The Best Episodes of VICE
VICE is unlike any TV news program you’ve ever seen, and it’s not even remotely like anything you’ll see on the 24/7 cable news channels. Its area of interest is the world — the entire world, not just the suburb beyond where you live — and the emphasis is on international news.
#1 - The Hermit Kingdom
Season 1 - Episode 10
'Basketball Diplomacy' - U.S. relations with North Korea have been strained to the breaking point by the country’s disturbing nuclear-weapons threats, backed by “supreme leader” Kim Jong-un’s anti-American rhetoric. Fortunately, Kim shares one of his late father’s passions: American basketball. With that in mind, and through official and backdoor channels, VICE organized an unlikely, highly publicized trip to North Korea, hoping to thaw out relations through some hoops diplomacy. With NBA great Dennis Rodman and a trio of exuberant Harlem Globetrotters in tow, VICE traveled to the capital of Pyongyang for a surreal tour of the city, a basketball clinic with under-18 players, an exhibition game witnessed by Kim and 10,000 adoring fans, and - most surprising - a first-ever meeting between the baby-faced leader and an American delegation.
#2 - Addiction
Season 1 - Episode 7
'Tobaccoland' - The dangers of smoking are no secret in the U.S., but in Indonesia, the tobacco industry is virtually unregulated. The result? Over two-thirds of all men are smokers, and it is commonplace for children as young as six to take up the habit. Tobacco is a $100 billion industry here, with TV and print ads everywhere. Investigating this phenomenon in Malang, VICE visits a clinic that promises cures to a plethora of modern ailments through tobacco and smoking – with our intrepid correspondent getting the full smoke-therapy treatment. 'Underground Heroin Clinic' - Heroin is the most addictive drug on earth, and some people will do anything to kick the habit. Enter Ibogaine – a drug made out of the African iboga root, whose intense, hallucinogenic properties make it a Type-A felony drug. But many swear it's the most effective way to kick heroin addiction – especially when combined with a voodoo-type ritual that involves face paint and chanting. VICE follows the journey of a heroin addict who travels to Mexico, where Ibogaine is legal, to try to finally quit.
#3 - Crude Awakening & The Enemy of My Enemy
Season 2 - Episode 9
'Crude Awakening' - Shane Smith heads to Louisiana to report on the lasting effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where four years later, mass quantities of oil still wash ashore. 'The Enemy of My Enemy' - Ben Anderson goes deep into Houthi-controlled territory to learn about the group that’s fighting, and beating, Al Qaeda in the east, Saudi Arabia in the north, and Yemen’s central government in the south.
#4 - Winners & Losers
Season 1 - Episode 5
'Mormon Lost Boys' - In today's Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) Church, many young men have been thrown out of their homes because of an edict allowing polygamist church elders to monopolize all the eligible young girls. These "lost boys," few of whom have even an 8th-grade education, must adjust to a drastically different America than the one they grew up in. We travel to Colorado Springs to meet some of these young men and listen to their harrowing stories. 'The Fat Farms of Mauritania' - Ironically, in one of the world's poorest countries, obesity is a sign of beauty and wealth. In the West African country of Mauritania, parents send their daughters to rural fattening camps, where they are force-fed over 15,000 calories a day in camel milk, figs, oiled breadcrumbs and couscous. VICE sends its skinniest correspondent to one of these camps to examine the impact of force-feeding on young women in a society that loves them so plump. Mumbai Slumscraper: Nowhere in the world is the collision of caste and future more apparent than in Mumbai, where more than half its residents live in slums sprawled in the shadow of billion-dollar, single-family skyscrapers. VICE travels to Mumbai's Dharavi slum, where over a million people live in abject poverty while billion-dollar single-family skyscrapers are being built on top of them.
#5 - The Pink Gang Rebellion & Genetic Passport
Season 2 - Episode 7
'The Pink Gang Rebellion' - The brutal details of a 2012 gang rape on a Delhi bus focused international attention on India’s rampant rape issue. Inept law enforcement, the social stigma associated with rape, and a patriarchal social structure have allowed sexual assaults to plague Indian women. But one woman, Sampat Pal, has galvanized a group of rural women into the Gulabi Gang, or Pink Gang, to combat the injustice of sexual assault. Gelareh Kiazand heads to rural Indian to investigate the issue and embed with this revolutionary gang. 'Genetic Passport' - From 1949 to 1989, the Soviet Union, determined to prepare for nuclear warfare, detonated more than 450 nuclear bombs in an area of Kazakhstan known as the Semipalatinsk Test Site. For hundreds of thousands of Kazakhs, radiation not only surrounded them, but became part of their DNA. Thomas Morton goes to Kazakhstan to learn more about this controversial initiative.
