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The Colony – Week 3: Trust

What do you do when two seemingly pleasant strangers want to join your happy family in a post-apocalyptic societal jungle?  Week 3 of The Colony on the Discovery Channel simulates the reality of that situation, revealing some disturbing truths and inspiring possibilities about human nature and our seven original colonists.  Michel and Amber stroll into camp to test the trust of a tribe living on the edge.  For an in-depth discussion on the introduction of “strangers” into your camp, listen to Off The Grid Radio Episode 002.

You have to remember that in Week 1 a small team stopped by with hostile intentions.  When they didn’t get what they wanted, they returned with a horde of barbarians to pillage the Colony, run roughshod over the colonists, and plunder the limited bounty of their camp.  A psychologist talking head popped up on screen to tell us that initial diplomacy between unknown and untested parties will often be followed by suspicion, fear, and hostility.  That’s exactly what we saw.

Jim was the only one, in the introductory episode, to profess his Christianity, a belief in the goodness of people, and a desire to help and share with others.  He practiced that belief by offering the first visitors milk and water, only to find that his trust had been misplaced.  His Christian spirit has never risen again.  Shortly after discovering the treachery in the souls of the first visitors, Jim was the first to jump into a full blown fighting posture.  This time, the others were cautious but accepting of the newcomers, while Jim was hostile and threatening with little or no provocation.  The others all seemed to base their judgments of visitors on observation and instinct, while both Jim’s acceptance and rejection of others seemed to be more primal.

The newcomers set off to serve their quarantine and set up housekeeping in a nearby abandoned house.  Their survival instinct led them to plot to gather what they needed for themselves before the others got everything.  Their scavenger hunt through the neighborhood brought out Reno (the young construction foreman) and Jim (the carpenter) for a “friendly” little “discussion.”  Reno was somewhat diplomatic, in between F-bombs, which brought out Michel’s assertiveness and Jim’s threatening hostility—even threatening to cut them into pieces.  Not exactly the neighborhood Welcome Wagon.

It was reminiscent of two animals growling and snarling tentatively, while circling, sniffing, and maintaining constant eye contact out of distrust for each other.  Maybe even like two leashed dogs that haven’t met before that are forced to face each other as their masters stop to chat.  In the case of our colonists, human civility was holding the leashes to prevent physical conflict.  The confrontational meeting abated without devolving into violence, and Michel and Amber agreed to complete their quarantine period to ensure that they were free of the “Nuclear Flu” virus that had decimated humankind.

Robert Deville, 70, a retired contractor from Los Angeles, California.

Our crew had a lot of work to do this week, as they were nearing the end of week two on one week’s rations of food.  The cupboard was nearly bare, and they were brutally aware of the desperate reality of their situation.  Old Robert Deville was building a shower; Reno was building a smoke house to preserve fish and meat they might catch, as they had no refrigeration; and George set out to build a kiln and bellows to forge metal like a blacksmith.

Just as things were looking bleakest, divine providence (or perhaps the show’s producers) sent a boat into the canal bordering their compound, with a crew that was willing to barter for supplies and provisions.  The seven original and two new colonists found that it would be in their mutual best interest to work together to get what they needed.  They gave up medical supplies, a pound of sugar, vodka, two haz-mat suits and one toothbrush.  In return they got a welder/generator, three bars of soap, one decent sized bag of apples and aging bananas, and six fish.  Not bad, all things considered.  They got some much-needed food and some soap for their shower, not to mention a great piece of machinery.  Perhaps best of all, the old and new members worked together as a team of nine for the first time.  Animosities were fading, and kinship was sprouting.

Fish and fish head soup were on the menu that night.  Unfortunately, Reno’s attempt at a smokehouse to preserved the remaining fish -failed when Jim added too many woodchips to the fire and burned it down, ruining the fish.  Amber’s “root cellar” was way too shallow to keep the soup cool.  It was also in an anthill, and the cooler containing the soup was not sealed properly to keep out the vermin.  As Sally, the level-headed and competent auto mechanic put it, even though they made a great deal with the boat and got some good things, it was really just two days of food.

Michel helped George build and fire up the kiln and bellows.  After a slow start, George, the artist-inventor, was definitely growing into the role of Gilligan’s handy “Professor.”  As George put it, they were able to move from the Stone Age into the early Iron Age with a new ability to make weapons and tools.  A machete was the first order of business, hammered from a piece of end cap sheet metal that might have fit around the edge of a door.

Deville and Reno set up the shower, salvaging a bathtub from an apartment to hold the water above the shower unit.  Becka was honored with the first shower, proclaiming afterwards that she thought she was cleaner, but she had never been this dirty before in her life.

As the sun set on Day 14, the nine colonists sat together eating canned tuna and crackers.  Amber sealed their new camaraderie by sharing her chocolate bar with the group, which was much appreciated by the incredulous crew.  But their is no rest for survivalists, and the show ends with Sally, who is always looking ahead, leading a team out into the unexplored reaches of the Colony to bring back anything of value (according to it’s new utilitarian definition) back to the camp.  They find tools and trouble, as they are the unwelcome intruders this time.  But we will have to wait until next week to find out what happens next.

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