We’ve almost made it, team. While our brave survivalists, Darrin, Steven, Stacey, Alyssa, and part of Jake are only 3/4 of the way through their 40-day South African survival experience, we know that tonight is the Naked and Afraid XL season finale. So either we’re 1) gonna have a heck of a lot of montages, 2) they’re gonna cut out a lot of the lying around, or 3) they don’t make it the full 40 days. I’m hoping for combo of Option 1 and 2; we have a whole lotta story to wade through before extraction.
Last week was insane. Three (and a half) survivalists were medevac’d from the bush. At the end of last week’s episode, Jake was in survival purgatory in a field hospital, and his fate was unclear. This is a reminder to all of us: do not eat dirty fruit from the Woolly Caper Bush. Wash it!
It’s hard to believe that Darrin and Steven wanted to pummel each other a few episodes ago, but in reality, those events were only a few days ago. When problems switch from mental to physical, how quickly those minor squabbles are forgotten!
After a rough night, Steven, Alyssa, Darrin and Stacey still don’t know the fate of Jake, Phaedra and Kim. Jake limps into camp and reveals that his stomach feels like a baseball bat has hit it. He reveals that Phaedra was taken to the hospital and they tell Jake about Kim’s similar and equally dramatic exit.
Steven continues his tireless casting for fish while Darrin and Stacey hunt. Stacey is using Steven’s slingshot and spies a tiny bird waaaaay up in a tree. But like when David faced Goliath, the hand of God guided her stone to its mark. Stacey is tearfully overjoyed. It’s a small meal, but it’s a big deal. Aren’t you so glad that Stacey, who was severely burned during her Naked and Afraid outing in Croatia returned for Naked and Afraid XL? I am! She’s an incredible woman.
But as it happens so often on N&A XL, every small victory seems followed by a tremendous hardship. And following in that theme, it rains that night and no one sleeps.
And in the morning, fate delivers another crushing blow. Jake looks horrible. His eyes are nearly swollen shut and have turned yellow — an indication of jaundice. Jake doesn’t want to leave Naked and Afraid XL, but the medical staff insists. His fight is no longer against the elements, Jake’s now fighting for his life. We don’t want our fearless leader to suffer irreparable liver damage, but we hate to see him leave. His partners are devastated to see him go. He’s been the glue keeping this wacky family together.
Steven puts it best. “There are so many factors out here that can kill you. The ones with teeth are threats, and the ones you can’t see are threats.”
So we’re down to four survivalists. And eight days left. And Steven’s animosity towards Darrin continues. But Darrin knows that a big kill can ease the tension, so he tries to hunt.
Alyssa and Steven hunt too, but they come across a Cape Buffalo, one of Africa’s “Big 5” animals. The beast is massive, and drool-y, and dangerous, and awesome.
I would love to see an animal as incredible as that from the safety of a photo safari’s Jeep. But if I were on foot, I would make the same decision as Aylssa & Steven, and decide, “it’s boma time!!”
Steven and Alyssa chase a Monitor lizard around a mud hole. Darrin doesn’t even run, saying he doesn’t want to waste his energy on a fruitless hunt. His selfish, self-serving attitude further alienates himself from the group.
That night, it sounds like a herd of animals are stampeding outside of their shelter. How are these people able to catch a minute of sleep? The roars would haunt my dreams for years!
At daybreak, the survivalists head down to the mud hole to discover which critters were making all of the noise the night before. (And perhaps find a few scraps from someone else’s meal!) They see the tracks of water buffalo and lions. The day is spent fortifying the shelter.
Stacey and Alyssa set snares along the game trails.
Alyssa and Stacey lie in the blinds and keep watch on the snares. And Stacey wonders if the lions are watching the snares too. I think they are; and if an animal gets caught up, The lions aren’t going to pass up an easy meal.
Steven checks to see if a nearby warthog den is inhabited, and decides that somebody is home. He comes back with elephant dung to smokes it out. Steven is crazy. Absolutely insane. Instead of tossing the flaming poop into the hole, Mr. No-pants-Crazy-Pants climbs inside the hole — into the stinking, smelling, and pitch black abyss — and places the poop near his prey. I would be afraid that I’d be impaled by the tusk of a charging beast!
When Steven hears grunts, he makes a hasty retreat from the pig den. He then cleverly sets the casting net over the hole’s entrance to ensnare the animal. But as soon as Steven leaves, the piggy pokes its head out of the den and slips under the net, going “Wee Wee Wee” all the way somewhere else.
