'Expedition To The Edge' Recap: 09/20/2020

Post by: Rick Ellis 20 September, 2020

I know that in television you have to create a tease for viewers so they'll feel the need to keep watching. But I'd love to have someone at Discovery explain their theory behind the weird tease that opens up every episode of Expedition On The Edge. Each episode begins with a tease that essentially gives away the biggest surprise of the upcoming hour. So you spend the the hour waiting for the moment to arrive, viewing every scene through the lens of "hey, maybe THIS is why that happens!" It's an odd way to structure a reality show and it does a disservice to this one, which is otherwise a really compelling adventure series centering around a probably ill-advised effort to get a sailing ship through the Northwest Passage.

This week's episode is not-so-subtly named "It All Falls Apart" and the opening tease seems to show Captain Clems having a bit of a meltdown and leaving the expedition. Now he has already shown some severe interpersonal challenges when it comes to dealing with the crew. But completely leaving the expedition? I'm guessing the scenes that were shown are only part of the story. But I would have been fine not seeing them and as I said, the entire tease does a disservice to the show.

As the episode begins, it's day 77 and the Infiniti has been stuck in Demarcation Bay, waiting for the winds to change and push the ice far enough north for the ship to make it the 1,000 miles to the next stop at Cambridge Bay. It's then another 3,000 miles through the Northwest Passage to Alert, which is farther north than anyone else has ever sailed without getting stuck. One of the crew mentions again that more people have been to the top of Everest than have successfully traveled through the Northwest Passage. And none of them accomplished that feat in a sailing vessel.

There is a real possibility that the Infiniti could get stuck in Demarcation Bay for the winter, so Captain Clems and the crew decide to risk a weaving sprint through the ice in hopes of getting to Cambridge Bay. The open sea is technically not that far away-only about 60 miles. But that's a long distance when you are talking about navigating through seas packed with ice in a boat that's not designed to deal with this type of environment. 

The Infiniti makes it part of the way to the open sea but gets stuck. So the ship begins to backtrack in an effort to find a way through and one of the crew shows a map of the ship's movements, which spins and twirls around as if some child had just scrawled a path with a crayon. In the end, the Infiniti ends up back at Demarcation Bay, with the crew worn out and emotionally spent. While they wait again for the ice to clear, some of the crew decide to go exploring on shore. Which might not be the brightest move, given that it's polar bear country and the only thing they have with them to defend themselves is a flare gun. Actually, the phrase "This might not be the brightest move" could be an unofficial slogan for the entire expedition.

They explore the shore and don't find any treasure. But they do find a whalebone the size of a small car and a bit more troubling, a human skull half-buried in the sand. But unfortunately for the crew, that will be the lone piece of excitement for awhile.

It's now Day 90 and the Infiniti is making a second attempt to break through the ice. It's dangerous and there is a chance they could get stuck in the ice in the ocean, which is truly the worst case scenario. But everyone is going stir crazy and they have the sense that if they don't try again, they'll be stuck in Demarcation Bay for the winter.

The captain and crew of the Infiniti weave and pick their way through the ice, but the wind has picked up to 35-40 knots. That blows the ice pieces around in an even more unpredictable way. And add to that frustration, the ship is so close to open water that they can see Cambridge Bay off on the horizon. But that seems impossibly far at this point. And inevitably the Infiniti gets stuck in the ice with open seas only about a mile away.They manage to finally free the ship and are forced to return once again to Demarcation Bay.

It's now Day 112 and the Infiniti has been stuck at Demarcation Bay for more than a month. It is the iciest summer in memory. They are only a third of the way through the Northwest Passage and they went from being way ahead of schedule to being late. It's August and they have no idea whether they will be able to break through. The crew is going a bit crazy and they have noticed the effect the situation is having on Captain Clem, who is becoming increasingly angry and withdrawn. And as a side note to Captain Clem. Maybe this situation is why it wasn't a good idea to bring your entire freaking family including two young kids on this "Gilligan's Island in the Arctic" expedition!?!

They receive an update from their "ice guy," who suggests they might want to think about staying at Demarcation Bay for the winter. Aside from the fact that I suspect some people might be killed while they sleep, I'm pretty sure they don't have the supplies to last them another 9 or 10 months. So they decide to try one last time. Because what other choice do they have?

It's Day 113 and the Infiniti tries it's "Great Escape: Part Three." And go figure, it doesn't go well. The winds from the West pick up, which not only puts more ice in the path of the Infiniti, but it has also pushed the ice into the entrance of Demarcation Bay. So the ship couldn't return to that safe harbor if they wanted to. Even climbing up to the crow's nest at the stop of the mast they can't see far enough to get a sense of whether or not there's a path forward. So they decide to use their drone to get a better view.

At this point, the Infiniti is about 5-8 miles away from open water. It looks hopeless. And then suddenly on Day 115, the Infiniti is free and headed to Cambridge Bay. 

It's Day 122 and the Infiniti makes it to Cambridge Bay, which is 1,800 miles from Alert. They hope to get some food and refuel. But as they do that, they receive a warning email from the Canadian Coast Guard. The message reports heavier than expected ice and strongly suggests "pleasure craft" not attempt to sail through the Northwest Passage. Of course, Captain Clem laughs off the warning. But he does makes the somewhat reasonable observation that going back is likely no safer than moving forward. And no one wants to winter in Cambridge Bay. 

Based on interviews, much of the crew seems to think moving forward would be reckless and potentially deadly. As far as they know, every other ship has listened to the warnings and turned around. The charts show large packs of ice everywhere in their path and the ice is already beginning to reform a month ahead of schedule. There is a real possibility the Infiniti could get stuck. And not only would they run out of food, the pressure from the ice would likely crush the ship's hull. And as several members of the crew note, if all of that wasn't bad enough, the Infiniti isn't properly insulated. So there is so much condensation in the air of the cabins that the bunks are wet with moisture and you can wipes huge amounts of "breath water" off of windows and nearly any slick surface in the crew's quarters.

The level of pressure is high on everyone, but particularly on Captain Clemons. He's leveraged everything to make this trip and if it doesn't succeed, he'll likely lose everything. Spending 9 or 10 months waiting it out in Cambridge Bay isn't an option. But one of the crew estimates there's a 90 percent chance the Infiniti will get stuck in the ice if it continues and that seems like a reasonable assumption based on the ice charts and changing weather. The captain doesn't know what to do and he's falling apart in front of the crew. 

Ayack, who is the first mate and who has clashed repeatedly with Captain Clemons decides to leave the expedition. His exit sends the Captain into a spiral where he is in near tears, explaining that he has tried to hold things together and that he just can't do it anymore. "I just can't go on" is the last thing viewers hear before the episode ends.

It's a dramatic end, but I'm left with the same question I had at the beginning of the episode. Why give away this dramatic twist ahead of time? There are other things that could have been teased and still made it compelling enough to suck the viewers into watching. It's like teasing a pre-recorded sports event by giving away the final score in the first 30 seconds of the broadcast.

Regardless of my frustrations, I'll be back next week. And since this week's episode ended with no tease at all, at least we enter next week's episode with a bit of ignorant bliss.

Last modified on Monday, 21 September 2020 01:25