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The Colony – Week 2: After the Fall

Episode 2 of The Colony finds our survivors regrouping and rebuilding after the barbaric invasion by a huge group of hostile trespassers knocked them back to square one in their survival effort.  Just as surely as the Empire struck back and the Jedi returned, the indomitable human spirit of the weary colony team is ready to show its resiliency in rising from the ashes of defeat.  After congratulating themselves for fighting together well, our heroes quickly set three goals that they felt were most needed for their immediate survival: a barricade, a generator, and a source of food from their surroundings.

The team is sore, exhausted, hot, hurting from bumps and cuts, missing their loved ones, and uncomfortable from the lack of creature comforts including good hygiene and showers.  They share one toothbrush among the seven of them, and half of their food supply has already been exhausted—and it’s only Day 4 out of 50.  They still have one foot firmly planted in denial, unable to fully immerse their minds and bodies in the severity and reality of their situation.  Fortunately, no set backs from intruders or nature are in store for them to endure during the next few days, allowing them to heal and reboot.

Their efforts to transform their homestead into a fortress are soon stymied when the few power tools they found on site run out of power with no way to recharge them.  All of the fortification projects stop in their tracks, and all attention turns to their second goal: a power generator to recharge their tools and give them a semblance of civilization.  Thank God for Sally, the 28-year-old auto mechanic.  She gave them fire in the blink of an eye on day one, and now she is the one leading them ahead several geologic eras to internal combustion power.

After some tinkering, she gets the old tractor diesel engine to fire up, but the fuel is insufficient.  She determines that there is a need for two things to give them a power generator.  They need to render biofuel from the fat in the rotting pig carcasses they found a couple days prior; and they need to connect the tractor drive to an alternator that will transform mechanical energy into electrical energy.

By the time the pre-commercial preview bump for the next segment showed them rigging up a welding device out of a car battery, jumper cables, and a metal rod, I’m thinking that either the average shmoe on the street is a lot smarter than I am, or the producers gave them some reading material to study during their 72-hour isolation period prior to being dropped into the colony.  Or maybe they just read Off the Grid News.  In any case, their efforts to generate power are beginning to get the light bulb to come on in my brain telling me that a little knowledge and planning can go a long way in the case of a real emergency.

Becka Adams, 22, is one of the survivors on the Discovery Channel's "The Colony."

Sally takes charge and calls the whole group together to get recruits to help her get the disgusting, putrid, maggot-infested pig carcasses back to camp.  George, the artist-inventor, who hadn’t shown much initiative up to now, stepped up to the plate, as did young Becka, Reno the construction foreman, and Jim.  Sian would not go, but made some protective smocks for them to wear.  The mission was a success, and a lot of mouth breathing prevented nausea for the team.  While Becka and Reno trimmed the fat off for the biofuel, George and Robert fashioned a bathtub over a fire pit to liquefy and separate the good oil.  They had to melt the fat without boiling it, so it was a long process.

While George was stirring and separating the oil from the meat and debris, Jim was engineering a bridge across the canal, with an eventual plan of dragging a net through the water with a man on each side of the canal, to catch fish and turtles.  With some help from Sian, the bridge was a success.  Reno and Jim tried the seining net they had fabricated, but the poorly designed net caught no food and they gave up quickly.  Old Robert suggested a five-mile hike to the bayou as a better source of wildlife, which he knew from his younger days.  George fashioned some spears, and Jim and Robert set off.  The ladies were less than thrilled when the duo returned with a couple of snakes that Jim caught and decapitated, but they ate the snake protein, which had a taste somewhere between chicken and fish.

All of the team members seemed to be pulling their weight during this episode.  No infighting was evident from what we were shown.  No outcasts were emerging, and leadership was not yet centralizing, at least not politically.  However, Sally did rise to the occasion in her area of mechanical expertise, and the power generator was coming closer to reality.  Sally salvaged an alternator from a junk vehicle on the grounds, as well as a long fan belt to make the tractor PTU turn the alternator.  The PTU, or power transfer unit, is just a drive hub that engages with the tractor’s “peripherals” (like a reaper or thresher unit) to power it.  Now they have to weld the pulley wheel for the belt to the PTU and mount the alternator where the belt can drive it.  Then it’s a simple matter of directing the current for the alternator to their several car batteries to give then a full charge.

Jim gets the dangerous job of welding the pulley to the tractor PTU drive, which uses all the remaining charge they have in the batteries.  George brought over the filtered pig oil, which looked like about a gallon and a half, in an oversized glass jar.  His one-handed carrying technique made for a little tense drama, but he didn’t break it or spill a drop.  They fashioned an external gas tank out of a metal can near the tractor’s manifold to keep the fuel from hardening like bacon grease (which it is) at room temperature.  It was time for the moment of truth.

Sputter, sputter . . . sputter . . . vrooom!  The tractor was running, the belt was spinning, the alternator was, um, alternating, and the batteries were charging.  Soon power tools were running again.  Cut to inside the house a while later.  Electric lights are being mounted on the ceiling, and Sally anxiously plugs an electric cord into a wall socket.  Seven grown adults then smile with glee and triumphantly applaud the glow of an electric light.  Perhaps it was not as glorious as the Lord’s first day of creation, but the team had a magnificently successful three days.  Their defeated spirits are soaring, and we are eager to discover with them what conquests their boundless human spirit will lead them to next week.

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