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In my Minicap for this week’s episode, my intro was about how easy it is to forget that Whale Wars takes place in one of the most dangerous seas on the planet. The show focuses on the central conflict of Sea Shepherd versus the whalers, and how the characteristics of each group influence the outcome. (Example, Sea Shepherd not being that good at boats). But once in a while, the physical forces of the planet step in and remind us that it doesn’t matter how good or bad either side is, because the Southern Ocean would fuck up anybody’s game. This is one of those episodes.
And now that that’s out of the way, here’s a another, sillier intro that I saved for the full ‘cap.
I recap this show with three factions in mind: First, the Japanese whaling fleet. Second, Sea Shepherd. Third, Animal Planet, which tries to be an objective presenter but gave up five minutes into the first episode of the first season. So I consider AP as allied with Sea Shepherd.
But there might be a fourth faction on Whale Wars that’s gone unnoticed until now: the machines. Because seriously, like eight things go wrong with Sea Shepherd’s equipment this week. Too many for it to be a coincidence. The only conclusion I can draw is that the whalers reached out to the machines and brokered a treaty with them.
Which can only mean one thing: robots hate whales.
For the third week in a row, Animal Planet starts by eschewing all the action and the politics and the drama and just gives us some shots of the tranquil, and dare I say majestic, Southern Ocean. Soon, this peace will be DISRUPTED.
You know, like it was the first two weeks…
“So, what we’re saying here at Animal Planet is, after that peace got disrupted in beginning of the first episode, it went BACK to being peaceful at the end of the episode. Then it was disrupted again at the beginning of the second episode, and reverted back to peace at the end. And so on. Even though it’s a documentary and everything actually happened in real time.
We are NOT saying that the tranquility in the Southern Ocean was disrupted at the beginning of season four and has remained disrupted ever since. What we have here is an intermittent disruption of the peace.
It makes sense if you just shut up.”
And immediately after that shot of UNDISTURBED PEACE is a shot of Commodore Paul Watson, staring at the Yushin Maru whaling ship that’s been tailing the Steve Irwin since last week.
And then, the show takes us back in time one year, to the incident that defined season three: the sinking of the Ady Gil. But the show just reminds us that this happened, and doesn’t say anything about the aftermath, or the way the relationship between the Ady captain and Sea Shepherd similarly…um…sank to the bottom of the ocean. (Pun intended but not successfully executed).
Pete Bethune, who disappeared in Ady Gil collision, never to be heard from again
(To be fair, if you want to learn about it you could go to the Animal Planet website. But STILL).
The best is how they use an impressionistic style of quick still images of people’s faces in addition to the video of it. That’s what memories look like!
The “Chuck Swift Sad Face” is now my desktop wallpaper
Why are we reminded of the sinking of the Ady right now?
Well, the Ady was collided with/was accidentally run into by the legally whaling Japanese fleet (depending on your point of view) because it had to refuel, which meant it had to come to a full stop. It was a sitting duck. And that’s the exact same position their Ady Gil replacement, the Gojira is in right now.
Do you hear me? The Gojira is running out of fuel. Already! Damn those machines!
Actually, I gotta admit, this is one of those times when I’m not sure about making fun of Sea Shepherd. On the surface it seems kinda dumb that they would run out of fuelfor the Gojira, but I know nothing about boats or sailing, so it might well be that this is just how ships like the Gojira have to operate for this kind of job. What do people think: stupid, or part of the deal?
I will refrain from ridicule until further review
(Either way, you could still argue that a short-range speed boat shouldn’t be in the Southern Ocean in the first place. Even Sea Shepherd people say that).
Speaking of the Ady…in the real world, things are still murky as to who was at fault for the collision, but for Sheriff Watson, the situation is unambiguous. The whalers did it. They weren’t punished. They’ll do it again.
It’s what he actually thinks. It’s not a scare tactic or a sympathy plea. Since when do people manipulate language to get what they want? You’re dumb.
For their part, Animal Planet does say that both sides have been blamed for the incident, keeping things impartial. Good for them!