#6 - Cold War 2.0
Season 3 - Episode 14
The increasingly strained relationship between Russia and NATO is examined in the Season 3 finale, which includes remarks by U.S. president Barack Obama and vice president Joe Biden.
#7 - The Afghan Money Pit & The Pacification of Rio
Season 2 - Episode 1
'The Afghan Money Pit' - The U.S. has spent nearly $100 billion on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, the most spent on any country in history. But John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, has found that much of that money has been wasted and misused, and has even fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Shane Smith heads to Afghanistan for a tour of American taxpayer dollars gone down the drain. 'The Pacification of Rio' - Rio de Janeiro is working hard to remedy its reputation as a drug and murder capital in time for the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. The Special Police Operations Battalion (BOPE) has been charged with pacifying the slums (favelas), but BOPE's military occupation of increasing numbers of favelas has been criticized as heavy-handed. Some corrupt members of the BOPE, together with ex-police, have formed militia gangs of their own and are controlling many favelas by sinister means, openly extorting, torturing, killing and making criminals disappear. Still, there are hundreds of favelas, untouched by pacification, that remain under the control of drug gangs who act with complete impunity. Ben Anderson looks behind the picturesque façade of Rio's marketing campaign to reveal the dark underbelly of the city.
#8 - Gangs & Oil
Season 1 - Episode 9
'Chiraq' - The lethal combination of gangs and guns has turned Chicago into a war zone. To see why the Windy City, now dubbed "Chiraq," had the country’s highest homicide rate in 2012, VICE visits Chicago's most dangerous areas, where handguns are plentiful and the police and community leaders are fighting a losing battle against gang violence. In the neighborhood of Englewood, we patrol with police, visit with religious leaders, and hang out with members of gangs – soldiers in a turf war that has spread into new communities as projects are destroyed and residents are forced to move elsewhere. 'Nigeria’s Oil Pirates' - High unemployment, political corruption, and the unequal sharing of oil resources have turned today’s Niger Delta into a hell on earth. Oil theft has become big business in Nigeria, costing oil companies more than $7 billion per year while polluting coastal farmlands and fisheries – and wrecking the lives and livelihoods of local residents. VICE travels to Africa’s oil-producing region to meet with oil thieves who refine and sell oil in West Africa, and follows one farmer’s attempt to sue a foreign oil company for poisoning his family’s land.
#9 - Our Rising Oceans
Season 3 - Episode 1
A report on climate change that features a visit to Antarctica to observe melting glaciers and a report on rising sea levels in Bangladesh. Then an interview with Vice President Joe Biden.
#10 - American Scrap & Children of the Drones
Season 2 - Episode 3
'American Scrap' - Ailing American manufacturing cities like Detroit and Cleveland are experiencing a boom in a new trend known as scrapping. David Choe looks into the life cycle of scrap metal, from the people that risk their lives to find it, to the yards that buy the metal, all the way to the Chinese traders who funnel it back home. 'Children of the Drones' - Suroosh Alvi investigates the effects of drone strikes in Pakistan, where extremism and militancy are only growing in the wake of Obama's drone campaign.
#11 - Surveillance City & The Forgotten War
Season 2 - Episode 12
‘Surveillance City’ – Vikram Gandhi heads to Camden, New Jersey where a police surveillance system is transforming law enforcement in the city. ‘The Forgotten War’ – Ben Anderson heads to refugee camps in Chad and Sudan to meet victims of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s brutal genocide. Little has been done about the problem in the past decade and now rebel groups are poised for a civil war.
#12 - Greenland Is Melting & Bonded Labor
Season 2 - Episode 2
'Greenland is Melting' - Greenland recorded its highest temperatures ever in 2013. Though some say that's not cause for concern, the equivalent of three Chesapeake Bays'-worth of water melts off the island every year, affecting sea levels around the world. Shane Smith embarks on an expedition to Greenland with climate scientist Jason Box to discover the reasons for the melting, and how the resulting sea level rise will mean devastation sooner than expected. 'Bonded Labor' - Millions of men, women and children work as bonded laborers in Pakistan's brick kilns. This abusive practice is facilitated by the devastating disenfranchisement of workers and by the pervasive corruption of the brick kiln industry and Pakistani law enforcement. Fazeelat Aslam goes to the brick kilns to see the conditions and learn how certain organizations are fighting back by rescuing the workers from this modern-day slavery.
