I was upset with last week’s premier. It looked like Sea Shepherd had finally graduated from being a bumbling gang of eager volunteers to a well-oiled whaler-fighting machine. It was their strongest start to a whaling season ever. They found the whaling fleet IN ONE EPISODE! I wondered…
Would there be no more hee-larious hijinks on this show? Was I committed to recapping twelve more episodes of not-that-interesting TV?
And, would whaling actually be brought to an end? That crossed my mind too, eventually.
But wouldn’t you know it, the season premier has a misdirection. You’re crafty, Animal Planet. I’ll give you that.
Let’s get to it.
Previously On Whale Wars
This week’s refresher is just more of the same tone as last week: Sea Shepherd is strong in 2011, they’ve found the whalers incredibly early in the season, they’re gonna end whaling forever. The Sea Shepherds are pretty cocky about it, too. One of them says he think the whalers must feel “backed into a corner”.
Another one yells “Happy New Year, suckers!” at one of the whaling boats, because the first episode was shot on New Years’ day 2011, and because he’s probably seen some action movies where they say things like that.
“The Times Square Ball isn’t the only thing that’s gonna drop: ALSO DROPPING WILL BE YOUR REVENUES FROM WHALE KILLING. Um, BITCH-ASS!”
And like last week, the show opens on a low-key note, with a bunch of Sea Shepherd crew members gazing out at some Antarctic glaciers and a couple whales that just showed up. Alternating shades of: appreciation for the whales, righteous indignation for their mission, and scorn for the whalers.
When the whales show up, the crew interprets it as the whales saying “thank you”.
“Gee, mister. Thanks for waging a campaign of harassment and media-manipulation against those mean ol’ whalers. Nobody looks out for us whales like you do.”
Then some baby whales come in dangerously close for a look at the ships. The crew interprets this to mean the whales recognize the ships as Sea Shepherd.
They do not consider the possibility that whale babies might just be dumb, as human babies are.
Captain Lockhard MacLean of the Gojira sums things up for everyone: “Whaling is bullshit!” He sniffs loudly to inhale some seeping mucus back into his nasal passages, and it is implied that he is crying.
It’s probably just the cold Antarctic climate.
Now it’s over to the Bob Barker for some plot. Things are still looking up for Sea Shepherd this week. They’ve found two ships in the whaling fleet and think they will soon find the whalers’ flagship, the Nisshin Maru.
The Barker and the Irwin are about fifty miles away from each other. Each ship is tailing a different Yushin Maru harpoon ship. On the Barker, the crew watches their prey, the Yushin Maru #1, pull away from them. One of the crew members mocks the whalers for being chicken.
This will not come back to bite them in the ass.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! Karma doesn’t happen in real life. It’s fine.”
Over on the Irwin, as they trail the Yushin Maru #2, they realize that the harpoon ships will eventually meet if both continue on their current trajectories. They take that to mean the harpoon ships are both headed for a rendezvous with the rest of the whaling fleet. If that’s the case, Sea Shepherd will have located the hated Nisshin Maru factory ship.
If you’ve seen the show before…that makes no sense, right? In seasons past the one thing the Japanese have tried to prevent is Sea Shepherd ever finding, the Nisshin Maru. They’ve even dispatched security ships to follow Sea Shepherd and relay the coordinates onto the rest of the fleet so they could stay two steps ahead. Why would the harpoon ships be headed for the Nisshin with Sea Shepherd RIGHT on their asses?
The whalers couldn’t be that stupid, could they? Probably not. But could Sea Shepherd THINK they’re that stupid? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Anyway, Commodore Paul Watson prepares for a battle royale. He orders his third ship, the Gojira, to head for the whalers’ rendezvous point. If they’re about to take on the entire Japanese whaling fleet, they’ll need all their own ships, too. The Gojira heads for the spot.
When Captain Lockhart gets the order, the satellite phone has some trouble making the connection. This will absolutely matter, and in fact be a major plot point probably not matter going forward.
Then, the show drops in some background info on the Nisshin Maru. You already know this if you’ve seen the show before, but if not, you can go back to last week’s recap where I already covered it.
