“I killed a boa constrictor in Panama and ate that.”
This is a phrase not often heard at Kate Mantilini, a swanky restaurant in Beverly Hills, Calif. But then, it’s not every day that this entertainment industry hangout plays host to a former Navy SEAL who’s building a new career in reality television.
“I ate the most termites in South Africa,” Joel Lambert tells Zap2it (for the record, he’s eating a chopped salad with steak). “Termites are actually really tasty, but pull the heads off first. They’ll stop wiggling. I ate a lot of grasshoppers in Arizona.”
As you might guess from the opening quote, Lambert isn’t taking over as host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” or joining the cast of “Big Brother.” He’s the chief competitor in Discovery Channel’s “Lone Target,” airing Thursdays.
Each week, Lambert is dropped into a different spot, with a maximum of 48 hours to evade some of the most elite military and law enforcement teams in the world. With only minimal equipment in his backpack, Lambert deals with treacherous terrain, dangerous wildlife and unpredictable weather while doing everything in his power to throw his pursuers off his trail.
A recent episode took place in Poland, where Lambert was on the run from the nation’s elite border guard, the Straz Graniczna, which has all the best equipment.
Earlier episodes took place in South Africa, Arizona and the Philippines; upcoming episodes include Panama and South Korea (most take place in wilderness, but this one starts in the heavily populated, urbanized areas of the tourist island of JeJu, which has a web of more than 5,000 closed-circuit TV cameras).
But, because “Lone Target” is television Lambert’s not alone on his journeys. As for the difficulty of executing escape-and-evasion tactics with a cameraman dogging his every step, Lambert smacks his hand on the tabletop.
“So many times … in the Arizona episode,” says Lambert, “when they pick up my footprints, they’re not mine. They’re the camera guy’s. I’m on a completely different route than that.”
Lambert recalls an incident in the Philippines, saying, “I’m walking with intense concentration on these hillocks of grass among the really soft dirt and mud. I’m doing my best to make it as difficult as possible for these guys. I’m working really hard, with full concentration, and there’s my camera guy, tromping through the mud, ruining all my technical work to cover my tracks.”
Reminded a cameraman is supposed to be invisible while working, Lambert says, “Yeah, that’s it. He’s not there. He’s not there in his head. That’s exactly what it is.”
While Navy SEALs and other special-ops forces have a certain mystique – and they’re usually portrayed by bulked-up action hero types in movies – people sometimes forget that the reality can be different. In a plaid button-down shirt and a baseball cap, Lambert attracts no special attention in the restaurant, and he likes it that way.
“We’re just guys,” he says. “We’re not the dude you look at that looks like a SEAL. When I was going through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training, there were these guys that showed up that were just Greek gods. I’m looking at these guys going, ‘I’m in the wrong place.’
“It was just days before they quit, before they dropped out. There was this little wiry dude; he’s there, and he’s taking everything they dish out. He’s got this look on his face. You find out it’s all in here,” he says as he taps on his head.
“I’m just a dude who has achieved a potential that’s in a lot of us. You can’t have an ego when you realize that everybody has this inside them.”