

And if Nameless genuinely is stuck in Locke’s body then, seriously, what the hell does that mean for Sayid?

I guess we can safely assume that whatever Sayid is, he isn’t another counterpart of Nameless/Black Smoke. I don’t know what he is (my first instinct was that he is pretty much Sayid as we knew him brought back but with a little bit of Jacob inside him – I’m not discounting it yet) the same way I don’t know why Nameless could go from being able to shift into, say, Alex to being a permanent resident in the form of John Locke. The only significant event between ‘the Alex appearance’ and Nameless being ‘locked in Locke’ was the death of Jacob, and it’s certainly the only crucial knowledge Ilana has been made aware of to form her judgement. So I don’t know why but that’s the reason for it. Now Jacob is dead Nameless is stuck in the form he took when it happened.

Just go with it, I guess. We’ve got a whole lot of other complications to occupy our sense of sensibility. Like this kid:

Nameless saw him, and it freaked him out. Alpert couldn’t see him. But like the time Kate saw a Black Horse in the jungle, Sawyer could see the child as well. Perhaps it's the fact Kate and Sawyer have both been touched by Jacob, as has Locke. (There’s that idea, again, that suggests Locke’s still ‘in there’, somewhere – “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”). If the child is a Young Jacob (my first instinct) there’s a sensible enough logic to be arrived at. That’s a big if, though. The child remarked, “You know the rules. You can’t kill him.”

We naturally reach the assumption the ‘him’ meant Jacob. But if this child was a Young Jacob (reasonably close approximation in terms of physical looks, I should add). . .

. . . then it’s an odd turn of phrase to talk about himself like that. So whilst it seems like a nice fit I have to figure it’s not the case. There’s a popular idea that the boy is a more grown-up Aaron. Maybe he is. I can’t rationally dispute it for precisely the same reason I can’t rationally support it. That he had blood on his arms seemed important, mind. Blood on the hands symbolises guilt. Blood on the hands and arms? Maybe symbolises a lot of guilt.

Nameless, as Locke, spoke of how he had once been a regular man. He said, “I know what it’s like to feel joy. . . to experience betrayal. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love.”

Maybe the boy was Nameless’ son, the someone he loved that he lost. Or the boy is some higher power, responsible for Nameless being trapped and direct cause of his knowledge of betrayal. But mostly I think that Nameless is a top class liar and there’s no reason not to believe that when he says he’s experienced betrayal it’s because he was the betrayer. Maybe the boy so shocked him and made him lose his cool, made him so quickly want to forget, because it was a death he was responsible for – like the time Mr. Eko was visited by the ghoulish apparitions of the gangsters he slaughtered. One thing seems certain: this boy is an aspect of Nameless’ past coming back to keep him on the ‘right’ path. Is that not what all the weird apparitions have functioned as, more or less?

But let’s steer towards a conclusion with the idea that Nameless isn’t being as honest and upfront with Sawyer as he seems. Richard Alpert, despite having the same promise of answers dangled before him, wasn’t so easily swayed. Whilst I like the idea that Nameless is being portrayed with more than jet-black villainous qualities, he’s still the guy that used Ben’s dead daughter to make him murder Jacob whilst pretending to be Locke – he is, until I know better, the black to Jacob’s white.

The tossing away of the white stone, heavily signifying the balance of power had shifted in favour of black, pretty much stated where Nameless considers himself, in-joke or not. The big hope is that Sawyer, that confidence trickster, hasn’t been as hooked in by all of what he has heard but is just playing along until he spies an advantage. Surely he wouldn’t have taken Alpert’s warning that everyone he cared about would be killed in complete disregard? Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

And so we come to the numbers. Ever the conundrum, more enlightenment leads to further perplexion. Here we saw that our core values – 4 8 15 16 23 42 – had been carved into the rock and attributed to key characters.

4 – Locke; 8 – Reyes; 15 – Ford; 16 – Jarrah; 23-Shephard; 42 – Kwon

Daniel Faraday’s chatter of people being variables primed us for this moment: to accept key characters as being values in the equation that, purportedly, calculates the end of mankind. Potentially, Dharma and Valenzetti all just somehow tapped into this cosmic set of numbers but, being unable to comprehend an unscientific entity such as Jacob, reached conclusions about the equation’s results that don’t align entirely with what Jacob himself was calculating.

But enough with the heady mathematical theory, how about the white elephant in the room? How about the complete non-appearance of Kate Austen amongst the numbers? I got three ideas – two simple, one a massive theory that I’ll end on. So the two simple ideas are that Kate was not present as one of the regular numbers because she is more important – her role is bigger than the other variables. (I’m not really keen on this, to be honest.)

