In a turn of events that would be surprising if it weren’t happening on “Lost,” Miles is now one of the most reasonable characters on screen, or at least one making more sense than most. The scene where he attempts to explain to Hurley some actually not very difficult concepts of time travel is frustrating in the way Hurley just can’t understand and the way Miles gets fed up with him. Hurley’s always been mostly innocent, but he was downright idiotic this time out. For the record: Miles was completely right and Hurley was completely wrong. The problem Hurley had was that he was conflating personal time with what could be called global time: Everyone’s personal time flows forward no matter where they happen to be on the global timeline. It sounds simple and kind of obvious that you would continue to age and experience your life sequentially no matter when you are, but Hurley’s inability to grasp the concept was what was holding him back. For example, you can be 25 years old in 2007 and 30 years old in 1977 provided you travel back in time; you can still die in the past, because if you die in 1977, people will still interact with you in 2007 because you died at age 30 and they knew you when you were 25. Personal time; global time. Different beasts. Anyway, the episode, written by creators Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof and written by Bobby Roth, was largely an excuse just to air this scene and let Miles explain things to Hurley/viewers. But it was also another solid episode because of how simply but efficiently it held to its formula of signaling that certain mysteries would be solved and then taking its own time getting there, as well as the way it showed just how much has changed (or not) for the characters since they were separated.
When the episode opens, Jin is still lying on the ground after being knocked out by Sayid. He regains consciousness to hear Phil yelling on his walkie, asking where is and alerting him that the Hostile has escaped. Jin tells Phil he was attacked, then walks over to see Baby Ben lying on his stomach (with no exit wound on his back). Jin rolls the boy over and discovers he’s been shot. “Please help,” Baby Ben moans. Jin loads the boy into his van and starts heading to the Barracks, where Horace is rounding everybody up and addressing them about defense plans for any possible forthcoming attacks. He tells the group that they’re pretty sure the Hostile used the fire as a diversion for his escape, which causes Jack to speak up and ask how the prisoner could have started a fire while he was locked up. Horace slaps Jack down and says the prisoner had help from someone who torched the van and let the prisoner out of his cell, and since none of the security cameras saw a Hostile cross the border, it must have been an inside job. Horace caps that last bit with a look that clearly says Jack is not above suspicion. As the group breaks up, the camera cuts to reveal Kate leaning against a nearby tree, not doing much of anything. Roger Linus approaches and asks her if she could help run a winch while he tries to get the burned-out van extracted from the side of the building. Kate makes a face like “Koko apple snack time?” and Roger, not unkindly, explains to her how to use the winch on his jeep. Kate activates the winch as Roger guides the vehicle, telling him she was just stuck into the motor pool when she got to the island. Roger says the same thing happened to him, adding, “I guess they couldn’t sucker anybody into getting on that sub if they told us we were gonna be grease monkeys and janitors.” Roger gives her the old elevator eyes as he offers his hand and asks her name, and when he gives his own name, Kate has a moment of recognition and says, “Nice to meet you,” paralleling Sayid’s own meeting with the younger Ben. Just then, Jin pulls up and takes Baby Ben in his arms and moves as fast as he can toward the infirmary. Roger, seeing what happens, yells “That’s my kid!” and takes off in a run after Jin.
