Originally aired March 2, 2005
Do you have a lucky number? A number that you know intellectually is meaningless, yet for some reason you assign it a special place in your life? Maybe you schedule things on that date, or perhaps you count to it to calm down, or maybe you play it in games of chance? Does it work?
Thing is, people have been ascribing meaning to numbers since numbers were first conceived. After all, numbers are an abstract concept to begin with, and as such can accommodate any number (pun soooo not intended) of meanings. Numbers are used in all sciences, in art, in religion, in myth, in politics and history. As such, people are always looking for patterns, for significance, for a grand mathematical formula that can explain it all … but is there one? Can the universe, can fate, be described or reduced down to something tangible just by using a few numbers? Can your lucky number change your life, and if it does, was it part of some grander scheme?
After a long day of frying chicken at Mr. Cluck’s (mmm … chicken … ) Hurley just wants to hang out and watch a little teevee in peace. And if that programming involves some G-String mujeres? What’s the harm? Hurley is an adult, after all. But his mother, Carmen? NOT HAVING IT. Nag nag nag … you should be out on a Saturday night, why aren’t you dating, you need to eat better, nag and repeat.
And that’s when Hurley changes the channel to hear the “mega” lottery number being read: 42. Making tonight’s winning lottery numbers 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42! Hey, Hurley? What’s that on your lottery ticket?
Annnnnnd … he’s down like a sack of potatoes.
Lost note: As mentioned in “Outlaws,” Mary-Jo, the lottery girl is played by the same woman who Sawyer brings back to his hotel room.
The actress is Brittany Perrineau, wife of Harold, and it’s uncertain whether the character is supposed to be the same one as in “Outlaws.” Notice that she is wearing a long-sleeved dress as she is pulling out the lotto balls. I tried to research this, and came up with nada, but it seems rather suspicious to me. Way too easy for a quick sleight of hand and slip a ball with a particular number into the mix. Seems like it would be way too easy to cheat. Oh, and fun note! That’s Carlton Cuse’s as the lottery official that announces: “That’s right, Mary-Jo, because this is the 16th week without a winner!”
Press conference. Hurley’s rich! Numbers just came to him! Here’s his family! Grandpa Tito! He worked hard! Pacemaker 4 years ago! Buy mom a new house! Uh-oh! Tito’s fallen down! Tito can’t get up!
Hurley has bought himself quite the Humvee. Big guy needs a big ride, you know? And he’s driving the perpetually sour Carmen to a surprise, but A. the music is too loud, and B. Carmen hates surprises. Hurley promises that she’ll like this one, especially after everything with Tito dying, and the priest being struck by lightning at his funeral, and Hurley’s brother’s wife leaving him for another woman … this surprise, unlike those, will be a good one. And, hey, doesn’t it seem like they’ve been plagued with bad luck ever since Hurley won the money, like the money is cursed or something?
But Carmen, being Catholic, doesn’t believe in curses, so enough with that. They arrive at their destination, and Hurley blindfolds his mother under great protest. He helps her out of the vehicle and tells her to look at her dream house just as she twists her ankle on the curb, and down she goes.
Oh, and the house is on fire. But, before Hurley can call 911, the cops arrive and arrest him. Er … what was that about curses?
Hurley meets with his accountant, and we learn the following things: Hurley has orange futures which went up during a recent tropical storm; he owns a box company in Tustin (Locke’s employer); he had a sneaker company in Canada until it burnt down, killing 8 employees, but it was over insured, so he’s actually made a windfall; and the reason he was arrested earlier was that the LAPD mistook Hurley for a drug dealer (typical), but it’s all good because he sued them for false arrest and received a generous settlement. Oh, and he’s managed to double his net worth in a few months. Yay!
But Hurley’s still hung up on this “the money’s cursed!” thing, which his accountant dismisses. It’s all in Hurley’s head. The accountant doesn’t believe in curses — he believes in numbers. And that’s when Hurley realizes it’s not the money that’s cursed: it’s the numbers! But the accountant still doesn’t believe him — in fact, looks at him like he’s crazy — and that’s when the body falls past the window.
