John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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Expedition Africa, Episode 3 Review

I've decided to continue posting the JohnK reviews of the Expedition Africa series. Thus, in honour of Mireya Mayor's recent return from the Congo and visits with gorillas, I present the review of the third episode of the series, "Hunters Become the Hunted" here. You can read about the second episode here.

Pasquale Scaturro has a softer side to his personality, but it rarely seems to come out. Usually in the mornings, around 5:00 am, when he's drinking morning coffee or sugared tea. Just sayin' :)

During the travel of the four expedition members and their porters in the Mkata Plains, the beauty of the giraffes was countered by the discovery of the bones of the dead animals. The comments by the explorers about the giraffes moving as if in slow motion was definitely offset by the discussion of death in the plains, and what had killed the animals.

Whether due to the superb camera work or just the very nature of the situation, the trip through the tall grass was very tense and dangerous. Pasquale's asking the Maasai to lead through the grass highlighted this, and gave the situation a definite element of danger. Mireya Mayor's cutting her hand at the base of the thumb joint on the tall grass looked nasty as heck, and the worry on her face was quite resonant emotionally with me. Kevin Sites' desire to treat the injury versus Mireya's wanting to keep moving because she knew how dangerous the tall grass could be was excellent, and emphasized the humanity of the moment and the situation.

The camping of the expedition by the watering hole with hippos in the water emphasized the group's discord to some extent, notably the butting of heads between Pasquale and Benedict Allen. This seems ready to go to the next level.

Mireya appears to have an excellent relationship with the Maasai, and I find it interesting that the Maasai warrior who speaks to the camera regularly has a lot of praise for her as well.

The Day 9 photography by night was superb, emphasizing the presence of jackals, hippos, hyenas, and even lions, and just pointed out how lax the expedition was this night in setting up camp. They took a risk, as both Mireya and Benedict pointed out to the camera, but the fault was not their own.

Benedict's collecting of charcoal on the morning of Day 10 to use for filtering water was wise and full of foresight. He seems to be calmer, quieter, and more grounded than Pasquale is. Less colourful, but no less interesting and he is good at explaining science to the cameras.

Coming upon the troupe of baboons was very cool, and gave Mireya a chance to show off her expertise (she is a primatologist by trade). Benedict's comment/question on equating the baboon hierarchy to the four explorers was cute and funny, and Mireya pulled no punches, especially with the bit about Kevin as the "juvenile baboon." Lovely stuff.

Benedict's constant questioning of Pasquale's navigation ability is getting on my nerves. By the same token so is Pasquale's comment that navigation by democracy doesn't work. I don't know what it is about it that makes Benedict distrust Pasquale's navigating ability, but it seems to be one of the things at the route of the tension and conflict between the two of them.

When the expedition stopped that night, the reinforcing of the pre-existing boma on Benedict's part was a wise decision, although it was interesting to see that Pasquale didn't help out with that project, instead going to gather firewood. Mireya's concern over water was well-founded, even if none of the others could act on it.

I'll admit that Benedict's ulceration on the arm just around watch level worried me. This brought Mireya and kevin into conflict over her giving him the Cipro antibotic. The two of them made their peace, sort of...but it was not an easy peace. It also highlighted some of the differences between the experienced primatologist and the rookie journalist even if has appointed himself the group's medic.

The arrival that night of Maasai from the nearby village was a welcome distraction. The dancing sequence and the stuff that occurred that night was evocative of the differing nature of the life affirming sides of the African cultures and societies. Lovely stuff.

The next morning's revelation of Mireya's not feeling well and being under the weather was worrisome, in light of Benedict's injury and his health issues earlier.

I thought that Pasquale's being somewhat scared of the blood-drinking ritual was...insightful about the man. The ritual itself was both interesting and disgusting to watch (from the pov of an amateur anthropologist and a viewer, respectively), and revealed much about the Maasai. And their relationship with cows. The blood drinking ritual also showed something of the personalities of the four explorers, and how they handled it said volumes, sort of. I noticed that Mireya was wearing a piece of African jewelry that morning; she must have got it the previous night, and I would love to hear that story (hint, hint, Mireya, if you're reading this!) :)

The walking trip to the river was interesting, but it was the Maasai rescue of the cow that was stuck at the muddy edge of the watering hole that spoke volumes here. The two Maasai didn't even consult the four explorers, just leaving the group and going to the rescue of the cow (which was successful), and as Benedict pointed out, it showed even more about their relationship to the cows. Great stuff. And Pasquale was not happy about the whole thing, even though he applauded their rescue of the cow.

I also liked Benedict's discussion/explanation of the old well dug by the natives that they came across. It's these scientific bits that I really like in the series so far, and that make it feel different from a normal "reality show" (which I don't consider this to be, for the record).

Finally, the expedition's arrival at the arrival was a happy and sobering moment, When the four expedition members and the rest of the porters were bathing in the river, only to suddenly have the arrival of the locals with their cows, that walked right past the explorers into the river, making Mireya and the others realize the water wasn't as clean as they'd hoped, was priceless. Very surreal, as Mireya said.

All in all, the third episode of Expedition Africa was quite good. Somewhat misleading, in that the previews made it appear that the trek through the Mkata Plains was more dangerous than it appeared on camera (but one doesn't know what footage we didn't see). The personalities of the four explorers are coming out in the series quite well, and it appears that a showdown between Benedict and Pasquale is in the offing. Where Mireya and Kevin will fit into this remains to be seen, although sides appear to be drawn somewhat. The next episode, crossing the Sagara Mountains region, promises to hold surprises of its own.

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