The second idea is the opposite of her being important, it’s her being entirely unimportant. When Jacob touched her on the nose as a little girl, marking her out as a candidate, he told her that she should stay out of trouble. Murder, robbery and a fugitive life later, it’s fair to say she didn’t maintain that side of the bargain.

As such, maybe Jacob struck her off the list of candidates. Maybe he then went to Hurley (he who wasn’t even supposed to make the Oceanic 815 flight, if you remember, maybe he’s the substitute!), and marked him out as a candidate rather than Kate – perhaps her kidnap of Aaron was the final straw? (I do like a lot about this theory except for the fact that it rather callously throws Kate on the scrapheap. She’s worth more than that treatment, surely?)

However, the last alternative is also a rather cute one that paves a theory to one of Lost’s long-standing mysteries. Consider ‘Kwon’. Nameless remarked that he didn’t know if it referred to Jin or Sun. However, it was pointedly shown that Jacob touched both of them.

Kwon, therefore, could stand for the pair of them. Jin and Sun. They, together, are the variable number 42. And so what if – and just run with me here – Kate was also looped into the candidate list in a similar way? Like, you know, if she happened to marry a certain spinal surgeon, she would then become a ‘Shephard’. (He already proposed and she already said yes – they just didn’t seal the deal!)

It seems crazy, but I can imagine a little Island beach wedding ceremony taking place. Jack and Kate, Lost’s leading couple, getting together in perfect circumstances. And furthermore, maybe they would then become the permanent candidates for the Island’s protection. A couple united on the Island, calibrating a perfect balance between black and white. And hey, wasn’t there a certain other male and female couple on the Island with a black stone and white stone on them? Our Adam and Eve, skeleton cave couple? Maybe their bodies were laid to rest there, permanently, whilst their eternal spirits presided over the Island. Maybe they really are Jack and Kate after all. Mr and Mrs. Shephard: variable number 23.

Analysis: 6.3 What Kate Does

Traditionally, Kate-centric episodes aren’t usually ones to fill a Lost fan’s heart with excitement. This is due in part because Kate’s episodes invariably come early in the season, when events maintain less impetus and mysteries are being set-up rather than revealed. But it’s also inherently to do with Kate’s character being mostly defined by other characters. Take the love triangle, for example. It’s less about whom Kate will end up with and more about which of Jack or Sawyer will get her. And in this Kate-centric episode, who do we most think about once the credits roll? Claire, Sayid, Jack and Sawyer – in roughly that order of importance. Poor Kate.

Riffing on the Season 2 episode What Kate Did, the use of the present tense of What Kate Does is indicative of what Season 6 is all about. There are no flashbacks now. We’re not concerned with what happened. We have two timelines running parallel and we’re interested in what’s happening. (Indeed, if Sayid’s question at the end of the previous episode was “What happened?” then surely the response to the end of What Kate Does is a near-exasperated, “What’s happening?”)

Let’s pick up the alternate timeline first, to start us off relatively simply. Here was Kate escaping the airport in the taxi, with Claire (who, yes, was pregnant). Like Jack in the last episode, we were given the sense that remnants of the Island Timeline permeate into this Alternate Timeline and characters’ unconscious. Kate taking a momentary glance at Jack in the car mirror. . .

. . . to Claire’s almost ludicrous willingness to remain with Kate, there’s more recognition and familiarity than they quite know how to rationalise. If the person that had kidnapped me at gunpoint came back I wouldn’t hang around to chat. And I sure as hell wouldn’t get back in the car with them! Yet perhaps some distant recollection from another timeline flickered in Claire, telling her Kate could be trustworthy, that she was even the right person to have by her side when she went into labour – and so Claire got in the car with Kate.

That name, Aaron, was a significant ‘out of nowhere’ titling. Claire surprised herself by announcing the intended name, and even Kate had a look of startled recognition when she heard it. Again, further hints that this Alternate Timeline holds some memory of the Island Timeline. Maybe they depend on one another. That there’s reconciliation between the two being paralleled whereupon we will find our resolution – this point I’ll pick up again towards the end.

There was some stuff here for the longtime Lost fans to sink their mental teeth into. Consider Richard Malkin, for example, who way back in Season 1 told Claire that he had lined up a couple for her in L.A. that would look after her baby.

Now since Claire was onboard the non-crashing Oceanic 815 and was there to meet up with a couple to take her baby, it would seem that the events we saw previously – of her meeting up with Malkin – happened the same way. If so, this perhaps clears up the matter of whether or not Malkin was really psychic.

At the end of Raised By Another Charlie reached the conclusion that Malkin really was a psychic and had simply made up the story of the couple in LA to get Claire on the flight – Oceanic 815 – knowing it would crash and she would have to raise the child herself. Yet, confusingly, Malkin did himself say he was a fraud to Mr. Eko in Season 2.

