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Monday, March 7th, 2011

An Idiot Abroad Recap: "Peru"

“I know I’m not that old, but I reckon this is my lowest point.” – Karl Pilkington in Peru.

In the final trip of the series before the recap episode, Karl has most definitely hit a low point. Peru is the most annoyed Karl has ever been, from beginning to end. Literally nothing interests him; not a trip down the famous Amazon river, not interacting with an ancient tribe, and certainly not Machu Picchu, the wonder that he’s there to see. He is unequivocally uninterested and very annoyed throughout the whole trip.

For those that are unfamiliar with Machu Picchu, it’s a fifteenth-century Inca site frozen in time by its remote location, making it one of the most important archaeological locations in all of South America. For those unfamiliar with Karl Pilkington, he hates traveling, especially to remote locations. Pilkington was annoyed by a 2 hour drive to get to the statue of Christ The Redeemer in Brazil, so you can imagine how thrilled he was by the three day trek through the Amazon forest and the twelve hour climb to get to the famed Machu Picchu.

First is the trip through the Amazon. While most people would relish the chance to have a guided tour of one of the largest rivers in the world, Karl Pilkington is, thankfully, not most people. According to Karl, the jungle is too loud, too full of bugs, and there are no arcades. “It’s not a proper campsite” he sighs. In preparation for the trip, however, Karl did have the foresight to make his own toilet, out of a beach chair that he cut a hole in, so at least the bathroom situation wasn’t as uncomfortable for him as in India or China. After a night filled with unrest and the disappointment in learning that a giant boa constrictor he and his guide found wouldn’t eat a biscuit, Karl is ready to move on. Unfortunately for him, he learns that the next stop on his tour is with a group of former cannibals. Karl is not amused.

This is when Karl starts to lose it. Granted, Karl has been distraught the entire series. It’s been six episodes of him being annoyed. But Peru takes his exasperation with traveling to a whole new level. It’s the final trip for Karl, and you can tell he knows it. Watching the episode, you know that Karl is tired. And like a four year old, when Karl gets tired, he gets cranky. It’s understandable. This is a show based on thrusting a man out of his comfort zone day in and day out. But during the sixth trip, you can tell he’s simply over it. In previous episodes, when staying with various families or new friends, Karl at least tries to engage. But not with the ex-cannibals. And while he did practice throwing arrows with the tribe, Karl spends most of his time by himself, sitting on the porch of his little hut, commenting on everyone who passes by. You feel like you’re getting a glimpse of Karl in thirty years; the angry old man sitting on his porch bothered by everything around him. Again proving that while this may be one of the worst informational travel shows on television, it’s certainly the most entertaining.

In a final show of exasperation and defiance, Karl quits three quarters of the way through the hike to Machu Picchu. That’s right: quits. The hike does look exhausting, and you can tell that lack of sleep and an increase in annoyance is taking its toll on Karl. But who quits halfway through? Inspired by the world famous naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, Karl realizes that he doesn’t have to actually go anywhere to produce a good show. Assuming that Sir David doesn’t actually stay at any of the exotic locations he featured on his numerous wildlife series, Karl decided to phone in the rest of the episode. After he and his camera crew climb for eight hours up the staircases leading the way to the Machu Picchu, Karl realizes he’s still not at the site. His mood was already knocked down by the impromptu musical serenade that he received by some of his guides, and when he realizes they’re still a ways away from the wonder, Karl decides he’s had enough. He calls Stephen Merchant and informs him that, despite what he and Gervais have planned, Karl is not walking another step. The cameraman tries to get a good enough shot of the ancient city and the trip is over.

Karl tries to live up to his end of the bargain and does some not-so-professional voice-over work that plays over stock footage of amazed visitors wandering around the site, but he even gives up on that, abandoning anything factual halfway through and commenting on how weird everyone is being. And the llamas. Sir David Attenborough would be so proud.

Joey Slamon lives in Los Angeles where she watches lots of television and produces this show.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Megan-Patterson/513945580 Megan Patterson

    There are like a ton of informational travel shows out there though, so I mean, it's not like An Idiot Abroad is failing anyone in that way. In fact, it's informational in a way that most travel shows aren't, because Karl does not feel like honoured to be doing this, and the show does not glamourize travel in any way like most other travel shows do. It actually shows the less savoury parts of travelling, which some people might find handy. Like, I really want to go to India, but I really don't know if I could handle all the poverty and pooing.