I find myself caring again about the whole romantic triangle between Kate-Jack-Sawyer. I know that most people have been sick of this since...well, pretty much since it started. And I know it's gotten old at times, especially with Kate seeming to yo-yo back and forth in her heart's affections, not able to make up her mind. My husband and I are in agreement that LOST has not done nearly as well by its female characters as it has by its male, with the possible exception of Juliet's character arc, which impressed us. It looks like Juliet's role is mostly over, though I certainly wouldn't rule out seeing her again in the next five hours, at least in sideways world. (Does anyone else think it's still possible she could be Jack's ex? The writers have certainly been holding that secret close to their chests, and there aren't too many female characters left that it could be...and have the reveal make any sort of a dramatic splash.)
I also feel, like most people I suspect, that Sawyer and Juliet are right for each other. Deep down, they seem to be soul-mates in a show suddenly run amok with the idea of soul-mates. I don't know if sideways Sawyer and Kate, currently flirting at the police station, will have any cause to wind up at the hospital where so many of our castaways are currently congregating, but what if they do? And what if Juliet is Jack's ex and ends up there as well, maybe to pick up their son David, who is currently hanging out in the waiting room while his doctor Dad performs surgery on sideways John Locke? I'm just trying to imagine a scenario in which Sawyer and Juliet could run into either other. If she is his soul-mate/constant, then I'm guessing that Sawyer is in for a revelatory epiphany, the likes of which some of our other castaways have had when they've run into their other halves in sideways world. Note that, although sideways Sawyer and Kate clearly find one another attractive, they don't seem to be having major revelations yet -- though that could be because neither of them has suffered a major trauma (or kissed the other).
So that's one reason I'm intrigued by the whole Kate-Jack-Sawyer triangle again, because of what "true love" connections have come to mean in sideways world. And meanwhile, back in Island reality, the triangle has again become interesting, not so much because of its romantic overtones, but because at the moment Jack and Sawyer are pursuing such entirely different paths. Despite her inherent leadership qualities (and she's got em' in spades) Kate is still quite young, and still tends to follow the lead of others (or chase after them to tag along). So I think her ultimate heart allegiance may matter in the end, especially if it comes to her needing to decide whether to go with Sawyer or Jack. Will she fight or flee? Will she play a part in rescuing Jack from the clutches of Smokey? And will Sawyer and Jack, perhaps because of their mutual love for Kate, finally end up working together to accomplish...well, whatever it is they're supposed to accomplish, assuming they can agree on what that is?
Of course, some of my musings about Kate have been sparked by the fact that I've been listening to Patsy Cline a lot this week. I love her music and recently stumbled onto a nice tribute album done by several popular female vocalists. As I've been warbling my way through songs like "Why Can't He Be You" I find myself remembering that Patsy was the soundtrack for Kate's pre-island life. And I find myself wondering, if Kate was singing this song, would Jack be the he or the you?
Do Claire and Sayid still live?
Yes, I know they're still alive, in both realities, at the moment. But at least in island world, neither has been doing so well since coming under the throes of Smokey. Claire has clearly been mentally unstable for the better part of three years (small wonder, since she's been traipsing around the island in Smokey's wake that whole time, at least part of the time with him apparently masquerading as her long-lost father); Sayid has been acting like a zombie for most of season 6, and has seemingly been completely under Smokey's control that whole time, at least since his dip in the pool (if we can trust Sayid's crediting Smokey for that). Seriously folks, if we need any other evidence that Smokey is not a good guy, should Claire and Sayid leave us in any doubt? This is what happens to you when you become Smokey's friend, or when you owe him any sort of debt.
But last week, something happened with both Claire and Sayid that gave me at least momentary hope. Both of them showed signs of life. Small signs, yes, but signs that there are at least tiny flickers of the old Claire and Sayid left there somewhere, buried under all the darkness. Claire crumbled enough to listen to Kate and defy Smokey's will. Sayid, though we don't know for sure, seemed to defy Smokey's direct orders to kill Desmond. I don't know what this might mean for either character ultimately, but I was relieved to see even tiny morsels of possible redemption for either. I've missed the real Sayid this season particularly. I think Claire is as much a victim of bad writing as she is of Smokey, and I suspect the first may be harder to overcome, but we shall see.
