"Stranded With a Million Dollars": Week 4

Shockingly, one of the contestants actually shows some real survival skills.
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Shockingly, one of the contestants actually shows some real survival skills.
shelter

Even we'll admit it: That's a solid shelter.

There comes a time when every young reality TV fanboy/girl must watch and review the fourth installment of MTV’s Stranded With a Million Dollars, and your/our time is now. (Sorry for the delay this week, folks. MTV is hard to come by in the Alps, but we are all stateside once again.)

The contestants are 12 days stranded and just 6 remain. We lost Bria to rotten coconuts, Ashley and Michael to blisters, and Chris to rain. Cody and Makani are the best sur-thrivalists, while Alex and Alonzo are solid contenders in the majority alliance. Eilish and Gina are just kind of there. After a shopping binge in episode 2, the contestants chilled a bit in episode 3, only purchasing a $20,000 duffel bag (in which they plan to carry the stacks of money and Cody’s ego). Alonzo didn’t even bite on the Temptation, which leaves the current purse at $141,250. Let’s do this.

We begin with a tearful monologue from Cody about the departure of his closest ally. Well, sorta. He and Makani, front-runners in the competition from a pure survival standpoint, are now severely disadvantaged by Chris’s evacuating. While the two of them seem to function just fine in rain and on Team Spend Money’s potatoes, they can’t make strategic moves in the game because they’re outnumbered.

Meanwhile, Team Spend Money is huddled in the $30,000 tent, which seems important because the drone pans out to show Team Don’t Spend Money Unless It’s On Ponchos sitting in (presumably itchy) grass nearby. Makani is on her soapbox of fairness, lamenting that Team Spend Money doesn’t share the tent, and we’re pretty sure we know how this is going to end because our klepto friend Makani has never seen a potato she didn’t want.

MTV cuts to a scene that’s not all that important for sur-thrival, but it seems important in the large scheme: Alonzo compares Team Spend Money to a band of superheroes. He name-drops Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, leaving us to wonder who between Eilish and Gina was so unceremoniously left out of this metaphor? Said chick’s future in this game suddenly seems pretty grim. Alonzo goes on to compare Cody and Makani to Bane and Joker, and before we can decide which contestant is which villain, our favorite tablet dings.

The 6 remaining contestants must travel 2.7 miles along the coast and uphill through a jungle to the fourth campsite. If they do it in less than 3 hours, they add $100,000 to the prize pool. As always, we’re dubious about this crew’s navigation prowess with a full island to work with and a Google map image on a tablet, but moving less than 1 mph—even if it is off trail—should be doable. Like Alex, though, we’re generally concerned about burger-eating Gina and skinny-jeans-wearing Eilish in any sort of fastpacking situation.

In addition to the stockpot, two-person tent, machete, and firestarter, the crew must haul its money pool (and hopefully the trash from that $5,000 pizza and that $3,750 jar of peanut butter, amirite, fellow LNT cops?). On cue, everyone starts announcing that they’re carrying the most weight and we’re reminded of every group camping trip we’ve ever been on. That said, we here at BACKPACKER strongly believe you can carry roughly a quarter of your bodyweight comfortably, and while Makani et al are waifish, that stockpot does not weigh 30 pounds.

We get to the coastal section, which alternates between sand (Lost Coast calf workout, anyone?) and water up to 4 feet deep (Zion Narrows?). The cast members inch across to the beginning of the jungle ascent without incident and MTV primes us for the latest sufferfest: a 63-degree slope covering more than 500 feet of elevation gain. 

Let’s be real: That’s crazy steep. That’s so steep that if you were standing straight, you could reach out and touch the slope with your hand. That’s steeper than Angels Landing.

BUT IT’S ALL LIES. Drone footage shows the contestants trudging up gentle singletrack and we feel duped. By the time they cruise up to the stacks, the new purse is $241,250, which comes out to $40,208 per person.

Cody, in an uncharacteristic act of teamwork, heads out to find water (points to our biggest fan), while Alonzo, the guy who oscillates between self-assured jerk (complete with superhero references) and loyal friend (saying no to the Temptation), sets down the tent beneath a large tupelo. And in saunters our favorite/least favorite klepto: Makani swoops the tent.

We don’t seem to have any stories in our archives about how to properly express your feelings, but we’re pretty sure Makani is not doing it right. Before we can truly psychoanalyze her, however, Alex relents, leaves her the tent, and walks away with a defiant, “Smell you later, homes!” OK, then.

Since Alonzo stole the raincover, Makani flips the tent on its side in order to use the bathtub floor as a ceiling. Points for creativity, for sure, but it’s good ol’ Cody who really outdoes himself: His shelter is lit AF: He leans a long, thigh-width branch across two trees, so it’s almost like a limbo bar. Then, one by one, he places smaller sticks against the branch and drapes a tarp across the top, creating a lean-to. He lays more sticks across the ground so he doesn’t have to sleep in the mud and, boom, a killer shelter. The BACKPACKER School of Making a Lean-to gives it an A+. We have nothing snide to say to the guy, so we’ll just leave our devoted readers with this.

