On Discovery Channel’s Alaskan Bush People episode “Released to the Wild” (July 8), the Brown family reunites and plans a trip after 30 long days in Juneau, but an issue plaguing one of the family members puts the unity of the Wolfpack in jeopardy.
Greetings, friends. I’ve missed you guys! It’s been a long two weeks since the last new ABP episode. I’d be totally cool with never seeing another.
There have been been lots of bad episodes of this series. I mean, fundamentally, they’re all bad, but some of them are just a little more entertainingly bad than others. “Released to the Wild” might possibly be the worst of the entire series. (State your case in the comments section for an episode worse than this one.) This episode is a pioneer in the field of crapularity.
Bam and Billy are serving their time in Juneau on home monitoring, and the Black Screen of Fake Doom informs us that, by law, Discovery Channel can’t show us any of their incarceration. I suppose it’s no big loss, since all we’d see is Billy sitting on his ass and we already get to see that every week. In preparation for Billy and Bam’s triumphant return to freedom and the Integrity, the rest of the Browns are sprucing up the boat. Bear gets a bar stool and he and Gabe decide to convert it into a captains chair that is unstable, uncomfortable and will most certainly kill anyone attempting to sit on it. Welcome home, Dad! Here’s this awful thing we built for you! Rainy gets one of those over-the-door shoe organizer thingies and puts plants in it. Bear and Birdy are collecting bullwhip kelp from the harbor to make candles. (The excellent blog Alaska for Real has the DIY details on how to do this.) Bear swabs the deck using his Human Mop technique that involves breakdancing and having his sisters drag his soaped-up carcass across the floor. Is this EXXXXTREME? You betcha!
Being in Juneau gives the Browns easier access to dental care. Sorry, Birdy, you’ll have to wait until the next time someone has to do time in Juneau, because it’s Gabe’s turn to get his teeth fixed. The good Dr. Joseph J. Mirci of Alaska Dental Arts says Gabe has a laterally impacted canine (Did you see the X-ray? GROSS!) that could absorb the roots of the other teeth and cause them to fall out. So Gabe comes back with braces. “They said they were willing to barter, but not for anything like fish or deer,” Gabe says. So I suppose Gabe just charged the dental work to his CapitalOne Platinum Bush Barter Cash Rewards card.
The Browns decide to give Billy the gift of the thing he hates most: Work! They want to have a hauling job set up when Billy’s released, so they hook up with Crazy Chris, the Crocodile Dundee of Alaska, who we met way back in this episode. Chris has some garbage he needs hauled to Pelican Bay. Among the rubbish is a mannequin torso thing that Chris claims is training equipment for Pelican’s fire department. Sure, Chris, I’ve heard that story before. Chris also gets rid of some tires, cinder blocks and a couch for good measure.
But where is Matt during all of this? Matt’s busy wandering alone around Juneau, deep in contemplation. He has a lot on his mind, and the world weighs heavily on his soul. He has so much plastic wrap but so little time.
Bam and Billy are released, and there is much rejoicing at the dock. But this moment is bittersweet, as the Wolfpack is not whole, and so they are bummed. Sad Trombone. Stupid selfish Matt and his personal problems ruining it for everyone.
They need to move the Integrity to pick up the junk from Crazy Chris, and wouldn’t you know it … the engine won’t start. Feels like it’s been a while since the last good ol’-fashioned Boat Malfunction. They were all so focused on shoe-organizer flowers and candles and stuff that no one thought to make sure the boat actually functioned. It falls on Noah and Gabe to fix this snafu. Step aside, girls! You’re just in the way. Man, Noah is an arrogant prick, ain’t he? Everyone’s trying to help, and he’s just the most insufferable condescending douchebag to them. He’s an antisocial ass, even by Brown family standards. After some troubleshooting, Noah determines that the starter needs to be replaced. Somehow, he’s able to find a refurbished starter in less than an hour. I am not a man of the sea, so someone please tell me how commonplace starters for WWII-era boat engines are. Do you just walk up to the corner Boats ‘R’ Us in Juneau and they have this sort of thing in stock? Noah installs the thing, then joins Gabe up in the wheelhouse. “All we can do is say a prayer and push the button,” Noah says.