#13 - Assad's Syria & Cost of Climate Change
Season 5 - Episode 1
“Assad's Syria” - Isobel Yeung travels through regime-controlled Syria to see how Assad prevailed and to find out what might happen next in his crippled country. “Cost of Climate Change” - In the face of a scientific consensus, and with the Trump administration ushering some climate deniers into the highest levels of government, Shane Smith follows the money to see the true economic stakes of decades of denial.
#14 - Fighting Chances
Season 1 - Episode 8
'Senegalese Laamb Wrestling' - The most popular sport in the West African country of Senegal isn’t soccer – it’s laamb, combining Greco-Roman wrestling moves with eclectic pre-fight rituals and dances. Laamb’s appeal has skyrocketed as the nation’s economy has plunged (the average income for Senegalese workers is about $3 a day), and top stars are of the Michael Jordan magnitude. In a jarring contrast of color and size, VICE visits Bombardier, a laamb star who’s a hero in his hometown of Mbao, to learn about the physical and spiritual sides of the sport – and to train for our intrepid correspondent’s debut in the ring. 'The World Is Sinking' - The global sea level rose by 22 cms in the past 100 years – and is expected to rise even faster in the years to come. Naysayers who insist that global warming is just a mirage can look no further than Venice, where the famous St. Mark’s Square is underwater a third of the year, or the Maldives, the island nation which is in jeopardy of sinking into the Indian Ocean. Shane Smith travels from Europe to the Maldives to New York (site of massive flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy) to measure what we might expect if climate change and rising sea levels continue unabated.
#15 - Love & Rockets
Season 1 - Episode 4
'Chinese Cockblock' - China’s “one child” policy and a cultural preference for male babies, has created a market where marrying-age men outnumber women by the millions. 'European Meltdown' - With their economy in the toilet and no jobs to be had, Europe’s youth are taking to the streets to demand radical changes.
#16 - The Resource Curse & Deliver Us from Drought
Season 2 - Episode 8
‘The Resource Curse’ - Vikram Gandhi heads to Papua New Guinea to investigate the impact of Exxon Mobil on the small Melanesian country, where the American corporation is developing a $19 billion liquid natural gas project expected to start production in late 2014. ‘Deliver Us From Drought’ – Thomas Morton heads to Texas to witness the climate catastrophe, and discover firsthand the local response.
#17 - Afghanistan After Us & La Haine
Season 3 - Episode 13
'Afghanistan After Us' - Ben Anderson returns to Helmand, the country's most violent province, to investigate the security situation in Afghanistan as American involvement winds down. 'La Haine' - Vikram Gandhi goes to Paris to gauge the causes of the growing hate in the City of Lights.
#18 - Corruption
Season 1 - Episode 6
'China’s Ghost Towns' - Fifteen years ago, China changed its policy so people could buy their own homes. Real-estate investments boomed, and new cities began popping up each year, many inspired by western design and mimicking iconic locales like Paris and lower Manhattan. The problem is: people don’t live here. One ghost city in Inner Mongolia, built to house one million people, is now an empty shell of unoccupied skyscrapers and abandoned construction sites. VICE checks out this and other urban failures to figure out how China’s preoccupation with growing its GNP turned “supply and demand” into “build now, sell later.” 'Egypt on the Brink' - Over two years ago, Arab Spring climaxed in the overthrow of President Mubarek in Egypt. But for many Egyptians, the situation has actually gotten worse, as has the man who replaced Mubarek: Mohamed Morsi, elected under the radical Muslim Brotherhood banner. VICE visits the embattled streets of Cairo, where opposition to Morsi has resulted in renewed mass protests and violence in Tahrir Square. Among those we meet: members of the Black Bloc, youthful revolutionaries who disguise themselves with hoods and scarfs while vowing to oust Morsi and destroy the Muslim Brotherhood.