First flashback: Kate is cruising through a generically clean suburb and listening to Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You,” which in addition to being an emotional cue for the upcoming scene is just a fantastic song. Kate pulls into a driveway and checks her backseat, where baby Aaron is chillaxing, meaning this scene isn’t too long after the Oceanic Six returned home. Kate takes the baby and walks up to the front door to ring the bell, which opens to reveal Cassidy: Sawyer’s ex and the mother of his child, as well as Kate’s former partner in cons. The women hug as Cassidy tells Kate she saw her on the news when the Six made it back safe, and after meeting the baby, Cassidy happily asks what Kate is doing there. Kate charges ahead: “Sawyer sent me.” Cassidy’s smile fades. A little while later, the two women are at the kitchen table, where Kate gives Cassidy an envelope crammed with $100 bills and explains they’re from Sawyer. “So that son of a bitch is still alive?” Cassidy asks. Kate, who has apparently by now explained the real story to Cassidy (or at least as much as possible without getting into metaphysics), says that Sawyer told her where to find Cassidy and to take care of Clementine. This was Sawyer’s whispered confession on the chopper before he jumped, but Cassidy doesn’t seem pleased to have Sawyer’s name or influence back in her life. Kate, sensing she’s hit a wall, stands to leave, but Cassidy stops her by asking why she bothered confessing the whole story. “I thought your daughter had a right to know her father cared,” Kate says. Kate says Sawyer didn’t make the escape because he jumped from the chopper to make sure everyone else made it, but Cassidy sees that as just another way for Sawyer to keep running from the real world and avoid responsibility. Cassidy says Sawyer’s never done anything for his daughter — she doesn’t know about the trust Sawyer set up for her when he was in prison, I guess — and that he doesn’t seem likely to start now. She even guesses that the money isn’t even from Sawyer, which Kate confirms by clumsily saying she got a big settlement from Oceanic and wanted to help out. Cassidy calls out Kate for still being hung up on Sawyer, asking if the baby is his, but Kate repeats that she was pregnant with Aaron when the plane crashed. But Cassidy figures out quickly that Kate is still lying, and that she’s not Aaron’s real mother. Kate says she lies about Aaron because she has to.
Back on the island, Sawyer is going over security tapes when Kate comes in and acts like it’s news that the injured boy is Ben Linus. Sawyer tells her to keep quiet and not ask too many questions, saying, “Putting any attention on yourself is the last thing I need right now.” Sawyer tells her to scram, but Horace and his posse walk in before she can leave. Horace, who definitely does not like new people, asks Sawyer what she’s doing there, but Sawyer thinks on his feet and says he was just interviewing her to see if she noticed anything suspicious. He even tells her she can “run along.” Horace tells Sawyer they need to go check out the Hostile’s cell area, and when they get in there, they discover the key ring used to spring Sayid is still in the door; Baby Ben still has a ways to go before he’s as detail-oriented as his adult self. Sawyer says they’re janitors’ keys, and Horace says that narrows it down to Roger, Willie, or Jack. Sawyer says he’ll go talk to Jack right away, and he takes Miles with him. Outside, Sawyer tells Miles to round up Jack, Hurley, and Kate and to keep them in a house so they don’t wind up talking to anyone else. “Things are starting to spin out of control here,” Sawyer says, and it’s a small but strong moment that shows just how careful he has been for three years and how smart he has to be to keep these multiple cons running at once. Sawyer heads to the infirmary, where Roger is waiting outside while his son is in surgery, but before he heads in to talk with Juliet, Sawyer pauses and asks Roger if the man has his keys. Roger checks his pockets but doesn’t find them, saying he must’ve left them at the house, but he and Sawyer share a small look that says they both know why the question was really asked. Inside, Sawyer finds Juliet and another woman doing their best to operate on Baby Ben, but Juliet says the doctor is at the Looking Glass station until Friday. Juliet stops working long enough to tell Sawyer she’s doing all she can but that the boy will need a “real surgeon” to go in there and get the bullet and fix the wound. This is starting to feel awfully familiar — a doctor is needed, and there just so happens to be one masquerading as a newly arrived DHARMA member — and Sawyer heads out.