Lost note: The business about him being mistaken for a drug dealer? “I still can’t imagine how the police mistook you for a drug dealer.” Inside joke. Jorge Garcia was cast as a drug dealer in an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He was just as charming in that appearance as he is on Lost.
Next stop: looney bin. Hurley argues with a receptionist for a bit: he just wants to see Leonard, Lenny, whatever, but no Hurley doesn’t know his last name … but how many Lennys can there be? Out of the corner of his eye, Hurley notices a janitor attempting to replace a light bulb while leaning precariously on a ladder, and Hurley demands that he stop it right now.
Fortunately for Hurley, Dr. Curtis arrives and escorts him inside the rec room, where Hurley finds poor Leonard Sims muttering to himself and playing a solitary game of Connect Four. Pretty sneaky, Lenny …
Hurley plops himself down and asks Lenny where the numbers came from … the numbers that Lenny happens to be muttering to himself again and again, but Lenny’s not giving anything up. That is until Hurley reveals that he used the numbers to play the lottery, and ever since he won, it’s as though he’s been a jinx to everyone around him.
The bit about using the numbers to play the lottery catches Lenny’s attention. Seems Hurley’s “opened the box” by playing the numbers, and this is a bad thing. “It” doesn’t stop. And Hurley needs to get far far away from the numbers. Lenny, as he’s being dragged away, tells Hurley that he heard the numbers from Sam Toomey in Australia. Bye, Lenny!
And this is why Hurley went to Australia. Turns out Sam Toomey lived out in the middle of literally nowhere. And I’m not using “literally” as a superlative here. Picture Nowhere, and then place a house in the middle of it. This is where the Toomey residence exists. In some sort of existential void. Anyway.
Hurley knocks on the door, and a woman answers. When Hurley explains that he’s looking for Sam Toomey, the woman explains that she’s his wife, and poor Sam’s been dead for 4 years.
Inside, Hurley explains that he knows Leonard Sims, who apparently used to be in the service. Mrs. Toomey goes on to explain to Hurley that Sam and Lenny were stationed at a listening post together, monitoring longwave transmissions. Most of the time all they heard was static, but then, 16 years ago, they heard a voice break through the static repeating the numbers over and over again.
So soon after, she and Sam were attending a fair when he participated in a bean-counting game. Sam used the numbers and apparently got the number right down to the bean. He won $50,000! Yay! But that night, on their way home, they get into a head-on collision, and Mrs.Toomey loses her leg. Boo. After this, Sam began keeping track of all the bad things that happened to people around them, and then moved them out into their very own existential void to try to make the bad luck stop. And then, 4 years ago, he blew his head off.
But Mrs. Toomey isn’t having any of this cursed numbers or bad luck business. She thinks that’s a bunch of malarkey. Bad things happen. And you make your own luck. Quit looking for excuses, because they don’t exist. So there.
On the island everyone is busy with little projects. Michael is still constructing the raft with Jin’s help (and yes, Sun, I think he’ll be leaving on that raft, to answer your question directed to Kate), and no help whatsoever from Sawyer. Locke, in the meantime, has found help on his own project from Claire. She’s pretty certain he’s building a trap, but it’s not. The two chat, and Claire reveals that she had planned on giving the baby up for adoption, and that today is her birthday. Happy birthday, Claire! Locke’s built you a crib!
Over with the raft-builders, Michael realizes that he’s going to need some sort of beacon to transmit an SOS to any nearby ships while on the raft. Jack agrees and asks Sayid to construct one, which he’s totally cool with, ‘cept that they don’t have any sort of battery power for such a contraption.
What about the crazy French chick? Asks Hurley. Didn’t she have batteries? Well, yeah, but Sayid isn’t exactly chomping on the bit to go back there. When Shannon translated Danielle’s papers, she noted that there was an area on the map marked as the “Dark Territory,” an area that Sayid isn’t anxious to go wandering around. As Hurley checks out Danielle’s papers, what does he notice, but the numbers! Written over and over again! BUT WHY?
