The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch: What’s Up (S5E1)

Last summer, after being hit by a car for the first time, I was trying to find a good show to binge. That’s when a friend recommended The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch. I knew the show by name, and lore, but had never pulled the trigger on watching it. As a fan of [fun] conspiracies, aliens, Coast to Coast with Art Bell, The Last Podcast on the Left, and The Curse of Oak Island, I figured I had to give it a watch. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked. A millionaire Utahian real estate magnate, Brandon Fugal, purchased the land and decided the ‘d’ in his first name stood for disclosure. While Fugal has been secretive about many aspects of Skinwalker Ranch, his willingness to let the History Channel come in for a docu-drama accounting of the anomalous, and life-threatening, experiences on the land speaks volumes. 

The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch is back and bigger than ever. Season 5 Episode 1 “What’s Up” sets a precedent for control tests, more rockets, and more fun. One of my biggest gripes with the show, maybe this is History Channel’s doings, is how there is usually a lack of a control test. Whenever the team experiences a phenomenon of some sort, they typically attempt to recreate it, rather than creating a control to set a standard. The Season 5 premiere sets a control for the episode’s experiment, and I hope this is going to be a recurring theme. 

If you’re not familiar with The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch here’s the basic rundown (though there are some exceptions): the setup, the experiment, and the findings. Occasionally a second team will splinter off from the main focus of that episode’s research, but that’s basically how the episodes are laid out.

Dr. Travis Taylor in a talking head

The Setup

“What’s Up” starts with Dr. Travis Taylor. An overhead shot follows Dr Taylor as he drives towards the Mesa in his red Jeep. Dr. Travis Taylor is a decorated scientist, who has spent four decades as a scientist for both the federal government and the private sector. He’s also the author of quite a few space opera novels! Dr. Taylor is motivated by many things, but the burning question for him, and many of us, is simple, “Are we alone?” Season 5 kicks off on a significantly less dramatic note than Season 4. The Season 4 premiere was wrought with intrigue as it was revealed to the team that Dr. Taylor was secretly working as Chief Scientist for UAPTF (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force), an office within the United States government for the Secretary of Defense. 

This came as not just a surprise to the team, but to audiences as well. Dr. Taylor’s connection to the United States government, you know the people who are actively covering up true evidence of UAPs/biological non-human entities, brought not only his credibility into question but also his allegiance. Granted, he was under an NDA, but his positioning at UAPTF coincided a bit too well with his role of investigator on the ranch. He was called a spook, a goon, a psyop; any name you can think of for a government agent. Thankfully, it’s pretty clear to most people that Travis’s allegiance lies within the truth, rather than who is signing his respective paychecks. 

In a talking head, Skinwalker Ranch owner Brandon Fugal promises this season will be the most ambitious phase of investigation yet.

At the ranch, we meet back up with Security Chief Bryant “Dragon” Arnold and secondary security personnel Kaleb Bench. Let’s hope Kaleb left his phone at home this season! Dragon and Kaleb are awaiting the arrival of Brandon Fugal and Cameron Fugal (Brandon’s brother and personal pilot). Once the Fugal’s arrive via helicopter, it’s time to get to business. One of my favorite visuals of this show is when the crew sits around a large table at the beginning of the episodes to discuss what experiments will be going on that day.

Season 5 takes a recurring guest from Season 4, and tells us he will be an official full-time team member. That guest is OmniTeq CEO Jim Royston. Jim was instrumental in Season 4 by capturing jaw-dropping LIDAR images of The Triangle, one of the most anomalous spots on the ranch. Also at the roundtable are Principal Investigator Erik Bard, Ranch Manager Jim Morse, Ranch Superintendant Tom Winterton, and Ranch Caretakers Kandus Linde and Tom Lewis. 

They hint at drilling that will come soon, which was a taboo topic to broach in the first three seasons. Previous drilling attempts have jumpstarted activities and have even led to Tom Winterton being hospitalized multiple times. While Tom is still hesitant at the idea of drilling, he hopes if they approach it delicately then things will be okay. What are they drilling for? Well, in Season 4, after drilling into the Mesa, metal-like materials were discovered which contained materials used by NASA in their own spacecrafts. Previous thermal imaging of the Mesa has also revealed a large anomaly within the Mesa. Could this be one of the factors causing the phenomena? 

Tom reveals another cow death that took place between Seasons 4 and 5. Images of the cow show it collapsed on top of its feet, potentially meaning the cow spontaneously collapsed. It should be noted that their livestock are carefully looked after with the utmost care and respect. But let’s get to the meat of the Season 5 premiere, and this one is all about The Blob. Season 4 Episode 3 “The Blob” revealed a large anomalous circle that hangs high above The Triangle. It was noticed when rockets were fired off from within the triangle, only to be shot out and around in a curvature-type trajectory. 

Jim Royston shows a LIDAR photo of The Triangle, which looks…off. That’s when Dr. Taylor sets the photo of The Triangle side-by-side with photos of a black hole. They look way too similar. The vortex over The Triangle is just one of many vortices seen throughout the ranch. After this compelling evidence, the team is ready to get right back into investigating. Brandon promises, “the most aggressive experiment we’ve ever done to date,” is about to take place, and that’s when a second helicopter arrives!