And in the very next sequence, AP inserts footage of the nearby Yushin ship speeding towards the Steve Irwin. So it IS happening again!
What I’m saying is, this is exactly what happened. I am not saying that anything could have been easily manipulated to spin the story. (Like, by taking a two second clip of a boat that’s already following you, saying that boat is speeding ahead to attack you, and putting in a “tension!” music spike over it).
Like that’s even POSSIBLE. Maybe if leprechauns were editing this show. You’re an idiot.
And to prove my point, let me direct you to the video Q & A section on the Whale Wars show site, in which the show’s producers tell us that everything on the show happens like they say it does. So there.
Anyway, the Irwin launches a Delta boat to harass the harpoon ship and/or create a convincing narrative, and we’re into the episode.
After Smashing Pumpkins, we’re back to the Irwin. The Delta has been launched and everyone watches nervously as it speeds ahead to attack the whalers. Paul Watson waxes poetic: “It’s like a sparrow going after an eagle!” Eagle? You mean the symbol of freedom and justice? That’s a pretty terrible choice for the larger, evil part of the analogy.
I would have gone with “vulture”, or maybe “human rapist”.
When the Delta reaches the whaling ship, the whalers are forced to turn away. The sparrow wins! But really, international bird community would have condemned the eagle if it just ran over the sparrow, even if that sparrow was being an idiot. Let’s be real.
Now the Gojira-refueling operation can move forward. Here’s how it’s supposed to work:
The Steve Irwin crew will throw a heavy bow line in the water and float it over to the Gojira crew. By “heavy bow line” I mean a big rope with a buoy attached to it. Much like…a prop fouler.
The Gojira crew has to snag the bow line before it gets sucked under their boat. If that were to happen, the rope would get, well, sucked into the propeller, thus fouling it.
And that’s exactly what happens.
It’s Jazz Sailing! unrehearsed, unscripted, and life-threatening to everyone involved
Sooo…before they can refuel the Gojira, which would let them shake their tail and hunt for the Nisshin Maru…they have to focus get their propeller untangled. One step forward, two steps back, etc. etc.
Meet James Brook, dive master: the guy whose job it is to fix the things that Sea Shepherd breaks underwater.
Oops, that’s a picture of him from later in this episode. Sorry, let me get the right one.
Here he is…shit, I hope I didn’t give anything away
James Brook will be donning his wetsuit and jumping into the freezing cold water. Not “waiting for the hot water to come on in the shower” cold. “Makes parts of your body fall off” cold.
So cold that Animal Planet almost didn’t send a camera guy down there with him. The IATSE rates for that are insane!
Animal Planet likes to constantly reminds us of how cold the water is, but now, four seasons in, that fact is integral to the story. The water is so cold that James Brook would probably die if he sticks around for more than twenty minutes or so.
He gets in the water and has a lot of trouble with the job, because of the disruptive ocean swells that make it hard to keep his knife on the rope, and because of the shittiness of the knife. After fifteen minutes his hands start to go numb and he has to come up for a break.
OK, there’s this picture should go. Sorry.
After the break, James has found some warmer gloves and a hacksaw and is good to go. He gets the Gojira free and does not die. The heavy bow line floats down to the abyss.
Sea Shepherd, rejoice!
Their new motto: “Sea Shepherd: Creating problems, and then solving them”
So now they have to try again, this time using a lighter, floating bow line which I don’t know why they didn’t use in the first place. (Or why they didn’t use the hacksaw or the warm gloves in the first place). This time they get it to the Gojira, and the refueling can begin.
Let’s check in with our other Sea Shepherd vessel, the Bob Barker. They’ve reached an ice shelf, which is where there are likely to be a lot of whales because nutrient-rich ice attracts a lot of plankton.
“Thanks for helping us find the whales, Sea Shepherd!”
As you can see, they are still being tailed by another Yushin Maru. They still think they can find the Nisshin Maru, though. They figure the mothership will stay where the whales are regardless of whether Sea Shepherd is approaching the area.
