Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lostaholics Anonymous: Kate

Hello and welcome to another week of Lostaholics Anonymous. This week we're going to talk about a character who has split audiences down the middle: Kate Austen.

Kate was the first character who got her own full flashback, season 1's third episode, Tabula Rasa. As a little girl, Kate hung around with her childhood sweetheart, Tommy. The two of them tried to steal a NKOTB lunchbox from a local convenience store, but were caught. Crisis was averted when Jacob purchased the box for her, and she and Tommy took it back to his house, where they filled it with their favourite childhood objects, including Tommy's toy airplane. They included a cassette tape of the two of them talking and imagining what they'll be like when they've grown up -- will they get married?

Kate's mother Diane was married to Sam, Kate's military father, but they broke up and Diane married Wayne, a louse who beat her. The show implied that he may have molested Kate in some way, or at least made inappropriate moves on her. When Kate discovered that Wayne was actually her father, she killed him, disgusted that he could actually be in her. She became a fugitive, and was chased to Australia, caught, and ended up in a plane to LA that never got there.

But what interests fans the most isn't what happened to Kate before the crash -- it's what happened after. Namely... Sawyer or Jack? Now, shipping is something I tend to beg people not to do here. You start a shipper war, it takes down the whole blog. So, for this one meeting, I'm going to let you battle it out. Just please... keep it nice. Don't be inflexible; listen to the other side and be polite.

So... in this corner, we have Kate and Sawyer. He's the bad boy who excites her, who she sleeps with and truly does care about, but who makes her feel guilty about what she's done. He reminds her of another bad boy, the one she killed, and just like she didn't want Wayne to be a part of her, she doesn't want to admit that she's actually attracted to a man who's killed someone before. But Sawyer loves her, and even though he plays games with her in the beginning, she's the one person who makes him stop lying to himself and everyone else.

In this corner, we have Kate and Jack. He's the doctor, the good guy that her parents would be proud of, but he also makes her feel guilty. Throughout season 1, on the one hand he tells her that whatever she did isn't his business, but then he wears a key around his neck that would open a briefcase that she wants, hinting that he has the power over her to open it or keep it closed. He does love her, and off the island they fall in love and become a couple. She excites him and makes him feel like a better person, but Kate also keeps secrets, and Jack can't stand secrets. Ultimately, on the show, Kate chose Jack while Sawyer chose Juliet. Do you agree with her decision? Do you care?

For me, the most important thing about Kate was her relationship to Aaron. In season 5 it was like we were introduced to a new Kate. Where she could never make up her mind between Sawyer and Jack, her love for Aaron was unwavering. She came alive with him, and laughed and loved unconditionally and was loved unconditionally in return. Jack and Sawyer always seemed to want something from her, but Aaron just wanted her to be his mommy.

And therein lay her dilemma, because she knew she couldn't be his mommy. So she left him and returned to the island, finding Claire and bringing her back. Along the way she reignited Sawyer's feelings for her momentarily, before the death of Juliet reminded Sawyer that he actually loved Juliet more. But that wasn't Kate's fault; she wasn't there for Sawyer, and she wasn't there for Jack. She was there for Aaron.

Kate has always been someone who has been used, makes decisions, and then has the people she love turn on her for those decisions. No one ever seems to agree with her, she tries to make decisions that will help others, but so often those decisions backfire and she ends up hurting people by accident. Kate has a lot of guilt and pain in her, but she soldiers on.

In the second half of the series, there was a LOT of Kate Hate. People loathed her, either because they didn't want to see her with either man, or they didn't think she contributed much to the show, or they were simply annoyed by her. But I always liked Kate. I liked that she didn't listen. I liked that she did things her way. I liked her tomboyishness and her independence. I liked her vulnerability. I liked that she put others before herself all the time.

For me, when Kate walked up to Jack after the concert in the finale and says, "I missed you so much," my heart breaks every time. We can imagine that Kate left that island and probably pined for Jack for the rest of her life, and to see him again must have filled her with so much joy. And yet it's Aaron who is the spark that causes her to remember... her connection to him is so strong. Who can watch the scene where she says, "Bye bye baby" without crying? I can't.

I loved Kate, and I miss her as much as any character. But what did you think about her?

And my Finding Lost: Season 6 book is finally available for order on Amazon; copies of this gigantic book started shipping last Sunday. I heard that it's taking entire trucks to bring one copy to people's houses!* Get your copy here!

*This might not actually be 100% true.


Marebabe said...

I always found Kate to be a fascinating character. From the very first, she carried her weight and contributed to the group. She was fit and agile, would climb anything, and trek anywhere. She was not a whiner, not prissy or afraid of getting dirty, and she was TOUGH. She kept going even when she got shot. She was shrewd and observant, as when she figured out that Sawyer had written the “Dear Mr. Sawyer” letter. She was a skilled tracker and a good golfer. She was good in a fight, whether with guns or hand-to-hand. She was brave, when she stitched up Jack in the Pilot, when she mastered her fear by counting to 5, and when she was faced with the childbirth emergency of having to deliver Aaron. She also showed the grit-your-teeth kind of bravery when Jack had to stitch up her gunshot wound without numbing it first. Yowch!

She had good instincts and natural skill in nursing, when she got a delirious Sawyer to swallow a pill using the “whisper in his ear” method. We saw over and over that she was caring, with Aaron and Claire, with Young Ben when he got shot, and with Ray, the Australian farmer with “a hell of a mortgage” when she pulled him out of the wrecked truck. And that’s only a few examples. She had a lot of love to give, even if she frustrated the audience by going back and forth between Jack and Sawyer. Remember when she was married to Kevin the cop? She really loved him, but couldn’t stay with him because of her past.

