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Greetings Gasmii! I have a confession to make. I’m a TV Slut. I’ve always spread my viewing across all genres. Some shows I’ll loudly admit to fan-girl status on (Doctor Who, Big Bang Theory, Battlestar Galactica). Some shows I’ll admit to if asked directly (Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, Project Runway) and until recently others only my boyfriend knew I never miss (any Real Housewives, Revenge, Toddlers & Tiaras). Any excuse to fit more TV into my schedule is like an excuse to eat one more cupcake after a banquet of fondue. Spanx can cover a multitude of flaws my friend, and a working knowledge of Downton Abbey can camouflage my secret life in trash TV.
After a few temp assignments here on the ‘Gasm, I’m excited to sink my teeth into a series – the 8 episode ABC series ‘The River’. Sorry it’s taken so long to get this first 2 hour episode up, but I hope it will be worth it. This show is the type of series I love to watch in the dark – campy stereotypical characters, entire scenes with more activity in the background than on the actor’s faces and tons of creepy plot developments. While the marketing makes it obvious ABC is looking for the next ‘Lost’, I have to admit I never saw ‘Lost’ to begin with. My observations won’t have any comparisons to that series but hopefully you guys can clue me in if I miss anything like that. Or you can blatantly flame my naiveté. Whatevs.
‘The River’ is shot in Big Brother style. Think tons of static cameras with a few handheld shots thrown in to supplement the story. This creates the nauseating effect of the Blair Witch Project crossed with the Paranormal Activity movie series. Makes sense with the director hailing from the PA films. If this show can use its limited run to create a tight story without leaving too many plotlines open for the future it has a shot at something good here.
In 1988 “The Undiscovered Country with Dr. Emmet Cole” premiered
From the first frame, this show is an obsessive fan’s paradise of foreshadowing, call backs and subtle details to devour. We are treated to a series of location shots with Dr. Cole displaying another exotic animal with the tag line “There’s Magic out there.” As the camera pans out after water shot, we see that Dr. Cole has brought his family along for the ride on this adventure, his son and wife.
Lincoln, the son, appears to be as enraptured as the father in the first few shots. As the ‘show’ progresses, the son isn’t as interested in the animals. If my dad was presenting a large snake to me as some sort of beautiful creature, I’d have the same reaction.
We fast forward to present day, after “The Undiscovered Country” has aired for 22 years. Remember Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom? I loved that show – we got to see the world through animals and the country got to associate my hometown with an insurance company promoting a celebration of everything not in Nebraska. Anywho, Dr. Emmet Cole and his crew have disappeared while exploring the Amazon basin for the show. People around the world mourn, and Lincoln speaks at his father’s memorial.
Tess Cole, wife of Dr. Emmet Cole, stands outside a bar. Clark Quietly, series producer and obvious douche steps up to mic Tess in a familiar way and manipulate her to move into the bar with camera crew in tow. The ambush begins, as Tess and the show crew confront Lincoln drinking Tequila in tribute to the father he hates. Generally I drink Tequila to forget mistakes as well, so it’s a fitting moment. Lincoln is pissed that Mom skipped Dad’s memorial but she has a reason – Dad’s not dead. If Dr. Cole wasn’t killed by the resentment for all of Lincoln’s slain childhood dreams and expectations it’s a miracle.
Dr. Cole’s emergency beacon has been activated – at 4:08 pm the previous day. Tess is at this bar for a reason – the network (and douche producer) will mount a rescue operation but only if both Lincoln and Tess participate. Why not send a son who hated his father into the wilderness? It will provide some extra plot lines and familial drama to the show. It’s like a Giudice/Gorga family vacation! Lincoln will have plenty of time to become his father in this show. Growing up is the slow process of realization that the most obnoxious aspects of your parents are your most prominent traits…this can be delicious when you embrace it.
