Monday, September 6, 2010

The Foot: Beyond Survival w/Les Stroud--Sea Gypsies

Every so often, a television series produces an episode that knocks it out of the park. I mean, an episode that has fans and critics buzzing about it for the next few days. Last night's Mad Men episode is the best episode of the series thus far. Matthew Weiner delivered an episode that is an early candidate to win Mad Men its fourth Emmy in a row for Outstanding Drama Series as well as an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Drama. Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss should win Emmys for their performances in "The Suitcase." Hamm's by far the best actor working in television right now. If the last three seasons of Mad Man didn't convince you, last night's episode will. For a thorough review and discussion of the episode, read Alan Sepinwall's take on the episode here:

When an episode of television is as good as last night's Mad Men then I will always take a break from the regular scheduled program in the blog. Now, onto a review/recap of the second episode of Beyond Survival w/Les Stroud.

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For the second straight week, the show opened with a sense of danger and intrigue. Les was in Malaysia, on the Saba Islands, living amongst the Sea Bajow (or Sea Gypsies). It was dusk and the threat of pirates was strong. Stroud told the camera about a female tourist who was just shot by pirates in the stomach earlier in the day. The threat is serious; however, don't expect pirates to bother the Sea Bajow or Les Stroud because a military boat is nearby to keep Les Stroud safe. It wouldn't be a Les Stroud show without the illusion of danger.

The Sea Bajow are a group of indigenous people who live on the water. They settled on the Saba Island seas 200 years ago. They're a people without a country and without rights. Surprisingly, the government doesn't interfere with the Sea Bajows as often as one would think; however, restrictions are growing and will continue to grow. The Saba Islands are inhabitated by 32 indigenous cultures and over 50 dialects are spoken. Their main source of livelihood comes from fishing. Some Sea Bajows interact with the fishing markets while others fish for themselves, their families and their communities. Fresh water and materials are available on small islands. The Sea Bajow children usually eat one meal a day and the adults rely on flotsam and trash from the seas to fortify their boats and repair broken engines. Les Stroud, like all Westerners would, struggles at times to maintain the Sea Bajow's style of life.

Les spends the first half of the episode with a family who never leaves their boats except for fresh water and materials. He helps chop firewood and fish. The Sea Bajows use spears to fish. In this family, the father dives into the water to catch fish for his family and the community. Stroud tells us that the father spends as much time in the water as he does on the water. They catch a couple of Bluffer fish (you know, the ones with tremendous poisons in them). The wife of the family prepares their meal of Bluffer and rice. Once ready, Les digs in unsure about whether the Bluffer was cut right. He has no translator aboard and relies on effective sign language to communicate. Thus, he has no idea but he eats regardless.

Later, the family joins a fleet of boats to drop their nets in hopes of catching large fish like sharks; however, they only catch large sea turtles. Sea turtles are an endangered species and the Sea Bajows respect the attempt to preserve the turtle species so once the turtles are cut from the nets, they go back into the water. Long hours are spent with the nets without catching large fish. While the population of waterlife has increased the last few years, the shark population has decreased.

In the downtime, Les plays his harmonica but doesn't impress the family. The father and one of his sons plays the harmonica about as well as Stroud does.

In the second half of the episode, Les bids farewell to his first family because he is going to live among the Sea Bajows in the water village. This community interacts with the fishing market as well as the government. The government takes advantage of the Sea Bajows though. Members of the community are employed for little cash to do compression dives for lost items in the sea during the night.

Compression diving is extremely dangerous. Divers plunge deep into the water for over ninety minutes. They can be killed if the air runs out or while swimming to the surface or while descending too quickly. But the fishermen have no choice because they need the fish. Les reminds us that survival is dangerous.

Since Les has adopted their lifestyle for the duration of filming, he compression dives. Nothing fatal happens to him. He catches a few sea cucumbers and surfaces.

Monsoons and tsunamis could easily wipe out the Sea Bajow community. The people venture onto an island to collect palm tree leaves to protect their huts that stand on the water. Les even helps them insert wooden beams below. Everyone in the community helps because they want to survive. The children have the job of killing the cockroaches that came with the materials.

Les tells us the threat of modernization looms over the future of the Sea Bajows. The islands they use are privately owned but they aren't off-limited to the Bajows yet. Man's destruction of the sea (Les' words) are a threat to their lifestyle.

The Sea Bajows have great respect for the spirit world. At the end of the episode, Les tells us that theorists and scientists speculate life began on earth because of the behavior of the water. Each day, the people offer the water their thanks through a sacrifice because the sea is their survival.

Overall, the second episode wasn't as strong as the first. I look forward to next week's episode with the San Bushmen in Africa where it looks like Les Stroud actually gets close to two elephants.

In other news, this week is going to be action-packed especially the final three days of the week. TV Reviews begin Wednesday which means I'll be posting at night as well. It's going to be fun in The Foot, folks.


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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.