I try to keep these fuckers short.
The Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker both reach the rendezvous point, along with the two whaling ships. They wait for the Gojira to join them.
The Gojira enters the area a short while later. Lockhart MacLean spots his ally ships through his binoculars, and the harpoon ships.
But what’s this? Lockhart thinks he sees two MORE ships on the horizon. It might be the Yushin Maru and, possibly, the Nisshin Maru itself. Did the harpoon ships really just lead Sea Shepherd to the rest of their fleet?
Locky says, “Maybe the whalers just don’t give a shit any more.”
Lockhart gets on the horn to tell the others, but…the call doesn’t go through.
Was it: poor cell phone coverage, or collusion between Verizon and the US State Department to sabotage Sea Shepherd? DEBATE. (Don’t actually debate)
We end the first act on a bleeped swear at the stupid radio. I would make fun of them for having a shitty radio, but I barely get coverage for my phone and I live in Hollywood.
It’s the entertainment capital of the world!
After the first break, Lieutenant Commander Paul Watson calls for a meeting with his two captains, unaware that the rest of the whaling fleet could very well be in the vicinity. As Lockhart jumps on an inflatable boat to ride over to the Steve Irwin, he and his crew can’t see the Nisshin Maru anywhere. If it was ever in the area, it’s long gone now.
Then it’s time for the meeting. Lockhart tells Watson and Captain Alex what he’s just seen. They are dumbfounded.
“Maybe it was just a ghost ship like in the Orlando Bloom movies.”
Paul Watson is pretty mad that the Nisshin probably got away, but even more upset that he and Alex didn’t notice it in the first place. With no other options, he sends Captain Lockhart away to search the area for the Nisshin Maru.
Meanwhile, he and Alex will be taking their misplaced frustration out onto the two harpoon ships in the area. It’s time for some fightin’!
Captain Alex assembles the crew of the Barker and lays out the attack plan. The Barker and the Irwin will both launch inflatables to attack the closest Yushin and hopefully get a prop fouler under it.
As everyone heads out to do their tasks, we meet an American named Matt Smith who looks like Mark McGrath.
He’s a war veteran. Apparently he became disillusioned with both of the real wars we’re fighting and decided to join the whale wars.
Matt Smith would probably be surprised to learn that, unlike the US armed forces, Sea Shepherd freely gives away their tactics on a TV show that will be seen around the world. And that they’ve been doing this for four years and haven’t changed their tactics once.
So, let’s look at how these tactics work!
Coordinating everyone will be pilot Chris Aultman in Sea Shepherd’s new helicopter. Chris will observe the action from above and relay info back to Paul Watson. Chris is excited about the new chopper, because it’s newer, stronger, and was donated by Bob Barker.
Who is quickly forming a John Edwards/Bunny Mellon-style relationship with the Sea Shepherds
There will be two attack boats. The Bob Barker’s attack boat, nicknamed the Zeppelin for some reason, will be driven by Sea Shepherd veteran Benjamin “Pottsie” Potts, whom I mistakenly said was named “Chris” last week.
I did a lot of research for the last recap
Whale Wars fans will remember Pottsie as the guy who climbed onboard the Nisshin Maru back in season one. A simpler time, when the whalers didn’t have huge nets set up to keep people from doing exactly that.
Last year they had a schoolteacher running one of their attack boats, and he wound up destroying its propellor. So at least Pottsie’s got some experience. Still, he’s never been in charge of one before, so he’s nervous.
Meanwhile, the Steve Irwin’s attack boat, the Delta, will be driven by former art student Chad Halstead.
What makes him the best? No regard for human life.
The attackers have two weapons at their disposal: bottles of butyric acid, which they will throw onto the decks of the whaling ships, unleashing a horrible-smelling cloud of gas and making it very difficult to get any whale-killing done.
Also, everyone’s favorite, the prop fouler. This is a long, thick rope made of hemp that the attack boat will throw in front of the harpoon ships in order to tangle up their propellers. They are pretty sure that a hemp rope would fuck up a giant metal propeller and not just be chopped up instantly, even if it’s never worked in four seasons of the show.