With the emotional blackmail firmly in place, Lincoln is heading out on the expedition, and by Day 2 they’re in Tocantins, Brazil. Wow. Mom must have been pretty confident son would go along with this because they must have traveled all night. We meet Red Shirt Sammy Kirsch, the 2nd cameraman of the crew who is operating a little drone camera off the boat. I guess this drone is supposed to explain how the show gets all these great camera angles on the action later. Red shirt mentions to the camera he’s a Jew, and we all know he’s a goner from that point on.
Next we meet the head cameraman, AJ. Tess warns him not to get seasick, a storm is coming. Tess navigates this storm from ‘Hopewell’ to the beacon site. Since the only ‘Hopewell’ I can find is the Port of Hopewell, VA or Hopewell, NY, I think this is a fictional place on the Amazon. We meet the next two characters, Emilio Valenzuela and his daughter, Jahel. Emilio was sent away from the Magus before the last expedition, supposedly to take care of his daughter. Jahel obviously understands English but wisely pretends not to so she can avoid all the b.s. of this television show taping. She’s probably my favorite character so far.
High tide is at 4:42 pm, so they will have about 4 hours at the beacon site. We meet security, Jayne (actually Captain Kurt Brynildson). Jayne’s kicking a local off the boat over the side for “touching his guns.” Obviously Jayne is touchy about his weaponry, probably due to leaving the service to work private security when don’t ask don’t tell was lifted.
The crew approaches the beacon, but it is under water. Lincoln and Jayne jump right in (WTF with Lincoln jumping in with his regular shoes still on?) and find the beacon in a shark cage. The cage is from the Magus (check out the symbol on the door) and someone turned it on 4 days ago. How many 4’s will we see in this show? Emilio notes that the cage wasn’t broken “in” to, someone has broken “out” of it. Tess refuses to give up, so the expedition continues…
The group refuels at a local village. Lincoln proves he’s not a total loss by providing free medical care to the locals while Tess sits staring at a map and Jahel talks to the locals with a frown on her face. Nice to see that at least one member of the crew is attempting to learn about the surroundings. The peace is broken by the sounds of an approaching helicopter – our final main character has arrived, Lena Landry. Lena is the daughter of a missing cameraman on the Cole expedition, and seems to know quite a bit about expedition details. Lena has built a model of tide patterns and come up with a location for Magus, but it’s an unmapped area that Jahel describes as the ‘Boiúna’. Naturally Tess orders the group to head straight for disaster.
The group is on a pair of air rafts heading into a small tidal creek. As soon as Lincoln begins his whiny declarations about how real science is only in labs and adventure is for chumps, he’s startled by magical insects swarming about the rafts. These little blue CGI wonders look just like the insects (or possibly hummingbirds) seen in the UC clips previously. I smell trouble. Too many bugs in one place for me, and they appear to be leading the group straight for the Magus, which makes its first appearance.
Of course the entire group rushes on to the boat and begin looking for survivors. Cue creepy bangs and clangs from below. “That’s coming from inside the ship!” Proving no sense of self-preservation, the group heads below decks to find the source of the noise. It’s 6:37pm, and the noise is coming from the panic room. Noise is inside; the doors are welded shut from the outside. Why open the room which is obviously shut for a reason? Why not?
As Lincoln and Jayne begin cutting through the walls, the camera pans to show large patterns of blood spatter. Not good. Douche and Tess head to the huge editing bay section to check out equipment, as power is restored to the ship. All the static ship cameras are activated, and damn. Looking at the sheer number of cameras on that ship make me take Lincoln’s side in the childhood drama. How could he possibly learn to masturbate with so much surveillance?
Lena sneaks off to another part of the ship; it’s obvious she doesn’t want to be followed. Lena realizes no secrets exist on this Brother ship, right? I mean, she grew up on the ship with Lincoln correct?
They’re into the panic room, and a nasty smell is coming out. A strange shrine to someone is inside. Lincoln pulls back the blanket… to find a huge gourd? In the tradition of disturbing spirits which should remain hidden, Lincoln touches the gourd and something shoots out. Lena is slammed into the wall, Jayne runs after the entity shooting wildly and we’re off to commercial.
