I grew up in the middle of the woods. Lately I have regretted not taking more advantage of it. In the past year or so, I’ve gotten into some of the survival videos people post on YouTube. This at the same time I’ve done some camping with the kids the past few years.

The guy whose videos I have watched most avidly, Mitch, is on a History Channel show called Alone. Part of the reason I latched on to his videos in particular, besides obvious skill, was that he was obviously local. I kept trying to figure out just how local to me, and where the woods he regularly filmed in might be. They could have been my woods, when I was young. I had the run of something near a square mile that had houses only on parts of the periphery, with our house and one other in the interior.

Sadly, I never learned exactly how to make shelters, start fires without matches (except maybe with a magnifying glass, and despite the presence of a stockpile of chert, which we thought was flint, out past our yard), render water potable, create traps or snares, that sort of thing. If I had exactly the same surroundings now, it would be perfect for taking a backpack and minimal supplies and experimenting with staying out for the night.

Now I take the kids camping and use a ferro rod, with or without magnesium, and don’t break out the matches to start a fire. I wanted to experiment with other methods, with the kids involved, but mostly we were out driving around, and we got rained (deluged) into heading home after two nights.

Anyway, the show… It’s seven episodes in, out of ten. There are four guys left, out of ten, and they are over 30 days into staying out in the wild with minimal equipment, isolated and filming themselves. I had pegged Mitch to win. It’s a combination of rooting for the local guy of whom I have been a fan (though it turns out I had also watched YouTube videos by at least two of the other contestants), knowing his skills, and subtle cues that tell me things might have changed in a way that could reflect having won. Then again, all contestants get paid something, potentially something decent, just for being on a show like that, even without the grand prize.

Thus it’s alarming that in episode 7 things are looking grim for Mitch, as if he is likely to be next to tap out. Then again, that could be dramatic editing. At this point, all four remaining guys are amazing and worthy.

Alan actually seems best off overall, emotionally and resource-wise. Lucas is in good shape for resources, and has done some amazing things, but is an emotional wreck. Sam is starving, the most obviously suffering dramatic weight loss, but has the skills and stability needed. Though spending as much effort as the last episode made it appear on trapping mice to eat seemed like a poor focus. It might be different if he got something bigger, like a squirrel.

Three more episodes, four more to go. Someone has to give soon. It’s been two episodes with no departures and a long elapsed time. You have to figure that part of the final episode is devoted to the winner finding out he has won, and a wrap-up/recap. I would expect that once the ninth person taps out, the producers would not let the last man keep going long without letting him know he outlasted the rest. That would be cruel and not very dramatic. Here’s Mitch. Here’s Mitch some more… Yeah, they’d want to end it.

Almost as interesting as the show itself are video commentaries I came across by The Prepper’s Bunker Outdoors. Once I watch Alone on Friday (on the web morning after it airs – don’t have cable), I keep looking for the commentary video until it’s posted. They sometimes observe things I missed, or have a perspective I wouldn’t. A lot of times they say exactly what I say to the screen while Alone is playing.

But all I know is enough to be an armchair critic, not to do what those guys are doing. Maybe with some practice and learning. I believe I would cope with the “alone” part better than most people. Perhaps I am wrong. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

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