Anthony Bourdain on Parts Unknown’s season premiere.
In Sunday night’s premiere of Parts Unknown, the late, great Anthony Bourdain got the final word. After the credits roll on the episode — in which he and W. Kamau Bell visit Kenya — Bourdain reappears onscreen, alone, looking out at the Kenyan savanna to give this closing line. “I do my best. I look. I listen,” he narrates. “But in the end, I know it’s my story. Not Kamau’s, not Kenya’s, or Kenyans. Those stories are yet to be heard.”
Director Morgan Fallon said the line’s inclusion gave Bourdain an opportunity to reflect on his show. “It’s a really profound moment. It’s kind of a coda in some ways, and something that we had talked about a lot when we were on the road and in response to some other shows that we had done,” Fallon said after the episode’s premiere at Tribeca TV Festival on Saturday. “People would be like, Well, why didn’t you go here? You didn’t show this. Or, It’s not a complete picture. I mean, yeah. We go to a city like Laos. There’s 20 million people there. We can make ten shows about Laos, easily. It’s his experience. It’s his journey. It’s his little sliver. That’s really what travel is. I think it’s very important for him to be able to articulate that.”
The closing line, Fallon said, was nearly lost in editing. “Frankly, he wrote that line and we didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about,” he explained. “It was so out of the context. We were thinking more like a big ending for [W.] Kamau [Bell]. He wrote this line about himself and Kamau and that part of the journey and Kamau’s story not being told and Kenya’s story not being told.”
Bourdain and W. Kamau Bell.
But after Bourdain’s death in June, Fallon said it was almost uncanny to find “this incredibly impactful line that we’ve been actually cutting out of the show.” One of the show’s editors, Mustafa Bhagat, was the first one to send him a link to an ending with that line included. “I think after lying on the floor for like 20 minutes after seeing it, it was just this aha moment,” said Fallon. “This is important and it needs to be separate and it’s own thing and not burdened by credits and confusion.”
Executive producer Chris Collins reminded the audience at the Tribeca TV Festival that Bourdain’s words bear even greater significance after his death. “This is something Tony’s been doing for a long, long time,” Collins said. “The whole idea of the series from the get-go was, I want my words to be heard, yes, but I want other people’s words and thoughts and emotions to be seen and heard as well. That has been since the day we set out on the road. It’s obviously very difficult to look at. Tony will resonate further and farther. All is not said and done at this point with him.”