Discovery’s new survival series Tethered (Sundays at 10pm ET/PT), follows two strangers — usually polar opposites — who are bound together by a 6-foot tether. The two first meet in the wilderness and are then forced to work together to reach their rescue point. In our recap of Tethered episode 2, titled “Surrounded by Bears,” we go to Kodiak Archipelago, Alaska, where we meet Henry and Laura. While these two don’t have the egos of last week’s Willow and Keith, they prove to be equally as exciting to watch.
Meet “Henry Lomeli”
Resides: Chico, California
Occupation: Wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Starting attitude: Priorities in life are family, faith and anything to do with the outdoors.
According to Henry: “This is the biggest adventure I’ve taken for myself. My other adventure has been raising three boys on my own. … I tend to be a little conservative, a little quite so I tend to want to avoid people who are crude and vulgar.”
Why do this? As his boys are older now and things are starting to “settle,” he wanted to do something for himself.
Meet “Laura Thompson-Nelson”
Resides: Plattsburgh, New York
Occupation: Volunteer weather observer for the National Weather Service and a United States Air Force veteran
Starting Attitude/ character read: Looking for an adventure and isn’t afraid to drop the “F” bomb when discussing it. She’s all talk and a lot warmer than originally painted.
According to Laura: “Honest to God, I don’t give a @#$% about what people think about me. You either like me or you don’t like me, I really don’t give a @#$%. … I’m definitely a wild child. … I’m a free spirit. … Normal is kind of boring.”
Why do this? Now that she’s older she wants to prove to herself — and her husband — that she can do this.
THE CHALLENGE: Henry and Laura are dropped of on a remote island in Kodiak, Alaska, where they have 10 days to get to their extraction point. They are left to survive in one of the highest concentrations of Kodiak brown bears in the world. It’s also the largest of the brown bear family averaging about 500 to 700 pounds.
First impressions go OK. Tony was a little concerned on Laura’s choice in footgear and her hat that reads “GEEK,” but they immediately gel in picking out their three survival items. They pick a firestarter, machete and a tin can to boil water. They need to trek 48 miles to extraction.
Their first challenge is escaping a cliffed-out cove with a rapidly rising tide, which means they need to wade through chest-deep, freezing water around a jaded outcropping. Laura isn’t OK with wading through chest-deep water tethered. Henry strips down and decides to carry Laura on her back. The water is ice cold – only 42 degrees. But Henry’s a warrior and carries Laura piggyback through a short stretch of frigid water. Once on land the two head into the forest, where they almost immediately see bear tracks and skat (bear doodoo). Henry knows it’s a pile from this morning, this guy clearly knows what he’s doing.
“If a bear starts charging us we have no chance to run because we are tethered,” Henry tells Laura. “We’re just going to take it and we’re going to get torn up but we have to stand our ground and hope for the best.” Say what? Hope for the best? Ah, I would be so like ‘Hey production crew, I’m out. No go. Not interested in taking on that big brown bear.” Yet, Laura ponders the instruction.
“I could see one of us getting attacked and other one being dragged along,” Laura says. Hmm, let’s think about that: I would rather … 1) be attacked by the bear or 2) watch my tethered partner be attacked by the bear and then get dragged through the woods. OK, neither happen.
It starts to rain and the duo sees their first bear. And guess what? He sees them. The bear looks at them, turns away and keeps going. They get a fire going and bed it down next to the fire for some shuteye. Laura can’t sleep, she’s nervous.
Laura and Henry move deeper into the island and push 8 miles before setting up camp. Laura’s started to drag a bit, Henry’s strong, patient and good mannered. The duo is working together quite well. No drama. In the middle of the night, shots are fired. Henry immediately gets on his walkie-talkie asking the filming/production crew who is stationed away from them what that was all about. A mommy bear and her cubs were too close for their comfort and they fired a warning shot to establish their ground. They decide to take shifts watching for bears.
