This was the first episode of the show I have been able to watch, so this review will be presented by yours truly.

In this episode the seven remaining contestants found themselves in Nordmarka, the woodlands north of Oslo. The group was backpacking along one of the many hiking trails in this area. The gay games medallist was in awe over the silence, the rustling of the trees, the bees buzzing and the birds chirping. He pointed out that America you could always hear traffic and the noises of the city, even in the wilderness. But here – nothing. The group arrived at their destination – a self-serviced hiker’s cabin operated by the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) – where they were allowed to unload their luggage and do a brief inspection of the area. On the side of the cabin the opera singer found a door with a small heart-shaped peephole. She opened it and quickly concluded this was the outhouse. In Norway, a heart is the traditional symbol for toilets. Inside the outhouse, the videographer was puzzled to find a framed picture of the Norwegian Royal family. The priest looked at the picture and asked “is that supposed to be respectful or a joke?” It turned out that the Royal family had been staying at this cabin on a few occasions, hence the picture… in the outhouse. In fact, Norwegians like to use their cabin outhouses as galleries, hanging up pictures of family, animals and the wilderness.

The Americans then hiked down to a nearby lake for this episode’s challenge. The group was split in two teams, with the surfer, the actress and the hunting vieographer on team Red, and the opera singer, the priest, the wrestler and the gay games medalist on team Blue. The first part of the challenge was to canoe across the lake. Since Blue team had four people, the opera singer chose to sit out. The other Blues didn’t seem to mind as they thought they would do better without her in the canoe. Both teams set off, but the Blues immediately discovered they had a major handicap: The wrestler, sitting in the middle, was too top heavy to balance himself in the canoe, and within seconds the canoe capsized and sent the tree men in the water. Swimming back to shore, they decided that the opera singer was a better candidate for sitting in the middle and let the wrestler sit out. Meanwhile, the Reds, in a display of true sportsmanship, had paddled their canoe back to start to make it a fair race for both teams.

Setting off again, the teams could now focus on trying to propel their canoes in a somewhat forward direction. A wide-angle, fast-forward shot showed the two canoes zig-zagging around, using virtually the whole width of the lake to get across. The opera singer, however, turned out to be surprisingly good at canoeing and the Blue team found a good rhythm. They were the first to make their way across the lake to the next checkpoint. The challenge was to boil a kettle of water. To do this, they had to make a bonfire using only flint and steel. The opera singer picked up the kettle of water and, thinking it was gasoline, started pouring it on the logs of wood. The priest yelled “that’s water!!” but the damage was already done. Hoping the logs weren’t too drenched, the Blues collected some dry grass and tried to light it up with sparks from the flint. It turned out to be quite difficult. Meanwhile, the Reds had made it to shore and were trying to build their own fire a few feet away. Both teams kept striking the flint to no avail, until the opera singer came up with the idea of using moss as kindle. The dry moss lit up sraight away and soon they had the fire going. All camp-loving Norwegians know that there are certain types of moss and fungus that grow on trees, which are very suitable as firestarters. The opera singer uttered a part gloating, part sarcastic “you’re welcome”. The heat and smoke from the fire reached the Red team, adding to their stress as they were still struggling. Their hands were bleeding and burnt, but they just couldn’t get their fire started. Soon enough, the Blues’ water was boiling over the fire and they could move on to the next challenge: a run through the forest to their next checkpoint where they had to answer five questions about Norwegian cabin life:

  1. Why do Norwegian cabins have a horseshoe on the door with the open end facing up? (Correct answer: so the luck doesn’t run out.)
  2. How many Norwegians homes own or have access to a cabin? (Correct answer: 55%)
  3. What does it mean when a cabin flies a flag at full mast? Correct answer: someone is home)
  4. What is Norwegian cabin furniture mostly made of? (Correct answer: pinewood)
  5. How much firewood is burnt at Norwegian cabins every year? (Correct answer: 190,000 tons)

Each wrong answer would add penalty time to the overall race, but the answers were anyone’s guess and the team had to pick randomly from the three alternatives to each question. As the Blues raced back to their canoe, the Reds had finally got their fire going and the water boiling. They ran to the checkpoint to answer their questions and followed the same random answering tactic as the Blue team.

