Last week, when Sea Shepherd was zeroing in on the Japanese whaling fleet only one episode into the season, I was worried that we had a kind of Whale Wars on our hands. Sea Shepherd knows what it’s doing. It’s even badass. Had the show somehow become about a bunch of people…succeeding?
It didn’t sound like Whale Wars ‘tall.
Not to worry. This week, Whale Wars goes back to the formula that makes it such a great show. What we have here is a pretty meet-and-potatoes episode. And by meat-and-potatoes I mean familiar, satisfying, and classic. Why I started watching in the first place.
We open with the Sea Shepherd flagship, the Steve Irwin, circling the two whaling ships it found last week. Even though these are just harpoon-class Yushin ships, and not the hated Nisshin Maru, spirits are high. Maybe too high. Every time the activists approach the whalers, the whalers back off. The Sea Shepherd crew is delighted. What a bunch of chickens these whalers are! They even pantomime chicken sound-effects to this effect.
So what if it’s hubris? The whalers don’t SUCK any less.
Knocking out the Nisshin Maru would end the whaling season before it started, but for now, disabling the two Yushins would weaken the whalers and even the playing field. The Irwin waits for the two other Sea Shepherd vessels, the Bob Barker and the Gojira, to enter the area so it can begin its assault.
The Barker arrives and gets into position. The Gojira arrives shortly later. On the Gojira, the captain, Lockhart McLean, notices something strange on the horizon: he sees the Irwin and the Barker and the two Yushin’s. But he can also see two MORE ships nearby. Could this be the rest of the whaling fleet? Kaloo kalay! He gets on the radio to warn everyone else, and…the radio doesn’t work. The two mysterious ships that may or may not be whalers slip away.
Paul Watson calls a meeting of his captains to decide their plan of attack. He’s excited to hear Lockhart’s news. He is also pissed at himself for not noticing the ships himself, and pissed that the ship-that-was-maybe-the-Nisshin Maru got away. But it wasn’t really anyone’s fault since the radio is to blame, and for now things still looking promising. If they can take out the two Yushin’s, the day will be a success. He decides that the Irwin and the Barker will stay in the area and attack, and that the Gojira will head off to look for the remainder of the whaling fleet, if that’s what they really saw.
Sea Shepherd dispatches two of its inflatable attack boats. One is driven by Chad Halstead, their best small-boat driver. The other is driven by Ben “Pottsie” Potts, (whom I incorrectly identified as “Chris” last week). It’s Pottsie’s fourth campaign with Sea Shepherd, but his first time actually driving an attack boat. He’s pretty nervous.
The attack boats approach the closest Yushin. Chad throws some bottles of butyric acid onto one of the Yushins. Pottsie’s crew unleashes its prop fouler, (a long rope meant to be sucked under a whaling ship and get caught in its propeller, thus “fouling” it). Buuuuut they released it go too early and have to stop and retrieve it. Mission: failure. And the Yushin chugs away into a nearby ice field where the attack boats can’t follow.
With the ice-class Bob Barker too away the whaler, Paul Watson makes a bold and probably really crazy decision: to pull a Titanic and follow the Yushin with the non-ice-worthy Steve Irwin. Reminding us that one misplaced ice growler can sink a ship, he heads into the ice field. WILL THE STEVE IRWIN BE DESTROYED ONLY TWO EPISODES INTO THE SEASON?
Nah. It’s fine. Everything’s fine. They break a path through the ice and Chad manages to throw a prop fouler in front of the Yushin. Success! Hoorah! Even if Pottsie is sad!
So it’s been a good, but not great, start. They’ve stopped the Yushins for a little while and the Gojira might soon find the rest of the whalers. And that’s when their helicopter pilot notices something strange: the two whaling ships are the Yushin Maru‘s #2 and #3. On the Steve Irwin the day before, they reported seeing the Yushins #1 and #3. What the fuck happened to #1? And where did #2 come from?
A sickening possibility is raised: the #2 switched places with the #1, and now the #1 has gone to parts unknown, most likely with the Nisshin Maru. Those “bitch-ass” retreat moves the whalers were making were actually a cover for the Nisshin to escape undetected.
Meanwhile, the Gojira has found no trace of the Nisshin Maru, which probably means it’s safely killing whales somewhere. There goes the No Whales Killed objective. The rest of the Sea Shepherd fleet abandons the two decoy Yushin Maru’s to join the search for the Nisshin, figuring the Yushins have enough prop fouler problems to keep them busy. They remind us how big this ocean is. Finding the whalers is way harder than they made it look last week.
But then, there’s a blip on the radar! Is it the Nisshin Maru? Are they that lucky?
No! It’s…the two Yushins they were harassing. They’ve been following the Sea Shepherds. Looks the like prop fouler didn’t live up to its purpose. Even worse, the Yushins have probably been relaying the Sea Shepherds’ coordinates on to the Nisshin, letting their mothership stay many steps ahead. It’s hard enough for Sea Shepherd to find a needle in a haystack. It’s even harder if that needle is sentient and can relocate itself whenever they get close.
And that’s why hubris sucks.
There you have it. It’s the standard Whale Wars formula: Sea Shepherd gets cocky, they mock the whalers for executing a maneuver that looks like a retreat but is really a trick, they attack the fleet, and they finally discover the Japanese have duped them after it’s too late. Meat-and-potatoes. And to that I say: more please!
(As long as the meat is raised and slaughtered humanely and the potatoes are responsibly farmed using sustainable agricultural practices. Be nice to the planet).