With episode 11 of the fifth season, we're really moving into home-stretch territory, which is typically when things start to really crank up. We got the beginnings of that here...
Episode: "Whatever Happened, Happened"
The Happenings: Picking up with the exact moment that last week's cliffhanger dropped off, we arrive to find that young-Ben is still alive, though barely. Jin loads him into a truck and gets him back to headquarters. Once there, Juliet begins to work on him, but she is unable to get the bullet out and Ben's bleeding continues unabated. What does he need? Well a surgeon, of course, so I guess it was a pretty good thing that Jack came back!
Except, Jack -- who has been held with Hurley and Kate by Miles in a house so as not to draw attention -- has no interest in helping Ben, as he believes that Ben's death with prevent older-Ben from living to become a monster. Only Kate won't stand by and let some kid die, even a kid she knows to be a monster, so she first goes to donate blood. Then, as Juliet indicates that things have become desperate, Kate asks what else they can do. Juliet says their only option might be to take Ben to the "hostiles" aka the "others" aka the original inhabitants of the Island, and let them work their magic. Kate decides to do this, driving off alone so as to protect everyone else, only she is caught by Sawyer at the sonic fence. Sawyer goes with her to deliver Ben to Richard.
All of this on Island action is intercut with scenes that explain the whereabouts of little Aaron, who we were all deathly worried about (kidding! I complete forgot that we didn't know where he was). It turns out that Kate, after getting back to mainland sought out Cassidy, Sawyer's baby-momma. They became friends by bonding over their heartbreak at the hands of the hunky James. After she runs away from the dockside confrontation with Ben -- seen earlier this season -- Kate flees to Cassidy's, before finally going to the hotel where Aaron's grandmother, Claire's mother, is staying. She leaves Aaron with this woman so that she too can return to the Island.
The Craziness: Sawyer's parting words spoken to Kate as he was preparing to jump from the helicopter were revealed to be something to the effect of "Take care of my daughter." Kate shows up and provides Cassidy with a chunk of change with which she can do just that.
During an inside-jokey type discussion between Hurley and Miles about the nature of time and the Island, Hurley worries that Ben's death will cause them to disappear, referencing "Back to the Future II." Miles counters that it doesn't work that way, and explains a theory of time that is more Arthur C. Clarke-ian. One sticking point that Hurley brings up is if everything that is happening has always happened, why old-Ben, during his first encounter and subsequent torture at the hands of Sayid (season 2?), didn't recognize the man that shot him. If we are to believe the precedent that was set with Desmond/Faraday, the answer is that present day Ben will now remember Sayid as the man that shot him.
One other says Richard should consult "Elli" or "Illi" and "Charles." The former is clearly Charles Widmore, who we know to have inhabited the Island at some point, and the other could conceivably be Eloise, but it's unclear from the exchange. In either case, Richard says, essentially, "They're not the boss of me."
When Kate and Sawyer hand Ben over, Richard explains that what he must do will "change him," causing him to "lose his innocence."
Richard disappears with injured Ben into some Native American (maybe Aztec or Mayan) looking temple, where he will presumably heal him.
The Verdict: In the parlance of Lost seasons past, this would have been what we called a "Kate episode." We spent almost the entire hour following her actions and seeing everything through Kate-tinted glasses. This is typically a good thing, as Kate is what I like to refer to as a "hottie." That being said, Kate the character has never been the most compelling (to me), and episodes like this one can get heavy with melodrama.
And that's pretty much how it went down this time. Though not a ton happened, there was some fun questions raised about Ben's history and how it will create the man that we know and fear today. While the Kate/Sawyer, Jack/Juliet stuff is fine as background noise -- emotional nuance, maybe a friendlier term -- it's not why I'm tuning in, so I tend to feel like these type of episodes are "down times." That being said, the tension was ratcheted pretty high throughout, so it was still a pretty nice ride.
The Wild Speculation: There's not a ton we can speculate about here that we couldn't speculate about previously. The time travel stuff that is raised seems to conflict, if only slightly, with the Faraday/Charlotte time scenario from only a few episodes previous. I think there are ways to rationalize it away, but it requires accepting a version of Miles description of time -- or parts of it anyway.
Of course, the Widmore-Alpert connection could be mighty meaty, particularly if Eloise is involved. We know a lot about how Eloise treated Ben in the future, so if we are to assume that Sayid had not shot Ben before, and that this only happened in our most recent pass through the 1970's then it's possible that their interaction could change. This though would bring up a paradox-type situation, and then we're back where we started. Damn, when I get on this time travel nonsense, it's tough for me to get off it.
The whole "the Island can fix him but it will change him" thing could also prove quite meaty. We can assume a number of things, based solely on Richard's statement: 1. Locke has been changed. No real shocker there. 2. Christian may actually be alive, in some respect anyway, and he too would be changed. 3. This one is sort of a jump, but without going back and looking at exactly what happened to her, couldn't it be possible that some "injury" to Claire, perhaps even suffered during child birth, was healed by the Island, and then she was also changed. This is something of an ex post explanation as we know she's in league with Christian on some level, but it seems plausible. And if Lost isn't about reveling in what is merely plausible, then what is it about?