Alone Again, Naturally

This seems to be my place for posting my thoughts on History Channel’s Alone, which completed its first season Thursday. There will be SPOILERS in this post. You have been warned. I have restrained myself from posting sooner and from blaring at the top of the post that yay, so-and-so won.

I also fully admit that I have not done the things these guys are practiced in doing, and would have a lot to learn, on paper and even more so in hands-on, before I could hope to put my money where my mouth is. No amount of interest can substitute for experience. Though I do believe, and the wife agrees, that I would be almost unnaturally good at the isolation that provides the psychological challenge inherent in the show’s name.

To recap, in the ninth episode, local guy Mitch went home in third place. I had rooted for him to win, and actually assumed he would, but I lacked the knowledge of his mother’s health being on his mind. Luca went home in fourth place, abruptly deciding he had nothing more to prove – which he surely doesn’t – despite clearly being in as good a position as anyone to remain indefinitely. He wasn’t obviously starving as Sam was. He had decent conditions, as these things go. For him it was entirely a mind game, rather than a survival skills game.

Sam rocked, but was always curiously deficient in terms of shelter. I always wondered why he didn’t build something better, or at least secure the flapping tarp. While he appeared to have food issues, the shelter, the flapping tarp specifically, did him in. Anyone could be driven to leave after three days of no sleep due to the noise of the tarp flapping in high winds.

Alan‘s shelter was partly luck, finding that exact spot, but was also skillfully constructed for dryness and warmth. You could criticize it as little more than an emergency survival shelter, but it’s not like it was an emergency debris shelter, either. Some of what the guys did depended on found items. It would be interesting to see more of the footage, since very little of what they filmed went into the episodes. The episodes necessarily had to be edited for maximum audience interest and drama, while also telling the story of who did what when over the course of time.

Anyway, I didn’t expect Sam to win, given his apparent condition compared to Alan’s, once it was down to those two for the finale. Sure enough, Sam caved at 54 days. Fifty-four days! That’s amazing! I wasn’t sure what to make of him at the beginning, though I can relate to the goofy side. I became a fan and would have been perfectly satisfied had he won. He and his wife were absolutely adorable, and it was nice that he got home in time for the baby to arrive. The weigh-in was jaw-dropping. Going from 245 to 160 at his size isn’t healthy. I’m 5’ 11″ and once dropped from 233 to 178 in eight months. At 178 I looked almost anorexic. Once I got back up into the 200-210 range, though, I sustained it for years. Then I got a desk job doing tech support (after being unemployed for a year) and had my first experience being on blood pressure pills (ironic for those to turn you into a sluggish weigh-gaining machine). After that it was all over! Until I got another physical job, which I hesitate to give up because of how it makes me feel. But I digress.

I wondered, once Sam was gone, how they would approached informing and extracting Alan. Day 56 he was ready to stay indefinitely! Their trick of calling him to say they were coming to do a routine medical checkup begged the question of how often they did such a thing for all the contestants throughout the show. It also begged the question of how much they called to give direction, came out to replace depleted batteries (they each had enough batteries for perhaps a month, from what I understand), or otherwise checked in, and what effect that had on the “alone” psychology. There’s just plain a lot we don’t know about how things were run and orchestrated.

In any event, I thought surprising him was clever. In retrospect, the two day delay post-Sam accomplished two things: It gave time for Sam to be processed and it gave time for Alan’s wife to be brought there. I loved the touch of bringing her for the extraction and surprising him with her walking out of the woods at the appropriate time.

Rooting for Mitch or not, Alan was so good, I am not sure it could ever have been anyone else. The man is a natural entertainer, or so the edits make it seem. Besides skill, he was able to keep himself entertained. He was able to maintain a level perspective. Lucas didn’t have that, though he did have projects to occupy himself, which had to have helped the angst.

Alan’s kids were adorable in his homecoming, and so familiar to me. The oldest, shocked when she saw him. The apparent youngest, still focused on “I want I want.” The driving had to have been incredibly strange, as he noted. I’ve gone far shorter times not driving and felt completely alien behind the wheel. Despite my love of driving. To go months… Wow!

I’d love to see more footage/features from the season while we await season 2. I for one look forward to it, and wonder just where they will dump the contestants. Vancouver was a great, brutal location. Apparently closer to civilization than it might have appeared on screen, but still. For people from eastern North America or the southern US, is was pretty alien. Reusing the same area would have the drawback of now contestants have a better idea of what they face. Thus I assume it’ll be somewhere else, perhaps even a different time of year. Heat and dry instead of cold and wet? Edible flora but not so much fauna (or seafood, anyway, since fauna didn’t play much of a role, mice notwithstanding)? Water was relatively easy. Maybe make it harder? Guess we’ll find out!

That about covers it. If not, I can always post again. Congratualtions Alan! And all four top contenders!

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