Matadi or Bust is the fifth episode of The Wild Thornberrys from season one.

Matadi or Bust
Episode 5 (Season 1, Episode 5)
Airdate September 15, 1998
Directed by Sylvia Keulen
Written by Carolyn Omine
The Wild Thornberrys
"Gold Fever"
"Temple of Eliza"

Characters PresentEdit


On a boat trip to Matadi, Eliza attempts to free a hippo from Kip O'Donnel and Neil Biederman, two poachers.


This episode takes place in the Congo River on a barge headed for Matadi. Before boarding the barge, the Thornberrys look around in the nearby market area for supplies. Debbie notices Eliza talking to Darwin, and notes that her sister is very strange. Eliza picks up some bananas and asks Darwin if he wants one. Darwin thought that he was supposed to get a t-shirt like the rest of the family.

Nearby, Donnie tries to take a piece of fruit but the storekeeper slaps his hand away. Donnie sticks his tongue out at her and runs. Marianne notices all of the cowry shells that are hanging up and shows them to Debbie. Debbie says that she's seen cowry shells at every market in Africa. Nigel tells Debbie that they'll be taking a freighter out of Africa if they can make it to Matadi in three days. Debbie asks what happens if they don't make it to Matadi. Nigel says that there won't be another freighter for eight weeks if they miss this one. Debbie starts freaking out, but Nigel assures her that they'll make it if they catch the one o'clock barge. He notes that its 8:15 now so they have plenty of time to make it. Debbie notes that he said it was 8:15 a couple of hours ago. Nigel realizes his watch has stopped. Marianne says that she has five minutes until one. Debbie says that eight weeks in Matadi isn't going to be good for their nature show and Marianne orders everyone to get down to the barge. Everyone piles into the convoy and Marianne steps on it to get down to the docks. They are stopped in the middle of the street at a crosswalk where pigs are crossing the street. The group watches the barge starting to take off from the docks. Debbie tells Marianne that nobody is going to watch the show with them stranded in Matadi for eight weeks. Marianne drives the convoy off the road and they head down the hill. When they get to the dock, Marianne launches the convoy off the dock and is able to land on the deck of the boat. The family has made it onto the barge. Eliza and Debbie think that Marianne's driving was awesome. Marianne thanks them, and warns them that the she'd better never see them drive like that.

After the family gets settled, Nigel starts looking through his binoculars at the vultures and crocodiles that are on the shore. Eliza tells him that she's going to go explore the boat. Nigel tells her that she'll miss the big surprise and informs everyone that they are going to give the convoy a wash. But before he can come downstairs with the cleaning products, everyone has vanished and went to other places on the boat. Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie head below deck. Eliza tries opening a door but it is locked. She says that she wished she had a key or a sledgehammer. Darwin tells her that they probably locked the door as a way of informing people to keep out. Nearby, Donnie starts pulling on one of the doors and ends up breaking the knob off of it. This makes the door open.

Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie walk inside to take a look around. Eliza starts looking through things and Donnie climbs up a huge boarded tank. There is something inside, and when Donnie jumps in, a hippopotamus raises its head out of the water. Eliza asks him what he's doing here. The hippo replies that right now he's talking to a human girl. Eliza corrects herself, but before she gets a response, Darwin tells her that someone is coming. The three of them hide. Two men, Kip and Biederman, come in to check on the hippo. They tell the hippo to be quiet and then they leave the room. Eliza asks if they put him in the tank. The hippo says yes, but adds that they're very nice men because they put weeds in the tank for him to eat. She tells him that she knows those men, and replies that they hate animals. She promises that she will find a way to get him out.

