Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Man Vs. Wild "New Zealand South Island" Review

Man Vs. Wild is a chaotic hour of television, full of adrenaline and excitement. The series consistent energy is its strength and staple. Bear moves through challenges at warp speed, barely stopping to take in the landscape that surrounds him. He thinks on his feet and hatches plans and executes them in milliseconds. Bear, however, cannot sustain his energy and pace throughout the journey because he's human too. In middle of every episode, Bear makes camp. The camp site refreshes him physically and mentally, as long as he has shelter and food. Once he's settled, Bear reflects on life, his journey and takes in the surrounding beauty of planet Earth.

In those moments, Man Vs. Wild's the contemporary Walden, Henry David Thoreau's masterpiece about nature. The book mediates on themes of spiritual discovery, self-reliance and independence. Thoreu concerned himself with simple living and self-sufficiency. Bear's quiet, reflective moments are refreshing as a viewer in this era of overwhelming technology and reliance on luxury.

In "New Zealand South Island," he makes camp after a hard day(s) journey through the harsh terrain of New Zealand's South Island. He's battered, broken, tired and wet. Bear built a roof to protect him from the rains of New Zealand, caught a possum for dinner and built a fire from the dead leaves of the forest. He sits over the fire, cooking the possum and admits that he's happy because he's warm, sheltered, and lucky enough to have a decent dinner.

The moment should make the viewer reflect on his or her own life and appreciate the blessings we all have--readily available food, homes or apartments, and clothes to keep us warm. Bear's in a particular beautiful spot in the forest. Trees hang over him, its damp and raining (some might not like such conditions but I'm a fan of rain). The smell of fresh rain in the forest is invigorating. I used to walk my dog through the woods on rainy days, years ago, and felt a closeness to nature that's rare in daily life. In those moments of quiet on Bear's chaotic journey, I wonder why I don't take more time to view the night sky or walk in the woods.

Man Vs. Wild's consistent insanity and energy keeps the fans, but it's time someone took the time to write about the quiet moments of the episode, when Bear reminds the audience what's most important in life.

The highlights of "New Zealand South Island":

--The terrain of the South Island's completely different in three areas. Tectonic activity's responsible for the diverse landscapes. In one part, the island's glacial mountains; in the second part, its forests; in the third, its swamps. Bear skydives into the first part of the terrain, where he's surrounded by mountains windswept and weary by too-many-years of weather. Bear needs to travel to the West Coast of the island, where people will be.

--The mountains aren't as harsh as the system of waterfalls Bear encounters. Bear opts against the direct path because of the brittle rocks along mountain faces, so he finds himself in a ravine with a never-ending system of waterfalls and slippery rocks. Whenever Bear conquers one waterfall, another follows until Bear realizes that he needs another way out of the ravine. Bear turns to the trees and concocts a system with the tree that'll move him out of the ravine, and it works, because Bear's brilliant on-his-feet. No matter how many times I watch the show, I'll probably fail in a survival situation because I won't remember to build things.

--Bear uses his parachute to make a rope to repel with down a mountain-face, as he moves into the forests of the South Island. The parachute-rope isn't the most secure because the sharp rocks threaten to shred the parachute mid-repel. Bear's also on-guard for falling rocks. As always, though, Bear repels to the bottom without incident.

--Bear has terrible luck with water throughout the episode. When he's not dealing with a water fall, it's raining, and when it's not raining, he's in a river with deceptively fast currents (and a 55 degree water temperature. Bear's first river cannot be crossed by foot because of the currents. Luckily, a rope-bridge is near by with rings to assist someone cross. The crossing of the river's more difficult than Bear imagined because the rope digs into his hands. He uses the rings and part of his parachute but a basket blocks his path. The basket holds him but the rings block any movement of the basket along the rope, so Bear manually pulls him along on the rope (not very easy).

--The second river eventually takes him to the west coast of the island. Bear uses a floatation device to prevent himself from drowning. The currents alternate between calm and rapid. The water's cold. Bear becomes weaker throughout the swim. The end is nowhere in sight. Hypothermia sets in. Bear sees the shore and slowly swims towards the coast. The coast looks absolutely awesome, by the way (pounding waves, grey mist and clouds, and raining--my ideal day at the beach--it's what Dragonstone looks like in my head). Bear finds chimneys, and thus rescue, after he fights off hypothermia.

--As a whole, the episode's very good. Bear's tested in a way he hasn't been in other episodes. The constant water demoralizes and beats him down. He seems genuinely tired and beaten when he reaches the coast because he IS tired and beaten. I loved the landscape of the South Island (I'll visit New Zealand after Australia). Also, Bear ate a grub for the first time in a few years.


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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.