On the return we are treated to some backstory on Jahel. As a child, she had a ghost friend who spoke to her at night. Great! I knew we needed a medium on the boat to really dig into this story!
Back outside the safe room, Lena is bleeding from a large wound. Lincoln rushes in to bring her to a room with more light to treat the injury, and AJ (lead cameraman, just in case you forgot) refuses to drop the camera to go get a med kit. The gash requires several stitches. After treating Lena’s wound, Lincoln treats AJ to a cold cocked punch in the face for refusing to help.
Red shirt and Jayne head back to the panic room to attempt some reconnaissance and figure out what the hell that thing was. No excrement, so it’s not an animal. They do, however, find a shrine to a show producer, Cam Travers. They do not, however, find a sacrificed bucket of KFC. How will the Indians win the series now? Jahel creeps in and paws the gourd, noting the blood on the inside of the shell. Lena drops a fact no one else seems to know: Cam Travers died during filming, and he was buried out in the jungle. Why the shrine? Cam wants exec producer credits for the afterlife.
Lena knows more than she’s letting on, and she’s continuing her search for something all over the ship. For someone who seems to know so much, Lena has forgotten about all the cameras recording her every move. Finally she hits jackpot – all Emmet’s secret porn! Lena must have been Dr. Cole’s best friend. Get that strange destroyed before the wife can find it, stat!
Jahel clues Lincoln in on what the spirit is: a Corpo Seco, or a ‘dry spirit’. When someone dies after 30 consecutive hours of watching Kardashian marathons on E they become a mean, bitter spirit. This cynicism becomes so horrible that the ghost is expelled from hell; the devil wants nothing to do with those bitches. Normally the spirits find their way into recapping Bravo franchises, but sometimes they want fresh blood free of Botox and silicone and draw live human beings into their sphere to torture. Lena’s blood has strengthened the Corpo Seco into a strong Predator who will hunt them down one by one.
Lincoln’s heard enough, he wants to get the hell out of there and storms up to the bridge to convince delusional Tess to leave with crew on the rafts. Before he can start on a convincing argument a discovery is made: the rafts have all been slashed. The beast wants more blood! Only one option is left: get the Magus operational. Emilio needs 2 days, he has 2 hours. Lincoln and Lena jump down into the muck to clear the propeller…
…but Lena just stands in the fetid water while Lincoln does the work. Lena decides to show Lincoln all the porn after he speculates that they need to know more about this enemy to defeat it. Yuck.
Fortunately the videos are not porn but actually Dr. Cole’s exploration of his ego and new abilities to magically perform Jesus-like miracles. Emmet walks on water, creates a fireball in his hands, passes out from an acid trip, double-taps a zombie, directs the movement of those blue insects, heals the sick, slashes the arm off a rival mage, performs an Expecto Patronum and describes how to capture a Corpo Seco. I might have imagined some of those; I’ll leave it to you to figure out which ones. More tapes reveal Dr. Cole’s true mission on the doomed expedition: find the ‘source’. Source of magic? The secret to using water as a cheap and infinite power source? While tripping on some crazy local narcotics, Dr. Cole proclaims that as he approaches the source, the laws of physics are breaking down “Reality get so much bigger!” AJ speaks like a jaded reality TV crew member “We just got a second season”.
Tess is upset that Emmet would take off on such a quest without letting her in on the action. She’s still playing the perfect widow game, but Emmet (like most kids) knew that the Cole marriage wasn’t a perfect one. Lincoln always had a gut feeling that Tess was sneaking around with someone, and his mom’s martyr act is a perfect opportunity to call her on her shit. Emmet knew the best way to get even was to exclude Tess from his work, and it appears to have been effective. Tess is admitting nothing, she’s too aware of the cameras. Deny, deny, deny Tess! Douche, observing all of the interactions from his Sliver station realizes that a little more mental manipulation is required. As the ship moves away from shore onto the river channel, he heads up to the bridge to handle Tess and keep her going for another season of footage. The ship is slammed by the spirit, and the two cameramen jockey for shots while Jayne grabs guns to shoot the ghost.
