Our last outing with a reality show was the acclaimed South Korean Netflix series, “Physical 100.” As much as we enjoyed it, we couldn’t help but feel that it alienated a chunk of its audience that might not connect with the strenuous physicality of the tasks the contestants had to undertake. We feared something like that might happen with “Outlast” as well. Regardless, we started watching the series, and to our surprise, we found it engaging in a way we are finding hard to explain. But allow us to try anyway.
We have made no secret of the fact that, at least for us, reality shows are a way to satisfy the inner voyeur who craves drama but is sane enough to only want it from a distance. That is why reality shows are termed “guilty pleasures.” But we did not feel guilty about liking “Physical 100” because it was all very classy and played out like a true competition. But we miss the guilt because it is also the forerunner to us letting out our petty sides and say what you want, that is one of our favorite aspects of our personality. Well, when we started watching “Outlast,” the first few episodes had us mildly interested. It is hard to keep us watching anything in the ‘non-fictional survivalist’ genre because we really don’t see the point of it. But it was later that we noticed that, in our uppity ‘mildly interested’ condescension, we hadn’t checked our phones once during the episodes. That is always a good sign. But it was the later episodes that had us chuckling a bit.
We had read somewhere that human progress got to the point where it was not just because we were the smartest or the toughest. We are just the most aggressive, and apparently, that is what works when almost everything else fails, as we saw in “Outlast.” Basically, the reality series was about seeing who could survive the longest in the harsh Alaskan climate without any modern amenities, all the while fending for themselves. The sixteen contestants were divided into four teams, and they set up camp in four spots along the river. They would be given tasks to aid their survival, and they had to successfully complete them to last as long as they could in the game. There was no penalty for not completing the tasks. The bottom line was to survive as long as you could. Anytime a contestant wanted to leave, they had to fire a flare gun, and they would be escorted out by the production team. We are really thinking about the camera crew and the support staff who were there. Were they in more comfortable conditions than the contestants since a million dollars was not waiting for them anyway? How did the contestants feel when they saw them sipping on hot coffee and bottled water? Did it motivate them or irritate them to no end?
Anyway, it wasn’t long before the first few contestants tapped out. Andrea from Team Charlie was the first to leave, and we were actually surprised at that as she had proclaimed that she would try to be the glue that held her team together. But we guess you have to listen to your body when it is on the verge of giving up. The next to leave was Tim and Corey from Team Bravo. They left earlier rather than later, and we think it was the wise thing to do when you have realized the limits of your resilience and whether it can stand the test of time. Maybe it also helped that they knew they didn’t like their teammates, namely Javier. He had some excellent skills, and his knowledge of how to test whether some of the seafood they found was poisonous or not and his overall determination made him an excellent teammate, but his constant micromanagement really got on the others’ nerves, especially Tim. Either way, Brian did not think that it was a loss to see them go because, in his words, they were weak and inexperienced.
Moving on, we really enjoyed the teams’ hunt for protein. The Dungeness crabs, found in abundance in Alaska, were going to be the teams’ hope for some protein and amino acids if they needed to be able to survive their days there. The quest to find them was the drama before the real drama happened. Probably Angie and Nick’s tiff was the best part of it, and that is why we feel guilty for only thinking that Angie on the makeshift raft was the cutest thing we saw in the series. Her getting the three crab pots was a great move. The only other team to stand out during this round was Team Alpha because of how ridiculous their game was. Justin took days to make the raft, forcing Amber and Jill to walk across the river on low tide to find the crab pots. When they got back, Justin couldn’t be bothered to help them even then. Well, at least he got the boat right and caught the crabs necessary. But Jill was not wrong when she said that his perfection was slowing them down. However, once the teams had figured out their survival, they started focusing on their victory.
Paul joined Team Charlie as soon as Jordan left. This again reminded us of when one wants to leave their job because their favorite co-worker quit. Of course, that left Dawn and Joel fuming. If it were the real world, they would have demanded that he serve out a notice period at least, but there was no such compulsion in the wilderness. Not surprisingly, that was just the start of Team Delta’s troubles. Justin stole their sleeping bags to make life more difficult for them. This was the first directly aggressive thing any of the teams had done. Upon knowing this, Brian quit his team, as he wanted to leave while he could still keep his moral high ground. Honestly, it felt a little unnecessary to us, but we were also sad to see him go because we had thought that he would be our favorite contestant. He was the only one during the introductions who said that he was there for the money. We loved hearing that, but he did leave us with another gem while making his exit. He told Javier in his letter that he had ‘shared his patience with him,’ a final taunt that deserves a cash prize of its own.
Javier would have joined Team Delta, but Team Alpha’s aggression made that nearly impossible. To be honest, these were the three people we were saddest to see go because they were literally bullied out by Team Alpha. Javier’s exit especially had our hearts twisted a certain way, but finally, the number of contestants had boiled down to six.
Now, we understand that most reality shows are scripted, but Justin’s exit was a bit too staged. Firstly, he gets bullied by Jill and Amber, and when he goes over to Team Charlie, who had approached him to begin with, he doesn’t even last there. They accept him, but all it takes is a very obviously manipulative letter from Team Alpha to kick him out. It was either a staged play or a very deliberate trick by Team Charlie to pick out the players, and it worked. As much as we did not like Team Alpha, this kind of exit still felt very uncomfortable to watch. But it was time for the final quest. We are not going to lie, but we did not want to see Team Alpha win. While we had no favorites as such, seeing them for the bullies they were, made us root for Team Charlie, and we were so glad when they reached the finish line. We cannot say that they were the most deserving of the lot because it was tragic to see Angie leave. Regardless, they made it, and it was a moment.
“Outlast” is strangely binge-able and entertaining in a way we did not expect. The dramatic music feels a bit too extra, at least in the first two episodes, but the drama catches up with it soon enough. A fair warning for the viewers: if you don’t binge-watch this series, you won’t ever feel like completing it. It is just one of those things, so let it be what you play on your screens this weekend.