‘Alaskan Bush People’: ‘Secrets of the Bush’ & ‘Breaking Ground’ (RECAP)


In the Alaskan Bush People episode “Secrets of the Bush” (August 26), as the Wolfpack attempts to start over from the ground up, they reveal the relationships and values from decades in the wild, where they learned a way of life unique to the bush of Alaska.

Then, in “Breaking Ground,” the Browns begin an ambitious barn build, the key to Billy’s Grand Vision. Noah returns reuniting the entire Wolfpack for the first time since Alaska.

“Secrets of the Bush” is an odd mix of Lost Footage, recycled scenes and new stuff shot in Alaska featuring people who are much more interesting than the Browns and actually live the Bush life.

It also reveals how good Alaskan Bush People could’ve been if it didn’t have the burden of Billy Brown and his bloviating B.S. dragging it down. People like Gale, Kenny, Trapper, and even Green Sweatpants Bruce are far more fascinating, and they don’t have to rely on silly fake drama, manufactured storylines, and all that inane, incessant howling.

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Prepare for a whole new season with this list of memorable moments.

I’d rather watch a vérité documentary series centered on any one or more of them. Unfortunately, a true Bush person who really lives that lifestyle and upholds those ideals doesn’t want a camera crew up in their business all day and night, or do they desire to be D-list celebrities.

Trapper Trout has played into several ABP storylines. He’s one of those guys who spouts about his admiration for Billy, and he’s just a little too eager to follow the script.

Trapper spends most of his time oiling and tanning animal hides in his boat while watching Mel Brooks movies on DVD. A single dude on a small boat with a bunch of dead animal skins must smell terrific. At least this honey bucket thing sounds kind of pleasant. I wonder what’s inside…


Gale is one of my all-time favorite non-Brown Bush people. I’m glad he’s still alive and that the production crew caught up with him.

Gale is still in the junk business, and business is, well, business.

Stupid tariffs! The current biggest-ticket item in Gale’s inventory is them snake boots.

“The most expensive thing I’ve got is them snake boots,” Gale says. “They’re just snake boots. We don’t even have snakes.” Gale could probably get a lot more than $50 for them snake boots if he posted them up on that Bush eBay.

We meet Gale’s buddy Russell, who comes to check on Gale every day, just to make sure he’s alive.

“I don’t know what Russell’s good for, but he’s nice to have around,” Gale says. Gale hasn’t killed him yet and they sort of tolerate each other, so this about as good as friendship gets in the Bush.

Gale takes a page from Matt’s playbook and builds a greenhouse out of “stringent [sic] ends of Visqueen.” Gale’s going to throw some seeds in there and see what happens, which is more than Matt ever accomplished with his greenhouse. Gale has just one rule…

Someone fetch Trapper’s honey bucket because I’m going to make a deposit.

We’re reintroduced to horny “Hat Trick” Connie and her boyfriend Mike. Regrettably, they did not bring their dog along for their oyster-collecting excursion. Connie and Mike have a pretty low-stress relationship. Mike sticks around until Connie gets tired of him and she sends him back to his man cave for a few weeks.

“Over the last 35 years, Billy and Ami have set the model for how to forge a successful relationship in this challenging way of life,” Our Dear Narrator tells us. Where’s that honey bucket again?

Here are Billy’s three steps to a successful Bush marriage:
1. Find a naive 15-year-old and convince her to leave her family and marry you
2. Keep your wife away from her family for the rest of her life
3. Control every aspect of your wife’s existence

Billy says he and Mother Ami are best friends because they like the same things, which is good because Mother Ami likes whatever Billy tells her to like. Mother Ami says they’ve raised their kids to be very independent, which is why none of them can escape Mommy and Daddy and are entirely dependent on Billy’s Discovery Channel bankroll.

“The only thing that is more important to me than my family is the love that I have for my family,” says Rainy, who will need to be deprogrammed in a few years.

KENNY! Cherish this, my friends, for this is probably the last new Lost Footage we’ll get of Kenny for the remainder of the series.

Regrettably, nothing new or interesting is revealed about Kenny. He and his fans deserved so much more.

We’re introduced to Darwin and his ladyfriend, who’ve built their own private estate out of junked vans and buses. They’re about get all “hot and balmy” in the Bush sauna they built.

Bruce and Debbie Gordon are the couple that keeps watch over the salmon cannery in Excursion Inlet during the winter, but you’ll best remember Bruce for his fashion sense and love of frozen pizza.

Bruce and Debbie are still going strong pumping water, collecting mail and providing pizza to their neighbors. I’d like Bruce a lot more if he’d stop brown-nosing the Browns on social media.

Billy’s bestie and mentor is Popeye, an old sea captain who once helped Billy out and has probably regretted it ever since. Billy claimed that Popeye snatched him out of the water when he was dying in a “hard blow,” and Popeye has gotten Billy out of countless predicaments over the years. I wonder how much money Billy owes Popeye.

There’s a sneak preview at the end of “Secrets of the Bush” to inform us that there are also junkyards and people who own and operate them in Washington state.

You cannot replace Kenny. Do not even attempt it.

The second episode of the night, “Breaking Ground,” gets us back to the blah blah blahs of the Browns and their new mountain paradise in northern Washington.

Matt is too sophisticated to eat the urine- and feces-flavored snow like his sister Birdy, so he makes a Bush Distillery to purify some water. Matt declares himself to be a genius, even though distilling water is one of the most basic survival skills. It took Matt 35-plus years of living in the Alaskan Bush to achieve this?

Billy and Matt have a mushy moment together surveying their new land. Billy recalls his dad’s dream of owning a ranch—a dream that was tragically cut short when his dad, mom and sister died in a plane crash—and he thinks he can achieve that dream for his family here.