She was witty and had a sense of humor. She liked to laugh and have fun, definitely NOT a navel-gazing no-fun mopey type! She was deeply flawed, like every character in LOST. Like every human on the planet! And besides all this, she was pretty and cute and had freckles!

I never hated a character on the show (well, except for Radzinsky and Phil!), and I never got into shipping. I always figured the story was gonna go wherever it was gonna go, and I was content to wait and see. I did become aware of the passionate arguments for each camp, and I could see merit in some of the arguments. When it became clear that it was Jack & Kate Forever, and James & Juliet Forever, I could almost hear the outraged howls of protest from indignant shippers. I knew it would be a long time (and maybe never) before some fans could get over feeling wronged and indignant. That’s really too bad, because there was always so much more to the story than who would end up with whom.

DavidB226Morris said...

Ah Kate. I have never understood why so many people have msliigned this woman. Evangeline Lilly was the real breakout star of this show, and she never got the credit for it she deserved, mainly because so many people were up in arms over who she slept with.

Now I never get involved with'ships during the run of a show. I never cared whether Buffy ended up with Angel, or if Gil Grissom hooked up with Sara.. okay that's alie. I try not to form attachments because often my heart gets broken. For six years I was invested in Sun and Jin, and then Darlton stepped on my heart in the last couple of episodes. I rooted for Charlie and Claire, and we all know that ended badly as well.

Kate ending up with Sawyer or Jack--- Nikki has the right idea when she says that the right one was both of them and neither of them. I think that the shows conclusion may have been the right one--- sort of. Aaron was the person she cared for the most, and Aaron is the one she came in badly as well.

Kate's story, sad to say, was the case of so many strong female characters in great TV shows--- no matter how strong and independent they are, we ultimately define them by the ppeople they hook up with. And Kate was so much more than that. She was smart, a skilled tracker, she was the one people trusted, and she lived her life with no apologies. Her ultimate flaw was she cared too much, and it ended up costing her--- her freedom, her relationship with her mother, probably her best chance at happiness. You have to hand it to J.J. Abrams --- he is brilliant at introducing strong, resilient, independent female leads.

Lost may have done some things wrong (now TV Guide's starting to show buyer's remorse about the series) but the character of Kate Austen was one of the many things the show did right. We need more actress like Lilly out there, and whatever project she does next, I'll probably be on board

Susan said...

I liked Kate from the first. She was so caring and friendly, and she could be tough without being the stereotypical feminist television woman. I honestly thought for a season and a half that she may have been wrongly accused of whatever she was on the run from. Her personality didn't fit the crime of murder, or so I thought. She was often ruled by her emotions (toy airplane) but she definitely wasn't the only one. Some things that annoyed me were the way she treated both Jack and Sawyer. She used them and played them off each other. She also felt like she had to be included in everything, even when that later led to trouble (The Hunting Party). But she didn't really start to get on my nerves until her boneheaded behavior Roger after Ben went missing, then her singlemindedness in season 6 where she never bothered to consider whether her quest for Claire could be dangerous.

Shipping: I really didn't care either way, I just thought it went on WAAYYY too long. I knew that D&C were going to drag it out as long as possible. Even when it was obvious that Sawyer only cared about Juliet from s.5 on, they still had to have those moments of doubt. Hurley & Libby, Claire & Charlie, Sayid & Nadia, and of course Des & Penny...those relationships were done so well. The triangle just ended up being like any other tv romance -- who will she pick -- and kept going long after most people stopped caring.

AEC said...

I agree with the other comments thus far on Kate. She was an amazingly strong woman, and I loved the way Evangaline Lilly played that role.

As far as shipping goes, I have to admit I was always on the Kate-Sawyer boat. Up until the finale...

The Juliette/Sawyer relationship always kind of bugged me. I know a lot of time passed on the island when they were together which we didn't see, but for me to really get behind that relationship I needed to see it develop and grow.

However, the finale really changed things for me. Watching Sawyer and Juliette have their moment of reconnection made me tear up- despite the fact that I'd never liked them as a couple. All of a sudden I believed it. When I saw the scenes with Kate and Jack before going into the church and when they were in the church it was clear to me they were meant to be together.

So, while I always wanted Kate to end up with Sawyer (maybe that's because *I* want to end up with Sawyer?!) I was thrilled with the way the relationships ended up in the finale.

Rick Rische said...

Great post! I always loved Kate (mostly because I loved E. Lilly in the role, showcasing once again how "Lost" was one of the best-cast shows in TV history) and your thoughts echo mine for the most part. Sadly, as much as I liked her, the writers seemed stumped when it came to giving her character more complexity. The biggest complaint I hear from other fans regarding Kate-centrics is how repetitious her flashbacks are, and I have to agree, unfortunately. It's surprising considering how many female writers the show has had, that they couldn't seem to get more in depth with Kate than "She runs". They did a much much better job when it came to Juliet, who is the best written female part on the show, IMO.

Your post was great (especially the part about Aaron being a critical turning for her) but I have to pick a bone about this-

"Throughout season 1, on the one hand he tells her that whatever she did isn't his business, but then he wears a key around his neck that would open a briefcase that she wants, hinting that he has the power over her to open it or keep it closed."

