Our unclothed couple this week must survive in a flooded jungle in Belize, where they encounter Mayan caves crammed with poisonous snakes and rabid bats. The scenario reminds me of a familiar plucky gal trying to forge her way in a strange and challenging new environment.
How will they make it on their own
This jungle’s awfully big
And, kids, this time you’re all alone
But it’s time you start surviving
It’s time you got down to some food scavenging
Water’s hard to find, try not to dehydrate
You can catch that snake, why don’t you flay it
You’re gonna make it after all!
First let’s meet our naked people. Shannon is a yoga teacher and wellness consultant, which is either something you need certification for, or my grandma saying “put on a sweater, it’s chilly.” She reports that her favorite primitive skills have always been plant-based, which is funny because I used to date a guy whose favorite high was always plant-based. Since her interest in primitive skills began after she graduated with a degree in creative writing, she plans to kill animals for food by penning a powerful satiric essay.
Her partner Cass is a currently unemployed, former active-duty soldier and police officer who is wary of our society’s increasing dependence on technology. This also may explain why he is currently unemployed. It does not explain, however, why he has a Twitter handle. He also feels it’s important to maintain your independence from modern conveniences, so apparently all his tattoos were created using a skewer and an old fountain pen.
Jaguars, aggressive howler monkeys, disease-carrying mosquitoes, and other inhospitable flora and fauna characterize the part of Belize without room service. Bald-headed Cass and lank-haired Shannon are ready to take them all on. They both express concern over being naked, and well they should, since he’s whiter than Mitt Romney from the waist down, and she’s so thin you could do a charcoal rubbing of her ribs. She has brought a heavy-duty knife and he has the fire-starter. Since no one ever brings any other items, the show should just gloss over this part, like on Wheel of Fortune, where they finally just started automatically granting everyone the R, S, T, L, N, and E on the bonus puzzles.
The two must travel three miles north to set up their base camp. To get to the extraction point will require negotiating a bunch of scary caves, which is a refreshing variation from scary mountain-climbing and scary jungle-trekking. We learn that their arbitrary and meaningless PSRs are 7.2 for Cass and 6.9 for Shannon. As they hike along, a monkey overhears them discussing their kids and sneers, “Try carrying them around on your back all day, you pussies.”
An underwater cam documents their bare feet trudging through fetid water, making it all seem really spontaneous. Then they start gathering leafy branches to make their shelter. I predict a line of Leafy Branch Shelter Fabricated Homes sold through a cross-promotional tie-in on HGTV’s website. They can work by the light of Cass’s gleaming white behind if night falls before they’re done. Then they discover a cave that is part of the enormous network of limestone caves notorious for inspiring terrifying myths of haunting and violent death, similar to my first apartment on the Lower East Side.
They start a fire at their camp, which is cautiously situated at the edge of the cave entrance. They are apprehensive about what may lurk inside the pitch-black depths, aside from the boom-mike guy on his cigarette break. Throughout the night, disturbing noises have the survivalists gasping in bleep-laced terror and their infrared cameras swooping crazily like yet another Paranormal Activity sequel. All in all, it’s an even worse night than you might spend at a Holiday Inn Express.
By morning, both have been devoured by bugs. Cass even got a bite in his “peehole.” But there’s no time to cultivate a more mature vocabulary when the need for water is so urgent. Somehow, by Day 2, Shannon is already seriously dehydrated. They chop apart several vines, but they don’t provide much fluid, and now Tarzan is going to have an accident on his way to work. Water drips copiously from the rocky outcroppings, but it’s full of calcium and other stuff that you seek in a multi-vitamin, but apparently is no good in cave water. Note to self: Do not purchase bottled water that claims to contain naturally occurring minerals from the jungle caves of Belize. They decide they have to risk it, though, and gulp leaf-fuls of the precious elixir of life.
