By Ken Tucker
Updated February 10, 2010 at 09:43 PM EST

Last night’s episode was entitled “What Kate Does,” and what Kate does as a character on Lost is provide the show with a number of things. She’s been a strong, sexy protagonist who has contributed to the series’ most enduring love triangle, at least until Sawyer fell commitedly in love with Juliet. She’s also been one of the series’ action heroes — good at slashing her way across the island; good at eluding the law in flashbacks, -forwards, and now -sideways.

What fuels Kate is her anger. Now, I know there are a lot of Lost fans who don’t like the character of Kate, who put down Evangeline Lilly’s acting as one-note. But I suspect that what Lilly has been asked to do many times with Kate is to play her as closed-in, guarded, shut-down — to rein in the character’s emotions and to let seething anger burn out through her eyes like Superman’s (Supergirl’s?) heat vision. In other words, I think Lilly gets a bad rap.

Last night, however, I was completely absorbed in the way Kate’s anger had subtle changes. When she took over that L.A. taxi, Kate had her ruthless-criminal anger working; when she says, “I’m wanted for murder,” you believe this woman, who can be so adorable that she can withstand Sawyer’s nickname of “Freckles,” is entirely capable of killing someone.

Similarly, you could say that Sawyer’s single expression throughout last night’s episode — sullen rage — was also a tediously one-note performance. I’d say the opposite: That Josh Holloway did a fine job of reminding us that this is a tough guy who’s going through one stage of grief, who just lost the love of his life, the one woman who made him feel vulnerable again. Now you can almost see Sawyer willing himself to grow a new, hard shell over his most tender feelings. He never wants to be that vulnerable again, and one way to do that is to go excessively macho, to bolt, to flee, to run through the jungle with a gun and bark at people, including Kate.

I don’t want these mini-reviews of Lost to run too long, so I’ll just add a couple of other bullet points about last night:

• I think my favorite Lost character is Ken Leung’s Miles; when he told Jack last night in the Other Others cave, “We’ll be in the food court when you need us,” I almost fell out laughing. I always gravitate toward the sarcastic, poker-faced guys who relieve the tension in an action show.

• Which is also why I loved Rob McElhenney’s appearance last night, as did my colleague Annie Barrett. When he cut off some verging-on-long, expository dialogue by yelping exasperatedly, “Is this a press conference?” — well, again, a laugh goes a long way to carry me across much of Lost‘s entertaining mumbo-jumbo.

How about you? Thoughts on Kate and Sawyer?

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