This week’s nutbar team gets dumped off in the Malaysian rainforest, which unsurprisingly presents the challenge of a lot of rain. Maybe instead of a machete, one of them will bring an umbrella.
Firefighter Fernando, which sounds like the title of a Nickelodeon show, brings his skills in shelter-building and hunting/gathering. That first one could pay off if he’s figured out how to make a waterproof roof from leaves and bamboo. A veteran survivalist, Fernando believes the greatest tool at one’s disposal is the mind–so leave that fire-starter home, you pikers. He also claims that effective firefighting and survival both require being able to stop, assess the situation, and think clearly. Personally, I prefer my firefighters to avoid stopping when flames are rapidly consuming my home.
Samantha is a personal trainer and marketing consultant, probably because being just a personal trainer doesn’t pay well enough. Among her survival skills is basket-weaving, which will surely come in handy when they need to pack gifts for corporate clients in the rainforest. Her philosophy on making it in the wilderness is that it is critical to master the ability to quickly let go of, yet learn from, one’s mistakes. Of course, after the jaguar has dined on your digestive track, it’s a little late to apply your newfound knowledge of the habits of deadly jungle cats to your next outdoor experience.
It looks like Fernando is going to try a poisonous mushroom, so that should be exciting and make us all second guess our Buddha’s Delight from the Chinese takeout. Malaysia is then introduced by our Sonorous-Voiced Narrator as home to the oldest rainforest evah. Blood-sucking leeches, giant lizards with giant teeth, deadly bacteria, and the terrifying lethal coral snake are all features that make it a less than desirable honeymoon destination.
“Bring it on,” cries Fernando, perhaps unaware that lizards and leeches don’t fight fair. Samantha believes that prevailing through divorce is excellent preparation for taking on these relentless conditions. Depending on who her ex’s attorney is, she’s probably right.
They get naked, and we see that Samantha’s greatest fear for this venture is that her cellulite is not hidden by the pixellation, while Fernando refreshingly appears to have no tattoos. He has the machete, and she has the fire-starter, because the man always brings the large, phallic object, while the woman has the practical kitchen item. They must navigate deep into the jungle along a stream to make camp, then swim miles along a river to reach the extraction point.
Fernando earns a 7 .1 for his initial PSR, and Samantha rates a 6.8. I get a 9.5 for listening to this claptrap. Off they go into the very green and lush foliage, where a giant monitor lizard grins as they cross the river. He’s planning his menu. Fernando steps on something that hurts, but he remains cheerful. Laugh it up, pal, it’s early days.
They start trying to build their shelter in the mud and slime. Samantha gets leeches on her ankles immediately. Oh, joy. Fernando slaps them off, and the flies arrive to feast on the blood. Yeah, have I mentioned they don’t get paid to be on this show?
The moon rises and their shelter is unfinished. Typical contracting work. “Please don’t rain,” Samantha pleads with the rainforest. Night #1 was pretty bad, but the next day they’re back at shelter-building while leeches cleave to their flesh, including Samantha’s crotch and his scrotum. Why do the repulsive creatures go for those places? Is it some kind of cosmic joke?
At least all that rain provides water! “Bring it,” shouts Fernando to the sky. These guys do not know how to negotiate effectively with nature.
The human body loses heat 25 times faster when wet, we are informed, and Samantha is in the early stages of hypothermia. “We can fix that,” Fernando says leadingly, flexing his manly chest muscles. Move aside, leeches, he’s coming through! Wait, no, he’s suggesting doing jumping jacks to provide body heat. He must not like her cellulite, either. They start jumping together, which, without a bra, I have nothing but sympathy for Samantha.
They finish the shelter two days later. It’s awfully small, no room for even a spice rack. Over six days of relentless rain, they are confined to the tiny space, they can’t find food, and without fire, there’s no source of heat or light. It’s similar to my freshman year dorm experience. They finally emerge and slog through an entire beauty line of mineral mud masks to hunt for a protein. Sam yells for Fernando to bring the knife when she sights a snake. I wonder if there are leeches on its private parts, too.
It’s one those blue-striped coral snakes, also called the 100-Steps Snake, because after it bites you, that’s how far you get before you drop dead. Those Malaysians, such a witty bunch. Happy-go-lucky Fernando wastes energy declaring it beautiful, but he captures it and there is joy throughout the land. Raw snake meat is inedible, though, so they absolutely must have fire. They could also use some A-1 Snake Sauce.
Finally, the sun appears, and they hold out hope to get dry wood for their reptile roast. By Day 10, however, the meat is starting to rot and they have to dispose of it. It’s a shame to have to waste perfectly good snake with all those children starving in China. That night, the bugs come out in force. You won’t catch them wandering around listlessly, incapable of finding something to eat. At daylight, close-ups of Sam’s hideously mottled body parts are featured, as if they were as compelling to view as exotic flowers. She kvetches about how awful she feels, being hungry, exhausted, itchy, and missing her kids. What did she expect in the Malaysian rainforest, room service and Skype?
Fernando is determined now to get the fire going. Finally, he has success. They go down to the creek to try to catch a fish with their bare hands. Why they didn’t do that before instead of hoping to happen upon a venomous snake, who knows. Fernando manages to catch a few, but there’s something fishy with the fish–the flesh is mushy. The rainforest is going to get very low ratings on Yelp.
On Day 15, Fernando declares he’ll eat any bugs he finds. Not if they eat him first. Then they stumble upon some innocent-looking mushrooms.
“This is so taboo in the world of survival,” Fernando remarks, indicating that he has failed to use the greatest tool at one’s disposal in the wilderness. Sam is dubious, watching as he plucks one and takes a hearty bite. Moments later, he feels an unusual sensation in his mouth. At least death will come quickly. Worse, his PSR is rapidly trending downward with this bonehead move.
The reaction passes harmlessly, revealing the dramatic opening footage to be a completely contrived cliffhanger. The ratings for the show are now rapidly trending downward with this bonehead move. Soon after, however, we witness the actual scene wherein Sam summons the crew because Fernando is very ill, but they don’t know from what. His fever is dangerously high, so they plunge him into cold water. While it works to lower his body temperature, his insurance premiums rise precipitously. The medics send him back to camp, but he’s weak and huddles desolately in the shelter like a frat boy just home from spring break. Sam must take the initiative to build the raft that will take them to the extraction point.
Day 21 arrives, and Fernando dreads the arduous river trip. In an aside, I’ve noticed none of the survivalists wear glasses–what’s that about? A giant monitor lizard observes from the shoreline as they test the raft, which is more like a paddle board. Even Gilligan made a better-looking bamboo raft than that. Clinging to the paltry few lashed-together logs, they move very slowly along the river. Another lizard slithers into the water as they paddle by, posing no danger whatsoever even though everyone keeps talking about how they attack people. Maybe these lizards are vegan.
Finally, the two sight the rescue boat. They board it, and hug nakedly. By the end of their experience, Fernando has lost 31 pounds, and Sam, 21. His PSR sunk to to 6.9, based almost solely on the mushroom incident. Hers rose to 7.0 despite all her bellyaching. Their shelter will not be featured in Architectural Digest.