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October 22, 2014

'Gold Rush Alaska' - Season 1 Finale Recap

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Feb 19th 2011 11:30AM
'Gold Rush Alaska' Season one finale['Gold Rush Alaska' - 'Never Say Die']

Well, it all comes down to this. A bunch of dudes on a misguided adventure exploring a glory hole for its hidden nuggets. The season has had it's share of highs and lows, but always managed to somehow justify itself through each character's earnest naïveté. One man's adventure is most every other man's stupid delusion of grandeur, and however you feel about the trials of the Hoffmans and their band of merry miners, the show sends a conflicted message about the American dream and our quest to obtain it.

The entire endeavor is couched as the pursuit of the American dream by people down on their luck with their backs against the wall between a rock and a hard place living on a prayer, but their execution of that dream is the most idiotic, misinformed, and harebrained scheme since Ponzi himself. The implication is that, by the transitive property, the American dream is a sham perpetrated by the media to sell Budweiser. The only way out of that logic is to stumble upon a mountain of gold halfway to China.

Time was running short at Porcupine Creek, and with Jack about 60 feet beneath the earth's surface in a gargantuan excavator pulling up bucketfuls of rocks and dirt, hope springs eternal. Time was running out, however, even though Jack made a point of saying, "I know where the bank is, and I'm gonna rob it."

When you're dealing with glory holes of this magnitude, the possibility of cave-ins and euphemisms increases tenfold. Add to that a nearby creek inching ever closer and glacial run-off and you basically have a filthy soaking death-trap on your hands. A situation that will "tighten your pucker up," which is something old people say instead of "scare the hell out of you."

You can now add water pumps to the list of equipment that had the crew saying things like "if we don't fix this, we're done," and "who's idea was this, again?!" They needed to keep the surrounding water out of the hole, and that meant a pump that worked at 100% efficiency.

Todd decided to come crawling to neighboring gold mogul John Schnabel again, asking for a loaner. But since John knew what he was doing and isn't a delusional moron, all his pumps were shut down for the winter in preparation for the coming frozen Armageddon. You can't mine in an Armageddon, and John's only advice -- which was basically his advice from the day Todd and his buys showed up -- was to run. Run like the wind. The wind that's about to blow your dreams out your glory hole.

Did Todd listen to the mining messiah? Absolutely not, but it wasn't because he's stubborn or naïve; he paved that road months ago. Desperation trumps stubbornness in situations like these, and it also fuels seemingly illogical decisions like the one to shut down the pump altogether to save fuel, even though it meant the hole would fill to the brim again, setting them back a day or two.

They needed a pump badly, and resident wily old curmudgeon, Dakota Fred, went about procuring one out of the ether. With all the sane and practical mines closed for the winter, he had to look outside the industry, which led him to a guy who thought he might have a pump that might work halfway up a mountain accessible only by what amounted to footpaths and snowmobile trails. That was sort of a metaphor for the entirety of the show. Everything they did was based on a whim and a "if seven things synchronize perfectly," but inevitably the magic of television steps in and it all works out. He got the pump, and the rush to beat the cold was on.
Everything they do is "Just a whole bunch of 'might.'"

What do you know? It worked. The new six inch pump turned out to be much better than the old four inch at pumping out the glory hole, and the fellas were giddy again. When you spend months having your dreams crushed by shoddy logic and preparation, the smallest things can make you happy. Digging commenced, and as a result, so did everyone talking about how close they were.

With Jack in the hole, still digging, Fred started to run the potential booty through the makeshift rig. As per usual, Greg whined about Fred moving too fast, and Fred gave him the silent finger, pushing though as the days and hours dwindled.

The temperature was dropping steadily, and the colder it got, the stupider our boys got. How else could you explain a statement like, "From what I understand the snow gets really really deep," in the middle of Alaska? It served to highlight the fact that they weren't equipped to stay the winter, and needed to make every minute count, even if it meant running into the night.

Unfortunately, they were getting the hang of this whole mining thing just in time to realize how stupid it all was. This show constantly asks the viewer to sympathize with people who deserve no sympathy. Are they the bravest, or the most ignorant people in the world? The narrator was still trying to keep us in a game that we knew was over about four episodes ago. With his suspenseful inflections and the creepy joy he seemed to get out of saying "glory hole," I think we all mutually agreed to see this through to the end.