Eliza runs up to the deck and finds Nigel cleaning the convoy. Eliza informs him that Kip and Biederman are on board and they have a hippo in the cargo hold. Nigel tells her to slow down, and is actually amazed that they are both on board. He can't believe what a coincidence it is. As if on cue, Kip and Biederman approach Nigel and greet him. Nigel says hello, and tells them that Eliza informed him that there is a hippo on board. Kip tells him that she is not mistaken and that they do have a hippo. Nigel says that he has to tell the authorities and tells Eliza they are going to tell the captain. Kip stops him and says that they are not criminals. He reveals a permit that allows them to export exotic animals. Nigel reveals this to Eliza. Kip tells them that they are taking the hippo to a zoo. Nigel says that everything appears to be in order and is glad to see that the men have turned over a new leaf in life. Kip says it's all thanks to them. Eliza asks Nigel about the hippo. Nigel assures her that hippos do well in captivity. As Kip and Biederman walk away, Biederman tells Kip that he didn't know that they had a permit for a hippo. Kip tells him that it's a fake permit. Biederman thought that the hippo was real. Kip screams that the hippo is real, and that the permit is a fake. He tells him that they'll stick to the plan and sell the hippo's teeth for ivory. Biederman asks if they have a permit for that. Kip asks him if he remembers their rule. Biederman says they're not supposed to be talking. He motions zipping his mouth shut.

Near the stern, Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie hang out. Eliza is upset about the hippo. Darwin says that they have a permit so there's nothing they can do about it. Darwin grabs a crowbar that Donnie was using to hit the pipe that Darwin was sitting on. Eliza grabs it and tells him that she'll stop the boat herself. Darwin tells her to stop. They walk right by Debbie and she asks what they're doing. Eliza tells her that she's going to stop the boat. Debbie tells her that they can't because they'll fall behind schedule and miss the freighter. Debbie runs after them and catches up with them just as Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie are trying to pry the door open. Debbie notices that the door they're trying to pry open has a lock on the top of it. She tells them that they really shouldn't stop the boat and then undoes the lock. The three fly into the room. Debbie grabs the crowbar, and locks the door behind Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie. Eliza realizes that this isn't the right room and yells for Debbie to let them out, but she's not there anymore. Eliza says they have to get out and rescue the hippo. Darwin tells her to hurry because he's claustrophobic.

Eliza and Darwin continue to pound on the door, but it doesn't help anything. Donnie puts on a mop head and starts drumming on a bucket. Eliza notices that there is a small window that they can crawl out of. Darwin doesn't see it and thinks that they will use up all of their air and suffocate. Eliza alerts Darwin to the window. Darwin is relieved. They send Donnie out the window first, and he is able to climb on a huge life raft that is hanging off the side of the ship. Darwin looks out the window and doesn't like the idea of climbing to the life raft. Darwin tells her that sometimes people have bad ideas and others are good, and that they should analyze this. But before he can finish, Eliza heads out the window. Darwin realizes that he is the only one left and heads out. Darwin tries to go out, but he gets stuck in the small window. Donnie grabs his ears and is able to pull him through the window. They climb over the side.

They climb back up onto the deck. Darwin tells Eliza that if she wants the boat stopped all she should do is tell her father. Eliza tells him they don't have to stop the boat and says that they could use the crane to lift the hippo into the water. As the three run past, a man starts to throw fish guts over the side of the boat. The crocodiles come up to eat it. When he does, everyone runs over to the railing to see the crocodiles. While everyone is distracted, Eliza says that this is their chance. While Nigel is cleaning, Eliza gets on top of the crane and tries to tell Darwin how to use the crane. Darwin tells her that he knows how to use it and adds that chimpanzees have been using tools for ages.

He lowers Eliza down to the hippo's tank. The hippo is revealed to have a short-term memory and says that Eliza looks like the girl that visited him this morning. Eliza informs him that she is that girl. The hippo realizes that makes him the hippo in the box and pleads for Eliza to get him out of the tank. Eliza says she will and ties a large rope around him. Eliza tugs on the crane and Darwin starts to lift them. As he does, Donnie hits a lever and the crane starts to drop them back down into the tank. Darwin fights with Donnie and gains control again. They start to swing the hippo with the crane and they are able to toss him into the water. But Eliza is unable to get off the hippo before he goes overboard and is on top of him. The hippo starts swimming towards the shore and Eliza yells at him to go back to the boat so she can get back on. But the hippo doesn't listen and continues to head towards shore. Darwin yells for Eliza to come back. Donnie and Darwin jump in the water after her and the hippo takes them to shore. The barge doesn't notice what has happened and Eliza yells for them to come back.