Doc Jensen's eleven-page recap last week had me reeling, as usual. I don't agree with all of his theories at this point, and I'm not sure even he knows which ones might turn out to be correct, but he's always fascinating. I especially love his literary insights into the show, and last week he tapped a great one when he talked about the resonance of Flannery O'Connor's work for this final season.
I was stunned when sideways Desmond, the only character who seems to be fully and consciously aware of both timelines/realities at the moment, mowed down wheelchair-bound John Locke in sideways world. Poor John. How many times have we mourned this man and the terrible things that have happened to him? Wherever your speculations might lead you as to why lovable Desmond, of all people, would do such a thing, it seems obvious that a big part of the reason was to try to bring Locke back to awareness of the island. Why it had to be such a major trauma, I don't know, unless Des knows more than we realize he knows. (Could he have posited that it might land Locke in the hospital, to be operated on by Jack? Did he want Ben to see it happen? Does he somehow think/hope/know that at least some of the sideways castaways can't be killed...maybe the ones who are already dead in island world? Remember Charlie's casual walk against the traffic a couple of weeks back...)
Anyway, Jensen didn't spend much time positing why Desmond did such a thing, at least from the point of view of "inside" the story. But from the point of view of why the writers might have made this move, he raised this fascinating insight from Flannery O'Connor's writing about her fiction, a point that strangely resonates with what Desmond seems to be trying to do in sideways reality:
"I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world." (Mystery and Manners, p. 112)
Wow. Now that's worth chewing on. It's also worth noting that, when you apply this quote to the artistry and story of LOST (no big stretch, is it? it really does seem to fit!) Desmond here seems to stand in for "the writer." He is essentially trying to alter people's stories, much as a writer alters a character's story by what she chooses to have that character go through. It dawns on me that Des has the knowledge of a sort of omniscient narrator right now. And he is acting as -- an ambassador? a wake-up call? -- to the people of sideways world with whom he has shared some life-altering experiences. He wants them to "return to reality" even if there is "considerable cost" involved. So part of the question for us, in LOST, becomes: what is reality for these castaways? And how much do we trust Desmond and what he's willing to do to return them to it?
The whole notion of non-gratuitous violence being utilized as a call to grace is a very O'Connor'ish theme. I keep her book Mystery and Manners on my writing desk at all times, so it was easy to look up the quote Jensen used. I was fascinated to see that it came within the larger context of her discussion of her much-read and oft-misunderstood short story "The Misfit." If you ever had to read one O'Connor story in Lit. 101, that was probably it, and more than likely it left you baffled, as it leaves most of us the first few times through. What she goes on to say about the story is very revealing, and also has some resonance (I think/hope) for LOST. I'm going to quote parts of it at length, from pgs. 112-114 (emphases mine)...
"I don't want to equate the Misfit
This story has been called grotesque, but I prefer to call it literal. A good story is literal in the same sense that a child's drawing is literal. When a child draws, he doesn't intend to distort but to set down exactly what he sees, and as his gaze is direct, he sees the lines that create motion. Now the lines of motion that interest the writer are usually invisible. They are lines of spiritual motion. And in this story you should be on the lookout for such things as the action of grace in the Grandmother's soul, and not for the dead bodies.
We hear many complaints about the prevalence of violence in modern fiction, and it is always assumed that this violence is a bad thing and meant to be an end in itself. With the serious writer, violence is never an end to itself. It is the extreme situation that best reveals what we are essentially, and I believe these are times when writers are more interested in what we are essentially than in the tenor of our daily lives. Violence is a force which can be used for good or evil, and among other things taken by it is the kingdom of heaven. But regardless of what can be taken by it, the man in the violent situation reveals those qualities least dispensable in his personality, those qualities which are all he will have to take into eternity with him; and since the characters in this story are all on the verge of eternity, it is appropriate to think of what they take with them..." (Mystery and Manners, pp. 112-114)
I know that it's easier to see this in the literary work of one "serious" and Christian author than it is in a weekly television show written by multiple writers, some of whom may or may not be Christian. But I still think the overall quality of story-telling in LOST hints at this kind of artistry, and I'm thankful to Jensen for making the connection. It's given me a whole new way to approach these last five hours of the story, on the lookout, as it were, for mustard-seed gestures, invisible lines of spiritual motion, the action of grace (no matter what the body count), and the revelation of essential and indispensable qualities in characters faced with violent situations who just may be on the verge of eternity. Not a bad way to watch television.