And now, in What Kate Does, we find there really was another couple waiting in LA (albeit in this Alternate Timeline which affords wriggle room for doubt) and the notion that Malkin had some psychic vision for Claire looks dubious. In short, for those fans left wondering whether Malkin was psychic or not, I am falling down on the conclusion that he wasn’t. See? Who said we wouldn’t get answers this season!?

And hey, how about this guy showing up?

No longer Ethan Rom as he was once ridiculously anagrammed to, here he was Ethan Goodspeed. A quick re-jigging of Alternate Timeline history then suggests that baby Ethan born on the Island in 1977. . .

. . . was shipped off the place before it plunged beneath the depths (validation that the Jughead explosion didn’t immediately sink the Island), probably with mother Amy and maybe with Horace, and raised as a ‘Goodspeed’ where he became a doctor. Retrospect made his remarks about not wanting to stick Claire with needles somewhat sinister, considering how he treated Claire during the Island Timeline, but I don’t believe we’re supposed to read anything untoward into it. Just one of those irony-things.

Before we leave the Alternate Timeline, one more piece of arcane Lost trivia. Kate used the name ‘Joan Hart’ to pass herself off as at the hospital. She’s used this name before, at a motel in the episode Born To Run, where she was, at the start of the episode, sporting blonde hair that from the right angle would have seen her mistaken as Claire!

Other blasts from the past came on the Island in the shape of obscure minor Other Aldo, who was all pissy because Kate once busted him in the face with the butt of her gun when she was making a break off the Hydra Island during Season 3, Not In Portland.

I don’t particularly want to dwell on the excursion Jin and Kate made with these Others. Their petty bickering and insistence on keeping things secret got on my nerves. Further from last week, the Temple Others are doing little to enthuse me. I mean, let’s not forget, the likes of Jack and Kate and Sawyer and Hurley have been hand delivered by Jacob to be amongst them at The Temple – you’d think this would afford them some measure of respect! Sayid certainly didn’t receive any such respect, but then no one’s really sure about what he’s all about since he came back from the dead.

The torture test of Sayid (the torturer being tortured, another one of those irony things) was a confounding element. Dogen (Japanese leader) remarked to Lennon (bespectacled translator) that Sayid had failed this test. I can’t really figure out how Sayid could have passed the test of being electrocuted and then branded with a hot poker, but my best guess is derived from estimating what little we know about Ben and his time at The Temple.

Back in Season 5, Young Ben was shot and delivered to The Temple. Like Sayid, it was a certainty that he would die but there was a cost associated with being revived in that his memories would not be the same. What other changes may have been induced we don’t know.

So for Ben we can assume that he was taken to The Temple, to the pool there (which would have surely been full of sparkling, clear water rather than the murky liquid Sayid was immersed in), and ‘drowned’ to have been brought back to full vigour. The crucial element here, it seems, is that the water was murky and whatever was supposed to happen – whatever happened to Ben – did not happen to Sayid. Maybe it was as simple as Sayid retaining his memories that gave him away as being infected, but that’s as close, or far, as my guesswork can take me to an answer.

Unless, of course, you prefer the idea that Sayid isn’t infected at all and the whole torturing business, and the green pill, was just a ruse to get Jack involved.

The logic would run like this: Temple Others convince Jack that they have deduced Sayid has a problem that only this mysterious pill can solve. Jack has to be the one that gives Sayid the pill, to make him “want to want” to take it, a bit like how Ben wanted Jack to “want to want” to do the spinal surgery on him. It’s a theme we’ve seen before but it’s like the water in the pool: very murky. The crucial element here is that Jack, as he told Dogen, feels responsible for Sayid getting shot. Dogen even tweaks Jack’s guilt by asking about people that had died during his time on the Island.

And if this was the case, Jack giving Sayid the pill was Jack’s task of making reparations. Or, as has been said elsewhere, “cleaning up his own mess”. I suspect if the intended goal was to make Sayid take the pill to kill him, it would only really work if Sayid did so willingly and if Jack was the one to do it.

Consider it a ‘loophole’. Sayid as he is now can’t be murdered by just anyone, but he can willingly kill himself (even if he doesn’t fully realise he’s doing so) because Jack was the one to give him the means since he was the reason Sayid was the way he was. Hence the poison pill he had to “want to want” to take.

It should also be noted that Dogen might still be wrong about Sayid. Jacob’s spirit might still be fighting its way through Sayid’s system rather than this dark infection. Dogen and the Temple Others don’t know about Locke and how his body is being used – they only know Jacob is dead. Jack nearly swallowing the pill might have quietly been one of the most heroic things he’ll ever do. . .