The final leg was paddling the canoes back to the starting line. The Blues had gained several minutes on the Reds thanks to their success with the fire, and the wrestler cheered them on as he spotted his teammates paddling toward him. Reaching the finish line, the gay medallist had to swallow his words about not wanting the opera singer on his team, since she was the one responsible for their success. A little later the Red team reached the shore and the points could be added up. It turned out both teams had got two answers correct, and the Blues were announced the winners. The actress was regretting that her team decided to turn their canoe around when the other team capsized, as they would have probably won otherwise.

The host announced that the winners would get their reward the next day, and the losers would get a “smelly assignment”. But for now, the contestants were free to enjoy their evening and get a taste of Norwegian cabin life. Their dinner consisted of “Joika” (canned reindeer meatballs and gravy) with potatoes, carrots and bread. The priest managed to interpret the instructions on the can as “heat and serve”, and so everyone could enjoy their dinner. The surfer commented that he “couldn’t say he would choose to eat reindeer balls again”, but with potatoes and good bread the dinner was “OK”.

The next morning the group enjoyed a traditional Norwegian breakfast outside the cabin. The opera singer put a slice of brown cheese on a piece of bread, slapped a slice of salami on top and said “here’s a Norwegian sandwich. That’ll be 12 dollars!”. After breakfast, the host arrived and announced the day’s assignments. The winning team would get to go horseback riding in the forest, but the gay medallist said he nearly pooped himself upon hearing the assignment for the losing team: Emptying the outhouse! The videographer, actress and surfer were all gobsmacked, but they suited up and went to work. Opening the panels to reveal the outhouse “contents”, the smell nearly knocked them over. Using only shovels, they now had to scrape the human remains, put it in buckets and dump it in the forest. The actress had to ask with an eyebrow raised, “This is what becoming more Norwegian is about? Cleaning up Norwegian s***?”

Meanwhile the other team were getting to know their horses. The wrestlerwas a bit apprehensive, since he had been afraid of horses since he was a child. However, the horses were very friendly and well trained and restored his confidence. In fact, the wrestler was the only one who brought his horse to gallop on the trip (although not entirely by his own choice).

The outhouse cleaners were also getting familiar with their job. Scraping the poo into the buckets, the actress led them in a song: “I’m siiiiinging in the s***… I’m singing thing the s***.  What a glorious feeeeling…”. As the poo tumbled towards them the videographer jokingly said “this is not a landslide, it’s a s***slide!”. The other team returned from their riding trip just as the cleaners finished their task. The host now had them prepare for the elimination challenge. They were to walk into the woods where a challenge “involving guns” would await them. The hunting videographer, being familiar with guns, felt confident but knew there could be other things to the challenge as well.

Arriving at a makeshift shooting range, the challenge was presented by Liv Grete Skjelbreid Poiree, seven times World Champion biathlete. Today’s challenge was biathlon: a run through a track in the forest including two series of shooting with a BB gun. The targets consisted of tin cans on a wooden rack. Liv Grete explained to the contestants in broken English how to shoot the gun, and the videographer also happily shared his expertise with his teammates (interpreting the biathletes broken-English instructions into American). He volunteered to go first, followed by the surfer and the actress. The Blue team had joined to cheer them on, since nobody really wanted to see any of the other contestants get sent home. The Red team gave each other a “nipple bump” (group hug) and wished each other good luck.

The videographer completed his run, pacing himself through each lap so he could shoot better. He ended up shooting down five of the ten targets. The surfer was next – not only did he run faster but he was surprisingly skilled with the gun, knocking down eight cans. Finally it was the actress’ turn. She wasn’t very lucky with her shooting, hitting only one target. She resorted to shooting as fast as she could so she could make up time by running. Nevertheless, she lost the challenge and had to pack her bags. Everyone was very emotional about seeing the actress leave, since the group had become very close-knit. The opera singer, now the last remaining girl in the group, announced that she now represented “all women”.

Sitting around the bonfire outside the cabin later that evening, the contestants got a visit from the host who presented them with the Norwegian Spirit award. The host wished she could give the award to the entire Red team for their sportsmanship in turning the canoe around, but the award was given to the hunting videographer for his willingness to share his shooting knowledge with his opponents. And as a final treat for everyone, the host threw them a bag of marshmallows to complement the pølser they were grilling. 

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