Red shirt is a goner. He’s slammed into the wall, grabbed by an appendage and taken to be spirit food.
With Red Shirt gone, Jayne begins randomly shooting at the air on the deck. Cam Travers slams into the ship and kills the engine. Lincoln mans up and runs down to grab the big gourd and trap the spirit. Tess starts screaming at Cam to interrogate, as she is a crazy bitch. Lincoln squeezes his blood into the gourd, traps Cam and they drop him into the river to dispose. Tess is convinced she’s not nuts because Cam slashed her twice (once for dead, twice for alive).
It’s daytime and the crew is making repairs. Douche is examining raw footage and notices Jayne attempting to cover the cameras in his quarters. Jayne has a satellite phone, and he’s reporting to some mysterious third party: “Emmet Cole saw more than we thought. He may be alive if he did. And if he found the Source, I’ll put him down.” Ruh roh!
Tess is hanging out at the bow, Lincoln comes up to talk. Tess asks for privacy, apparently forgetting about all the stationary cameras. Now Tess is conceding to Lincoln that following Emmet might not be a good idea, but now Lincoln has caught the crazy bug. Lincoln is starting to turn into his father, and the obsession is beginning to find Emmet Cole at all costs. He’s also taken a shine to the cameras writing one-liners to stand out like Bethenny on RHONY. “There IS magic out there. So let’s go see it”. And the circle is complete! You’re now just as much of a camera whore as your dad. Congrats!
Now for premiere night ABC chose to air the first two episodes of this series, so the next hour is actually the second episode.
We open with a lovely Christmas scene in the tropics, Dr. Cole performing as always to his audience’s expectations as perfect dad. I think the more I see Emmet Cole on this show the more I dislike him. My bullshit alarm just won’t snooze. Emmet spends some camera time with Lincoln, a young Lena and attempts to get Lincoln to put down his little teddy bear Marbeley to learn some guitar.
The real money shot come just behind Lincoln’s back, as Tess puts up some mistletoe and Clark comes over for a kiss.
The Magus crew is settling into their new roles in the search. Jayne is stalking the roof armed. Lincoln is making repairs to the hull. Douche is learning how to use the drone plane camera to take up the slack from the dead 2nd cameraman. Jahel is driving, and those blue insects are buzzing around the activity. Almost like they’re watching, eh?
Lena, Tess, Lincoln and Jayne conference to plan the next move. Examining the tapes might offer clues, but they’re not labeled in any particular order. Lena mentions that tracking an infected bug bite on Emmet’s thumb might provide the sequence they’re looking for. Hey, why was Dr. Cole asking Lena for medical advice when his son’s a doctor?
It’s nighttime on Magus, and someone’s sleeping without a mosquito net. After witnessing this scene I will NEVER SLEEP WITHOUT A NET!
Jahel swallows the blue insect, and begins a creepy walk through the ship as she’s obviously possessed by the force controlling the insect. She stops by Lincoln’s bunk, but just stares for a while. Then Jahel heads over to Tess’ berth and gets really close, speaking English in a raspy voice. The message: Go Home! I love the static camera cuts where it appears Jahel’s body is being replaced by Emmet’s image, especially the 3rd flash when it appears to be reliving a physical fight between Tess and Emmet. “They have me Tess. Take Lincoln and go.” Jahel begins convulsing.
Pow-wow at Tess’ room, with Jahel passed out in a feverish sleep. Jayne trying to talk the group out of continuing, this just tightens Tess’ resolve to a fever pitch. The group prepares to head into the mountains in search of the militia group Emmet was captured with on some of the later tapes. Smart move. The group minus Jahel and Emilio head off ship and into the mountains (I thought the rafts were all gone, how did they get off?).