You made this same observation in your post about Jack, but I don't think it holds up. At the end of "Whatever the Case May Be", the first thing Jack does when he opens the case is give her the envelope- "Here. Is this what you wanted?" His wearing the key around his neck isn't a symbol of power over her, since the case has no significance for her after that. Whatever the key "symbolizes", it has nothing to do with Kate.

The Question Mark said...

I've never cared about love triangles in any way shape or form (except for The Great Betty-Archie-Veronica debate, which to this day still keeps me up pondering late into the night).
As for Kate Austen, I see her as a very interesting character. For one thing, I immediately click with her because I'm an independent Gemini too! Although I'm nowhere near as cute as her & I don't have freckles.
What Nikki said is true: Kate did her own thing, made her own chocies, & kept her own secrets. For that, she was often ostracized and berated by the men she cared about. In this way, Kate actually reminds me a lot of Peter Parker.

Peter Parker, despite being a stalwart hero, is still portrayed as a human, & he often makes mistakes. Ditto Kate. He has a lot of love to give, but can't seem to juggle it properly between the 2 women he loves whilst maintaining his heroic persona. Peter & Spider-Man are the ultimate picture of duality: one can't exist without the other. And Kate, as I've just mentioned, is a Gemini.
So Kate always seemed to me like that struggling hero who wants to be a normal gal and fall in love with a handsome boy, but at the same time she can't stop being that running renegade who keeps a toy plane in her pocket and robs banks to get what she wants. Introduce motherhood in Season 4, and you've got a whole NEW ball game.
This makes Kate a really cool character, and it's unfortunate that her popularity with some fans hinged on who she was going to shack up with when all was said and done.

But if I absolutely HAVE to pick an eligible suitor for Ms. Austen...let's go with Hurley. They'd be cute together, sitting in his Hummer listening to DriveShaft, Hurley in his I Love Shih-Tzus t-shirt, Kate in her Cowboy Up baseball cap, with a couple of kids in the back. Carmen Reyes would say: "There goes my Ugo and Katerina! She is so good for heem!"

Efthymia said...

I think that Kate's character was the victim of the decision to not have Jack's character killed off in the pilot and Kate becoming the lead.
I started being OK with Kate, went on to kind of disliking her and ended up hating her by season 3. First of all, she didn't seem all that strong and independant to me. Instead of telling Jack "You're not the boss of me and I can go wherever I want to" or defending her opinion, she just did whatever she wanted in secret, thus causing trouble for others as well as herself, and she never seemed to learn from that mistake but kept repeating it.
On the Jack/Sawyer subject, I can understand that she had developped feelings for both (I really REALLY can) and I never judged her for her feelings, but I found her behaviour towards them truly unkind; she wanted to have both of them and she acted so, disregarding (at least that's how it looked to me) their feelings and their unwillingness (is that a word?) to share her. I did want her to end up with Jack at first, but by the time it happened in season 4 I had lost all interest and they didn't seem to have the same chemistry as before.
I was certain that she was innocent of whatever they were accusing her because she acted that way, but when they revealed what she had done, I got very annoyed with her because not only was she guilty of a very serious crime (murder in cold blood) and rightfully wanted and chased by the law, but because what she did, she didn't do for her suffering mother, but for herself. After years of Wayne abusing her mother, she decided to off him because she loathed that she was biologically related to him.
And I think this is why I didn't like Kate after all: she was selfish. And I could be OK with selfish (various other characters were so as well) if she hadn't also become plot-pointless since pretty early on.

Gillian Whitfield said...

Kate was a character that had a lot of layers. I've always enjoyed her character. From the beginning, she was the go-to girl should something be wrong, (and who can forget the first scene between her and Hurley, where he's terrified of her?)

And then, there's the triangle . . . quadrangle . . . thing. Up until season 5, I didn't care who she ended up with. Then Sawyer and Juliet became a thing, and Kate came back.

In season 6, before the flash-sideways was revealed to be the post-death pre-whatever -comes- next timeline, I thought that she would end up with Jack on the island, and Sawyer in the flash-sideways. Then came the finale, and Kate made her choice. I have to admit, that when she FINALLY told someone that she loved them, I wasn't surprised. I wasn't a shipper, but I had a feeling that she would end up with Jack.

And then there's Aaron. The one person that made Kate a completely different person. A person who actually had a stable life. Even though it was short, I don't think she loved anyone as much as she loved Aaron.

All in all I liked Kate as a person. There were a few moments where I disagreed with her, but she was a cool character.

Lisa(until further notice) said...

Kate was on the A-Team from the beginning because she was strong, caring and helpful. The A-Team needed her. But she was manipulative in her own way, and every time I started to really get on board with her character, she would do something that would really annoy me. The whole suitcase thing drove me crazy. That was the beginning of Jack really turning away from her (because she lied to both him and Sawyer repeatedly to get to that toy airplane). It was childish and unnecessary behavior. From this point on Jack always questioned whether or not Kate was really "with him". Another time I was unhappy with her behavior was when she tried to secure a spot on the raft by working with Sun to get Jin off the raft, which backfired, along with defacing Joanna's driver's license so that if she got off the island she could have a new identity. Jack loved her, truly, but every time she did one of these things, he felt betrayed by her and his attitude changed. This drove her to Sawyer, which made Jack even more obnoxious.

I think that she was meant to be with Jack from the beginning, but she didn't feel worthy or ready for him. She had always wanted Jack but he made that idea difficult to believe in because of all of his own faults, failings and insecurities. Jack was too intense and he was going to be WAY too much work. So every time she betrayed his trust, she got a little closer to Sawyer. Sawyer accepted her for who she was and that was much easier than trying to fit into Jack's mold of who he wanted her to be. I'm not saying she didn't care for Sawyer, but I think she was in it for the short term. She knew that the two of them together in the end was only going to be trouble and it really wouldn't have worked. That whole "possibly pregnant" experience and seeing how Sawyer reacted to it sealed it for them.
(to be continued)

Lisa(until further notice) said...