Just kidding. Everything’s fine. The engine starts. Unnecessary Boat Malfunction Drama has come to an end.
Good thing, too, because the journey to Pelican Bay is 130 miles from Juneau and will take all day. They take the boat out for a test drive to waste fuel and make sure the boat holds together. Matt has rejoined the Wolfpack for this little excursion, and he takes advantage of the opportunity to corner Gabe with some of the worst soap-opera schlock. After building up the suspense, Matt finally confesses, “I go to town and I get drunk.” Oh. That’s it? Whew. I thought it was something bad. Where I come from, that sounds like a typical Tuesday night. Then Gabe says, “I’ve known for a while, man. It’s all right.” WHAT? Gabe knew for a while and he still let Matt go through all that torture? “This road doesn’t go anywhere good, and I’ve got to get off, even if it means blazing my own trail,” Matt tearfully says.
Let’s examine this. Matt does not say he’s an alcoholic. He does not say he has a drinking problem. He says he goes into town and gets drunk. He doesn’t say specifically where or how or with whom or how often. Matt gave an interview to People magazine that I am reluctantly linking to, because it’s another case of People getting an “exclusive” in exchange for writing a pandering article that tows the ABP storyline. It makes no mention of Matt’s DUI incident in Juneau a few years ago. It’s supposed to evoke sympathy, but it makes me distrust this drinky drinky business even more. Since this all started before the family went to Juneau, are we led to believe that Matt sneaks off alone at night in the Integrity to get hammered in Hoonah and comes back before his folks know what’s up? Matt’s story doesn’t flow with the ABP narrative. Since we know that the Browns stay in Hoonah when the cameras are off, it’s entirely possible that Matt frequents the bar at Icy Strait Lodge.
Based on what Matt says, his problem stems not from drinking but from the guilt he feels because of his family’s attitudes about alcohol. “Our family is not very keen on it,” Gabe says, citing the many old sea dogs the Browns have come across who’ve ruined themselves with the bottle. Not mentioned is Ami’s past revelation that her father had a problem with alcohol. So it’s understandable that drinking would be something that’s frowned upon in the family. Every person’s experience with alcohol is unique. They’ve either known someone who had an addiction to alcohol, or suffered through that addiction themselves. Alcoholism can destroy lives, careers, marriages and families. I won’t make light of Matt’s problem, yet it’s hard to take this seriously given ABP‘s penchant for fiction.
Bear and Bird light a candle in a window of the Integrity for Matt, citing a family tradition for when members of the Wolfpack are away. How convenient that they just happened to make a bunch of candles that morning, as if they knew they’d be needed. They are Bush Psychic!
Ami and Billy get all weepy about Matt. “He’s no different than when he was a toddler or in my arms,” Ami says. How right you are, Ami! Cut the friggin’ cord already. He’s 30-something years old. I’d drink heavily too if I were stuck with my overbearing parents and six numbskull siblings, making an ass out of myself weekly on a bad fake reality TV show. “This road he has to walk with God alone.” Ami says.
So the Browns shove off and leave Juneau sans Matt, who is checking himself into Bush Betty Ford. Billy’s just tickled to death to be free and out on the open water. But the seas are a little choppy, and I sense some impending Unnecessary Drama stemming from Magically Disappearing Bad Weather. “It’s gonna be a blessed trip,” Ami says. “That’s all there is to it.” Sure, just keep telling yourself that.
No ABP episode is complete without Noah constructing something futile. Today it’s an intercom system built from a cordless telephone that allows the wheelhouse to communicate with the engine room without requiring a “middle man” to relay the messages. This, of course, could easily be accomplished with some cheap walkie-talkies, but that’s not the Brown Way. “Any emergency situation, I think, could be covered with the intercom,” Noah says. “Or if it’s lunch or something.” Ha! If they’re relying on Noah’s half-assed creations in an emergency situation, THEY’RE ALL GONNA DIE!