Over at someone’s house, Miles chambers a round in his rifle as Jack asks if he and the others are really under house arrest. “No,” Miles says, “you’re all free to leave whenever you want. But I’ll shoot you in the leg.” Kate pipes up and says that Sawyer is just doing his job by trying to keep them all safe for the moment. (Sidebar: She’s the only one not wearing her baggy DHARMA jumpsuit, outfitted instead in a form-hugging T-shirt. Accident?) Miles walks over to the kitchen table to see Hurley examining his hand. The big man explains it’s like in Back to the Future, where events that changed the past caused people in the future to disappear, meaning that if the young Ben dies, he won’t be around as an adult to bring the castaways back to the island, which would then (somehow, for Hurley) make them not exist. Miles sits down and begins to lay the smack down, saying, “It doesn’t work like that. Your maniac Iraqi buddy shot Linus; that is what always happened. It’s just, we never experienced how it all turns out.” This makes sense; the events happened in the global past but the characters’ personal future/present because in their original 1977, they were just kids on the other side of the world and had not yet grown up to travel back in time, even though those events were already happening concurrently. Miles says that Ben is alive, so the kid version can’t die; when Kate asks what happens if he’s wrong, Miles says that in that case it won’t matter anyway. At that moment, Sawyer bursts in and says he needs Jack’s help to save Baby Ben’s life. Jack thinks for a moment and says, “No.” Sawyer says the boy will die if Jack doesn’t help, but Jack just sits there and says, “Then he dies.” New Jack is way tougher than Old Jack, and I like it.
A few minutes later, after watching Sawyer trudge back to the infirmary and probably tell Roger they don’t know if his son will live, Kate angrily demands to know what Jack is doing. Jack, who’s moving about the kitchen, says, “Making some sandwiches. I figured everybody’d be getting hungry by now.” Zing! Jack says he can’t save Baby Ben anyway, pointing to Miles’ contention that destiny can’t be changed, but Kate says maybe Jack is the one who’s supposed to save him anyway. Jack says that this is all going to happen again in 30 years: Ben will imprison Jack, and Kate will beg Jack to perform a surgery to save Ben’s life. “I’ve already done this once. I’ve already saved Benjamin Linus once, and I did it for you, Kate,” he says. “I don’t need to do it again.” Jack says he spent his first 100 days on the island trying to fix things, and maybe it’s time to step aside and let the island do the fixing. Kate gets all smirky and starts peddling crap about how she doesn’t like the new Jack and prefers the old one, who was more proactive. She sounds like she’s in some awful 1980s Miller-Boyett show. Jack just shakes his head and says, “You didn’t like the old me, Kate.” Man. When he has to, the guy can throw a punch. Kate storms out before Miles can stop her.
Over at the infirmary, Juliet is tending to Baby Ben, who’s out of surgery but barely stable. He’s hooked up to a few machines and is having trouble breathing. A nurse comes in to alert Juliet that one of the new people is there to donate blood, and Juliet looks up to see Kate in the doorway. Juliet begins to draw blood and asks Kate what’s up with Jack, but Kate says she can’t figure the guy out. (There’s the pot calling the kettle bipolar.) Juliet asks if something happened off-island between Kate and Jack, and Kate replies, “We were engaged. Does that count?” I had actually forgotten about that for a while, that’s how much has gone on since then. Juliet doesn’t know where to go from there, but she’s saved when Roger busts in and wants to know how his son is doing. Juliet tries to get him to leave, but Kate says he can stay and keep her company while Juliet gets back to Ben. Roger is clearly comforted by this, which is probably what leads him to confess to Kate that Baby Ben stole Roger’s keys to help Sayid escape, and that Roger or his son might swing for it. “LaFleur asked me where my keys are. That bastard doesn’t ask any questions he doesn’t know the answers to,” Roger says. Roger starts to confide in Kate that he’s not “the greatest father ever” — which is obvious, with the whole abuse thing, but whatever — but that he’s sorry for what happened. He says Ben’s mother died the day Ben was born, and though Roger tried to do right by her, “a boy just needs his mother.” (This is this week’s Blatant Foreshadowing.) Baby Ben starts going into shock on his bed, and Juliet kicks Roger out of the room.
