Skift Take

This final episode again highlights why Parts Unknown is the only standout travel show on TV today: Bourdain and crew show the beauty of a destination by confronting its realities through food, culture, and conversation.

The eighth and final episode of Parts Unknown season three took place in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil — a fitting location given the start of the World Cup later this week. We’ve followed the series since the first season and have watched each episode built upon the expertise and technique of Bourdain and the ZPZ Production team.

This particular episode focuses more on the people and food of Bahia than the upcoming games. Bourdain starts the night alone at a table with three caipirinhas and then joins two local companions for a sampling of street food.

Bourdain remarks on the rhythm of the people filling the streets and how just about everybody seems to be moving or dancing in some way.

“Everyone is sexy. Even the ugly people are hot,” observes Bourdain.

Bourdain then meets with a man who attempts to cover up any sexiness or movement he makes. This poet and artist has been wearing self-made armour for the past 46 years as a form of protection and protest against, well, everyone.

The ZPZ team then does what they do best and dramatize and accentuate Bourdain’s surroundings. First, with a dramatic statement from the armour-clad man, and then with cutting and cooking of a poisonous fish.

Bourdain joins another artist for a meal of poisonous blowfish that’s allegedly 1,200 times more potent than cyanide. He then joins a local fishing community for a meal of freshly caught red fish and salsa.

Bourdain truly does use the meals as means to starting a conversation, whether it’s about the upcoming World Cup or the technique used by these fisherman (a tough, hand line method) to sustain their families and town.

He also teaches the audience about capoeira, or Brazilian martial arts. The episode not only goes into the history of the sport (it packs the most powerful kick of any martial art method), but also examines its place in present day society and how women worked their way into practice.

The imagery behind Parts Unknown is what truly brings the destination to life for viewers from small children jumping in the ocean after sunset to grown men and women spilling out of their bathing suits.

Bourdain ends the episode and the season with what he describes a perfect day: A boat ride and swim, cold beers, a caipirinha station on the beach and fresh seafood.

And while sucking the crab meat out of a shell, he concludes that the habit of eating seafood without getting through the shell “was the beginning of the erosion of our society as we know it.”


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Tags: anthony bourdain, brazil, parts unknown

Photo credit: Anthony Bourdain orders a caipirinha on the beach in Brazil. Parts Unknown CNN

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