Backpacker Reviews "Stranded With a Million Dollars": Week 1

In which we meet our would-be survivalists, and judge them.
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In which we meet our would-be survivalists, and judge them.
stranded reality show

Welcome, trusty BACKPACKER/reality TV fans! OK, maybe there are only two of you, but don’t be ashamed! We aren’t. So let’s recap episode 1 of MTV’s Stranded With A Million Dollars. (Read: Spoilers ahead.)

Episode 1 brings us to Taveuni Island of Fiji somewhere in the South Pacific. MTV would probably like us to believe it’s a deserted island, but it’s not. No matter, it’s photogenic, with emerald green forests abutting turquoise waters, and the eastern side is supposedly undeveloped, so maybe that’s where we are. MTV tells us the season is “tropical cyclone,” which isn’t really a season, but means it’s probably wintertime, when the island faces “as much as 10 meters” of rain. It’s also probably warm. MTV says the main predators are snakes and boars. Here we go!

First, we meet Alex. Alex is on the show to win money so he can “get married.” Very un-millennial. Also, don’t really understand the connection, but let’s move on.

Next, we meet Cody, and things really get good. Cody tells us that back at home, when he’s at a party, he like to introduce himself to “the most attractive female” and that he’s an “alpha male” out here to “challenge himself,” which means that, not only is he extremely classy, he’s going to be a great trip leader someday. Except not. We’re skeptical. Also, it looks like he’s wearing a puka-shell necklace, which hasn’t been cool since 1997. #justsayin

Michael, we learn, has the best hiking acumen (his “profession” is listed as “Eagle Scout”), but he’s also just out here “for the money,” so we’ll see. We also meet an army vet, working mom, and model, so we truly have a motley crew of survivalists.

The contestants receive the flare guns (not unlike a certain trilogy that our generation loves) to signal when they want out, plus the money, and the game begins!

The group finds that there is a freshwater spring conveniently nearby, and we, the viewers, take a unified sigh of relief. Their attempts to break open coconuts are semi-successful, and Bria, the model, may have ingested a rotten one, which is weird, because taste should have tipped her off. Not smart.

Meanwhile, Alex steps up to the plate and announces: (1) that the contestants will need to work as a team, (2) that “we need a fire,” and (3) that we need a shelter. Points to Alex.

However, Cody, the puka-shell wearing alpha male, and Chris, a construction worker with a fittingly awful farmer’s tan, decide that they’re going to be “allies.” In reality-show speak, this means that they’re going to team up to screw everyone else over, then stab each other in the backs. Game on.

A mysterious iPad dings, and we’re reminded that, PHEW, we may be stuck on a deserted island, but at least we have our tablets!! Also: It tells us that every so often the crew will have the opportunity to place orders for items by dipping into the prize pool.

Cody starts campaigning for the team to not spend any money, but Alex begins lobbying for an $8,000 hatchet. We would like to remind the millennials of the, cough, Ten Essentials, cough. (BACKPACKER sides with Alex and Team Hatchet, aka Team Sensible: Buy the hatchet. Even if it is the priciest hatchet we’ve ever heard of—and def isn’t ultralight.) It ends up a five-on-five stalemate, and the rules state you need majority to make a purchase, so no hatchet.

While we’re at, we’d also like to point out that, in addition to a hatchet, we would have liked to see them buy sunscreen (was that an option?), some layers, and something to make fire with because we kind of doubt that they’ll be able to spin a blaze from wet palm fronds. But we digress…

We watch the group try to make a shelter, which is more like watching a bunch of dodo birds waddle around sticking their heads into random holes, though it is entertaining when the predictable deluge hits and the contestants are forced to huddle beneath a random assemblage of sticks and ferns.

TEAR ALERT: Gina, the waitress, says she “doesn’t finish anything” and begins weeping. (Gina will not be making our fantasy team.) The next morning, she starts telling the drones that she wants to leave the game (less than 24 hours after starting). We’d like to remind Gina that rain is awesome and primal; it forces you to live in the moment. Here’s a reminder.