Hurley makes a curious decision, in approaching Sayid in the middle of the night with a bunch of questions regarding Danielle and her papers, how Sayid found her, what’s up with the cable, etc., etc., and then Hurley swipes the papers when Sayid isn’t looking.
The next morning, Charlie finds Hurley filling water bottles in preparation for a walk. A walk that Charlie is not invited on. Sorry, Charlie.
Sayid, in the meantime, has discovered that Danielle’s papers have been swiped, and he’s pretty certain that Jack set Hurley up to take them, but Jack has no idea what Sayid is raving about. That is until Charlie shows up and informs them that Hurley was headed out for a walk and acting crazy.
Hurley heads down the beach, finds the cable, and follows it into the jungle. And it doesn’t take him long at all to find one of Danielle’s traps and plop himself down on it. Fortunately, Sayid, Jack, and Charlie discover him, and are able to warn him. But rather than wait and try to finagle Hurley off the trap, he just dives off of it in time, narrowly missing the Ball of Spikey Death that Danielle had rigged. He’s spry, you see. So then the guys agree to go with him to find Danielle and ask her for a battery. They’re off to see the Looney! The Looney Lady of the Woods!
They continue following the cable to the point where it enters the ground: it stops here, Sayid notes. And for a reason: there’s an enormous crevice ahead, spanned by a rickety rope bridge. A rickety rope bridge that Hurley announces he will cross. And whaddya know, but he does. And because he manages to make it across unarmed, wee Charlie follows. And he almost makes it across before the bridge snaps and Hurley has to pull him to safety. Guess Jack and Sayid are going to have to go around …
And so they do, and find themselves in an area that seems familiar to Sayid. But before he can locate Danielle’s bunker, the two of them inadvertently set off a trip wire that blows it to smithereens! KABLAM! Wonder where Danielle is going to live now …
Charlie and Hurley, alone now, keep making their way through the jungle, and Charlie begins to pry: why has Hurley’s attitude changed from happy-go-lucky, good-time Hurley to Colonel-bloody-Kurtz (and yes, I know, I know, Colonel Kurtz is from Apocalypse Now, Mr. Kurtz is from Heart of Darkness)? Why hasn’t Hurley told Charlie anything personal about himself? Why is he acting like a lunatic? HEY. Hurley’s NOT CRAZY, YO.
And just as Hurley’s about to begin to open up to Charlie, that’s when they come face-to-face with a real loon: Danielle, who commences shooting at them. It’s her hobby. As she starts shooting, Charlie runs for the hills, but Hurley? Hurley sticks around to chit chat with CrazyPants. He explains that he was on the plane with Sayid, and he wanted to talk to her about the numbers that she wrote down in her notes. Why’d she do it?
And Danielle? She doesn’t know.
Not the answer Hurley was looking for. Poor thing becomes almost hysterical and explains that he’s put up with all the nuttiness on the island, but he can’t take the numbers, and he needs some answers. Now.
And Danielle begins to explain that her ship picked up a transmission with a voice repeating the numbers. She and her team changed course to investigate, ultimately crashing on the island. It took them a few weeks to find the radio tower, which is up by the black rock. Some of her team searched for meaning in the numbers, the others waited for rescue. The sickness came, and when the team was gone, she went back to the tower and changed the transmission.
But? The power? Of the numbers? Where does it come from? Hurley asks. And he goes on to explain that the numbers are cursed. And Danielle agrees! After all, the numbers brought Danielle to the island, and it would appear that the numbers brought Hurley. And that: the confirmation that Hurley’s not crazy, that the numbers indeed have power, was all that Hurley really needed to know.
Armed with that, and a battery, Hurley rejoins the group and they make their way home. Victory!
