4 8 15 16 23 42 (my long rambling post on Lost)

So these days the one show during the week I have to watch is Lost. Any other show I could miss and catch in reruns and it’s no big deal. What can I say—I’m hooked. I’m along for the ride, and despite my best intentions to simply sit back and enjoy the story as it unfolds, I find myself getting caught up in rampant speculation about—well, everything. So, it’s spilling over into a long blog post that will contain spoilers and that has no central thesis, just random musings and speculation about the show.

The numbers

No diatribe on Lost these days could be complete without talking about the numbers. Those would be the same as in the title of this post: 4 8 15 16 23 42. What do they mean? Where do they come from?

Personally, I suspect they just came up with a cool-sounding sequence of numbers, partially inspired by geeky inside-joke sources: 42 is of course the answer to life, the universe and everything, as anyone who’s read Douglas Adams knows. 23 plays a big role in The Illuminatus! Trilogy. I don’t know about the others; perhaps they’re inspired by I-Ching, as some online theories hold. But I have a hard time believing they hold any real-world significance, other than now being permanently identified with the show.

And more importantly, did any of the numbers show up significantly before the episode that focused on Hurley and the numbers? What I’m wondering is, did they just think up the numbers at that point, on the fly, and decide to change the direction of the show to revolve more around them? Or were they there from the start? I’d have to go back and watch those early episodes to see.

Random thoughts

…Everyone thinks the title of the second-season premiere, “Man of Science, Man of Faith,” refers to Jack and Locke. I rather think it refers to Jack and Desmond instead. Their conversation on the steps of the stadium was much more Science-vs.-Faith than the Jack-Locke stuff.

…After watching the “orientation” film, it immediately became apparent to me that there are more hatches/stations on the island. Last night’s episode proved me right. Why did I think so? Because Desmond’s station is station #3 (there’s gotta be at least 1 and 2), the film talked about differerent fields of study and indicated that station #3 was devoted to studying the magnetic anomaly “on that part of the island” (emphasis mine). They’d only isolate a specific part of the island like that if they were familiar with the whole island, hence they must have built multiple stations elsewhere on the island.

…Wikipedia has a really good section on Lost: start with the Lost (TV series) page and follow the links. It’s a good source of background, episodes, themes, and round-up of theories. Gotta love that Wikipedia.

…I wonder how much of the overall story they’ve planned out in advance, and how much they’re just making up as they go along. Some early elements (see my “Unanswered questions” section below) seem to have been abandoned, while later ones (like the numbers) have developed into the main focus, which seems like the hallmarks of write-as-you-go. The X-Files was particulary bad about this; while there was an overall theme for the series, there was no overall story arc, so as the series progressed the ever-changing plot cruft accumulated and bogged it down, and was really, really disorganized. I’m hoping that’s not the case here, or they at least headed that off early and wrote some sort of syllabus for the series… it’d be much cooler if they’ve thought (and plotted) everything out.

…One of my theories was that they crashed on an island in the Indian Ocean, not the South Pacific. Why? Because of the African elements: the drug running plane with Nigerian money, and the east African slave ship—the Black Rock; it seems more likely to me that these vessels—the plane in particular, since it doesn’t look like it could travel halfway around the world—would not have been found in the South Pacific. But I don’t think that theory holds much water anymore (if it ever did).

Damn I’m good

My wife reads spoilers about the show ahead of time, and told me that (last season) a major character was to be killed off. I predicted it would be Boone, and I was spot on.

This season, she tells me a major female character will die, largely because the actress got into a money dispute with the producers. My prediction: Kate, played by Evangeline Lilly. Why? Well, she’s the hot flavor of the month right now, popping up everywhere and cashing in on her newfound celebrity (she was previously a waitress or something). Sounds like a perfect David Caruso scenario. Plus, they hinted that it was a major character, so that fits.

We’ll see how my prediction holds up.

…I immediately called bullshit on that doofy “genetic twin” theory that popped up online—it naturally turned out to be a hoax. And not even a very good one.

