For the first seventeen episodes of Season One of Lost Hurley appears to be completely oblivious to the idea that the cursed 4 8 15 16 23 42 numbers could have caused the crash of Oceanic 815. Eighteen episodes later, in Numbers, Hurley finally mentions to Charlie: "I think the plane crash might have been my fault."
It's a nagging inconsistency and not easily reconciled. Is the reason why Hurley didn't spend the first half of Season One fretting about the cursed numbers and how he must have been to blame for the crash because the writers hadn't thought of it yet? Listen, it doesn’t fill me with any glee to pick holes in the wonderful work the writers produce, but holes as big as this one (no reflection on Hurley’s personal size, you understand) cannot be ignored.
During and after the Numbers episode Hurley witnesses his uncle collapsing dead, a man jumping off a building, and a meteorite slamming into Mr McCluck's (with poor Tricia Tanaka inside!) amongst a multitude of other instances of profound misfortune. Let's face it, Hurley should have been the least surprised person on Oceanic 815 when it went down. Sat in his seat, as the turbulence hit and the cabin was rocked, he should have been thinking, Dude I knew this was going to happen. Yet he remains blissfully ignorant until, oh yeah, he finds Danielle's scrap of paper with the numbers written on it. Then it all comes flooding back. Then he has a freak out.
Right. Sure. It's ridiculous and senseless and, yeah, it's initially hard to disagree. I mean, can you see any other explanation other than it being evidence of the writers coming up with Hurley's cursed numbers later down the line? That, horror of horrors, the writers at the start didn’t have Hurley’s history completely worked out? Dude, come on, say it ain’t so!
So here's the defence. The case for why Hurley can explicably remain ignorant that the numbers are cursed and that the writers didn't just come up with it deep into the heart of Season One.
Kate robbed safety deposit box 815. Driveshaft featured as number 234 on a jukebox. For 16 years Rousseau's distress signal had been playing. The reward for Kate's capture was $23,000. There are more, but I don't wish to bore you.
What do all these have in common? They are all instances of the 4 8 15 16 23 42 numbers appearing in and around the Lost universe, and these all occurred before the Numbers episode. So, in the defence of the writers, here we have a plethora of examples that display they knew all about the cursed numbers from the start. It was Oceanic 8-15 for God's sake! That the numbers were considered from the start should not be in question. Are we in agreement? I hope so. Because all that is left to do is establish why Hurley didn't seem to believe in their cursed properties being culpable for crashing the plane.
Hurley – “But the numbers, did you ever find out anything about them? Do you know where they got their power?”
Danielle – “Power?”
Hurley – “They bring bad stuff to everyone around you. They're cursed. You know that, right? The numbers, they're cursed.”
Hurley says something vital about the curse in the above dialogue. Just think about his ‘bad luck’. He uses the numbers and wins the lottery, but then his uncle dies. A man jumps out of a building as Hurley is being told even his businesses that burned down have made him money. A meteorite hits McCluck's and kills Tricia? So what? Tricia was mean to him and he hated McCluck's anyway. My point is: “They bring bad stuff to everyone around you.”
Bad luck to everyone around Hurley. Not to him. Hurley, as a rule, tends toward good fortune whilst those around him suffer. He crosses a fragile rope bridge just fine, whereas a featherweight Charlie causes it to collapse. (OK, he gets arrested as a suspected drug dealer whilst his mother's house burns down but, come on, that's just a blip, dude!) So he finds himself on board a crashing plane? That, to me, that's bad luck. Yet Hurley has two factors in his defence:
a) He has been told, just prior to boarding by Martha Toomey, that there is no such thing as a curse.
b) He believes in a curse that brings bad luck to people around him, but not to him.
Ergo, the plane crash cannot, in Hurley's mind, be the result of this curse, right? He’s either become convinced the curse isn’t real (hard to do, sure, when you’re in a metal tube plunging out of the sky) or he believes in a curse that harms others but not himself (only, ah, he actually survived the crash and a lot of other people died).
Hmm. This still isn’t stacking up, is it? So far, seems to me, Hurley should definitely have believed in the curse. Bad luck happened to people around him yet not to him. It should definitely, in the very least, if just for a moment, have crossed his mind that he and his curse may have been responsible for the crash of Oceanic 815.
Did he really not notice that 8 and 15 comprised his flight number? Probably not. He didn’t notice any of the warning signs. . .
OK. Forget all that stuff. Let’s take a run at this from another angle. What's Hurley got a history of? Mental illness. More specifically, traumatic mental repression. He was involved in a deck accident that killed four people and he subsequently went into a catatonic state as a result. The man has guilt issues. So. He survived a plane crash where over two hundred people were killed and, if he blames himself, the likely psychological contingency for him would be repression. That stands to reason, does it not? That to avoid a relapsing breakdown he would unconsciously ignore the guilt? Ergo, to avoid a relapse Hurley suppresses the notion that he and his curse were responsible. His sub-conscious defence mechanism (given that a catatonic state on an Island of strangers isn’t any use for survival) blocked out the idea of guilt totally.
That, I think, is a compelling argument.
It's only when Hurley is confronted with a piece of paper with the numbers upon it does he have to accept his repression - like the way he had to accept Dave was a figment of his imagination when confronted with the photograph of him and no-Dave. (Indeed, you could argue this guilt is what spurred on the reappearance of Dave on the Island.)
So it was only after eighteen episodes did that confrontation arise, when Hurley had to face the numbers on Danielle's papers and find the maddening parallel between the lottery numbers he believes are cursed and the same series of numbers appearing on a scrap of paper from a “French chick” on a desert Island. That was Numbers. That was episode eighteen. Thus we can explain the apparent carefree, ‘curseless’ Hurley for the previous seventeen episodes!
Dude, I rock.