Back at the beach, Charlie asks Hurley what it was that he was about to tell him in the jungle before La Crazy began shooting at them, and Hurley confesses that he thinks the plane crash is his fault. P’shaw. Bad things happen, retorts Charlie. I was snorting heroin as the plane crashed. Was it your fault I was a junkie? And, yeah, that’s my big dark secret, so how’s about you share something with me? And Hurley takes a deep breath and admits that back home he’s worth $156 million. JOKES? I bare my soul, and you respond with jokes? Yells Charlie as he stomps off into the darkness, leaving Hurley all alone. Poor Hurley.
And then! We’re no longer at the beach! But instead! We’re in the jungle! And we’re at the hatch! And we zoom in! And! THE NUMBERS? IT HAZ DEM!
So! The Numbers! This is one of the biggest mysteries on the show, and some fans’ favorite guessing game. What do you think they mean? Because, I gotta warn ya, if you are one of the many many people who want some sort of grand unifying it-all-makes-so-much-sense-now theory from me about the numbers? You’re going to be disappointed.
First things first — we must discuss the Valenzetti Equation. This may be disproved in the very first episode of season four, but so far, in the Lost universe, the Valenetti Equation is the origin of the numbers (again, as of this writing). All we know about the equation is that it was created by Enzo Valenzetti, a Princeton University professor, who came up with it during the Cold War to predict the moment of human extinction. The numbers correspond to “core environmental and human factors” to the equation. Whatever that means. Some have speculated that the numbers represent different catastrophes: pandemic, biological weaponry, nuclear weaponry, population overload. But we don’t know exactly what the factors are, or how they relate to the numbers, thanks to the incompleteness of the Sri Lanka video from The Lost Experience. According to the video, the numbers would be broadcast over the radio transmitter on an encrypted frequency. When the DHARMA scientists had managed to change one of the factors, they were supposed to alert the mainland via the radio transmission somehow.
So, the real question is less what do the numbers represent, and more why was the encrypted radio transmission suddenly heard by both Danielle and Sam Toomey 16 years ago?
Also, obviously, the numbers have to be entered into the Swan Hatch computer every 108 minutes, to discharge the magnetic anomaly inside the sealed off area inside the hatch. The numbers, here, serve as a code, or key of sorts.
That said, let’s discuss some of the more popular theories out there, shall we?
Coordinates: 4.815 Latitude and 162.342 Longitude? Land you right here. Could this be where our island is? Perhaps.
Date: The numbers represent a date in time somehow: April 8, 2015 or some such. Perhaps the date of the end of the world?
Genetic markers: The numbers somehow represent genetic markers that The Hanso Foundation intends to target with the virus they were going to release, or perhaps they mark places of genetic mutations that make certain people “special.”
Numerology: Numbers have special symbolic meanings. Read more here. Kabbalah scholars (the real ones, not the Madonna ones) devote their lives to finding connections and meaning between the original Hebrew of the Bible and numbers. Perhaps the numbers have some sort of esoteric meaning?
And then! There are the fun theories:
Baseball: The numbers are all retired jersey numbers of New York Yankee players: 4 = Lou Gehrig; 8 = Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey; 15 = Thurman Munson; 16 = Whitey Ford; 23 = Don Mattingly; 42 = Jackie Robinson (League-wide). Interestingly, Munson died in a plane crash …
Elvis (Yes! Elvis!): Elvis was born on January 8 (1/08) at 4:15 AM. He died on 8/16 at the age of 42. His mother died at the age of 42 as well, when Elvis was 23!
Plus! There is an interesting connection between the numbers and Connect Four, the game that Lenny is playing in Santa Rosa, and the reversed Big Dipper that is seen in “Special.”
Alright. Check it. If you had a Connect Four board, and you started numbering the places on it starting from the bottom left, and then you placed chips in each of the “numbers,” you’d be left with a reversed Big Dipper shape. (Lord, Lost fans have a lot of time on their hands …)
The thing is? At the 2005 Comic-Con, Damon Lindelof reportedly told the audience that “we may never know what the numbers mean.” Which, predictably, went over like a lead balloon with some people who had gone as crazy as Hurley trying to figure out what it all meant. He had to retract the statement, and they later put out the little we know about the numbers in The Lost Experience. This “answer” was disappointing to other fans.
