Oil Riggers: Episode 5/8

Wednesday 6th May 8.00pm

This gripping documentary series follows life on the oil rigs of west Texas. In this episode, Gerald’s boys threaten to walk out on their tough-talking boss. Justin finds himself under more pressure as Derek fails to show for work. And the Viking rig moves to its second well.

Driller Gerald pushes his team to the limit this week. Every morning at 5 o’clock he waits at a gas station to pick up his crew. “I baby-sit them like they’re my children,” he says. “These kids have no work ethic anymore.” Unfortunately, once at the Longhorn, they face another day of frustrations. A pin has worked its way loose on one of the heavy metal blocks hanging over the rig and drilling shuts down for four hours while a welder is called in.

Once the problem is fixed, Gerald works his boys hard to make up for lost time. By the end of their shift, the exhausted roughnecks are desperate to let off steam. “I’m gonna go drink a beer,” says Henry. “I won’t stay out 30 minutes.” However, Henry and Paul are still carousing past 2am – despite their 5am start. The next day, an unsympathetic Gerald yells at the lethargic pair to pull their act together.

The constant shouting and abuse begins to wear Henry down. “I’ve never had nobody ever talk to me like that before,” he complains. Failing machinery on the battered old Longhorn rig only adds to the pressure. The breaking point comes when Henry clashes with Gerald over more repairs to the blocks. Henry almost comes a cropper while descending from the derrick and blames Gerald for not getting out of the way. Gerald, meanwhile, takes exception to Henry’s angry tone.

At 5am the following day, none of Gerald’s team members show up for work. Another crew is drafted in at short notice and Gerald is dispatched to town to look for new hands. It seems his tough approach has driven his roughnecks to mutiny. “Too much fighting and fussing on that rig,” is Peanut’s explanation for why he quit. The roughnecks’ decision has serious consequences for Gerald. “When a driller can’t keep hands, that tells the company, well, this ain’t a very good driller,” says Chris, his boss. Is Gerald also out of a job?

Over at Big Dog, ‘worm’ Derek continues to infuriate his colleagues by slacking off. “He’s not pulling his own weight. He does what he wants to do, when he wants to,” says Brian. Boss Justin has a perfect excuse to fire Derek when the worm fails to show for work. However, hands of any kind are hard to find in a boom, so Justin decides to give his rookie one more chance.

Big Dog has yet to complete its first well and the delays have attracted the attention of company boss Autry Stephens, an oil magnate and Texas legend. Justin has to make a good impression when Autry arrives to inspect the site personally. But no sooner has the boss gone than an alarm sounds – explosive natural gas is venting from the well.

Despite the potential for a huge explosion, Justin makes the decision to continue drilling. At long last, Big Dog finishes its well and Autry returns to see if they have struck black gold. He is delighted when crude oil streams out of the pipe. “Man, that’s some good-looking Texas crude!” he says. “I think we’ve got a good one.”

Also this week, the Viking rig executes its move to a new location. Wayne’s crew joins forces with the other two shifts to get the job done. Among the men on site is roughneck Tim, who was fired from Big Dog a few weeks earlier. Tim is desperate to earn himself a second shot as a driller, but his dedication to the cause is rewarded with a nasty injury. When Viking finally begins its second well, it makes quick progress through the soft earth. “We’re really kicking ass on this new well,” Wayne declares. Can Viking overtake the troubled Longhorn and seize first place in the 50-day race for oil?

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