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Lost

Lost is a drama about a group of plane crash survivors. They land on an unknown Pacific island and have to learn to live together. ABC 2004-2010

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Episode 18 - Numbers

17 January 2017

Present: Michael asks Jack what the raft could use to send a distress signal. Hurley remembers that Sayid talked about Rousseau having batteries. Hurley then sees a series of numbers written on Rousseau’s papers. He heads off alone to meet her. Sayid, Jack and Charlie go after him. Her “residence” blows up when they approach and Hurley heads on alone to find her. She doesn’t know what the numbers mean but she says they were playing on a transmission which drew them to the island. She agrees with him that they are cursed and gives him a battery. Locke asks Claire to help him build something and they talk about her pregnancy. It turns out he is building her a cradle.

Flashback: Hurley uses the numbers to win the lottery. But bad luck immediately befalls him when his grandpa dies. Bad luck piles up on those around him while he gets richer. He heads back to a mental institution he was once in to talk to Lenny. Lenny is a wreck, simply repeating the numbers over and over while playing connect four. When Hurley mentions that he won the lottery with the numbers Lenny suddenly becomes animated and talks about how you have to get away from the numbers to make “it” stop. He tells Hurley about Sam Toomey who now lives in Australia. Hurley goes to see him but only finds his widow Martha. She tells him that Sam and Leonard heard the numbers (while in the navy) in the South Pacific. He used the numbers to win some money and believed that they were cursed. He eventually killed himself.

The Good: Lost’s huge potential comes roaring back toward you with this episode. The most surprising thing about this episode is how surprising it is. The pilot episodes gripped you because it led you to ask the exact question which Charlie asked “Guys, where are we?” Locke’s flashback (104) was another shock, implying that the island had magical qualities. Claire (110) and Walt (114) have also been revealed to seemingly be on the island for some supernatural purpose. But the vagueness of why they were on the island didn’t grip you as much as this episode does. Hurley’s story reached out and grabs you by the lapels and shakes you while saying “everything is connected, every detail matters, you can’t miss a second of this show.” It’s a powerful message and exactly what a great television show must do.

The greatest shock in one sense is that Hurley should be so important to the story. But Lost has made a habit of deliberately trying to refute our expectations. Locke, Charlie, Kate and Sawyer all turned out to have surprising pasts and now Hurley’s is too, in a completely unexpected way. Hurley being a multi-millionaire, who used to be in an mental institution who is now obsessed with a curse is an interesting and compelling story. It is told with a light touch, obviously looking for the humour in his story, but that only helps disguise the dark story lurking behind his success.

As the bad luck begins to pile up on Hurley the tension rises and we understand his behaviour on the island when no one else does. When Leonard snaps out of his catatonic repetitions you realise this story could be serious. His sudden lucidity is an ideal way to make clear that the numbers really are cursed. The scene in Australia is the highlight of the episode, bringing home the true horror and sadness of what Hurley faces (see Best Moment). Hurley then gets to speak for the whole audience when he says “I want some friggin answers” and his scene with Rousseau is excellent. Hurley has been the most likeable character on the show, effortlessly carrying the comedy while also caring for the other survivors. So here the audience is thoroughly behind him and hoping that he can find answers. It makes his tearful hug of Rousseau even more touching and his acting is excellent when he expresses his relief “Thank you. Thank you. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for someone to agree with me.”

One thing Lost has excelled at time and again is presenting a final shot which makes the viewer immediately want to watch the next episode. But somehow they top themselves here with the final twist. The appearance of the numbers on the side of Locke’s hatch means that the answer to Hurley’s curse is close by and that something supernatural and important resides inside. It makes the entire story we have just watched seem even more significant which is a powerful thing.

It’s worth mentioning how well Hurley and his mother handle the comedy. I think the highlight is Hurley sternly instructing a janitor at the mental institution not to change a light bulb “Dude! Do not do that right now. Leave the bulb for another time man!”

Hurley’s lottery win makes sense of why he was on the television screen in Jin’s flashback (116). It also makes sense of his blackjack betting with Walt (111). That scene now takes on an entirely new significance with Walt saying he was always lucky and reminding Hurley that he owed him twenty thousand dollars. “You’ll get it” Hurley said.

Locke once more helps a survivor out in a seemingly wise and kind way. Claire plays vulnerability very well and their scenes are correspondingly sweet. There is an interesting subtext to his actions though. By building her a crib, Locke is helping her to raise the baby on the island. Locke’s wise words and actions to the survivors seem to always be an attempt to help them accept the island as their new home, presumably as he has.

