The Los Angeles Timeline
Things are still moving pretty quickly in the non-crash 2004 for Kate as she does her best to flee LAX and the pursuing marshal, Edward Mars. She hops into a cab with a gun and tells the driver to speed off, though it turns out Claire's already in the cab and now understandably concerned about getting shot. There's a moment before the cab can escape the LAX arrivals concourse when Kate looks out the window and sees Jack and has a weird moment of recognition, and this is going to be telling. She's not remembering him from some dream, and it's not merely a chance for them to see each other free from the sweaty pseudo-romantic constrains of their time on the island. Both timelines are equally important and, to an extent, equally real. The low, rumbling whoosh that preceded flashbacks and flashforwards for years has been replaced by the screechier sound that Sawyer and crew dealt with when they were bouncing through time. This, as with many things on the show, is not an accident. The timelines themselves are shifting, conflicting, and might wind up bleeding into each other. Either way, it will be big.
Anyway, the cab driver bails at the first light and Kate hops into the driver's seat, keeping Claire's purse before dropping her off and driving away. She drives to a random body shop and has the vaguely criminal-looking mechanic pop her cuffs. (The guy was played by Jeff Kober, known to some [well, me] as the evil magic-peddling demon Rack in the sixth season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." What a random, recognizable face for such a bit part. I kept trying to place him in the "Lost" timeline, then realized he's just a popular character actor.) Kate finds the baby stuff in Claire's bag, and then two insane things happen that are improbable even by "Lost" standards: (1) Kate drives back and finds Claire just magically, and (2) Kate doesn't change cars. She takes the same cab that took her from LAX! The one that's now probably reported as stolen! For such a feisty con, she's terrible at this. Everybody knows you change cars, lady. Do it in a parking garage so air surveillance can't see.
Kate gives Claire a ride to the Brentwood home of the folks who are going to adopt her baby, but the woman says her husband just left her and her life's too "complicated." Kate looks like she's about to pistol-whip this chick when Claire of course goes into labor. They rush to the hospital and are treated by -- wait for it -- Ethan Rom! I mean, Ethan Goodspeed, who left the island as a kid (or never went?) and is now a normal OB/GYN and not a kidnapping psycho. The dissonance of seeing him legitimately caring for her, as opposed to drugging her and taking her to the Staff Station in the jungle, is pretty fun. Claire lost the baby's heartbeat for a second and cried so frantically I forgot how much I hated when she and
Mercutio Michael seemed to be locked in a shouting match about their sons. But everything was fine, even though she blurted out that the baby's name was Aaron despite not having picked a name yet. Kate held her hand and helped her out, so in return, Claire covered a few minutes later when Feds came and Kate hid in the next room. (Maybe they tracked the stolen cab, amateur.) Claire gives Kate her credit card, and they part on weirdly friendly terms for a killer and new mom who met three hours earlier.
The Island Timeline
Back up in the 2007 where Oceanic 815 did indeed tumble out of the sky, things are also pretty bananas. Miles is giving Sayid a nervous look (maybe he can't tell if there's any soul there?) when Lennon summons Sayid for a chat with the ninja warlord that will likely not go well. (N.B. Lennon is played by John Hawkes, who in addition to acting is also a member of the band King Straggler, a fun alt-countryish combo. For added weirdness, one of his bandmates was on/in "California Dreams." Truth.) Jack picks a fight that's broken up when Sawyer steals a gun and bails to go be alone with his pain, kind of like Footloose, and the warlord agrees to let Kate and Jin go after him if they take a couple Others along as guides. In a fun callback to the second season, one of the guards is Rob McElhenney from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," who uses the M.A.C. system to keep an eye on Kate.
When they go, Sayid is tortured by the Others, who shock him and then burn him with a hot poker. There's a moment that recalls The Empire Strikes Back when Sayid is returned to his friends and simply says, "They didn't ask me any questions." Jack confronts the warlord, whose name is Dogen, about his questionable hospitality, and is then told that he needs to get Sayid to take a pill that will heal him. Calling shenanigans, Jack tries to take the pill himself to see what happens, and Dogen jumps in and knocks him around, taking the pill back. Dogen admits the pill's true contents: poison. Way to go, Jack. Lennon is incredulous that Jack actually tried to take the pill, and the dire situation finally gets the Others to start parceling out some info. Dogen attempts to describe Sayid's condition, but can't in English; Lennon says the closest translation is "claimed." Dogen says there's a darkness in Sayid that will work its way to his heart and then completely own him, leaving no trace of the man Jack knows. When Jack asks how Dogen knows all this, Dogen drops the bomb: "Because it happened to your sister." WHAT. In that line, Dogen reveals a world of potential plot, including his time spent with Claire or learning of her, as well as what she's been up to and why.
Out on their jungle quest, Kate knocks out the guards with a trap they find in the woods that looks like something Rousseau would set, except for that Rousseau died three years earlier. Plus, one of the guards almost spills who built the trap but is shut down by Mac. Jin wants to find Sun, and Kate wants to go after Sawyer, so she leaves him and sets off for the Barracks, which I guess is where she figured he'd go. (That, or like her alternate timeline driving back to Claire, she's just really good at lucking into these things.) She arrives at the Barracks to find it still pretty wrecked, and sees Sawyer digging up a shoebox from the floorboards of his old bedroom, where he'd lived 30 years earlier. It becomes clear right away that he's in no mood to be comforted, and Kate's growing awareness of her uselessness is some of the most growing she's done in a while. Down at the pier, Sawyer confesses he was going to propose to Juliet and blames himself for her death, since he'd asked her to stay in the first place. "I think some of us are meant to be alone," he says, chucking the ring he never got to give Juliet into the water before walking away. Kate weeps as she finally, finally realizes just how far she is from having the man she loves.
Meanwhile, Jin stops at a stream when he's ambushed by Mac and the other guard, now considerably pissed off and ready to kill. Jin is saved by rifle fire that takes down both men, and he looks to the ridge above him to see ... Claire! She's dirty and holding a rifle and definitely looking like the reincarnation of Danielle Rousseau. So that's where she's been.
And that's that. For as flat as the episode was in parts -- unless Kate's getting a harsh lesson in how terrible she is, I'm not a big fan -- it offered up some fantastic plot points and raised some interesting questions. To name but a small few, and in no order: What's up with Sayid? Is he possessed by the same evil entity that is, in whole or part, related to the smoke monster/Enemy? If yes, will he die again or just become an agent of the island, working for the Enemy, who is currently dressed as Fake Locke? If no, well, what's in him? And what good or evil fragment of the island dwells in Ben Linus, who was saved in the Temple as a boy? Also, when Jin was gonna get shot, one of the guards talked Mac down by saying Jin might be "one of them." What does that mean? Then there's Claire. Last we saw, she woke up in the jungle to see Christian holding Aaron, and was then found by Locke a little later when he met up with Christian in Jacob's cabin. Now, it obviously wasn't Christian, but pretty much very likely the Enemy just being hilarious and deceptive, and Claire was already acting freakishly calm and uninterested. Was she already "claimed" to some degree? Why has she become not just a survivor, but the new Rousseau? Claire was with Sawyer and Miles when they found the corpses of Rousseau and Karl, and Miles heard their spirits screaming, which is how he knew to look for the bodies. Is it possible some part of Rousseau is in Claire? If the Enemy can take the shape of anyone dead on the island, can the souls of the dead make themselves known through the living?
Also, seriously: Who's the kid in that damn Olive Garden commercial about a twentysomething guy and his grandfather? I swear he's a child actor, but I can't place him. Help me, oh Pajiban hive mind.