On Discovery Channel’s Alaskan Bush People episode “High Tide Housing” (June 10), an unexpected visit from the mayor of Hoonah may forever change the face of Browntown. And the family must rally around strong man Gabe when the opportunity to realize a lifelong dream comes with serious risks.
This “not lost” episode of Alaskan Bush People opens where all episodes should: at the Hoonah dump. Except this time it’s Noah, not Matt, who gets to play with the ghost of Kenny from the junkyard. Noah’s browsing Kenny’s inventory of scrapped propane tanks with the goal of finding some with just the right tonality to make large bells for whatever belfry he plans on building to house his dissected bats. Zombie Kenny gets the power cutter out of his truck and starts gleefully sawin’ the Bells of Brownton Abbey.
Back at Brownton Abbey, the family is taking advantage of the early spring to get a good start on the year’s bullshit. Highest on the list of priorities is signage, because in a megalopolis like Brownton Abbey, it’s easy to get lost or forget your family members’ names and where they live. Gabe and Rainy are carving letters into wooden planks and then burning them in with gunpowder. Hey, if Noah didn’t want people stealing from his black powder stash while he’s out galavanting with Kenny, he should’ve built a door lock on his workshop of horrors.
On the subject of doors, Bear has put the finishing touches on his treehouse. He’s installing a junked car door in his favorite color, EXXXTREME Red. With his treehouse complete, Bear will finally be accepted by his blood relatives, the Ewoks.
Bear’s treehouse is not without its charm. The sap oozing from the tree is like Bush Potpourri, a sensual aroma that will arouse within the ladies an appetite for both romance and pancakes. Finally he has “somewhere where I can invite a girl, hang my knives, shotguns.” All of this inspires Gabe to consider building a place of his own: a place other than a corner in his parents’ room, a place where he can make girls fear for their lives just as well — if not better — than his brothers can.
Noah’s bells are hung up and ready to serve their purpose as monstrous eyesores and noxious noise pollution. Instead of shooting guns, they can ring the bells to signal stuff. Rainy says one bell can signal lunch and another can signal dinner, in case there was confusion. Another bell can signal that it’s time for a seizure.
Billy marvels at all the progress that’s been made at Brownton Abbey. “I sometimes wonder, ‘How did we do all of this?'” Anyone who’s seen two seconds of this show has wondered the same. Then Billy takes a moment to whip us all into a livid frenzy of hair-pulling and teeth gnashing with his spiel on how he’s a victim of Alaskan bureaucrats who oppress the Bush Lifestyle with their laws an’ such. He’s still shilling the notion that he’s not responsible for dragging his legal case on and on, and that he’s a Bush Martyr for selflessly taking a brutal rabbit punch from the iron fist of Alaskan justice. “If we throw ourselves on the fire, it’ll finally be over and they can’t come after the whole family.” Of course Billy’s not going to mention that his plea deal was rejected, so that argument holds less water than Noah’s plumbing system.
Let us welcome the honorable Hoonah Mayor Kenneth Karl Skaflestad back to the shores of Brownton Abbey. Mayor Kenny must be here to collect that sweet, sweet Alaskan Bush People tribute money. He’s impressed with how well the Browns have trashed some formerly pristine land. “I can just look around and see you’re not afraid of a little work,” Mayor Kenny tells Billy. … OH, HELL NO HE DID NOT JUST SAY THAT WITH A STRAIGHT FACE! With all of his flimflammery on this show, I’d be concerned for Mayor Kenny’s reelection bid if 90 percent of Hoonah’s population weren’t also Skaflestads. The mayor brings up the PFD fraud thing. “It has no bearing on our friendship, and I’m speaking for a bunch of folks who’ve said the same,” he tells Billy. Oh, really? “A bunch of folks?” I want names and addresses! Don’t make me cause a scene at the next Hoonah city council meeting!
Mayor Kenny finally gets down to business. “There’s a bunch of old ladies after me to clean up this stretch of beach,” he says. The tide has washed up all kinds of crap on the shore, and the mayor says the Browns can salvage what they want from it. Where this stretch of “beach” is and why Hoonah’s senior citizens give a tinker’s cuss about it is beyond me, but I’m all for lighting a fire under the mayor’s arse. Give ’em hell! Billy agrees to the job, since it’s a nice community service project that he can avoid doing work on.
While Billy is striking under-the-table deals with Mayor Kenny, Birdy and Rainy are out foraging for food. They’re eating fiddlehead ferns with the occasional spider on them. Birdy fancies herself a Bush Martha Stewart and likes to eat rose petals dipped in sugar. There are health benefits to eating rose petals, and I get to make jokes about poop smelling like roses.
And then there’s a tragedy that will rock the foundation of Brownton Abbey and bring the family to its knees. Or Billy’s knee, at least. Billy got his foot caught under a tree root and twisted his knee, and yada yada yada “Guys, I’m not going to make the beach salvage job.” OH, REALLY? Rainy can set her Apple Watch to all of Billy’s injuries. (Thanks to ROX in Juneau for the marvelous photo!) They can see right through Billy’s jeans that it’s really bad, and it’s decided that Billy will go to a fictional doctor to have his fictional knee injury fictionally examined.
