The episode tonight of Swamp People titled Return to Froggy Bayou (season 11 episode 2) was a humdinger but not without some eyebrow-raising behavior.
This is the American south, where it still seems that working women aren’t taken too seriously until they show the usually older, more traditional dudes of the swamp that they know how to handle a gun and do the work.
This is what our sole female of the cast this season, Ashley Dead Eye Jones, does with great flourish.
This mama can hunt and please don’t mess with her when she’s focused, cocked and loaded. You damn well know Ronnie is on board with Ashley’s ability.
But the good-natured ribbing that Troy and Terral serve up all through it is a barely cloaked old-timey way of looking at the sexes in an environment that favors men for the most part.
There’s a whole lot of “ain’t she cute” subtext floating around with those two altakakers of the bayou.
While watching all of this throughout many seasons, it felt like there were forced smiles for the ever-present camera, and that at a certain point, Ashley’s facial expressions and body language didn’t lie.
She had enough and was ready to chuck King of the Swamp Troy Landry into the bayou from his relentless refusal to call her by her real name.
Women watching this episode may have recognized those feelings immediately. We smile, deflect, use humor and put up with a lot of sh** to “get along, get along” in specific vocational environments, and always have.
This show, being an extreme example of when a few women are invading the space of what is typically a good old boy’s club — and precisely what producers creating a narrative had to deal with for the sake of a time-killing-bit-of-banter on a TV series.
Or, at the very least, Ashley could have smashed Troy’s lucky donuts likely stashed in the boat’s hold, and really, no one would blame her. “Droopy Drawers” Troy had it coming. Fans know he is prone to forgetting his belt.
We all know these guys are not going to change, but it needed to be said.
But wait, why WAS Ashley paired with Troy, and where was Ronnie? Read on.
As the alligator season ramped up this past September in Louisiana, the swampers were filmed chasing the most dangerous beasts — big money bulls. To win and make a profit, they employed new techniques like air scouting and using whole rotting feral hogs to entice.
It’s man versus beast, and we opened the second episode of the season with day two and Zak and Joey Edgar scouring outside Franklin’s game trails. This game-rich environment is where the gators hunt big mammals like deer.
“These gators are big enough to kill a deer,” said Joey. The first one Zak and Joey bag is a big fella, as Zak said: “It’s a big gator, pop!”
It turns out it is an 11-foot female, and that augered well for her male mating counterpart.
“There’s a big bull in here,” said Joey restating the obvious. What viewers got with these two in this episode was a visit from helicopter Cody to aid in their recon efforts.
There’s an advantage to be had from aerial surveying and Joey is smart enough to not waste precious time.
King of the Swamp gets a new partner
In Pierre Part, the old men of the swamp — Troy and Terral (wearing his best wife-beater) — unload at the deck and are visited by Ronnie and Ashley.
There’s a reason. Ronnie was bitten last week, and he told Troy about a honey hole and that he needs help accessing it, as poachers have purposely blocked their hunting grounds with felled trees.
Strong man Terral is always up for a fight and is Ronnie’s plan B for muscle. Ashley and Troy pair up, and the “choot’em” duo argue over who gets to shoot the gun while the big man pair (Ronnie and Terral are the biggest dudes in the cast) make plans to teach these interlopers a lesson.
But this is a crazy strategy and tactic. We would hope that viewers understand that in this part of the USA, everyone has guns.
If you were angry enough to fell trees in spite, you might “accidentally” commit a murder… and the swamp is an awesome hiding spot for any and all evidence, bodies included (they get eaten fast).
You have to tread cautiously and use your head with these unknowns in the remote bayou system. Ronnie and Terral have camera boats following their moves, but Joe Q. Swamper might oughta think twice. This is not a recommended plan of action from my vantage point.
Over in Violet, Daniel Edgar and Big Tee are out in the marshes. It’s good to see Tee out and doing his thing after his health scare this past summer. We still worry for Tee, who seems to be having a hard time keeping his balance and maneuvering in the small boat.
The gators are ignoring their fetid, foul chicken bait, so the two catch a lively little guy and do an on-site autopsy. Frogs are in the stomach.
“There’s our answer,” said Mr. Daniel. “If these alligators want to eat frogs, I don’t have to be a genius to know what to put on the hook.”
Back outside, Franklin, Joey, and Zak are hot on the trail of what looks to be a massive bull. “Monster. Look at his slide…he’s a big boy,” said Joey as serious as a heart attack.
The two got out of the boat (and this too is never a good idea), and they happened upon a giant muddy gator nest with no babies present — flag one.
