One man, on the run from some of the planet’s most elite special forces and tracking teams. It sounds like a Jason Bourne movie, but is actually the premise of Manhunt With Joel Lambert.
Now into its second season on Discovery Channel, the show sees Lambert using all his skills and training as a former member of the United States Navy’s Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) teams to outwit some of the world’s most formidable hunter forces, and get to a pre-determined extraction point.
In the new seven-part season, Lambert faces an unconventional mix of six new military and non-military teams from Mongolia, New Zealand, Scotland, Mexico as well as Florida and South Carolina in the United States.
To trace Lambert, his opponents, known as the “hunter force”, are allowed to use any asset available to them in a real world manhunt, including bloodhounds, drones, and even Mongolian golden eagles, while Lambert is only given a basic survival kit, and will have to forage and scavenge for anything else he might need.
He is given a head start in each episode but depending on the mission, has just 12 to 48 hours to make it to a pre-determined extraction point that only he is aware of.
Lambert joined the US Navy in 1998 and made it through Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) – the brutal selection course for the SEAL Teams, where he proudly served during his 10-year stint with the military. He was deployed on numerous combat missions to locations including Afghanistan, the European theatre and Kosovo.
Besides his own show, Lambert has also appeared in a number of small and big screen roles, including in Hollywood blockbusters American Sniper and Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, among others.
Lambert’s Navy SEAL background gives him a specific set of skills that he can use to his advantage on the show. He also has a wide and varied skill set that comes from working with other special operations units outside of the Navy SEAL teams, his own training, and schools that he went to on his own.
“The skill set that I bring to the show is wide and varied. But what I bring from the SEAL teams specifically, which helps me the most is my mindset. The screening and selection process for the SEAL teams is one of the most brutal and difficult courses anywhere in the world – physically but also mentally,” he said, adding that it is designed to weed out any kind of weakness, and anyone who will quit, or is not single-mindedly focus on what they need to do, even if they die in the process.
“That mindset, that mental focus, and that attitude – that is the most important thing, the most helpful thing to me, that I bring to Manhunt from the SEAL teams. That is the most important thing in battle and war, more important than your weaponry, your technology, or your training.
According to Lambert, there are two things he needs to research before he goes on the show. “One is on the hunter force – who they are, how many people are they going to have, and what kind of assets are they going to use? Are they going to use dogs, are they going to use drones, are they going to use planes? Are they trackers, and if so, then what are their skills? How are they going to tracking? What skills do they have to rely on? I need to know all that,” he said.
The second half of that planning is the environment itself. “The terrain, the elevation, the foliage … how thick is it? How open is it? These are two completely different things that I have to deal with. Am I able to move concealed, or will I have to use other methods because it’s wide open?” he said.
“Will it be easy or hard to find water? Do I have to plan my route thinking about replenishing water? There’s a lot of research that goes into it.”
According to him, in Mongolia, it could get down to -20°C to -25°C at night. “There’s no water, there’s very, very little food, and the exposure risks were very high,” he said, adding that Scotland was another challenge – even though it is not as cold as Mongolia, he was buffeted by gale force winds that were 96-104 kmh winds.
“That was just a light breeze for them! It was very cold and with wind that fast, I think it was actually more dangerous than even Mongolia.”
This being a TV show after all, he usually has an idea of what he is up against by the time the hunt comes about. “Sometimes, there are surprises, but most of the time, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m going to be up against. I then plan as much as I can, with satellite photos, with topographic maps, and so on,” he said.
“There’s a great quote by Winston Churchill, who said plans are of little importance, but planning is essential. The plan that I make usually just falls apart the first time the hunter force does something that forces me off of that plan. So, the more planning I’ve done, the better I can improvise when that plan falls apart.”
While he has yet to face an actual Navy SEAL team on the show, he has gone up against teams with very similar training. In Season Two, he faced a team of Maori warriors in New Zealand, who not only had amazing tracking skills, but were also part of New Zealand’s Special Air Service (SAS) forces.
“The SAS tracking course in New Zealand is widely considered one of the best in the world, and the guy who wrote that tracking course was one of those hunting me,” he said.
“So, they really had my skill set, knew what I would do, and also had this extremely high level of tracking. It was very, very difficult.”
However, if he were to go up against an actual Navy SEAL team, he reckons he would have the advantage, because he knows how they think.
“There’d also be a lot of trash talk going on. The hunter force would be talking smack about me, and I’d be doing the same right back at them!” he said.
Manhunt With Joel Lambert is on Tuesdays at 9pm on Discovery Channel (Astro Ch 551).