[WARNING – Mild SPOILERS below.]
This author received some commentary after my review of the first episode of Naked And Afraid XL, asking just why Kabooooom.com was covering this show when it’s devoted toward comic books in specific and geek culture in general. While it would be fair to say this show has no direct connection to comics, Naked and Afraid XL does have a tangential relationship to some of our favorite comic books.
For instance, my favorite superhero of all time is Green Arrow. And as those of you who are fans of the comics or the TV show Arrow are well-aware, he spent a few years stranded on an island struggling to survive. Other costumed heroes, like The Phantom and the original Shanna The She-Devil, also boast survivalist backgrounds.
Given that, it doesn’t take much of an effort to draw a line from such fictional characters to the contenders on Naked and Afraid – many of whom are real-world heroes in their day-jobs as soldiers, search-and-rescue workers and EMTs. If nothing else, you have to admire their courage in facing the wilds of the savannas of Columbia with nothing but a few tools and their wits.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Man Vs. Nature theme established by the original Naked and Afraid has been completely abandoned in favor of the Survivor-style drama typical of most reality shows. The opening narration now notes that the contenders must “master the environment and survive each other”. And the clips following this proclamation suggest the later point will prove the greater problem.
Indeed, the lion’s share of this episode is focused upon Team Cano Verde – a two man/one woman trio that had trouble working together from the very beginning. This is no surprise to fans of the original series, given that this team contains two of the show’s most polarizing survivalists – herbalist Honora Bowen and commercial fisherman Chris Fischer. The only person viewers are likely to have any sympathy for in all of this nonsense is holistic survival instructor Luke McLaughlin, who tries to maintain the peace between his volatile teammates. At least until even his saint-like patience is broken by Honora crossing the line with actions that endanger them all.
The other three teams get less time put together than Team Cano Verde, presumably because there is so little comparative drama between them. The all-male group of Team Roca Diablo, struggling after the loss of one teammate, are too busy searching for food and water to fight. And the all women group of Team Rio Negro – finally united after Dani Julien spent her first week surviving all alone – put the other teams to shame with how well they function as a group, being the only team to see their Primitive Survival Rating go up over the course of the first week.
The only real tension lies in Team El Bosque, where the psychotic Shane Lewis continues to alternatively terrify and amuse his female teammates. His attempts at bonding around the campfire sound like every Nice Guy speech about how women don’t appreciate a good man like him. And his failed attempts at hunting lead to whining about how he needs a store-bought compound bow to be effective. Oliver Queen, he ain’t.
Amusing as it is to watch self-described Alpha-Males be humbled by more capable women (Alana Barfield proves more capable of catching animals with her bare hands than Shane is with a bow), this episode proves a sad spectacle. There’s hardly any of the educational content the original Naked and Afraid was famous for in this episode. Just heaping helpings of pointless drama and petty conflict.
Those viewers who enjoy that sort of thing will continue to enjoy this series. But those who expect a Discovery Channel series to be educational first and amusing second will be sorely disappointed.
6 thoughts on “NAKED AND AFRAID XL Season 1 Episode 2 [Review]”
I saw these episodes and I cannot agree with hardly anything this writer has written.
“… survival instructor Luke McLaughlin, who tries to maintain the peace between his volatile teammates.”
Really? Seems to me that, while abrasive, Fischer is at least competent and supportive of the team’s survival efforts, while Honora basks in the sun and whines about the heat (why not get into the shade?), then turns and actively attempts to sabotage the team’s survival efforts. She’s lucky this is a show–in a real life survival situation, others would likely neutralize her pretty fast, and be completely justified in their actions.
“The all-male group of Team Roca Diablo, struggling after the loss of one teammate, are too busy searching for food and water to fight.”
The two guys wouldn’t fight anyway. They act as gentlemen, even under the stress of not having water. They were gentlemen in previous episodes.
“Amusing as it is to watch self-described Alpha-Males be humbled by more capable women”
You mean the trio of women who are celebrating sharing minnows for dinner? We’ll see how long that lasts. And that one with the machete who sliced her finger, I could see that coming the way she was holding her off hand too near the end of the stick she was carving. Real skills there.
This entire article shows a gender bias. Honestly, the survivalists working hardest and smartest to survive are the two who are weighted down with crazy Honora. And the ones getting along best seem to be the two gentlemen who have finally hacked their way through the brush to find water.
I have been watching all of season 1 and 2! Why are they being so mean to each other? That has been bothering me so and a lot of people!
Starvation and sexual harassment tend to make people edgy. And a lot of the meanness and “laziness” can be explained by manipulative editing. EJ Snyder himself took the show to task for this on his blog, saying that – in Season One of NAXL – there was much more trading between the two groups than was depicted and that the larger group was not just living off of the food The Alpha Male team shared. Indeed, he singled out “mean girls” Alana and Dani Beau for sharing their dried fruit rations with him and Jeff.
Ultimate, a lot of producers think reality shows like this should be treated like pro-wrestling. There have to be heels and faces for the crowd to root for. Unfortunately, who they chose to be the heels and faces doesn’t work in the face of the original series, which was much more educational and drama-free. Anyone who accuses women like Alana Barfield, Laura Zerra or Eva Rupert of being lazy or being carried on the backs of their male companions clearly didn’t watch the original Naked and Afraid.
>I saw these episodes and I cannot agree with hardly anything this writer has written.
That’s fine. It would be a boring (albeit more peaceful) world if everyone agreed with me. 🙂
> “Seems to me that, while abrasive, Fischer is at least competent and supportive of the team’s survival efforts, while Honora basks in the sun and whines about the heat…”
Oh, I don’t doubt Fischer’s skills. But he did drive his partner from his first challenge into quitting because of his attitude. And while Honora’s reactions were completely unacceptable, he didn’t help matters with all his talk about how lucky she was to have him and Luke watching over her. However accurate that was, nobody likes being patronized and Fischer should have known better, knowing what a short fuse Honora has.
>This entire article shows a gender bias.
With respect, I’d say you’re the one with the gender bias. You’re so certain that the all-male group would never fight but think it’s only a matter of time before the all women group starts arguing. And the only thing you can criticize the all women group for is one person cutting their hand.
>Honestly, the survivalists working hardest and smartest to survive are the two who are weighted down with crazy Honora.
Luke and Chris know their wood lore, no question. And I doubt I’d fare as well dealing with her.
> And the ones getting along best seem to be the two gentlemen who have finally hacked their way through the brush to find water.
Also impressive. Not as impressive as the woman who survived alone for a week before finding the rest of her teammates for my money, but to each their own.
Thanks for your comments!
I agree that this show has very little educational value. Practically all the participants are gaming the system by enduring as oppose to surviving, knowing full well that they can either tap out or be given emergency medical aid. Many have adopted the strategy of just doing enough so they can “cross the finish line” regardless of being half dead or significantly worse than when they started. But given the really harsh environment, this strategy may be the best option. Biggest lesson learned, if you don’t agree on a common strategy, pull out.
Yes, one of the bigger debates I’ve seen in the on-line forums has been about the “thrive, not survive” issue – i.e. conserving energy and resources to get by vs. going all out to try and live comfortably instead of just living.
Personally, I favor the ant/tortoise approach – slow and steady wins the race, as they say. And as you noted, given the environment with its limited resources, shelter and 120+ degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, that probably is the smarter approach. And I think it’s telling that most of the failed survivalists on the original Naked And Afraid were the ones who went in thinking they were going to force the land to submit to their will.
Thanks for your comments!