Our favorite backwoods clan of bearded, gun-happy hunters are back. No, Duck Dynasty isn't on again until January. We're talking Alaskan Bush People, the Discovery channel show now in its third season that revolves around this family of nine making the most of life in the Alaskan wild.
Last night's premiere brings us back to their home on Chichagof Island, some 60 miles southwest of Juneau, and it starts off with a high-stakes countdown: Summer is just hitting Alaska, meaning the crew has less then five months to get their act together and get ready for winter. The weather is perfect now, but as patriarch Bill Brown reminds the crew, it's no time for fishing trips and hiking: "It's time to thrive."
Thriving for Bill seems to mean delegating responsibilities. "My hope and dream in life is that they'll continue this legacy," he says, which he does by passing on the work — and his wisdom.
The first task: Fortifying their handmade cabins (that are part treehouse fever dream, part survivalist cabins). Naturally, that means they need to cut down and mill a tree. The brothers clear out a path in the woods so that the tree is easier to move down to the beach, where they will then tow it with their boat, Integrity, to a lumber mill in order to saw the tree into boards. This is the kind of collaborative project worth watching — something akin to Bear Grylls meets Mythbusters with Nick Offerman commenting. It's the kind of scene that makes this show great, a moment of understated perfection.
The task is also a legitimate nail-biter: It's crucial that when this massive tree comes falling down it lands exactly on the path, and on top of the "runners" (a series of smaller logs). So with the entire family watching, and the nearby tide running out, middle child Gabe is elected by Bill to take a crack at it; he begins to hack away at the massive stump, and the family steps back as the tree begins to fall (eventually in the right direction). Chasing the tide, they quickly haul the giant log into the bay and on its way to the mill.
Gabe fells a tree.
At the lumber mill, the boys marvel at the forklift (a machine they'd like to have at home), which the owner employs to transport the logs from the water in a matter of minutes. Bill teaches them how to operate the saws and sets them to work, stripping perfect, symmetrical boards out of the uneven logs.
This is when the episode takes a dark twist: Bill's wife and mother to the kids, Ami, comes down with mysterious symptoms of severe neck pain and a fever; it gets so bad that Bill has to radio for help, and he takes her, Noah, Rain ,and Snowbird — the two girls and youngest of the family — by boat to the nearest hospital in Juneau.
The boys reflect and talk anxiously about their mother while fishing for salmon. The episode ends with a big catch, and Gabe biting into a live, still-flopping fish. Sushi, Alaska-style.