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The Complete History Of Kate Austen From Lost

Since it began airing on ABC in 2004, "Lost" has been a polarizing topic of conversation. The series was once one of the biggest shows on television due to the intrigue and mystery of every episode. Throughout the show's six-season run, audiences are introduced to wilder and wilder plot elements. From polar bears and smoke monsters to time travel and the end of the world, this show does it all. And while the audience began to tire of the complicated storylines by the infamous final episodes of "Lost," one thing is clear — "Lost" was a cultural moment in television history (via Deadline).

With a wonderful ensemble cast filled with fantastic actors, "Lost" catapulted some of them into instant fame. From Terry O'Quinn's complicated John Locke to Daniel Dae Kim's conflicted Jin-Soo Kwon, "Lost" established characters that lasted with us years after the show ended in 2010. One of the most popular characters associated with the show is Kate Austen. Whether you hated her or loved her, Kate is a quintessential part of "Lost." Portrayed by Evangeline Lilly, Kate is involved in a messy love triangle between her, Jack (Matthew Fox) and Sawyer (Josh Holloway) that left many viewers unable to decide whether they prefer the Jate or Kawyer ship (via TVLine).  Regardless on where you land, it's because of her influential presence in the show that we're taking a look at the complete history of Kate Austen. And if, for some reason, you haven't watched "Lost," we will be discussing major plot points in the series. This is your official spoiler warning for all six seasons of "Lost."

Kate's connection to Oceanic Flight 815

"Lost" begins with the crash of the Oceanic Flight 815 on the mysterious Island. The back half of the plane breaks off on the way down and is initially presumed lost at sea, while the front half of the plane crashes with a group of survivors who must fend for themselves. As time progresses, audiences see that each survivor has an intriguing backstory filled with twists and turns. But what concerns the survivors is the revelation that they are not alone on the Island, and that there's more to the Island than meets the eye. There's something almost magical — or, depending on who you ask, dangerous — about it.

Kate is introduced as one of the survivors from the crash. It's revealed that before the flight she was taken into custody and had been a fugitive for a long period of time before her capture. A flashback scene in Season 1, Episode 12, "Whatever the Case May Be," shows Kate robbing a bank in order to access a safety deposit box that contains a toy plane. The toy once belonged to her childhood friend and holds sentimental value.

The box also holds an interesting connection to Oceanic Flight 815, as the safety deposit box number just so happens to be ... 815. As audiences are well aware, just about everything in "Lost" is connected.

The importance of Kate's mugshot

In Season 1, Episode 3, "Tabula Rasa," Jack discovers a photocopy of Kate's mugshot. He grows suspicious of her, and soon enough, he finds out Kate was being escorted back from Australia to the United States as a captured fugitive. When Jack looks at the mugshot, there's another blink and you miss it moment when the subject file numbers are revealed to be 00-0428-23-5607-01. And here's why this is important.

Quite a lot of elements in "Lost" reference the numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. Kate's mugshot includes every number except for 15 and 16. It is eventually revealed that Jacob (Mark Pellegrino), the current immortal-ish protector of the Island, has assigned each of those numbers to candidates for his potential replacement. (He's also assigned many other numbers to many other potential replacements, but ah ... it's a really long story.) As far as the sequence of numbers that continues to appear in different contexts throughout "Lost," each number corresponds to a candidate the audience knows — Locke is 4, Hurley is 8, Sawyer is 15, Sayid is 16, Jack is 23, and 42 is either or both Jin and Sun Kwon. Kate was a candidate before she became an adoptive mother, giving her a teether to the world, resulting in Jacob crossing her off as an option. However, Jacob doesn't exactly slam the door shut on the idea of Kate replacing him. "It's just a line of chalk in a cave," he tells her in Season 6, Episode 16, "What They Died For." "The job is yours if you want it, Kate." 

Yunjin Kim originally auditioned for Kate

Yunjin Kim portrayed Sun Kwon — one of the main characters throughout all six seasons of "Lost." Her character is married to Jin Kwon, and their relationship goes through various ups and downs. Their fate in Season 6, Episode 14, "The Candidate" is one of the most soul-crushing moments on the entire series.