Back at the house, Hurley and Miles are going another ten rounds on the metaphysics of time travel, but since I already went over it in the first paragraph, I’m not gonna rehash. The only good point Hurley makes is to ask why the adult Ben wouldn’t remember being shot by Sayid as a child. The episode will actually give a possible answer to this later, but: We don’t know Ben didn’t remember Sayid. He never said he didn’t, and given Ben’s track record with deception and secrets, it would be the easiest retcon ever to say that he did remember Sayid et al. but just didn’t admit to it. Anyway, moving on.
Meanwhile, at the infirmary, Juliet emerges and tells Roger his son is stable, then sends him on an errand to the medical station to fetch some supplies. After he leaves, Kate looks up from her spot on the porch and asks if Baby Ben is really any better, and Juliet shakes her head. She says she can’t fix the damage, and the mainland isn’t an option because the sub won’t be back for a couple months. Juliet says the boy’s death is inevitable, and while Kate tries to come up with an idea, Juliet’s face says she’s already got one. “Maybe there’s something they can do,” Juliet says, and when Kate doesn’t quite get it, Juliet says with a sigh, “The Others.” Next thing you know, she and Kate are carting Baby Ben out to a DHARMA van and loading him up for a trip to Hostiletown. Kate tells Juliet she’s going alone because she’s got less to lose than Juliet does, so Juliet lets her go, but not without a warning. Juliet says that Sawyer’s going to find out what happened, and she’ll have to tell him that Kate has Ben, but she’ll give her as much of a head start as possible. With that, Kate drives away.
Second flashback: Showdown at the Long Beach marina, with Sun holding Ben at gunpoint. You know what happens. Kate takes off with Aaron but doesn’t get too far before the kid complains that he’s thirsty and needs some milk. Kate, who’s either unprepared or weak-willed, stops at a grocery to get the kid a drink. Walking down the aisle, she asks him if he wants chocolate milk or regular, but wonder of wonders, the small child has changed his mind and now wants a juice box. Kate starts heading for the juice boxes when her phone rings, so she drops Aaron’s hand, digs in her purse for her phone, and keeps walking. Awesome plan! She sees it’s Jack calling and declines the call, then turns around to see that Aaron, of course, has up and vanished. She panics and begins to backtrack through the store, racing along the freezer wall and checking every aisle without seeing him. She runs into a manager and says she’s lost her son, and he tells her he’ll make an announcement, but she protests that he needs to seal off the store. Kate looks past the manager to see a blonde woman leading a little boy toward the door, and as she calls out his name and runs to him, she sees that it is indeed Aaron. She sweeps him up into her arms. The creepy blonde lady says she found him wandering and was getting ready to make an announcement, and though Kate looks like she’s about ready to cut a bitch, she just thanks the woman for her help. The lesson? When your kid is thirsty, ignore them.
Back on the island, Kate is offroading the DHARMA van on her way to the sonic fence. She stops at the border and comes around to the side of the van, opening the door as Baby Ben keeps coughing. “Tell my dad I’m sorry I stole his keys,” the boy says. Kate looks up to see Sawyer approaching in another van, and when he arrives, Kate says she knows he has to stop her but that she can’t just let the boy die. “Damn it, Freckles, I ain’t here to stop you, he says, “I’m here to help you.” Aw.
Third flashback: Kate and Aaron, presumably the morning after the marina debacle, arrive at Cassidy’s house. Clementine answers the door and greets her as “Auntie Kate” before scampering off to find Cassidy. Not long after, Kate has told Cassidy of the plan to go back to the island, and she goes on to say how she lost Aaron in the store. “As scared as I was, I wasn’t surprised,” Kate says, and Cassidy says that because Kate took Aaron in the first place, she’ll always feel like he’s going to be stolen from her in turn. Kate counters that Claire was gone and that no one was going to care for Aaron, but Cassidy maintains that the adoption was mostly a way for Kate to distract herself from the pain of losing Sawyer.
