Season 2 of The Colony puts seven average Joes and Janes from all walks of life into a scenario of global devastation. This year, the Discovery Channel’s reality survival series simulates the aftermath of a “Nuclear Flu” outbreak that infects and kills most of humanity. The uninfected survivors were isolated for 72 hours and then dropped by a government helicopter from “VOPA,” the Viral Outbreak Protection Agency, into a safe zone for 50 days. In this case, 10 acres ravaged by Katrina near the Gulf Coast serve as the venue. No instructions are given; they’re just on their own with the task of surviving, rebuilding, and thriving.
The development of the cast members as they deal with the adverse conditions, threats of nature, intruders, and egos will be the interesting aspect to watch. To give a little “instant context” to our “seven stranded castaways,” let’s meet the cast of four men and three women and see how they might compare (if only a little) to the crew from Gilligan’s Island.
• Reno, the 28-year-old construction foreman, fancies himself the Skipper, and has some of the take-charge leadership skills to back it up—plus a bit more “swagger” than the Skipper himself.
• Jim, the 42-year-old carpenter, is a born-again Christian with love of neighbor in his heart. Even so, he already “killed” a greedy intruder after first insisting that they give the needy visitors some milk and water. Perhaps he would have to be most closely compared to the naive but well intentioned First Mate, Gilligan.
• Sally, the 28-year-old auto mechanic, has to be the tomboyish girl-next-door, Maryann. She has skills, and easily shows them how to make fire with a little gasoline and sparks from a tractor battery.
• Becka, the 22-year-old model, is a shoe-in for Ginger, the Movie Star. She’s girly, but this one definitely has some spunk.
• You would think that George, the 46-year-old “artist and inventor,” would be the stalwart professor, but so far he seems to have less competence and energy than the hapless Gilligan.
• Sian is a 39-year-old teacher. It would be a stretch to compare her to “Lovey,” the millionaire’s wife, although she is the senior female member and may share Mrs. Howell’s sense of decorum. Sian (pronounced like the color, cyan) showed the group how to use sand and charred wood to filter river water, which they could then boil and drink.
• Robert, the 70-year-old retired contractor is not really the pompous Thurston Howell III, but he does think that he is somewhat above the others in his knowledge and ability to help them survive.
Episode 1 (of 10) finds our crew “off the grid” with no shore power, no running water, and no communications. Their attention immediately turns to the 5 essential elements of survival: shelter, water, food, fire, and security. They settled on a stripped out, dilapidated two-story building for their homestead. No windows or interior walls were evident, and the roof had huge holes. The abandoned VOPA tent had a few medical supplies, some MREs (military “meals ready to eat”), unlabeled canned food, and long-life whole milk. They got water from the river, filtered it, and boiled it. They got an additional 90 gallons of rainwater in buckets and plastic supply crates from VOPA. Fire was not needed for heat, but they built a fire pit to boil water and cook food.
With the first four survival basics in place, at least for time being, the producers wasted no time in testing the team’s behavior and skills when faced with security challenges. Just as in the theatrical versions of a post-apocalyptic world (Mad Max, The Road, The Book of Eli, et. al.) adversity and dire necessity returns mankind to the law of the jungle. Darwinian forces of natural selection quickly rise to govern thinking and behavior that understands that survival is only for the fittest.
On day two, three stragglers, a man and two women, pass through asking for food. Having just shelved all of their supplies, which they estimate will last them for one week, most of the team members want to give them nothing. Even though the strangers are ornery and demanding, Jim wants to give them a carton of whole milk and a jug of potable purified water, which they do. Whether it was strictly his Christian morals or a belief that karma (or perhaps the producers) would reward them for their kindness is hard to say. For now, let’s suppose that it was indeed his professed belief in helping and loving his fellow man.
Things change quickly, however, when the man wants to go inside their homestead to see if they have more food. When he calls Becka a “little girl,” she stands toe to toe with him and Reno gives the man a serious push. Jim comes bounding in, fists presented, bobbing and weaving like a boxer. The scuffle that followed was a little awkward, as the team knows they are dealing with actors that they don’t really want to kill or injure, and perhaps the producers need to establish rules for a fake “kill.” Reno and Jim had the guy on the ground, and Jim was ready to club him to death with a pole, but stopped short. Still, he told the guy, “By the way: You’re dead.” He responded, “We’ll see.” Jim’s words were probably not meant as a threat to the man if he returned, but to convey that he should be out of the game; they would have killed him in a real situation.
The producers didn’t see it that way, and the man returned with two dozen recruits the next day, taking a good share of the team’s food, medical supplies, and all of their rainwater, following another awkward fight scene.
Our team has already explored much of the four square block area. A truck full of putrefying pig carcasses and salami was found, but by the time they came back for the live battery it was gone. The producers have added some junk vehicles with gas and possible power sources to give the team some ways to use their ingenuity to assist in their survival. An unfruitful mission to net fish in the river didn’t help them any. They’ve already eaten some MREs and canned tuna, and they used milk to wash the pepper spray out of their eyes from the pillaging horde.
Week 2 will show us how much they have learned so far. They need to find more clandestine and secure places for their supplies and perhaps for their home as well. Who will be the ultimate alpha figure of the group? Will they work together or tear themselves apart? There is no winner or prize money or “voting off,” so it is stacking up to be a true morality play testing human nature in an amoral jungle laboratory.