(continued from above)

She had told Jack when they were on Penny's boat: "I've always been with you." But we all know that Jack was usually too stubborn and obsessive to really see it. What happened to Kate and Jack off island was very telling. Kate became singularly devoted to Aaron. She wanted Jack to be on board with that. But he was still the same old Jack and he couldn't be Aaron's "daddy" and he couldn't fix his own problems. He later became obsessed with getting back to the island, even though he was the one that had been so obsessed about getting everyone OFF the island, and when Kate appeared to betray him, it just helped fan the fuel of Jack's downward spiral into drugs, alcohol and visions of his father.

Once she made the decision to return to the island and left Aaron in the hotel room, she turned to Jack and they had "sexual relations". But I think at the time it was just a way of numbing the pain of leaving Aaron.

Upon their return to the island, it was for their own reasons. These two didn't mesh, and they worked independently of eachother. Jack was forced into being a follower and not a leader. He eventually started to let things ride and see where that took him. Kate became the one obsessed with getting answers and finding Claire. Jack seemed to be protective of Kate finding out about Sawyer and Juliet. I don't think he wanted her feelings to be hurt. Kate seemed a bit stunned by the twist things had taken, and I'm not sure she believed in their relationship any more than some of the audience members. I for one completely bought it. It made sense, and I think Juliet was so good for James. He really grew and felt important when he was with her. He, in turn, proved that he believed in her goodness and her intelligence, but most of all, he made her feel loved.

Kate just continued to do her own thing, come hell or high water, and damn who it affected (helping young Ben, getting too personal with Roger, constantly running off into the jungle, etc.) By the time the actual Incident happened, you could see it in their eyes. Kate had told Jack it wasn't all misery. But she loved Jack enough to go along with Daniel's theory. In that moment before Jack dropped the bomb, they appeared to be devestated that they may not know eachother if the it actually worked. Just as Sawyer and Juliet were.

From the beginning of season 6, Kate's first instincts were to go to Jack instead of Sawyer. I think she saw a change in him back on the island, and it brought her back to him, even though I don't think she had ever stopped caring. Jack found his "special purpose" and Kate had hers (helping Claire get back to Aaron). They just kept working toward their independent goals. When those two purposes led to their final parting on the cliff it was so moving and completely believeable. They had always loved eachother, but their faults and failings had gotten in the way of them fully realizing and acting on it. Now, only at the end, could they admit it. This then, of course led to the sidways world. When Kate realized who Jack was, and told him "No, that's not how you know me," it was equally moving, if not more so. That was powerful television, and fabulous work by Matthew Fox and Evangeline Lilly. I loved and believed every minute of it.

Marebabe said...

Dear Question Mark,

I LOVED reading your fanfic about Ugo and Katerina. I think it’s the best I’ve ever seen!

Sincerely, ~Marebabe

Anonymous said...

Can't be with Hurley, because he remained on the island to spend the rest of his life with Ben (maybe the new island was not just about sharing chocolate - holla!).

Kate + Aaron 4Evah!!!

Austin Gorton said...

I'm one of those Kate Haters, but I'll freely admit it's through no fault of her own.

I didn't really mind Kate until she came to be defined as the principal point in the principal love triangle. Then, whenever any one talked about Kate, it was in the context of whether she wanted/loved/belonged with Jack or Sawyer.

Just like Jack's "man of science" schtick irritated me because it got in the way of finding out more about this cool mystical island, Kate bugged me because, through no fault of her own, she became all about a love triangle I couldn't care less about.

Even by season five, when we'd seen Jack and Kate come together and grow apart off island and Sawyer and Juliet come together on the island and Kate become, more than anything else, a mother, all certain fans could still talk about was the 'ships.

The other problem I had with Kate was that, until the writers came up with the brilliant idea of making her Aaron's surrogate mother, she spent four seasons with two defining characteristics: the tough tomboy who could take care of herself and stand shoulder to shoulder with the boys (which I liked; heck, Ellen Riply is one of my favorite characters, ever, and Kate is, at times, cast very much in the Ripley mold) and she runs, emotionally and physically (a trait that drove me nuts because it took four seasons before she played another note in this song beyond "I run").

It also didn't help that, for whatever reason, Kate seemed to get some of the weakest episodes in any given season, so that by the second half of the show runs, the response to "another Kate episode" was "groan" and the hope that maybe this time something interesting would happen. Again, not Kate's fault; her episodes tended to come right after premieres or other significant episodes, and it just seemed like the writers saved the really cool, important stuff for Jack, Locke, Ben episodes, but it certainly didn't make me excited for a Kate episode.

Quarks said...

