The Best Episodes of VICE
Last Updated: Jan 26, 2019
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.
#4 - State of Surveillance
Season 4 - Episode 13
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked details of massive government surveillance programs in 2013, igniting a raging debate over digital privacy and security. That debate came to a head this year, when Apple fought an FBI court order seeking to access the iPhone of alleged San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook. Meanwhile, journalists and activists are under increasing attack from foreign agents. To find out the government’s real capabilities, and investigate whether any of us can truly protect our sensitive information, founder Shane Smith heads to Moscow to meet Snowden.
#5 - When the Earth Melts & The Displaced
Season 5 - Episode 3
“When the Earth Melts” - VICE Correspondent Ben Anderson travels across the Arctic to examine the devastating impact of thawing permafrost--and the astonishing solution that might keep it frozen. “Displaced” - VICE Correspondent Gianna Toboni follows the journey of refugees journeying across the Mediterranean Sea who have been left in limbo due to the tightening borders of an increasingly nationalist Europe.
#6 - Rocky Mountain High & North Korean Defectors
Season 2 - Episode 6
'Rocky Mountain High' - The legalization of marijuana in the United States is now a reality. Businessmen, and even lawmakers are trying to capitalize on the potential success of the end of marijuana prohibition. David Choe looks at the rising entrepreneurs and businesses of this ever-growing trade. 'North Korean Defectors' - Last season, VICE on HBO followed the lives of the North Korean defectors on their perilous journey escaping the Hermit Kingdom. Vikram Gandhi follows the paths of these defectors and their new lives in the highly modernized society of South Korea.
#7 - 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.
#8 - 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.
#9 - Playing With Nuclear Fire & No Man Left Behind
Season 2 - Episode 10
‘Playing with Nuclear Fire’ - In March 2011, the Tohoku earthquake in Japan created a tsunami that killed some 16,000 people and caused an estimated $210 billion worth of damage, including crippling the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant resulting in massive emissions of radioactive materials. Vikram Gandhi heads to Japan to investigate what's really going on at ground zero of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. ‘No Man Left Behind’ - For many U.S. veterans returning from Iran and Afghanistan, the transition to civilian life is too often marred by mental illnesses including anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Ryan Duffy meets with veterans struggling with mental illness and addiction to find out how the men and women who risked their lives on the battlefield are now falling through the cracks back at home.
#10 - 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.
#11 - 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.
#12 - Die Trying
Season 4 - Episode 16
The 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge raised millions of dollars for ALS, a fatal neurodegenerative disease, but while the social media wave gave new life to ALS research, there is still no viable treatment and access to experimental drugs is limited. Battling ALS herself, VICE editor Angelina Fanous meets with patients and top researchers across the U.S. to find out what's being done to tackle this devastating disease and the regulatory hurdles faced by ALS patients and drugmakers alike.
#13 - 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.
#14 - A Syria of Their Own & White Gold
Season 2 - Episode 4
'A Syria of Their Own' - Thomas Morton goes to the frontline of the battle for a Kurdish state to follow the story of Syria's forgotten ethnic group, the Kurds. 'White Gold' - Rhino horn has been coveted in Eastern medicine for centuries. Vikram Gandhi traces the trade from Southern Africa to Vietnam to understand this illicit phenomenon which has been on the rise.
#15 - The Future of Energy
Season 4 - Episode 9
At the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris last December, world leaders agreed that climate change is an urgent threat, cementing green energy production as a new frontier of innovation. VICE founder Shane Smith takes an in-depth look at the future of how we make and use energy, and how we can meet growing demand as we cut carbon emissions.
#17 - 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.
#18 - 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.
#19 - 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.
#20 - 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.
#21 - 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.
#22 - 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.
#23 - 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.
#24 - 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.
#25 - 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.