Man vs. Wild has returned! Because of the controversy surrounding last season, the Discovery Channel pussed out and added a disclaimer at the beginning of the show. It reads: "Bear Grylls receives support when he is in potentially life-threatening situations, as required by safety regulations. On some occassions, situations are presented to Bear so he can demonstrate survival techniques."
The episode opens with Bear getting dropped off along a river bank to hike a 400-year-old trail through the Panamanian jungle. Firefox rejected Panamese and spat out Panamanian, so we'll just roll with it. Supposedly the Spanish conquistadors forged the trails to transport vast quantities of jewels and gold from the Pacific to the Caribbean. Yawn.
Bear calls this his "first mission," which is one of the changes in the show's format from last season. Previously, Bear would be dropped off in the middle of nowhere and use his courage, brawn and unparalleled wisdom to beat the piss out of nature. He'll be doing that more often in the new two-part, multi-mission episodes.
Bear's voice-over ominously mentions that it's rainy season in Panama, and downpours can turn the jungle floor into a brown soup at any minute. He also mentions that the conquistadors were forced to turn to the jungle's bugs and vegetation to keep them alive. In other words, the nasty food of the day is some sort of bug.
Ten seconds after the foreshadowing and Bear finds a longhorned beetle. That's right, he's going to eat an animal you used to take pictures of in Amazon Trail. According to Bear, longhorned beetle tastes like "a big prawn that's been sitting around for weeks." So now we know. This seems like a good time to mention that Bear has terrible manners. I know he's in the middle of the jungle, but would it kill him to chew with his mouth closed? Watching him eat a beetle would be more bearable (HAHA an unintentional pun I'm leaving it in there) if we didn't have to see the guts and wings being mashed around in his mouth.
Bear continues along the path, and finds an insanely useful plant that supposedly alleviates lactic acid build-up in muscles. The show's skeptics will be quick to point out that the plant was airlifted into Panama from Lance Armstrong's garden. The trail is looking pretty coarse right now, and Bear even pretends to get lost for dramatic effect. He says "danger" about 10 times in the voice-over, but you can tell he's insincere and fears nothing.
Bear starts navigating along the river, which is in a sort of canyon akin to the one in the Moab Desert episode from Season One. The river weaves into a cave, where we discover one of Bear's fears: vampire bats. So he's human I guess. After frantically escaping to daylight, Bear finds the second nasty food item of the show: a snail. This tastes like a "giant, cold bogey," which means nothing to anyone outside of Britain. Wait, I just checked, it means booger. So all the British kindergarteners are going to be eating snails now.
Anyway, Bear gets down safely and keeps going. He comes upon a rotting log and eats the third nasty food item of the show: grubs. I like to think that the camera crew laughs and eats trail mix while Bear vomits off-camera. He finds the fabled conquistador trail again, except this time it's conveniently car-width and straight. After what seems like 300 yards of walking he arrives at a huge Caribbean port with a waiting helicopter, which takes Bear to his next mission.
The chopper hovers about 60 feet above the ocean to drop Bear off, despite the absence of wind. It's worth noting that the same helicopter flew about 20 feet above a winding river, below the tree line, en route to the first mission. He swims to a mangrove forest, which looks sorta like the jungle vines section of the Tornado Run from GUTS.
To be frank, the mangrove mission is easily one of the most boring portions of any episode of Man vs. Wild, ever. (An aside: Doesn't "The Mangrove" sound like a Floridian gay bar? Maybe I'm thinking too much into it.) Bear struggles through the same monotonous maze of roots until he gets to safety. The producers try to make the mission seem dangerous by talking about crocodiles, but they couldn't even take the time to plant one in Bear's path. Instead they have Bear smear mud all over his head to "keep flies away," because flies can carry diseases. Feel that? That's drama.
Fifteen minutes of our lives later, Bear escapes the mangroves to a beach, where he finds the fourth nasty food item of the show: a bright blue crab. This would seem to be the tastiest thing Bear has tried to eat so far, but he takes one bite, spits it out, and tosses it back into the water. I can't even fathom how he's picky when it comes to a crab, but he'll eat a beetle without batting an eye. If I had to eat anything on the show today, it definitely would have been the crab.
Bear then abruptly declares the end of the second mission, and this week's show. I've gotta say I'm pretty disappointed with the way this episode ended, especially since it started out so strong. It's sorta like the Bruce Almighty of Man vs. Wild episodes in that regard. I also just noticed that Bear didn't build a fire OR a shelter in this episode, and that's gotta be a first. It seems like it was all filmed in just a day. Lame.
That being said, I can't wait for next week's Panamanian finale. Until then, enjoy this picture of Bear in a hilariously redundant sweater vest.