EDMONDS — Max Djenohan’s fearless love of the outdoors paid off.
Mentally, at least.
After an earlier 14-day stint in the bug-beset jungles of Panama, Djenohan got another chance for the full 21-day “Naked and Afraid” challenge. He demonstrated the hearty resiliency of Pacific Northwesterners, and he certainly proved his mettle.
The special two-hour episode, which aired Sunday, expanded from its usual pixelated pairing of a man and a woman to begin with a pair of men and a pair of women.
The plan was for the sexes to meet up halfway through the challenge. All four of them joined forces for the most disheveled team-up in television history, like a scraggly Avengers but without the superpowers and capes.
Monsoon rains and sandfly swarms persisted. But for Djenohan, who lives in Edmonds, grew up in Shoreline and works in Seattle, it was just another step of being an adventure seeker.
Djenohan, 29, was the sole survivor. Not literally, of course, as all four made it out alive. But only Djenohan made it to the 21st and final day.
“The last thing I want to see is myself quitting over and over again on reruns for the rest of my life,” he said.
On the show, Djenohan wove fish baskets, helped build two sturdy shelters, caught crabs by hand, started a flint and magnesium fire and generally seemed to keep calm.
He learned from his first flirtation with the reality TV show.
”I knew how they were going to edit stuff,” he said, feeling he got the villain’s treatment in his previous “Naked and Afraid” outing. “I only gave them material they could use.”
Navigating across a humid, rugged jungle was one thing. But wading through the murky waters of interpersonal relations was its own burden.
Tensions between Djenohan and his male partner, a New Yorker named Seth, were present practically from their first handshake. Men bickering is reality TV gold, especially naked men calling each other “bro” and “dude.” Depending on the placement and intonation, the term can be more insulting than affectionate.
After a cold night, Seth complained about not having “a female here to spoon with.” Djenohan kept a positive attitude and was shown doing most of the labor — building a shelter, starting a fire — necessary for successful, if unglamorous, survival.
Contestants have the option to exit the challenge at any time. There isn’t a jackpot waiting at the end of the 21 days. Djenohan previously said he estimated the compensation for being on the show at less than minimum wage. (But hey, there’s a chance of catching a serious illness, parasite, getting injured and feeling the effects of starvation and dehydration!)
All four stuck through the first 10 days to reach the team-up. Soon after, the amateur survivalists began to drop out.
First, Sara Burkett was forced out after hitting her eye and being examined by a medical professional.
Seth clashed with Djenohan (they are Facebook friends now) and the others for much of the time, until tapping out.
Djenohan said the edits made Seth look worse. “He’s a decent guy. I’m sure when he’s well-fed and at his house he’s probably a great guy.”
Kate Wentworth, overwhelmed by the consistent biting of the flies and the downpour, left as well.
The final several days (and more importantly, nights) for Djenohan were spent without a survival partner. He was alone, except for the camera and production crew during the days. As the other contestants left, he was able to keep some of their gear, which proved vital.
“The bugs were relentless. I was getting chewed alive,” he said, “but once they all left I was left with their bug nets.
“When they left, I took inventory of myself,” he said. “My body was like, ‘You need to chill out.’ And I think I drank some bad water and I was pretty much incapacitated for two days. Then I had to push through for the next five days to get out of there.”
To get to his “extraction point,” he built a crude float of bamboo, wood limbs and logs that he lashed together with vines.
He paddled four miles, reportedly against the incoming tide.
Hours later, he reached the pick-up.
“Everything is temporary. You are going to make it out of there,” Djenohan said. “I just don’t think there is any point to make the situation any worse. Because obviously we know it sucks. You don’t need to verbalize it.”
He lost plenty of weight by the end, but he said that before embarking for the challenge he tacked on mass. Whatever excess he had going in could provide useful energy during the show.
Will we see more of the two-time “Naked and Afraid” survivor and semi-pro snowboarder, maybe wearing clothing next time?
“I can’t disclose,” he said. “Just be on the lookout.”