The Animal Planet narrator says that Sea Shepherd “Claims to have disabled the whaling ships for brief periods” using prop foulers. I love their word choice.
So even Animal Planet thinks it’s bullshit
But before the attack can commence, Animal Planet throws in one of the more bizarre moments I’ve seen on this show: some chick we’ve never seen before, staring at the whaling ships and muttering how much she’d like to kill them. And then laughing maniacally.
You know, I’ve been wanting them to portray the Sea Shepherd people as something other than tirelessly devoted heroes but…what?
The small boats are speeding towards the nearest harpoon ship. Time to attack!
Chad’s boat pulls up alongside with butyric acid. His crew notices the extremely high nets on the ship’s sides. They have to hurl their acid high into the air, but they manage to get them over the nets and onto the deck. I think. It’s not really clear.
And that Japanese guy just stands there watching them
Success! The whaling ship now smells pretty bad!
In the meantime we get some interviews with the crew members, who reflect on their own devotion to the cause. They’ve always felt this way. They would DIE for their beliefs if they had to.
Unlike you normal people, who only care about boring shit like spouses or children or whatever
Then it’s Pottsie’s turn. Since it’s his first mission in charge of the Zeppelin, obviously they gave him the much harder task of throwing the prop fouler down. He makes his approach, guns it ahead of the whaling ship, unleashes the fouler, and…
They let it go too early. Aw.
Even worse, the drag on the Zeppelin from the misplaced prop fouler is so strong they have to stop and retrieve it, allowing the whaling ship to retreat into a nearby ice field.
Ice fields are hazardous to most ships. The Yushin Maru’s can handle them, but the small boats and the Steve Irwin are too fragile. The Bob Barker, though, is ice-class, so Sea Shepherd comes up with a new plan: the Barker will blast a path through the ice and cut off the Yushin Maru, allowing the other Sea Shepherd vessels to continue harassing it.
Buuuuuut, Pottsie’s crew are still picking up the prop fouler. Should the Barker just leave them behind and continue the mission?
Admiral Watson quickly calculates the worth of the Zeppelin crew’s lives against the gain from beating up on the Yushin Maru. And the Zeppelin crew wins by a hair!
So instead, Watson takes matters into his own hands. The Steve Irwin will enter the ice field. He will pilot it personally.
It’s not like anyone’s ever been burned this way before
The Irwin enters the ice field. Small- to medium-size growlers bounce off its hull. Inside the bow, there’s a Sea Shepherd crew member whose job is to literally just stand there and see if the hull is buckling inwardly too much.
Meet crew member James “The Human Canary” Brook
But Paul Watson presses on.
Suddenly, they find themselves on a collision course with a giant growler!
Will Boat Guy Watson steer them to disaster?! Will the Steve Irwin be destroyed only two episodes into the season?!
Is this the season 4 momentum shift I was talking about in my intro?!
No! Keep reading for that.
And of course, nothing happens. The Steve Irwin is completely fine and the Sea Shepherds are able to go after the Yushin Maru again. Before we move on, I would like to acknowledge the first Danger Fake Out of the season. Thank you, Whale Wars, for keeping me in the vicinity of the edge of my seat.
Let’s check in with the Gojira. They’ve been wandering the ocean looking for the rest of the whaling fleet.
They haven’t had any luck. Captain Lockhart tries to keep everyone from getting too discouraged. You wonder if he’s kicking himself for not going after the ship he spotted when he had the chance.
Ironically, this is where a Pete Bethune would have come in handy. You think he would have checked in first before taking off after the first thing that looked like a ship?
But the party line at Sea Shepherd is pretty forgiving. He doesn’t know for sure that he saw anything, and even if he did, who knows what that ship really was? It could have been a mirage for all they know.
Back to the action. With the Steve Irwin through the ice, the small boats are free to attack the Yushin a second time. Pottsie is still lagging behind, so Chad gets the green-light to make a run. He’s going to try a prop-foul.
