Skeptical Review: Bigfoot Bounty, Episode 2
January 20, 2014
Warning: This post contains spoilers. Also, lots of scat jokes.
The first week of 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty actually gave us a little science with its reality television escapism. Will the second episode follow through? Let's find out.
The show strikes a tone of uncritical thinking right away when the pre-episode recap claims that the teams had an "encounter with Bigfoot" in the first episode. Which they most certainly did not; they chased some animal noises through the woods which they claimed were Bigfoot calls without any reasonable evidence to come to that conclusion. It was the Bigfoot equivalent of a cold spot in a house equaling an "encounter with a ghost."
The episode itself begins with a very brief post-elimination scene before jumping quickly to the Field Test. This week it involves photography, and specifically motion-sensitive camera traps. They're being judged on placement and results. Dr. Todd and Natalia give them a quick rundown on what makes a good photo (short version: not a Blobsquatch) and send them on their way.
Very quickly, the choices about where to place trail cameras start to rely on shoddy Bigfoot assumptions. "Deer is a natural food source for Bigfoot," says Team Dudebro to justify placing their camera near some deer scat -- because apparently Bigfoot is a predator animal -- right before they rub deer urine on themselves to mask their scent. I'm beginning to think we're going to get some scatalogical camouflage in every episode of this show.
Team Odd Couple also seems to think Bigfoot is a predator species. Mike even calls him an "apex predator." I guess I'm not up on my Bigfoot lore here; back in the 1990s when I was into this stuff, I seem to recall that he was generally believed to forage for berries and roots.
Oh, look, Team MDG is pissing off the other teams again. Moving on ...
The critical thinking takes a big jump over the shark when Team Jedi finds some fallen trees that have crossed over each other in an unusual way. Their conclusion? Bigfoot must have deliberately made them fall that way! "The theory is that Bigfoot uses it to either mark his territory or mark a meeting spot or something," says Dax. That's not a theory, Dax; that's a baseless conjecture. Still, Team Jedi declares it the "first Bigfoot structure we've found on this expedition."
Sadly, Team Crazy kept pretty mundane in this challenge, even snapping the winning photo (a squirrel) and earning the use of infrared binoculars for the rest of the game. After the Field Test they were briefly shown wrapped up in some Squatcher drama, as Team Crazy and Team Dudebro begin to work together and to distrust Team Odd Couple. Come on, Justin, give us something good!
The second Hunt is in the burn zone of a recent wildfire on Mt. Rainier, which looked like a cool place for a nature hike. Before they're set loose, Natalia urges the teams to follow scientific protocols when they collect samples, so as to not corrupt potential DNA samples.
Generally, this Hunt wasn't very interesting. There were no misidentified vocalizations nor even a shadowy Blobsquatch to witness. Instead, the Teams just stumbled around in the dark, annoyed each other, and examined piles of scat.
That doesn't mean there wasn't some poor critical thinking on display. Team Odd Couple, for example, stumbles on some big scat piles and suddenly has a new theory: instead of being an apex predator, Bigfoot is apparently a bug forager, feasting on colonies of ants -- convenient since they just happened to find ant colonies in the scat. So basically, Bigfoot is whatever fits the evidence currently in front of them. Then Mike follows up his loose logic by eating some ants out of the scat pile, clearly trying to challenge Team Crazy for the title. I hope Justin & Ro can do something to defend themselves before the end of the episode.
Unfortunately, Team Crazy just doesn't seem to be trying that hard to entertain us. We get some footage of them watching a deer through their cool new binoculars, but that's about it.
This episode has finally given us some time with Dan & Dave, the Native American duo. There's some time spent this episode stressing their Native American heritage, including a scene where they spiritually cleanse themselves and Team Jedi in the middle of the Hunt with burning sweetgrass because ... um? And apparently no one thought the smell would drive Bigfooto away, I guess. [Maybe they should have been burning scat.] I am sorely tempted to affix a more controversial moniker on them, but let's stick with Team Sweetgrass.
Speaking of Team Jedi, they're still swinging the lightsaber in the middle of the forest at night. They also make a Return of the Jedi joke. They're idiots, but they're my kind of idiots.
Because the Hunt is completely lacking in any exciting Bigfoot action, we instead get a lot of team bickering to ratchet up the drama. I'm sure it's all very compelling if you're the kind who gets into reality TV drama. For the rest of us, it was pointless filler. At least Team MDG had a miserable time.
In the Evidence Review there's a lot more evidence presented, including scat from virtually every team, and it's all as poor as the evidence of the previous week. Or to put it another way, their crap evidence was crap evidence. During the review, Team DonDon manages to hit one out of the skeptical park when they defend themselves against criticism by noting that there's nothing actually known about Bigfoot yet, so the Squatcher teams claiming to "know" what Bigfoot is or does are just as uninformed as Team DonDon is.
Justin, on the other hand, finally flies his Team Crazy banner when he's questioned on his scat by Dr. Todd. "I know what Bigfoot shit looks like," he says, because the Bigfoot he killed shit itself when he strangled it. Which makes sense; I'd probably shit myself too if Justin came out of the woods and tried to strangle me to death. If this man isn't on an FBI watch list somewhere, then the FBI is doing something wrong.
With all the evidence being pretty crappy, it once again comes down to who seemed to who brought back the least crap. Sadly, that means level-headed Team DonDon went home, as predicted last week, just narrowly losing to Team Jedi. It was a terribly uncritical decision, one I suspect was influenced by who was more likely to offer camera-worthy antics for the rest of the game. To quote the inimitable Jules Winnfield, "Personality goes a long way," and Team Jedi is carrying a lightsaber that says "Dumb Motherf***ers."
Unfortunately, episode two of the 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty had less science and more reality tv drama than episode one, and there wasn't a lot of science in the first episode to begin with. At best, we are getting a crash course in shoddy logic and wild conclusion-jumping. Is Bigfoot an apex predator, or an insect forager? If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, is it evidence of Sasquatch? And most importantly, does Bigfoot ever actually shit in the woods? Maybe we'll find out next time.
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