A generated image of two helicopters over a triangle

The Experiment

Principal Investigator Erik Bard gives us the skinny, basically they will be sending up two helicopters. In one is Dr. Travis Taylor, piloted by Brock Wilson, in the other will be Erik Bard, Tom Winterton, and will be piloted by Cameron Fugal. Dr. Taylor will be using an RF Signal Generator to emit a 1.6 Ghz signal, an unknown signal found all around Skinwalker Ranch, to Erik’s signal receiver. The goal of this experiment is to ascend simultaneously and perform push-broom patterns (a Skinwalker Ranch favorite), at multiple heights to try and ascertain the size of The Blob. 

This experiment is slightly concerning for a few safety reasons. In previous episodes, we’ve seen Cameron’s GPS shut off multiple times. Even scarier, there was an episode where Cameron’s helicopter alerted him of an object directly below his helicopter…even when he was thousands of feet in the air. Could this be some object tracking them from beneath and using the helicopter as camouflage? Or does The Blob have a physical presence as well? 

If there are any points where Erik loses Dr. Taylor’s 1.6 Ghz signal, the pilots can cross-reference those locations with their onboard GPS to create a rough estimate of size. If there’s one thing we know about Skinwalker Ranch it’s that it’s not a fan of GPS signals. Once the two helicopters reach 3.000 feet, Dragon will shoot off a rocket from inside The Triangle in the hopes of stirring up some activity. If you aren’t familiar, in past episodes we’ve seen rockets specifically kick off incredibly strange experiences. 

The two helicopters take flight and start their circular, push-broom pattern. At only 300 feet, Erik loses Dr. Taylor’s signal. As the pilots continue their circle, the signal comes back. They ascend to 500 feet, and soon after the ascension the signal is lost again…only for it to come back. Dr. Taylor questions if The Blob is something that is moving upwards with the helicopters. But my first thought wasn’t that it was moving. What if The Blob is actually The Blobs? What if multiple anomalies are being perceived as one? 

After some time, someone has an epiphany. It turns out that every time Erik lost Dr. Taylor’s 1.6 Ghz signal, it happened in the same spot. That spot where Erik loses the signal is when Cameron’s helicopter passes the northern zone of The Triangle. Dr. Taylor decides they need to go up to 3,000 feet and have Dragon shoot off the rocket. After, what seems like, a regular rocket launch they notice a jump in GPS data for Cameron’s helicopter. Moreover, Cameron loses his GPS signal, which, at this point, is repeatable data. 

Dr. Taylor decides to ground his helicopter to try another angle of this experiment. He instructs Cameron to hover at 300 feet over the northern side of The Triangle. While on the ground, Dr. Taylor focuses his 1.6 Ghz signal toward Erik. Nothing. He then instructs Cameron to ascend to 1,000 feet and to move south. Suddenly, Erik received the signal! 

The Findings

One day later we join Dr. Taylor, Erik, Dragon, and Kaleb, who are in Erik’s investigation lab. On a video call with them are Brandon, Cameron, and Jim. It’s time for Erik’s findings. Firstly, we get to look at the plotted-out GPS data for the two helicopters. We see the broken GPS path of the helicopters, which coincides with Cameron’s loss of GPS while in the sky. This is a fairly typical finding for the crew, as the ranch likes to mess with their GPS data constantly. 

The first video Erik plays is from a camera planted on the helicopter and pointing toward the sky. Playing it at full speed, Erik reveals a white orb floating in the sky moments before they were ready for takeoff. After some ENHANCING it is posited that the orb is either changing shape OR size. Though, they don’t have enough data to definitely say what the object is. 

Erik’s second video is one from a camera planted below the helicopter. We see a white object fly from screen right to screen left. After getting up close to the video, Dr. Taylor points out how this isn’t one object…it’s two. With the video paused you can clearly see a distinctive line between what looks like two long cylindrical objects flying neck and neck. 

The final piece of evidence Erik has is the most compelling. That’s probably why it was saved for last. This video is, again, from the perspective of a camera placed on the bottom of the helicopter. We see a clearly defined white orb slowly moving on the ground. And when I say on the ground, I mean it legitimately looks like it’s walking. This orb they see very clearly resembles something the team saw in Season 4, which was an orb that entered one side of the Mesa and quickly emerged from the other side! 

An image of an RF Signal receiver

Final Thoughts

The Season 5 premiere of The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch itched that scratch I couldn’t reach. This show quickly became my personality after multiple binge-watches, and seeing them all back together again made me feel like I was in a room with friends. While this episode is far from the most action-packed episodes they’ve had, it’s a true return to form. The evidence found is compelling and thought-provoking. We’re just getting started, and I cannot wait to see what wild and rocket-filled direction this season takes. 

Written by Brendan Jesus

Brendan is an award-winning author and screenwriter. His hobbies include magnets, ghouls, and finding slugs after a fresh rain.

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