The first step in Billy’s Grand Vision is building one gigantic-ass Amish palace that will be able to fit cattle, a hayloft and his own ego all under one roof.

The area of land where the teepees are set up is not level enough to build a barn of this size, so Billy scouts out some lower-lying areas. He finds a perfect, beautiful and unsullied spot near a creek. And then he starts destroying it.

You might not have caught it, but Bam refers to Bear as “Teen Wolf,” which must’ve been a joke this show’s writers have been trying to fit in for years and they finally got Bear the Ritchie Cunningham letter jacket they needed to pull it off.

Elsewhere, Matt and Gabe are sitting around the fire cooking what looks like military-surplus spam.

Matt says he wants to really contribute to this ranch thing instead of blowing himself up this time, and his first idea is to build a fire-feeder to automatically add logs to the fire. This will free up Bear to do other tasks, even though Bear’s lone meaningful purpose is building and maintaining fires. Another job lost to a machine.

Matt uses spam to illustrate his idea, which is both practical and incredibly salty. Then it’s off to the dump for some brotherly bonding!

While Billy’s off snoozing and dreaming his Grand Visions, his kids are put to work sawing down all the trees. Bear swipes the chainsaw from Bam, who takes a swipe at Bear by calling him “obnoxious.” Apparently the Alpha Male in the Brown family is the one who wields the chainsaw, and it doesn’t sit well with Bam to have his missing link of a younger brother holding all the power. Bam finally gets to relieve Bear of the chainsaw, and then he manages to get the saw blade jammed into tree trunk.

Bam doesn’t like to admit his mistakes, and he gets flustered. Birdy calls him an “angry Smurf.” Bear calls him “embarrassing.”

Shut up, Bear. You’re a walking embarrassment.

There’s no Kenny, but the junkyard in the Browns’ neck of the woods is pretty cool. There are whole firetrucks and entire car wrecks with deployed airbags and vomit.

Matt finds some jumper cables and gets the idea to link a few car batteries together and make a Bush welder out of them. Since Matt almost blew himself up chucking grenades at three bears back at Brownton Abbey, he’s been trying to overcome his trepidation about doing dumb, dangerous stuff.

Lo and behold, it works and Matt successfully didn’t blow himself up. He has welded a sledge to a shovel. For his next act, he will distill water!

Look who’s finally come crawling back…

Noah’s been gone a while, though it’s never mentioned where he’s been, what he’s been doing or who he’s been with. Aren’t you curious about the motorcycle? What happened to the Camaro? What happened with his girlfriend, Rhain Alisha? How’s that career as sheriff coming along?

Truth is, Noah and Billy locked horns for months over whether or not Rhain gets to be a character on the show. Noah has spent much of the past year in Colorado with fiancée Rhain, throwing shade at his family and trying to dupe his fans (his so-called “FANily”) into paying for their honeymoon in Montana. It’s pretty obvious who won this battle of wills.

When Noah reunites with the family, none of them ask about Rhain. No one acknowledges that she exists. The only evidence of Rhain is that her name is scrawled on the helmet sitting on the back of Noah’s motorcycle.

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For all Billy’s pontificating about family togetherness and Mother Ami’s trying to find wives for her sons and grandbabies for herself, it looks ridiculous that two Brown boys are married [Update: Bam may not be married, after all.] and their spouses can’t even be on the show. Billy is such a control freak and his adherence to his Bush family narrative is so strict that he and his show are floating further away from reality.

Mother Ami is happy to have her baby boy back. And look! He’s all buffed puffed up!

Billy says that Noah’s return was “like a kid coming home from war.” On behalf of every young man and woman who went off to war in service of their country, and for every mother and father who sent a son or a daughter off to war: Screw you, Billy.

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Unfortunately, Noah’s still the same bumptious pseudo-intellectual bumpkin—minus one gallbladder—that he was over a year ago. He was disappointed that he couldn’t keep his gallbladder for his own personal use.

Billy understands that his Grand Vision isn’t going to come to fruition with his sons wrecking chainsaws and his daughters hacking away at saplings with axes. Billy’s bringing in the big guns now. He “bartered” for rental of a small bulldozer, which is probably the same bulldozer used in last week’s episode to haul the truck that was hauling Mother Ami’s trailer up the muddy road.

I question the wisdom of letting Billy operate this bulldozer, but what’s the worst that can happen? Unlike his boat, he’s supposed to plow into things with it. Oh, dadgummit! Billy done got the bulldozer stuck!

Our Dear Narrator is already throwing out the “Hangs in the Balance” hyperbole, like one stuck bulldozer is going to change the future of the family forever. Billy can just barter for a bigger bulldozer to pull his little bulldozer out of the mud. Does Popeye have a bulldozer he can borrow?

Birdy suggests they just throw a bunch of limbs—I assume she means tree limbs and not arms and/or legs—under the bulldozer tracks. Eventually the bulldozer is freed. Billy’s Grand Vision can continue unabated.

With the whole Wolfpack together sitting around the fire, there is much nauseating howling and a lot of nonsensical self-congratulatory Bush talk. The subject turns to what they should call this new ranch. All Bear’s ideas are predictably terrible. AWESOME Ranch. EXXXXTREME Ranch. Cool Ranch. [Laughter.] But Billy has his heart set on a name that has meaning for him and his past as a mariner:

North Star Ranch? Lame. In the spirit of “Brownton Abbey,” we’re giving this place a name of our own: Brown Star Ranch.

Next week: Snowbird becomes the Bird of Prey!

Alaskan Bush People, Sundays, 9/8c, Discovery Channel