Skift Take

Even while irresponsibly drinking and indulgently snacking, Bourdain gives viewers a better idea of what's happening inside present-day Russia than any news segment we've ever seen.

The best episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown season three aired last night with a raucous critical look at Putin’s Russia. The episode was filmed in February 2014 just before the start of the Sochi Olympics and Bourdain doesn’t hold back when it comes to shining the light on Putin’s power and lies.

Bourdain and the ZPZ Productions team start their trip in Moscow with old friend and local dissident Zamir Gotta.

Bourdain and Gotta kick off the trip with a nauseating amount of vodka and Russian tapas including pickles, olives, cavier and white fish. Our star quickly voices his opinion of the man discussed through much of this episode calling out Putin’s probable height complex and likening him to “Donald Trump but shorter.”

The entire episode is an exercise in finding, observing and commenting the absurdity of Putin’s Russia. For example, Bourdain attends a massive demonstration where critics voice different, sometimes opposing complaints about Putin. The demonstration is well organized and maintained with more policemen than attendees and a pre-approved route.

Bourdain and Gotta then meet with another of Putin’s most vocal critics, a man named Boris. Over a meal of minced beef dumplings, the trio discuss the very clear signs that Putin sends to people who threaten his rule.

Although it’s obvious he is the force behind dissident’s poisonous deaths and an inside man who awards billion-dollar development contracts to old friends, no one does a thing about it.

“Everybody understands everything in this country,” sums up Boris.

Bourdain and Gotta then travel outside of Moscow to meet another critic, an international billionaire who’s lost millions running one of the only investigative newspapers in the country. Six of his reporters have already been killed for reporting on human rights abuses.

Bourdain continues to meet with Russian locals who continue to fight against the system and attempt to speak about a covered up and dangerous truth.

He meets with members of the band Louna, a band that uses music to speak out against Putin’s rule. The band was supposed to be a part of an MTV documentary, but cut due to political pressure.

He meets with Kseniia Krabrykh, an openly gay artist in Russia.

And Bourdain eats at Cococo, the first farm-to-table restaurant in Russia where only local seasonal farmers’ goods are served.

The show’s guests shed light on the situation inside Russia while also inspiring viewers by fighting for what’s right.

Russia has taken the center stage of international news in the time since Bourdain and ZPZ filmed this episode. Bourdain briefly sums up the events including the successful winter games, the Ukrainian revolution and the annexation of Crimea.

It is truly a talent that Bourdain can chug vodka, remark a country’s food, and give viewers a better understanding of present-day Russia than any other news segment today.

“The world has done nothing. It will do nothing, as Vladimir well knew,” laments Bourdain. “He wins, again.”

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Tags: anthony bourdain, cnn, parts unknown, russia

Photo credit: Anthony Bourdain speaks with his cohost for episode 5, Russian native Zamir Gotta. Parts Unknown / CNN

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