kate2 'Lost': Circling the squareWell, yesterday’s entry certainly inspired a spirited response from all corners of “Lost” fandom. Having absorbed them all, I promptly changed my address, donned a clever disguise, and returned to the keyboard to continue Kate Austen Week here on the blog. I thought I’d inspired ire when I dissed “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham,” last spring, but that was a series of sensuous kisses compared with the ire hurled in my general cyber vicinity this time around.

My advice to those that blew a fuse reading yesterday’s article? Don’t read today’s. I can’t imagine you’ll like it. And that’s totally fine, but at last count, there are at least seven other websites out here in the World Wide Web for you to peruse. At LEAST. I’m not here looking to annoy you intentionally. I promise. Might seem like I’m offending you on purpose, but trust me, I’m not. Got nothing but love and respect for your opinions on Kate, but I’m not sure either of us win if you read something that prompts you to unleash a torrent of insults my way. It’s a waste of your time, and it makes me cry. (OK, not really. Sexist men don’t cry. Duh!)

So we’re going to look at the love quadrangle of Kate/Jack/Juliet/Sawyer today. Why? Because the show just…won’t…let…it…go. I’m not a romance hatah. I promise. I don’t look at a love story in “Lost” as something that gets in the way of mythology. I don’t want to push away a genuine connection between two people on a romantic level in order to get some more face time with the four-toed statue. My problem is this: there are three couples on “Lost” that absolutely, positively shame the love quadrangle (Des/Penny, Sun/Jin, Rose/Bernard), and a few that outshine it in my books (Charlie/Claire, Hurley/Libby, Frogurt/arrows).

In the interest of disclosure, here’s how I’d rank the various teased pairings of The Square, in terms of best to worst:

  1. Juliet/Sawyer
  2. Kate/Sawyer
  3. Kate/Jack
  4. Juliet/Jack

Never ever bought Juliet/Jack (or as I cleverly combine it, “Jack”…oh, wait…) for a millisecond. I loved them as kindred spirits seeking the same thing, but that thing was freedom, not a fling. Watching them kiss was almost physically painful for me. The middle two worked as often as it failed, often for no other reason that the show seemingly can’t stand to have anyone happy for more than an hour. And then we get to Sawyer and Juliet, which to me was telegraphed from the end of Season 3 but still masterfully deployed in “LaFleur.”

Course, by the end of “The Incident,” we learned that the writers never considered what I believed to be a mature, understanding relationship to be anything but a sham and a placeholder until the real-deal Holyfield herself, Kate, came back on the scene. I think you can make a strong argument that Sawyer and Juliet’s time together was borrowed, a product of time travel that placed them in a situation with an inherent and inextricable time limit. Therefore, they didn’t really “deserve” this relationship in that it was a product of the ultimate case of “wrong time, wrong place.” And that’s all well and good, because that is not where I get my knickers in a twist about the way things went down in “The Incident.”

In “The Incident,” the show forces Juliet Burke to admit that her time with Sawyer was worthless. Just by the way Sawyer looked at Kate and called her “Freckles,” she’s ready to dismiss the previous three years of what seemed to me like a match between equals. Flawed equals? Perhaps. Delusional equals? About their fantastical surroundings, sure. But to have a character with Juliet’s strength essentially wilt in the face of freckled competition cheapened nearly every character associated with this storyline. “What we had, it was just for a little while, and just because we love each other, it doesn’t mean that we’re meant to be together,” she told Sawyer, in a line that made me throw more than a Hot Pocket at the nearest wall. Ugh.

And here’s the rub: none of this is Kate’s fault. None. Call it “Lana Lang Syndrome,” wherein the writers of a show get an unnatural infatuation with a character that blinds them to the harm said character is doing to the show. For years, Lana Lang single-handedly made “Smallville” borderline unwatchable, as week after week the writers reminded us that Clark Kent and Lex Luthor merely orbit around the freakin’ sun of suck that is Lana. (“Dollhouse” suffers a similar, if less crippling, effect due to Whedon’s inability to see that Eliza Dushku is the lead of the show and yet the least interesting thing on it.)

When commenters used Darlton’s praise of Kate Austen as proof I should shut my yapper and get on The Kate Express, I didn’t doubt that the writers believed the positive things they said about her character. All I’m saying is that they might be looking through slightly rose-tinted glasses. The character they describe is not the character I see. This isn’t unique to Kate, either on “Lost” or in any form of popular media. Musicians love songs that other people hate all the time. Garth Brooks thought “Chris Gaines” was a good idea, people. Kate isn’t Chris Gaines, but she’s not the center of the “Lost” universe that the show made her in “The Incident,” either.

Remember, Kate’s goal in coming back was NOT to end up breaking apart a nominally happy couple and then cause a man to detonate a hydrogen bomb in her honor. That plan reeks of Shannon, but not Kate. Kate came back for an incredibly noble and singular purpose: to rescue Claire. The fact that she actually took NO STEPS AT ALL TO DO SO UPON RETURNING isn’t a reason to hate the character, either. She can’t do more than is written upon the page. Clearly it’s a Season 6 plot point, held off in order to get through the Dharma storyline first, but to get through that storyline the writers had to apparently blow up the freakin’ Island.

Remember: she only agrees to go along with Jack’s plan because she sees it as the best way to reunite Claire with Aaron. That’s the selling point that convinces her. It’s not to get another shot with Sawyer or Jack. I’d love to think that Jughead not only hurtles those in 1977 back to the present day, but also hurtle these three past what is now, ostensibly, a love triangle. But I’m willing to bet that The Man in Black will use Sawyer’s grief against him, perhaps turning into a Palpatine-type figure convincing Sawyer’s Anakin to work with him for the chance of cheating death and getting Juliet back.

Here’s my hope for the love triangle/quadrangle/rhombus/etc. for Season 6: that it serve the story, not dominate it. These relationships need to inform the actions these characters take, not stop them dead in their tracks. While “Lost” shouldn’t sacrifice character for story, it also shouldn’t waste time in an already too-short Season 6 with another go round of “Who will she choose?” After all, Kate’s already chosen.

She’s chosen to reunite Claire with Aaron. And tomorrow, we’ll look at that decision in depth.

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Posted by:Ryan McGee