I had my doubts about Naked and Afraid, a survival show that puts a man and a woman in the jungle naked for three weeks, with the bare (no pun intended) minimum of tools. They’re given a bag with one tool provided by the producers, and a single survival tool they are permitted to bring with them. Then they must work together to build shelter, find water and food, and hopefully find it in themselves to see it through to the end as the days get hotter and sometimes more dangerous.
This is not Survivor. There is no prize for getting to the end of the 21 days. The participants do not know each other, but come to the table with a different background or set of skills. The nudity may seem excessive, but the novelty wears off as the need to survive becomes more important.
It was actually a radio interview that enlightened me to these aspects of the show, so that when I saw they were running all of the episodes on Saturday, I was eager to see more.
The Kim and Gary episode was the first episode I actively planned to watch. Kim, a 23 year-old single mother, and Gary, a 53 year-old retired cop were placed on an island in Panama.
At first it appeared that Gary would be taking the lead in this situation, since he also had military experience on top of his years working in law enforcement. Although Kim had some survival training prior to this, she brought a bowstring tool for starting a fire that she didn’t appear to be experienced with. This meant going at least two nights without fire in a jungle that dropped to the sixties at night, compounded by wind and moisture. Gary was annoyed at this, which you can forgive him for, but eventually Kim was able to get a fire going, motivated by little more than a desperate need to not have another cold night.
On the third day, Gary succumbed to low blood pressure and was taken out of the jungle, leaving Kim alone to fend for herself for the remaining time. And she rose to the occasion, finding food, and even managing to kill a baby caiman just to get badly needed protein into her system.
As I said, Naked and Afraid becomes less about the Naked as the challenge wears on. It reminds us that we are all naked in different ways at different times, and that we are not defined by what’s on the surface, but what we have within us when the situation demands it. You can be a vulnerable single-mother on an island in the jungle, but your station in life doesn’t define you when you have no way of knowing where your next drink of clean water is coming from.