The Dangerous Episode MythBusters Had To Destroy

"MythBusters" definitely busted one myth above all others: That the American public doesn't care about science. That is, so long as we rope some whacky hosts into the mix, show off some DIY tech-head goodness, don't get too technical or theoretical, and include the one thing that Hollywood long ago proved people love so, so much: explosions. And yes, while "MythBusters" has done episodes on everything from "Jaws" to Diet Coke and Mentos over its 2003 to 2018 run, it's the more explosive episodes that stand out in memory — or legend. 

Case in point: One episode that's made its way through the online rumor mill and is usually framed as, "Is it true? Did it really happen?" As the legend goes, the episode revolved around a "mystery super easy-to-make explosive" that Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman and company confirmed was true, as one Redditor wrote in 2020. By that point, though, Savage had already spoken up about said episode at Silicon Valley Comic-Con in San Jose, California back in 2016. 

At the time Savage sat at a Comic-Con panel answering questions from fans. A young man asked, "What was the biggest disaster that you ever had behind the scenes filming 'Mythbusters'?" After pausing to think, Savage admitted that the "MythBusters" team once investigated an "easily available material and its supposedly explosive properties." The episode in question got destroyed and no one has ever seen it. Moreover, the whole thing connects to the U.S.' Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, aka, DARPA.

Unexpectedly explosive

To be fair, lots of "MythBusters" episodes featured explosions — not just the mysterious, obliterated, and apparently dangerous episode in question. We've got the match bomb episode from back in the day that featured 30,000 match heads all lit at once, the MacGyver cement truck full of TNT, the toilet bomb episode that tried to recreate an exploding toilet from 1989's "Lethal Weapon 2" (an objectively funny act), and loads more. In fact, by 2004 — just one year into the entire 15-year stretch of "MythBusters" — the show already aired a "best explosions" episode.

So what in the world could possibly be so dangerous about the mythical unaired episode that it was destroyed before it could be aired? After all, there's no way to control whether or not a member of the public tries to reproduce any one of  "MythBusters" bomb episodes provided they had the means. Well, Adam Savage gave a candid answer to this question back in 2016 at the Silicon Valley Comic Con. 

Regarding the "easily available material and its supposed explosive properties" we cited, Savage continued, "What they found out was so explosive that we destroyed the footage and agreed never to say what we learned. ... Like when DARPA just put out the request for civilians to design bombs that might be really hard for them to deal with. I wrote to them about this because I'm sure they already know about it — many bomb techs do. It was absolutely terrifying."

[Featured image by Cpl. Michael A. Bianco via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled]

DARPA's bomb 'Improv'

When Adam Savage mentioned DARPA releasing "the request for civilians to design bombs" he was almost certainly referring to "Improv," a 2016 DARPA initiative that reached out to non-military personnel to provide feedback on DIY weapons and materials. Or as DARPA very convolutedly put it, "DARPA is inviting engineers, biologists, information technologists and others from the full spectrum of technical disciplines ... to show how easily-accessed hardware, software, processes and methods might be used to create products or systems that could pose a future threat." The research and development agency would actually treat these "products or systems" like pitches, select some of them, and develop prototypes of them. The overall focus was on "commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats," i.e., the exact forte of "MythBusters." 

Given the show's explosive pedigree, the mystery, bomb-making materials in question must have been over-the-top, to say the least — maybe too dangerous for the public to handle. After all, the show itself has had its share of accidents and injuries. Beyond such deductions, we have absolutely zero information about the destroyed episode, its contents, or even the results of DARPA's "Improv," which hit the headlines of science sites back in 2016 and has never been mentioned again. But in the spirit of Savage's own caution, we're not going to make any conjectures.

[Featured image by Coolceasar via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED]