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Bonding Over Coconuts: A Sneak Preview of “Rival Survival”

What we gleaned from clips of the new Discovery Channel show.

After spending six days on the remote island of Eru, in the Marshall Islands, there’s one thing senators Jeff Flake and Martin Heinrich have no desire to see again anytime soon: coconut water. 

“Everybody’s sort of into this coconut water fad, and I think both Jeff and I are completely over that,” said Heinrich Thursday morning during a sneak peek of Discovery Channel’s new show, Rival Survival. “The first coconut’s quite good, but not number 17.”

The political rivals—Flake is an Arizona Republican, Heinrich a Democrat from New Mexico—roughed it for nearly a week for the show, which airs as a one-hour special October 29 at 10 PM. The show follows the senators as they attempt to surmount their differences and work together to survive on an island whose main food source is tucked away in the ocean and where natural fresh water is nonexistent. 

The three short clips that were shown to a crowd of journalists on Thursday made it clear that Rival Survival will be a comedic mixture of the senators struggling to live on an island infested with coconut crabs—which can grow up to three feet long and weigh nine pounds—and lighthearted gibes at each other. “One of the advantages of going with a senator from Arizona is they start with a nice base tan,” says Heinrich in one clip. 

One of the points the senators emphasized was that this six-day adventure was completely their idea. They say the concept stemmed from their shared opinion that Congress is not working together because its members don’t trust one another. While it’s difficult to say whether Heinrich and Flake wholeheartedly trust each other now, they certainly got to know one another, announcing to the audience that Heinrich is good at building shelters, while Flake is handy with a machete (one of the items they were allowed to bring). 

A few other notable moments from the clips:

  • In the midst of a heavy downpour, the senators seek refuge in their rickety handmade shelter. “This is my first night sleeping with a Democrat,” Flake quips.
  • The two men are hunched over on the sun-soaked sand, desperately struggling to start a fire. “Our primary goal is to get this fire started,” says Heinrich. “Everything’s been going great, except the fire hasn’t started.”
  • Seeking sustenance, Flake and Heinrich successfully shake down an array of coconuts from a tall tree. “There’s a lot at stake here. It’s really a pride thing. You don’t want to be the one . . . who has to be taken care of,” says Heinrich. 

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