Out on the island, Sawyer enters the code to kill the fence. He heads to Kate’s van to get Baby Ben, but she stops him and asks why he’s helping her. Sawyer says he asked Juliet the same question — why help a young Ben Linus — and Juliet told him that no matter what the boy grows up to be, “it’s still wrong to let a kid die.” Sawyer picks the wounded boy up in his arms and says, “That’s why I’m doing this. I’m doing it for her.” Kate’s clearly stung a little, but she grabs a canteen as they set off across the border into Hostile territory. Back at the Barracks, Juliet barges into the house where Hurley and Miles are playing dominoes. (I can only hope, for the sake of in-universe references, that they’re playing 42.) Juliet asks where Jack is, and they say he’s in the shower. Hurley asks if Jack is in trouble, but Juliet says she just needs to talk to him alone for a moment. As she escorts the men to the door, Hurley says to Miles, “Hey, ask me more questions about time travel.” That’s gonna go well. Juliet slams the door and heads to the bathroom, where Jack is emerging from the shower. “I needed you,” she says, catching him naked and off-guard. “That kid was bleeding out. You’re a surgeon.” Jack, who for some reason has neglected to dry his upper body before reaching for a T-shirt, sticks to his guns, saying he didn’t want to patch up the boy who would become the man that ruined so many lives. Juliet tells Jack that it’s out of his hands anyway by now, since Sawyer and Kate have taken Ben because “they actually care.” Jack says he cares, too, and that he came back to the island to save her and everyone else, but she explodes at him, “We didn’t need saving! We’ve been fine for three years. You came back here for you!” Again, the season show just how much the Oceanic Six remained unchanged in their time off-island while those left behind managed to grow and evolve. Jack says he came back to the island because he was supposed to, though he admits he doesn’t know specifically what his destiny will be.
Out in the jungle, Sawyer is carrying Ben while Kate trails close behind. Kate asks Sawyer about his theory on Baby Ben jailbreaking Sayid, but it’s really just a chance for an awkward segue into a discussion about Clementine as they rest by a stream. Kate tells Sawyer she looked after his daughter, and that the girl is beautiful. “She looks just like you when she smiles,” Kate says, and Sawyer is kind of adorably terrified and excited to think about his daughter as a real person out in the world instead of some abstract face on a photo he saw in prison. Kate tells Sawyer that Cassidy thinks he stayed behind because it was the easy way out, and Sawyer looks up to see Kate looking away, and decides that he’ll have to be the one to speak honestly about what’s going on. “You and me would’ve never worked out, Kate,” he says. “I wasn’t any more fit to be your boyfriend than I am to be that little girl’s father.” Kate says he and Juliet seem to be working out, and Sawyer smiles a little as he says he’s “done a lot of growing up in the past three years.” Just like the scene before it, this one shows how the authority and experience has shifted from Jack to Sawyer, from the guy who used to want to fix everything to the guy who really can. Kate comes across more than ever like someone who’s been spinning her wheels for three years, while Sawyer is actually able to talk about maturing. It’s a fantastic reversal.
Before things can get even more open, though, a man shouts “Hands up!” as Sawyer and Kate look around to see themselves surrounded by an away team of gun-wielding Hostiles. The bearded leader tells Sawyer to freeze as they close in, adding that they’ve broken the truce. Sawyer remains totally at ease as he tells the guy he knows he’s over the border illegally, but he did it because he’s got a boy who’s been shot and who needs help. “So unless you wanna go to war, you’re gonna take us to Richard Alpert, and you’re gonna do it now.” Sawyer is pretty great at not taking crap from nameless Others.
