In Season 4, Episode 3 of Discovery Channel’s Alaskan Bush People, “Winter Watch” (May 20), Billy sees an opportunity to tie up loose ends, fortify his connection with the bush, and keep his family close with a visit to the winter watch of Excursion Inlet. Along the way, a failing anchor changes everything.
In Loving Memory …
I hope you’re all ready to “fortify your connection with the bush,” because I sure as hell am after last week’s carnival of crap. This week’s episode, “Winter Watch,” is a rather dull affair that proves yet again that the Browns are the least interesting people on their own show.
The episode begins with Ami finally getting the gift she always wanted — a bathtub from a dump. Billy says that Ami wants the tub upstairs, obviously, because who wants to watch Ami bathe in the dining room? The tub is heavy, though, and the Browns hoist the thing up with some rope. Hey, anyone remember when the Browns hauled that much bigger, much heavier wooden log bed frame up the stairs? The Browns must be getting soft. While moving the tub into Billy and Ami’s room, the comforter on the bed gets soiled. Another blanket to toss into the cleansing bonfire.
Ever wonder what Noah does when he’s not pitching woo to the ladies? Noah’s been reading a lot about electricity. Noah, the Tesla of the Bush, likes running electrical current into random things. In this case, he’s hooking up a battery to a pan full of wet moss. “I don’t know if anyone’s ever tested the electrical conductivity of moss,” Noah states. So you can cross that one off your list, scientific community. Noah’s got electric moss covered. “Anything I create, I want people to see how groundbreaking it is,” he says. “What better do I have to do than watch moss grow?” Watching moss grow vs. watching Alaskan Bush People? I’d give the edge to moss.
As forewarned last week, Matt is going to turn The Skiff into another hot tub. Why does Matt undertake these ridiculous endeavors? “I’m all about the prestige, bro,” he tells Gabe. “Essentially The Skiff is a large aluminum pot,” Matt says. He’s going to prop The Skiff up, line the inside with a tarp, fill it with water and then light a fire underneath it. Matt admitted to being a sentimental fool, and he just couldn’t let The Skiff go. “It’s a very necro kind of love, I think. It’s kind of like my girlfriend died so I went and I dug her up and now I’m hiding her in the basement.” This would be a lot funnier if it didn’t seem true.
Billy’s getting sentimental, too. He wants to get his whole family together, because being together every day for their entire lives still isn’t enough togetherness for him. Billy dreams of those halcyon days the family had together on their crappy boat, the Opal. Hey, you guys remember all the fun they had on the Opal? Oh, we remember.
That night, the generator runs out of fuel. Billy suggests that they leave the generator off and instead sit around the table, light some candles and stare at each other. Even the Brown kids find this painfully boring. Good Lord, can we just watch the moss grow?
In the morning, Billy gets the family together to talk about togetherness, and how they need to do something together. Billy remembers how he promised his buddy Bruce in Excursion Inlet that he’d take some empty water tanks off his hands. “Keeping your word in the bush, it’s what it’s all about,” says the guy convicted of fraud. So the family loads up the Integrity and they’re off.
The trip there is uneventful. The kids do the buoy swing thing, which was already shown in its entirety in the season preview episode. But in the cabin, Ami is brushing Mr. Cupcake. She plans to use his hairs to knit a sweater. This is unusual, but it’s not new. Ami uses a screwdriver as a Bush Spinning Wheel. “It’s a shame he didn’t let us bathe him first,” she says. And you know that dog stinks to high heaven.
[DIGRESSION! I have a dog, Eliot, who is a mix of beagle, pug and rat terrier. He is a fine, loyal smellhound, but he sheds like a sumbitch. He’s got these short, bristly hairs that embed into fabric. I swear that all the textiles in our house contain at least 10 percent dog hair. We brush him every now and then, and it’s like shearing a sheep. Everywhere he goes, there’s like this cloud of shed hair surrounding him.]
Excursion Inlet is an interesting place. It’s a big salmon canning town during the summer, but the population goes down to below 10 in the winter. It would be a great setting for a horror film. It must smell great, too. In the offseason, they put away the larger docks, leaving only a small floatplane dock. The Browns need to scout the water’s depth before making an attempt to tie down there. Bam says floatplanes draw 4 inches and the Integrity draws … 9 feet? No way. There’s a bunch of heightened drama over bringing the Integrity in, as Billy almost rams the loaner skiff into the dock. Ah, just like those good ol’ days of ramming stuff with the Opal.
