Given that I take a certain amount of pride in watching very little TV, I’m not sure how I can justify sticking with this show. I was hoping for some insight into the stone-age way of life – God knows the best way we could learn such things is to go out and do as they did – but the format was never really going to achieve that. As I said in my previous week’s review, the production team should have made a choice between a survival experiment and a social experiment. Doing both at once was doomed to disaster and disaster it became. This show is a car crash.
In my review last week, I’d forgotten that Tom, a male model but also a keen outdoorsman, had dropped out in the aftermath of the starvation debacle. The tribe were down to twelve once Josie had recovered from her illness. And then disaster really struck.
It had been unseasonably warm when the tribe first came to camp, resulting in some unfortunate incidents with maggots getting into their starter carcass and their furs. Suddenly, there was a cold snap and eight inches of snow fell overnight. As the snow continued through the day, the weight of it was snapping the branches of the trees in the forest, making any attempt at foraging or hunting unsafe. So the tribe were immediately evacuated back to the hunting reserve’s lodge. In the aftermath of this, despair had set into the five-strong Harding family and, despite Steve telling them the story of his surviving a capsizing ferry in Indonesia, they all elected to leave. A twenty-strong tribe was now down to seven before the half-way mark.
And it was then that the producers and Klint Janulis did what they should have done in the first place. The next few days were spent on a “Stone Age Boot Camp”, teaching the remainder the skills they needed to actually complete the experiment. So much of this nonsense could have been averted if the original twenty had been given this training in the week before they went out. When they were finally allowed to return, they had new rations and a new deer carcass to butcher. But settling back in wasn’t going to be easy and the group needed to form new dynamics.
Firstly, Paul the lorry driver cum trapper had a hissy fit when he found that some of the others had tried to sneak creature comforts back from the lodge. He tried to leave immediately, and Klint talked him out of it, leaving the others with the perception that he had tried to blackmail them. Personally, I sympathised with his position – there was no point in continuing if they weren’t going to do it properly. Then Steve ended up having a childish tantrum of his own.
Early on, he was voted in as the tribe’s leader. In the interviews, he made it clear that he thought in ‘alpha-male’ terms that all men want to be the leader. So Klint tried to give him leadership lessons during the boot camp. Unfortunately, Steve was (as it turned out) a bad leader. Firstly, he didn’t step in to try and deal with the Paul situation. Secondly, he doesn’t deal effectively with challenges. Given a new carcass and having what needs to be done impressed on them by Klint, and with Klint’s supervision for another day, the tribe had a quick discussion and Paul reckoned two people were needed for butchering and Klint said that they needed to know how to strip birch (the bark being a key to making certain tools). So Steve argued that more people were needed on the carcass, and told Klint (the external expert!) that they should forget the birch exercises entirely. With fewer voices in the camp, genuinely dominant voices like Mel and Paul were able to speak up, and Mike switched his allegiance to Mel. Steve, miffed that the tribe were listening to the experts rather than his wisdom, left.
Does a tribe need a leader? No. A tribe needs leadership, but not necessarily a leader. If you look at small communities, those that aren’t militaristic tend to have a council of elders who are trusted to make decisions as a small group for the good of the larger group. Certain elders may have areas of expertise. A single leader tends to only be needed in war and modern business, where a quick and decisive strategy is needed. Frankly, Steve was even failing at that.