A fun fact about Kim is that she originally auditioned to play Kate. According to Yahoo News, the character Sun was created specifically for Kim after her audition for Kate. Kim recalled that she had great feedback during her audition, but that they told her she might not be right for Kate. A few hours later, she got a call from her agent saying that they were going to create a role just for her. Thus, the character Sun came to be. Kim shared with Yahoo, "I got a call a couple hours later from my agent, and they were super excited. They're like, 'They're going to write a role for you.' I had a phone call with J.J. for about 40 minutes [after that]." Talk about making an impression.

Kate was supposed to be the leader of the group

Jack Sheppard is the de facto leader of the survivors from Oceanic Flight 815. While other characters — Locke and Sawyer, for two examples — occasionally fill in or proactively try to undermine Jack's authority, ultimately, everybody still looks to Jack as the person in charge. By the end of "Lost" it's Jack who sacrifices everything to save the Island and the world.

However, things could've worked out very differently. Initially, Kate was meant to be the leader of the survivors, and Matthew Fox was never supposed to play Jack. In fact, Michael Keaton was set to portray the character with the understanding that he would be set up as the main character only to be shockingly killed in the first episode. However, the writers felt that this would be too much of a surprise for audiences ("Game of Thrones" was several years away, after all) so they decided to rewrite the story with Jack at the center (via E! News). Keaton told The Hollywood Reporter that once the rewrites were made, he backed out of the role, stating that if Jack had still been slated to die, then he would have stayed.

Kate and Rose's connection

Due to the fact that Kate was meant to be the leader instead of Jack, it should be no surprise that her backstory initially had a different trajectory as well. The Kate that audiences know now is heavily tied to Jack, and if he didn't survive the pilot episode, that would really change a lot about Kate.

According to E! News, Kate's original backstory was similar to that of Rose (L. Scott Caldwell). In the early drafts of "Lost" pilot scripts, Kate also had to deal with the loss of her fiancé. She would've been seated somewhere in the front of the plane while he would've been in the back of the plane, resulting in Kate having no idea what happened to him when the plane crashed. Once the changes were made, the character Rose was created and given the tragic backstory of her husband Bernard (Sam Anderson) being the one in the back of the plane. Luckily, Rose and Bernard get a happy ending. It's almost enough for us to forgive how "Lost" played Jin and Sun so dirty in the end.

Evangeline Lilly almost missed filming

It must be a nightmare to cast the perfect actor for a role in a series, especially one that's as emotionally demanding as "Lost." And when it came to casting Kate, it was definitely a long process ... until it wasn't. 

According to USA Today, the audition process for Kate saw approximately 65 actresses try out for the role. However, once Evangeline Lilly metaphorically walked in, it was a done deal. "We had read 60 to 65 women for the role of Kate. We were fast-forwarding through a tape, and he saw her and said, 'That's the girl,'" said co-creator and showrunner Damon Lindelof.

Unfortunately for the cast and crew, Lilly had some difficulties obtaining a visa. As a Canadian actress, she required a work visa to live and film in the United States — specifically, Hawaii, the filming location of "Lost" — which presented a problem for the actress. In fact, it took Lilly 20 attempts before she was able to successfully obtain her work visa. This resulted in her arriving a day late to set. Had it been longer, this holdup could have pushed production back more than the crew was comfortable with (via E! News).

At the time, "Lost" was a gigantic break for Lilly. Since then, she's gained wider recognition as Hope van Dyne in the MCU "Ant-Man" movies. Unfortunately, her opinions about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine mandates (via E! News) have also generated headlines. 

A connection with Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Eventually, audiences see why Kate was on the run from law; she kills her abusive stepfather. She confesses her crime to her mother before running away. Unfortunately for Kate, her mother rats her out to the authorities, forcing Kate into the fugitive status in which she resides throughout her flashbacks for the first half of the series.

