A dramatic monkey wrench is thrown at our survivalists tonight, and not even by a monkey, when one of them gets appendicitis. They also must carry on through flash floods, heat exhaustion, and the usual starvation and thirst in the Bolivian jungle. I hope no one gets a call from a telemarketer, or this experience will be utterly unspeakable.
The male member of the pair is Vincent, a wilderness survival instructor with a Master’s degree in Ethnobotany, which is the scientific study of the relationships that exist between peoples and plants. Aside from growing them, eating them, smoking them, and putting them in vases, I can’t imagine how many types of relationships people could have with plants, but okay. He’s also a naturalist, which is what I think nudists call themselves now, so he’s aced that part of the challenge, and he knows rope-making, which will come in handy when he becomes deeply depressed at the realization that being on this show makes him look like a complete fool. Vincent is also trained in identifying wild edible plants, a course Fernando should consider taking. In fact, this guy is so thoroughly equipped to survive in any and all outdoor conditions that he has to be the one who gets the appendicitis, or there won’t be any drama at all in this episode.
His partner Sabrina is homemaker and “entrepreneur,” which is evidently a euphemism for “unemployed.” Her passion for mastering survival tactics arose from her feeling of being sheltered from the wider world. While this makes no sense, neither does the fact that she appears in her bio photo dressed like she is going to survive at Woodstock instead of in the Bolivian jungle. Sabrina has trained herself to be prepared for any event that could require humanity to become completely reliant on the land’s natural resources, although it’s not clear where she would get all her hammered metal jewelry and black eyeliner under those conditions. Believing that society is too dependent on technology, she nevertheless appears on a TV show to practice her survival skills and maintains a Twitter account to comment on them.
They open the show by giving away the big crisis moment–one of the pair is evacuated by ambulance to a hospital. Come on, show, leave us in some suspense.
Anyway, suffocating humidity, intolerable heat, frigid nights, sudden tropical storms, venomous snakes, pumas, giant poisonous spiders, stale doughnuts on the craft services table. . .this is Bolivia! Meanwhile, Sabrina has never been outside the U.S. If she thinks the Bolivian jungle is the ultimate test of survival skills, she should try renting a car in Paris. She is also an American witch who feels close to nature. She should avoid getting too close those spiders, though.
Aaaand, Sabrina has also never seen another man besides her husband naked. I hope Vincent doesn’t ruin her marriage. He has named their team Toucan, or Two Can. Yeah, pal, stick with the rope-making and leave the branding to the experts.
She has brought a hatchet, which is appropriate since she has a hatchet face, and he has–I missed it, ha. Let me guess, a fire-starter? They head downstream as the narrator discusses their PSRs. His is 8.2 and hers is 6.7, based on some damn thing. You know they get these figures by asking random office interns their shoe sizes.
As they move along, already she’s bitching that he explains too much, because it’s so irritating when someone knowledgeable keeps informing you all the time. He rubs mud all over his bald head to protect him from the heat and give him beautiful skin. They decide to make a temporary camp to escape the 101-degree heat, and then continue in the morning.
Next day, they continue to hike along, and she gets sick. Vince looks disgusted. He searches for a plant to ease her discomfort. He probably means he’s looking for a big stick to whack her with. Then they come to a towering waterfall, where they act out that scene in Blue Lagoon.
They start to build a permanent shelter at the base of the waterfall. The narrator tells us conspiratorially that this could be a mistake, as the area is prone to flooding. Vince gets a fire going lickity-split, but a thunderstorm is looming. Quick, get the shelter completed and cover the cameras with plastic!
Next day, they must fortify their camp. Vince points out that he talks too much, and she agrees. If she had anything useful to say, he might want to hear her talk a little. He goes off for some alone time, and I am mesmerized by them pixellating his crotch area FROM BEHIND while he is standing upright. I think Mr. Sabrina is in trouble. Vince captures a falcon to eat, which they roast and nibble on without any Buffalo sauce. It’s not enough, though, so Vince and his impressive endowment set off to hunt for more food.
Sabrina stays behind, where she appears to be constructing a pentagram from twigs and vines as she discusses how the dead bird was a bad omen. Sure, but the fact that she is completely unequipped for this situation is a mere triviality.
Now they are feeling the effects of fatigue and malnourishment, not to mention they must be getting hoarse from sniping at each other constantly. Some witch she is–why doesn’t she conjure them up some cheeseburgers? She complains that Vince is fishing by waiting patiently in the river with his hand-made pole and hook instead of out hunting an animal like her hubby back in Georgia, where there are plenty of deer and rabbits that do not live in Bolivia.
Day 11, and it looks like a storm is brewing. I suppose Sabrina’s husband would be able to outswim the floods they don’t have in Georgia, too. Sabrina has put in the effort to neatly braid her hair by Day 14, and reports that their pathway to the extraction route is being eroded by flowing water from the rainfall. After three days of downpour, though, it’s cleared up–but Vince is sick. He’s crouched on all fours and mumbling in agony. Maybe the weight of his crotch is too much to bear in that position. Sabrina asks if she should call the medic, and he says yes. Once again, why do people do this show?
The medical team finds signs of malnutrition, fatigue, and dehydration, but clear Vince to continue. I would get a second opinion if I were him. “I literally can’t do this,” he says. Apparently his body hair has doubled in volume over the past few days. He’s tapping out, he says, making Sabrina cry because now she will have to do all the work. Her biggest fear is being alone, she says tearfully, except for all the crew and the director and everybody.
By Day 18, she has made herself a Wilson by drawing a smiley face on a rock, and is referring to herself as “we.” This is like watching Snake Pit with Olivia de Havilland, but with real snakes. The narrator tells us helpfully that “hunger is what drives her on a quest for food,” much as a distressing lack of personal standards is what drives me on a quest to watch this show. She finds a severed bird head and decides to eat its brain. You are what you eat, you know.
Later, overcome by her situation, Sabrina rolls around on the beach and shrieks to the skies. Her parents must have really enjoyed her adolescent years.
On Day 20, she is stricken by massive abdominal pain. The medic comes in to check her, hopefully not the same one who thought Vince was just fine. She must be evacuated immediately, as we saw at the outset of the damn show, so big deal. Sirens scream as they rush her to “the hospital in Bolivia.” Just Bolivia, not a particular city? The only one I know is La Paz. Do they give her a gown at the hospital or does she have to stay naked? I would be suspicious of the hygiene in this facility, since they don’t even wash her face after she’s admitted.
But her survival challenge is ended. Neither made it to the extraction point, just to the point of distraction. After it all, Vince lost 20 pounds, while Sabrina lost just 10. It’s always harder for women, dammit. Worse, he was diagnosed with three–count ’em, three–scary tropical diseases, and is still recovering. Adding insult to injury, his PSR dropped to 7.1, while hers, which clearly does not account for being incredibly annoying, rose to 7.5. The medical team’s PDA (Primitive Diagnostic Ability) dropped 5.2 points.