[WARNING – Mild SPOILERS below.]
With this third episode, Naked and Afraid XL has officially jumped the shark. Any doubt that the educational aspects of the original series have been abandoned in favor of manufactured drama have been as thoroughly eliminated as Honora Bowen, who quickly taps out near the start of the episode.
Sadly, the petty dramatics do not leave with her. Much of this episode is focused on the continuing battle between Alana Barfield and Shane Lewis over their vastly different survival styles. Alana favors conserving energy and limiting daytime activity given the extreme heat whereas Shane favors “earning it”. Based on the footage of Shane “at work”, “earning it” seems to consist of cutting down the trees shading your shelter while whining like a Men’s Rights Activist about how all your problems are caused by women not respecting you.
Curiously their teammate Dani Beauchemin is given little chance to speak in of all of this, though she has – in the face of death threats from Shane’s fans – become vocal on her social media about how the show’s editing has failed to show her and Alana working to maintain the camp and gathering food during the coolest parts of the day, instead focusing on Shane and his antics.
Things are little better with the other groups. The all-women group – Team Rio Negro – is suddenly depicted as being on the verge of starvation, despite having concluded last week’s episode in great shape! There is also drama as Dani Julien feels excluded by Laura Zerra and Eva Rupert, who were close friends in the survivalist community long before either of them became Naked and Afraid contenders, and begins to wander off on her own. This leads to her discovering the camp of Luke and Chris and contemplating abandoning her teammates for the apparently less-hostile camp.
It is near the end of the show that the groups’ XLRs – the rating of how well they are doing at surviving as a group – reveal just how heavily manipulated the show has become. Despite failing to outwit a turtle, who somehow escaped from the pen they build to contain it, the all-male group of Roca Diablo sees no change in their score. The departure of Honora leads to Team Cano Verde’s score going up, despite Team Roca Diablo losing points when Hakim tapped-out due to a medical emergency. And the all-women team sees their score drop nearly a full point, despite their emotional conflicts being resolved before the end of the episode and Dani’s wandering off alone yielding a positive result!
This would seem to go along with the decidedly sexist undercurrent of the show’s editing. Most of the time, when we see the all-women group, it is when they are soaking wet, either trying to fish with a net or cooling off in their pool. And the only scene in which Dani and Alana are seen when they aren’t resting in their camp is when they are rubbing mud on themselves in a bid to keep cool and repel bugs. It is worth noting that this is a time-honored survival technique but the whole affair is treated by the editing and the music as if they were enjoying a day at a spa!
I’ll probably continue watching Naked and Afraid XL just to see how my favorites fare, but I’ll no longer review it. There is precious little to say about it now beyond recapping each week’s new crisis and then ignoring last week’s crisis as circumstances shift on a dime. You’d think I’d be used to this sort of thing as a comic-reader but I expect far better of this series.