The Bad: There is some unnecessarily aggressive dialogue from Sayid and Charlie. When Jack and Hurley ask Sayid if they can go see Rousseau he shouts at them. He seems angry at the mere suggestion despite the very real need to arm Michael’s raft with some form of communications device. Sayid has been very logical so far and concerned with the survivors escape. So this hissy fit is entirely out of character. Then later when Hurley opens up to Charlie about bad things happening because of him, Charlie cuts him off and tells him he is wrong without listening. This follows him calling Hurley a lunatic and yelling at him in the jungle. Both Sayid and Charlie’s behaviour seem out of character and feel like an attempt to force some conflict and drama into the story.

I think it is a minor quibble, a mistake in the writing which I can forgive. But are there even 4,815,162,342 beans in the world? Let alone in a big jar?

The Unknown: What are the numbers? Why are they on the hatch? Who broadcast them from the island and why? Do they really have the power to curse, how and why? What is the sickness which Rousseau speaks of? Is it real or did she go crazy?

Best Moment: Hurley arrives in Australia, in the middle of nowhere to find Sam Toomey. He finds his widow Martha who tells him the story of the numbers. The tension builds with each detail. Sam heard it in the Pacific, sixteen years ago, both details which lead right to the island. Sam guesses the number of beans at a fair and wins fifty thousand dollars. On the way home from the fair, they get into a car accident and Martha loses her leg while Sam escapes without a scratch. It’s more evidence for Hurley’s curse theory which had helped him get richer while others died. Sam became obsessed with the curse, keeping a record of all the bad things which happened to people around him. He moved out to the middle of nowhere hoping the curse would stop. “Did it?” Hurley asks. She looks angry and says “Yep, he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.” You feel so sorry for Hurley in that moment. The curse seems so real and unavoidable. He tells her about his lottery win and subsequent bad luck. Instead of seeing the curse Martha is angry “You think I’d still have my leg if Sam hadn’t picked the right number of beans?... You make your own luck Mr Reyes.” It’s a fascinating response because it offers you the alternative view of what Hurley could be experiencing. It’s a terrific scene which brings home to you how tragic Hurley’s life really is.

The Bottom Line: A really stunning episode, in both senses of the word. The episode is an excellent piece of television. It builds the tension through the comedy, leads up to an emotional moment for Hurley before the great ending. But it is also stunning in the sense of being a surprise. Hurley is the last of the main characters to get a flashback and he is the last one you would expect to be important to the island mystery. And yet he may be the most important, the numbers could hold the key to what the island is.

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  • Well this episode was fantastic.

    I love that Hurley took so long to get an episode since nobody expected him to have the backstory that he did. It was a great surprise that helps amp up the story as the season approaches it's conclusion. The iconic numbers finally appear and the mystery is heightened by their existence. Additionally this episode all but confirms that the island is supernatural with the appearance of the numbers on the hatch. This was an amazing reveal, but unfortunately the answer was less than satisfying.

    This was a fantastic episode for Hurley as it transforms him from a background character to a major player that may be key to what is really going on on the island. As you said above, the episode delivers greatly on this and it is the main reason that this is as good as it is.

    The comedy and tension was there throughout and the episode seamlessly went from one to the other without fail. I was always engaged and entertained by this episode.

    Lastly, I enjoyed the scenes between Locke and Claire even if they felt mostly like filler.

    Overall, this was an exceptional episode that hugely delivered. It builds excitement for the final few episodes while making huge revelations for the series. Add on a solid character story for Hurley and we have one of Lost's finest episodes.

    Viewer score: 83 / 100

    Posted by Aaronic, 13/01/2017 9:46pm (7 months ago)

  • I agree with Ruby's comment below - that accent was appalling! It was so bad that I actually started wondering if they were trying to make some sort of point, but I'm still at a loss to think what it could be!

    Aside from that, for me this felt like one of the most significant episodes so far, in terms of confirming the supernatural element of the island (which clearly reaches far beyond the island's shores) and how everything seems to be connected. I'm just glad I don't have to wait till next week to find out more!

    Posted by Kay, 02/09/2011 9:04pm (6 years ago)

  • Another bad moment...the laughable attempt at an Australian accent by Martha. I am Australian and she sounded absolutely ridiculous to me. I cannot believe no one else decided to point this out during shooting. Australians do not sound anything like that. I don't think anyone naturally sounds like that. It was more a cockney-south african hybrid. Why didn't they use an Australian actor? There are plenty to choose from in the US.

    Posted by Ruby, 31/07/2011 8:20am (6 years ago)

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