How the women of Alone survived isolation, starvation, and grizzlies — and why they'd do it again
Alone (TV Series)
In the male-dominated world of survivalism, the women of Alone are proving that, as one finalist put it, "nature doesn't care if you have an innie or outie."
In case you've been living semi-underground for a couple of years (like one contestant this season!), Alone, which airs its season 8 finale on Thursday, is one of TV's toughest reality shows. Ten wilderness experts fight to survive in different extreme locations each season, with this year's contest taking place in the grizzly-bear-infested shores of Chilko Lake, British Columbia. Equipped with just 10 items, a camera kit, and an emergency GPS for tapping out, each participant must survive in total isolation. Whoever lasts the longest wins the $500,000 prize. No camera crews. No gimmicks. It's the ultimate man vs. nature challenge.
Or, more accurately, man and woman vs. nature. Each year, the cast is made up of both male and female contestants, and while a woman hasn't won the show yet, season 8 survivalist, archeologist, and prehistoric leather specialist Dr. Theresa Emmerich has made it 68 days so far, good enough to land her in the final three with just one episode left to air.
EW spoke with Theresa, along with this season's other two bad-ass female contestants — Rose Anna Moore, a mom of two, small business owner, and big game hunter, and Michelle Finn, an educational consultant so committed she ate her own mucus "as a salt source" (see the second video below for her full explanation) — about what it's like to compete on the show, forming their amazing bond together, and whether they felt pressure to win this season for the ladies.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why did you all decide to compete on Alone?
THERESA: It was a heck of a challenge. Also, the money was a big factor, plain and simple.
MICHELLE: I lived primitively for two years in a hut I built in the woods, and during that time, I would do mini survival treks. But I'd always wanted to do one unsupported, and you don't just get this opportunity. So, when I heard about the show and watched an earlier season, I thought, "This is it." I wanted to be by myself in the wilderness, and same as Theresa, you want to challenge yourself. You want to go out there and see what you can do with what you've got.
ROSE: Same for me. It was the challenge of it. I've spent a lot of time in different environments all over the world and I just wanted to really challenge myself at an extreme level. This is the ultimate challenge.
What was harder than you expected?
ROSE: I don't think anything was really harder. I knew it was going to be hard. I was ready for it to be hard. We all wanted that challenge, and we knew how hard it was going to be.
THERESA: I know that on the screen, it gets presented as a bit of a misery fest, but I will honestly say that 98 percent of the time I was out there, I was having a ball. I loved it. The fishing was bloody harder than I was expecting it to be. Not that I think fishing is easy, but with that shallow water, it was something else.
MICHELLE: I fish a lot and I've never struck out so incredibly in my whole life. Countless hours I spent fishing and caught one rainbow trout.
Was this more of a physical or mental challenge?
MICHELLE: [Being alone] was the easy part for me. I love being by myself. If you're a super extrovert and don't have those introvert qualities, that can be really challenging.
THERESA: I'm actually a bit of the opposite. I'm with people 24/7, to the point where sometimes I'm even sleeping in Stone Age houses with a bunch of people around me. You have no solo time at all. At the end of the day, it turned out I had no trouble. I enjoyed being able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, how I wanted to do it. And there was nobody around to tell me otherwise, except that you have a camera on you, so now the entire world gets to see all your experiments, successes, failures.
ROSE: I enjoy being alone. Being in a retail position and teaching youth, I always have such heavy demands on me. It was nice to not have that; it was like a weight lifted. Nobody expects anything of you and the only person you're really answering to is yourself.
How difficult was filming yourselves while surviving?
THERESA: That was hands down my least favorite part. I was terrible at that.
ROSE: Cameras were hard. Like just [to film yourself] cutting a tree, you'll put a camera on you and put up a couple of different point-of-view cameras. Then you cut the tree, the tree falls, you move the cameras ahead, you go back and get the tree, drag the tree between the cameras, pick the cameras back up, and then do it all over again.
MICHELLE: You're giving me flashbacks, Rose. And not good ones.
THERESA: And then to carry the camera equipment. By the time you have the three cameras, all the safety gear you have to carry like the comms equipment and the bear spray, that backpack weighed 10 kilos.
Hunting and fishing were so difficult at this location. How did you feed yourselves?
MICHELLE: Let's see, bugs. I found some fish parts on the beach. Lots of different edibles. I ate freshwater snails shell and all because they were so small, I couldn't get the meat out. Lots of rose hips. As many berries as possible because you get a lot of sugars from that. You're kind of eating everything in sight — including your own mucus. All my students loved that part.
ROSE: Ants. I found a lot of ants. Everybody says they have this flavor or that flavor; I didn't find any of that. Grasshoppers. Forage items, tons of rose hips, berries, pine bark. You're really scavenging everything you can find out there. And then I was lucky enough to snare a rabbit. Once I snared the rabbit, it helped alleviate a little of that hunger, because I turned that into a soup with wild onions. I ate a lot of wild onions. I must've smelled like an onion; it was coming out of my pores.