Meanwhile, Team Spend Money is huddled on top of a tarp beneath the rainfly, as though it were a bivy. It doesn’t work when the sky starts leaking. They unsuccessfully try to reclaim the tent from Makani, then resort to being cold and wet, which is truly no way to survive when early morning temps drop to the low 50s. Alonzo is close to flaring out when the tablet dings for a group buy.

Team Spend Money, which has majority, decides to buy another two-person tent ($30,000), as well as 2 jars of peanut butter ($15,000), a cheeseburger ($3,000), and a deli sandwich ($3,000). The new prize total is $190,250.

In Boulder, we’re all advocating for not spending money for a few reasons, but namely that all the campsites have been near freshwater, the survivalists have a fire-starter, and Cody is a shelter-building whiz kid. We get that they’re hungry, but, in the end, a burger isn’t going to do much in the long run.

For his good behavior, Cody is given a jar of peanut butter (while the other PB and burger and sammie go to Team Spend Money). We hate to admit that he’s growing on us (and wonder if he’d introduce himself to us at a party), but Cody wins us over when he tells the camera that the peanut butter can last him the rest of the time on the island and, when he does finish it, he’ll turn it into a water vessel. Smart guy.

Ding, ding, ding! Next Temptation: This time, it’s Makani. Our sticky-fingered villain chooses Cody, and the two skip off into the sunset where a Thanksgiving-style feast awaits. Because Team Spend Money denied the pariahs cheeseburger, deli sandwich, and, for a majority of the show, tent, Makani and Cody don’t think twice about dropping 15 G’s on lobstah, chicken wings, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and a medley of other caloric delights.

On their way back to camp, Cody has a case of what he calls the “Hershey's squirts,” and we choose to tell you so you can suffer like we did. He appears to prefer The Squat, though he definitely doesn’t pack it out.

Back at camp, our favorite iPad dings. And it’s . . . a Challenge? Gina reads: “Today’s Challenge begins in a wooded clearing (editor’s note: this is an oxymoron) northeast of camp. The 6 of you will compete in teams of 2. Everyone must choose a partner. Each team is provided with a large, empty well, a 3-foot pole, and numerous buckets. Five hundred feet down a beaten path, is a stream. You must run to it and fill the buckets. Then, using the pole, each team must carry the buckets back up the path and empty the water into their designated well. The first team to fill their well wins a reward. Today’s reward will make your survival experience just a little bit more comfortable.”

The teams are:

Cody and Makani (combined sur-thrival score last week: 16)

Alex and Alonzo (13)

Eilish and Gina (7)

So, clearly Team Don’t Spend Money Unless It’s On Ponchos or Lobster is the front-runner for the mystery comfort item. The superhero splinter of Team Spend Money is next up, and the burger-eating, skinny-jeans-wearing duo of Eilish and Gina has no chance; they might even flare out mid-competition. 

Well, predictably, the ladies don’t even try. Gina even says, “Carrying the buckets right now, I wish it was a tray full of cocktails for me and my friends.” Team MaCody takes an early lead, but Team Bro is hot on their heels. We don’t really have any survival techniques to comment on, so, take our word for it, it’s extremely dramatic, and Cody and Makani win. They’re each awarded soap, a pair of socks, and a sleeping pad, the last of which Cody calls a “puss pad.”

While the winners are bathing in the river, Team Scorned, aka Team Spend Money, “break into” Cody and Makani’s tent and eat their peanut butter. “We might not be comfortable, but we will be full of peanut butter,” Alex announces.

Cody returns, happy and cheerful, but later realizes the tent is not zipped “in his specific way.” He opens the peanut butter and more drama is about to unfold. “They took peanut butter,” he whispers in Makani’s freshly washed ear. Team MaCody plots its revenge, and we must wait for next week to enjoy more peanut-butter murmurs.

Current rankings

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

Alex: 7 (He’s in the majority alliance and still not showing signs of breaking.)

Alonzo: 5 (One rainy night of cowboy camping almost did him in.)

Cody: 9 (Less d-baggy than previous episodes, smarter contestant, hella good at making shelters.)

Eilish: 3 (Stealing peanut butter and bragging about it is no way to live.)

Gina: 2 (Side bet that she’s gone next episode, anyone?)

Natalie “Makani”: 8 (Doesn’t complain at all, seems to sur-thrive, but relies on stealing.)

Ashley: 0

Bria: 0

Chris: 0

Michael: 0

Follow up on our Stranded With a Million Dollars review page to read our next recap.