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'Amazing America' recap: Explosive adventure

Maia Nolan-Partnow

The theme of this week’s episode of “Amazing America with Sarah Palin”: Freedom isn’t free.

It’s appropriate that the episode is all about having to do battle in defense of what really matters, because right now at my house, with NBA playoffs going on, every night is a skirmish over control of the television. Unless the Heat are playing. I do love LeBron.

Field host Jerry Carroll kicks the episode off with a trip to the Hagerstown, Maryland, headquarters of OpTac International, which trains tactical officers for police SWAT teams (or, as Sarah describes them, “the few, the dedicated, the courageous, the SWAT”). OpTac CEO Stuart Meyers is a Harvard-educated badass. Jerry calls him “brother,” a Hulk Hogan catchphrase, which makes me love him a little bit more. (By the way, reality TV producers, a show I would totally watch? LeBron James and Jerry Carroll come to visit Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Think it over.)

Jerry gets suited up in 55 pounds of SWAT gear, then runs a 60-yard dash in 10.41 seconds -- a passing score, Stuart says. Not too shabby. Next he climbs a 6-foot chain link fence, making a few failed attempts at first, laughing “That ain’t gonna cut it” as he falls back. He eventually gets stuck on the top of the fence, which is an experience with which I can relate, having myself been once stuck on a chain link fence. The difference is that Jerry is stuck on some of the many straps required to hold on 55 pounds of body armor, while I was stuck on my jeans on the top of the chain link fence surrounding Merlo Field at the University of Portland because of alcohol.

Ah, college.

Back to OpTac, where Jerry drags an affable young man named John around a field in a rescue training drill.

“His hand’s in my crotch,” Jerry mentions as he pulls John across the grass. Still, he finishes with what Stuart calls a “very respectable time for any SWAT officer.”

Next, Jerry goes through a practical scenario in which he and his partner, Joel, must infiltrate a building and exchange paintball fire with faux bad guys.

“This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy,” Jerry mutters as he enters the building -- probably not recommended SWAT practice, but no less ridiculous than, say, yelling “Go Joe!” as one enters a combat scenario.

In the debrief, it turns out Jerry and Joel actually were both shot by the phony bad guy. Maybe things would have gone better if they’d yelled “Go Joe!” after all.

In a second, more elaborate scenario, Jerry plays the bad guy guarding a couple of hostages as a SWAT team moves in to take him out.

“You ain’t takin’ me, copper,” he says. (No, really. He actually says this. It’s adorable.) “I got a couple hostages, I got a gun on the ledge -- and I’m probably gonna wet my pants when they come barging in the door.”

Yeah, they take him down pretty much immediately.

“That’s pretty intimidating when eight guys come rushing in on you,” Jerry says.

Next up, Mark Christopher Lawrence heads to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to visit Inert Products, which makes mock weapons, explosives, IEDs and other counterterrorism training aids. As the name suggests, everything’s inert, emitting a tone or a harmless pop of colored smoke to represent an explosion.

The selection of phony explosives in Inert’s showroom is -- mind-boggling? And maybe also kind of horrifying? There’s a bomb inside a pizza box. An exploding cell phone. An MRE with explosives tucked inside. A trip wire built into a clothespin. A CLOTHESPIN. By the time Inert president Donald Buza gets done running through a quick lineup of the everyday household items that can be disguising IEDs, I’m ready to grab my child, crawl under the bed and never come out.

Mark gets suited up in a bomb suit (because, he says, “I am the bomb”) to learn how to defuse an explosive device. Well, actually -- he gets partially suited up. Parts of the suit won’t make it around Mark’s considerable girth.

“This is a medium,” Mark says, adding: “You know you’re fat when you can’t even fit the bomb suit.”

He then pronounces himself “Chap Man” and stalks off in the protective leggings from the bomb suit.

Mark’s task is deceptively simple: Investigate a suspicious briefcase left next to a Dumpster.

“Don’t try this at home, knucklehead,” Mark tells viewers.

He hasn’t gone through nearly as much orientation as Jerry got at OpTac, so his likelihood of success seems low. In a talking head, Sarah echoes my concerns.

“Real bomb techs go through an extensive training … I don’t think I like Mark’s chances, but I’m still rooting for him,” Sarah says.

Her sentiment is generous -- and prophetic. It’s a good thing for Mark the briefcase is inert, because as soon as he picks it up, a fauxsplosion goes off, signaling that if it had been a real IED -- well, I’m no explosives expert, but I’m willing to bet he would have lost an arm.

Sarah then wraps up with an amazing (American!) litany of complimentary adjectives and adverbs to describe the men and women who do the kind of work Jerry and Mark got to sample.

“Though our freedoms may be threatened, they’re held in their proper place by the tenacious and indomitable spirit and efforts of those who tirelessly and fiercely fight to protect it with their lives,” Sarah says. She sells the line, but there’s something in her delivery that makes me wonder if she’s questioning her scriptwriter’s choice of diction as much as I am. Brevity is the soul of wit -- and that’s no joke.

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