On Friday, Discovery channel premiered it’s newest survival series, The Wheel. The premise is that six ordinary survivalists (not professional wilderness instructors), attempt to survive alone in six diverse South American ecosystems. There is no prize for completing a revolution of the wheel, and the participants will rotate between the zones based on the whim of the producers (more on that later).
Let’s meet the survivalists:
Age 23, a former wrestler turned humanitarian
Is looking to put his competitive nature to the test.
Age 25, fitness model/ massage therapist
Wants to prove that she’s more than a pretty face
Age 33, former Marine now works in sales
Wants to show his former bullies that little guys can have the last laugh
Age 35, plumber and firearms instructor
After defeating cancer, he wants to show his sons that he can defeat anything.
Age 33, ultra marathon runner/ coach and motivational speaker
Adam wants to fight for his life and inspire a friend who is fighting cancer.
Age 39, Nurse Anesthetist
From North Carolina
This busy mom wants to show her children that they can do anything
Their homes for the next 2 months is a variety of locations throughout South America, but before they are dispersed like seeds in the wind, the show’s producer’s gathered them for a photo.
The show opens in the mountains, and the Andes are looking unforgiving. It looks like this’ll be Josh’s home for the next several days; he’ll be alone, but not alone, as mountain lions call the area home too.
Josh and the other participants will be shooting themselves on GoPro cameras and will be followed by a small camera crew who aren’t allowed to interact wit the participants, except in an emergency.
After he descends from the mountain, Josh finds a suitable spot to set up camp and chooses to make an A-frame shelter.
This seems the time to take a look at… The Gear:
Each participant has a bag filled with the same objects including:
Shelter Materials (including what looks like a tarp, sleeping bag and a mosquito net)
A fishing kit with lures and line and a casting net
Survival knife with sheath and perhaps a sharpening stone
Some kind of plastic tubing/straw?
A length of aluminum foil
Flint and steel
First aid kit
3 days of emergency rations in a waterproof pouch
And a waterproof bag that everything packs into
Did I miss anything?
Josh also had a long sleeved shirt, a black short-sleeved shirt, gray pants and a hat.
Over in the rainforest, we meet 35-year-old Luke, who will be calling the jungle his home until the wheel turns. It’s an area with rain and humidity and lots of poisonous plants and reptiles and animals that just wanna eat him. On the plus side, he may be able to find bugs, fish, fruit and game to eat.
It isn’t long after Luke’s on dry ground that it begins to rain. He throws up a quick shelter using his tarp and a rope, and hunkers down while he regroups.
Over in the wetlands, Lindsay arrives on horseback. Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands are water-soaked during the rainy season and turn pretty arid during the dry season. And it looks like it’s the dry season because that’s how these shows roll — they only shoot when the weather is terrible. After Lindsay finds water, we bid her adieu, for now.
A quick seaplane ride away is Kat. She’ll be enjoying island living until the turn of the wheel on Chile’s Chiloé Island. Since it’s so far south, it might not be a tropical paradise and looks rocky and windy! In addition to the “normal survival gear” that everyone else has, it looks like she has a headscarf and a pair of gloves. Kat is a vegetarian, so she’ll have to be creative to find the protein her body will need for the next 2 months. And her first attempts to start a fire is unsuccessful. I swipe left on this wet tinder!
Shon, a 33-year-old former Marine will be living in the bush plains of Chand Chaco (I have undoubtedly spelled this wrong). No matter how it’s spelled, the show calls it “a Hell on Earth,” and it’s gonna be hot, thirsty and thorny.
Finally, we’re introduced to Adam, an ultra-marathoner who has been dropped off in Argentina’s Patagonian tundra, which looks like the moon. There’s not much there, and everything that is there wants to kill him. It’s gonna be cold and hungry, but at least he’ll have water. Josh has been studying the region’s edible flora and puts his faith in his studies, and his Faith.
Turning the Wheel
So now we learn how this is all gonna work. Every time the Wheel rotates, the survivalists are extracted from their current ecosystem and moved elsewhere. But they won’t have the advantage of building upon what the person before him has left; the camp is wiped clean each time.