“The lions are crazy close!” Steven tells the cameras. Once the animals leave and dawn breaks, he checks his snare. He sees that his prey has slipped through the trap and while he’s disappointed, he’s not dejected.
“I have no hero left in me,” says Darrin who seems satisfied with preserving the little energy he has left for the next day’s extraction hike.
Steven heads to the watering hole once again; his unwillingness to give up is inspiring. He casting the net and he’s also turned his atlatls into fishing poles. And Steven’s unwillingness to give up is rewarded — fish strike his lines! And as soon as he sees the poles bend, he runs those fish right onto the shore. Soon he has at least three giant catfish on his stringer. “I’m Steven Lee Hall Jr.; kind of a big deal. Thank you, thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” he says as he bows to an imaginary crowd. Even days away from starving, Steven is still upbeat and entertaining.
And he gets to return to camp like a conquering hero. It must have been such a relief for the other survivalists to see Steven stride into view with meat. And with not just a bite, but a meal.
Darrin even takes a moment to thank Steven and apologize for their scuffle. Steven is proud that he can support his teammates. Up until now, he hasn’t felt like he was himself and wasn’t tapping into his potential. “I hate not being me; I’m a pretty freaking awesome dude,” he says.
The successful hunt raises the group’s XLR from 3.9 to 5.8 out of 10.0. Meh, no one cares about XLRs anymore; I’m telling you as a public service. An even better public service message is a reminder to wear sunscreen, use a seat belt, and always put babies to sleep on their backs.
That night, the lions are the closest they’ve ever been to the camp; they’re literally on the other side of the boma!! Thank goodness this is the last night!!
Day 40 dawns and the survivalists look like children on Christmas morning. And the end of this experience has come not a moment too soon. If they had to stay in South Africa for another night, I have little doubt that the lions would finally push into their shelter.
Their extraction hike covers four miles of lion-infested territory. They’ll be walking along the river before heading into the foothills of the mountains. The hike is intercut with footage of a lion shot at a wildlife park, but it’s still exciting because I want the final four to get the heck out of Africa!
They get the coolest extraction ride ever — a private plane — they’re leaving Africa in style!
At the conclusion of this season of Naked and Afraid XL, I was glad that the personal dynamics of the group didn’t get in the way of the survival experience like they did in Season 1 of Naked and Afraid XL. Season 1’s nastiness became hard to watch. The four people who lasted all 40 days are incredible survivalists and share an unwillingness to give up. I admire how each of them never seemed complacent to sit and expect for someone else to do the surviving for them. They were all active participants in the process. And I could say the same for several of the others who were affected by “The Sickness”; I am confident that Jake, Ryan, Phaedra and Kim could have all made it the full 40 days.
And even the series seems proud of the quartet; they raise their final XLR from 5.8 to 8.3 out of 10.0.
But that number has no importance, the numbers I’ve been dying to see are the ones that show how much bodyweight our brave survivors left out on the African savanna.
Alyssa Ballestero lost 33 pounds
Stacey Lee Osorio lost 39 pounds
Darrin Reay lost 40 pounds
Steven Lee Hall Jr. lost 48 pounds
Naked and Afraid XL didn’t tease a reunion special, which is a shame. Last season, I liked finding out how the participants fared after they returned home and saw their experience on TV. It was an opportunity for some of the drama to come to a resolution. This season, I’m sure we’re all wondering about the people who were evacuated for medical reasons.
C’mon Discovery, make this happen! I would even host it for you. I work cheap, I’m friendly and much better at conducting interviews than writing recaps.
More Naked and Afraid XL
Recap: Naked and Afraid XL Episode 7 “The Sickness”
Recap: Naked and Afraid XL Episode 6 “Deadly Consequences”
Recap: Naked and Afraid XL Episode 5 “Rock Bottom”
Recap: Naked and Afraid XL Episode 4 “Too Many Chiefs”
Recap: Naked and Afraid XL Episode 3 “Human Prey”
Recap: Naked and Afraid XL Episode 2 “Man on Fire”
Recap: Naked and Afraid XL Episode 1 “Lions at the Gate”
Naked and Afraid XL Season 2 preview
Interview With Jake Nodar
Jake Nodar’s 4 butt-kicking survival tips