In Season 1, Episode 22, "Born to Run" audiences see Kate use one of her alias names, "Joan Hart." We also meet Kate's mother Diane Janssen, who is portrayed by actress Beth Broderick. This is a direct tie into the popular sitcom — which ended its run in 2003, a year before "Lost" started in 2004 — "Sabrina the Teenage Witch." Sabrina is portrayed by actress Melissa Joan Hart, and Broderick played her Aunt Zelda. Kate's fake name is a direct nod to the actress, and having her mother portrayed by Sabrina's aunt is just the icing on the cake.

Broderick returns as Kate's mother in a few episodes, and while she eventually forgives Kate for murdering her husband, Kate never forgives her mother for turning her in, arguing that she did what she had to in order to save them both from his abuse.

The significance of the number 108

Numbers play a crucial role in the world of "Lost." For example, the candidate numbers that continuously pop up in the series haunt Hurley (Jorge Garcia). He uses them to play the lottery and wins, but once he becomes wealthy, he's cursed with bad luck everywhere he goes. In regard to Kate, the number 108 seems to follow her around, although it doesn't seem to have it in for her to the same extent as Hurley's cursed numbers. 

Kate appears in 108 out of the 121 episodes of "Lost." And while this could be written off as a happy accident, there's more. When you add the candidate numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42, they equal 108. If that's not enough of a coincidence for you, 108 is what the clock at the Swan station resets to every time to button is pushed. It's what the character Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) has been pushing on his own in the Swan bunker hatch over a span of three years ... until Jack and Locke lower Kate into the hatch, making her the first of the survivors to step foot in it.

Evangeline Lilly's offscreen Lost romances

On "Lost," Kate may be forever tied to the characters Jack and Sawyer, but actress Evangeline Lilly's two offscreen "Lost" romances are quite different. Between Season 1 and Season 4 of the show — that's roughly 2004 to 2007 — Lilly dated co-star Dominic Monaghan. Monaghan portrayed Charlie Pace, a heroin addict who finds love and gets clean during his time on the Island. Monaghan looked back at his time with Lilly on Anna Faris' podcast, stating that his compulsive partying probably played a big part in their split. Fortunately, the heartbreak helped him realize his priorities in life.

When asked about their time together, Monaghan alluded that Lilly moved on from their relationship into another without telling him. He shares that he found out they were no longer together from someone else, stating "I think she was looking around to see what else was an option... Unfortunately, there was a bit of a crossover which was upsetting for me, and it exploded in my face in an awful way" (via ET).

Following their split, Lilly would move on to a "Lost" production assistant Norman Kali. In fact, once the series wrapped, Lilly relocated to stay in Hawaii, which is Kali's home. The two live a relatively quiet life together, where Kali works as a stay-at-home dad in order to let Lilly focus on her career.

Kate escapes the Island twice

When the survivors from the Oceanic Flight 815 crash on the Island, their first thought is being rescued. However, as time passes by, survival becomes more of a concern than being rescued. Many of the survivors begin to believe that they will never leave the island. And unfortunately for most, they never do. Unless you're Kate. Because if you're Kate, then you get to escape not once, but twice.

By the end of Season 3, audiences discover that six of our main characters have escaped the island. The media dubs them the Oceanic Six. It's Kate, Jack, Sun, Hurley, Sayid (Naveen Andrews), and Claire's (Emilie de Ravin) baby Aaron. After leaving the island, Jack becomes obsessed with the idea that they all need to return, resulting in him telling a distraught Kate that, "We have to go back!" Which they eventually do.

The first people to escape the island are Michael Dawson (Harold Perrineau) and his young son Walt (Malcolm David Kelley). Next up, it's the Oceanic Six, and when they return to the Island, three of them are sadly killed. Once Hurley decides to stay, Kate is the last one standing of the Oceanic Six. She escapes once more, but this time leaves with Sawyer and Claire.

The only other character to have escaped the Island twice is Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey). He was meant to be the original pilot of the Oceanic Flight 815 but overslept and missed work that day. He's officially introduced in Season 4 when he's hired to fly a group of mercenaries to the Island. Lapidus returns once more in the final season, and he escapes for a second time with Kate, Sawyer, and Claire.