Kate is one of the few characters on Lost that I don't have a real opinion on. I never really cared about whether she got with Jack or Sawyer, and I wasn't especially shocked or interested in anything she did. In my opinion Kate isn't as unique as many of the other characters, and the only thing that makes her an interesting character is her past (and arguably her future with Aaron).
I find that Kate is the character who has changed the least over the whole series. OK, she's no longer running away from everything, and she's now a mother, but overall, her personality hasn't changed much. She's still the tough, stubborn girl who couldn't make up her mind between Jack and Sawyer (at least, not until it was too late).
One thing I do like about Kate, however, is that she always did what she thought was right, regardless of what the consequences may be. She killed her "step"-father to stop him hurting her mother, she went back after Jack when he stayed with the others, she took Aaron off the Island to look after him, and then returned to find his mother. Even after Claire tried to kill her, Kate still wanted to bring her back, because she felt it was the right thing to do. Eventually, Kate managed to leave the Island with Claire, and we can presume that she finally reunited Claire and Aaron, although probably stayed involved in both their lives.
Kate's relationship with Aaron was probably the most significant thing which happened to her on the Island. Yes, she fell in love, but she could never decide who with. Yes, she stopped running, but if it weren't for Aaron, how long would that have lasted for. To me, it says it all when we discover that Kate is no longer a candidate. As Jacob said, candidates must be people who he isn't pulling out of a happy existence, and who need the Island as much as it needs them. As soon as Kate became Aaron's mother, she was no longer "flawed"; she no longer needed the Island to make her whole. Aaron had done that. I might speculate that the Ajira flight didn't actually need Kate to land on the Island, as she was no longer a candidate. Instead, her return was for the purpose of finding Claire, and saving the Island was just a by-product.
As I said earlier, I never really cared whether Kate got with Jack or Sawyer. Or at least, I didn't until season 5. In season 5, we discover that Sawyer is leading a happy life in Dharma times with Juliet, and that is one pairing which I do like. I still don't particularly care about Jate, but I'd be happy as long as Kate didn't interfere with Sawyer and Juliet. Unfortunately, even though it was not deliberate, she did. It was essentially Kate's return that started to mess up Sawyer and Juliet's relationship, and I do hate her a bit for that. Because of Juliet's death we will never know what would have happened if Sawyer ever did have to choose between Kate and Juliet, and I while I do personally believe he would have chosen Juliet, Sawyer's feelings are a conversation for another day.
Overall, Kate was a distinctly average character. Throughout the whole series, I never really found myself particularly liking her or particularly disliking her. I am glad that Kate became a mother to Aaron, as I feel that it did make her a better parson, and allowed her to achieve a certain amount of happiness in a life which was especially lacking in it.

Fred said...

Just a few observations about Kate, and a big question at the end of my entry--namely, why didn't Kate get axed like Charlie, Locke, Boone, etc.?

Whether we liked or disliked Kate Austen, Evangeline Lily played the hell out of that role. When we imagine could Ronald Reagan have played Sam in Casablanca, and we conclude Humphrey Bogart is the only actor for the role, I'm led to believe Evangeline Lily was the only possible choice for Kate (I also have visions of the Huff, that is David Hasselhoff, as Jack, had LOST been produced in 1994).

But back to Kate. Lily's performance was superb, but as many here have noted, the writers seem to have run out of ideas for her character, and just put her on auto-pilot for seasons at a time. Perhaps this was due to the original plot idea where Jack was supposed to have died in the pilot, so Kate's character would have come more front and center. But also, once we got the back story of Wayne, Thomas and the Marshall's global pursuit, the storyline just ended for the most part.

Personally, I enjoyed the back and forth between Kate and Sawyer that began the first season. They worked so well, especially in "Outlaws" with the drinking game, "I never." There seems to have been some attempt to connect Kate with Sun in "Born to Run," in their attempt to get Jin off the raft and Kate on, but it never had the impact as "Outlaws."

Indeed, Kate becomes the George Harrison of LOST, and you can hear the producers: "Yeah, you can have one flashback per season, maybe two if we work it out." Her story background seemed to dwindle in the larger plot, except for "I Do" which came across as such a curve ball, like the openings to Seasons 2 and 3.

The flashforwards with Kate and Aaron would have been more meaningful had Aaron amounted to something. Instead we were told he just wasn't all that special. So instead we get (1) Kate and Jack fight, (2) Kate's role as Aaron's mom is threatened. All culminating in Kate gives up Aaron and goes back.

For the first 2 seasons, Kate was a great character. The opening of the shipping at its worst in season 3 was more a problem of trying to set apart a block of six episodes on the Hydra Island. That strategy didn't go well in terms of story and sadly it was reflected on character development.

In the end, I think Kate's character lost out in the last three seasons because the drift of the plot had changed, and the focus moved more to developing Jack's character (rehabilitating Jack after season three). In that period, other characters moved forward, such as Jin and Sun, Sayid especially, and we all fell for, however brielfy, Charlotte and Daniel.

So I wonder, given many people's negative views or even indifferent views of Kate, why did the show's writers not pick up on this and either develop her character more or simply write her off the show? Did they feel she was more central to the plot than Charlie, Boone, or Shannon? Let's be honest, when we feared Sawyer could disappear in Season 5/6, there was trepidation. So why did Kate survive when Locke did not? (And I know Terry O'Quinn came back as M.I.B., but we all felt the termination of Locke's character, and how sad that was).

Austin Gorton said...

@Fred: So why did Kate survive when Locke did not?

Because she's hot.

That sounds flippant, but I'm not trying to be. It's an oversimplification of a TV truth. The fact is, Kate was the alpha female on the show, and outside the story, she existed to appeal to a certain demographic.

Lost certainly played fast and loose with the conventions of network TV, doing things no other show would dream of doing. But it was still a network show, and I think there are some things they would never do, either because the network wouldn't let them or because, no matter how radical the producers thinking, they couldn't think that radically.

Killing Kate is one of those things.