Speaking of the end, once I found out that season two was not only in the works, but slated for the fall, it became apparent that this finale wouldn't end in a golden shower. How could they do a second season of this show if they found basketballs made of gold? A lot of milking needs to happen between now and then, they just needed a few mild victories to make them forget about their mountain of regret.

Even the new pump was no match for the rain and snow accumulation, and with the hole full again, it was time to clean out and hopefully drop mad nuggets on the scale. Panning for gold is like looking for a specific needle in a haystack... of needles, and the pans were coming up shiny. Remember, these guys were $275,000 in the hole and had made back about $8,000 in gold.

The final tally came out to 14.64 ounces -- almost $20,000 -- and they acted like gold was falling from the sky. In the excitement, Jack mentioned that their hard work was "Finally paying off." Paying off? Really!? That's like pumping $275,000 into a slot machine and doing cartwheels when it pays out Chuck E. Cheese tokens.

Over the course of the season their rhetoric and mentality have slowly shifted into the realm of carnival patrons or compulsive gamblers. It's almost as if it's not about the gold anymore, it's about the rush of the game, the dig. I can't even count the number of times they lamented about being "so close," like the guy at the carnival flipping quarters into mini fish-bowls, which only justifies another futile attempt. All three things -- mining, gambling, and carnival games -- are designed to keep you close enough to believe, but far enough away to never win.

Now, they were racing against Mother Nature, and I hear she's wicked fast, made faster by running out of fuel as your glory hole runneth over once more. "This whole thing is kind of a fiasco right now." Right now?! Now it's a fiasco? The last five months have been a fiasco, but running out of fuel at the onset of winter is when you start to take notice? They tried to build suspense around whether or not they would be able to secure some fuel to finish, but we knew they couldn't end the show with "aww, shucks. We ran out of gas. Guess we'll go home now."
With every flake of snow that fell, a little piece of each guy died.

The hole was looking ragged, but Jack was nothing if not an old timer with a death wish. He was digging anyway, getting some good dirt while the hole was starting to swallow him whole. It was then, at the precipice of great peril, that Jack left the glory hole for the last time, prompting his son Todd to say, "I know you're willing to die down there, but I'm not interested." while hoping for an Alaskan heatwave. "I don't think Alaska wants us green-horns mining anymore out here. It's sad because we just finally figured out how to start mining." That is sad.

Their entire season and livelihood came down to the weather, kind of like a wedding, but with hard-hats, and Todd was hoping the snow wouldn't be too deep in the morning. It was. And that was it. They packed up and left, like carnies. They had to get back to their families with all the nothing they accumulated over the summer. Anticlimactic to say the least, and the second season swooped in, yet again, to ruin what made the show interesting from the beginning: "will they get the gold?"

Todd said it best when he said, "We've proven that you can still do stuff like this in America." So true. We can do as many stupid things as we want and there will always be another one right around the corner. In a last ditch attempt to build up season two, Jack confidently mentioned that "we're gonna get about six million." Not sure if that number was based on the $20,000 it took them five months to get or some advanced gold mining algorithm, or if he just made it up. I kind of think he made it up, and if he did, why stop at six? Why not get eight or ten million, or a million million since we're just making up numbers at this point?

As Alaska faded in their rear view mirrors, I thought about season two and how quickly they glossed over the fact that they now had seven months of debt and destitution, with families that would always be saying "remember that time you gave away all our savings to play in a glorified sandbox?" when you have the nerve to question any of their decisions. That should be season two: the crew back at home, dealing with what promises to be a grim situation.

Tell us: What did you think of the finale?

Dr. Vaughan teaches English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York, and his parents are visiting. You can also check out his blog at drvtv.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/pages/Ryan-Vaughan/21931402981

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callpass

its a shame the shows not the real deal.minning for anything is so great.i have been minning a small track in south carolina.partime.it took a while to get all i needed first and set up a camp.the state says you must had a place to live and be out of the weather.have the basics had a well drilled 150 foot had septic tank pvc and leach feild put in place.found some good stuff in the ground when digging.and enoff to meet the cost of the well and septic stuff. my wif and i bought the property way before and pu a double wide mobile home on it long before the thought of minning it came up.it wasent untill we found gold digging for the well and septic system that we desided to mine it.we were able to have electric service from the ele comp.and i use a generator for the minning. but the hoffmans bought or leas the claims with only a slick guys word that there is gold on it.no servay no nothing and the other place is even worse.its nice to have dreams at someone eleses expence.and this claim jummper dakoda crew is a jumper he new there was something in the ground and he did everything to under mind the hoffmens.so they could not make the money to give earl.so he could take the claim from the hoffmans.and mind it him self.i wonder what happen to the guy thats missing and found dead and his gold all gone back in the 1980's and now earl owns it and dakoda fread.i think they would sell of there familys to get a head.they are back stabbers and low down claim jumpers.that earl and the dakoda crew.if they cam around my site i would shoot first and ask questions later.

