Alone Season 9, Episode 1 Recap and Review

This is a recap and review from the History Channel OnlySeason 9, Episode 1, “Drop Shock”.

If you want Only, the season begins similarly to the others, although they have cut a lot of fat in terms of intros, location previews, and “day one traces.” This season takes place in Labrador, Canada. Labrador is the mainland region of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and most of it has a subarctic climate. As such, the weather is a serious threat, and polar bears even more so. As contestant Jacques says in this episode, “there are only three animals that hunt humans: polar bears, lions, and other humans.”

As usual in the show’s format, the episode only focuses on a few cast members. In this one, we watch Karie Lee, Jessie, Benji, Jacques, Juan Pablo and Igor.

I’ll recap their first four days and then tell you if I (by no means a wilderness survival expert, hunter, or even a very frequent camper) think they’ll do well from what we have seen. I will revise my guess on who I think will leave next week and who will win!

Spoilers to follow.

Summary and Review

Karie Lee

Much of a competitor’s success on Only is mentality-based, and Karie Lee was very excited to be on the show. While being the second oldest person in the series, she also has 50 years of experience in the wild. She lives in a yurt, so she is used to the cold, foraging, hunting and other survival techniques. She has a boyfriend who she might miss (although it seems the wives of Only men seem to miss them much less than the other way around, or maybe they’re better off with it).

Karie built her shelter in a wooded area at a higher elevation, and we saw nothing beyond her initial shelter. She turned out to be a good hunter, as she caught a plump grouse almost right away. Even when it comes to black flies, his positive mindset is one of his greatest strengths. And, honestly, as someone who goes to northern Ontario a lot, the black flies are no joke. Like polar bears, they hunt you too, and the bites they take are best defined as bites.

benji

Benji started with a nice spot along the coast which turned out to be a bit swampy. Deciding to give up sheltering to find food was a bit of a mistake as he was instantly soaked in a downpour. Benji is a bow hunter, a bear hunter, makes traps, and he’s also a weight lifter who got super ripped in the clip of him at home. He left behind a wife and a little girl, which could be his downfall. Children change so much at this age; it would be heartbreaking to leave a baby knowing that when you return you will have missed so many “firsts” (steps, words, etc.).

Despite the setback of the shelter, Benji killed a squirrel, found a crop of blueberries, and built a Tenkara fly-fishing rod that he used to catch twelve tiny speckled trout.

He also brought a piece of Himalayan salt to add to his meals, which, along with the minerals, would add significantly to his happiness factor.

jessy

Jessie claims the show is about primitive life versus survival, which is what Only evolved with the seasons. She has a background in this and wants to use any potential prizes to help her wilderness survival school for women. I was actually influenced by her comments about wanting to be the first woman to win and how she wants to encourage more women to practice survivalism – as such I think she has a external motivation to win. She leaves behind a large family and a boyfriend, which could make things difficult. We don’t see her much, except for the nocturnal experience with a bear around her camp, which she managed with extraordinary calm.

John Pablo

Unlike the others, Juan Pablo spent the first few minutes unhappy. He claimed that expecting misery makes him grateful for good things, but I don’t know how long that attitude will last. However, he spent 100 days foraging and trapping in Manitoba, where it is much colder (-37 degrees Celsius in his home clip). Juan Pablo has a girlfriend, Jennifer, who he wants to start a family with, so missing her might be a problem for him. He drank 350ml of olive oil a day to get fat for the competition, so maybe he’s serious after all.

In the episode, Pablo finds bear droppings, locates a good place to set up high camp and has access to water, and he comes across some cans! My favorite part of the series is how creative people can be, and Juan Pablo makes this amazing stove out of cans and clay. He uses material from his gaiters and a makeshift needle to create a patch for the fireplace so his tarp doesn’t melt too, which was a lot of fun. My real question though is: who left all those cans?

James

The youngest contestant spends the first few minutes singing and quickly shows that his youth has given him a head start in strength and energy. He’s also from Alaska, so he knows the cold, and he’s a glacier guide and has experience with bears. He also lives in a van with his girlfriend and dog, so he’s used to living off the grid. In the episode, he managed to shoot a squirrel from a tree and, after a bit of hunting, got a grouse as well. Within days, he also managed to build a kind of wall in his wooden tarp, and, the coolest thing… he found an 1800s jaw trap lying around in the woods! Personally, I would set this thing up, forget it was there and walk on it, so thanks to him for using it!

At first I thought his youth might be holding him back, but it turns out the woods are a safe place for Jacques because survival skills helped him through a very difficult childhood. I support Jacques (and not just because he looks a bit like Charlie Hunnan from Pacific Rim and Sons of Anarchy).

igor

Igor is first seen when he wakes up after sleeping on the rocks, having, as he said, rolled up like a burrito. While taking a nice mini-tour of his home region of Labrador, he spent the first four days wandering around in space, looking for a place to set up camp. It’s four days without protein and, quite frankly, a waste of time because he ends up setting up camp where he was dropped off. I loved the past seasons when people were exploring, but only after they had settled down!

Igor is a bow hunter with a wife and a dog at home. While the latter two may cause him problems, given that he’s from Utah, where it rarely drops below -15 degrees Celsius, he might fare a little worse than those used to the cold. . However, he makes seaweed soup at the end of his segment, so there you go!

My rating

As things stand, I think the top contenders, so far, are Karie Lee and Jacques. We haven’t seen as much of Jessie to make an accurate determination, Benji made a pretty big mistake, Juan Pablo might have a little attitude problem, and Igor is now four days behind everyone else. But the show is young, so who knows what the episodes have in store for us. I don’t think any of these people will leave in the next segment, but a lot can happen in the wild!

You can look Only on the story channel or check out other options here. The next episode will air on June 2.

TS Beier is obsessed with science fiction, ruins of industry and Fallout. She is the author of What Branches Grow, a post-apocalyptic novel (which was among the 5 finalists of the 2020 Kindle Book Awards) and the Burnt Ship Trilogy (space opera). She is a book reviewer, editor, freelance writer and co-owner of Rising Action Publishing Co. She currently lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, two feral children, a one-eyed pug and a shepherd-mastiff.

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