By Jennifer K. Bauer
In the Bible it’s the story of the Garden of Eden. In 2016 it’s an episode of the reality TV show “Naked and Afraid.”
“It’s the harshest thing on TV,” said Stacey Osorio, 36, of Clarkston, who would know because she is the woman to be featured in an episode premiering Sunday, April 3.
Osorio calls it “a life-changing experience,” the Discovery Channel calls it “the ultimate survival challenge.” Each installment features a new couple dropped off in a remote, harsh environment to survive together for 21 days with no food, water, fire or clothes while their experience is documented by a film crew.
The Discovery Channel pays people to appear on the show and Osorio, a single mother of two majoring in wildlife biology at Lewis-Clark State College, applied hoping to help pay for school. She was accepted and late last summer traveled to Croatia’s Pannonian basin, a swampy inland delta inhabited by a wide variety of birds, wild boar, fox and snakes. Before she left, her 13-year-old son made one request.
“He said, ‘Mom, please don’t fall in love with this man on TV, naked,’ ” Osorio said.
Like everyone on the show, she arrived on location and as the cameras rolled, disrobed and walked to meet her companion for the first time.
“The whole naked thing becomes a non-issue because it’s so painful and horrible,” Osorio said about walking, sitting, sleeping and gathering firewood without clothes.
People on the show are allowed to bring one item. Osorio chose to bring a khukuri, a Nepalese utility knife similar to a machete. Her companion, who she calls “a lovely man,” brought a cooking pot. They were given a hand drill to start fires, burlap satchels to carry things in and primitive looking necklaces wired with microphones.
Osorio said she tried to prepare by toughening her body — walking barefoot to harden her feet and lifting weights without gloves.
“When there’s limited resources and knowledge it’s a challenge but once you get fire and clean water you should be able to find food,” she said.
She and her partner lived in a hole in the ground. It was very hot. She ate a lot of frogs. There were swarms of mosquitoes. Fire became her shelter.
“I was really afraid to lose the fire,” she said.
A crew of five or six people filmed the couple from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, eventually condensing the footage to an hour.
“You do a lot of sleeping because you’re not eating much,” Osorio said.
Contestants face an array of unforeseen circumstances, from accidents and heat exhaustion to infections and intolerable partners. People can choose to leave early but they won’t get paid as much as those who endure the full 21 days. Medical staff on site can also decide to send someone home if a situation seems hazardous.
“It’s something you choose to do and you take that risk,” Osorio said. “You have to be careful.”
Osorio has a long list of things she missed while living primitively, beginning with “everything” but more specifically, “cake, ice cream, ice, Dutch Bros. coffee., a shower, a bed, blankets, chairs, a plate — I would use a rock or flat piece of wood.”
She isn’t allowed to say how much she was paid but noted “it’s not enough” for what you go through.
That said, she would love to be on the show again. In the future she hopes to use what she learned in a wilderness therapy program.
“It comes to a point where it’s purifying. You get to detox society,” Osorio said.
What: “Naked and Afraid” viewing party with Stacey Osorio
When: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 3
Where: Clearwater River Casino Sports Lounge
Of Note: The episode is scheduled to premiere at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 3 on the Discovery Channel. Check local listings for changes.