Sunday, January 4, 2015

Welcome back, Ultimate Survival Alaska!

Tonight marked the premiere for Nat Geo's reality based competition "Ultimate Survival Alaska". In the third season, we see the competition hasn't changed much from last year... though there's more of a female presence and this year we have a team of nothing but Cheechakos! What does that give us? TONS OF WHINING to start out the new season.

The teams started out heading to the first USAlaska flag by either crossing an ice covered lake or go around it. These competitions are held in late spring/early summer in Alaska. The lake ice is sketchy at best, still we see both Team Endurance (led by Dallas Seavey) and Team Military head out as it's the quickest way to the flag. After all, this competition is all about the win -  nothing else matters. Nevermind there's not a huge cash prize at the ends, they get bragging rights.

Not 10 minutes in, Dallas Seavey - two time Iditarod champion - falls through the ice. It's a dramatic moment like only reality can bring. The dude is soaked from head to toe, so of course we get a quick striptease where we get to enjoy the sight of his albino chicken chest for a split second or two. Both teams on the ice do make it to the flag without any other incident and exchange a few friendly verbal jabs at each other.

Meanwhile I can't recall them showing Team Alaska much at all in the first half, which is sad because Marty and Tyler are both incredibly popular with the Survival Alaska fandom (even though Marty drives me nuts) but this season is all about the Endurance-Military rivalry which they've made quite clear and typically remind us several times every quarter hour. We get it. Grady's ticked that Dallas won last year. We get it, he wants to beat him. We get it, Dallas only knows how to win. WE GET IT.

The way they break up the intense rivalry, is with the "comedic" (read MORONIC) relief given to us by the non Alaskan team of Team Lower 48. For two hours we're stuck watching the team scream and curse at each other all the while getting lost and being slower than slow. They are the very definition of Cheechako, and it's a total waste of screen time.

Thankfully we get less of the rivalry and more of Team Alaska in the second hour of the premiere - but only because Tyler nearly collides with a teammate while skiing down a very scary mountainside. And all the while we get to listen to the Lower 48 team continue to argue and scream and curse and otherwise annoy the crap out of the audience.

If they could be disqualified in the next episode that would be GREAT.

Dallas demonstrates the danger of a
dog cooker during the Wildride
Sled Dog Rodeo. Summer 2008
There's no dog sled portion in the first episode (though judging by previews next week we'll get that), but Dallas still managed to bring his mushing skills to the table with the construction of his "dog cooker" which is a high heat cooking pot that mushers use to heat up water and food for the dogs (and themselves). We watch him construct one out of a coffee can, and he cooks up a lovely meal of beans and rice on a mountain side as his teammates look on with admiration and praise. Ah. Alaska at its best.

Meanwhile we get to see common sense once again go out the window as the Military team hits the glacier. Their newbie to their group decides that since he's never worn crampons, he doesn't want to try and wear them as they cross the ice with giant crevasses on each side. Shockingly several steps in he slips and slides into the crevasse - thankfully his team knows how to belay and gets him out of the jam. Whew. They tell him to put the crampons on. Why they didn't enforce that to start off with I don't understand.  I'm sensing this will be a theme throughout the whole show. Yay.

I will say that this season premiere kept my attention the entire two hours, unlike last season that I never did finish watching. I'm sure I find more to snark at than I should based on the fact that I do know a lot of it may not be fake, but is staged for dramatic effect or because the cameras didn't capture it as it happened... plus knowing one of the main players in the competition it's hard NOT to find everything overly humorous. It's not like these guys don't know that they're needing to be a little more like caricatures so that fans are entertained. Dallas and Marty are experts at it by now. Marty was somewhat subdued in this episode, but I'm sure we'll see him steal the show in no time.

Endurance clearly has the edge at this point - even with the missteps they had in this episode. Military is right on their heels though.. so far, but we know with this show anything can change. I don't expect Endurance to win. It wouldn't make for good TV.

But we'll see.

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