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Image: Numbers in "Lost"
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Sure, Jacob scrawled all the names for possible replacements for him, along with the numbers that have shown up time and again on "Lost" on his cave wall, but why the heck did those specific numbers turn up so often?
By
TODAY contributor
updated 5/24/2010 4:06:48 PM ET 2010-05-24T20:06:48

It’s doubtful that any longtime “Lost” fans wanted or expected every single twist explained or question answered when the series finale aired Sunday night. Often the best stories end with an air of ambiguity.

But there’s the intrigue that comes with lingering mystery and then there’s what “Lost” actually left behind, which was more like a host of riddles without resolution.

What about those big mysteries, the ones that made up the myths, the calls to action and the best “what-what?” moments of the show? What about long running head-scratchers that weren’t necessarily central to the plot, but deserved recognition somewhere along the way? And what about the new questions stirred in the finale? A few more clues might have made for a welcome addition to the overall tale.

The biggies
For instance, the very first season of “Lost” introduced one seemingly all-important concept: Michael’s son, Walt, happened to be a very special child. Not your run-of-the-mill special, which on an island with fertility woes and a knack for kidnapping is still pretty extraordinary. No, Walt, with his implied powers of psychic whatsits, was super special. He was worth killing for, dying for.

But if Walt was so darned important, why did the Others agree to let him and Michael sail away? Why did he only make a couple of brief info-light appearances after that? Sure, child actors age, but mysteries never get old. Why wasn’t there some sign of Walt’s true importance in the end? Heck, it doesn’t appear he was even important enough to get an invite to the big afterlife meet up with his old island pals.

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Of course Walt isn’t the only early mystery that failed to get full closure on the show. What about those cursed, oft-repeated numbers “Lost” followers can recite by heart (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42)? They popped up on all over the island, back home, in the alternate reality and corresponded to Jacob’s final candidate picks, but what was the full story? Where did they come from?

Well, this one falls into the category of quasi-mystery. Dutiful viewers could have paid attention to every moment of on-screen action and never received their answers. That because “Lost’s” creators decided to share the vital bit of intel elsewhere, in a long gone online game called “The Lost Experience.”

“Here's the story with numbers. The Hanso Foundation that started the Dharma Initiative hired this guy Valenzetti to basically work on this equation to determine what was the probability of the world ending in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” co-creator Damon Lindelof said at a 2009 event. “Valenzetti basically deduced that it was 100 percent within the next 27 years, so the Hanso Foundation started the Dharma Initiative in an effort to try to change the variables in the equation so that mankind wouldn't wipe it itself out.”

The core values of that equation? The numbers.

Alas, most mysteries don’t have separate online lives of their own, so answers were either clearly provided on-screen or at very least, scribbled on the back of blast doors. (Hey, polar bears!) Or, you know, ignored altogether.

Such was the case with the rules. No, not the rules to which Jacob and the Man in Black were bound thanks to their adopted mother and that glowing source pond. The other rules. The ones that prevented Ben and his archenemy, Charles Widmore, from killing one another.

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Evidently, the pair operated under several rules. Some could be broken, such as the one that forbid them from returning to the island after abandoning it, of which both Ben and Widmore were guilty. There was the one about not killing each other’s daughters, which Widmore ignored via his freighter foes. But the “no killing each other” part seemed solid. It prevented Ben from killing Widmore following Alex’s death. He was suddenly free to pursue Penny, but Widmore was still out of bounds.

So why is it Ben had no trouble at all when it came to filling Widmore full of lead in one of the final few episodes? That remains a mystery, much like the origins of the island sickness, or those post-purge Dharma food drops, or how Smokey claimed to be responsible for all those Christian Shephard sightings even though he could have never left the island to chat with Jack in L.A.

Big mysteries. No big answers.

The minor curiosities
Not every question is all that significant. The above oversights might leave some fans feeling the show suffered, but minor curiosities merely illustrate lost opportunities for extra continuity nods.

It’s certainly not necessary to know why the Others took flight attendant Cindy from the beach, but left behind the candidates. Or why they apparently attempted to kill candidates on several occasions. Or why they dressed up as hillbillies for when there was no real reason to trick the castaways. But it might have been fun to find out.

The same goes for island’s miraculous healings. Whether it was Locke’s sudden ability to walk or Rose’s cancer-free future, the island, or possibly just Jacob, could wipe the slate clean. It’s just the “how” part that’s a little fuzzy. Well, the “why” part, too. As in, how was Rose healed when she never drank Jacob’s brew, touched him or even dipped one toe into the temple spring? There’s also the matter of why Ben wasn’t healed. Why did he require Jack’s help rather than Jacob’s healing hand? Maybe that one qualifies as a roundabout sort of healing. The end result is the same, after all.

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The absolute least important but perhaps most baffling of all the mini-mysteries has to be Kate’s horse. The black stallion appeared in Kate’s flashback, interacted with her on the island and could even be seen by Sawyer. It could have been a Dharma critter that happened to look a lot like Kate’s past vision. It could have been a ghost horse. One could simply assume it was Smokey, taking one of his many forms — only this time, just for laughs.

It’s as good as any guess.

The newbies
Maybe answers are overrated. Sometimes they simply bring a new batch of questions along for the ride. Which is why it was no surprise when “Lost” left a few new threads dangling on finale night.

The on-island action begged few new inquiries, but the alt-world-turned-holy-lobby left plenty. Starting with, “What was David?” Other than Jack’s alt-son, who never really existed beyond the doctor’s need to resolve his own daddy issues, the kid was nothing. Sad really, at least for Jack.

But it’s even sadder for Sawyer. While Jack spent his alt-time bonding with his faux offspring, Sawyer never once saw his real daughter, Clementine. How is that fair? What happened to Clementine?

Then again, the afterlife prep zone wasn’t about fair. Which must be why Sayid’s one true love turned out to be Shannon rather than Nadia. It would also explain certain obvious omissions during the final reunion. Were Miles, Frank, Charlotte, Ana Lucia, Mr. Eko and Richard just too B-list to rub elbows with Jack and the gang in the hereafter?

And what about Nikki and Paulo? Ugh. Never mind! Some questions don’t need answers.

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Which isn’t to say they’re not coming. Those fearing they may never get their explanations have some relief on the horizon. If loyal viewership didn’t reward with resolution, cash just might do the trick. It seems the show’s creators have a bonus in store for fans willing to shell out for the season-six DVD set.

Executive producer Carlton Cuse recently stated that while the show speaks for itself, “there's going to be a feature on the DVDs which will, sort of in an entertaining way, answer some of these questions that are unanswered.”

Another entertaining way to tackle those questions would have been to actually answer them over the course of the series, but hey, it’s a little late for that.

So what now? Wait for those DVDs, argue the specifics amongst fellow fans or simply let “Lost” continue to exist by pondering the what-ifs far past finale night, allowing the mystery to remain just that.

Ree Hines has a bad case of the post-finale blues. Join her on Twitter to share some of your favorite mysterious “Lost” moments at twitter.com/ReeHines.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Readers’ ‘Lost’ party photos

TODAYshow.com and msnbc.com readers share images from the ‘Lost’ shindigs they attended.

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    Above: Photos Readers’ ‘Lost’ party photos
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    Gallery The mysteries of ‘Lost’
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    Gallery ‘Lost’s’ pivotal moments

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