No time for an intro, got to get right into the 2015 power rankings of the new "Ultimate Survival Alaska" cast.
For those who haven't been reading this column or watching "Survival," it's a program in which four teams compete in a series of expeditions across the Alaska backcountry. Sometimes production gives them the tools they need to keep things interesting (kayaks, packrafts, dog sleds, skis, etc). But generally competitors race across the wilderness with stuff on their backs, rice and beans and a camera crew following them.
Season three of "Survival" features some familiar characters and some new blood. If you would like to follow along at home, visit channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/ultimate-survival-alaska.*
Marty Raney is back, with his shirt unbuttoned to his stomach regardless of temperature. Because he speaks in sound bites, he gets a lot of screen time. There is no end to his crazy ideas. For example, last season he caught a halibut weighing over 100 pounds using a ski and some fishing line, then proceeded to shoot a hole through his boat trying to kill the thing.
He'll be joined by newbie Vern Tejas, who, according to the Internet, was the first person to climb all Seven Summits 10 times. But you wouldn't know that from his Nat Geo bio, which lists his occupation as "polar skill guide, ripsticker, blues harmonica player, aspiring guitarist." I think someone needs to clarify what an "occupation" is, because a) what is a "ripsticker"? and b) I don't think you can count your aspirations as your "occupation." But seriously, he seems like a badass.
The third and final member of the Alaskans is show veteran Tyler Johnson. By all accounts, Johnson is some dude from Soldotna who ended up on TV.
Overall take on Team Alaska: These guys are older than the rest of the cast. Wiser? Probably. But wisdom doesn't help you outrun Dallas Seavey. I hope they find some skis conveniently stashed on the mountain so they can compete.
Jared Ogden. The only thing you need to know about this dude is that last year he swam across a huge glacial lake, floating ice and all, because he didn't want to take time to blow up a packraft. It was bananas. He's joined again by Grady Powell, who is the leader of the Military Team. His beard is longer, so I assume he's even tougher this season.
They have a new teammate who applied through the Nat Geo casting call: Daniel Dean, a former Marine Scout Sniper. According to his bio, "He is currently pursuing a career as a country music star in Nashville." Not just a country musician, but a "country music star." Going right to the top.
These guys won a lot of challenges last year and look like they will still be a force to be reckoned with.
Last year's Endurance Team won the whole thing. This year they've replaced two members of the team, which is anchored by Dallas Seavey, dog musher, reality TV star and future Alaska governor.
This season, National Geographic has added two younger-ish women to the cast. Good for you, Nat Geo. One is Lel Tone. She's a heli-ski guide/avalanche forecaster from Tahoe. She looks like a competitor. The last member of the Endurance Team is Ben Johns, a mountain guide from Banff. Two things on Ben: 1) He looks so sad in his photo. 2) Maybe it's because his "Fun Fact" is that he "survived a plane crash in the Yukon, being stranded in a crevasse for days and several near-miss avalanches." Nothing fun about that fact.
They are the champions, so they need to defend their honor.
Team Lower 48
OK. I would go into the bios of Scott "Cluck" McCleskey and Kasha Rigby, but really you just need to know that they both look very fit and capable and have a long list of skills. "Cluck" is a silly name and Kasha has a nose ring at age 44, two things that I love.
But the only thing I will ever remember about this team is that James Sweeney's "location" is listed as "Hope, Alaska." He's also the author of two books about the Alaska wilderness. Why the hell is he on Team Lower 48? Did Hope secede from the state? What am I missing?
This team replaces the Woodsmen from season two, who were eliminated early due to the injury of a denim-overall-wearing 62-year-old man from Fox who specialized in animal calls. I miss having that kind of variety on the cast, but based on the bio breakdown, this season seems like a fair fight.
* Dear National Geographic, please make your website easier to navigate. Isn't your thing distilling complex geographic and cultural knowledge for the masses? Can't you find someone to do that to your website?
Emily Fehrenbacher lives in Anchorage, where she reviews Alaska reality TV, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (subject line: Reality Check).
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