Arguably, the biggest characters, in terms of significance to the plot/actors playing them/appeal to the audience Lost killed off during it's run (not counting the rundown-to-the-end bloodbaths) were Locke and Charlie. Locke was killed off, but we didn't know the Locke was REALLY dead until well after we saw his demise, and there was never a point on the show where Terry O'Quinn wasn't playing some form of the character, so his death was more abstract.

Charlie was originally one of the show's big three, and the idea of killing off a show's lead is certainly radical, but by the time Charlie was killed, he was no longer the show's third lead (that was, arguably, Locke or Sawyer at that point). He was much loved and was given a great sendoff, but killing Charlie at the end of season one would have been much more of a "whoa, they'll kill ANYONE" moment than in season three.

My (rambling) point, I think, is that while Lost was, at times, the most "outside the box" show on TV, it still never strayed TOO far out of the box, and writing off Kate, who from day one was setup as one of the show's principal characters and the source of the show's chief "babe appeal", no matter how stagnant or unloved her character became, would have been unthinkable.

Fred said...

Sadly, Teebore, I think you're right about not killing off Kate. In the end, LOST was a network show, and there are just some things in the DNA of show writers and producers that won't let them stray too far off the mark.

At the same time, the show runners also know their audience demographics, and killing Kate off would have left a big hole in the audience's viewership. Now, Desperate Housewives can get away with killing off main male characters, as that is part of the premise of the show from the beginning. Even long running shows can kill off/let go characters as they cycle through new actors: ii.e. Law and Order and CSI Miami, or Dr. Who.

Nevertheless, I do believe LOST's showrunners always held out the threat, especially after Boone and Charlie, that any main character could be axed. But this may have been used simply as a ploy to show how "ground breaking" the show actually was. As you point out, LOST was not as "ground breaking" in this respect as we might have thought--would it have been had it been on HBO?

The thing is, as viewers, we were always compensated for loss. Boone did show up in Locke's hallucination, and likewise Charlie, Libby and Ana Lucia made guest appearances, enough to satisfy audience cravings the actors really weren't gone. As well, having Charlie reappear as Simon in Flashforward was a way of relieving viewer anxiety--see, we could say, he really isn't dead, he's just transformed. And don't we, as the audience, migrate to new shows in the hope of rekindling something of what we had with the actor in the previous show (networks do count on this audience identification, and sadly it often doesn't work).

This still raises the question I asked, though you have gone a long way in answering it. That is, might Kate have died on the show only to come back as a ghost? (Olivia Dunham's partner certainly did in the laternate world, on Fringe). At one point where we thought we lost Sayid, there was the hocus-pocus of the Temple pool which brought him back to life.
Dangerous thought then, was Kate after Season 3 so integral to the development of the plot to keep her around, or did the showrunners just see her as a tantalizing body, and not want to alienate viewers? At this point we are into Baywatch territory, aren't we?

Austin Gorton said...

@Fred: That is, might Kate have died on the show only to come back as a ghost?

I think the only way they would have done it is if they could do it like they did Locke: Locke was killed, but even after his death, few were the episodes that Terry O'Quinn didn't appear in. Ditto post-"infection" Sayid.

So Smokey-as-Kate or Kate-as-revived-emotion-zombie was, I suppose, a possibility, given that both avenues would still allow the show to feature Evangeline Lily heavily, whereas less -frequent, post-death ghost appearances like those of Charlie, Libby, and Michael would have allowed for too little Kate, and been too much a violation of the network TV DNA that says "shows need a hot chick to draw in the men".

At this point we are into Baywatch territory, aren't we?

Sadly, yes.

And let me just be clear, I am in no way endorsing this generally antiquated notion and, for all my dislike of Kate, I recognize there is FAR more to her character than a pretty face. I just think that, sadly, it's the face that kept her around after her character had more or less run its course.

Fred said...

Teebore, your comments raise an interesting notion of the diaological nature of network television.

There exists for the fan an overt, scripted narrative, authorized by the show's writers, which serves as a marketable product for audience consumption. This scripted narrative is driven by the network's need to construct an audience for a particular time-slot and demographic needs of advertisers. It is at this level that fan based groups identify and isolate the narrative elements which make "their" show unique.

However, as your comments of television clarify, there is another covert narrative which prescribes slotting the show within a wider array of shows, so that television flow is not interrupted. Strong shows are often positioned before weaker shows to allow for carry-over of audiences into the weaker show. The purpose being to retain viewers on the network station, and therefore to sell them to advertisers. Anything that would interrupt this flow would be seen by network executives as inopportune.

Hence keeping, as you say, a "pretty face" on the screen retains viewer identification with the character and maintains television flow over an evening's watching. This suggests that for all our fan interaction with Darlton, there was less of a collision between both sides (a disruption of viewer expectations) and more of a convergence between viewers and show runners. (This certainly gives new meaning to the idea, "whatever rises must converge").

Where LOST was innovative was in its adoption of cinematic techniques to the "small" screen, the expansion of the stage setting (living room setting or office setting where most television drama action occurs) to as variety of locales lending richness to the show, and the appeal to an audience beyond the U.S. borders (inclusion of foreign actors, use of English dialects and foreign languages, and setting stories in foreign backdrops).

All this innovation takes place at the scripted narrative level, and was written well enough to accomodate North American advertisers and overseas network channels. Other exported American television shows have done well overseas, but LOST because of its innovative scripted narrative made the show "their" (overseas' audiences) show and not just another export.

However, at the covert level where television flow is important, LOST may have shown its more conservative stripes. Numerical statistics of the numbers of lines assigned to various characters and qualititive measures of these characters would more than likely reveal correlations found across television series. While the writers may have secretly wished to axe Kate, such a move would have to have been considered at the scripted narrative level, but would never have been at the covert level where television flow is important.

