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Doug Clark: Spokane couple test survival skills in new reality show

Ali and Matt Stevens will appear on "Men Women Wild," a new survival show that will debut Nov. 11 on the Discovery Channel. The show follows three couples trying to survive after they have been dropped off at some remote location. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Ali and Matt Stevens will appear on "Men Women Wild," a new survival show that will debut Nov. 11 on the Discovery Channel. The show follows three couples trying to survive after they have been dropped off at some remote location. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Flies that drill into your skin to lay eggs. Snakes so deadly that one bite will cool you before you can step 100 paces.

Picture a world filled with such devilish beasties and a whole lot more – a screaming, steaming jungle that by day hits 90 degrees with a smothering 97 percent humidity.

If this sounds like your cuppa quinine, then meet Matt and Ali Stevens.

The Spokane husband and wife recently attempted to survive three weeks in the above cloying deathtrap, better known as an area in southern Mexico called Snake Water.

“It’s called Snake Water for a reason,” Matt said knowingly.

My god.

How these lovebirds fared is part of “Men Women Wild,” a new couples-oriented reality show that sounds fascinating.

The six-part series premiere airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the Discovery Channel. Besides Matt and Ali, the show follows two other pairs, one placed in a high Moroccan desert and the other duo in Norway’s snowbound fjords.

“The couples will be dropped off in three of the harshest environments in the world,” states a news release for the show, “and for three weeks they will have to live off the land, navigate the vast, unknown terrain and find their way back to civilization, but only if they can survive the wild and each other.”

Did I mention there was a diabolical catch to this experiment in togetherness?

Participants must wear only the clothes on their back and carry whatever they can fit into a small bag to help them survive.

OK. Count me in.

Granted, I spent an hour the other day getting to know Matt and Ali, which definitely amped up my Spokane pride and interest in their fate.

But I’m also a closet survival show junkie.

I’ve wasted countless hours being transfixed on programs like “Survivorman,” “Man vs. Wild,” and “Naked and Afraid,” which shares the same production company as “Men Women Wild.”

So if you’re wondering what I’ve taken away from all this viewing, I’ll be honest: If I had to camp inside the NorthTown Mall food court, I’d put my survival rating at a strong 7.9.

Put me in a muggy jungle amid the creepies and the crawlies?

Wouldn’t last a night.

TV PRODUCER – “OK, Doug, what life-or-death items did you put in your survival purse?”

CLARK – “It was a tough decision, but I finally settled on red licorice, two cans of Diet 7-Up and a roll of Charmin, extra-soft.”

TV PRODUCER – “Next!!”

This Spokane couple has what it takes.

Matt, 30, is a survival instructor at Fairchild Air Force Base. He’s a pro, in other words, when it comes to things like eating bugs and making fire and living off the land.

Ali, 34, was no survivalist prior to the show. That said, she’s a personal trainer and yoga instructor, and looks fit as can be.

These parents of three are contractually bound not to reveal certain plot points about their time in Mexico until after the series ends. They did, however, make it gin-clear that the experience was a butt-kicker.

“They don’t tell you where you’re going,” Matt said. “I learned real quick that Mexico was not the Northwest. I’ve never seen bugs like this.”

The Stevenses also couldn’t reveal what items they put in their survival bag, but they didn’t really have to.

I’ve read enough to know that a sharp blade, a fire starter and filtration system to provide clean water are no-brainers.

And personally speaking, I wouldn’t go near a jungle without a quart of high-octane insect repellent. But from the photo Ali showed me of her bug-bitten face, I’m betting they left the OFF! back home.

The poor woman was barely recognizable. Her fine features were lumped and bumped a la Elephant Man.

And as long as we’re speaking of photos, Matt said his macho pals at Fairchild have been razzing him royally over the “Men Women Wild” commercials that have been airing lately to promote the premiere.

One snippet shows Matt hurling like a Wazzu frat boy during Pledge Week. His pals at Fairchild, he said, snapped a screen shot and put it up on a wall for kicks and giggles.

Brutal.

Matt said he always wanted to test his skills on a survival show and was even willing to go on “Naked and Afraid.” The Air Force, alas, didn’t like the naked part of that equation.

But when the Discovery Channel came up with this new couples concept, Matt and Ali were in. Their jungle getaway took place back in June.

I had to ask. Would they do it again?

Matt and Ali both said yes.

They also agreed that the toughest deprivation they faced was being so out of contact with their kids, who were staying with a family member back here. Ali said she actually suffered a pretty severe panic attack due to her sense of isolation.

“I had to comfort her,” Matt said.

And when it was over?

“All I wanted to do was sit on the couch with the air conditioner on,” Ali said.

That, however, was after the survivors surveyed the landscape and headed to Spokane’s Perry District to forage for a pizza.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.