Final flashback: Kate knocks on the door of a motel room that opens to reveal Carole Littleton, who doesn’t look at all excited to see Kate. Carole invites her in and tells her she’s still a little unnerved by Jack’s visit the day before, when he mentioned someone named Aaron before clamming up and bolting. “He’s your grandson,” Kate says, “and your daughter, Claire, is alive.” Carole is understandably struck dumb at the news. Kate comes clean about lying and admits that Claire was the one who gave birth on the island, and that there were other survivors who were left behind. Kate hands Carole a picture of the boy and says that she checked in two doors down, and that she told Aaron that Carole is his grandmother and will take care of him. “When you’re ready, he’s waiting for you,” Kate says, adding, “I’ll be back soon.” Carole asks where Kate intends to go, and Kate replies, “I’m going back to find your daughter.” There’s a nice balance to the way the events that happened earlier in the show — Roger’s comment that a boy needs his mother — are tonal influences on events that happened earlier in the chronology. Kate goes down to her room and sits next to Aaron, weeping over the son she loved but knew she would never be able to keep. She kisses his forehead and heads to the door, stopping to get one last look and say, “Bye-bye, baby,” then she’s gone. And though we don’t see it in this episode, she heads down to her car, drives over to Jack’s that night, sleeps with him to distract herself from the pain, and gets ready to go back to the island the next day.
Back on the island, Sawyer and Kate are being escorted through the jungle by the Hostiles, with Baby Ben still in Sawyer’s arms. “Don’t worry, we got them right where we want them,” Sawyer says, because I guess he can’t pass up an opportunity to look like Han Solo. Richard comes striding out of the jungle like David Copperfield, and when Sawyer asks where the hell he came from, Richard curtly replies, “You asked my people to bring you to me. Here I am.” Richard looks down at the body in Sawyer’s arms and asks if it’s Benjamin Linus. Kate says he was shot, and that they need Richard to save the boy’s life. Richard looks back at the boy and thinks for a moment before saying, “If I take him, he’s not ever gonna be the same again. … He’ll forget this ever happened, and his innocence will be gone. He will always be one of us.” This sounds like a significantly higher spiritual toll than Kate and Sawyer were willing to pay just for some outpatient work, but they don’t have much of a choice. Sawyer hands the boy over to Richard, and the group leader steps approaches and says to him, “You shouldn’t do this without asking Ellie. And if Charles finds out —…” but Richard cuts him off and says, “I don’t answer to either of them.” He turns and walks off with the boy, ignoring Kate’s question of where they’re going. Sawyer takes hold of her arm and pulls her back so they can start their return trip.
Richard carries Baby Ben through the jungle and down a path that leads to the Temple, last seen on the series when Rousseau’s team entered it in 1988 and got all wonky and homicidal. Richard reaches the door, places his back against it, and pushes, turning to carry the boy into the darkness. The action then cuts (in a fantastic transition) to the Hydra Island station in 2008, where Ben is sleeping on a cot and recovering from the blow to the head Sun dealt him before escaping with Frank in the outrigger. As he opens his eyes, he looks up to see John Locke sitting in a chair next to the bed, and Ben’s eyes grow understandably wide in confusion and fear. “Hello, Ben,” Locke says. “Welcome back to the land of the living.”
And that’s the episode, and what a good one it is. Kate explained why she wanted to return to the island, and it’s a good reason, assuming she can actually find the ghost cabin and that Claire is still hanging out there. But the best questions are the ones about Ben. Does Richard’s contention that Ben won’t remember what happened mean that he won’t remember Sayid et al. when he sees them again as an adult, and if so, is that an interesting story twist or just a cheat for the producers to ensure they won’t have to have Ben admit later that he did remember being shot by Sayid? And just what kind of healing happens inside the Temple? It seems to reveal certain truths to whoever goes inside, like when Rousseau’s boyfriend told her the smoke monster is just a security system for the island, but what exactly does it do to Ben to rob him of his innocence? And does it actually heal him, or just delay the problem to the point where he’ll need Jack to operate on him in 30 years? Was the gunshot what caused the cancer? Richard also mentioned Ellie and Charles (presumably Widmore); in what capacity are they still involved with the island in 1977? If Richard doesn’t answer to them, does he answer to anyone? Most importantly, what kind of beatdown will Locke administer to Ben? That’s gonna be epic.
Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a low-level employee at a Hollywood industry magazine. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.