NAKED AND AFRAID XL Season 1 Episode 1 [Review]

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NAKED AND AFRAID Season 1, Episode 1 “Forty Days And Forty Nights”/ Starring LAURA ZERRA, JEFF ZAUSCH, LUKE MCLAUGHLIN, EVA RUPERT, SHANE LEWIS, DANIELLE BEAUCHEMIN, CHRIS FISCHER, ALANA BARFIELD, E.J. SNYDER, HAKIM ISLER, DANI JULIEN & HONORA BOWEN/ Produced by DISCOVERY CHANNEL

What happens when the most extreme survival show on television becomes even more extreme? You get Naked and Afraid XL.

A quick summary for those not familiar with the original Naked And AfraidTwo strangers who are both skilled survivalists – one man and one woman – are dropped in some remote part of the world. For three weeks they have to survive with nothing but their wits, their partner and one survival tool of their choosing. That’s it. No food, no water and no clothes, save what they can gather and make for themselves.

There’s no bullshit challenges or voting people off the island. Not on this show! Just pure survival skills in the harshest environments Mother Nature has to offer.

So how does Naked and Afraid XL build upon the original show? Part of that answer lies in the title. XL doesn’t stand for eXtra-Large but instead refers for the Roman Numeral for 40. As in the 40 days and 40 nights the survivalists must survive this time rather than the usual 21.

There are three other key differences. The first is that rather than a single duo, the show focuses upon a dozen survivalists – six men and six women who all appeared on the show before.  Next, the survivalists are given a knife and one tool of their choosing before being released into the wild alone, told only that other people are out there but not given any directions on finding them. Finally, though all twelve survivalists are released into the same 20 sq. mile stretch of Columbian wilderness, they are grouped into four different trios that will be graded on their ability to work together despite their differing styles and approaches to wilderness survival.

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Some survivalists and moral guardians criticized the original show for being exploitative, more concerned with its nudity gimmick and cheap drama than conveying educational information. While it’s fair to say that the conflicting personalities are part of the fun of the show (unless you think it’s a coincidence they keep pairing up outspoken feminists with good ol’ boys who think women belong in the kitchen), the original Naked and Afraid did a fine job of teaching good survival techniques as well as about the flora and fauna of various exotic climates.

Sadly, the new series is more focused on drama by necessity.  With twelve contenders in play, there’s little time to devote toward serious discussion of how the teams are going about seeing to their basic needs. It’s telling that most of the educational information in the first episode comes from the sequences focused on adventure guide Dani Julien, who gets to Day Four without having located her intended partners.

Impressively, Dani is able to treat an infection using tree bark, after her eye becomes swollen shut following her first night in the jungle. Her intended partners, Eva Rupert and Laura Zerra, prove equally capable on their own and get perhaps the least amount of screen time out of all the various teams. Indeed, Eva and Laura’s one segment after meeting up is devoted to Eva having to decide whether or not to risk surgery in the wild or tap out to go to a hospital following a finger injury.

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There lies the damnable problem with Naked And Afraid XL – the bigger format does a disservice to the people who know what they are doing. Because the sad truth is that while lying in the shade during the hottest parts of the day is Smart Survival 101 when you’re in an area with temperatures in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, it makes for poor television.  It’s much more entertaining to the general masses for them to watch the survivalists snipe at each other when things go wrong than to focus on what is being done right.

Indeed, a look at the cast would suggest the producers were more concerned about provoking tension than truly testing an all-star team of survivalists.  While the roster includes the likes of E.J. Snyder and Laura Zerra (two-time contenders and, respectively, the highest scoring male and female survivalists in the show’s history) as well as Alana Barfield (the first contender in Naked and Afraid history to complete the challenge solo, going over half of her 21-day trial without a partner), there’s also a number of contestants who were infamous for causing drama. Chief among these is Honora Bowen, who is the only one of the dozen survivalists who failed her original challenge, after “divorcing” her partner and being forcibly evacuated due to extreme heatstroke.

Thankfully, the original format holds together in spite of the focus on relationships over survival techniques. And long-time fans of the original show will enjoy seeing several old favorites back in action.  Hopefully more educational segments will be forthcoming in future episodes as more of the trouble-makers tap out as the going gets rougher. Until then, Naked and Afraid XL remains enjoyable but not without some flaws that may grate on the nerves of some fans.

