On ''Lost,'' Kate's third flashback episode helps us figure out why we just can't care about the foxy fugitive
Lost, Evangeline Lilly

”Lost”: The show’s weakest link

It was about 45 minutes or so into last night’s Lost that I began to have this daydream about Anne Robinson. You remember Anne Robinson, don’t you? Host of that now-defunct game show The Weakest Link; tart Brit with the glasses and barbed tongue; sent contestants packing with her trademark ”You are the weakest link. Goodbye.” Yes, that Anne Robinson. Mmmmmmm, Anne Robinson. How I loooooved me that Anne Robinson. Scold me, schoolmarm, scold me. . . .

Sorry. Daydreaming again. But it wasn’t the daydream I had last night about 45 minutes into Lost, right about the time I decided I had seen enough of Evangeline Lilly’s so-called acting talent to finally make up my mind about her. And so, in this daydream, right in the middle of the scene where Kate finally admits to the castaways that she’s the fugitive who was shackled to the now-dead marshal, I had Anne Robinson suddenly materializing and issuing her famous catchphrase to Kate, whereupon a hidden door under Kate’s feet dropped open and removed her from the show forever. And then Anne turned and winked at me, that wink she always winks at me in my other daydreams. . . .

Ahem. Anyway, my point: Kate stinks. Not literally, because somehow, some way, that girl is keeping herself pretty and put together despite Twilight Zone Island’s lack of a powder room. I mean her character stinks. Or maybe the young and relatively inexperienced Ms. Lilly just doesn’t have the chops to make me care about Kate. Nearly all of her scenes felt phony to me, from the tough-chick threatening of Sawyer about replacing him on the raft (”I want your spot, I’ll get your spot” — what is she going to do, whip him with her hair?) to the one where she outs herself as a fugitive. Look, that was a pretty lame scene all around, with all those glowering looks tossed her way (what was up with Shannon’s raccoon eyes?) and everyone turning their backs on her as if she were sporting a scarlet letter or, worse, had eaten the plane’s last sack of peanuts.

I love Lost, and there were a few things about last night’s episode I liked. But there have been three occasions this season in which I have doubted the show’s staying power. Now I clearly know why: All three of those episodes were Kate episodes, and her flashback stories in each, with the arguable exception of the first, were pretty weak. Last night, we learned where her toy airplane came from — an ex-boyfriend, who got killed while hanging with her during one of her run-ins with the cops. She and her ex buried the plane in a time-capsule tin when they were kids. Now, I liked the time-capsule bit. That was neat. You don’t often see quirky-touching character-driven scenes like that in TV. Hats off to the writers who thought of that. Made me wish me and my high school sweetheart had buried a tin full of keepsakes we could dig up years later. But as played by Lilly, the scene was just cute, not cool (and was not helped by the cut-rate drama-club line readings given by the actors voicing young Kate and her ex). Similarly, that scene between Kate and her dying mother. As creepy-sinister a vibe as Lost has ever generated, but only because of the actress playing the mom. My hat off to her. For a second, I became interested in her daughter and what she must have done in the past to turn her mother against her. Simultaneously, I realized how profoundly uninterested I had been until that point.

Maybe I’m being too hard on Lilly. After all, according to what I read in certain weekly entertainment magazines, most of the actors on Lost have labored all season not knowing anything more about their characters than what they read in the next script. Maybe Lilly simply can’t connect with a character that she doesn’t know enough about to truly understand. Or maybe Lost might want to find another new leading lady wandering in the jungle somewhere.

All right, enough. I mentioned there were some things I liked last night. Here they are:

1. Sawyer’s hair. I hope they never cut it. His bangs are becoming one of the show’s best ongoing sight gags.

2. Jack upon coming face to face with the Hatch: ”My God. What is this thing?” Locke responds: ”Exactly.” To what, exactly, did Locke’s ”exactly” refer to? I’m banking on ”My God — I love the Hatch as metaphor for spiritual faith, even if the higher power in this case looks like a septic tank.”

3. While I’m not fond of Kate, I liked the Psycho referencing throughout the opening sequence (blonde on the run, motel, shower, the music . . .). If Kate can evolve into some kind of neo-Hitchcockian female archetype, I might be 36 percent more interested.

4. Charlie’s new song, ”Monster Eats the Pilot” — my only genuine chuckle of the night. Made me realize how much Charlie’s been back-burnered lately.

5. Walt’s pleading with Locke about the Hatch: ”Don’t open it. Don’t open that thing.” And then later, telling his dad they had to get off the island. Toss in Hurley’s callback to the polar bears, and surely the show was foreshadowing some major developments in regard to Walt and his strange powers.

And speaking of ”Don’t open it”: Is it me, or was there a whole ”opening things up” theme in last night’s show — beginning with the first shot, with Kate opening the trunk of her car, to the opening of the time capsule, to the talk of opening the Hatch, to Kate opening up old wounds with her mom, even to one of Kate’s license plates, which read, ”OPN 924A.”

What do you think? Am I onto something? And what do you think of Kate? Am I right for finding her wrong, or am I nuts? (Okay, I’m nuts. See: Anne Robinson. . . .)