Our family doesn’t normally watch TV together at 7pm on a school night, especially when one of our kids has a friend over. But when our matriarch gets excited about something, there’s no stopping her. This was a special occasion after all. A man was to be “Eaten Alive” by an anaconda on television. There had been a countdown and a Twitter Hashtag #EatenAlive!
She and our seven-year-old son, Silas, had been out to dinner where Lindsay sold him on the idea of watching it when they returned. I imagine she said something like, “You can watch TV because it’s a special thing, like an important tennis match or a Christmas Special.”
“OK,” Lindsay announced, walking in the backdoor with Silas. “Who wants to watch a guy get eaten by a snake!?”
Silas was down. “Sure!” He loves T.V. The kid would watch infomercials for retractable awnings if we let him.
His younger brother, Arlo, was deep into a Spiderman Unlimited game on the iPad and didn’t seem to hear the question. “NO!” he yelled.
Whit, a neighborhood friend, remained silent, too excited to speak.
From what I could tell, half-paying attention, the first hour consisted of people who met at a pool hall and then decided to go to the jungle and ride around in an inflatable boat looking for an anaconda. Unaware it was part of the show, Arlo kept asking if we could fast forward through the “commercial.” Maybe he thought it was an advertisement for portable swamps or a Wild Kratts blooper reel. Thankfully, we were four hours ahead on the DVR so we could skip over most of the dude-not-being-eaten-by-a-snake parts.
“Is the guy going to die?” Silas asked. “He’s totally going to die.”
Lindsay jumped in, “No! I mean, they have to know what’s going to happen before hand. If he died, they wouldn’t show it. Right, Jace?”
Silas seemed disappointed. “But he’s going to eat him, right?”
“Yes, son,” I answered. “That is how bored we are as a people in the modern world. This man will put on a suit of armor and try to coax a twenty-foot snake into eating him. At which point they will open the snake and save the man, all for our entertainment.” I felt like I was at the Roman Colosseum waiting for the lions to come out, except I was inside, everything smelled good, no one was beating me over the head with a leg of mutton, and I wasn’t wearing sandals or underwear made of burlap, etc.
Lindsay looked over at me. “Now, how do they know this snake is going to eat the guy?”
“They’re going to cover him in meat and feathers?” I answered, guessing.
We fast forwarded nearly two hours (something I’m sure the Romans would have appreciated). With twenty minutes left in the three-hour broadcast, the group of ex-repo men and women had finally arrived at a high-tech campsite where they met up with the “scientists.” Their computers displayed 3-D models and colorful, dizzying charts measuring the “crush force” of an anaconda.
Then the scientists finally revealed details of the man’s suit! It was built by “the world’s leading engineers” (who were apparently free from more pressing jobs like bridges and airplane fuselage integrity) to protect the man not only from the CRUSH FORCE, but also from the deadly digestive juices inside the snake. This was all starting to feel very David Blaine to me.
It was exciting for a moment; but then not so much, and Arlo asked Lindsay to skip the “commercial.” With Netflix, our kids rarely watch “real” T.V., and I suspect Arlo doesn’t have a clear idea of what a commercial is beyond it being “a boring part.”
“Should I fast forward?” Lindsay asked.
“NO!” said the hitherto silent Whit, perched like a gargoyle on the back cushion of the sofa. He was patient and cunning–much like the anaconda. Whit was right not to skip ahead. Within seconds, the man started putting on his suit, which looked to be a combination of Batman’s exoskeleton and ridiculous medieval jousting armor.
Through the tiny face slit in his helmet, the man said, “Okay, spray me with the pig’s blood.”
Nearby, a miasma of mud churned like a smoothie in a blender. Apparently there was an enormous snake in it, one that now sensed a bludgeoned pig nearby. Joke’s on you, anaconda. It’s just a guy who jumped in a fancy soup can that smells like a hemophilic pig. Have fun eating that.
Given that Lindsay is normally strict about what the kids watch, I cautioned her (though perhaps a bit late). “Are we sure this is appropriate?”
She shrugged. “Sure, I guess so. I mean why …”
Before she could finish, Whit answered my question by blurting out, “Is he still covered in pig blood?”
The man started complaining that his 17th-century German platemail (replete with Bluetooth and a “crush sensor”) was too constraining. “I need to be able to move my arms,” he said, struggling to walk. Of course, the expert in charge of ensuring that he didn’t end up vacuum sealed by the anaconda’s CRUSH FORCE argued that it was too dangerous to leave the hero’s arms unprotected. She eventually relented after the man claimed that his arms were crucial in “positioning” himself “for consumption.”
“What does consumption mean?” “Silas asked.
“Eaten,” Lindsay said.
“Yeah, eaten,” echoed Whit, with a steely reserve.
I missed the next couple of minutes, but when I tuned back in the guy was lying in the mud doing his best injured pig impression. He was mic’d so as to provide first person play-by-play as the snake began the “suffocation stage.” It was hard to see details, but clearly the anaconda believed the bloody soup can was a pig because he coiled himself around it and started to squeeze. Or the snake totally knew it was a dude and agreed to eat him because it makes good television.
Meanwhile, the scientists, doctors, and physiologists – the whole team – was becoming concerned about the man’s heart rate. But the man had more pressing issues; the anaconda had “torqued” his arm.
“What does torque mean?” Silas asked, as Whit tuned in, safecracker style, to hear the answer.
“Twisted,” I replied. The boys seemed satisfied.
“My arm is going to break,” the man said. “Get me out.” Like a NASCAR pit crew, the team of random delinquents rushed over the mud wrestling pit and pulled the anaconda off of him with suspicious ease. The scientists stood by, biting their fingernails.
I was disappointed. We all were. I know David Blaine would have let the snake break his arm. That’s what makes him MAGIC.
Lindsay could not have been more disappointed. “So that’s it?” she asked, feeling hoodwinked. “Lame.”
“So the snake isn’t going to eat him?” Silas asked.
“Doesn’t look like it,” I said.
Whit was silent, neither disappointed nor satisfied. I think in his heart he knew that one day— maybe not soon, but within his lifetime —he would witness a man #EatenAlive by an anaconda.
I walked Whit home, and when I returned it was bedtime. It’s unclear whether the show was appropriate, or if any permanent damage was done.
I do know that for the first time ever, both of our boys chose to sleep with the stuffed snakes they got over a year ago at the zoo.
We should probably check in on Whit.