Week 10: The Darkened Seas (premiered June 15, 2010)
“I’m proud of you, whatever you guys do.”
~ Captain Phil Harris, to his sons
Feeling down? Need a little mood boost? Well, then, don’t watch this episode! In fact, you might just want to turn off your TV for the rest of the summer, ‘cause things are getting serious on Deadliest Catch, and everything we’ve been dreading since the season started is unfolding. All is not well on the Cornelia Marie, in more ways than we knew. But I’ll get to that in a minute, because there was plenty of drama to go around this week…
In an opening segment showing (rightly) how badass the U.S. Coast Guard is, our heart attack victim from the end of last episode finally gets rescued and shipped off to a hospital for treatment. But first, he has to wait for 12 hours while the Coast Guard battles ridiculously high winds and rough seas just to get one of their guys on the boat. While we’re waiting, Discovery is kind enough to show us all the horrible things that could happen to the swimmer if the winds knock him the wrong way—for instance, he could be smashed into the boat (complete with sound effects—thanks, Discovery!). All’s well that ends well, however, and various skippers express their relief at hearing of the man’s rescue. “A heart attack at sea…I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. Hope he makes it,” says Captain Johnathan, and Wild Bill tempts the fates: “Hopefully there aren’t too many more stories like that this season,” he says. Well, Bill, you might want to turn off your radio…
Over on the Cornelia Marie, three things must be noted: Phil is in a ridiculous amount of pain (“It’s just ongoing pain.”), the boat is majorly on the crab thanks to Phil’s hallowed grounds (“All that work for all those years to make today happen.”), and there is something very, very wrong with Jake (“If it ain’t one f***ing thing it’s another.”). You’re gonna want to hold on to number three in particular, because I guarantee that the cause—and results—of Jake’s odd behavior left more mouths than mine gaping at the screen at the end of the episode.
While Phil is trying to keep his back from seizing and Jake is falling into crab tanks, the Northwestern is attempting to make its way into St. Paul to unload their crab. Unfortunately, waves are causing some major issues in the pass they’re trying to get through, and we get the second nail-biting trip of the season. Only Captain Sig would rival the Hillstrand brothers for sheer Bering Sea-defying madness. He navigates the treacherous pass in the dark, without being able to see the breakwaters he desperately needs to avoid if he doesn’t want to crash his boat, and somehow makes it through. The crew’s relief is such that I can practically feel it through the TV, and not quite tinged with the same amount of insane jubilation the Time Bandit crew displayed that showed their adrenaline-junky roots.
Speaking of the Time Bandit, they don’t have a single crab on their boat—not the best position to be in, for sure. They’re still up to their eyeballs in ice, and the crew is exhausted from all their ice bashing by the time there are pots to haul. The cod-heavy, crab-light pots they begin pulling do nothing to help the situation, and right around the time the numbers begin looking up daybreak rolls in, causing the remaining ice to start melting and falling off the various heights of the boat and onto the deck—and, by extension, onto the crew. As the deckhands try to dodge giant slices of icy death, Mike Fortner doesn’t get out of the way fast enough and gets smashed in the head by a 60-pound ice chunk hurtling from 25 feet above him. Now, I’m a bit too far removed from my high school AP Physics class to recall exactly how to calculate the massive amount of pain that must have caused, so I’ll leave you with Mike’s likely understated reaction: “I was seeing stars, man. That’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit in my life.”
After a brief, eerie scene where Phil has a conversation with Josh and Jake about taking over the boat, we cut back to the Northwestern, finally in port and unloading their first round of opilio crab. While in port, Edgar gets to work on boat repairs while Jake Anderson heads to the clinic to get his wrist checked out. As anyone could have guessed, it’s likely he’s nicked a tendon and he shows up back to the Northwestern with a mummified hand and orders not to bend, stoop, or lift anything. Naturally, Sig wants none of this and basically tells Jake that if he can’t use his hand he might as well stay in port, to which Jake naturally responds by lying about being able to use his hand and removing the splint.
All this is predictable; Sig is Sig and Jake worships the Northwestern—he’d never do anything to jeopardize his spot on the boat. In fact, Jake’s been keeping a secret from the crew. Apparently, Jake’s dad up and left the family three weeks ago, and hasn’t been seen since. Jake’s doing all he can to support his family from the Bering Sea, but there’s work to be done and the sleep-deprived crew needs his help, too. Eventually, though, the secret comes out—Sig gets a call to the wheelhouse from Jake’s mom. He finds out all about Jake’s dad going missing, and learns some disturbing new facts: the dad’s truck was found on a remote logging road with no sign of its owner. Sig, with the blessing of Jake’s mom, decides to keep this info from Jake, choosing instead to try to keep the kid busy. Poor Jake—he’s had a rough time, family-wise, and this is just one more mess. He’s a good kid and a good deckhand, and I feel so badly for him that he has so much on his shoulders.
Finally, we get back to the Cornelia Marie, where Phil is looking worse and worse. “What in the f*** is wrong with me?” he asks, and I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to be able to handle the upcoming episodes. Television or no, I can’t forget that I am watching a man die by degrees right in front of me. This isn’t a fictional drama, this is real life, and a real man’s life ended. A real man with real children whose lives we’ve indirectly been a part of for the last six years. I find that I’m unsure how I feel about this whole thing now that it’s here—even though by all accounts Phil wanted it shown. And just when I think the Harris family drama is as tense as it can be, Phil heads down to his room to get his back pain medication and is suddenly screaming at Jake. “I want you out of my life. You’re a liar. You’re a f***ing thief. Get out of my sight. When we get home, you’re gonna go your way and I’m gonna go mine.” Jake, as it turns out, has been stealing Phil’s pain pills. Naturally, there’s only one reason why this would be happening, and the final lines of the episode are Jake begging for his father’s forgiveness. “I’m an addict,” he says, and the look on Phil’s face is that of a man whose life is spiraling out of control as we fade to black.
If the previews are to be believed, next week is The Episode—Phil’s stroke is eminent, and I find myself fervently hoping that Jake and Phil manage to make peace with each other before it’s all over. Because time is running out.
My predictions for next week’s episode: It’s highly likely that I’m going to cry.
P.S.: I found a new interview with Josh Harris online that discusses Jake’s addiction, the upcoming episodes, and the future of the Cornelia Marie. It made me think that Phil, wherever he is, is likely pretty proud of his boys—just like he said he would be. http://www.popeater.com/2010/06/16/josh-harris-phil-harris-deadliest-catch/?ncid=webmail
P.P.S: After the Catch is back on after Deadliest Catch, and it looks to be just as worth watching as it has been every other season. Naturally, tributes to Captain Phil will abound, and the first episode, which aired this week, found Captain Johnathan in tears and the other captains choked up after watching a clip of Phil and Johnathan sharing good times on their motorcycles. And, of course, it’s hosted by Mike Rowe, which is reason enough to tune in.