When I heard that Naked and Afraid was mixing up its magic formula of “2 people, 21 days, no clothes,” to “12 people, 40 days, no clothes,” I was both worried and thrilled.
Of course, my worry was that for the last 4 seasons, an ominous narrator has warned us that the human body can survive for only 21 days without food, so I’ve always felt pretty confident that even if the survivalists catch nada, they’re probably not going to die. But now that the length of stay has been almost doubled, they’d better catch a lot more food or someone’s going to get eaten.
But of course I’m excited to see characters people that we’ve grown to love (and love to hate) return for a second experience.
The promos have said, “These 12 survivalists have survived the Everest of adventures,” but one has failed her 21-day survival challenge (*cough* Honora).
On to Colombia! (Notice how I spelled it right this time? You can teach an old dog new tricks!) We’ve been to Colombia before, but the Oranoco river basin is a whole new kind of hell. It’s a diverse place plopped right near the equator. And the daytime temperatures can reach and extra-toasty 120 degrees. And since it’s Colombia, there are snakes, caiman, and biting bugs galore. Yay for biting bugs!!!
A local expert muses that the survivalists may be able to survive for 15-20 days, and thinks that most of them will tap out. Let’s see if he’s right (I’d love to let’s see an episode of Naked and Afraid with native/aboriginal people who show us how to thrive in an environment.)
The survivalists begin their experiences alone, although some are dumped inserted close to others, while others must search to find their teammates. The 12 participants are divided into four specific areas, which are in close proximity to each other. Perhaps they’ll eventually find each other, and maybe they won’t … that’s part of the fun.
Jeff, Hakim and EJ begin their journeys in Roca Diablo (Devil Rocks), in a barren area covered with volcanic mountains. These three alpha males are some of the past participants who seemed to relish their Naked and Afraid experience the most. Any of these men would make fascinating hosts of a wilderness survival TV show.
Jeff and Hakim quickly run into each other (The show has really upped their blurring skills this season) and are pumped. They’ve become pals outside of the show and is pleasantly surprised to see their partner is a man.
Don’t worry fellas, there are more surprises in store for you.
EJ prances around on the fiery lava rocks too and makes short work of a barrel cactus to get a bit of early moisture. It’s not long before Jeff and Hakim spot EJ doing naked recon atop a mountain and the three are giving each other giddy, naked, bro-hugs. “Three heads are better than one” says EJ. I might add, so are three fannies.
Five miles away, in Rio Negro (Black River), Laura, Eva and Dani are scattered amongst the scrubby desert. Eva and Laura are thrilled to see each other; they’re pals too. The elite survival community is small, and the Naked and Afraid circle of alumni is pretty right, so it’s likely that most of them know or know of each other.
For the first time, we hear about survival items. I had asked Naked and Afraid’s casting director how survival items were going to work in XL and she demurred. So now, here’s the low-down: each participant has chosen one survival item, and is given a machete and a map. I’ll keep a running list of the items below.
Meanwhile, Dani is lost and wandering through the scrubland alone.
A few miles away, is the swampy jungle of Cano Verde (Green Canyon) where Jesus’ foxy-twin Luke, Fisherman Chris and Super-sleuth Honora may or may not find each other. Honora and Chris find each other and Luke joins them a short time later. Chris isn’t about to let Honora ride his coattails, so she’d better prove that she can hang and not fry herself in the sun like an ant under a magnifying glass (‘cause she brought one to Brazil).
Miles away in El Bosque (The Forest), bad-ass Alana, EMT Danielle and Insane in the membrane Shane amble towards each other. Danielle and Shane meet up and already; Shane is at odds with his partner (but looking extra-buff and tan)! Alana arrives a short time later. Of the four groups, they have the most initial tension.
Now that we’ve met everyone, let’s get down to brass tacks.
In El Bosque, it’s hot. And buggy.
Loner Dani hears crazy stuff. “If that’s an anaconda, I’m going to lose my sh!t!” Me too Dani!!
Dani is alive! But her face is massively swollen, which makes me think that her mosquito netting may have a few extra holes in it. Smarty heads to the reliable SalveDio tree, and hacks a chunk of the medicinal bark to soothe her peeper.
Over in Rio Negro, there are many bugs. Eva’s fanny has been feasted upon by buggers and she and Dani want to find a better campsite and a better source of fresh water.
In El Bosque, Shane is hard at work chopping a shelter while Alana and Danielle rest in the oppressive heat. Remember how Shane was a sexist jerk in season 1? He hasn’t changed. But, he also seems like he’s prowling for some lady-love. And may be truly unstable. He says “I like people … but I don’t like the human race,” which doesn’t make sense to me and he also boasts that he’s thiiiiiiis close to being a serial killer. “Gulp!” thinks his two partners.
The alpha males in Roca Diablo are sweltering and look for a place to get cool and build shelter. They build shelters like a boss, but quickly get dehydrated and Hakim suffers from massive cramps.
Juke, Chris and Honora catch, cook and share a cockroach and a lizard, which is the first protein we’ve seen anyone catch. Mmmm.
Laura and Eva decide to drink water from the murky river. So they try to make fire with Laura’s Bow drill kit. It isn’t long before Eva slashes her finger down to the bone and after two hours without the bleeding stopping, medics come in. Eva needs sutures, but she can either get stitches without anesthesia or quit the experience and head to a hospital. Tough-ass Eva opts for field surgery and takes the sutures with nary a wine. But now she has to keep her wound clean, because an infection could cost her a finger … or worse.
Dani is still alone and digs a Gypsy well to get water. Basically she digs a hole and is going to drink anything that seeps in, which means it’s clean-ish. She crosses her fingers and takes a sip.
Hakim is still cramping and EJ is horribly sunburnt. Why is he already peeling so badly? Hakim is thinking about tapping out, but Jeff tells him to wait for 24 hours and se how he feels. Jeff hopes that he won’t regret his advice.
Danielle has a fever and is sick. She needs food and Shane abandons his wood chopping obsession to try to get his team some nourishment. He climbs the world’s most flimsy tree (uh dude, put your wood chipping skills to work here!) and promptly falls out, crashing to the forest floor below. Cut to black, insert agonized moan and cue commercial. Curse you TV!
New to Naked and Afraid XL is the XLR, the survival rating of the team, which will adjust as the teams find success and failure. At the start of the adventure:
EJ, Jeff, Hakim merit a 7.9 out of 10.0
Eva, Laura, Dani are granted a 8.2 our of 10.0
Danielle, Alana, Shane measure a 7.6 out of 10.0
Luke, Chris, Honora tally a 7.8 out of 10.0
Back to the show and back to Shane. He’s not hurt, (thank goodness!) and I wonder if Naked and Afraid did a bit of TV trickery and used his moan from when he rolled down a hill and broke a few toes in Season 1, Episode 1. Shane takes a moment to pray for divine assistance and he’s able to climb up and get the fruit to help his partners. Which is really kind, but then he gets a little strange again by telling his partners “I’m going to go play with my bow.” Shane is such a tough person to figure out. There’s a heart somewhere inside that chest-full of bitterness. And, Danielle was super ungrateful when Shane brought them mangos, which I hope is just a temporary fever of bitchiness.
Hakim still feels like garbage and is suffering from heat exhaustion. He makes the difficult decision to tap out of the survival experience, for the sake of his long-term health. I feel bad for Hakim, especially because although he’s in excruciating pain, they force him to ride out in the bed of a bouncy pickup. Can’t he sit in front, or get a helicopter medivac?
Hakim: Magic ninja blade
Laura: Bow Drill kit
Dani: Mosquito net
Shane: Bow & Arrows