#19 - After ISIS & Cubs of the Caliphate
Season 5 - Episode 29
"After ISIS" - The fight to retake Mosul, the biggest city in ISIS' so-called caliphate, lasted over 10 months and was the biggest urban battle to take place since World War II. As civilians of Mosul endured the impossible choice of hiding in their homes or fleeing, running the risk of being killed by ISIS, the war raged on--bombarding homes and destroying everything in its path. With unparalleled access, VICE followed the Iraqi Army as they fought the terrorist group, room to room, house to house and street to street, often fighting for days on end and suffering horrendous casualties on a slow crawl to liberation. "Cubs of the Caliphate" - Now that most of Iraq has been liberated from ISIS control, the daunting task of what to do with civilians who lived under their brutal regime remains. Nowhere is this issue more complicated than in the case of children, particularly those who were recruited to fight with the Islamic State. VICE Correspondent Isobel Yeung meets the Iraqi youth who both lived and trained under ISIS as they try to rebuild their lives while facing an uncertain future.
#20 - Guns & Ammo
Season 1 - Episode 3
'Gun School' - With an average of 83 people dying in gun-related violence every day in the U.S., the debate over firearms continues to heat up. VICE visits the New Life Baptist Church & Academy in Albuquerque, NM, where Pastor Larry Allen preaches guns and teaches guns. His school is fully armed with an ex-police security team, and his young students are taught gun drills and tactics to disarm attackers. 'Toxic Iraq' - After ravaging Iraq over the past decade, the U.S. is finally exiting the country, leaving behind a toxic cesspool of military waste. Since the assaults on Fallujah in 2004, the city has seen an astronomical rise in birth defects and abnormalities, which some have linked to the American military's suspected use of depleted-uranium rounds munitions during the war. We go back to Iraq - but this time, with a Geiger counter in hand.
#21 - Terrorist University & Armageddon Now
Season 2 - Episode 5
'Terrorist University' - Dagestan is Russia's hotbed for Muslim extremism; Shane Smith heads there to follow in the footsteps of Boston Marathon Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev who spent six months there. 'Armageddon Now' - Thomas Morton looks at the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the surprising Evangelical support for the Jewish State.
#22 - Lines in the Sand & Outsourcing Embryos
Season 3 - Episode 4
'Lines in the Sand' - Ben Anderson explores the trafficking hot spots of South America and Africa to find out who is profiting from Europe's cocaine habit. 'Outsourcing Embryos' - Gianna Toboni explores some of India's 3,000 surrogacy clinics, watching doctors deliver surrogate babies, and following recruiters who find prospective surrogates in the slums.
#23 - Meathooked & End of Water
Season 4 - Episode 5
'Meathooked' - The world is addicted to meat--in developing countries around the world, diets are starting to look more like ours, incorporating more and more beef and pork. Massive factory farms are springing up to supply that demand. But industrial meat operations produce more than just cheap T-bones; they also dish out enormous environmental harm. Isobel Yeung travels to the feedlots, farms and slaughterhouses where our meat is made, to see the true costs of our burger habit. 'End of Water' - Water is the single most vital resource we have--but it's also one of the most threatened. Around the world, from the American West to China, South Asia, and the Middle East, the water we need is simply disappearing. Vikram Gandhi reports from California's once-abundant farmland and the heart of Sao Paulo's reservoir system to assess the depths of the crisis, and what can be done to reverse it.
#24 - Heroin Warfare & The Coldest War
Season 2 - Episode 11
‘Heroin Warfare’ - Since the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan, heroin production in the region has skyrocketed, making the country the number-one producer in the world by a large margin. Suroosh Alvi got a rare look inside Iran to meet the suffering heroin addicts, and to see how the country is coping with the illegal drug trade. ‘The Coldest War’ - With the polar ice caps shrinking due to global warming, new trade routes are being exposed, along with billions of dollars' worth of natural-resource reserves. This is prime real estate and the five nations bordering the Arctic are readying themselves to fight for it. David Choe headed north to witness NATO forces participating in the largest polar military exercise in history.
#25 - Engineering Immortality & Robot Revolution
Season 5 - Episode 11
“Engineering Immortality” - Isobel Yeung meets the scientists and doctors leading the charge in genomics, pharmaceuticals, and stem cell research, which promises to revolutionize how our bodies age in the years to come. “Robot Revolution” - VICE explores how robotics and the computers that power them are poised for an extraordinary leap forward with the emergence of artificial intelligence, and how humanity can reconcile the huge risks and possibilities that will follow.