Rating 4

5 thoughts on “NAKED AND AFRAID XL Season 1 Episode 1 [Review]

  1. Some really @#$%y attitudes in about half the women. Honora probably has borderline personality disorder and Alana letting the tortoise go was beyond stupid. Sure Shane has issues but the was his partners treat him is BS. He’s really trying and they look down on him, smirk and snipe. Considering how Alana let a valuable food source go, she has zero high ground to look down on Shane from. The “woo, girl power” crap is getting tiresome too.

    Naked & Afraid XL? More like Naked & Afraid Extra Drama.

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    1. We’ll have to respectfully disagree on the “girl power” point. I love the all-woman trio and am amazed that Dani J. was able to do as well as she did solo for so long.

      I’ll agree that Honora is clearly unstable. From what I’ve seen elsewhere on-line, Honora probably shouldn’t have been cleared to be on this show in the first place given that she has to have a service dog due to PTSD. Makes me feel somewhat better that she’s getting treatment of some kind, though.

      Now, Alana and Dani – I have to defend them because Shane clearly has no idea what he’s doing with his bow and I was laughing at his pitiful attempts at hunting too. A real archer doesn’t leave his bow strung all the time, especially in a high-heat zone. It wears the string out faster and warps the bow. And most of the archers I know – myself included – prefer simpler bows over the store-bought jobs with the pulleys and weights that Shane was whining about needing to be an effective hunter. Which is a joke because all those bows do is make it easier to draw the string back. They do nothing to improve your aim.

      Archer rant over. 🙂

      As for letting the turtle go, given Alana’s experience I doubt she’d do that if they were hurting for food. Shane himself said they were finding protein and that he just really wanted to kill something. And nothing was said about how Dani – the vegetarian – felt about this. It was all about Shane vs. Alana.

      On that note, the editing on this show is abysmal and plotlines are being dropped between episodes when they’re no longer relevant to the story the producers want to tell. Remember how Dani was starving at the end of the first episode? Notice how she doesn’t seem to be having any trouble this episode? It would have been nice if they’d offered up some explanation for why.

      Then again, if they did that, they’d probably have to reveal the information Dani released on her Twitter feed about how the fruit Shane gathered for her – in addition to not being ripe – was highly toxic and used by the local tribes for coating their weapons.

      All that being said, I agree with you that this show is all about the drama and not about survival skills at all anymore. But I’ll go into that more in my review that comes out later today.

      Thanks for commenting! I look forward to your responses!

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    2. I appreciate your comments, especially the Borderline Personality Disorder comment, because I was thinking the same thing. I also can definitely identify Shane as a male borderline, if you see the way he interprets comments, the black and white thinking, and paranoia all indicate BPD. I don’t fault Alana and Dani for their behavior toward Shane. Shane needs to learn to cooperate and not dominate the whole group. He realizes on tonight’s show that he did make a mistake with his impulsive choice. I did think it was unfortunate that Alana did not extend an opportunity to Shane to redeem himself, because he was obviously fishing for a way back in, but she doesn’t have too, she is not a mental health worker and couldn’t see the signs. If Shane would have shown a little contrition the women would have taken him back in and he could have had some security. I am afraid Shane is going to be totally rejected by the men now. It is tough out there for male borderlines, I know.

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      1. See, I don’t fault Alana or Dani at all in their decision not to take Shane back. Though much of the fandom on the show’s Facebook page this evening has been quick to decry Alana and Dani as being Mean Girls, they’re completely ignoring how Shane ended the last episode by calling them lazy and accusing them of sponging off of him.

        This becomes doubly funny if you watched Episode 4, in which we see that Shane can’t hunt, can’t fish, can’t be arsed to try grabbing fish out of the water, can’t make a fire without a fire-starter and then tries to go back to the camp pretending nothing happened and asking Alana if she wants to go fishing. I’m also pretty sure his decision to switch to a spear from a bow had less to do with the foliage and everything to do with Dani – the vegetarian, mind you – having fletchery skills he didn’t and making arrows for him.

        You are right though. Had Shane honestly apologized, it would be one thing. But he didn’t. His whole speech was about how he had decided they needed to work together after all and Alana was having none of it. And based on Jeff and EJ’s comments to the camera, it seems pretty clear that they were suspicious of Shane’s eagerness to join them even before Alana and Dani showed up and Shane went all quiet.

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  2. I think it is pathetic how the large group treated Shane and Danielle. They also did not share their stingray with Jeff and EJ, but expected them to share their email. Selfish, lazy, pathetic people. And for the one guy to boast being a Marine and his first episode, he is a poor example of the principles of a Marine.

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