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'Deadliest Catch' Season 16 Episode 1 Review: An edge of a seat US vs Russia battle for Alaskan king crabs

Come season 16, the stakes have never been higher and more dangerous

Spoilers for 'Deadliest Catch' Season 16 Episode 1 'The Russians Are Coming'

No season of 'Deadliest Catch' is the same. Come Season 16, the stakes have never been higher or more dangerous. Cutting straight to the chase, it's a blue vs red competition when Russia decided to pull off an unprecedented move by overhauling its crab quota.

In an interview with EW, one of the Alaskan captains, Keith Colbun, shed light on the theme this season. "The Russians have been over-harvesting, illegally harvesting, excessively harvesting, and importing crab into the United States for years. That has really hurt our pricing at the dock and at the store. This year they're trying to clean up their act. Whether they do or not, who knows. But in effect, their season is starting a little late. So we're racing the Russians to see who can get their crabs to the market first."

This means the price of the Alaskan king crab is set to hit the roof. For the legendary captains, the mission is simple: Catch as much crab as you can and sell them for some insanely lucrative prices.

After setting the context, the pilot quickly moves on to introducing — correction — re-introducing some of the captains and their crew.  Captain Jake Anderson of the 'Saga' ropes in his best friend and 'Time Bandit' helm Johnathan Hillstrand who has his crosshairs set on the prize.

They're a rather unorthodox pairing and their gut has an impact on most of their decisions. Then comes on another captain out of an injury-forced retirement, Scott Campbel Jr. of the 'Seabrooke'. Four years, three surgeries and now the man wants to sail back into action with hopes of hitting pay dirt.

Josh Harris in a still from 'Deadliest Catch' (IMDb)

Meanwhile, seasoned campaigner Sig Hansen has his daughter Mandy on the 'Northwestern' looking to grab the gold as they make advance plans for a headstart. They dump 77 pots in the water but set the gear far apart thus compromising on time. This was a move that irks Hansen as he comes down hard on his daughter.

Wild Bill Wichrowski of 'Summer Bay' comes in but has problems of his own. Two members of their crew breach the rules of alcohol and drugs forcing Bill to fire them. Now he's two-men short and that's a headache.

The 'Cornelia Marie' led by Josh Harris and Casey McManus is the cynosure of all eyes as they go heavy on technology to upgrade their boat. Their manpower gets a boost in the form of a 25-year-old Alaskan native Maria who Harris dubs as their "secret weapon".  Captain 'Harley' Davidson is back with his 'Southern Wind' as they aim to rake in the moolah, while for Captains Keith and Monty Colburn of the 'Wizard', it is a matter of family name as they set out on this mission to honor their old man. 

The scene shifts to departure day as the cap'ns and their crew set sail. It is heartening to see a mini-reunion of sorts as all seven ships aim at pipping Russia. Trouble comes soon in the form of a rough storm that hits almost every crew in different ways. 'The Wizard' is slapped flush on the bow by a 40-foot rogue wave and lashes them front, right, and center. Their gamble is when they try to reach the eye of the storm hoping for some motherload, except it fails.

Keith Colburn in a still from 'Deadliest Catch' (IMDb)

The outer part of the storm sees 'Saga' and 'Southern Wild' converge and Anderson's team draws first blood as they capture crabs in abundance. Davidson's team gets a hit as well, however, they end up with female crabs as well. Rules say the female crabs cannot be captured as they are responsible for breeding.  It isn't just the expedition the season focuses, but also the pros and cons of each vessel.

For instance. the 'Saga' is actually a smaller boat compared to the 'Southern Wind' which is in fact, 40 ft long, and more pots than 'Saga'. 

Elsewhere, it's zero rewards for 'Northwestern' as their first set is practically empty and they have to reshuffle and start afresh. In the meantime, they are still one man short. Over the course of the episode, there is enough light shed on crew members, especially Maria who drinks a few drops of raw fish blood as a tribute to the crab gods. 

It isn't a surprise the series received 51 Primetime Creative Arts (PCA) Emmy Award nominations over the years. 'The Russians Are Coming' is just the start of what is a scary, riveting and dangerous mission.

That they gave a glimpse of the hostile natural environment is a hint of what to expect. 'Seabrooke' and 'Wizard' fans will have a lot to hope for considering the backstory the captains bring with them. In many ways, it is a personal mission, and only time will tell how they go about accomplishing it. 

'Deadliest Catch' Season 16 airs Tuesday at 8 pm ET on Discovery.