Suddenly, there’s a blip on the radar. Possibly the Nisshin Maru! It’s right on the edge of their radar range so they can’t track it easily. Time to use the helicopter.
But the helicopter is back on the Steve Irwin. It’s not a huge problem, actually. The Barker is only fifty miles away, within the chopper’s flight range, and even if it ran low on fuel it could still land on the Barker’s landing pad. The pilot, Chris Aultman, brings the helicopter out of the hangar, preps everything, turns it on, and…
The batteries are dead. Thwarted at every turn!
Animal Planet tries to blame Antarctica again, but I bet someone forgot to turn off the headlights.
As Chris tries to figure out a way to fix this, the Bob Barker crew pesters him about getting off his butt and helping the cause, apparently unaware there’s a battery problem.
Time to get the jumper cables!
…which is, um, exactly how they fix this issue.
I’m also ignorant about aviation. So, helicopter people: is this insanely stupid, or is that just how you fix a dead helicopter battery?
Their helicopter mechanic, Mark Cullivan, (who’s nicknamed “Sparky”, which is pretty ominous for a guy with his job), comes up with the novel idea to use the 12 volt batteries that power the sliding door on the helicopter hangar.
The normally cautious Chris doesn’t put up any resistance to this solution, and soon the batteries are connected and the helicopter works. Chris is airborn and headed for the Bob Barker.
While Chris heads southwards, the Gojira finishes its refueling. But before they can continue, they still have to shake their tail. Paul Watson comes up with a plan that’s so bold it just might work.
Bolder even than the plan to conceal his second chin with a goatee
Rather than just use the Gojira to outrun the Yushin Maru 2 and be done with it, Paul Watson has decided to have the Gojira mess with the Yushin so that the older, slower Steve Irwin can escape instead.
Who knows why.
All the Gojira has to do is keep the Yushin occupied until the Irwin can get outside the Yushin’s 20 mile radar range. Sounds pretty simple.
The Gojira heads into battle. The crew is psyched for their first taste of action. This guy tells us he’s been waiting to shoot the spud gun since he got onboard.
“I’m not sure why everyone else on this boat is always talking about whales. I’m here for the shooting”
When the Gojira gets within range, the crew begins firing their spud gun as well as launching butyric acid with a giant sling-shot.
But what’s this? It looks as though the Yushin and the Gojira are on a collision course! (That the Gojira initiated, but still!)
The Yushin’s warning klaxons go off. The Gojira crew tenses up. Will we have a repeat of the Ady Gil disaster?
But you gotta find those act breaks somewhere
The potential collision is not mentioned after the break. It’s as if it never happened, probably because it did not almost happen.
Anyway, the Gojira has managed to distract the Yushin long enough for the Irwin to get ten miles away, putting it halfway out of the Yushin’s radar range.
By the way, if the Sea Shepherd helicopter is currently hustling down to the Bob Barker, who the fuck is shooting these videos?
The Gojira has some more whaler-baiting to do, so Captain Lockhart decides they’ll try a prop fouler.
Season 4 prop fouler success rate: -50% (it would be 0% without the time they wrecked their own propeller by accident)
Locky guns the Gojira ahead of the Yushin, they release the prop fouler, and, hey, success! I guess? It went under the Yushin, but the Yushin‘s prop doesn’t seep particularly fouled. Everyone cheers anyway.
Meanwhile, the helicopter reaches the Bob Barker and begins its search for the phantom ship. He’s reached his waypoint and finds himself above something called a “false bay”, which is a huge gap of open ocean within in the ice field. Whales usually congregate in false bays to feed, so it’s likely that if the Nisshin Maru were in the area, this is where it would be, but right now the false bay is covered in a thick fog. Chris has to return to the Barker to figure out what to do next.
Good thing nature steps in once in a while and takes the pressure off Sea Shepherd. It’s gotta be tough to ruin things that consistently
And then it’s back to the Gojira and the Steve Irwin. The Irwin radar guy notices that the Yushin Maru 2 has picked up speed again and has closed in on their position. They’re still within radar range.
This, it turns out, is because one of the Gojira’s engines has dropped out.
