Episode 3 starts in New Orleans. We see a bit of the Mardi Gras festivities and glimpses of a voodoo ceremony. After some more talk with a voodoo priestess and a car ride with an American soldier who returned to his neighborhood in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to find it looking a lot like Irak (Humvees included), Fry moves on to the Angola prison in Louisiana, where there are 5,000 inmates, 90% of them without the possibility of parole, on 18,000 acres (about the size of Manhattan, we’re told). Just like the car ride through New Orleans, this landscape, too, gets you pondering about the lives of all those life prisoners, some of which do change for the better in some respects even as they have no chance of changing their lot. They work the land, making all or most of the food they need, and they make other useful products as well.
In Mississippi Stephen Fry drives by some really nice architecture and talks with actor Morgan Freeman in the latter’s own blues bar. Then he canoes on the Mississippi (he doesn’t do the rowing himself, no), and . . . I’ll skip Missouri, Iowa and Indiana. I’ll just say there’s a bit about yoga and transcendental meditation, too. What I’m coming to appreciate in Stephen Fry’s choice of subjects is that he chooses a large variety that he feels represents many facets of America. It’s not a bland travelogue, which is to be commended. Yes, he is opinionated (it comes with the territory) but he also does a number of firsts for him on this trip, breaks an arm somehow (didn’t understand how), and generally exposes himself to things he feels he understand and things he doesn’t (TM or a homeless person telling him that he “chooses” to live that way).
After Indiana there’s Ohio, with images from the Kent State riot of 1970, and Detroit in Michigan, with talk about Ford and GM. When he arrives in Chicago, we’re treated to a bird’s-eye view and the sounds of Chicago blues (Buddy Guy, whom Fry talks with on camera as well). Buddy Guy makes some poignant comments about a world he sees vanishing, one with more blues and fun – speaking of which, there’s also The Second City in this Chicago bit, and Stephen Fry gets on stage as well.
But the real comedy bit is in Wisconsin, where Stephen Fry gets really funny in the company of ewes and a cheese-making lady.
This episode’s journey ends in Minnesota, where he talks about the Hmong community, meets with a senator representing these people (40,000 of them) and then takes to a frozen-over lake for some ice fishing. It’s really cold outside now, and the landscapes are rather beautiful with all the snow. In fact, even without the snow, the Wisconsin town he drives through, and the horse and buggy (he goes into Amish country as well, but doesn’t film there) are rather picturesque.