I hate reality TV. It’s overproduced, obviously scripted, and often poorly executed. It lies to us without owning up to the deception. If I want to see strangers betray each other while attempting to survive on a remote island, forget Survivor; I’m going to watch Lost. I cut my last tie to reality television—Jersey Shore—because I would rather experience the thrill of a tightly scripted drama than obsess over some yahoos hurling bleeped-out curses at each other. So how did I find myself standing on a chair, freaking out because of a reality show, and yelling “Run, run!” at the TV?
The premise of Capture is fairly simple: 12 teams of two arrive in the wilderness, where they must use their wits, charm, and survival skills to outlast the other contestants. Sound familiar? That’s because Capture was inspired by Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Hunger Games series. However, instead of a murderous free-for-all, Capture boasts a sweet prize, $250,000, to be split by the winning team. The month-long competition is divided into two-day cycles, during which one team is randomly selected as the Hunt Team. Each day, teams participate in a four-hour Hunt, during which the Hunt Team must capture two of the other Prey Teams by attaching a dramatically named magnetic “talon” to their vests. Captured teams are sent to Jail, and on the second day of the Hunt, one team is eliminated. If the Hunt Team fails to capture two teams, it must face its own elimination. While some tracker jackers and nightlock would undoubtedly make Capture a little more interesting, it’s probably for the best that the CW has not reached Capitol levels of sadism.
Gamemaster Luke Tipple, who unfortunately lacks a ridiculous Seneca Crane beard, does try to throw in some twists for Capture contestants. Occasional Supply Stations provide a safe zone where Prey Teams can pick up camping gear, extra food, and the occasional booze. But beware—Hunt Teams have learned to stake out the Supply Stations for potential prey. One team got a little too comfortable with a bottle of wine and ended up in Jail. This strategy is getting old fast, but one Supply Station sidestepped the monotony with an emotional twist: a phone the teams could use to call home.
Capture works much like a video game with human players, frequently cutting to a color-coded Arena map and allowing players to pick up power-ups. Advantage Points let teams sabotage each other, and Looking Glass Points show them the locations of other teams. The sixth episode featured a heavily hyped Mystery Box, which allowed a Prey Team to overthrow the Hunt Team for the next day’s Hunt. Unsurprisingly, drama ensued.
Drama is a requisite component of any reality show, and Capture has its fair share. When not running from each other in the woods, teams sleep in skimpy tents in the Village, where they receive meager rations while the Hunt Team feasts on a hot meal. In the premiere, two teams slept in the same tent “for warmth,” but the show’s lack of night-vision cameras thankfully leaves it at that.
The Blue Team Devils are Capture’s pretty-boy villains, stealing other teams’ food and generally being troublemakers. Their effort to rebrand themselves as “Blue Angels with a Broken Wing” at Elimination proved too little, too late, and they were sent home.
The social aspect of the game is no small part of Capture. Teams forge and break alliances in each episode; in fact, making friends with the Hunt Team has saved many a team from Jail. On the other hand, Gold Team, which relied on its strength and made no attempt to find friends in the Village, was also eliminated. Just as the Careers learned in The Hunger Games, strength is not enough. But seriously, can we get some tracker jackers in the Arena?
The excitement of Capture comes from watching teams you have picked somewhat arbitrarily as your favorites run around the forest in what essentially boils down to a high-stakes game of tag. You root for the underdog Teal Team, tiny British twin sisters who fail to capture a team on Day 1 but rally at the end of Day 2 to tag two. You root for the bullied Lime Team, which sabotages the Blue Devils—until the members get drunk with power and sabotage their allies. You root for the Red Team, on the chopping block and in pursuit of its captors, even though both teams are so tired and malnourished they slow to a crawl. The human element is a vital aspect of Capture, but the show doesn’t linger on unfounded drama. There are no love triangles, no drunken hookups, no diva spats—well, maybe one. Capture knows what kind of show it is and it gives it to you straight: lots of running through the woods, a fair amount of Village drama and the occasional bottle of wine. Maybe it’s all totally fake, but Capture has me hooked.
Capture is by no means a perfect or even a great show. It is a pretty good reality competition series that benefits from the dry, late-summer TV landscape. If you are looking for a quality drama with star actors and a tight script, you should probably watch Breaking Bad. If you just want a fun study break, then Capture will be your friend. The final two episodes air Sept. 24 and Sept. 25 at 9 p.m., and the rest of the season is available on cwtv.com.