Home > Lost, Reviews, TV > Lost, Season 1, Episode 18: Numbers

Lost, Season 1, Episode 18: Numbers

Welcome to the Lost Re-Re-Rewatch Project. In case you’re wondering, the answer is yes. This is my fourth round-trip to the Island, but my first time attempting to chronicle my thoughts on the show on an episode-by-episode basis. The mission: A post per episode. Nothing so epic and theory-heavy as Doc Jensen’s great stuff at EW.com, which I highly suggest you read (the theory game is a bit moot at this point anyway), but hopefully it will help scratch both my writing itch and my Lost itch at the same time.

Episode Title:Numbers

Overall Rating: B

Lost episodes that focus on individual characters developed reputations that eventually became hard to shake. Sayid episodes were “Dark.” Jack episodes were “Important.” Locke episodes were “Powerful.” Kate episodes were “God-awful.” You get the idea.

But many people still don’t have a good feeling for where Hurley episodes fit in. Now, after three-plus watches of Lost, I am finally prepared to bestow Hurley’s adjective: “Underrated.”

To tell the truth, I was not looking forward to “Numbers.” I remembered the premise but I thought it was an oddly placed hour, right between a couple of quality character-driven stories and “Deus Ex Machina,” the next episode, which begins the Season 1 endgame in earnest.

I was wrong not to look forward to the episode–it’s actually very good–but I was correct in thinking it’s oddly placed. By this point in season one we’ve seen three Jack episodes, two Sawyers, two Kates, two Charlies, one Sun and one Jin, and at least one of each of the other main cast members. This is the first time we’ve gotten to know Hurley, and it was probably overdue. And honestly, except for the final shot of the episode, there’s not a single moment that couldn’t have happened earlier in the season.

Regardless, it was worth the wait to get to know the character that, many theorize, is the writers’ chosen avatar for the fans of Lost: Confused, friendly, funny ol’ Hurley. Periodically throughout the season, Hurley has referenced the fact that he is rich, and in “Numbers” we find out that it’s true, as well as how he came into that money. It was the lottery, where he played a set of mysterious numbers (4-8-15-16-23-42), which with this episode joined the A-list of Lost folklore items (some would say “red herrings”). He picked up these numbers from a muttering fellow patient at (big reveal!) the Santa Rosa Mental Institute, where he had previously been a patient.

In short, things don’t go as Hurley would expect after winning the lottery. His grandfather dies during his news conference, the house he buys his mom burns down (as she breaks her ankle), he’s arrested for being a suspected drug dealer, and his money doubles when a factory he owns burns down. Hurley, naturally, assumes the money–more specifically the numbers–are bad luck. When he asks the man at Santa Rosa where he got them, though, the dude flips out, screaming that the numbers are evil, that he heard them from Sam Toomey, a former inmate.

The chase for answers takes Hurley to Australia, where he finds Toomey’s widow. The woman–who has a prosthetic leg (what is it with wooden-limbed Aussies?)–says Sam had heard them over a radio broadcast while monitoring the south Pacific. She also gives Hurley a verbal tongue-lashing for thinking the numbers are bad luck. Of course, we know what happens to Hurley on the way home from Australia…

Here’s a video that is helpful in explaining the numbers as presented in “Numbers.”

On-Island, the numbers are the MacGuffin for Hurley to venture into the jungle in search for Rousseau after he finds “his” numbers listed over and over on her maps. Charlie, Jack and Sayid give chase, and most of the episode covers their trek, including Hurley triggering (and escaping) a booby trap and Charlie and Hurley making it over a creepy rope bride over a canyon.

Hurley eventually find Rousseau, and the resulting conversation is one that I always forget about until it happens. And for that I’m thankful, because it’s a nice surprise every time. The high points are hit in the above conversation: Hurley bearing his soul to a stranger, lamenting his “funny-guy” role on the Island; his desperation for answers.

The most interesting part of the conversation, though, is when Rousseau explains why she wrote the numbers on the map in the first place: Her French science crew wrecked on the Island because a radio frequency was transmitting the numbers in the Pacific. This was, we presume, the same frequency that Toomey heard. The science team crashed and found the source of the signal: The radio tower where she eventually changed the transmission to her distress signal, which played for something like 16 years. Hurley’s hug for Rousseau when she says he isn’t crazy–indeed, admits the numbers are cursed–is a nice moment.

The lesson, which we’ll see repeated throughout the six season: Hurley’s honesty and inherent goodness more often than not get results. He gets his answers and Sayid gets a battery he needs for the beacon on the raft.

But the episode wasn’t quite done yet. As our characters wind down for the night, we get our first good glimpse of the hatch, which Locke and Boone have been working to unearth for weeks, and inscribed just under the hatch door? Hurley’s numbers. And we have the first excellent “BONK!” moment in at least a half dozen episodes.


–Locke asks Claire to help him with a project. There are two or three scenes of her helping him build something. At the end of the episode he turns it over and we (and Claire) find out it’s a cradle. She didn’t recognize it until he turned it over? What to cradles look like in Australia?

–At the end of the episode Charlie opens up about his drug problem to Hurley, which is a well-done scene. Hurley tries to open up and tell Charlie about his lottery win, but Charlie doesn’t believe him. Poooooor Hurley.

Episode: “Numbers”

Director: Daniel Attias

Best Scene: Hurley and Rousseau’s gunpoint conversation in the jungle. It’s a nice example of human elements (Hurley’s desperation) mixing with some plot details of the show (how the numbers also lured Rousseau to the Island).

Worst Scene: I know they’re setting up the Locke-as-father-figure storyline from Season 2, and Terry O’Quinn is always good, but the Locke-builds-a-cradle-for-Claire stuff just feels squeezed in.

Best Line: Sawyer to Walt when he’s watching the others build the raft: “I am helping, Short Round. I’m watching for arsonists.” Hahaha. Short Round.

Best Throwaway Moment: In Hurley’s accountant’s office, he is told that he is now the primary shareholder of a box company in Tustin, Calif. Where we (but not Hurley) know that one John Locke is a regional shipping manager. Honorable mention: The first scene of towel-on-head Hurley, stomping across the beach, is intercut with the hardcore rap coming from his stereo in a subsequent flashback. Pretty funny.

Revelations: Hurley actually did win the lottery; Rousseau heard the numbers coming from the radio tower, which caused her team to crash there; Hurley was in a mental institution; the numbers are stenciled into the front of the hatch, which Boone and Locke have almost entirely unearthed.

Next Episode: “Deus Ex Machina”

(All images and ep-title links are courtesy Lostpedia.com)

“I am helping, Short Round. I’m watching for arsonists.”

Categories: Lost, Reviews, TV
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