This is a recap and review of History Channel’s Alone, Season 9, Episode 1, “Drop Shock.”
If you like Alone, the season starts in a similar way to the others, though they’ve cut a lot of fat in terms of intros, location overviews, and “first day jitters.” This season is set in Labrador, Canada. Labrador is the continental region of the province of Newfound and Labrador, and most of it has a subarctic climate. As such, the weather is a serious threat, and polar bears even more so. As contestant Jacques says in this episode, “there are only three animals that hunt humans: polar bears, lions, and other humans.”
As is usual in the show’s format, the episode only focuses on a few members of the cast. In this one, we watch Karie Lee, Jessie, Benji, Jacques, Juan Pablo, and Igor.
I’m going to recap their first four days and then tell you whether I (in no way a wilderness survival expert, hunter, or even a very frequent camper) think they’ll do well based on what we’ve seen. I’ll revise my estimate on who I think will leave the next week and who will win!
Spoilers to follow.
Recap and Review
A great deal of a competitor’s success on Alone is based on mentality, and Karie Lee was very enthused to be on the show. While being the second oldest person on the show ever, she also has 50 years of experience in the wilderness. She lives in a yurt, so she is used to the cold, foraging, hunting, and other survival skills. She has a boyfriend whom she might miss (though it seems the women on Alone seem to miss the men far less than vice versa, or perhaps they deal with it better).
Karie built her shelter in a higher altitude wooded area, and we didn’t see anything past her initial shelter. She’s proven to be a good hunter, as she caught a plump grouse almost right away. Even when it comes to black flies, her positive mindset is one of her best strengths. And, honestly, as someone who goes up north in Ontario a lot, black flies are no joke. Like polar bears, they also hunt you, and the bites they take are best defined as chunks.
Benji started with a nice spot along the coast that turned out to be a bit boggy. Deciding to forgo making a shelter to find food was a bit of a mistake because he got instantly soaked in a downpour. Benji is a bow hunter, bear hunter, makes traps, and he’s also a weight lifter who was super ripped in the clip of him at home. He left behind a wife and baby daughter, which might be his downfall. Kids change so much at that age; it would be heart-wrenching to leave a baby knowing when you get back, you’ll have missed so many “firsts” (steps, words, etc.).
Despite the shelter setback, Benji killed a squirrel, found a crop of bunchberries, and built a Tenkara rod for fly fishing that he used to catch twelve tiny Brook Trouts.
He also brought a chunk of Himalayan salt to add to his meals, which, along with minerals, would add to his happiness factor significantly.
Jessie claims the show is about primitive living versus survival, which is what Alone has evolved into over the seasons. She has a background in this and wishes to use any potential prize money to help with her wilderness survival school for women. In truth, I was swayed by her comments about wanting to be the first woman to win and how she wants to encourage more women into survivalism – as such, I think she has an external motivation to win. She does leave behind a huge family and boyfriend, which might make it hard. We don’t see much of her, other than the experience at night with a bear around her camp, which she handled in an extraordinarily calm way.
Unlike the others, Juan Pablo spent the first few minutes disgruntled. He claimed expecting misery makes him thankful for the good stuff, but I’m not sure how long that attitude will last. Though, he did spend 100 days foraging and trapping in Manitoba, where it’s far colder (-37 celsius in his clip of home). Juan Pablo does have a girlfriend, Jennifer, whom he wants to start a family with, so missing her might be an issue for him. He drank 350ml of olive oil a day to build fat for the competition, so maybe he is serious after all.
In the episode, Pablo finds bear scat, locates a good spot to set up camp that is high up and has access to water, and he stumbles upon some cans! My favourite part of the show is how creative people can be, and Juan Pablo makes that incredible stove out of the cans and some clay. He uses the material from his gaiters and a makeshift needle to create a patch for the chimney so his tarp won’t melt too, which was so fun. My real question is, though: who left all those cans!?
The youngest contestant spends the first few minutes singing and quickly shows his youth has given him a leg up on strength and energy. He’s also from Alaska, so he knows the cold, and he’s a glacier guide and has experience with bears. He also lives in a van with his girlfriend and dog, so he’s used to living off the grid. In the episode, he managed to shoot a squirrel out of a tree, and, after a bit of a chase, got a grouse too. In the few short days, he also managed to build a sort of wall in his tarp out of wood, and, the coolest thing … he found a jaw-based trap from the 1800s just lying in the woods! Personally, I’d set that thing up, forget it was there, and step on it, so power to him for using it!
I first thought his youth might hold him back, but it turns out the woods is a safe place for Jacques as survival skills helped him through a very difficult childhood. I’m rooting for Jacques (and not just because he kind of looks like Charlie Hunnan from Pacific Rim and Sons of Anarchy).
We first see Igor when he wakes up after sleeping on the rocks, having, as he said, wrapped himself up like a burrito. While he did a lovely mini-tour of his area of Labrador, he spent the first four days wandering around the space, looking for a place to set up camp. That’s four days without protein and, quite frankly, a waste of time as he ends up setting up camp where he was dropped off. I loved it in past seasons when people would explore, but only after getting set up!
Igor is a bow hunter with a wife and a dog at home. While the latter two might cause him problems, given he’s from Utah, where its’ rarely under -15 Celsius, he might fare a bit worse than those used to the cold. However, he does make a seaweed soup at the end of his segment, so there’s that!
As it stands, I think the top contenders, so far, are Karie Lee and Jacques. We haven’t seen as much of Jessie to make an accurate determination, Benji made a pretty big mistake, Juan Pablo might have a bit of an attitude issue, and Igor is now four days behind everyone. But the show is young, so who knows what the episodes have in store. I don’t think any of these people will leave in the next segment, but a lot can happen in the wilderness!
You can watch Alone on the History Channel or check out other options here. The next episode airs on June 2.