The thing is, though? I don’t think that Lindelof was mistaken, nor do I think it is a bad thing if the numbers ultimately have no intrinsic meaning.
The truth of the matter, as far as I can tell, is that the meaning of the numbers is right there in the episode. And it boils down to a question: fate or coincidence? Synchronicity or Apophenia? It extends beyond the numbers, of course. It also applies to the way the survivors’ lives have crossed paths before they met on the island. Is it fate or coincidence that Jack and his sister Claire were on the plane together? Is it synchronicity or just a random blip in the universe that Kate befriended Sawyer’s baby momma? And what does it mean when you choose one answer over the other? Which do you think it is? Does the universe have a grand design? Or are all events merely random blips in time?
Hurley and Danielle firmly stand on the fate/synchronicity side of the argument. They both believe that the numbers, together, have some sort of power. And that this power can manifest itself over the fates of those with whom it comes in contact.
Others, like Charlie, Martha Toomey, and Carmen Reyes, simply reject that there is any power inherent in a random set of numbers. The fact that the numbers appear again and again is the combination of two factors: coincidence, and apophenia, or the brain’s natural tendency to find patterns in random elements.
It’s curious, because on the one hand, how many times, after watching this episode, did you suddenly notice these numbers in your own life? And on the other hand, it does appear that the numbers drew in both Hurley and Danielle to the island. Notice that Danielle tells Hurley that her team “changed course” to investigate the radio transmission. In the language of “course correctors,” did Danielle and her crew change the path of the universe by investigating, or did the numbers “correct” Danielle’s course by leading her team to the island (I kinda suspect it was the latter). Of course, if it is the latter, then it suggests that the numbers aren’t a random coincidence, but indeed the hand of fate/the universe/synchronicity/whathaveyou at work.
Regardless of which it is, ultimately this episode is really about Hurley’s journey to find some answers. Once Hurley does, his life is literally upended. Notice all the falling in this episode: Hurley faints when he learns he’s won; Grandpa Tito collapses with a fatal heart attack; Carmen falls on the curb, breaking her ankle; the anonymous man falls past Hurley’s accountant’s window; Hurley worries about the janitor at Santa Rosa falling off the ladder; of course, it’s not in this episode, but Hurley and the rest of the survivors fall out of the sky in the crash; and then Charlie nearly falls to his death on the bridge.
Falling is a symbol of a loss of control. Which is what happens to Hurley and his life when he wins the unimaginable sum of money: he loses control of his life. (And Hurley lands in Santa Rosa in the first place because of a fall: he stepped onto a deck designed for 8 people, but holding 15. When the deck collapsed, 2 people died and Hurley felt responsible, and became catatonic. And what do you know but there’s that pesky 8 and 15 again.)
And for a man who has a history with mental health issues, a lack of control over one’s own life is a big deal. Thus, he journeys both in the flashback and on the island, in search of answers. Interestingly, (I’ve got to find a synonym for that word …) Hurley keeps coming up against all these female-mother figures in his journey. In the Hero’s Journey, there is a stage that is referred to as “Marriage,” which can be about a romantic or sexual union between the hero and a female.
But it can also refer to the hero coming into contact with a goddess/mother figure in some sort of positive way. In this episode, it’s notable that Hurley’s mother dismisses his thoughts on the numbers being cursed; he then journeys into the unknown — Australia — and meets another older woman, Martha Toomey, who echoes his mother’s thoughts on the issue. Hurley keeps being rejected by the mother/goddess. (And to continue with the monomyth/Freudian thing, it doesn’t help that all the father figures are missing or drop dead: Hurley’s father is AWOL, Grandpa Tito dies, the priest [Father Aguillar] at the funeral dies, and Sam Toomey has died before Hurley can speak with him.)
