Excuse my excitement, but Syfy’s Destination Truth after a very long hiatus came back July 10th with back to back new episodes for the Season Five premiere. This episode will be reviewed by me, Amanda, with the second new episode being reviewed by my DT Wormhole Teammate Holly!
We start with a voiceover of the show’s host, explorer Josh Gates, welcoming fans back to the return of Season Five. He gives a taste of what is in store for Truthies this Season: Romanian Vampires, Kazakhstan UFOs, and lots of shifty hanging-from-cliffs sequences. Tonight’s episode focuses on Team Truth going to Southeast Asia to seek out another geographical version of Bigfoot.
The show has taken on a makeover with new clips added to the iconic show intro (the one where you hear “I’m Josh Gates…”) and a spiffy new animation for the show’s logo (we see the DT logo on top of a cliff and then the scene shifts into a night vision camera view). It is also refreshing that Josh as the host of the show is narrating the introductions to episodes now, seeing as being a celebrated adventurer, author and book narrator are credentials enough to do so.
Vietnam’s Big Foot:
Enter: the Los Angeles DT office. Josh tells us the team is going to go looking for the Batutut of Vietnam. Josh talks about how a string of attacks on villages has peaked the government’s interest for answers and how Vietnam is a great environment to make new creature discoveries, citing the Vu Quang Ox found in recent decades.
In another change to the show, we see Josh giving an overview to his team in the office about why they are going to pursue this case before their gear is packed up and they head off. It seems Team Truth has a lot to work with, since the creature is noted as 6 feet tall, aggressive, covered in dark fur, having a loud vocalization, and tracks that are hard to find, despite having big feet.
Team Truth this Season is comprised of veteran team members Erin Ryder researcher & Kyle Wheeler cameraman with new team members David D’Angelo cameraman, Katy Murakami field investigator, Adam Butler audio tech, Tristant Icaza equip tech, and Richie Fung the medic. Our group travels from Los Angeles to Hanoi Vietnam, which is flanked by relics of the Vietnam War that now serve as modern artwork around the city.
One thing about Hanoi – it is very hot. The group takes part in the local culture with Richie eating what looks like a snail to which Josh says that he will “‘escargot’ to the bathroom in 5 minutes.
We come across some trinkets and Ryder wants a Lady Gaga-esque bow headband, which is apparently good for movies,funerals, banquets, etc. Of course, an essential to any trip is booze (only if you’re old enough, kids!), so Josh and Ryder partake in Snake Juice. The two have the choice of either bile from the snake’s liver or blood from the snake’s heart. They both take separate shots, down the hatch, and by the pained looks on their faces, I doubt the Dos Equis guy is going to hop on-board the Snake Juice promo train anytime soon.
The team is then at the Hanoi University research center for cryptids appointed by the government where Josh speaks through a translator to Tran Hong Viet. We learn about Tran’s belief in the existence of the Batutut, which is six feet tall with red brown fur, and he shows Josh his copy of the footprint supposedly belonging to the creature in a wooden lock box. He allows Josh to take high-res pictures of it and we are back on the hunt for more information.
Hanoi has treacherous looking traffic, as a flood of non-stop scooters and cars flow through the pedestrian walk way with no sign of stopping. Josh shows his crew how it is done, casually walking out into the street, parting scooters in traffic like Moses to the Red Sea. This shows that in Vietnam if you do not have the right of way, if you are a bad ass enough, scooters will just float around you.
To get to the next location, the team boards traditional rickshaws, but this is too slow a pace for Josh and Ryder, who fly by them on an Indiana Jones era motorcycle with a side seat for another passenger. “Later, suckers! …We should be there in about 10 minutes. The rickshaws will be there in four hours.”
We are at the Zoological Museum now and meet Vu Ngoc Thanh. When Josh asks his attitude on those who feel there is nothing left to be discovered, his reply is so simple it is poetic. “They only stay in office. They do not go to forest.”
This quote is perhaps best aimed at DT critics who complain about the research tactics of the DT crew or that they “never find anything”. If you were in their shoes on very little sleep, pumped up on caffeine, possibly sick with some sort of food-borne illness, and in the middle of a dark forest where your biggest concern is more likely a venomous creepy-crawly than a rumored primate, it can get pretty darn scary.
Vu says about 20 new species per year are discovered in Ke Bang National Forest in Western Vietnam overlapping into Laos, so Team Truth catches a flight to Dong Hoi where they take motorcycles to Ke Bang. Josh refers to the scenic ride there as a “video game” and Josh exemplifies by flipping head-first over his handlebars into a river that just driving your motorcycle into the water is not a great way to measure the depth. Is Josh allowed to comment on his own motorcycle disaster in a future Season of Syfy’s Insane or Inspired?
With Josh okay but a little wet, the group trudges on via hiking throughout the forest, where their goal destination is another day’s hike away. They set up camp and decide to investigate since they were there already, huddling up to split teams while Richie says they need to be vigilant of snakes and tigers in this remote location.
Josh is on a team with Ryder, Adam and Dave where a discussion of the creature is halted when Josh stops his group at a snake spotting. They let the snake slither back up into the trees and they all express anxiety that they have no idea what lurks in those trees.
