“Fresh Blood”

This begins the third season of Ultimate Survival Alaska on NatGeo!

Everyone enjoyed my recaps last season, and I have such a damn good time poking fun at the staged drama of this faux-reality show, I think we’ll do it again this season – at least as long as the Military team stays in the ‘competition’. I can’t promise my interest will last, if they’re eliminated. We’ll cross that rigged-to-collapse bridge when we come to it!

 photo 5b6f9af2-7f4d-4dc2-b84a-6eedb5245606.jpg

The Military Team – on a glacier

In case you missed last month’s announcement, Rudy Reyes didn’t return for this season (not everybody can finish the final 1,200 meters of Mount McKinley on a broken ankle, it seems!), ostensibly due to his work with a new company providing veterans services. Instead, we have former Marine sniper, Daniel Dean. Grady and Jared are back, and still gunning for Dallas Seavey. Dallas is working the rivalry from his end as well, so we’re going to see a lot of replay from S2.

I will endeavor not to confuse everyone with my recaps. The default setting for these will be total sarcasm. Yes, I’m going to be a complete smart-ass. I’ll try to remember to be very obvious, anytime I switch to being serious. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I do see a good teachable moment. Sometimes, someone really does do something totally badass. For all this show is a bunch of manufactured bullshit, it’s still Alaska, and she’ll kill you just as soon as look at you.


Some initial predictions for this season:

Without Rudy, look for Dallas to provide this season’s gratuitous nudity. Not that there’s any comparison between the two. I’m holding out hope that Grady falls into the water a few times.

The Alaskans will once again win the prize for Most Stupid Things Done, as well as its sister category – The Stupidest Thing Done. They’ll have to work hard to top their own trick from last season; shooting a fish in the bottom of their boat – and thus shooting out the bottom of their boat…while it was on the water…and they were inside of it.

While the greatest rivalry BETWEEN teams is Military vs. Endurance, last season did not have a great deal of conflict WITHIN teams. I anticipate quite a lot of made-up drama this season, within the Lower 48 team. Military and Endurance may not be far behind, either.

I think we’ll be seeing more close calls caused by Alaska herself.


The Premise:

 photo 5b2706fa-4bef-4b20-93a9-e2e4d73b1698.jpg

Daniel, Jared & Grady

For those of you who didn’t tune in with us last season, here’s what you need to know –

4 teams/3 members each
13 legs/60 hours each

The teams are inserted by chopper, somewhere very rugged in Alaska. They have 60 hours to make it from insertion to extraction. They’re provided with a map that shows them two routes. One route will be faster, but more dangerous, and it’s each team’s call which they take. The teams MUST rest for 4 hours out of every 24. Their equipment is what they can carry in their packs. While they ARE provided with minimal food stuffs (rice & beans) each leg, in order to have the energy to win each leg, they’ll have to obtain their protein from their surroundings.

The team that reaches the extraction point first, wins the leg, and receives a prize. The prize typically consists of some sort of food treat, or a useful tool. A team is eliminated if it fails to reach the extraction within the allotted 60 hours. As we learned last season, the number of team members who start a leg, must finish the leg. But, if a member is forced out of the competition AFTER completing the leg (due to illness or injury, maybe), the team is not eliminated, and can continue to compete with just two members.


The Teams:

I make no apologies for my obvious bias. These recaps won’t be even handed, in any way!

Military: Grady (former Green Beret), Jared (former SEAL), Daniel (former Marine sniper)

Endurance: Dallas (2 time winner of Iditarod – current time record holder) I have mad respect for Dallas, but during my recaps, I honor the friendly rivalry between him and Military.

Lower 48: What is says on the tin…3 people representing the contiguous United States.

Alaskans: Again, what it says on the tin.



The 4 teams were inserted at a frozen lake (during spring time). They had to locate a flag, get to it, and retrieve the map they would need to get to the extraction. Oh noes! The flag was on the complete opposite side of the frozen lake! What are the odds of that? Our intrepid teams had to choose whether to stay on land, and go around the lake, or to go straight across the ice.

Military and Endurance (of course) both elect to go straight across, while Alaskans and Lower 48 both go around. I’m surprised that Alaskans chose to go around instead of across, since you’d think frozen lakes would be something they encountered just going to work every day. Dallas is a risk taker, so I’m not surprised at Endurance’s choice.