Something’s wrong with the new skiff. It’s taking a pounding in the waves. Somehow the skiff’s motor got knocked back into the water and it’s causing excess drag. Paul’s gonna bust their kneecaps if anything happens to that precious loaner skiff, so they’ve got to reel it in and lift the engine out of the water. Bear struggles with the “Advanced Skiff” and can’t get the motor back up, and Gabe comes in for the assist. I’m surprised that the skiff has such a flimsy mounting bracket, but whatever. It’s just more time-killing Boat Malfunction drama.
Hey, remember when Ami was going to knit something out of dog hair? Ami used Cupcake’s hair and knitted bracelet for Billy as a “back-to-the-bush” present, so “he’ll always have a little piece of Cupcake when the years pass on and we no longer have Cupcake.” Oh, thanks for that, Ami. Now we’re all teary-eyed thinking about dead dogs. Maybe Noah can use the DNA from the hair to make a Bush Clone of Cupcake.
Elsewhere on the boat, Rainy and Gabe are making another fire-practice dummy out of plastic bags, burlap sacks, sand and duct tape. I’m sure the volunteer firefighter(s) at Pelican Bay will really appreciate it. “Uh, when we rescue someone, are all the limbs supposed to fall off like this?” With that much sand in it, their Bush Dummy is more likely to be used to extinguish a fire than to be rescued from one. Gabe starts dancing with “Mandy,” which amounts to the most intimacy any of the Brown boys have ever had with a lady.
Where’s Bam Bam during all of this? Apparently he’s sick and is sleeping it off below deck. He must be having trouble adjusting to life on the outside.
The passage to Pelican Bay involves going through Cross Sound, an “extremely dangerous” place where bodies of water converge and produce rough seas. There’s a storm brewing, and the Browns need to get there before dark. Fake Urgency! You’ll notice during this sequence how there’s no continuity with the darkness of the sky, the size of the waves or any of that stuff. Magically Disappearing Bad Weather! They arrive in Pelican Bay just fine.
[Digression! I’m watching this episode Saturday morning, and my 4-year-old son sits down with me. He knows enough (i.e., too much) about ABP to recognize Bear and his EXXXXTREMENESS. But then Cupcake jumps out of the boat, and my son yells, “There’s Donut the Dog!” I start laughing, and he realizes his mistake.]
In Pelican, Billy starts up with the self-aggrandizing nonsense about how the Browns are Bush Social Activists and Philanthropists, preserving a way of life that they don’t even live themselves. “We feel it’s really important to help Pelican all we can,” Billy says. “We feel it’s so important to do anything we can do to save this lifestyle and try to keep these communities strong and let them grow instead of shrinking.” Perhaps Billy can best help the people of Alaska by not stealing over $20,000 from them.
Mercifully, the episode ends.
As a public service, I’ll try to get you all caught up on the ABP stuff happening offscreen, which is vastly more interesting than the ABP stuff onscreen.
First, Ami’s elderly mother, MeMaw, made her trip to Alaska to attempt a reunion with Ami. It was a total bust. In fact, it was such a bust that it seems all photos and videos from the trip have been removed from Facebook and YouTube. There is some seriously underhanded stuff going on with this mess. Because this show’s B.S. has made conspiracy theorists of us all, I suspect that Discovery was behind the whole fiasco to keep ABP chatter up during the show’s bye week.
Why was it such a bust? Because the entire Brown family was in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii, the other freak state outside the Lower 48. Did Discovery foot the bill for this? Did this intentionally coincide with MeMaw’s trip? Is this all just horseshit? YES, YES and YES!!
The Downfall meme is an oldie but a goodie, so I’ll share this clever and informed one made about ABP:
Next week is already the season finale. Thank you, Good Lord.