Moving Pictures
Sep 01, 2023, 05:54AM

Could You Survive on Alone?

Inspired by the win of the guy who did nothing.

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I’m a latecomer to the Alone TV series, having stumbled upon season.. 8 or 9 I think on Netflix under “you should watch” or whatever list of recommended shit Netflix throws in my face beside my eclectic mix of quirky documentaries, realistic crime, psychological thrillers and stand-up comedy.

I remember watching Survivor years ago when it first came on, but it’s ages since I watched a survival-based reality show. The concept of Alone, in case you haven’t seen it, is that 10 people are left to survive in a place (usually Canada, parts of which are more treacherous than I’d realized, particularly incessant rain) with 10 items of their choosing, last one to quit wins $500K. 

I had to catch up to the show’s nuances. Contestants are provided with cameras with which they interact often so viewers can experience their wildlife and wilderness experiences, like when a few of the “trained military survivalist” men tap out within the first 24-48 hours because they hear a coyote or find out there are bears in the woods.

Each contestant is also supplied with a satellite phone so they can call to “tap out” which means go home because they tried calling for Door Dash, which is exactly what I’d do, and that call didn’t go through.

While it’s sometimes amusing to see people who herald themselves in pre-recorded footage as the most qualified naturalist on earth cry about missing their girlfriend and leave by day three (dude, she’s gonna miss that half mil more than she missed you, promise), I think it’s fascinating to watch those who have real skills constructing elaborate shelters, cooking areas, and catch food in ingenious ways. My brother has an algorithm figured out where if someone is given a certain amount of camera time you can tell they’re going to tap out, but that’s too much math for me.

I like watching it best for the mental health aspect. It’s a psychological test far more than a physical one. You have to be able to live inside your head for weeks, sometimes months. Apparently every demon you have ever had comes back for a visit when you’re out there—your fears, ghosts. There’s no one to kill time with, comfort you, share anything with—and I think this is what sends people home more than anything. You could have a drinking game where people have to do a shot every time someone says “alone,” because it’s amazing how surprised the contestants are to find themselves truly alone; they talk about it all the time and  this seems to be the indicator of when they’re about to tap.

My favorite so far was watching the guy who did nothing and won. In the Arctic. He didn’t run around catching fish, making fires or building traps for rabbits like everyone else who eventually tapped out was doing. He said all of that wastes calories and pretty much went into a bear-like hibernation and napped his way to victory. “Do less.” Highly inspiring.

The unpaid actor of the show is its silent narrator: unspoken words appear at the lower left hand side of the screen giving viewers information about things that are happening: this is the type of fish the contestant just caught, and how many calories it will provide, this is the highest number of days a contestant on Alone ever went without food, etc. It’s like an info and trivia ticker, and occasionally it’s mildly passive-aggressive and therefore highly entertaining.

I don’t watch anything on an old-fashioned TV schedule “when it’s on,” I only stream stuff. I’m spoiled by the ability to consume content at my own leisure. It’s weird, but Netflix shows the most recent complete season of Alone, then you have to go Hulu to watch the past seasons. So after I got hooked, I went back and started watching Season 1 and forward, and it’s been interesting to watch back in time like that: the most notable difference is that they clearly started finding people with more wilderness survival experience, because in more recent seasons they stay longer.

I might last a week on the show, even on my local Chesapeake where I catch crabs in front of my house. My 10 "items from home" list would never get approved: unlimited pot gummies, chocolate and Evian, a memory foam mattress for my sleeping bag because my back would kill me otherwise, journal and pens. You probably can’t have pot, but how hard do they check your prescription drugs, because maybe you could swap out the capsules and get the weed in that way? Ok maybe I wouldn’t last a week.

  • I'm a huge Alone fan but have now lost interest in the show. I think I was spoiled when the ROLAND season happened, because I expect each season to have a candidate like him. But he was one of a kind. I loved it when he smoothed bullmoose brains onto his face to protect it.

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  • BTW if you want to see where the survivor show genre started, check out SURVIVORMAN, with Les Stroud.

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