thinking zebras

« Glossary IndexLast Updated: Jan 18, 2019 @ 4:41 pm

A medical maxim states, ‘When you hear hoofbeats, don’t think zebras’.1 The chances are whatever the cause of one’s symptoms are, it’s more than likely simply a horse.  In other words, expect the most obvious diagnosis, before going off to the more unusual ones. So ‘thinking zebras’ means thinking that the explanation must be something unusual.

Episode Reference

In episode 106.22 Director Vance is looking at Michaela’s photo of Lena Rasmussen outside the red door. When he asks Powell, “Who is she?” he says, “I have no idea, but it sure seems like the Stones are hearing hoofbeats and thinking zebras.”  In other words, there is more than likely a simple explanation for what Michaela and Jared saw out in the country. Powell reminds Vance that all the 11 missing people have been found and are accounted for.

Vance, however, is not so sure what to believe. Case in point: Although Lena Rasmussen, one of the 828 passengers which had been missing, was 0bserved that very day at 0600 hours, exiting her residence in Karasjok, Norway. Yet, she appears in Michaela’s photo. Something doesn’t add up.


So far in the series there has been a string of metaphors to bring to light the complexities of discerning what has happened to Flight 828 and what is happening to 828ers since they returned. Earlier in the episode (106.2), scientists were debating what happened to the plane. Did the plane teleport through a wormhole, or is there another explanation? As was mentioned in 102.12, “Theories abound. We could be talking about a wormhole, [or] about some kind of extraterrestrial encounter.

A similar dynamic also exists using the following dichotomies:

  1. The aphorism was coined in the late 1940s by Dr. Theodore Woodward, professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who instructed his medical interns: “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras”.  Since horses are common in Maryland while zebras are relatively rare, logically one could confidently guess that an animal making hoofbeats is probably a horse. (Wikipedia)

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