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Freak Show & Tell: Urban Foxholes, Bodybuilding Moms, and Bloody Stumps

Every week, television documentaries present us with so many unusual people, with so many strange and/or disturbing problems, you might find it hard to keep up with all of them. That’s where I come in! Here’s an unflinching look back at TV’s Week in Freak Shows.

Doomsday Preppers (NatGeo)

Who Is This Now? Barry.

Why Are We Watching Him? He secretly built an “urban foxhole” under the floor of his garage in which to ride out the apocalypse, which he thinks will follow an EMP attack. He’s also stocked a boat with supplies so that, under cover of night, he can hike to it with his family and sail it to an uninhabited island in Puget Sound.

How Did He Get Here? He lost his entire retirement savings in the financial crisis of 2008, which led him to the conclusion that none of the structures of society were sufficient to protect him and his family from disaster.

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? We don’t actually see it in action, but when Barry’s girlfriend, Pink, shows him how their bomb shelter toilet will work, she explains that solid waste will be compacted in such a way that when it’s removed from the unit, “it’s going to look like poop sausage.”

What Have We Learned? If you happen to look out your window some night and see four figures in camouflage clothing stalking down the street with handguns and rifles drawn, you shouldn’t be scared: They’re probably just doing an apocalypse drill!

My Mom Is Obsessed (Discovery Fit & Health)

Who Is This Now? Cheryl (and her daughter Rachel).

Why Are We Watching Her? She is, in Rachel’s judgment, excessively obsessed with exercise.

How Did She Get Here? When Cheryl saw a woman her own age who was a competitive bodybuilder, she was inspired to become one herself; now she works out for several hours daily to train for competitions. (She also mentions that her mother passed away at age 35, when Cheryl was only 15, but if her passion for physical perfection is related to a fear of her own mortality, she doesn’t seem to have made the connection.)

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? After Cheryl’s son Logan falls while skateboarding and breaks his arm in two places, Cheryl not only tries to wheedle him into giving her his blessing to work out that night, she also discusses it on the phone with a friend — in front of Logan — looking for support for her decision to leave her son alone that night to go the gym.

What Have We Learned? Even the most physically fit person can be moved to relax her own personal standards thanks to a heartfelt appeal from her daughter — and a reminder of past times when she would freely, happily, and guiltlessly eat burgers.

Bizarre ER (Discovery Fit & Health)

Who Is This Now? Jeff.

Why Are We Watching Him? He’s in the ER, missing his index finger and part of his ring finger on his left hand; the rest of his fingers might not be viable, either.

How Did He Get Here? He was cutting wood with a circular saw, and then … he was accidentally cutting some of his fingers off.

What’s the Grossest Thing We See? His stumpy hand is pretty tough to look at, but that’s nothing compared to the shot of an OR prep nurse, in advance of the attempted digital reattachment surgery, cleaning the skin flaps where his fingers used to be. I know Jeff is out cold, but still: Does the nurse have to be so rough?!

What Have We Learned? Power tools are not for everyone.

Tara Ariano doesn’t own any tool more dangerous than an electric toothbrush, and she regards even that with extreme suspicion.