I started watching Last One Standing (streamable here) expecting the worst: Advertised as an imperialist fantasy pitting testosterone-pumped Western athletes against tribal warriors in caged death matches the world around, it seemed a little outside my ANTM schtick. But the presence of Harvard senior and Natural History major Corey Rennell necessitated IvyGate supervision. LOS turns out to be a ridiculously addictive BBC/Discovery observational documentary, featuring heartstopping sequences of Zulu stick-fighting, Mongolian wrestling, and long-distance running with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. Oh, and the cast is total eye candy.
After the jump: Pictures of Corey playing sports in various states of undress, and our interview, including discourse on compassion, sustainability, and anal sex.
IG: How did you end up on Last One Standing?
CR: It’s a funny story. I’m from a small town in Alaska, and I was complaining to my [Harvard] roommate about being overwhelmed by the East Coast and going to a competitive university. The next day, my roommate forwards me an e-mail that’s like, “Looking for the perfect year off? Why don’t you travel the world and try these crazy sports.” I figure he’s playing a joke so, in typical prank etiquette, I responded to the request for a 30-minute home video interviewing myself. I spent the whole time trash-talking him, writing an improv song, whatever, and sent the video assuming I was sending it to him. Two weeks later I get an e-mail from Amtrak that I had a round-trip ticket to NYC that Friday night.
IG: Is that when they did screen tests and stuff?
CR: They had a casting session where they put 12 of us through this military boot camp, the most miserable experience of my life. I thought, if I can just get through this three hours I’m going to have the best year of my life. Little did I know that what they were testing in this military boot camp was going to be a lot like the actual experience was. [laughs]
IG: How much did you know about the premise of the show going into it?
CR: Very little. We knew it was some loosely anthropological show where we would be competing with or against rural people in different countries. At one point we thought it was 16 countries, at one point we thought it was eight. We were fools. Truth of the matter is, while the show was largely anthropological, it was also television. So parts of it were more based in drama than I would have liked them to be.
IG: Like what?
CR: My biggest disappointment is that the gift of all these people to the Western world is that, since they don’t have any money, or offices, or awards in their societies, their entire life is based around community and compassion for one another. I don’t think that was expressed on the show. I mean, the show was about, uh —
IG: Native folk beating the shit out of each other?
CR: Right. What’s not shown is that outside the sports these peope treat anyone they encounter like a member of their family. As these tribes are disappearing, I just hope that’s something people from the western world can hold on to.
IG: To what degree was the production crew involved in your daily interactions with the tribes?
CR: Not at all. The production crew was about 10 people and we were not allowed to communicate with them while we were in the tribes. We were allowed to walk in with the clothes we were wearin, but no foods, no Western implements, no electronics, no books. It was an observational doctumentary, so they would coordinate with the village elders to know what’s going on enough to prepare themselves, but they never told us what was going on. Most of the time we did not have translators.
IG: Holy shit. That increases the show’s incredibleness considerably.
CR: Sure, the athletics we had to go through were difficult. But what made it even more difficult is we were on diets that made us have diarrhea for 14 months straight. We’d be sleeping in the floor in the same room as the kitchen, so we’d be breathing smoke all night, with cockroaches everywhere, sunburned every day, trying to heal our wounds in really dirty environments.
IG: I mean, I find dorm life painful. Did you get breaks?
CR: We’d shoot for two weeks, and then they’d send us home for two weeks to recover. It usually took us all of that time just to heal ourselves from the injuries of the previous location. One break we had two months and I went and lived in a Zen monastery. For another I went and got my scuba master’s certification. I didn’t realize how much of a toll this show was going to take on my body; I was so exhausted.
IG: Like how Mark broke his heel in the kick-fighting episode! And you got shin splints in Mexico. Are you ok?
CR: I was lucky because, after Mexico, we went to three or four tribes back to back that had absolutely nothing to do with running or any kind of leg involvement. My injury was relatively minor. Rajko broke two ribs and then had to wrestle and run in the next episodes. Mark slipped a disc in his back and had to do this long-distance upper body canoe race the next week. We finished filming three months ago, and Rajko just came out of surgery on his knee; it’ll take him six months to recover. Brad [professional strongman] lost so much body mass that he now cannot compete in strongman anymore. He predicts it will take him 2-3 years to build that back up.
IG: I wondered about Brad. You can’t maintain a body like that without equipment and whatnot.
CR: Exactly. His body ate itself. I was pretty amazing to watch, actually, he’d lost 10-12 pounds every couple day while we were in the tribes.
IG: Let’s do some word association.
CR: Um… Poop.
IG: Anal sex!
CR: Oh, god. No.
IG: BLOW JOB!
IG: Seriously, Last One Standing was way homoerotic — you guys were all superfit and, like, naked and wrestling all the time. Anyone sexual tension?
CR: I think Jason was the enforcer in that department to ensure that nothing ever want to far. He’s a good southern boy. [ed: Does this mean that, without Jason, they totally would’ve been getting it on?!]