Then the two dig into it and low and behold they unearth a ground hornet’s nest. A nightmarish scene unfolded as they made a run for their boat, covered in stinging insects.
“They can kill you,” says Joey. Zak got it good on his back. The rest of the episode, Zak has a can of Wasp spray in his hand.
And back with the other Edgar crew, Big Tee and Mr. Daniel have figured out that fresh bullfrogs taste quite a bit better than rotting chicken to the gators, and the two went hunting bullfrogs in Froggy Bayou during the night.
Another poorly conceived plan of action.
Even though it’s a Cajun delicacy that had Big Tee salivating and trying to catch the frogs by hand, the two realized they were smack dab in gator central and wisely called it a night with 1000 eyeballs watching their every move.
Day 3 brings the Cinderella and the beasts
On day 3, Joey and Zak rethought their game plan and called in Cody. Hornets ended their big boy exploration, and now a new strategy is used. Pilot Cody is in his copter, calling Joey to guide him.
He spots some bulls and tells Joey and Zak where to go hunt. It’s a good sound system.
Meanwhile, Ronnie and Terral are a “big mamou” hunting team. Always cheerful, Ronnie has a word and a nickname for everything. Not as cheerful is Terral, who shuts down our loquacious and affable Ronnie fast, telling him not to call him “Che” and to save that nonsense for Ashley.
Don’t nobody mess with Terral; he’s the Dolemite of the Swamp, a fierce dirty ol’ white boy who f***s up motherf***ers as his game. You didn’t have to tell Ronnie twice. They bag the biggies in this episode.
And that other new duo? Poor “Cinderella” Ashley has suffered through the entire episode with all of Troy’s incessant ribbing.
She’s a good sport and takes it with a grain of salt as Troy almost instinctively knows when to take his foot off the gas, and then calling her his “good luck charm.”
But, she was a righteous partner. They bagged an 11-foot gator right out of the gate. He could do worse for a sidekick. She got the goods and the gator body count to prove it.
Back over with Big Tee and Mr. Daniel, the frog bait and switch is underway. A bull was caught on the line, and they nabbed him good. Their new bait deal is working, and nothing too dramatic to share was going on there.
The action of the episode came with the other Edgar team, as Cody, who met up with Joey and Zak, was armed with a giant tree crusher.
Helicopter Cody’s new vehicle was called a Marsh Master, and he “has all kinda toys,” according to Joey. These guys were ready to tear up the swamp in this thing.
Cody shared it was all aluminum, but I swear it looked like it would sink like a stone.
After stops, starts and a near-miss snag, Cody, Zak, and Joey manage to get this thing crawling over and through everything the swamp throws its way. How it floats and moves through the water, I have no idea.
They are doing this for one reason as Joey suspected a bull gator over 12 feet was in that nest area they were chased out of by hornets.
Turned out, he was right.
Back over at Pierre Part, Terral and Ronnie are trying to figure out who blocked the waterway. “Ronnie might a’ rubbed somebody wrong, I don’t know,” said Terral.
Praising his new partner, Ronnie added: “Big Terral is as big as a house,” as they chop down a mess of downed trees.
And of course, Ashley weathered Troy’s Cinderella remarks non-stop. “Why Cinderella? She’s not redheaded,” said an agitated Mississippi mama who looked to be missing Ronnie right about at that point.
The episode ended up back in the marshes of Violet, with Daniel and Tee’s boat filled up with bull gators, their frog bait trick working. Honestly, Mr. Daniel is a senior, and Big Tee is Big Tee, how they manage to get these huge 500+ pound gators in their boat is a mystery.
And at the docks in Pierre Part is where the show closed, as Troy sang Ashley’s praises in a bid to end their day on a high note and put all that Cinderella nonsense to bed.
“Back the boat in,” said Terral, who greeted them. He looked to be missing his less chatty partner, Troy, too. Troy shared his appreciation for Che Che, and Terral was thanked profusely by Ronnie for his brute strength in clearing the downed trees.
“I was very happy to get my old partner back,” said Ronnie. Ashley Dead Eye Jones, we felt your frustration! Troy’s ears, as he noted, are definitely just decorations.
What would be interesting to see is if producers took us beyond the docks to see just how much the gator culling business rakes in, and what these people’s lives are like outside of the boat.
We got a taste of it with Frenchy and Gee the last few seasons, and it was interesting. We would love to see some after-hours Swamper footage of Ronnie’s hunting business and Ashley’s hunting exploits, along with Willie Edwards too.
How about those Landry boys? Anyone else miss Bruce Mitchell and Glenn Guist? Honestly, the stories around these people are ripe for the picking. Y’all get with it.
Swamp People airs Thursdays at 9/8c on History Channel.