A few days later, it looks like they’re okay, which is fortunate since it means we don’t have to hear about their loose bowels or projectile vomiting. They’ve had nothing to eat, though, Cass worries. What a kvetcher. They move shakily through the jungle in search of an Arby’s. Wait, there’s a furry snorting thing running by! It’s a large rodent called a paca, the narrator explains, excitedly adding how the cute little creature used to be known as the Queen’s Rat, a delicacy only royalty were permitted to dine upon. That was in the days before arugula, of course. The paca is awfully cute. I don’t care how hungry you are, you shouldn’t eat anything that belongs in a petting zoo. Nevertheless, Shannon sets to work making a deadfall trap. Why she waited until after the food is long gone from the area is anyone’s guess.
Next day, Cass comes upon the most dangerous snake in South America. In fact, it’s on the FBI’s Most Wanted list there. He fails to catch it. These two are losing PSR points by the hour. Next Cass turns his efforts to capturing a monkey that screams at him from the safety of a treetop, something that translates from the primate to mean “loser!” Pick an animal to kill already, Cass. He must have the worst time making up his mind at a Cheesecake Factory.
“People see the jungle on TV, and there’s just food everywhere,” Cass says despairingly. It’s true; Ginger and Mary Ann always had all the ingredients for coconut cream pie ready to hand.
And now comes the requisite Naked and Afraid thunderstorm, with accompanying plummeting temperatures. It’s been over a week since Cass and Shannon have eaten. Next thing you know, the cable will go out. Cass is worried because Shannon was already skinnier than Rachel Fredrikson coming into this. Desperate, they decide to scavenge the depths of the ancient Mayan cave. Bats! Spiders! An errant production assistant! They fail in their search for food there, but they started a cool rock collection.
The pair are now exhausted, weak, and moody, draped over the rocks like so many crocheted antimacassars on your great-aunt’s wingchairs. Shannon sets off to try to kill something besides the libido of every heterosexual man in America. The two of them bicker when she brings back a couple of snails and he refuses them as too small to be effective, proving yet again that with guys, size is everything.
On Day 17, they’re moping around like a pair of geeks who couldn’t afford tickets to Comic Con. Shannon breaks into tears and Cass tries to console her, to no avail. Determined to help his pathetic partner, he staggers to his feet to try again to find food. He has no more in him after this attempt, he says, wasting valuable energy resources to conduct the interview. Then, a snake slithers out of the foliage like manna from heaven. Well, maybe that was the wrong biblical reference. Anyway, I don’t recommend the recipe for Smoked Snake that Jeff and Eva tried.
With four days left and their PSRs lower than the snake’s belly, the two still have time to turn things around and endure the demanding journey to the extraction point, if only someone would deliver a few pizzas to their cave. “Their chances rest on a knife edge,” exhorts the narrator, who apparently studied in the same degree program with Shannon. Cass falls upon the snake and whacks it to death, driven by his compulsion to make Shannon look less like a walking anatomy lesson. Together they peel off its skin, managing finally to gross us out more than the sight of their filthy, flaccid bodies. They gratefully munch the boa and hug each other with joy.
Now it’s time to get the hell out of there through the “labyrinth of treacherous caves.” Someone’s been using their thesaurus. I hope Cass and Shannon packed snake trail mix.
Shannon bangs her camera against a rock edge, destroying the light it provided and enraging the guy in charge of the production budget. Now they just have Cass’s light to guide their way. Several red-herring moments of peril later, they finally emerge from the caves, only to face a steep uphill climb through the jungle. Pardon me, the “unforgiving jungle.” Curiously, Cass’s face is covered with muck while Shannon’s is as fresh-scrubbed as a Noxzema ad. As the helicopter arrives, they praise each other for their teamwork and compassion for the other’s condition. The paca probably has less kindly words for them.
“It was a great gift to be able to weather the challenge,” says Shannon, a commendable attitude considering she receives no money for participating in this pointless display of exhibitionism.
After their 21 days of receiving bites on the peehole, threatening monkeys, and stepping on squishy things, Shannon lost 20 pounds and Cass 21, which frankly won’t hurt him. Cass’s PSR has risen to 7.4 and Shannon’s went up to 7.1. Basically, by not dropping dead, they improved. This show is an inspiration.