‘Siberia’ Premiere: Mockumentary ‘Survivor’ Show Hits NBC; Contestant Tommy Dies – Or Does He?
NBC premiered its newest summer show, Siberia, last night, and the scripted drama started off with a bang. Siberia is the network’s newest venture into the scripted-reality medium (following their successful faux-documentary series The Office), in which sixteen contestants are competing in a Survivor-esque reality show (all fiction, of course) to win a prize of $500, 000.
The fake reality show began with the host, a conveniently Australian Jonathon Buckley, explaining the rules to the viewers; there are no rules. The contestants can do whatever it takes to win – they can do anything to be the last man standing. The winner(s) will be whoever is left standing in the Siberian wilderness at the end of winter.
The host tells the audience that the contestants have been placed in Tunguska, which some call the ‘Valley of Death,’ and will be housed in a cabin that was the place of a mysterious mass disappearance a hundred years ago.
The 16 contestants are your regular reality-competition stereotypes. Johnny (Johnny Wactor), a Southern boy from South Carolina whose occupation is listed as ‘competitive bull rider,’ the douchy bad-boy nobody likes, refuses to band together with the rest of the contestants. Daniel (Daniel Sutton) is a geeky computer programmer who is the only contestant smart enough to purify the water before they drink it. The rest are similarly predictable.
The host announces an initial challenge – a race to the cabin where they will be staying. The last two contestants to arrive will be sent home. Johnny, Neeko (Neeko Skervin), and Sabina (Sabina Akhmedova) are the first to arrive, and Sabina finds a hidden pocketknife in her cabin. Meanwhile, Berglind (Berglind Icey) and Harpreet (Harpreet Turka) are lost in the woods after having veered off path, and Tommy (Tommy Mountain), an environmental activist, selflessly carried Daniel on his back after Daniel twisted his ankle. In the end, Berglind and Harpreet are the first to go home after being last to make it to the cabins, which have been declared gendered (boys in one, girls in the other).
Once everyone has arrived to the camp, the host explains some of the safety conditions of the show. There is a safe zone with an emergency button, which is the only way to get help from the outside world and any player who steps into this safety zone is immediately disqualified. There is also a giant metal box called the ‘Revealer,’ which contestants will use to receive limited help. Now that everybody knows the rules, it’s time for the bickering to begin. Fights erupt early as the contestants realize that there are not enough beds for every contestant, and two people are going to have to sleep on the floor.
The Revealer delivers the contestants their first clue, instructing them about the Fly Agaric mushroom, which can be edible when boiled (otherwise, it has a hallucinogenic effect). The team (sans rebel Johnny, who decides to tan on the roof instead) decides to break up into two teams – one to get the mushrooms, and one to start a fire. Only one team succeeds in their task, and, at the end of the night, the contestants huddle around a campfire drinking river water. They hear a mysterious sound coming from the surrounding woods and run inside, effectively ending the bonding.
The next morning, Annie (Anne-Marie Mueschke), Natalie (Natalie Scheetz), and Tommy leave to search for mushrooms, while Miljan (Miljan Milosevic) and Irene (Irene Yee) are on water duty. While Annie and Natalie are successful in their search for mushrooms, Miljan and Irene find a locked shed instead of water, and make a pact to keep it to themselves and explore later.
After finding food, Natalie and Annie return to camp without Tommy, who appears to have ventured forward in his exploration. Unfortunately for Tommy, the reality competition style is not the only defining characteristic of Siberia; the show’s mystery also contains a supernatural element, introduced when Tommy is pronounced dead by the host.
The remaining contestants are given a choice – they can stay and compete, or leave Siberia with five thousand dollars. Daniel is the only one who insists on more information from the host, and, luckily for the audience, footage is found of the incident, which also led to the death of a Russian cameraman. The episode ends with the footage of Tommy looking for food in the forest, when, all of a sudden, he and the cameraman begin to run, clearly afraid of something. The cameraman falls, and the camera along with it, only capturing a glimpse of whatever (or whomever) supposedly killed Tommy.
Siberia airs Monday nights at 10 P.M. on NBC.
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