Eliza is ready to go into the water to swim for the boat, but Darwin warns her that there are crocodiles in the water and they will eat her. Eliza tells him that nobody knows they are gone and it could be hours before they start to look for her. She worries that she'll never see her family again. Eliza, Donnie, and the hippo sit on the ground in frustration. Darwin doesn't give up and asks the hippo if there is any way to get down the river. The hippo says they can get back on the boat when it comes back.

Darwin asks why the boat would come back upstream. The hippo says that what he said wasn't right, and says that the boat is going to come back on the other side of the mountain. Darwin still doesn't get it, but Eliza does and tells Darwin that the river doubles back on the other side of the mountain. All they have to do is climb the mountain and meet the boat on the other side. While Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie start the trek, the hippo tells them to stop and notes that Eliza is the girl he met this morning. Eliza says that he's right and tells the hippo to swim down the river and see if he can catch up to the boat. Darwin tells Eliza that they should think about what they're doing first, but Eliza tells him that what they're doing is right. While Eliza and Donnie actually climb the mountain, Darwin notices that there is a trail called the summit pass that will take them to where they need to go.

Further up the mountain, Darwin tries to tell Eliza and Donnie that they don't have to climb the mountain. Eliza isn't listening, but Donnie is and drops down to join Darwin on the easy walk. Darwin tries talking to her again, and Eliza yells at him to keep moving. Darwin gives up and he and Donnie get to the ledge before Eliza. Darwin offers Eliza his hand and she is pulled up. Eliza climbs to the next ledge and Darwin again tries to tell her that there is a path, but she still isn't listening. Darwin and Donnie keep walking the path.

In the cargo hold on the ship, Kip and Biederman find out that there hippo is gone. They immediately suspect that the Thornberrys have something to do with it. On the deck, Debbie relaxes on a chair listening to music. Marianne tells her that dinner is ready and asks if she's seen Eliza. Debbie tells her that she has, and lies to her by saying that Eliza said she didn't want dinner. Marianne wonders if Eliza is sick. Debbie says that Eliza also said that she wasn't hungry because she felt she was healthy. Marianne sees through her and asks if she locked Eliza in a broom closet again. Debbie says no, and adds that the room she locked Eliza in is more like a utility room. Marianne is very angry and tells Debbie to take her to the closet.

Back on shore, Eliza makes it to the next ledge where Donnie and Darwin are waiting for her. She notices a gap that she has to clear and goes to jump it. She grabs onto a pole and tries to vault over it. Darwin screams that she doesn't have to do that, but Eliza tries anyways. She ends up coming up a little short and is grabbing onto the grass on the other side to prevent from falling. Darwin helps her up, and Eliza thanks him. Darwin again tries to tell her about the path, but she still isn't listening. Eliza reminds him they're in a hurry and Darwin says that's what they need to talk about. Eliza still doesn't listen and starts to climb again.

Back on the boat, Nigel is starting to clean the entire ship now. He's making his way up to the captain and the wheel. Nigel tells the captain he appreciates allowing him to clean the boat. The captain doesn't really care too much and asks what he's here for. Nigel tells him he has to clean up the area below the wheel. While Nigel does that, Kip and Biederman come up on deck, telling him that they need to have a word with him. Kip ends up slipping on the deck with his peg leg and Kip, Biederman, and the captain fall on the wet floor. Nigel grabs the wheel while the captain recovers from his fall. Kip and Biederman get up before the captain. Kip tells Nigel that their hippo is gone. Nigel says that is very odd, and Biederman agrees. Biederman doubts that it got out by itself and thinks that someone helped it escape. Nigel starts telling them that rats can actually squeeze through very small holes. While he explains this, he starts moving the ship's wheel and starts knocking Kip and Biederman down the floor again.