DALLAS wins First to Fall Through the Ice for this season. This also means that he wins First to Strip Off His Shirt. Already, I miss Rudy.

Momentary seriousness for teachable moment – I knew that Grady would elect to go across the ice because he’s a risk taker, like Dallas. However, if you’re familiar with the training the 3 Military members have, it makes sense. Jared’s SEAL training involved insertions, extractions, and survival in all climates from frozen to desert. Grady has gone through the Army’s version of the Marine’s Mountain Warfare School, which Daniel will have taken in order to function as a sniper (as opposed to simply holding the qualification). All three know how to cross ice safely, and what to do if the worst happens.

I was surprised that Dallas, with all of his experience in the worst of Alaska’s conditions, had his team wear their heavy packs on the ice. I would have thought that he’d see Military dragging their packs (in order to lighten and distribute individual loads) on the ice, and would think to do the same. I just can’t imagine why he didn’t think to do the same thing, when he saw the Military up head, just a few hundred yards. I guess all the principles of weight distribution he applies to packing his dog sled don’t automatically translate to human packs.

 photo AR-110709992.jpg

Marine Corps rappelling tower

You know, several of the newcomers are mountaineers or climbers of some sort. Maybe we’ll get to see some interesting climbing and rappelling, this season (ya think?). There wasn’t a great deal of it, last season. Perhaps more teams will opt to take the alternate routes, if they have a team member with advanced climbing skills (and Marty will have more chances to stare into the distance and tell stories about all the friends he’s lost). We learned last season that Grady is part mountain goat (and Jared is part fish), so he might lead them on some cool climbs or rappels. Remember, this is a competition where five or ten seconds can mean the difference between first or second place, so dramatically climbing up a 20 foot ice wall and needlessly risking injury, instead of walking 100 yards around it could make all the difference.

I won’t be the least bit sorry if Lower 48 gets eliminated in this first ep. I know I should be more loyal (as an inhabitant of the lower 48), but I find them offensive, on top of annoying as fuck. Right from go, they win Most Likely to Kill Each Other Over Something Stupid. Sweenie is a cranky old man who is deliberately contrary. “Cluck” is whiney, and a deliberate stereotype of a stupid southerner. Kasha is a breathy-voiced, flower-child who stereotypically tries to keep the peace between the two big, strong men in conflict. Because stereotypes aren’t offensive enough, Sweenie accuses Cluck of ‘screaming like a girl’. He makes it clear that this is the worst insult in his lexicon, because the man who taught him how to climb mountains told him to ‘never scream like a girl’. Shame on me for even forgetting (for just a moment) that women exist solely to facilitate men’s masculine activities, and that being female and/or feminine is the very worst thing to be.  Kasha reminded me of my place when she literally begged two adult men to get along, while they all ski down a mountain. Sweenie proved his male superiority when he removed all of his insulated, waterproof gear in order to walk across the lake inlet. He obviously resented his teammates for not listening to his expertise, when he told them they can’t get their rubber, waterproof boots wet.

Anyway, back to the competition.

Military decides to cross the glacier. It’s wet, it’s icy, and it’s a fairly steep incline. Grady and Jared stop to put on their crampons (which are basically ice picks for the bottoms of their shoes), and to rope up for safety. Daniel (decides that the two men who were actually on this show last season don’t have any insight or experience that might be of use to him) goes without his crampons so that he can manufacture a dramatic moment by slipping off the side of the glacier. Lots of shouting and shaky camera angles, and we’re treated to the sight of a rope disappearing off the side of the glacier. Grady and Jared throw themselves to the ground (in heroic fashion), to keep “Daniel” from dragging them all over the side. After the well-timed commercial break, Daniel is miraculously back on top of the ridge, with nothing more than a banged up knee.

Let’s pause here for a team-member highlight! Alaskan team member, Vern Treja, is actually a pretty impressive guy. At 57 years old, he holds the speed record for summiting the highest peak on each continent. He did it in 134 days. That’s serious badassery, no matter how old you are.

