Let's get this out of the way: You cannot kill Bear Grylls in his new interactive survival series You vs. Wild. But I tried! I tried my darnedest to kill him while flipping through every option of the new Netflix series, in which Bear drops into hostile territory in his typical brand of giving the finger to nature while you get to choose what he does every couple minutes or so. And you know what? Not being able to kill him was a missed opportunity for the show.
You vs. Wild should have been a stealth comedy, with Bear finally becoming self-aware enough to recognize that we don't watch his show to learn how to not die alone in the woods. None of us are going to wingsuit into a Central American jungle and live off the land using knowledge we learned from You vs. Wild. For every news story you hear about a kid saving someone's life using something he learned from TV, there are five more stories about a kid dying from trying something he learned from TV. You vs. Wild should have let you kill Bear Grylls (comically, of course), period. Bear should have seen a cave full of human bones and asked, "Should I go in, or literally do anything else?" and we all would have clicked "Go in" so dang hard. This could have been his Michael Bolton moment, the moment he got in on the joke and then told it better than any of us.
But more importantly, it could have been a moment for interactive TV, which is already having difficulty getting off the ground following the lukewarm reaction to Black Mirror's "Bandersnatch." Personally, I loved "Bandersnatch" and found it to be an inventive way to bring Black Mirror into the living room. I could sense the fun (and difficulty) creator Charlie Brooker and his staff had creating it. Plus, it was different, which is hard to accomplish right now despite (or maybe as a result of) the gobs of TV being thrown our way.
You vs. Wild is a step backward for the push of interactive television -- it's too safe, too predictable. There's no gimmick beyond the gimmick. You can choose to follow the river or enter the jungle, but it's an arbitrary choice based on little information and forced by a timer. Rappel down a snowy slope or traverse a mountain? Whichever gets me through this faster, I guess.
However, You vs. Wild doesn't kill the idea of choose-your-own-adventure viewing. There's still fun to be had in being given a choice, even if it's just the illusion of choice. It's still unique in that my experience watching it will almost certainly be unlike your experience watching it, and we can compare takes. It's still different in that I can spend as much or as little time with it as I want. It still has oodles of potential.
And it still let me watch it how I wanted to watch it. Presumably, the goal behind the show was for viewers to find the smartest way for Bear to survive in the various wilds -- the eight episodes span the Alps, a South American jungle, the American desert, and more -- but I just wanted to try to kill or hurt him in the worst way possible, or at the very least, make him drink his own pee. So that's how I watched it. There's power in that.
(I did also zip through one episode in about 10 minutes by making all the right choices -- compared to the hour or so spent trying to kill him in other episodes -- and it was the least fun I had watching it. Also, I went back and made him fall off a log, and nearly break his ankle -- the biggest injury you can inflict -- not just because this story demanded it, but because I wanted to do it. No free passes here, Bear.)
But that power was limited in that I could not kill him, which, again, I should have been able to do.
However, you can make his life a living hell, which is the next best thing. Bear will barf, Bear will get bitten, Bear will get stuck, Bear will put things in his mouth that don't belong there, Bear will have his hands turned into hamburger meat by the acid sap of some desert plant. Here's what you came for. Here are the best ways to make Bear Grylls' life a living hell in You vs. Wild.
To make Bear blow chunks, get explosive diarrhea, and/or double over in pain:
Make him eat any raw animal out there. Limpets, frog clutches, bird eggs. There are so many opportunities to do this, it would be a wonder if he didn't ralph while you went through the season. Bear also gets more aggravated as the show goes along if you continue to pick these options, which is the closest it comes to completely breaking the fourth wall.
To make Bear hallucinate and think ghosts are after him:
In Episode 2, pick either pointless flip off the helicopter; this is You vs. Wild's version of the "Bandersnatch" cereal choice (but cool kids will make him backflip). Make a fire to avoid hypothermia, enter the mine, use bark to light a torch, take the tunnel with no draft, and let his mind run wild. Well, not that wild, he just sorta gives up.
To make Bear spoon a sheep:
OK, this is like the opposite of a living hell, but it's my personal favorite decision to make. In Episode 2, choose your flip (may as well front flip this time), opt to get rid of hypothermia by keeping moving, then lure the sheep -- it's faster to catch the sheep, but luring is a quick dead-end that sees Bear gathering grass to bait the sheep even though there is literally grass everywhere, and it's such a dumb choice that you HAVE to choose it. After he fails, he'll catch the sheep and you will experience an intimate moment between man and beast.
To make Bear eat a plump grub that explodes bug juice inside of his mouth:
In Episode 3, choose the grappling hook, head to the river, and have Bear scare the crocodile. (Choosing to sneak past it will see Bear wrestle the croc, which is fun, but then he goes way off course, nearly drowns, and you'll have to restart the mission.) Bear will end up back in the jungle where he was supposed to go all along anyway because that's how this show works, and that will get Bear hungry, where he has the opportunity to eat termites or a grub. Push whatever you are eating away because you won't want to watch this with a full mouth, and then choose the grub.
To make Bear rub mud all over his crotch and butt:
In Episode 4, choose the rope, then head through the sawgrass. He'll spot a jaguar, but don't choose the mud yet. Choose the branches to disguise him, so you can watch him slink around like a moving bush because it's funny. That won't work, so he'll have to try the mud.
To make Bear pee on his clothes and wear it as a headband:
In Episode 7, take the chopper, rappel down the ravine, head toward the boulders, and let it rain.
To make Bear burn the F out of his hands on plant juice until it looks like he's been ziplining barehanded for miles:
In Episode 7, take the plane, descend, then go right (yes, there's one decision in this series that is just "Go Left" or "Go Right"), and order him to extract liquid from the firesticks. It's wonderful to see his skin hanging from his palm while blisters pop.
To make Bear get bit by a rattlesnake:
In Episode 8, Bear will eventually come across a rattlesnake. You'll have the option to have him catch it by pinning the snake's head to the ground or by grabbing it by its tail. Which way do YOU think will get him bitten?
BONUS: Just a GIF of nature fighting back
Dang, nature! You harsh.
You vs. Wild is now available on Netflix.