Their game plan is to build a raft to hold their clothes and then swim alongside it for roughly a mile in the freezing water. Laura’s dream yacht would include a bench for her to be perched upon, but that isn’t going to happen and Henry breaks the news to Laura that he ain’t pushing her. Laura’s scared. She’s starting to meltdown as she’s anguished over their looming swim the next morning and not wanting to quit and let Henry down. Laura says she’s going to “keep on doing her keep on.” That earns her a knuckle punch from Henry. This guy is a class act. He could be griping about getting an emotional woman who is slowing him down, but instead he provides continuous encouragement. Wait, have these guys eaten yet? Turns out they haven’t.
Laura’s “frickin’ legs are freezing” and she just got in the water. This swim isn’t going to be pretty. Laura almost immediately starts freaking out. Cool and calm Henry coaches Laura and concentrates on keeping her focused. Just as it seems Laura isn’t going to make it, they reach the beach. Henry’s a hero, and Laura knows it. “If I wasn’t tethered to Henry I probably would have died,” Laura says. I think she’s right.
Laura’s starting to grow on Henry. They make a good team, despite the fact that Henry’s doing most of the work. He’s happy he has company.
The duo has 37 miles still to cover. They are now desperate for food. They need to share the buffet line – that would be the stream – with the Kodiak bears, so they head to the waterfall, which is filled with salmon. Henry’s taken some time to analyze the bear skat and believes they are just coming out of hibernation as its primarily filled with grass so these bears are hungry for some protein. They need to backtrack out of there, and fast – there’s just way too many bears.
Laura and Henry have their first disagreement over food. Henry wants to wade into a stream to see if this thing thing see floating at the bottom could be a dead salmon. Laura won’t do it. They turn around and go back to camp. Starving! Laura makes some dippy comment about men being wusses when they get hungry. Henry ignores her. It’s 1:30am and they decide maybe they can scavenge for salmon in the dark while the bears are sleeping. Henry wants to talk about it. Laura’s in BA mode and doesn’t give a want to discuss it, she yanks the tether telling Henry “let’s @#$%ing walk.” Bad move Laura. Henry’s been more than patient with her. “Do I look like a dog? You don’t go yanking your partner around,” Henry scolds. “Don’t ever pull me by the tether like that again.” They go back to the stream where the salmon are literally jumping out of the stream teasing them, but they can’t catch any. They both realize it’s way too dangerous and head back to their camp. Laura starts to lose her cool after she slips. Henry confesses that his body is starting to shut down.
The duo is near their breaking point. Henry’s brother made him some cool bracelet with a zipper stitch, where every foot he pulls out there’s like two feet of string coming back to him. He uses that, along with Laura’s hairpin, to make a fishing hook and line. The two spend several hours at the stream, where Laura eventually catches a salmon and does this celebratory song and dance. Well done, Laura. And well done, Henry, for knowing Laura needed a confidence boost to get her through this. Of course, Henry also knows just exactly how to cook it over a hot rock. “It makes me feel good to know that I could feed you today,” Laura says.
With their tummies fed, Laura and Henry are in good spirits and are ready to kick butt to the extraction point, which is 15 miles away. To make the most direct route they need to make it across the salmon stream. Good idea, until they get there. Let’s start counting, one bear, two bear, three bear, four, five, six – are you kidding? Looks like eight bears in one location, which include a sow (female bear) and her two cubs within 20 yards. No way. It would be a suicide mission.
They are fired up to be finishing and start a slow jog, but they can’t find the arches that denote their extraction point. After this, everything will seem easy, Laura says. They head to higher ground and spot the extraction point. They made it.
After the tether is released from Henry, he laughingly shouts, “Get away from me.”
“I’m so excited that this tether is off me, all I want to do is take a hot shower, eat a full meal,” Henry says. “No more getting tugged and pulled. … I’m proud of myself because I came up here to do something that I took on as a personal challenge and I met it head on. I think I was a great partner. I’m really proud of you Laura.”