They speed past the Yushin, avoid its water cannon, cut in front of it, and release the fouler. This time, it gets sucked under the Yushin.
A buoy that was attached to the prop fouler surfaces, without the prop fouler itself. That must mean it got sucked into the propeller. But has the Yushin suffered any ill effects? Apparently…not. But hey, the whalers are annoyed, right?
Actually, to his credit, while everyone around him is cheering, Admiral Watson points out that the Yushin’s propeller could easily just chop the prop fouler up. And since, you know, the Yushin hasn’t slowed down, that might be what happened.
Still, the Sea Shepherds are prepared to call this a pretty successful day, and they call their small boats and the helicopter back to base. Sure, maybe the Gojira could have caught the Nisshin Maru earlier, but they don’t have any proof that Lockhart really saw it.
And sure, they might not have disabled a Yushin, and Pottsie might have choked on his first big assignment, but at least those Yushins weren’t out killing whales. And that’s something to hang their hat on. They’ll really get those Yushin Maru’s next time! And they’ll find the rest of the fleet!
And then the helicopter pilot notices they’ve been harassing the wrong whaling ships.
Here, I’ll explain.
When the Steve Irwin first spotted the harpoon ships, they were the Yushin Maru #1 and the Yushin Maru #2. And today, they now realize, they’ve been harassing the Yushin Maru #2 and the Yushin Maru #3.
Um…what the fuck? That can only mean one thing. At some point, the #1 and the #3 must have switched places. And Sea Shepherd didn’t notice for an ENTIRE DAY.
And now the #1 has disappeared. Most likely it’s with the Nisshin Maru.
Remember when they were laughing at the whalers for running away from them? I bet that’s the exact moment the switcheroo happened
And most likely, the Yushin #1 and the Nisshin are somewhere in the Southern Ocean killing whales.
Don’t worry, it’s only 3,000,000 square miles in size
And that, friends, is when I knew Whale Wars was back
We come back from the final break six hours after Sea Shepherd’s sickening realization. They were within striking distance of the Nisshin Maru and they let it slip away.
Paul Watson is very, very upset
The Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker have left the Yushin #2 and the Yushin #3 behind to hunt for the Nisshin. The Gojira still hasn’t found anything.
It’s a pretty downer note for the show to end on, right? Can you remember any time it was this much of a bummer?
But wait! There’s a blip on the radar! They’ve found some ships! Is it the Nisshin Maru?!
That’d be a negative. It’s the Yushin Maru #2 and #3. They’ve been following Sea Shepherd this entire time. Relaying the coordinates on to the rest of the fleet. So they know where Sea Shepherd is.
How about that! We’re back to our Whale Warring roots, that’s for sure. So much to talk about…
-How did they miss the switch? And how did they fight the whalers for a full day before noticing?!
-Did you see the real title for this week’s episode? “No Escape”. That has to be a joke, right? I don’t think Animal Planet’s ever made fun of Sea Shepherd that blatantly before. I love it.
-I also love how Paul Watson doesn’t use radios himself anymore. Now he has a crew member at the radio at all times to repeat whatever Paul Watson shouts at him.
I’m geared up for more of the Wars now. Can’t wait for next week. See you then!
Love and whales,
Oh, and also, the Finding Bigfoot slogan contest!
There’s new Animal Planet series this year called Finding Bigfoot. It’s about people who a) believe Bigfoot exists and b) are actively looking for him.
PROOF…of the existence of this show
Seems to me that “Animal” Planet’s current slogan, (“Surprisingly Human”), needs a face lift. Let’s see if we can help them out. Come up with some new slogans for Animal Planet and put ‘em in the comments. The winner will receive…their username and slogan displayed prominently in my next recap.
Here are some starters:
Animal Planet: You Can Only Say So Much About Elks
Animal Planet: How Much Longer Do We Have To Keep Doing This?
Animal Planet: Look, A Horsey!
Animal Planet: We’ll Make A Whole Series About Animal Feces If We Have To. Don’t Fuck With Us.
Animal Planet: Want To Buy A Cable Channel?
Have at it, people. See you next week!