Billy puts Birdy in charge of the beach salvage operation, because Birdy tends to negotiate a compromise when her butt-headed brothers butt heads, and it would make Billy look really prescient when Birdy comes through in the end.
Matt is really stoked about the beach salvage job. “Anytime you can help the community, it’s a good thing,” he says. I think the best thing Matt could do to help the community would be to leave it.
The “beach,” which is probably just an unused piece of private land that Hoonah’s old ladies don’t even know exists, has decades of tidal junk washed up on it. There’s one item of particular interest to Gabe: an old but mostly intact wooden shack. “It has everything. It has walls, it has a roof, it has a floor,” Gabe says. I suppose that’s everything. Gabe wants to move it to Brownton Abbey, though it will be difficult and dangerous. After they shovel out all the garbage and tiny crabs from the shack, Bear tests the walls by slamming his body into them.
Right on cue, Bam comes in to poo poo the project. It’s not worth the risk, the time, the effort and the fuel to transport it. Bam would be correct if this job weren’t being carefully supervised and mostly accomplished by hired workers, and entirely paid for by Park Slope. Bam is voted down by his siblings, as always. The plan is to lift the house with jacks, wait for the tide to come in, float an old dock underneath the house, and then tow the whole mess back to Brownton Abbey with the Integrity.
After consulting with Bush Dr. James Andrews, Billy says that he tore his ACL, and they’re just going to wait and see if it heals on its own. I don’t know enough about Bush Orthopedics to say if this Prognosis: Bullshit. Anyhoo, Billy will be on Injured Reserve for at least a month, which is no loss to anyone.
Billy takes this opportunity to lament about how the Bush just ain’t what it used to be. “The Bush is changing,” Billy says. “We can’t just disappear like we used to do.” I will let all our Alaskan friends discuss all the ways one can easily disappear in Alaska, none of which involve starring on a national cable TV show. Ami says that Billy is feeling “discouraged with the Bush,” which should’ve been John Kerry’s campaign slogan back in ’04. For a minute there, I actually wondered if Billy was looking for an ABP endgame, but then I came to my senses.
The Bureau of Bush Weights and Measures declares this shack to be 7,000 pounds, and it’s unknown if it can hold together if lifted into the air. Lo and behold, they get the shack jacked up with the Good Lord’s help, and it stays together … barely. “I’m hearing structural creaking,” Matt says. He’s probably just hearing his mom’s neck vertebrae. Wet Blanket Bam steps in and indicates how the whole shack looks like it’s going to twist and fold in on itself, and they should stop this nonsense. “I don’t consider it giving up. I consider it choosing to no longer participate in this endeavor,” Bam says after consulting his thesaurus. Then Birdy steps in and gives the Knute Rockne motivational speech. “Quitting this house is like quitting Dad,” she says. “It’s like quitting the Bush.” This episode should come with a disclaimer like, “Warning: Following a Fantasy Bush Credo and your lazy-ass father may result in serious injury or death.”
Back home, Billy’s coming close to quitting the Bush himself. All the injuries and stuff are piling up, and he says he’s having “trouble finding that spark” that makes him persevere with pretending to live in the Bush. Noah’s good for the occasional spark, and now they can bond over their gimpy legs, so Billy pays his creepiest son a visit. Noah is busy making a Bunsen burner fueled by hydrogen, which is actually quite easy. Noah might blast his face off in the process, but the scars would give him some “humanity” and chicks who pretend to like Noah dig scars. Noah’s burner works, or so we’re led to believe, but it’s not like he’s discovered some miracle renewable energy source here. He’ll need to recharge the battery that produces the current that produces the hydrogen, so he’ll have to burn gasoline for the generator, anyway. My Trump University degree in Bush Physics leads me to think that Noah would’ve been better off using that alcohol to fuel a simple burner instead of using it for his stupid Bush Hand Warmers. “That’s Bush Ingenuity at its finest,” says Billy.
Back in Hoonah, the tide is coming in, and the strength of Gabe’s shack will be tested. “We could easily wind up dropping a house on someone,” Matt says.
But everything goes smoothly. They float the old dock underneath the house, the tide lifts the whole thing and they get it tied up to the Integrity for the slow journey to Brownton Abbey.
On the voyage home, Bam apologizes to Birdy for his lack of faith in the Bush. He has a lot on his mind, what with going to prison soon and all. Birdy tells Bam to live in the moment and enjoy the time he gets to spend with his annoying family. And don’t worry, Bam. You’re not going to prison. You get to spend 30 days under house arrest in Juneau playing video games and watching blu-rays. Sheeeeit, that sounds like my dream vacation. I’m going to apply for the PFD tomorrow!
The Integrity arrives with the shack in one piece, and the kids are eager to show daddy what they did. Billy sees what his spawn have accomplished and it makes him encouraged with the Bush once again. The future of the family will not be changed forever this week.
Next week, the future of the family is changed forever after mysterious gunshots are fired, causing the Bush Alert Level to be raised to EXXXTREME Red.