Pan to some girl we haven’t met yet who is doing yoga on the beach. We learn that her name is Natalie, but she goes by Makani, which means “the wind” in Hawaiian. She says she knows how to live off of the land because she was a farmer (adding even more organic points). “I’m just trying to keep it zen, don’t worry about too much, stay strong, eat coconuts.” Direct quote. She’s weird, but she might do well… Chill trip partners are the best trip partners. (Oh, also, if you want to learn yoga for backpacking, go here.) Yoga girl earns points in our book by telling the group they need fire, but then quickly loses them by suggesting that they buy storage containers.

The tablet dings again signaling that more drama is upon us! It’s the first “Temptation,” which the audience learns is a chance for only two of the group to dip into the prize pool and indulge in a pure luxury. And, bless our lucky stars, our girl Gina is randomly selected. She chooses Michael, the Eagle Scout, neither of whom were in Team Hatchet, mind you.

Gina and Michael are whisked away to an umbrella-sheltered patio where wine, champs, beer, chips, pretzels, wings, and burgers await. It looks like a resort pool bar and we’re just waiting for the scantily clad cocktail waitress to emerge when the debating begins. OK, no real debating happens at all: The two decide to pay $15,000 for the burger meal, and we watch as they stuff their faces with greasy foods that probably won’t help them survive in the short or long runs. They decide that they won’t tell anyone back at the frond houses what they’ve done; instead, they’ll tell them they were asked to compete in a challenge for food, failed the challenge, and didn’t get the food.

Meanwhile, half the group attempts to make fire. And what a struggle it is. Shoelaces can’t even save these guys. (Also, why did they move from the wind-sheltered forest to the exposed coast and choppy surf to build this fire?) We’ll refer you to the graf above where we suggested buying fire-starting supplies, then refer you to this refresher.

Meanwhile, Bria, the model, is apparently very ill. She starts getting a ton of airtime with which she uses to complain and vomit some. Someone suggests that it was the bad coconuts, and we high-five each other from our cubicles in Boulder, Colorado, because we called that above. (Side bets, anyone?)

The end of the episode is nearing and the tablet is ringing. The survivalists are instructed to move to the next camp in order to collect the next $100,000 for their prize pool. The entire group must make it to the destination in three and a half hours, or else no moolah. Bria is in no state for fastpacking, so Cody and Chris take the opportunity to beat a horse when it’s down and essentially peer-pressure her into self-evacuating with the flare gun. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it,” she laments to the drone before helicoptering out. We will take a selfie in your honor, Bria

Millennials, lift up your fellow millennials in this tough time. A week ’til episode 2.

Current rankings (reminder: the scale is 1-10, where 1 is “just barely surviving” and 10 is “totally sur-thriving”):

Alex: 7 He’s exhibited signs of being a good trip leader, but his fire-starting skills were suspect. Also, not sure how much longer he can subsist on coconuts.

Alonzo: 5 He seems fiiiiiiine. Every trip needs go-with-the-flow people, but the whole coconut thing will affect him, too.

Ashley: 5 She gets a 5 because we have no idea who she is.

Bria: 0

Chris: 7 He hasn’t complained yet, and while we disagree with his general jerk-ish-ness, the survival of the fittest thing will work for the time being.

Cody: 6 He’s on par with Alex and Chris, but he’s the most outspoken jerk of them all, so the threat of mutiny knocks him down a point.

Eilish: 5 Another mystery contestant.

Gina: 2 $15,000 burgers are no way to survive.

Michael: 3 He’s only slightly better off than Gina because he hasn’t cried yet.

Natalie “Makani”: 8 Oddly, this space cadet seems the best off thus far. Go figure.

Tune in next week; the second episode will air on Tuesday night at 10 p.m ET/PT. Follow up on our Stranded With a Million Dollars review page to read our next recap on Wednesday.