Austin Gorton said...

While the writers may have secretly wished to axe Kate, such a move would have to have been considered at the scripted narrative level, but would never have been at the covert level where television flow is important.

Very well said. I couldn't agree more.

Lost is a show that, more than a lot of other shows (especially network shows) excelled at defying expectations, taking chances, and genuinely surprising the audience on the scripted, narrative level.

But at the end of the day, it was still a network show, and was still beholden to the rules governing such shows on the covert, television flow level.

Linda345 said...

Great comments! Teebore, re Kate is hot. You can say that again. She's gorgeous. So are Jack and Sawyer. Damon once joked, "All the ugly people were killed in the crash." But, this is tele "vision" so, well, that's how it goes. I myself enjoyed looking at the pretty people (btw, I'm female, straight).

This leads to an interesting question: how would Kate's character hold up in a novel? I think she'd hold up well. On the island she did interesting things, though her flashbacks were long and a little boring. Like Marababe, I was fascinated by Kate. As a member of the emerging Lostian society, her skills were crucial. All the characters showed some sort of leadership ability that was in some way flawed. Hers was based on physical prowess, quickness to act(too quick, sometimes), and courage. She also loved deeply and wanted to protect those she loved. These same qualities got her in big trouble back home, but on the island, she rocked!

She shared her best traits with Jack. Courage, goodness, warmth, impetuousness, even parent issues. Like Jack, she was raised by parents who were incompetent at parenting. But while Jack longed for acceptance and approval, Kate needed nurturance. Eventually, Jack resolved his core issue by reparenting himself via the David construct. Kate did so via Aaron. She loved Aaron truly, so much so that she sacrificed her life with him in order to restore his relationship with his true mother. Interesting point, Nikki, that it is Aaron who sparks Kate's awakening. was Christian who sparked Jack's! Is it possible that this is where these characters truly find the love they need to move beyond?

As for romance, it's Jate all the way. I'm not saying this because of wishfulness, really, just remarking that this is how the show was written, and I just never saw Sawyer as much more than a diversion for Kate. She loved him, in a way, but Jack was a soulmate, and she adored him, and he her. She flirted with him from the beginning, almost throwing herself at him. Unfortunately they each had obsessions, quirks, and unresolved needs and I don't think either would be good marriage material. But they were good for each other. Actually, I LOVE what Lisa wrote on this so i won't try to top her. Ditto Lisa!! Great job!

I just want to end with praise for Evangeline Lilly's work. She embodied Kate to perfection.

The Question Mark said...

Thanks, Marebabe ;)

LittleMo said...

For me Kate was a difficult character to watch until she started to look after Aaron. It was like the layers on an onion being peeled away. (though why we had to have the scene right at the beginning of her standing in the surf in her underwear I don't understand - it just cheapened her as a piece of eye candy along the lines of - rather than keeping her place as a significant and serious character in the show. )

In the early shows we couldn't really get under her skin until she started to look after Aaron and only then do we see her loving and protective side towards him.

I always thought of her and Sawyers relationship as a sort of animal passion - hence it 'blossomed' in the cages.
Whereas with Jack (and for Sawyer with Juliet) she had a more rounded and complete relationship - even more cerebral, though the physical attraction was still there.
I could never see her with Hurley - chalk and cheese to me !

She was very wilful and indpendent and wouldn't accept Jack trying to tell her what to do.
She wasn't an easy person to watch - but isn't that what kept us coming back for more - to find out about her and how her life and experiences made her how she was and behave as she did.

Being a sucker for a happy ending I was so glad she and Jack did get back together in the final scene.

Nikki - can we do Sawyer next please - it seems such a natural follow on from this discussion :-)

Pamalamb said...

I have found this discussion of Kate fascinating. During the course of the show I never gave a lot of thought to her. I actually liked the character. I liked the fact that she was kind and seemed to care about others (I never got that feeling from Jack or Sawyer). I could see the mothering side of her long before she became Aaron's mother; Aaron just brought it to the forefront. I think it is great that the conversations here have focused on Kate outside of her role in the love triangle; that is the least interesting aspect of this character, although it came to have great interest for some. Although who she chose to be with was of no interest to me, I liked how she acknowledged her love for Jack at the end. With all of their flaws and faults finally chipped away, it became clear as day to her who her soul mate was, and she finally acknowledged without hesitation her love for Jack. AEC mentioned earlier that the scenes of Jack and Katie before going into the church and while in the church made it obvious that they were meant to be together. I fully agree with this, those scenes were very beautiful and very well played. I also agree with Fred's comment on E. Lily's brilliant acting job playing Katie. She, like so many others on Lost, really got into her character and played her perfectly.

M9 EGO said...

Kate was a lovely character and surprisingly strong both emotionally and physically. Personally I think she should have married but I am biased. Freckles please come home.

M9 EGO said...

*married me

Susan said...

Fred & Teebore, great discussion. Don't forget, though, that if D&C killed off Kate that would have ended the triangle, and I get the impression that was a plot point they especially cared about. Plus I also get the impression that they were shocked at the Kate-hate out there.

sk said...

M9 EGO ... Be careful what you wish for. You do realize that Kate has a Lot of baggage, and is a waffler. LoL!

LittleMo said...

There's a good compilation video of Kate here

Anonymous said...

