I would like to preface this article by saying that I wish Bear Grylls no ill will. Nor do I welcome harm upon the beasts of South Africa. That said, when Netflix released its recent interactive film — Animals on the Loose: A You vs. Wild Movie starring everyone’s favorite survivalist — it was clear that no choice a viewer made could lead to Bear’s “death.” I felt safe in my plan to engineer a perfect hell for this man.
And if you’re wondering what compels someone down this path, think about all the times you were playing The Sims and removed the ladders from the pool while your character was taking a swim. Or perhaps you’re the type of RollerCoaster Tycoon who designed your virtual amusement park without any restrooms. Then there’s the classic decision that every Zelda player makes in a moment of boredom: Having Link attack an innocent flock (or chattering) of chickens, only to have these fowl turn on you in revenge.
Suffice it to say, no animals or TV hosts were harmed in the making of this article.
A significant amount of time was required to work through the various scenarios available in this choose-your-own-adventure film to find the quickest path to failure. Remember that scene in Avengers: Infinity War when Dr. Strange envisions 14,600,005 outcomes in their battle against Thanos? Well, imagine that, but it’s me drunkenly pressing buttons on my remote until Bear Grylls gets attacked by a lion.
Also know that my goal wasn’t merely limited to physically harming Grylls or placing him in danger. With that in mind, I also used what I like to call “the weapon of empathy” to imagine what matters most to Grylls — his love of nature and his reputation as a capable survivalist. Without a reputation, a man is nothing.
So after much experimentation, here is the perfect guide to Bear Grylls’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Please enjoy this recipe for schadenfreude.
The interactive film relies heavily on your initial choice of quests. In the outset, Bear discovers a breached electric fence that forms the boundaries of a wildlife preserve. Electricity to the lines has been cut by poachers, thus allowing a lion and baboon to escape.
You are given three choices for initial quests worthy of pursuit: Subdue the lion, capture the baboon, or restore power to the preserve via the electrical terminal.
For reasons I will explain, we start with the primate.
Baboon Scat Theater
Choosing to locate the baboon first means you are able to encounter it before a prowling cheetah is able to initiate a fight. Remember, our overall goal is to craft the most demoralizing and traumatic chain of events for our fictional Bear Grylls.
Your first big decision on Monkey Island comes as you decide whether to consume the grubs from a dried tree branch or feast on the sweet and delicious berries in your path. Since we are unforgiving, Bear chokes down the vile worm before your eyes.
This choice pays off in a number of ways. Also, we made him eat a worm. If we had chosen the berries, Bear could then later use the treats to lure the baboon away from the cheetah. While doing so results in Bear receiving a sizable monkey scratch to the side, I’d prefer to wound Bear psychologically rather than physically.
Rather than attempt to lure the baboon away from the nearby predator, we insist that our host scare the monkey away by dumbly waving his arms in the air and screaming. This pathetic attempt to save the baboon’s life results in the primate pelting Bear with its own feces. It’s incredibly poetic.
Having chased the baboon to the craggy sea cliffs of South Africa’s southern coast, Bear must choose among three options: rappel across the ragged cliffside, build a raft from the plastic waste he just complained about, or swim across shark-infested waters while a violent undertow sweeps away everything in its path.
We’re gonna go with the swimming option. Because it seems horrible. Bear is immediately pulled out to sea where the sharks live. It’s great. The baboon gets away, and Bear has to pop a smoke signal to request a rescue team come retrieve him from his own dumbness.
We don’t get to see a damp Bear Grylls aboard a rescue chopper shivering and afraid, but we can imagine it.
You’ve Got the Power
Our second mission is to restore power to the preserve’s electric fence before any more animals escape. With a storm on the way, we have to act fast to reach the power relay station.
Our first decision comes as Bear reaches a flooding gorge. Should he carefully ride the floodwaters down the ravine or cling to its sides and hope that the water levels stop rising? In conflicts regarding man versus nature, remember what we learned from Moby Dick: Always bet on man and his physical abilities to overcome any obstacle.
Bear’s strength gives out almost immediately, and he is sent careening down the gorge into the waters below. This decision results in Bear receiving a nasty cut to his leg that will surely become infected. This is the gangrenous nightmare of our creation.
Moving on, Bear notices blood trickling down his hand. He discovers a leech feeding on his arm.
“Protein,” Bear squeals in glee, before asking us how he should consume the leech.
“Don’t,” you say to your television. The circle of life isn’t just humans and leeches feeding on each other like some bloodthirsty ouroboros.
Since self-respect isn’t an option, we must decide whether Bear will try to swallow the leech (and risk it attaching to his mouth) or bite into it and get a mouthful of blood. Let’s swallow.
Bear immediately regrets this decision as the leech latches onto his throat. He quickly fashions a large pair of forceps out of some twigs and removes the parasite.
Not one to let oral leech wounds get him down, Bear wades deeper into the river, only to suddenly emerge with a boa constrictor wrapped tightly around his throat. We decide that Bear will use his human muscles to overpower the snake — a plan that will surely not work.
With his airway closing, Bear once again manages to fire off a rescue signal just moments before succumbing to nature and his own hubris.
You Ain’t Lion
The lion rescue portion of the adventure is the least dense in terms of options. Most choices bring you to the same outcomes, but by arriving here last we ensure that the escaped lion has had time to destroy a visiting researcher’s campsite. At the very least, we know that Bear’s incompetence has halted any educational endeavors being undertaken.
After finding the researcher trapped under the remnants of his tent and likely soaked in his own urine, Bear continues tracking the lion. He harvests some meat from a fallen ungulate. Suddenly, we spot the lion.
For some reason using yourself as live bait is not the worst choice here. We decide that Bear should use the meat he discovered to lure the lion into a trap he’s crafted from branches. But as the lion approaches, it senses a better menu option: the bumbling, bloody man brined in seawater and smelling of raw meat.
The lion turns to Bear and gives chase, you are forced to pop a flare. Rescue is once again on the way. You have failed everything.
One Last Go
With dangerous animals run amok, you are given one final opportunity to redeem yourself: rescue a herd of escaped elephants from poachers.
Bear begins this quest by immediately hefting the first chunk of bowling ball-sized elephant feces he can find and holding it up to the camera like a proud parent at his child’s christening.
Suddenly Bear senses a lion nearby. We decide that Bear should attempt to simply outrun it.
Realizing his cruel existence as the object of some higher power’s petty wrath, Bear races toward a cliffside. Miraculously, he manages to escape the lion and safely dives into the peaceful waters below. He looks up from the water and begins to deliver some piece of valuable survival advice. Then a hippopotamus swims up and bites his head off.
Yes, you can kill Bear Grylls in this interactive movie — in a way. Just as the hippo clamps down on Bear’s head, we cut to him waking from a nightmare. We are given another chance to save the elephants. Bear races to catch up with the poachers. He arrives at his final obstacle. All that separates Bear from saving these endangered creatures is a canyon.
Nightfall is fast approaching and the poachers are almost upon the herd. Rather than quickly shimmying across the line that spans the canyon, we force Bear to slowly and laboriously scale the cliffside.
As he continues up the opposite side of the canyon wall, Bear’s strength fades. His energy is sapped. Alone, trapped on a narrow ridge and covered in leech wounds and baboon crap, our brave adventurer must admit defeat.
The lessons to learn here are many:
Have I been trapped inside too long? Yes.
Should I maybe engage in some introspection to understand why I felt compelled to do all this? Probably.
Have I learned anything at all from Bear Grylls’s most recent adventures?
Maybe. I know how best to eat a leech. If that’s a thing.