Where does one start, with the No Reservations Ozarks episode? The worst-case scenario I had going in – that the Ozarks was going to be reduced to a meth-fueled hillbilly-den – was bypassed entirely and reassembled as an unutterably boring series of lame and ill-fated hunting expeditions. Honestly, you’re fifteen minutes into the show before you catch yourself wondering: “Are they going to hunt/fish their way entirely through the Ozarks? Is there nothing else?”
“No,” comes the answer loud and clear. You’re just beginning. The only indoor activities turn out to be arm wrestling and chili on spaghetti. Well, thanks for stoppin’ by.
Squirrels figured prominently, no problem there. I wouldn’t eat the fat, plastic-chewing bastards in my backyard until well into the zombie apocalypse/nuclear winter, but in general, I bet they’re fine.
But what was with the patronizing – and patently false – notion that “nowhere was the Civil War worse, the fighting more fierce” than in the Ozarks? It was referenced outright in an opening sequence and later, in equally absurd terms. Missouri had its share of border battles, but let’s get real: Wilson’s Creek amounts to a quiet hour at Antietam or Gettysburg.
I did like the Daniel Woodrell elements. “Winter’s Bone” may make the state’s tourism board avert their eyes, but I found plenty to be proud of in the film. And though Bourdain stupidly chucks a fishing spear into the ground in front of a moving boat and breaks Woodrell’s shoulder, the author was a highlight. I’ll read the rest of his stuff.
The biggest failing in the episode is the people themselves. The woman who makes Bourdain’s squirrel pot pie hadn’t even made it “until about three years ago.” None of the duck hunters Tony goes hunting with actually know how to cook, you know, duck. The coon hunters haven’t actually eaten raccoon. The people aren’t ridiculed as hillbillies, and for that I suppose we can be glad, but Bourdain’s not supposed to be Jamie Oliver here, teaching people how to eat. Everywhere else Bourdain goes for the show and learns something. One wonders what he learned here.