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Numbers

January 26, 2010

So this is the infamous “numbers” episode. Gonna discuss its implications below.

Island mythology: 9.5 out of 10. The numbers are the only thing introduced, but then again, that’s all this episode needs to get this score. Of course, the numbers figure in to pretty much everything on the show, before and after their introduction here. This is in the top three revelations from this season, with the others being the monster and the hatch.

Philosophical concepts/ongoing themes: 8.75 out of 10. As mentioned above, the theme of the numbers or some variation thereof appearing everywhere in the show has its reveal here. But almost as importantly, the concepts of luck and, in Hurley’s case, curses appear for the first time. And in Hurley’s discussion with Sam Toomey’s wife in Australia, the concept of “you make your own luck” is introduced. This of course is a classic fate vs free will debate. Hurley believes he is cursed (fate), and is told that you make your own luck (free will).

But to dig a bit deeper, it’s almost a contradiction in what she tells Hurley. On one hand, she tells him basically that he has free will, and on the other, she basically states her belief that all the bad things that have happened to her and her husband were inevitable. She basically says for Hurley not to use the numbers as a justification or rationalization. It would seem to me that basically, she is saying that if he lets the numbers dictate everything he does, it’s almost the same as no longer having free will.

In addition, this very subtly foreshadows the concept of the universe “course correcting,” introduced later with Desmond, and brings to mind a basic idea of alternate realities, which may or may not be explored in the final season. If everything that happens, happens for a reason (in Toomey’s wife’s example, the car crash, the floods, people dying, etc) and is inevitable, then even if one makes decisions (in this case, going to the fair and betting on the number of beans) that may be different than other ones (hypothetically, not using the numbers to bet on the number of beans, or maybe, to take it back further, never having joined the Navy), the end result is still the same (car will still crash, wife will still lose her leg, etc…the universe course correcting).

So this seems to be saying that if there are alternate futures or realities, because the universe course corrects, one has the free will to make whatever decision he wants, causing any number of possible realities, but these will always end up with the same result, albeit with different details along the way. If the theory for the upcoming season holds true, that the time loop has been broken, maybe this has also broken metaphysical laws where the universe no longer course corrects, and everyone is truly free to create their own realities.

Character development: 7.5 out of 10. Hurley is portrayed in this episode as something besides “fun-time Hurley.” It’s the first real mention of his being a multi-millionaire (it had been hinted at in his backgammon game with Walt, and in Walt’s subsequent backgammon game with Locke), the first indication that he had spent time in a psychiatric facility, the first time Hurley is shown struggling with the “crazy” tag people place on him throughout the series (and a hint that he also has special abilities, revealed later), and of course, the first time his obsession with the numbers is introduced.

Importance of episode to series: 9.75 out of 10. As mentioned above, the introduction of the numbers makes this episode vitally important. To tie in to the philosophical concepts heading above, the fact that Rousseau’s team crashed due directly to the numbers, the fact that Hurley is on the plane due to the numbers, and, as a capper, that the numbers are stamped into the side of the hatch, furthers the train of logic that everyone on the island is there for a reason. And this is almost proven without a shadow of a doubt when it is revealed in the next season that not entering the numbers caused the plane to crash. Of course, I say “proven,” but this is dependent on viewpoint. If one takes the Locke approach, that everything happens for a reason, then there is no disputing this. If one takes Jack’s approach, that everything is random and coincidences are just that…well, that person does not understand LOST that well then.

Personal enjoyment of episode: 7.75 out of 10. This was an enjoyable episode, and is vitally important in the grand scheme of things. But my personal favorite episodes are those that offer some emotional resonance or character growth. This one really did neither of those things. That’s not saying it’s not a very good episode. But it just does not reside in my own personal top tier. Although, I got a laugh out of Hurley’s, “I’m spry” line.

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