Benjamin Linus got it wrong. Fate isn’t a ”fickle bitch,” as he told Hurley last season. No, it’s a fickle brat who suddenly changes his mind on what can slake his late-night thirst. Should Young Ben survive his Sayid-inflicted gunshot wound and realize his Dharma-purging, castaway-terrorizing bug-eyed bastard potential — the matter was still in doubt by the end of last night’s episode ”Whatever Happened, Happened” — he should send a ”Thank You” card to a certain creepy little kid who changed his mind about a carton of milk. Follow my logic here, and forgive me if it sounds as sketchy as pair of wisecracking, domino-playing time travelers parsing the complexities of quantum leaping. (That would be Hurley and Miles, angling for their own Odd Couple meets Big Bang Theory sitcom.) The way I see it is this: If Aaron didn’t ask for some liquid refreshment to parch his creepy little throat, then Kate — a.k.a., Ms. ”Can’t tell my (fake) kid ‘No”’ — wouldn’t stop at the supermarket. If Kate didn’t stop at the supermarket, she wouldn’t get distracted by Aaron’s change-of-mind (Me want juice box instead!) and an ill-timed phone call from Jack. If Kate didn’t get distracted, then she wouldn’t lose track of Aaron when he wandered off, dazzled by the pudding pop display. If he didn’t wander off, then Kate wouldn’t get rattled when she found the boy walking hand in hand with a dead-ringer (from the back at least) for Claire. (Pale, long blonde hair, wayyy too much make-up.) If she didn’t get rattled, then she wouldn’t get the epiphanies that finally compelled her to leave Aaron with Grandma Littleton, go back to the Island, and take it upon herself to save the life of her future foe in order to save the Star Wars generation from timeline-collapsing paradox. Aaron, we owe you one.
Kate’s big season 5 flashback episode aspired to reveal why Kate was so emotionally invested in Aaron and managing the lie that he represented. Certainly time played a role. Funny now to think that Kate had been Aaron’s mother longer (three years) than Claire had ever had been (a couple months). Yet ”Whatever Happened, Happened” revealed that Kate needed to be Aaron’s mother. To fill her Sawyer void. To assuage her guilt over abandoning the Left Behinders. And because Kate, God bless her, just has a heart for Fate-screwed kids, even ones who grow up to be killers. Which makes sense, given how much Kate can relate. Her Mama did her no favors with her bad choices, bad attitude, and bad-boy attraction. Her stepfather was an abusive monster who turned out to be her biological father, and when she discovered that hideous truth, she snapped from betrayal and dissonance and blew him to smithereens. For the most part, this complicated — maybe over-complicated — bundle of psychology felt correct, and the scenes that mattered the most — Kate leaving Aaron in the care of Claire’s Mom; her tearful parting — were money. So did her stated reason for going back to the Island: ”I’m going back to find your daughter,” she told Mrs. Littleton. Kate evidenced a compelling picture of change and heroism that was real and relatable. As she has done all season, Evangeline Lilly rose to the challenge of the fantasy and found where the emotional reality lived. I’m not going to kid you: It took me two viewings to really like ”Whatever Happened, Happened.” The first time around, it bounced off me. The second time, it moved me. That happens sometimes.
NEXT: Lost and the end of the world?