The Parable of Kisa Gotami
Episode 5 of Thai Cave Rescue begins on a tragic note. The dead body of Officer Saman Kunan is brought out from the cave. Everyone stands still in silence; it is in their eyes.
The monks offer a prayer at the shrine as the Governor watches on in the anticipation of everything that could go wrong in his operation. Admiral Appakorn broke the news the next day to the media and general public. As for the operation, the Admiral clarifies that the operation will continue and that the rescuers are emboldened in a bid to honor his sacrifice.
The parents grieve for the martyred soldier and commend the spirit of the SEALs to keep going, risking their own lives. The Interior Minister and a senior official from the ministry arrive at the camp. The official dissuades the Governor from continuing the mission and says they must make more provisions for kids inside the cave.
The Governor and the Minister then debate the specifics of the mission. While the governor says that the children inside the cave will be in extreme danger at all times, the official says that the risk is equal in trying to drive them out. What is to say that they will not suffer the same fate as Saman?
The Minister asks both to work together, exhaust all ways and means, and then take a decision. “No more mistakes!”, he says. In the cave, Dr. Pak reveals to Rick that the oxygen dropped below 15% that morning. Eak suffers from the guilt of having brought the boys to the cave and inadvertently caused Saman’s death. The Governor proposes to keep the boys inside until the monsoon recedes, which is around four months. This causes negative reactions from both the English divers and the American special forces.
Admiral Appakorn also suggests that from now on diving will only be allowed to the foreign drivers and not the Seals because they don’t know how to properly dive in caves. Their training is only limited to open seas diving. And that is when Rick lays out his controversial idea: anesthetizing the kids to bring them out like packages. They propose the name of Dr. Harris to execute the plan. Not only is he an anaesthetist, but he is also a cave diver – a unique combination that they will not find anywhere in the world. Noon arrives at the scene and sets up a makeshift weather camp on the Pha Mee hill to help.
For the first time, Eak loses his cool when the boys play with a sleeping night and he almost chokes due to the low oxygen. Things are getting tense for everyone. Harris arrives with his buddy Craig, who brings great insights into the meeting to determine the final plan. He proposes that just a solo diver bring the boy out and that they use pressure-positive masks for them to prevent them from drowning. The Governor agrees to the plan. On the other hand, the minister’s aid tests out the plan to pump oxygen through pipes into the caves. The mock drill fails as the pipes leak in the middle of the water.
Harris confers with other members of the medical community and zeroes in on ketamine as the drug to anesthetize the boys. Four extra small masks are flown in an entire military plane to the camp. The Governor confers with the parents about the choice between bringing them out or keeping them inside, against the minister’s aide’s advice. They sign release forms to confirm their choice and willingness to go ahead with the dangerous procedure, except for one of the parents.
The boys now walk on eggshells around Eak but the coach apologizes for dragging all of them into this. But the boys are sympathetic and say it is not his fault. Outside, the first test for the anaesthetic route is carried out on Boon-naam, the lucky boy who didn’t go into the cave that day.
The divers discover that after a short while, the young boy couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to come out. It gives them more reason to think that bringing the boys out when they are conscious will be disastrous for them and the diver.
Inside, Mark’s condition isn’t too good but well enough to last until the rescue. One of the mothers visits a monk, asking for advice and help to stay strong for her child. That’s when we hear the parable of Kisa Gotami, as mentioned in the title of the episode. When her child died, she was heartbroken. She almost lost her mind with grief. She goes to the Buddha for advice. The wise man tells her that if she can collect mustard seeds from the households in the village which had never experienced death, he would bring back her child from death. But she isn’t able to get a single seed.
Noon predicts even worse rain in the upcoming days. The Interior official’s route seems unlikely to be pursued. More tests are needed to be done to ensure the pipe doesn’t leak when it goes into the chambers, as it does when tested outside. Some of the parents have not signed the forms and the Governor pleads with them to do so, otherwise, the operation will not go through. The mother who visited the monk finally signs, convinced by Gotami’s parable and the idea the death of loved ones is an inevitability in life. Craig advises Harris that if he cannot live with himself in case a single boy dies, he should say no to going ahead with the rescue.
Noon breaks the news to the camp. A new storm is coming and the pumps won’t hold. Rick and John say if that happens, the dive cannot go through with or without Harris. Just then, the doctor walks in and gives his consent to drug the boys but wants full control of his “patients”.
As the official convinces the minister to go on his path – to keep the boys inside – the Governor walks in with Noon and the upcoming forecast. If they don’t launch the rescue operation in the next hours, the boys will be gone for good.
The Minister is finally convinced that there are no options left for them besides taking them out. The chance of success is low, but the odds aren’t impossible. If they are kept inside then they’ll never even have a chance. They confer one final time with the Prime Minister, who gives them the green light.
The Episode Review
It is incredible to see how the faith of the parents and the spiritual heritage of Thailand comes to the fore in this series. Because of having Thai personnel in the conception stages, Thai Cave Rescue proudly shows the one thing that kept the parents going in those tough times.
One of Nomham’s monologues about just having faith in her life as her own strikes a deep chord and is emblematic of the trying times. Coach Eak truly turned the tides around for the boys and this episode showed that he too was human and cracked under the emotional stress.
This different perspective that the Netflix series alluded to bringing out adds layers to the storytelling. It is not just some glossing over the rescue operation but the very essence of the story that makes it stand out.
With one episode to go, the rescue is in its final stages. We all know how it ends but will that prevent us from gluing ourselves to the screen and cheering the rescuers on? Probably not.