LOST really needed more than six seasons to describe the series.
Season 6, as a hardcore, psychotic fan, failed to me.
Thus, whether I like Kate or not, it didn't matter who she ended up with.
In my opinion, this show needed 8-10 seasons. It just got too rushed at the end.
The whole "it's purgatory" thing was dismissed early in the series, but was suddenly the case.

All that said, I will always love LOST and try to remember it for the greatness that was season 1.

Season 6 was a copout.

SableFlat said...

OT, but I got such a kick out of this and had to share.

I work at a university library and gave a tour yesterday for three students. One of them was Jack Shepherd!!!

Rebecca T. said...

I know I'm a week late, but I had to put my two cents in on Kate. I was just discussing her (along with other characters) with my sister and realized I hadn't checked on here for a while.

Everyone has had such interesting things to say and I enjoyed reading all the comments and I will try not to just reiterate what has been said before.

Although I admit I was very much a Skater at first, as the show progressed I cared less and less about Kate ending up with either Jack or Sawyer and became more and more fascinated with the motivations behind her character. I think Kate is a very undervalued character and people have a tendency to overlook her many layers.

To me, so much of Kate's motivation goes back to Tom. Her childhood sweetheart, the one person that loved her unconditionally for who she was. Even after he was married, he still went out of his way to protect and to help her and this got him killed.

Tom's death was, in my view, the key event that changed the way Kate viewed everything. Even though she was already on the run for Wayne's murder and had already been rejected by her mother, being the cause of Tom's death instilled in her one key "truth": The people she cared about would always end up being hurt by her presence.

She struggles with the guilt over killing Wayne, but I think the guilt over killing Tom is such an integral part of who she becomes. This is the reason that she does everything she can to help people. She is the first to volunteer, the only one who sees Jack in his first weakness as a leader (when she stitches him up), the first one that really reaches out to Sawyer. She is always trying to help and to heal people, in an attempt to keep them from being hurt by her presence.

Yet over and over this idea is reinforced. Sawyer's life is threatened because of her. Jack's life is threatened. People are hurt and wounded and killed around her all the time, but she is rarely touched, as though life itself is toying with her.

Then Aaron falls into her life (through more death and pain) and he becomes the second person in her life to love her unconditionally. She is his mommy and he has complete trust and faith in her. And miraculously, he isn't taken away from her. She is allowed to hold and protect and care for him. But there is always that threat hanging over her. This idea that someday, somehow she will end up hurting him. So she must return him to his real mother. And to do that she has to do the one thing she's never really been able to fully do: sacrifice her deepest desire. She accomplishes it, returns to the Island and reclaims Claire.

To me that is a beautiful story arc. Sure there are a lot of other facets to her character. Times when she is not utilized as much as she could have been, but others here have addressed those far better than I could. But these two catalystic moments will always be the basis of the way I personally look at Kate.

VW: mistsi - "Yes I would like you to spritz me with water" in spanish

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Rebecca T. said...

OOf! Sorry for the multiple posts. Blogger went all haywire on me, kept telling me it was too long. Made me retype the password about seven times and then posted them all anyways. I have removed all but one. silly blogger :P

Lisa(until further notice) said...

@Rebecca T. I LOVED your analysis of Kate. It made me look at her in a way I never had before. Thank you for the week late post!!!

finezer54 said...

Let us make this simple. Kate was a flawed person (like the rest of the Losties) was healed by the Island. Kate may have been the greatest symbol of growth during the series. She was hopelessly selfish before the Island, especially while arranging a bank robbery to recover a toy. This same person eventually sacrificed an easy life back home just to find the true Mother to the child she raised. I just can't find a way to dislike a person who transforms in that manner.

I also believe that Jack's perspective on Kate was a part of the transformation. He accepted her without caring that she had an obvious question in her past. He gave her the chance to be a better person and she did. Despite being impulsive, her intentions during the series of misadventures were rarely bad. We knew that her actions might cause problems, but the viewers knew more than Kate did. Her fellow Losties were rarely upset with Kate's actions. Her motives and affections with the other women were heroic.

Also, I love the fact that the tomboy side of Kate was more important than the beauty queen. Women who know they are gorgeous rarely behave like Kate (they usually behave like Shannon). This emphasis made Kate far more complex and interesting and allowed for her eventual growth. It is her growth that makes Kate one of the great Losties.

The Rush Blog said...

["Kate's mother Diane was married to Sam, Kate's military father, but they broke up and Diane married Wayne, a louse who beat her. The show implied that he may have molested Kate in some way, or at least made inappropriate moves on her. When Kate discovered that Wayne was actually her father, she killed him, disgusted that he could actually be in her."]

The only thing that the series implied was that Wayne used to leer at her. In fact, he leered at her not long before she killed him. And Kate merely expressed contempt at his action. The series never hinted that he had molested her. I think that is something that many fans of Kate wanted to believe so that they could justify her murder of Wayne. There was no justification. Kate murdered him because the discovery that he was her father shattered her illusions and fed her own insecurities. This is why she lost Jack in the end. By killing her father, Kate took him away from her mother, Diane. In what I would call karmic payback, the Man in Black took Jack away from her.

Many fans also made excuses for her pretending to be Aaron's mother. I never did. Which is why I was proud of her when she a) finally gave Aaron back to the Littleton family - namely Claire's mother; and b) admitted to Claire that she had been wrong to take Aaron in the first place. The ironic thing is that even after Kate had made this admission to Claire, many fans continued to express the belief that it had not been wrong for her to claim Aaron in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I wish that Kate had finally apologized to Diane for all of the grief she had caused the latter.