What I’m Riding . . . Naked and Afraid

Jonathan and Alison in the lovely beach trash items she scavenged for them.

Jonathan and Alison in the lovely beach trash items she scavenged for them.

No this isn’t the theme to my niece Jessica’s upcoming thirtieth birthday bash at Boogie Nights in Atlantic City.  It’s an actual show on The Discovery Channel featuring two strangers, one man and one woman, who are left somewhere in a jungle or desert or tropical island to see how well they can survive the elements and get along with each other.  Oh yeah; and they’re naked while they do it.  It’s like Survivor, less eighteen days, sixteen contestants and Jeff Probst.  And a million dollars.  The prize here is fifteen minutes of fame and getting out alive.  

Arty Party originally brought the show to my attention.  She had the television on in her office one day and called me over.  “Um, did you ever hear of this?”  I saw two naked asses trekking through a forest.  They were white, so I knew it couldn’t be Nat Geo.  “What the hell is this?”  I asked.  A spoof?  Was it Tosh.0?  No.  It was Naked and Afraid.  They were having a marathon showing Sunday night and I taped and watched five episodes so you won’t have to, although I’m sure you will, the highlights of which are outlined below.  Microwave some Rotel and Velveeta, break open the bag of Santitas and crack the tab of a Dew (or whatever your beverage of choice)–it’s time for Naked And Afraid, the What I’m Riding mix.

The premise of the show is made clear at the beginning of every episode, just in case you’re thinking maybe you missed the point:  one man and one woman–complete strangers who are described as “survival experts,” like, for example, if you live in Alaska or were in the military–will be dropped off somewhere not too nice and left there for twenty-one days, at the end of which a boat or helicopter comes to get them at something called “the extraction point,” which actually sounds like the place on your body where they would drain a particularly nasty cyst.  At the outset each–contestant?  participant?–is given a rating by a panel of experts (someone like Bear Grylls?) based on their odds of not dying.  Based on a scale of 1-10, this rating is called the Primitive Survival Rating.  They also get a burlap shoulder bag with one survival item of choice inside (one person requests a knife; another a metal pot).  The point of all this, besides providing a disturbing sense of entertainment?  Getting out alive.  Yep.  Your life is your prize.

The happy couple featured in our first episode, set in Costa Rica, is Shane (40 yrs old from Connecticut, a PSR of 5.8) and Kim (22 yrs old from Minnesota, a PSR of 7.6).  (Before we meet them, though, we are told the executive producer was bitten by a deadly snake while scouting the area.  We are treated to a montage of photos featuring his swollen Technicolor foot, then the foot after the poison really sets in, the foot eaten through ligaments down to bare bone, and then a semi-healed foot, which no longer resembles a foot.  Okay, NOW we’re ready to meet the happy couple.)  It’s a good thing PSR doesn’t stand for Personality Survival Rating or Proper Speech Requirements, because when Shane asks Kim how Minnesota is, she answers, “Cold,” and at one point Shane describes the ground as “damp and moist,” a deadly combination on its own: thank God it also wasn’t a little wet.  Later he will tell Kim, “I’m not injured; I’m just hurt.”  I’m not laughing, either; just giggling.  Shane does give us some great tips on killing snakes, though:  “It’s all about speed and how big your balls are.”  He and Kim skin and cook it, and we are treated to a shot of the heart sitting alone on a log, still pulsating.  Kim tells us snake heart, lung and liver taste like hot dog.  That’s funny; so do pig heart, lung and liver.  Poor Shane is also a little like the Schleprock of the episode, almost always dying.  We know this, because he keeps telling Kim, “I almost died back there!” when she rolls her eyes at his personal pity party moments.  We also know because we witness him slide on his (naked, remember, naked) ass down a one hundred and twenty foot rock formation and almost burn to death when the shelter they’ve built catches fire while he’s sleeping in it.  The main thing that puzzled me about the two of them, however, is that they wait twenty days before starting the hike towards their Extraction Point.  You’d think they’d set out for that their first day there.  Why wait until you’ve been deprived of real food and water for twenty days before undertaking such an excursion?  Still their PSR went up by the end of the episode, his to 8.4, hers a measly .2 points.

Our next episode takes place on the Maldives Islands.  Our happy couple is Jonathan (36 from California with a PSR of 6.9) and Alison (27 from Hawaii with a PSR of 8.0).  The wisdom they impart on us comes from Alison:  “Any situation where you’re thrown into where you meet someone naked you’re going to be awkward.”  You think?  I think the awkward part happened when I met you naked.  She also says, “Oh my God, this is like a movie.”  No, Alison.  It’s like television.  Oh, no, wait:  it is television.  But we’ll give Alison a break.  As Arty put it, “This woman is a beast.”  She weaves a bra top and skirt for herself out of leaves, a hat, a blanket, and later on beach bags.  She finds and mashes up berries to use as a salve on Jonathan’s burns, which have incapacitated him on day 1.  She fishes, she climbs trees for coconuts, she axes an eel to death and then apologizes to its carcass.  She scans the coastline for what she calls “beach trash” and comes back with a shredded shirt for herself, speedo-type underwear for him, mismatched flip flops for both of them.  She gets her period–which I always think about during Survivor, why don’t they let us know what these women are going through; why do they just ignore that–and has debilitating cramps, but keeps on keeping on.  One of the best moments of the episode comes when Jonathan digs for water and drinks it without boiling it.  Alison warns him he could get sick and he gets a mean case of the squirts, which Alison steps in.  She chastises him about not crapping so close to their shelter.  His shorts handed to him, he apologizes.  Even a dog knows not to shit where it sleeps.  Jonathan also reminds me of our manly man Shane from Costa Rica when he describes himself as having “anxious anxiety and being nervous.”  Clearly they didn’t have open casting at Harvard.  For all this exemplary display of survivor skills (they even moved closer to their Extraction Point within the first week), Alison gets a paltry bump of .4 in her PSR, while Jonathan graduates to 7.2.