Trekking through the mountain jungle, with Douche learning how to hike and be a camera operator again. Douche can’t resist the urge to interview and prod Tess, getting Tess more close to the point of admitting her past indiscretion on film. Lincoln brings up the elephant in the jungle about Lena’s relationship with Emmet. Lena was Emmet’s go-to gal for tech support, emotional support, and medical support. Lincoln can’t help but be jealous. AJ heads off to piss and finds something strange in the jungle. It’s an overgrown graveyard! Ye old graveyard seems to contain many British tombstones from the 19th century. Tess speculates it’s the family of Rubber barons who enslaved the local population to help reap (or rape) the resources of the rainforest. I bet this will have connection to the spirit of the week.
Disturbing children’s laughter is echoing from the trees. With no sense of preservation whatsoever, the group runs towards it. Time for my favorite hair-raising shot! It looks like a little kid is lying on the ground but…
…it’s just a monkey! Stupid monkey. Where did it get the doll’s face Holy Crap! There’s a creepy shrine of dolls, toys and other disturbing shit. If I see Chucky I wouldn’t be surprised. Lena describes this as a ‘spirit tree’, where the locals leave offerings to an evil spirit so it leaves them alone. I prefer virgin sacrifices to the Krakken. No body parts or eerie dolls left behind. Why dolls as offerings? This spirit must be a child. Lincoln spots something just as disturbing as the American Girl doll in the corner – it’s his teddy bear from childhood, Marbeley. Same logo shirt, same loose threads, and same tears of disappointment as the teddy bear he remembers. What’s the smart move here? I’d say leave it there. Lincoln, in the tradition of idiot horror movie characters everywhere, decides to grab his bear off the tree to take him back. I guess Lincoln’s really the stupid monkey here. It’s almost dark, so they decide to make camp at the creepy tree.
I’m not in the least surprised when different dolls decide to move their heads to monitor the imperceptive campers. Lincoln sits in his tent playing with Marbeley and begins reminiscing about his past with dad and the bear. He flashes back to January 1989, during the beginning of the show’s run, before Lincoln realized his dad was full of shit. We were all innocent once, I guess. Emmet tells young Lincoln the story of a trip he once took to Mali and a shaman he met there. This shaman explained that life and death are the same, just the weights on a pendulum to a giant clock. Tick to tock and back again. This clock is waiting for someone strong enough to cut that weight so the pendulum drops once and for all. The shaman’s wife presented him with a necklace, and the emblem on that necklace is the logo used in the show. Emmet presents his son with the necklace now.
Back to present-day hell-camp, Lincoln takes Marbeley over to the camp fire to talk to Lena. Why did Emmet talk to Lena so much in that last year while on that expedition? Changing the subject, Lena brings up Marbeley. Lincoln pitched the bear off the deck of the Magus in the Indian Ocean when he was 16. Wonder how the bear got to the Amazon jungle? Lena speculates that Emmet either rescued the bear long ago or the spirit tree has friends in Sumatra (please don’t speculate, Lena!). Lincoln admits that as a child Emmet treated Lincoln like he was all the light in the world but suddenly one day that light went off. I think that light started to extinguish the moment Emmet realized his son wasn’t the perfect chosen one (skip ahead for that moment at the end of this episode). The more I learn about Dr. Emmet Cole the less I like him.
It’s 10:52pm and AJ is the only member of the group smart enough to realize that sleeping isn’t a good idea around all these dolls. He decides to film some B-Roll to pass the time, and I start getting goose bumps waiting for some dolls to grab a knife and start cutting themselves loose. AJ might be a little smart, but he’s not wise. Why else would AJ start taunting the dolls to move? Wait a minute; didn’t he taunt the spirit on the last episode to reveal itself too? I’m resisting the urge to hit this guy through the screen. The Paranormal Activity (PA) effect is used to show time elapsing and draw our eyes to the dolls, but the real action is about to place in Lincoln’s tent. No, Lena and Lincoln aren’t getting busy – the spirit is probably pissed that he snatched Marbeley from her tree. That favor is returned as Lincoln is yanked out of his tent.
