‘The River’ 1.03 Recap: “I Can’t See”

‘The River’ has already settled into its formula, which is more or less ‘X-Files: The Jungle’, and I’ve found the good will I felt for the show’s premiere already waning.

We’ve quickly established that in each episode, the makeshift crew of the Magus will explore another new jungle mystery. These usually have to do with ancient relics, troubling prophecies or creepy blood-sucking supernatural ghosts. Basically, this rag-tag rescue group is bound to run across something weird every week and then find a way to deal with it through Emmet’s old tapes and notes.

This week, they have an encounter with the local Morcegos, a ghostly tribal group who inflict blindness on all those deemed unworthy to pass through the jungle. Our resident mythologist, Jahel Valenzuela, explains a convoluted old wives’ tale about an ancient tribe that passes judgment over mankind. If you’re unworthy, you lose your sight and then they hunt you down, or something like that. All you need to know is: crazy tribal men and blindness. Got it? Good.

After hiking to a remote cave that the team thinks Emmet may have visited more than a few times, they encounter weirdness at every turn. The creepy music gets cranked up as the team sleeps and the cameras catch ghostly figures moving through the underbrush toward the tents. Even the scares are becoming formulaic. You know that once everyone is asleep, something eerie is going to happen. And since you know, when it inevitably does happen, it doesn’t hold very much suspense at all.

The crew wakes up to chalk art encircling each of their tents. Some of them begin to get itchy eyes – an itch that soon turns into full-on blindness. Now that they’ve encountered something that seems otherworldly, one of them comes up with the bright idea to check Emmet’s tapes and notes to find out how to cure whatever is happening. Maybe they should study up about the places they go before ever setting foot off the boat. Just a suggestion.

One by one, the crew goes blind and the hilarity increases exponentially. I never felt the least bit scared during the scenes where the newly visionless crew feel their way around the ship because I knew that it’d all work out somehow. They realize that they need a bulb from a special tree in the jungle. What is this, a fairy tale? It might as well be. It’s just as silly as one.

Still able to see, Lena, Kurt, and A.J. head off on a boat to find the magical bulbs that will fix everyone’s sight. How they get to where they need to be in the middle of the jungle, I really never understood. When in doubt, everything is in the journals and tapes. Everything. However, the crew chooses to use this knowledge only periodically, as the script calls for it.

The bulb-finding crew soon comes into contact with a hunting party of Morcegos. I found it funny when Kurt, the guy with the giant machine gun, jumps into a bush in order to hide from a jungle native with a loin cloth and a long knife.

A.J. has to deal with his fear of caves, which is a funny subplot to the whole episode. Apparently, after being caught in a cave-in, he never wants to come near a cave ever again – until the end of the episode, where he must crawl under the special tree to retrieve the bulbs that would most likely revolutionize the world of optometry.

Everything finally turns out fine, but only after Clark gives one of the most unintentionally funny monologues while trying to sacrifice himself to the half-naked hunters. Everyone regains their sight, Lincoln learns a little more about his mom and dad’s relationship, and the crew is on to the next oh-so-scary jungle mystery.

By the way, did anyone else think of ‘A Night at the Roxbury’ when everyone in the camp yelled, “Emilio! Emilio!” because they couldn’t find the ship’s mechanic for a few minutes? Maybe that was just me.


  1. Regarding the eyes, the way I understood it was the natives found something in plants, nature, whatever, that causes blindness and something in the bulbs have a neutralizing effect. They got almost everyone while they were sleeping, and it just took a while for it to kick in.

    But I think the show could wear out its welcome if every episode is going to be the cast running around in terror of something lurking about.

  2. I didn’t watch this week’s episode, but from what you’ve written, it seems to me that the show has a huge plot hole at its center. If the rescue team found Emmet’s boat with his tapes and notes at the beginning of the river, why do the tapes and notes contain information on things they’ll find further along in the journey, after Emmet left the boat?

    Aren’t they tracing Emmet’s path in the wrong direction? They shouldn’t be looking for him in places where he’d already been. They should be looking in whatever direction he headed after leaving the boat, in which case either he’d still have his notes with him or wouldn’t have any at all. But they certainly wouldn’t be on his boat.

    • Aaron Peck

      Yeah. I thought about that too, and honestly I don’t have a good answer for it. Other than they did briefly talk about Amazonian tides in the first episode and how they can pick up and carry boats for miles from where they had been.

    • Aaron Peck

      I just wonder why they aren’t constantly studying the notes and tapes. It’s like they see a new place and say, “Let’s go there,” and then it’s back to the ship to figure out what’s happening to them.

      Take a couple moments. Go through all the notes and tapes and refer back to them as needed.

  3. They are looking at the tapes and notes, at least that’s the impression I got from some of the comments the characters have made. They just don’t have somebody sitting there 24/7 doing it (which would get boring) and they just don’t show it on TV (the same way they rarely show people going to the bathroom in movies unless it’s an important part of the story).

  4. I still had the episode on my DVR so I checked and they are actively combing the tapes and notes. That’s why they went to investigate the cave at the beginning of the episode, because it was one of their leads and Clark said that it “shows up all over the tapes.” Since they don’t have a trail to follow, they are trying to retrace Emmett’s steps hoping that it might generate new leads.

    Now of course with this “found footage” setup they could easily toss in a time-lapse scene of them checking tapes and notes and whatnot, but I think that’s still implied from the comments the characters had been making.

    As for the blindness, it seems it was actually caused by spores. This again goes back around/in the cave at the beginning. Since AJ was the only one unaffected (because he didn’t go in), that seems like the most likely place.

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