It doesn’t even make for good comedy. As with the previous episode, the “jokes” barely count as humor, and it’s somewhat disturbing how seriously Riggle seems to be taking his role as cable TV “mystery” investigator, even though it must have been obvious to him that this was stupid. The humor component is even smaller than the previous episode, and aside from a few bits of insult comedy and some half-assed quips, this could have been passed unchanged as an episode of America Unearthed. Expedition Unknown is funnier, and more factual.
The episode opens with the Knights Templar in 1187, during the Crusades, and things are off to a bad start when Riggle misidentifies the Templars as controlling “the Temple of Solomon,” which the show illustrates with a CGI mockup of the Temple. Solomon’s temple was destroyed in 587 BCE, and even the second Temple, which replaced it, was long gone when the Templars arrived. The Dome of the Rock, then as now, stood on the site. Riggle asserts that the Templars found the cup Jesus drank from at the Last Supper beneath the Temple, a conflation of a number of twentieth century conspiracy theories, including modern claims that the Templars found the Ark of the Covenant beneath the Temple Mount.
Riggle outright asserts that the Templars spirited the Grail to Scotland, a claim that has no basis in fact, and none in myth, either. It is a modern fabrication. He then shows Templar tunnels in Gilmerton near Edinburgh, with some fake news footage. He meets with Tony McMahon, a blogger who appeared on America Unearthed last year to offer conspiracy theories about the Templars, and on Forbidden History before that. Once again, he is described as a “historian” although his only published work on the Templars is a novel. Riggle jokes that McMahon’s droning history of the Templars “made me sleepy,” and he isn’t wrong.
Riggle travels to GIlmerton Cove to look at the “Templar” tunnel system, which he presents as a new discovery, although it has been open to the public since 2003. Although the show asserts directly that the Templars carved the entire cavern system, there is no archaeological consensus that the caverns are the work of Templars. Many believe it was the work of blacksmith George Paterson, who was the first recorded owner of the site, in the 1700s, and who lived in it. The show’s “expert” on tunnels immediately links Masonic symbols carved in the tunnels to Templars, and Riggle asserts without evidence that many people “believe” that the Masons are the continuation of the Templars, though there is no evidence for this, especially with the 400-year gap between the two organizations.
Naturally, the tunnels are empty, so Riggle plans to use ground-penetrating radar in the hope of finding more secret tunnels that could house the Holy Grail, though—and it’s hard not to emphasize this—there is absolutely no evidence that the Holy Grail ever existed, had been found in the Middle Ages, or had been brought to Scotland. This episode is emptier than the Forbidden History episode that also wanted to find the Grail in the U.K.
Next, Riggle travels to Temple, Scotland, which the show weirdly insists was named “Town of Warriors,” though that was never its English name. The town, once known as Balantrodoch, which translates as “town of warriors,” was the location of the Templar preceptory until the suppression of the order. The show’s next “expert,” Karl Ude-Martinez, claims that the Sinclair family housed the Templars after the fall of the order and William Sinclair used them to fight a 1314 battle near Rosslyn, after which he erected the infamous Rosslyn Chapel. This cannot be true. Rosslyn Chapel was built by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, in the mid-1400s. For a moment, I thought the “historian” was referring to a ruined structure that predated Rosslyn Chapel, in Roslin Cemetery, but he specifically spoke about the current Rosslyn Chapel.
While named as a “military historian” on the show, Ude-Martinez identifies as an actor. His previous nonfiction TV experience involved presenting stories about horses on Animal Planet. I could find no record of any historical work by him.
Fiona Rogan, whom you’ve seen on every other Templar pseudo-documentary of the past decade, shows Riggle around Rosslyn Chapel, and Riggle accuses her of hiding the Grail and “the embalmed head of Christ” among other fictitious items in the chapel’s pillars. Riggle claims that Rogan “slipped up” by revealing the existence of a sealed vault beneath the chapel, leading to a badly staged bit of prop comedy involving Riggle’s sledgehammer. Riggle offers a number of conspiracy theories and describes an illegal excavation that uncovered a tunnel from the chapel to the River Esk.
Riggle meets with Iain Grimston, another supposed historian who is not. Grimston’s website says he is a novelist and a former journalist and manager at Rosslyn Chapel. Once again, Riggle starts scanning for hidden tunnels, this time with LiDaR, with Grimston offering quasi-factual information about “Templar” tunnels to a chapel built 150 years too later to have anything to do with Templars. Grimston takes him to a tunnel along the river that the show claims is medieval. Riggle crawls into it and finds nothing but the bones of a dead animal and a dead end. More staged comedy about Riggle’s hammer follows.
The show ends with the claim that the tunnels would have connected with Rosslyn Chapel. Riggle speaks with archaeologist Klint Janulis, who specializes in the Paleolithic and has appeared on other shows from Discovery’s portfolio of shitty documentaries. Janulis tells Riggle that the tunnel could be medieval, though he offers no evidence for his reasoning. He then, apropos of nothing, asserts that it could be associated with the Templars (dating would be sort of important for that) and tells Riggle to find artifacts from the Templars in the tunnel. [Update: On Twitter, Janulis told me that he did not identify the tunnel as medieval, so it seems that his comments were edited.]
Riggle ends the show by claiming, facetiously, like every other cable host, that someday he’ll get a permit and do the actual archaeological work to prove the Holy Grail is hidden inside the tunnel, but until that day he will continue to make bad TV for big bucks. Sorry, wait… that last bit was my joke, and also funnier than the stale half-assed quips that passed for comedy in this woeful hour of recycled internet conspiracy garbage.
So what, exactly, is Rob Riggle: Global Investigator? It isn’t funny enough to be a comedy. It isn’t factual enough to be a documentary. It’s just another pseudo-history “mystery” show recycling the same old tired lies, just with an even more ignorant asshole presenting them.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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