As I revealed in my preview of The Wheel, The rotation of the wheel is dictated by the phases of the moon. Day 1 has a half moon, so the first spin of the wheel will occur on night 8, during the full moon. I wonder if everyone will make it that long …
Over in the rainforest, Luke’s rain has stopped, so he scrambles to build his raised-platform shelter. While he works, we learn about his ass-kicking of thyroid cancer and his mental and physical grit. Once his shelter is built, he fashions a spear and tries to fish, but doesn’t catch a thing.
Let’s get to know Lindsay in the wetlands. She’s a model. No duh — she’s gorgeous. But don’t let her look looks fool you, she’s a tough woman who is not only an endurance athlete but a seasoned survivalist. She learned her skills thanks to her father, who’s former military and a prepper, and her ex-military grandfather. She also successfully builds a fire thanks to a little help from a feminine product. Use what you’ve got. That night, Lindsay’s sleep is disrupted by a jaguar’s visit to the water’s edge.
Day 2 dawns chilly in the Mountains and Josh spent a cold night on the ground, which was admittedly dumb. Josh explains that his toughness was achieved through a lifetime of competitive wrestling and the mental strength it took to get over a career-ending back injury. After Josh builds a sturdier shelter, he tries to flex his fishing prowess, but he doesn’t understand how to use his casting net.
Lindsay makes the drastic decision to chop off her long locks to find relieve from the heat. I think she’ll be wishing she had her hair once she gets to the colder ecosystems, and hopefully she kept the tresses to use as fire-starting materials. She then tries to catch piranha using morsels of beef jerky, which is clever and successful!
Over in the Rainforest, Luke is hungry! He scours the trees for edibles, but everything he finds is rotten. After hours of bushwhacking, he’s tired and lost.
Over on the Island, Kat still doesn’t have fire. This nurse is the proud mom of 2 and hopes that this challenge will inspire her kids and reiterate how awesome a mom she is. Kat is so desperate for warmth that she steals a bit of fluff from her son’s stuffed toy, which she’s brought as a keepsake from home. But no sooner is her fire made, but it starts pouring rain. “I love growth,” she reminds herself.
Luke’s eventually finds his camp and decides to fish. He uses his casting net as a fish trap. It looks pretty terrible — more like a canopy than a trap — so Luke also sets a Piaute trap with a snare trigger to increase his food-catching odds.
Shon is starving on the bush plains. He reveals that he’s a petite 5’4” and was bullied because of his size, so after high school graduation, he joined the USMC and became a decorated veteran. His forages reveal a plant with spiky-looking fruit with beans inside, which he boils and eats. The beans must be poisonous because he ends up vomiting all over his camp. I haven’t a guess what the plant could be, but the balls look like Sweet Gum. After his puke-fest, it seems like he’s just biding his time until the next rotation of the wheel.
Over in the wetlands, Lindsay is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, thanks to a great night of sleep atop her new bed — a pile of vines. She also rocks her morning fishing excursion, despite a sub-par net-tossing technique. Did the show not give the survivalists a chance to practice with these casting nets, or did they intentionally set them up to fail?
In the tundra, ultra-marathoner Adam reveals that he is taking on on The Wheel to inspire his close friend who is fighting stage 4 brain cancer. Adam finds a feast of rosehips and he reveals that on that particular day, his wife was interviewing for a life-changing job in California. He doesn’t know if he’ll be returning home to Illinois, or a new life in CA.
On the bush plains, Shon is feeling better and is musing about food, lots of food. And he’s practicing his dance skills to keep himself entertained. He needs to put as much effort into finding food as he does into his smooth moves. Also — does anyone else notice that he has a Band-Aid on his arm about the place where someone would get an IV?!? I hate to stir up controversy (not really), but hmmmmm….
Luke doesn’t have food, but he has built himself a chair. And a non-functional bow and arrow. Hooray. Way, to prioritize!
In the rainforest, Like still hasn’t eaten and his traps are empty. “Please God, please put the dumb fish in my net” he prays. Out of desperation, Like finds beetle larva and whines about having to eat them. Has he not watched Naked and Afraid? Bugs are nature’s squirming buffet! You’ve gotta get over the gross-out of you want to last 60 days!
Kat is still trying to rebuild her fire, and sees that terrible weather is literally on the horizon. This doesn’t bode well for her, or her son’s stuffed toy.
Next week we’ll get to find out how the switch-a-roo works, and one participant taps out.
Who do you think will be the first to quit?
Which environment do you think is the worst?
What would you do better?
The Wheel > Discovery Channel > Fridays at 10pm ET/PT, 9pm CT