Our next location is Tanzania and wasn’t as entertaining as the two previous.  Our man is EJ (46 from North Carolina with a PSR of 7.3) and our lady is Kellie (38 from Alaska with a PSR of 7.5).  They do start out for the Extraction Point immediately, but once there spend their time sitting by the fire talking about their feelings and how they don’t respect each other’s needs and importance like it’s an episode of Dr. Phil.  The highlight comes when they are trying to catch fish and Kellie sits germ-spreadum in the water calling, “Here fishy fishy.”  Yes, lovelies, she does it; she catches a fish in her crotch.

Our next exotic locale is Borneo (where Survivor went season 1), and our happy couple is an all-star Malcolm wannabe named Puma (38, from Nevada with a PSR of 7.1) and Julie (30, from Washington with a PSR of 5.5).  I think it’s also noteworthy that Julie is 6’4″ and when she’s walking behind Puma with a spear-like stick, hunched over as they make their way through the jungle, they look like points on an evolution chart.  It is also of interest that this is the first episode I’ve seen where the man is excited to see a naked girl.  Puma may be from Nevada, but obviously not from Las Vegas–or Pahrump–if nakedness doesn’t make him want to yawn by now.  Their first night sleeping in the jungle something wakes them up.  Julie calls out, “Hello?”  Waits a minute, then says it again:  “Hello?”  What response, exactly, is she expecting?  “It’s just me, a wild boar, passing through, go back to sleep, no worries, I won’t pillage you or your camp.”  Perhaps a human neighbor stranded there by some other ridiculous reality show?  Words of wisdom from this male participant: “The jungle is relentless; it never stops.”  Even our woman gets in on the redundancy when speaking about leeches: “I want to kill every single one of them, and make them all die.”  It is on day 2 when Puma commits the act that will seal his fate:  he drinks unpurified water.  By day 9 he is burning up with a fever of 105 degrees and has to be lifted out by helicopter and taken to a hospital.  Julie lasts a week more without him, then gives it up on day 18.  Given all this, both of their PSR’s drop, to 6.1 (Puma) and 5.0 (Julie).  Um, if not taken out, Puma would be dead, so I think his PSR should be 0.0.  Certainly not higher than Julie’s, who lasted a week longer than he did.

The last episode of our marathon is set in Panama and comes with the distinction of being “Uncensored.”  I’m excited; I’m thinking this means no pixellated privates.  I mean, I get to see a leg half eaten away by snake poison, a pus-filled swollen foot being extracted, but nothing so common as a set of balls and a pair of tits.  Really?  I am disappointed when I find out being “uncensored” means I get to read pop-up video type information blips and fan Tweets.  So much more exciting to watch naked people struggle in a jungle while you’re telling me one of them likes to line dance and actually performs country music while clothed.  Anyway, our still censored happy couple for this outing is Clint (of course Clint, he’s country, 25, from Indiana, PSR 6.9) and Laura (27, from New Hampshire, PSR 7.9).  Clint lets us know from the outset that he’s hoping his naked girl is attractive so he won’t be bored–or not carrying a stiffy, I suppose–for twenty-one days.  Clint has a pot belly and moobs.  Their survival items?  Laura chooses a machete.  Clint chooses goggles.  I was making fun of Clint’s choice until Laura almost lobs her finger off while opening a coconut.  Goggles are looking like a pretty wise choice right about now.  Then again, we find out later Clint can’t really swim and quits his first time out fishing.  Now the goggles are back to being the worst choice ever.  Laura persists and eventually snags them two lobsters.  The DVR cuts off before I can see their adjusted PSR’s, but I’ll drop Clint’s to a 6.5 and give the points to Laura, upping her to 8.3.

The season finale is on this Sunday, beautiful babies, at nine pm EST.  Now you have all you need to know about settling in with Naked and Afraid.  While you watch I grant you one survival item–a couch or a pillow or a bag of chips or a drink–and a PSR of 9.9.  This show is too good to not see through til the end.  And if you watch it with two friends, you can have a couch, and chips and a drink.

About whatimriding

Born and raised in Philly, I spent the past seven years in Las Vegas, working at the House of Blues and writing about the city. I now reside in Tampa, where I continue to work on novels, scripts and short stories and mourn the departure of Vincent Lecavalier from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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One Response to What I’m Riding . . . Naked and Afraid

  1. Elise says:

    Oh my god your comments crack me up! “Perhaps a human neighbour stranded there by some other ridiculous reality show?” – pure GOLD. This is essentially the most entertaining description I’ve ever read of Naked & Afraid.

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