To Not Offend the Gods
Episode 2 of Thai Cave Rescue opens at the moment when Tee called coach Eak to the front and said there was a problem. Eak pulls out a rope ties one end to himself and hands the other end to the boys saying that he will swim under the rocks and tie the rope to the other end from where the boys can pull themselves through.
When Eak reaches the other side, the current is too strong. It throws him against the rocks where he hits his head. The boys suddenly realize something is wrong and pull him out. Eak regains consciousness and tells them they can’t go through. The coach tries to cheer up the kids but knows they’re trapped.
The Governor reaches the national park and Pim takes him to the families. He orders Pim to set up a command center to coordinate the rescue and makes his way to the shrine where the worried parents pray. One of the mothers asks the Governor to pray with them as the villagers feel the kids have offended the spirits in the cave. He says he believes in science more but respects the spirits.
The boys are still not too worried but worried enough when Eak says he is going to try the rope again. Mark’s mother learns that he is stuck in the cave in the morning and rushes to the spot. A cave diving enthusiast, Vern Unsworth draws a rough map of the cave and talks with the Governor. Vern says the cave is a monster that runs west into Myanmar. Due to the small openings and narrow structure, water can get in easily and the cave floods in the monsoons, so much so, that it is closed off for everyone.
It completely submerges the insides. Vern has prepared a local rescue team to go in. But it will be difficult because the narrow paths will start to flood one by one. In the cave, the boys are disturbed by a huge rumbling – a flash flood – and they quickly make their way to higher ground.
The rescue team, including Biw’s father, comes out with no hope. They couldn’t get too far and suspected the boys might have drowned. Vern explains they were only able to go till chamber 3, after which the water drew them out. Chambers 4-6 are flooded, after which falls the T junction, Sam Yak. That’s where the path splits into two. If they went to the wrong side, they’d certainly drown.
But we know from Tee and Night’s conversation that they went the other way, towards Pattaya, where Vern says they’ll have a better chance. Vern says that the current and lack of vision will require extremely fit, experienced cave divers. Maybe even the Navy SEALs. The Governor makes the call to the Interior Ministry to send the SEALs. The senior official says if it’ll go worse for the operation, the SEALs and the Governor himself will lose face. He reluctantly agrees as the boys make it to Pattaya. We see that the fear and helplessness are slowly starting to settle over them. They’re starting to panic and fear for their lives. Eak calms them down and says no one is dying in the cave.
He asks all of them not to panic and think clearly. Eak still has visions from the day of his father’s funeral. He recalls how the monks made him meditate at the monastery when he used to act out. Adul, Phong, and the others benefit from Eak’s advice. It does calm them down. Outside, we see Mark’s mother still failing to go past the security check. She is a foreign national and her son’s name is not among the authorities’ papers. She spots Nop and calls out to him, attracting the governor. The media pulls in close, too.
She mentions Mark to Nop, who says he knows the kid but Mark hasn’t been attending the practice for a while. She pleads that she doesn’t have Thai papers and has come from Kengtung, risking getting deported because she believes he is there. Namhom is allowed to stay by the Governor until more information is gathered. Eak wakes up Phong to accompany him to Myanmar outside, leaving Tee in charge. Phong leaps ahead of Eak and weepingly calls out to him as he sees the path is a dead end. He confesses to Eak about having just his grandmother for family and that he fought with her.
Eak tells Phong about his father’s death and how he was left without a family. His uncle left him at the monastery for his education and he said he didn’t like it at first. But eventually, he came out of it and says Phong will too. Suddenly, Phong notices a writing on the wall and yells out in excitement. The SEALs arrive nearly a day and a half after the boys entered the cave. Rear Admiral Akkaporn leads them. Dr. Pak accompanies the SEALs, and says that the lack of food for the boys is not bad news. The writing read “this way out”. Eak says they must dig together to get out. The boys are sceptical but soon start volunteering as Eak encourages them.
Vern briefs the SEALs about the boys’ probable location beyond chamber 3. He also warns them about the unique terrain of the cave – sharper turns, unexpected openings into alleys, and a narrow path. The SEALs return without anything fruitful and say they had misjudged the seriousness of the situation. They’ll try again tomorrow. Multiple attempts have proved futile. The SEALs and the governor have a meeting. The latter pleads with the former for a change of strategy as they haven’t been able to cross even chamber 3. Vern suggests getting specialists for the dives.
Rick Stanton and John Volanthen are called from Coventry, England. Eric Brown is called from Vancouver Canada. Maksim is called from Kyrenia, Cyprus. And a couple of others as well to make the dive. The super team, so to speak, assembles in the camp. The Governor thanks them for coming and explains the urgency of the situation.
The divers say they use different equipment to dive than in open waters. They will lay a guideline from chamber one to wherever the children are to navigate the murky silt water. It is day 7 and the situation is getting worse. But the foreign divers are making good progress in laying down the guideline through the tougher chambers.
Dr. Pak explains that there are two problems for the boys now: first, food. Their bodies are entering ketosis where the body will eat their own muscles to keep them alive. Second, the oxygen. Because they’re in a small chamber, the levels will soon be turning toxic. With every passing second, they’re dying.
With the rains getting worse, the Governor orders pulling out the divers. He can’t risk any more lives. Eak too is slowly losing hope and breaking down. The governor walks up to Namhom, who is lighting a candle for each of the boys and Eak in the Shan tradition.
He says that science has failed him and he will now have to not just pray, but believe those prayers can make a difference. As they do pray, the rain stops.
The TMD calls and says they’ve caught a small break from the rain. The Governor asks if the divers will go in and they agree. The reprieve does indeed prove to be a great opportunity for the divers to make headway. They reach chamber nine, deep into the cave. And on the ninth day, they finally see the boys, alive. The divers have a camera with them as they record the kids and bring back the footage. The parents eagerly watch the screen and a 13th name is added to the board: Mark, officially the smallest boy stuck in the cave.
The Episode Review
Episode 2 more or less followed the path chosen by the premier episode and confirms how the rescue will play out in the upcoming parts. The focus will stoutly be on the boys and how Eak helps them sustain, as well as a holistic view of the entire operation outside.
The role played by even the smallest rescuer is acknowledged and their efforts accrue to the larger goal. Accuracy of the rescue is not the priority, as it is clear from episode 2.
In a certain way, this also diminishes the visceral documentary-feel that often overwhelms with the exactitude of details. However, this format is compelling nonetheless and Netflix seems to have another hit television show on its hands.