…To be fair, I’ve had my share of misses, too. In particular I didn’t think the “others” with Ana Lucia would be other survivors of the plane crash—I bought into the line that she was the sole survivor of the tail section. My theory was that they were a second group of Others on the island, leading me to wonder how many groups were running around.

It should have been obvious, in retrospect. My wife called it an episode before I did.

Unanswered questions

Is Walt really “special” in a reality-altering sense?

What’s up with Jack’s dead father? If he’s truly dead, why was the coffin empty—where’s the body? If he’s not… how does that fit in with what we know about the island now? Does it fit in, or was it simply a throwaway idea from one of the earliest episodes before they had a concrete direction in mind?

They seemed to have abandoned the black-and-white theme… has that come up again since Locke was playing backgammon and made a big deal of it, and Jack found the black and white stones on the dead bodies from the dead father episode I mentioned above? Or was that an early idea that fell by the wayside?

Who was Desmond racing around the world against? I mean, it’s not really a race unless you’re racing someone else, right? What happened to his craft?

What does Kate’s toy airplane have to do with anything?

The Shakespeare connection

Hey, I’ve even come up with my own goofy theory as to the origin of the numbers (this is all totally tongue-in-cheek, just to show how easy it can be to ascribe deeper meaning to fictional plotlines): They’re all about William Shakespeare. Dig it:

  • He was born (we think) on April 23, and also died that same day. That’s 4-23. And of course being born and dying on the same day is significant.
  • The year he was born was 1564. (64, of course, is the square of 8, and the product of 4 and 16.)
  • The year he died was 1616.
  • He wrote all his works between 1588 and 1616.
  • He authored 42 major works: 38 plays and 4 long poems.
  • He also wrote 154 sonnets.
  • His play The Tempest could be a template for the show: people crash on a strange island, are separated, and deal with the strange inhabitents already present. Very mythic. And two themes are family ties and reconciliation, similar to Lost.

You know what? Even though it’s tongue-in-cheek, I kind of like this theory.

8 thoughts on “4 8 15 16 23 42 (my long rambling post on Lost)”

  1. Geez, this is long Jon 😛

    You know, you *almost* didn’t watch this. I had taped the first episode and had to FORCE you to watch by saying it’s something you would be interested…remember 😉

    and "I was right" about something…you didn’t believe me. I hated you were right about Boone, he was good eye candy 😛

  2. My biggest issue with Lost is that my 13 year old will not stop talking, so I miss things.

    Every theory I have seems to fly out the window with each new episode.

  3. I dig this show. It gets you thinking and trying to solve the puzzles yourself. Its cool when you find out one of your theories is correct.

    One of my theories is the reason Hurley knows these numbers is because the patient he got them from in the institution was one of the button pushers in the bunker on the island.

    We’ll see if that one pans out.

  4. Josh: Niiiiiiice. I hadn’t thought of that one. I like that… now I want to re-watch that first Hurley episode and see those institution scenes again.

  5. I’m betting at the end of the series (whenever that might be) they stop pushing the button and the screen goes black. How would that be for a finale?

    This best part of this show has been the unknown. We don’t want them to find out anything. We don’t want them to get rescued. The less we know the better the show is.

  6. I watched most of the bonus disc that came with season one last night hoping to get some clues. There wasn’t really anything that I didn’t already know.

    I ran the institution guy/Hurley theory by my husband, and we decided we’ll need to watch that episode again.

  7. Have you visited all of the Lost websites? The best is http://www.oceanic-air.com where if you put in the "numbers" in the seating chart, a video shows up. There’s a few other spoilers there, but I won’t ruin it for you. My theory is that they’re in Purgatory, and have to resolve their minor sins before being allowed into the next life. I live for Wednesdays now!

  8. Nah, I haven’t visited too many. And I don’t think the Purgatory theory is correct– it sounds nice, but I don’t think it holds up 😉

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