Bruce and Debbie Gordon are the “winter watch” of Excursion Inlet’s salmon canning factory. “It’s my job to keep unknowns away from here,” Bruce says. Bruce enjoys green pants and sniper rifles, which come in handy as he is also the de facto postmaster. People — weirdos mostly — come to Bruce and Debbie’s place on Wednesdays to get their mail. Bruce and Debbie treat the folks to a slice of pizza, and then people get the hell out of there before Bruce goes postal on them.
One of Excursion’s hearty folks is Mark, who might’ve lost his eyelids in a logging accident back in ’67.
Billy starts waxing nostalgic with Mark about the glory days of the Bush, back before every backwoods asshat brought a TV production crew with him everywhere he went. Ah, well, that was fun shooting the breeze with Mark. Now it’s time for someone else to do some work.
Billy and Matt survey the job of getting the water tanks to the Integrity. “You don’t need any help, do you?” Billy asks Matt, who answers, “No. Piece of cake.” Good, because Billy wasn’t going to to help Matt anyway.
For all Billy’s talk of family togetherness, the family is mostly separated during this trip. Gabe, Bear and Noah stayed behind on the Integrity, and they find an oil leak in the hydraulic motor that drops and raises the anchor. They can’t stay tied to the small dock overnight, especially with the high winds. Unable to drop anchor, the Browns have to get the water tanks loaded tonight and get out of there before the weather worsens. So we hit the ABP trifecta of Boat Malfunction, Bad Weather and Manufactured Urgency.
Back on land, Bruce makes the mistake of letting Matt drive the forklift all over the salmon cannery. Bruce likely didn’t hear about Matt’s experiences driving around a Wal-Mart parking lot. Matt barely gets the forklift out of the garage without destroying something. While driving around trying to discern his ass from a hole in the ground, Matt runs out of fuel. Matt switches the propane tank and gets a nice chilly blast of the gas on his hand. He gets the forklift going again, and then starts cruising around, unable to see over the two unsecured tanks he’s got in front. After dropping them, he decides to use his the belt from his pants to hold them together.
[DIGRESSION! What’s the deal with propane, anyway? Back in ’03, we got a brand new gas grill and a shiny new tank full of LP as gifts. I was eager to start grillin’ for the first time, and fired that bad boy up. After a few minutes, I discovered the burners were off, and several more minutes of head-scratching and curse words later, I saw that the regulator on the hose was iced up and no gas was flowing to the grill. Turns out that my LP tank was overfilled, despite the tank’s overfill prevention device. OVERFILL PREVENTION FAIL! I tried the grill a few more times over the next week or so, hoping that I’d burned off enough gas. I eventually had to find a place that filled LP tanks and I asked them to bleed off the excess gas, all fart jokes aside. Then the tank worked perfectly for 12 years. Last year I took the tank in for a refill and was told the tank had to be re-certified before it could be refilled again. Screw that. It’s almost like propane doesn’t want us to use it. Now I just use the propane exchange at the hardware store like everyone else. Jeez, did I just write this much about propane? By now, you’re all probably begging to watch moss grow.]
The tanks are eventually loaded onto the Integrity despite Matt’s incompetence, and the Browns shove off for home. While at sea, Birdy’s cat wedged itself between the boat’s inner and outer hulls and was unable to get out. “Birdy, you might want to take some cooking oil or something and pour it over the cat,” Bam suggests. Stuff like that is why I am Team Bam all the way.
In the interstitial, Ami gets to join Debbie as she rides around on a grater. In addition to winter watch, sharpshooting, pizza-preparation and postal work, Debbie and Bruce are tasked with making sure Excursion’s landing strip is clear of debris.
Back in their home port, the Browns have a little trouble tying down the Integrity without their anchor, and Matt takes a spill into the bay off the loaner skiff. Matt says hypothermia kicks in at about 6 minutes, though he says that he can last 6-8 minutes because he’s acclimated. He knows this because he’s tested this theory several times and he has the brain damage to prove it. Nothing gets one’s core temperature back up to survivable levels like a dip in the hot tub that was once the mighty Skiff. “The irony that this skiff will sit here forever filled with water, after all it did to fill itself with water,” Matt says. “It’s almost like I feel like I’m giving it what it wanted.”
In Next Week’s Issue: The Secret Spawn of Billy Brown … REVEALED!