It’s on the island that Hurley follows the cable (an umbilical cord if you will) and finally finds the mother/goddess figure who accepts rather than rejects Hurley. Danielle gives Hurley what he’s been looking for: someone to assure him that he’s not crazy. That the numbers are cursed. He doesn’t really need to know what the numbers mean, just that they have meaning. He doesn’t need to know why they wreaked havoc on his life, just that they did. This is Hurley’s boon. And after Danielle gives him this gift, she also gifts him with the battery — the physical boon that the group had set out for.
Although, isn’t it fun that the only people who agree with Hurley that the numbers have power, that they have meaning are complete nutters? Both Danielle and Lenny aren’t the most mentally stable people in the world, and yet, they are the only ones who accept Hurley’s notion that the numbers are cursed. The question here is a chicken and egg one: did the numbers make Lenny and Danielle crazy? Or were they crazy to begin with, and therefore making a connection between the numbers and some imagined “curse?” Synchronicity or Apophenia?
And about what Lenny said that day in Santa Rosa. So much attention has been paid to the comment that Hurley had “opened the box.” Blah blah the hatch blah Pandora’s box blah blah blah. It’s all been said over and over and OVER again. What I didn’t notice until this recent viewing was a little something else Lenny says: “it doesn’t stop.” Which, by itself is strange and enigmatic. But! Immediately after this scene, we cut back to the island, and Sayid is following the cable through the jungle, and he notes that it goes into the ground right before the suspension bridge. What does he say? “It stops here.”
OK! So! Check it out! The two statements fit together beautifully in relation to the numbers. The numbers were part of DHARMA’s work in relation to the Valenzetti Equation and everything, and they were broadcast over the radio transmitter indefinitely, or until they were able to change one of the factors and thus save humanity, right? The transmission was supposed to be encrypted and on a special frequency. But one day, 16 years ago, something happened, and two different sets of ears heard them: Danielle’s team and Sam. Danielle and her team crash onto the island never to be rescued. The curse stops there. But, Sam Toomey isn’t on the island. He’s out in the real world. And the numbers have escaped with him. They destroy his life, and make Lenny crazy, who in turn is sent to Santa Rosa where he repeats them indefinitely. There, Hurley crosses their path, gets them in his head, and plays them in the lotto. As the curse extends its way into his life, Hurley sets out to discover the source of the numbers. Be careful what you wish for: because sure enough, he crashes directly on top of the very source. The numbers are brought back full circle. It. Stops. Here.
And perhaps that ultimately is the meaning of the numbers. What we are supposed to take away from the episode is that the numbers are supposed to stay on the island: they are dangerous in the outside world. They, like the survivors, like Ben and Rose and Danielle and Locke, are meant to be on the island. They are meant to stay on the island.
And perhaps we, like Hurley, are meant to understand that the numbers as they relate to coordinates or numerology or dates or baseball jerseys: all of this is ultimately meaningless. We’ll drive ourselves crazy if we keep looking for some simple answer. We should take a cue from Hurley and merely accept that the numbers, like the universe, are significant and perhaps beyond our ability to truly understand their meaning, power, and design.
Or maybe it means that at the end of season 6 we’ll learn that Elvis is alive and well on the island.
Hey! So to tide us over until February, the Lost folks have deigned to throw us some scraps in the form of “mobisodes” or a mini-episodes to be viewed on mobile phones, called “Lost: The Missing Pieces.” Perhaps one of you lucky readers has a Verizon phone: if so, go enjoy “The Watch” right now. The rest of us, unfortunately, have to wait until Monday, November 12th to get a dose of Lost. At that time you can watch them here. (Or you can look ’em up on Youtube.com. *cough* Not that I would, you know, be so impatient as to watch a hastily-taped video of someone else’s TELEPHONE screen or anything.) I hate my lousy non-Lost-watchin’-telephone. Bah.
Lost originally aired on ABC and is now available to stream on Hulu and IMDb.
This post originally appeared on the Hearst site Tubular.