Mitchell, fiancé advance on NBC reality show
Russellville native and former Miss Alabama USA Madeline Mitchell said she’s used to being characterized as a typical “pageant girl” who would never be caught getting dirt under her well-manicured nails.
But Mitchell, 24, said she thinks she’s already proved those people wrong after Monday’s premiere of the new NBC reality show “Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls” where Mitchell and her fiancé, Ryan Gwin, compete in a survival setting in the wilderness of New Zealand.
In the show’s first episode, Mitchell and Gwin, 24, face a series of challenging tests including swimming down an ice-cold, rapidly-flowing stream, hiking through a dense forest and up steep hills, having to find and prepare wild deer meat for food, eating raw fish eyeballs and even drinking their own urine as part of a challenge.
“I wanted to do this show because I knew it would be a challenge, and I was definitely right,” Mitchell joked.
“I never in a million years thought I would be eating a raw fish eye or doing some of the other things we had to do.
“This was a tremendous challenge and Ryan and I constantly had to push ourselves to the limits and really see what we were capable of.”
Mitchell said she first found out about the show when she was giving away her crown for Miss Alabama USA.
“One of the judges was a casting director for NBC who was talking about the possibility of Ryan and I being on a reality show,” Mitchell said.
“I was open to the idea and when she called and said the show we’d be doing was a survivor show, I knew I wanted to do it.
“Everyone always thinks of me as a pageant girl who could never do something like that, so I knew this would be a great opportunity for me. And Ryan loves Bear Grylls and all his survival shows, so we just decided to go for it.”
Mitchell said they attended a casting for the show in Atlanta but they didn’t find out until a week before they had to leave for New Zealand that they had made the cut.
“It all just happened so fast,” she said. “But I love spontaneity and I was really excited that we had been chosen and were going to get to be part of this awesome experience.”
Mitchell and Gwin left for Los Angeles, Calif., on Feb. 26 and spent two days there doing promotions and interviews for the show before flying out of LA for New Zealand on Feb. 28.
“When we first got there, we were taken to a really nice hotel, so we thought ‘Oh, this is going to be a piece of cake,’” Mitchell said.
“We thought we would be doing challenges during the day and then coming back to that nice hotel with a comfy, warm bed and running water. But we were wrong.”
Mitchell said once they left the hotel to head to what became known as “base camp,” she and Gwin soon discovered there wouldn’t be anything else comfortable about their time in New Zealand.
“We found out that instead of a nice, warm bed at that hotel, we’d be staying in sleeping bags in tents in the wilderness and surviving off the land,” she said. “It was pretty intense.”
Mitchell said she and Gwin were also shocked to learn that they would actually be working with the other teams who were participating in the show instead of actually competing against them the whole time.
“It’s important to stick together in a survival situation and that’s something we learned through this experience,” she said.
“Bear made sure that we worked together and that no one was left out or left behind.
“That ended up being a great thing for us because we made some really good friends from the show, and we’re actually going to visit some of them next month in Miami.”
Mitchell said teamwork was important during the filming of the show because they faced many obstacles that would have been difficult to face alone.
“One of the most challenging things about those first days in the wilderness was definitely the lack of food and the weather,” she said.
“They told us there is a hole in the ozone there, which causes the temperatures to really jump from one extreme to the other. During the day it would be nearly 100 degrees but at night it would be below freezing.
“The extreme weather was hard to get used to, and the lack of food was difficult as well because you need it in order to have energy for all these difficult challenges.”
During Monday night’s episode, viewers were able to see just how challenging a time Mitchell and Gwin had as contestants on the show.
After swimming down an ice-cold stream and hiking through hills and dense forest, the contestants were asked to eat a raw fish eyeball since it is a good source of protein.
“I was pretty upset when I realized what we were going to be eating,” she said, “but the whole point of us doing this show was to experience new things and do things we had never done before so I knew I had to do it. I didn’t want to go home after the first show because I wouldn’t try something.”
Mitchell could be shown holding her nose as she bit into the eyeball.
“I took about two bites and bit into something hard,” she said. “I couldn’t think about what it was I might be biting into so I just swallowed it.”
Not long after having to down fish eyeballs, Grylls informed the contestants that one person from each two-member team would need to urinate in a bottle and bring it with them the next morning.
“I just looked at Ryan because I thought there was no way I could do whatever it was they had planned for us to do with our own pee,” Mitchell said.
“Thankfully, Ryan said he would take one for the team so he did it.”
The contestants soon found out their survival challenge was to take the bottle of urine and mix it with muddy water and then boil it to 95 degrees to kill the bacteria and then cool it to 60 degrees before one person had to drink the entire bottle.
“I couldn’t believe Ryan actually did that, but he did great,” Madeline said. “It’s funny now to look back on, but at the time, it was pretty terrible.”
Mitchell said through all the challenges and trials they faced, she was thankful for each one because she believed it made them stronger as individuals and as a couple.
“This experience gave Ryan and I a sense of accomplishment because we were able to do things many people will never get to do and make it through things we never thought we could do,” she said.
“This was also an awesome experience to go through with someone you’re about to marry because you really find out a lot about each other.
“Ryan and I made the decision not to live together before we got married, so we’ve never spent that much continuous time together, so we really learned a lot about each other during that time.
“We saw how well we could work together and I was able to see the lengths he was willing to go to to provide for me and take care of me.
“We saw each other at our very worst, and if we can make it through all of that, I know we can get through anything.”
Mitchell and Gwin made it through the first show and on to the next set of challenges, but their fate on the show remains uncertain.
“Next week’s show is going to be really great but that’s all I can say about it,” Mitchell said. “I hope everybody tunes in to watch.”
Viewers can watch Mitchell and Gwin try to “Get Out Alive” each Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.