‘The Island’ Recap 1×01: Bear Grylls Survivor on Going Back to Basics

Spoiler: A lot of 'Anaconda' references ahead

We've got to go back to The Island. (Photo by: NBC)
We’ve got to go back to The Island. (Photo by: NBC)

Hi, my name is Graham, and I’m a member of the embedded crew on NBC’s brand new docu-series: The Island hosted by Bear Grylls. In my everyday life, I work as a director of photography and producer. In my career, I have produced a myriad of documentaries in countries like Turkey, Ukraine, Chernobyl, Cuba, and Peru. Recently, I joined 13 other men on a deserted island with only the clothes on our backs and minimal survival tools to see if modern men can survive without basic necessities. Every week, I will be recapping episodes of The Island here at The Observer. Here we go!

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Our episode begins with Bear Grylls driving us on a speedboat to The Island. Bear is a much better boat driver (captain?) than I am. Already, I feel a boy scout amidst navy seals. I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to any of the guys around me, and the ones in camo look much more ready for this experience than I feel.

Bear explains we will have the sparest of supplies and that there happens to be a gigantic shark sighting in the area. Wonderful. Now my imagination kicks into high gear, and I’m trying to forget everything I’ve seen in movies like Jaws,…although looking at my surroundings, this feels more like Anaconda starring Jennifer Lopez.

We all jump off the boat and I do a cannonball for dramatic effect. Immediately, I am tired, realizing swimming in boots is way harder than anticipated. My years on the high school swim team have not prepared me adequately; nor have my 28 years of not camping.

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Once on shore, it’s time to go inland. First priority: find fresh water. As the group ventures to explore the looming jungle before us, NBC shows a graphic map of the entire island. (This map would have been extremely helpful.)

We find water in a rock pool that looks a congested gutter and start to celebrate. This day is going much better than expected. We make a basic camp (really basic) inland and attempt to build a fire, while Rick, Buck, and Mike go off to scout. Trey, Benji, and Taylor go off to find a better camp location.

Buck’s group stumbles upon a gigantic freakin snake, and I am again reminded of the Jennifer Lopez film Anaconda. Since this is my second reference to that film, I should remind everyone that this is not a good movie and should not be watched by anyone. Rick cuts the head off of the snake and takes it back to the camp after a terrifying capture.

We have two groups trying to make fire now. One group is using the drill bow technique, but Earnest wins using his glasses to target the sun’s rays. Caveman methods: 0.

Okay! We have fire! This is a huge moment. Fire is everything in survival situations, or so I learned from the single day of survival training we received from Bear and his team. In case you were wondering about whether or not you should order snake on your next night out — some snake tastes great (I tried it once at a farmers market), this snake does not. I would equate it to a burned dehydrated rubber tire.

Trey, Benji, and Taylor return with good news: they have found a glorious looking beach. I figure since anything would be better then spending the night in bug infested jungle, I should go with them to sleep on this amazing beach. The group splits and five of us go to the beach just as the sun is setting.

Dakota seeing a beach for the first time is an amazing moment. Dakota, a pheasant farmer from Idaho, has never been on a beach before, and his genuine awe in this moment is something I will always find endearing. This is the first of many moments during my time on the island where I am reminded of what we take for granted on a daily basis.

#SeaWater. We are screwed. The initial water source we found in the jungle , which we had ignorantly labeled as fresh turns out to be seawater. This is very, very bad news. You can live for a while without food, but without water our bodies and minds begin to fall apart.   We begin to ration the water, and Taylor lunges at Rob. Rob is a stay at home dad and is the last person anyone should be making a target. I am angry at Taylor for starting a fight here, but stress can do odd things to people… so I decide to question Taylor about what he was thinking. He begins screaming at me and physically pushes me at one point. I figure maybe he’s got it out of his system and that might be the end of it.

The next day, I lead a group meeting where I make sure we are all on the same page and no one is going to explode at a time when we need to stick together. Everyone seems to be in agreement.

As night falls, Taylor begins to dry heave and shake. We call in our safety team, and they pull Taylor off the island. Mike says it best when he says, “Love him or hate him, he was a member of our team, and we needed everyone.” I couldn’t agree more. We’ve been here two days and now there are thirteen of us.

This is the hardest experience I’ve ever had to face, and nothing in my life has prepared me for this. As we trudge through the jungle, it becomes very clear to me that both filming and surviving on this series is a tall order. I am a fish out of water with no background in survival. I’d like to emphasize: I’ve never been camping. Before this, I figured Fort Wilderness at Disneyworld Orlando was camping. My instincts involve how to light a scene beautifully and what lenses to choose—not which plants to avoid and how to kill your own food.

We’ve made a mistake that may send us all home early: we didn’t find fresh water. This journey might be over before it begins. Welcome to The Island with Bear Grylls. I’ll see you next week.


  ‘The Island’ Recap 1×01: Bear Grylls Survivor on Going Back to Basics