MICHELLE: And let me give a shoutout to Rose with the hare. There's a 10-year cycle [for hare population numbers] in North America, and we're at the absolute lowest point in that 10-year cycle. So, the fact that she caught two hares in a snare, hello? High-five to Rose from afar. She's amazing.
How did it feel finally catching that rabbit?
ROSE: I can't even explain it. I was just in disbelief that it was even in my snare because they are so rare out there this season. So, I had the belief that I could do it. I trap critters all the time, that's what I do. And I thought I had [the traps] on the right trails, but when I actually snared one it was surreal.
Theresa nearly drowned when she swam into the freezing lake to run a fishing line and got tangled. And Rose was being hunted by a grizzly. How did you all persevere and keep from tapping out when times got tough?
ROSE: The grizzly bear was the only challenge where I was like, how far do I let this go? Because he had hunted me for 3 hours, so I had to scare him out of my camp that morning. He was very strategic in what he was doing. I had several grizzly bears [near my camp] and I was okay with them, but that one, he had something else on his mind.
THERESA: The lake incident was one of those situations where I got so very, very close to killing myself. I wasn't scared at all; I didn't have time to be, it wasn't like that. [I was thinking] I have to do A, B, and C, and I have to do them in this order. And if I don't, I'm going to freeze to death on this beach or press the red button, and when they get here, hopefully I'll still be alive. But at the end of the incident, it was just kind of me going, "Well, that happened. I almost died but I didn't die, so I'm going to go back into my house and make some floor mats."
Did you all feel any extra pressure to be the first woman to win it all?
THERESA: For me, no. I have never really put any kind of any thought into that. As far as I'm concerned, nature doesn't care if you have an innie or outie, so why should anyone else?
ROSE: It was just a personal challenge. There weren't really any pressures from the outside world. It was just, "I really want to do this. I want to complete this." So no, I don't think so.
MICHELLE: I didn't feel any pressure there. All we can control is the quality of our conduct, and I just wanted my students to be able to watch and feel good about what they saw with me.
I just want to shout out the level of gratitude that I have that I met these women. They are amazing people that I never would've met and become close with but not for the show, so I am eternally grateful for that. I feel very lucky.
THERESA: Absolutely, one of the most wonderful parts to come out of this.
What was leaving like and how do you look back on your performance?
MICHELLE: I got beat to hell out there. I was pretty ravaged; my whole body was covered in bruises. I lost 22 pounds from my already tiny body. I was having physical symptoms that were sketchy. My blood wasn't clotting; I was blacking out more and more frequently for longer and longer periods. I was having chest pains. So yeah, I felt like I might've been able to squeak out a few more days but at what cost?
ROSE: I wasn't ready to go. Thirty-seven days is nothing when you're out there. There's so much more that I wanted to do. I wasn't understanding why I was losing circulation to my feet… I kept thinking I can figure this out and I'll be fine. When I got home, I lost circulation in my hands. We now know it's a syndrome that I have that probably the starvation kind of kicked in. So, them making that decision [to pull me] made it very hard for me for the first few days after being out.
Now, knowing what's wrong with me and that it's something I'll deal with for the rest of my life, I know it was in my best interest for them to make that decision and I'm very glad that they did. Now I'm very proud of myself. I work with children a lot [as well], so to have all these little people come up to me and tell me that they're watching me on TV and wanting to take a picture with me and saying how proud they are of me, it's hard to not be proud of yourself.
Rose, what was it like going on this show as a mom? Were your kids scared?
ROSE: My kids are older, 26 and 23, so they like to "mom" me all the time now. The roles are reversed. My son thinks that I'm the coolest mom, which is really fun. And my daughter is very proud of me too, but at the same time, as she was watching the episodes, I got a lot of texts messages that were like, "Mom! I can't believe you did that!" My kids are very proud of me but my daughter did go through a period of time where she was very, very worried. So, it was kind of neat to have the shoe on the other foot. I went through their teenage years, and they did that to me! It was good payback.
Theresa, your living shelter was so amazing (see the video above). Had you built one before? Was it as comfy as it looked in there?
THERESA: It was absolutely as comfy as it looked in there. I took warm water baths every three days. It was great. I have built, in the past, a couple of semi-subterranean shelters, but nothing of that complexity. I have, however, excavated a number of pit-houses as I am an archeologist, so it was really a case of reverse-engineering the process, as well as modifying it.
I hear you're all going on vacation together?
THERESA: In like what, four weeks? We're going to an ancestral skills teaching gathering [in Idaho] that I taught at for many, many years and these guys are going to absolutely adore it.
Finally, would you go back on Alone?
THERESA: Hell yes, without a doubt, [I'd go] tomorrow.
Alone's season 8 finale airs Thursday at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Videos courtesy of the History Channel.
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Alone (TV Series)
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