Below, Debbie and Marianne arrive at the closet that Debbie locked Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie in. She unlocks the door and tells Marianne to look inside. Marianne says that they aren't here, and Debbie is surprised. Marianne asks where Eliza is. Debbie tells her that she honestly doesn't know.

On shore, Donnie and Darwin wait for Eliza at the top. They see the boat down in the water, but it's a long way down the mountain. Eliza makes it to the top and sees the boat as well. She jumps off the cliff in order to get to the boat. Darwin grabs her and although they fall part of the way, Darwin is able to grab Eliza. Darwin asks what Eliza was thinking. Eliza tells him that she was trying to jump for the river. Darwin says that she wouldn't have made it. Eliza notes it was very dumb of her to do. Eliza doesn't know what to do.

Darwin tells her that she is the smartest person he knows and tells her to sit down and think about her next move. Eliza says there isn't any time. Darwin says that there isn't time to jump off a cliff either. Eliza starts looking around and notices water running down the mountain. Eliza sees a small leaf float down it and she grabs a huge palm tree leaf. Eliza tells Darwin they are going to toboggan down to the boat. Darwin starts to think it's great, but then says that the idea is just as bad as jumping. Eliza tells him that it's muddy at the bottom so they'll have a soft landing and they'll be able to get across to the boat. Eliza taps Darwin and they start to go down on the leaf. After a crazy ride, they land at the bottom right in the mud.

Back on the boat, Nigel is still telling Kip and Biederman about hippos. They've finally had enough and start to yell at Nigel to give them their hippo back. Marianne interrupts the group and informs Nigel that Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie aren't on the barge. Biederman notes that their hippo is missing and Eliza is missing. Kip agrees and notes that their thoughts are alike that Eliza helped the hippo get off the boat. Suddenly, the group hears Eliza, Darwin, and Donnie yelling to get their attention. Everyone on the boat rushes over to see them. Nigel tells the group that they'll come and get them as soon as they can. But everyone realizes that nobody is handling the wheel and the boat ends up getting stuck in the mud on shore.

This also causes the boat to start taking in water. They are stuck and they are sinking. Nigel is very upset because he just got done cleaning the convoy. Darwin tells Eliza that they should throw them the rope and try to see if they can pull the boat off of the shore. Eliza says she can't throw that far, and says she'll try to bring it to them. She ties it to herself and then tries to walk across a tree limb to the barge. She ends up falling, but the rope suspends her in the air. She says that she'll try and swing to the boat. Crocodiles start appearing in the water. Debbie grabs onto the crane and uses that to swing midway to Eliza. After several misses, Debbie is finally able to grab onto Eliza and pulls her onto the boat. Everyone grabs onto the rope to try and pull the boat off of the shore. They realize that they are not enough weight to do so.

Suddenly, the hippo starts swimming towards the barge. Eliza runs to the railing and is able to stop the hippo. He tells her that there is a girl on the shore that is trying to get onto the boat. Eliza informs him that she was the girl. The hippo realizes that and starts to continue on his way. Eliza tells him to wait and asks if he can push the barge back into the water. The hippo starts to go around to the side of the boat where Kip and Biederman are standing. Biederman sees the hippo and Kip tells him to go get the net. The hippo starts pushing on the barge in order to get it off the sandbar. Kip and Biederman stand on top of the railing and prepare to trap the hippo in their net.

But before they can drop it, the hippo makes one last huge push and the barge is able to get off the sandbar. This causes Kip and Biederman to fall overboard into the water. The crocodiles start coming after them and Kip and Biederman swim for shore. The group cheers that they were able to free the barge. Darwin and Donnie cross the rope and make it back onto the boat before a crocodile can eat them. Eliza goes around the boat to the hippo and thanks him for everything. She asks him if he remembers her. The hippo says he does remember her. As the barge continues on its way, the hippo forgets again and starts telling Eliza about the fun he had with this other girl and says that she could be her sister. The episode ends with Eliza listening and Kip and Biederman trapped on the shore screaming for help.