One of the shows in my TiVo's heavy rotation of late is Man vs. Wild.
It features British ex-Special Services man Bear Grylls demonstrating survival techniques in harsh climates and dangerous conditions. Each episode, his crew will airdrop him -- and some gear, and a few cameras, and a couple of cameramen, and maybe some EMTs, or a sleeping car, or a catering staff; the show's not too clear on the details -- into some godforsaken wasteland or other, and it's his job to show you how you'd stay alive.
If some television crew ever kidnapped you and airdropped you into the aforesaid godforsaken wasteland.
Which seems none too likely to me. But I've decided never to piss off the people at the Discovery Channel, just to be safe. The show's beamed down to my television; they probably know where I live.
"I fully expect his next show to be called 'Thirty-Eight Uses for Shoelaces When You're Lost in the African Savanna'"
Anyway, it's all very entertaining to watch this guy calmly stare down death using his wits, his survival tricks and a MacGuyveresque contraption here and there. I fully expect his next show to be called 'Thirty-Eight Uses for Shoelaces When You're Lost in the African Savanna'.
(Which, if 'keeping your shoes attached to your feet' isn't on the list, is thirty-eight more than I can think of. I'm crossing 'African savanna' off my list of vacation destinations right now.)
Of course, extreme conditions call for extreme measures to survive. Most of which, it turns out, are extremely disgusting. Thanks to this show, I've now seen a man cook and eat a skunk, drink his own urine from a knotted snakeskin, and squeeze the juice from day-old elephant dung into his mouth for moisture.
(Should I ever meet Mr. Grylls and become friendly enough to exchange holiday presents, a 'poop juicer' is now high on the list of gifts I might buy him. I hear those can be real time-savers.
Also, it's either that or a monogrammed snakeskin peeholder. And I can't imagine getting that friendly with the guy. Or anyone with funky grilled skunk breath.)
This is to say nothing of one of his more common menu items -- insects. I get that bugs are a great source of protein, and I understand that if you're marooned in the wild, you have to take nourishment however you can get it. But if my survival ever depends on squeezing the poop out of some moth larva and sticking it in my mouth, then you might as well start writing the eulogy now. I'm not even getting to the Dumbo plop and the piss cocktail stage; I'll be dead cold larva poop myself long before that.
So it's fun to see a guy really push the limits of survival -- or pretend to push the limits, at least, before the helicopter just out of camera range whisks them all back to base camp for a nice filet and a Swedish massage. But lately, I've been starting to worry a bit about the show. Something's been nagging at me, and I've finally put my finger on it:
I think his crew is trying to kill him.
There's a disclaimer during the show that sometimes the crew will 'set up' situations for Bear to tackle, to demonstrate some certain technique or make a particular point. Or to make him drink his own pee, evidently.
The feeling I'm getting, though, is that while the crew has free reign to fabricate these setups, the star of the show doesn't appear to have any sort of veto power. I watched a show the other night, for instance, where he talked about being allergic to bee stings.
While standing next to a huge nest of bees. In Africa. Where some of the bees, you might imagine, are Africanized. Which is not the good kind of bee.
He then discussed a plan to approach the nest and steal a honeycomb from the hive. Clearly at the urging of the crew. You could almost see the director standing off-camera making little 'go on! do it!' motions. Possibly while holding Bear's family hostage at an undisclosed location.
So of course he walked over to the nest, and plucked out a big dripping ooze of honey and wax. And of course a bee sat right on his forehead and stung the living shit out of him for it. And his face swelled, and his eyes puffed, and he spent the rest of the episode looking like the kid from Mask on a 'bad face day'.
Last night, it was even worse. They'd dropped Grylls off in Siberia -- god only knows who he pissed off to get that assignment -- and had him crossing a frozen lake on foot. He was clearly being cautious to test the ice at every step, even relating a story about he and a friend falling into a frozen lake once and barely making it out alive. Just slipping and sliding around out there is 'extreme' enough, right? I mean, you're in fricking Siberia, fer crissakes.
Nuh-uh, says the crew.
The next scene has Grylls stripped down to his undies and socks, standing beside a four-foot square hole that the crew have carved into the ice. They've got another hole just like it a few yards away, and they want him to hop in and swim, under the ice, from one hole to the next. In subzero temperatures. In the middle of a lake. In Siberia.
I've got to say, he looked worried. He kept talking about how hypothermia sets in quickly, and how the water would numb his limbs immediately, and how cold blood from your fingertips could travel to your heart and kill him. I thought he might tell his kids that if daddy doesn't come back from his swimming trip, he loves them very, very much. They probably cut that part out in editing.
But he made the swim. And he lived to shiver another day. And now I know just what to do to have a slim, fleeting hope at survival, should anyone ever put a gun to my head and make me do the breaststroke in the middle of Siberia someday. I'll just keep that in mind until it happens.
Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to seeing how the crew will nearly -- or completely -- kill Bear next time. I'm thinking it'll be a Hawaiian jungle shoot, and as he skirts a volcano rim they'll say:
'Go on, just hop in. It's only lava. Don't you want to show people how to survive lava?'
And he'll probably do it. Bless his little soon-to-be-charred remains.
Come to think of it, i think I know what's going on here. There's one 'survival skill' our intrepid Brit seems to be missing, and it may soon cost him dearly:
'Never let your crew take out a big fat life insurance policy on you.'
Man may beat Wild. But can he tackle Producer and Cameraman and Gaffer at the same time? Stay tuned to find out.