Katy, Richie and Kyle come across a rock with scratch marks that would seem to originate from a finger finger creature, and they hear a notice that draws them into the brush. Back with Josh and company, they venture to a clearing where Ryder sees the reflection of an eye in the trees. They try to slink into the area of the eye and come across thick branches that were snapped under a strong force.
Richie tells Katy he heard a footstep, and afterward, Josh in a separate location states he hears this footfall around the same time period. Both teams are cut by a split screen to show the incidents going hand in hand. Richie and Katy hear more footsteps and chase after the noise to try and document it, but are led back to Josh. Richie states whatever it is drew them to this area and is “stalking” them.
The teams head into opposite directions with Josh’s group trying to flush out whatever is making the noise and everyone becomes startled by what sounds like an animal crying or shouting out. The other team heard this too, so Josh advises on the radio to proceed carefully.
After panning with a thermal camera, Josh spots something in the distance standing upright on two legs, so he and Ryder run after it while Josh radios coordinates to the other team. They reach a river and Josh is insistent he saw something cross it, so they take their POV camera packs off and jump into the water. Ryder proclaims the rocks are very slick, and nature agrees as Josh looses his footing and is sucked into a water current with his female sidekick screaming on as she witnesses what happens.
After a tense break, Ryder goes on-land and combs over the river to find Josh, who is a ways away down the river on a rock. He is exhausted but states he is okay, and in other news, Josh should really just stay out of the water in Vietnam!
Josh states with daylight approaching soon, everyone should hunker down in their tents to get a few hours rest before pressing on to an area where remote farmers report Batutut sightings. Reaching a deep river crossing with no man-made bridges or tools to get them across, the group needs of the help of some slightly domesticated water buffalo.
The group struggles to handle these large animals as locals look on laughing, but Ryder has a pretty good handle on it. “You gotta steer it! That’s what those horns are for,” Ryder advises to Josh. Upon turning their massive head and slightly pressing weight on Josh’s leg, he yells out, and I quote, “[Expletive] you! You do that again, I swear to [expletive], I will make you into a steak!”
The farmer’s village is later located and Josh speaks to local Pham Van Tho about his encounter while camping. He says he heard a horrible scream and in the morning, he came across massive footprints on the ground where he was. After telling them where to go, the team split into three pieces to survey the area for footprints by daylight.
Josh and Ryder find a small cave opening, so they repel down to look at the reported Batutut habitat. They each move down a tunnel and apart from fossils or water, there are no droppings or signs of current life.
That is, until, Josh tells Ryder to shush because he hears a low groan from the side of the cave. They head in the direction of the noise and they have to go through a vertical shaft to exit, but confirm if anything was down there, they would have been able to escape that way.
The whole crew marches on until they reach a waterfall and repel down, where they hike further until they need blow up kayaks to make it through the violent rapids. Reaching land, the crew walks on until they hit their destination, set up camp, put together equipment and do a safety review.
Josh is in a team with Richie, Kyle and Adam while Ryder is with Katy and Dave as they split up. The group struggles through thick brush and trees, with Josh stating if a WalMart were next to him, he would not be able to see it. Both teams hear an animalistic screech at the same time and radio each other to try and find it. As they wander on, Josh finds a well defined footprint ahead on the trail.
Josh radios to Tristant to come by with an evidence kit to do a casing, and the size of the creature is estimated to be at least seven feet tall by the size of the print. Josh mixes it fast, saying the humidity will make the mix chalky yet take a while to harden up.
With the cast set, they wander on to find more prints or any other evidence and come upon a large cave. The group enters the flooded cave with Ryder’s group meeting up to also observe a separate area.
In the cave, both teams discuss this possible living environment for the Batutut and Josh catches something out of his peripheral, so he and Richie seek it out. Meanwhile, Ryder and Katy traverse through a narrow cave tunnel and come upon a muddy print with five toes. Ryder states they cannot get casting liquid for it, so they instead take photos.
Josh and Richie reach a fork in the cave, separating to search. Josh crawls through to a dead end and on his way out, calls to Richie. With his medic not answering when they are supposed to be well within earshot, Josh seems a little panicked.
Richie finally calls back, partially stuck in part of the cave. Josh gets him out and they come upon a very flooded section, while Ryder radios that they have also reached a dead end.
Everyone retreats to exit the cave, lift up the footprint casting and head home to analyze results. The thermal image caught by Josh of something apparently bipedal through the trees is impressive, but not good enough to count as solid evidence.
The next stop is to the Idaho Virtualization Lab at Idaho State University where Josh brings the print to get a series of tests. Dr. Jeff Meldrum on site looked over the results of the physical print, the photos Ryder snapped of a print and the photos of prints from Tran Hong Viet.
Meldrum says Viet’s prints are the most exciting since no one else has been allowed to document this find of a bipedal creature in Vietnam. He also says the fact that Josh’s print is found in succession with a series of them supports that there could be an unrecognized species where they were investigating.
Conclusion: significant evidence, but no clear answers until someone throws a net over a Bigfoot to bring it into a hopefully peaceful captivity.
This was a terrific way to start off Season Five! After such a long time off the air, it is clear that fans love hour-long cases more than an episode being split into two pieces. Being allowed to invest in one creature and to explore the culture of one location during an episode was certainly a toast to Truthies. Cheers, and stay tuned every Tuesday on Syfy for the next five or six weeks for more fun!
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