On an interesting note, I did think Sayid’s gratitude towards Jack for saving his life rang a little hollow. It makes sense. Ever since he shot Ben, Sayid has been in the wilderness, a damned soul, and prepared to face the penalty of whatever the afterlife brings. His atonement whilst he lives is to do whatever those he trusts will ask. Ben utilised this exact same character trait of Sayid’s to do his assassinating bidding during Season 4.

So now we get to the real meat of the episode. Let me tell you, I thought I was ahead of the curve on this. I had a thrilling moment of relief that this rather limp and frustrating episode was presenting some quality revelation. When Dogen was talking to Jack about this infection, this darkness, that slowly takes over a body, I was thinking. . .

. . . Christian Shephard’s initial appearances in the jungle and his guidance for Jack that, perhaps via this infection, eventually consumed him and turned him more into. . .

. . . the Christian Shephard rocking in Jacob’s chair and leading Locke to his doom – the more bad Christian Shephard. It all made sense, all felt like it was coming together. So when Dogen remarked that Jack should have known all about it, I was totally primed for him to say Christian’s name. Totally. Absolutely. You pause the show right there and I would have guaranteed that was where the conversation was heading.

And then Dogen goes and says the same thing happened to Jack’s sister and all of what I thought I knew went out of the proverbial window.

Right then. What’s to be made of this? Without the troublesome idea of an ‘infection’, we could see Claire here, in a clear similarity with Rousseau, and draw immediate parallels. Both women lost their children as babies, and then both were left in the jungle to fend for themselves. That both then resorted to booby traps and appearances so similar suggests either coincidence, or eventuality: that is, if you were left in the jungle to fend for yourself you’d set booby traps, too.

Yet there’s the matter of this infection that Dogen has brought into the matter. This blackness that attacks dead (do they have to be dead?) bodies and takes them over (I guess we’re really talking about Black Smoke/Nameless here). We’re lead to believe this has happened to Claire. Well, that idea throws into the mix that old theory from Season 4: the theory that Claire died.

The theory was fairly straightforward. During the attack on the Barracks by Keamy and his men, there was a house explosion that Claire was caught up in. Sawyer dug her out and carried her away.

The theory thus runs that Claire died during this explosion and the ‘Claire’ that Sawyer pulled free was a counterpart version – like Christian Shephard or Yemi. I didn’t like the theory back then, and I don’t really like it now – but if it were so then it might explain why Claire abandoned Aaron; she had been infected. The good Claire was gone and explains why she happily wandered off with Christian; these different elements of the Black Smoke all uniting together at Jacob’s shack.

It’s persuasive all right, I admit. But I still don’t like it. For one thing, why has Claire – a dead person – apparently been setting booby traps and surviving alone in the jungle? We don’t see Christian Shephard hunting boar to keep himself going. Furthermore, why make Claire so strikingly comparable with Rousseau? Is this some suggestion that Rousseau herself was infected in this manner? Only the way it transpired was that her team went down into the Temple walls and came out infected, resulting in Rousseau realising Robert was not the same person and so shot him.

I am not buying that Rousseau was somehow infected all the time she spent on the Island. That doesn’t ring true with me one little bit. And so, similarly, I am not buying that Claire as we saw her at the end of What Kate Does is a re-animated version of dead Claire that has been taken over by the Black Smoke or some form thereof. Maybe the Black Smoke did somehow get a hold of her, and maybe it did convince her to leave Aaron behind – but I believe her bond with Aaron and her determination to one day be re-united with him brought her back and kept her going, the same as it did with Aaron. I’m quicker to believe Claire is channelling the spirit of Danielle than the idea this is her dead body counterpart running amok.

I am further convinced that Claire is alive, and salvageable, because of Kate. Despite the apparent marginalisation of her character, this was still an episode about what Kate does, and what she has to do. Her sole reason for being back on the Island is to get Claire and Aaron together. To say Claire is dead is to say Kate’s reason for being back is gone and I’m not ready to accept that.

An interpretation of the Alternate Timeline is that it will show, with a sense of fateful inevitability, the same resolutions that our main characters on the Island will discover. Even a new timeline can’t change what is meant to be. If this is so then we have witnessed Kate already there to guide Claire towards being Aaron’s mother. In effect, ensuring they are together.

What Kate did in the Alternate Timeline may very well be what Kate does on the Island. Claire can be saved and Kate can bring her back to Aaron. If this holds, and maybe pans out for the other characters in a similar parallel manner, we may see a convergence where the Alternate Timeline and the Island Timeline mirror one another. Consider the Alternate Timeline as an almost ideal version of what should have happened – if that can be made to occur on the Island maybe all these events and failings, that Jacob marked down as just ‘progress’, will culminate in a final reconciliation.