Now everyone is up, and it dawns on Lincoln that camp at crazy doll tree isn’t a good idea. Worse idea? Hiking in the jungle at night. Tess is grabbed by something under 10 inches of creek water and pulled down. Back at the Magus Jahel is trying to keep hold of Emmet’s spirit. Emilio lets slip that this ability is probably inherited since the mother died attempting to hold a spirit too long.
Back in the jungle, Tess manages to escape the invisible hands, and Jayne is busy mocking her battle against a foot of water. Hasn’t AJ’s taunting taught you guys to stop tempting fate yet? Lena realizes which legend has come to life this week: La Dejada (The Abandoned One). The abandoned one is a spirit of a little girl left to play alone at the side of a river. Soon several party catamarans roll by and offer her money to perform a keg stand. Left to her own devices, the little girl starts doing shots with several Coto Insurance agents and gets a tramp stamp while Tamra eggs her on. In shame, the young spirit drowns herself in Lake Havasu. Or something like that. The spirit has major mommy issues.
Jayne spots Marbeley and immediately calls Lincoln out for stealing the spirit’s offering. Lincoln turns back into an 8 year old and doesn’t want to give up the stuffed animal. I can’t blame him, I still have my Rory the Raccoon from childhood and he’s not going anywhere! After hearing that ominous children’s cry again in the forest, Lincoln sulks over to give back his bear. Lincoln rolls his eyes as he ties the bear back into the tree but the spirit rejects it. Lincoln tries again, this time a little less sarcastically but still doesn’t mean it. Spirit pops the bear off again. Now Jayne ties the bear into the tree securely, but the spirits’ not having it, now all the dolls are dropping like little corpses! Spirit wants Mommy!
Now the entire group is running like hell through the jungle, trying to escape the spirit tree of doom. I think we’re going to have a scene like this every episode. In episode 1, we had this type of scene in the bowels of the Magus when the Cam spirit was escaping. This scene in episode 2 has some fun and spooky shots of a little girl spliced in as the group attempts to outrun the ghost.
The group is still running and should almost be to the ship but instead they’ve reached…the doll tree again! But wait, someone’s missing…it’s Tess! This time they’re too late; Tess has been sucked right into the river. Now Tess’ voice can be heard in that same weird echo fashion. Lincoln figures out what the spirit wants, her mother. Time for grave-robbing! Back to the British cemetery (so lucky they cleared it up earlier that day) and they dig up the bones of a mother who lost her child to the river. Lincoln carries the body (so lucky the bones have kept together after 200+ years) to the river and sacrifices it. Lincoln demands his mommy back.
Lincoln is crying at the river while Lena comforts him. Meanwhile, up at the cemetery, Tess is crawling out of the British woman’s grave. Tess is dirty to the extreme but physically unharmed. Speaking of unharmed, it’s amazing how fast Lena has managed to heal from her leg wound. What has it been, 3 or 4 days now? She’s one lucky gal.
The gang arrives back at the Magus around 9am the next day. While Douche is attempting to manipulate Lincoln to stay on the search, Jayne begins manipulating Lincoln to get his mom to cancel the search. Lincoln heads down to talk to his ‘dad’. I think he’s finally beginning to believe that Emmet inhabits Jahel. Lincoln starts a conversation with his ‘dad’, offers protection and Emmet’s spirit responds by leaving Jahel’s body. Jahel wakes up and proclaims that she knows Emmet is alive; she was touching a live spirit not a dead one. Lincoln’s response is to dig out the medallion Emmet gave him all those years ago from a hiding place in his old room. As Lincoln takes on this mantle of responsibility we flash back to that moment when the light left his father’s eyes…the day he saw the ancient symbol as a birthmark on Lena’s neck!
Well I hope this recap was worth the wait, it took forever to write but I promise future recaps will be up earlier! I’m looking forward to some fun plot twists and speculation…What is the Source? Is it a BP drilling site? Who is holding Emmet Cole? Will I care if he’s killed in the rescue attempt? Am I displaying half the Daddy issues Lincoln has?
right back at us. Thanks for being here!