National Geographic Channel premieres season two of its Ultimate Survivor Alaska Series this Sunday at 9pm ET/PT. The reality competition show features four teams, each based around a particular set of survivalist skills. Team Endurance, Team Mountaineers and Team Woodsmen face off against Team Military, featuring former Green Beret Grady Powell, former SEAL Jared Ogden and former Marine recon sniper Rudy Reyes.
Ultimate Survival doesn't offer a cash prize at the end of the series and the whole thing seems more real than the "reality" that a lot of these shows offer. There's not a lot of solo confessionals into a camera and Nat Geo makes a big point of letting us know that everyone stayed out in the wild for the entire three-month shoot and that no one checked into a hotel between legs of the competition.
We talked to Powell, Ogden and Reyes and asked how they got involved with Ultimate Survival Alaska.
I was down in Baja Mexico driving a chase truck in the Baja 500 and I got a LinkedIn request from Nat Geo producers. And I accepted it and what ensued was a lengthy email from this guy. And I thought it was a big, elaborate hoax from some of my Navy SEAL friends trying to set me up for some kind of survival TV show, something that I would like. But I thought that it was them playing this very elaborate joke.
So I called the producer up and after a couple phone calls I knew it wasn’t bullshit. I knew it was real. And essentially what had happened was show had a military guy fall out 48 hours or 72 hours before they started. And so production was in a huge scramble trying to find the third military guy. They found some speech that I didn’t even know was on YouTube that I did for my senator and they contacted via LinkedIn. And, you know, 36 hours after being contacted, I was up in Anchorage for their orientation and to go do this survival adventure race. So it was not something that I was seeking. It's something that kind of fell into my lap. And as a result, I met a lot of great people along this journey.
A gentleman by the name of Kevin, producer for National Geographic, he had seen some of my other shows I had done in the realm of survival and military and shot me an email and told me a little bit about the show, not too much about it. And he kind of put the thermometer out there to see how keen I was to it. And I was like, yeah, great challenge. The outback of Alaska with some other teammates? So I said, yeah, sign me up. Let's do it.
I'm more or less kind of a mixture between the two of them. I was on a TV show about two years ago and one of the producers from that one happened to talk to a National Geographic producer when he was looking for a military team member. And I was down in Florida on a family vacation with my girlfriend and seven days prior to production got a call from the producers. And they was asking, hey, do you want to go spend three months in Alaska? And I said, hell yes. So – well, first I had to ask permission from my significant other and then agreed to it and ended up going up to Alaska and spend three months with these yahoos.
So I've seen the first two episodes and I guess you guys can speak to the fact that this show is a lot different than the other reality programs you appeared on before.
Rudy: Okay, well, I was just going to say there is just this visceral, immediate, and realistic danger in our show. I mean sometimes our production crew, you know, their life and limb was on the line as well. The arduous conditions, man, they really, really pushed us. Stuff that even looked kind of like it was going to be a cakewalk, it really wasn’t. So much fast water, so much cold water, extreme, extreme conditions with mountains and the glaciers.
Do you remember, guys, that time when we were just like doing a movement from one part of the glacier to the other to the rocks? Like they wanted to get some rocks. And the glacier, the ice, was so freaking slick, we could barely even freaking stand. I mean everything about the country – everything about the outside world there in Alaska was so freaking tough. And I think it comes across on film.
With Jared and Grady, I mean, you know, Green Beret, Navy Seal, Recon Marine, these are – my two teammates are veterans and they just brought a skill set and truth, a real truth to what was going on out there. And I think that’s the most solid thing about this show. If you look at all the teams, the credibility that they bring from each of their respected disciplines, it gives credibility to the show as a whole.
Grady: As you were saying, it's a lot different than a lot of the old survival shows. And it absolutely was. And you see with Bear Grylls and the, I don’t know, two man survival teams, they’ve been getting a lot of flack from the media about being seen in hotels. We did not have that luxury one bit. We stayed out in the woods the entire time we were in Alaska, which, in my opinion, is a lot more enjoyable. I mean I'm an honest guy. I like to challenge myself and I don’t want to be portrayed as, I don’t know, as this hard survivalist when I'm sleeping in a hotel room.
It's not one of these hokey shows where they're cutting and pasting and making everything false. It wasn’t overproduced the way a lot of them were. I'm just happy to have been a part of this show, not only because I love the adventure, but moreover because I wanted to be able to represent our Armed Forces.
And I know Jared and Rudy feel the same way. Represent our brothers and sisters in arms and show them that, you know, life is not over when you get out of the military. There's always an adventure. I've known a lot of guys who get out and they get bored and depressed because they have nothing to do with their lives or they feel they have nothing to do with their lives, but there's always something. Always something. Always another adventure around the corner. You’ve just got to go find it.
Rudy: That’s right, the mission continues. And also to speak to Jared and Grady, their field craft was excellent and I learned a lot from them. So it was a great freaking schoolhouse as well. And I think the audience will get some of those takeaways from the show, because there is so much fieldcraft and there is so much firecraft. These guys were fantastic on camera doing it. I think the audience is going to be really, really pleased. Definitely plugged in to being a survivalist and what it takes and what kind of mindset it takes.
Nat Geo TV continues to make it pretty easy to watch its shows. They've posted the entire first episode online and you can watch it before it premieres below.