As with the faulty helicopter battery, no explanation is given.
“It was either crazy good engines or personal Playstations for everybody. You wouldn’t have gotten to play Metal Gear 4 without me. I know you all have Xboxes at home. I make no apologizes.
After the break, we’re back to the Gojira. They don’t know what’s causing the engine to stall. Lockhart drops a bunch of technical jargon, probably to disguise the fact that he has no idea what’s going on. They have to drop out of the fight, letting the whalers keep pace with the Steve Irwin. The plan to break the Irwin free has failed.
And everyone wept. Even the ninja
Let’s check back in with Sea Shepherd’s last remaining hope to find the Nisshin Maru…Chris Aultman has landed the chopper on the Barker deck and is plotting out a course to enter the false bay and search for the Nisshin. The Barker will cover one side of the bay, and once Chris returns to the Irwin he will tell Paul Watson to cut off the other side of the bay, trapping the Nisshin inside. So it might turn out all right after all.
They realize at this point that, since the Bob Barker has no hangar and thus can’t shelter the helicopter, the whalers could easily pull up alongside and blast it with their water hoses. This would basically ground the helicopter for the rest of the campaign.
And sure enough, the Yushin Maru 3 starts to close in on the Barker. Chris rushes back to the chopper to take off before the Yushin gets to them, but…once again…the battery fucks them over.
Can I go back to the Marines now?
And that’s a pretty shitty point to end the week on, isn’t it? The Irwin has made no progress in escaping their tail ship, the Gojira is out of commission, the Barker hasn’t found the Nisshin Maru, and the helicopter could very well be ruined in a matter of moments.
But wait, we’ve still got one more act! And things actually get worse than all that.
The Yushin Maru 3 is closing in on the Bob Barker.
And like total cocks, they play their “Stay away from us!” warning message, even though they’re the ones initiating this time. I love it
Somehow, Chris Aultman manages to get the helicopter off the landing pad and into the air. I say “somehow” because it’s not explained. Did they have to jump it again? I have no clue.
And now he heads back to the Steve Irwin. But, uh oh, the Irwin has just entered a heavy fog cloud. No visibility for Chris to be able to land.
They try to raise Chris on the horn. And the machines dick Sea Shepherd once AGAIN, because Chris’s helmet radio is not working!
The Irwin calls the Barker to warn them. The Barker can’t raise Chris, either.
And so, Chris heads for the Irwin’s last known position. It will be gone by the time he arrives. Will he find them before he runs out of fuel and crashes into the ocean?
Yes he will, because you would have heard about it on the news if that’s how it turned out.
But whatever. For now, that’s a pretty dramatic ending.
And the Southern Ocean automatically reverts to its peaceful state.
You see, kids, that’s what happens when we anger the machines. They develop a hatred for whales, and they sabotage the only people doing anything to keep the whales safe from the Japanese.
You angered them. And you killed some whales this week.
If you shape up, maybe you can come back next week. Next week’s episode looks even better—basically it turns into a Hogan’s Heroes episode because Sea Shepherd tries to attach a tracking device to one of the whaling ships. I’m not sure if the plan involves one of the Sea Shepherd guys dressing up in drag to distract the whalers’ portly, comically inept Sergeant Schultz equivalent, but I hope so. I hope Paul Watson does it.
Until then, love and whales,
POST SCRIPT! RESULTS OF THE SLOGAN CONTEST
I didn’t forget! (I almost forgot). Last week we had a contest to re-slogan Animal Planet now that they are making a show about people trying to find Bigfoot. Of all (two) of the entries, my favorite came from reader c8h10n4o2:
Animal Planet: For People Who Are Regularly Outsmarted By Their Pets”
Thanks for playing!
ANOTHER POST SCRIPT! BONUS VIDEO
On the the page for last week’s recap, reader Captain Em pointed us to a deleted scene on the Animal Planet show page. In case you missed it, here it is. You really should check it out:
I don’t know what’s better, the video itself or the fact that Animal Planet co-opted the title of a Chinua Achebe novel for their punny, TV-friendly video title. Enjoy!