November 25 2011 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
triggerfingerx

Wow I started watching this got about halfway through and started to feel it was dragging so did the unthinkable and read how it ended. Im so glad as this first season goes nowhere quite pointless a load of chumps with 47 guns and no clue. They found just $20,000 of gold for a years work and at least $250,000 investment yet kept complaining they were on the verge of loosing everything, not true! Typical American nonsense crammed full of ads and BS clearly they should have lost their houses if this was true as they didn't have a clue. They have got a season 2 and im sure some money from the TV Network.

I recommend you don't waste your time it has no substance clearly is not the make or break situation they keep saying it is and drags on to end with a whimper!

May 18 2011 at 9:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cherylr

The wrapup show was much like the season, lots of hope (whether real or imagined) about getting the gold. I would have rather saved my $250k and used it to pay off my house, but that's just me. For what its worth, did enjoy the show, thankfully the old man never killed anyone else or himself. I sorta got tired of the inspirational messages spewing out of his pie hole, though. Thank God for crusty ole guy Fred, who had it going on in the mining efforts. I'll srart watching next season, maybe these folks "saved" their houses wth the pay per episode.

March 16 2011 at 9:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
GoldenRecoveries

POOR? RISK? Does anyone one here realize how much their getting paid each episode? I was I was "down on my luck and risking everything" like these guys are, lol. Their risking nothing and getting paid a fortune. I like how the show talks about how far "in debt" they are. What a joke. They don't factor in the T. V. royalties into how much money they're making. And that fake "loan" from his sister to keep the operation going. Oh boy, the whole thing relating to how much they're risking is a farce.

March 03 2011 at 8:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

I've watch this show and its pretty intriguing to me... before I came here at Canada, I was a gold miner in the Philippines so I know how to process those gold in the buckets,, i'm pretty much sure that those buckets with black sands has more gold only if you know how to process it... I'm SO MUCH interested to show you how if you would let me help you... You can contact me at my email address.. jguiniawan@yahoo.ca

March 02 2011 at 1:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

I will definitely watch season two, just because it makes me feel smart to see people sooooo stupid!
And, no they didn't just figure out how to mine, they didn't learn anything, they will fail, and fail again, and fail at everything they do, because they will never learn.
It all shows in their arguments over how to fix this, how to work that, do it my way cause it's my mine and my money and my equipment, don't care if it's right or logical or if you're the only one that knows how to run it (argument from authority) or I've been a mechanic since before I was born, don't tell me how to fix stuff (same argument from authority)
As long as they refuse to listen to reason and stick to their falsehoods backed by methods of deceit (argument form authority) they will never succeed at anything and never learn anything.
For me it is not a show about mining, but about peoples inability to be reasonable, to deal with each other in an honest and respectful manner.

March 01 2011 at 1:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Pleased

I loved the review-right on the money. I was really getting sick and tired of them playing the poor, broke, down-and-out card every episode. What happened to all the money that the network was paying for this reality show?? It had to be at least $250,000 per episode. These guys could find zilch and still make money from us stupid fools who watch this. Entertaining, yes; over dramatic, definitely.

March 01 2011 at 11:02 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Mike Carr

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."

Those who can't teach, teach English/Media/Humor courses at Binghamton University in upstate New York.

March 01 2011 at 1:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kenavo

This series was very instructive about gold mining: it i very, very hard work and one needs a lot of experience in this area to really make money. This crew ere a bunch of rookies. They made terrible mistakes throughout the season, the worst being bringing children into this wild area. Just plain dumb! There was a great film about the difficulties of gold mining done by John Huston in 1949: "The Treasure of Sierra Madre."

February 26 2011 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
T Boyd

these guys are getting paid,just like all the rest of these reality shows.more drama big rating bigger pay day.

February 25 2011 at 8:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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