The sixth season of Animal Planet’s most popular show about mythical apes began exactly as you expected it would: with Matthew Moneymaker, founder and president of the B.F.R.O. (Bigfoot Research Organization) and the lead host of this uniquely fascinating view into raw American passion and crackpottery, continuing his gradual but steady transformation into a bigfoot.¹
Now I will admit that his physical appearance is not as dramatically altered as it has been at the opening of some past seasons of Finding Bigfoot, because by now we are used to the beard, and the shaggy hair, and the heavy brow, and the generally bloated look of the man. Nonetheless, at the start of season six, Moneymaker looks real danged flushed and sweaty, like he just ate a big supper.
This may be because he and the crew are tromping around the real danged sweaty rainforest of the Amazon River Basin, where they are haranguing locals with questions about a creature named the mapinguari, which is Amazon.com’s version of a sasquatch, but with one eye and a mouth in its belly.
They are looking for it because A) Finding bipedal hairy beasts, American or no, relates to the titular premise of the series, and B) Every so often they must undertake these show-on-the-road adventures (we have previously seen expeditions to Indonesia, Nepal, and Australia) to liven up the season premieres/ finales with needed breaks from the same old American hinterlands, with their attendant processions of yokels in blaze orange fatigues spinning tall tales about 9-ft. simians. Sure, that’s the bread and butter of Finding B.F. but that’s not going anywhere— Moneymaker and company have a TV show to run, people, and guess what? It’s hard to beat the rainforest for scenery.
Or wildlife! In his introduction, Moneymaker says, and I quote: “The Amazon Rainforest Basin is filled with plants and animals that could kill you almost instantly. There are poisonous snakes, spiders, cats like ocelots and jaguars, NOT TO MENTION GIANT ANTEATERS!” Cut to a shot of a giant anteater trundling awkwardly along with its big, dopey, harmless nose.
Needless to say, Matt is excited to be in the Amazon.
And everyone else is too! Ranae is there, the lone female and token skeptic, looking as intelligent and outdoorsy as ever, and also Cliffy B. Cliffy B has gone in the polar opposite direction of Moneymaker, by the way, in terms of his appearance: as M.M. slowly yet surely goes to seed, Cliffy B becomes ever more “square.” Each season he is exponentially dorkier, and more conservatively dressed, like an aging suburban dad.²
And of course there is Bobo, too, the heart and soul of the whole dang operation. In the slow, California-stoner monotone that we have come to know and adore, Bobo starts out: “Usually I’m not too excited to go somewhere that is hot and mosquito-y, but I am fired up for Brazil. Cha cha cha!” Cha-cha indeed, Bobo— welcome to Season Six you big galoot! (A few minutes later Cliffy B, also trying to be fun and snappy, exclaims, “Just crossing another item off The Beautiful Brazilian Barackman Bigfoot Bucketlist, Baby!” and it does not at all work like Bobo’s line worked. In fact, it is irritating.ᶾ)
But that’s okay! Because the team has places to go, tribes to interview… shamans to meet! So after some canned, “Let’s collect supplies before hitting the trail!” chatter, the foursome pays a visit to Dr. David Oren: Bird Expert and Old Caucasian Scientist Of The Amazon River Basin.
Dr. Oren, we are told, has been in the A.R.B. since 1977, becoming in that time something of a lunatic about the legend of the mapinguari. So Matt and crew begin plying the good doctor with questions (everybody looks exhausted by the way— jet lag? Still kinda bummed by what a big doof Cliff is?), which Dr. O answers by saying the creature under discussion has huge claws, “stinks to high heaven,” and— and this is important— walks on all fours. Apparently Dr. O had showed an eyewitness a photo of a tree sloth one time and the eyewitness had said, “Yes absolutely: there it is. The fearsome creature I beheld was in reality a sloth.” So Dr. O believes what we have, with the whole mapinguari situation, is NOT a bigfoot-like creature at all (sorry team!) but rather a ground sloth, which is a 4 ton, 20-ft. tall animal that lived (and went extinct) around the time of the wooly mammoth.⁴
Obviously, this theory pisses Matt and Cliff and Bobo (if Bobo understands what’s happening around him) right off! (I imagine Ranae is at this point in the Finding Bigfoot saga so utterly inured to stupidity that she might not even care when someone postulates that a cyclops bigfoot is instead a dinosaur, or claims they can flush toilets with their mind– I think she just goes with it.) The guys came to the South American rainforest to find a SQUATCH, not some boring, stupid, garbage animal SLOTH.
But having only recently set sandals⁵ on the muddy banks of the A.R.B. for the very first time, the guys are in no position to argue with so esteemed an authority as Dr. O (who by the way gets kind of emotional when talking about how scary the mapinguari is, which I think shows he is a lonely man.) Thus through manfully gritted teeth, the trio of bigfoot hunters, and also Ranae, say their goodbyes and head off upriver.
…except wait! What is this? Bobo can’t go? Bobo’s ankle is still injured from the Nepal trip last season?! Bobo must stay behind while the others continue upriver to adventure and danger and shamans?! No, Bobo! Noooo!!!
Anyway… they meet a chief and there’s a dance and they use a blowgun and Ranae says Matt’s full of hot air and their guide is named Dudu (pronounced “doo-doo”) and they meet a shaman who says he saw the mapinguari murder people and they interview a bunch of locals who have seen one and they all describe it like a bigfoot and Matt says, “I think it’s our monkey” in this tender kind of way that is pretty funny and meanwhile they do some night investigations where they don’t find much except bats and tarantulas and a venomous snake but who cares about ANYTHING because ALL we get to see Bobo do is eat some dumb food and say “Now this is what I call squatchin!” and then he does one measly field call on the last night there. NO Bobo and shaman team-up adventures, NO Bobo wrastlin’ a mapinguari, NO semi-flirtatious exchanges between Bobo and the-almost-certainly-gay-though-it-is-of-course-none-of-my-business Ranae. In short: not nearly enough Bobo in this episode, AT ALL.
Make it right, episode two! You make. It. RIGHT.
¹NOTE EVERYBODY : Kind of going back and forth on capitalization here. On Wikipedia neither “bigfoot” nor “sasquatch” is capitalized. But spellcheck disagrees, because spellcheck doesn’t believe sasquatches are real, because spellcheck is a closed minded cynic, and so keeps nattering on about capitalizing the B and the S. Think I will go with lowercase, like Wiki, and let the devil take the hindmost.
²Which Cliffy B might very well be, I don’t know, and it’s fine if he is. One reckons a bigfoot cowboy can only wander the range for so long ‘fore he’s gotta hitch up and settle down, pardner. That’s sometimes the way of bigfoot cowboys, mister.
ᶾCliff’s personality may become an issue for me this season.
⁴There may have been ground sloths in the Ice Age films, I have no idea. All I remember of those is the acorn squirrel from the trailers and how some of the animals were racial stereotypes, or something… which if true was a weird decision that I imagine George Lucas totally adored/guffawed at with the papier-mâché person made of $1,000 bills that he takes to the movies.
⁵Matthew Moneymaker wears flip-flops in this episode. Next step: full-on bigfoot barefoot.