Returning to the competition, we find Endurance and Military battling it out in the final stretch. Endurance takes the high road, Military takes the low road, and LOOK OUT! Falling rocks! Quick! Jared, run! 5 whole rocks are tumbling down the hill right toward you! Oh noes! Run about 10 steps, then fall dramatically to your knees, and breathe heavy. It makes you look like you’re exhausted from narrowly escaping death! A rock about the size of my head tumbled down the hill. Wow. Dangerous.

“Daniel” falling off the glacier, because he didn’t wear his crampons like the two experienced competitors did, cost the Military the win in Leg #1. Endurance got to the extraction first, and were rewarded with a couple bottles of beer.

Cause drinking alcohol at altitude is such a bloody brilliant thing to do! It’s not like you’re in any danger of dehydration. It’s not like altitude lowers your oxygen saturation, increasing the effect of the alcohol.

 photo PYDVojD.jpg

Another Marine Corps Rappelling Tower!

So, Day #2 dawns bright and sunny. Military charges across the ice until they reach a 200 foot cliff, down which they have to rappel. Apparently, Daniel was in a different Marine Corps than the one I’m familiar with, cause he didn’t go through the same boot camp as everyone else did, so he didn’t learn how to rappel. Either that, or he got a note from his mommy, excusing him from the Crucible that all the other boot Marines had to pass, in order to graduate boot camp. It’s not like rappelling isn’t a basic skill that’s taught at all the rappelling towers, all over every Marine Corps base, so Daniel must have been sick the day they taught that. This means that Grady charges down the cliff like a mountain goat (not my words, this time), while Daniel creeps down, claiming he’s scared and doesn’t know how to do this. Jared seems to think that rappelling in Alaska is different than it is everywhere else. His explanation is that he and Grady are the veteran competitors, and this is Daniel’s first time in Alaska. (shrugs)

Call me crazy, but I don’t know how to ski, so getting onto an Alaskan survival competition show isn’t #1 on my list of things to do today. I wouldn’t enter a surfing competition if I couldn’t swim, either. I mean, who wakes up one day and thinks, “Gee, I have no skills or experience with winter sports, or cold weather survival, but I’m gonna go be on Ultimate Survival Alaska”? Apparently, professional kayak-er and southern cliché, Cluck.

Now, when Dallas claims he has no skills on skis, I believe that as much as I believe Daniel can’t rappel down a 200 foot cliff. Dallas at least has basic cross country skills that he busts out when he’s training the dog teams. Buuuuuut, if that’s the way they want to play it…

 photo p1050683.jpg

Really Tall Marine Corps Rappelling Tower!

The story they’re telling about Daniel is that he was selected from an open casting call. I’m thinking the casting directors asked everyone “Name the stupidest, most dangerous thing you could do in Alaska.” Daniel’s answer had to be, “Crawl into a brown bear’s den, to see if the bear is inside”. Because that’s naturally the first thing you do, when you come across a bear den in spring, despite the fact your two teammates tell you not to do something so idiotic.

As the second leg draws to a close, I find that I’m feeling very betrayed and disillusioned. First, Girl Scout merit badges. Then, SCUBA certification. I’ve spent decades believing that navigation required tools, such as a map, and a compass. Now, I learn from Cluck that correct navigation requires an aura of the appropriate color! I’m lucky I’ve survived this long, cause I have no idea if my aura is correctly colored! I’ve been misled…lied to! Kasha and Cluck have perfect navigational auras, but Cluck says Sweenie’s aura is the wrong color. Now we know what’s been holding back the Lower 48 team! Now we know why there’s so much discord, and why they’re struggling. It’s all because Sweenie’s aura is the wrong color!

Endurance must have matching, correctly colored auras, as well as properly aligned chakras, because they won the second leg as well. Their prize was chocolate! It’s hard to go wrong with chocolate!


Final Report:

With 2 legs down, and 11 legs to go, team standings are as follows-
Endurance                                                  2
Military                                                      0
Alaskans                                                     0
Lower 48                                                    0

Falls through ice                                         1
Gratuitous removal of clothing                  1
“Near Death” experiences                          5
Fist fights                                                   0
Pointless risks taken                                   1
Obvious displays of stupidity                    2

Keywords:                Week #1               COMPETITION