"A boy's best friend is his mother." -Norman Bates


By and large I’m not a fan of reality television, but every now and then a new show grabs my attention. On Hunted, a new television show this season on CBS, nine pairs of people go on the run from a team of the country’s best hunters. Any pair that is able to avoid being captured for 28 days wins $250,000.

Upon hearing the premise, I think most people’s natural reaction is, “I could do that!” I know mine was. Before you buy a month’s worth of protein bars and build yourself a nest in your attic, here are the show’s official rules:

  • Fugitives must stay within a 100,000 square mile “Hunt Zone.” This will be set in the southeast.
  • Fugitives will be given a one hour head start before the Hunters are alerted.
  • Fugitives are provided limited funds ($500 in $100 bursts on an ATM card).
  • Command Center is given only a name, photo, and last known location.
  • Fugitives that evade capture for 28 days win $250,000 per team.
  • Capture requires physical contact between the Hunters and Hunted.

    In addition to those rules, former contestants have revealed the following rules that are not explicitly made known on the show:

  • Fugitives must move every 48 hours and travel at least 5 miles.
  • Fugitives can not return to the same spot more than once or use the same resource/person more than once.
  • Fugitives must access the ATM at least twice and it can’t be in the same day.
  • Fugitives can not receive money.

    Most of those rules ruined my initial escape plans. Hiding in a neighbor’s basement for a month was out, as was borrowing money from friends and family to avoid those pesky ATM cameras. The producers say that these rules were put in place to “simulate real people on the run,” but some of them feel like they were put in place to make things run like a game show — which, ultimately, Hunted is.

    Another rule not listed above is that contestants give up all rights to privacy to the investigators. An hour after contestants are notified and told to go on the run, the investigators can be seen raiding their homes. Computers are searched, papers are rifled through, and trash cans are dumped. The invasion of privacy doesn’t stop until the contestants are caught. Phone records are obtained. Cell phones are triangulated. Known acquaintances are interviewed. License plates are tracked. Videos from closed-circuit security systems are acquired. Hunters are notified instantly when ATM transactions take place. Rewards are offered. Wanted posters are distributed. In some cases, social media and email accounts are hacked.

    Some of the techniques, like cell phone triangulation, are very real. Some of techniques shown seemed simulated and, shall we say, “suspect.” Because of the logistics of filming a reality show, it stands to reason that many of the show’s events are recreated. Some of the techniques shown, like obtaining pictures of every piece of U.S. mail sent, seem like things that would be limited to fugitives on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.

    Week by week, the teams have been taken down. In some cases, the investigators got lucky. Once, a contact accidentally butt-dialed the investigators. In another case, someone tipped off investigators in exchange for a $500 reward. Contestant mistakes and weaknesses were shown time and time again. If your plan is to use burner phones to call immediate family members, that’s not going to work.

    The best part of the show by far has been all the conversation it has sparked around our house. Susan said her original escape plan would be to take a sleeping bag with a backpack filled with minimal food and water and head off to the woods for a month. Mine involved spending a month in my car, driving circles around the city and confusing investigators with digital red herrings. My dad had a great idea about sleeping in hospital waiting rooms. Then we put our heads together and came up with a great idea… that I can’t share in case we are ever picked to be on the show. ;)

    On the season finale, the show introduced a new set of rules that seemed heavily tipped in the hunter’s favor. To win the game, teams were required to withdraw their money from a bank (notifying the hunters immediately of their location) and then travel on foot to their final escape vehicle. The previous 27 days of thinking turned into a physical race between contestants (on foot) and hunters (in suburbans).

    The show is not without issues, but I’m willing to give it another chance next season to see if they can right the ship.

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  • 3 comments to Hunted

    • Interesting, we had a season of the same concept here in The Netherlands. The first episode was part of an evening filled with programs about privacy in the digital age.

      I loved the bit about the former cop telling “If you have done nothing wrong you don’t have to fear any privacy invasion by the police” and checking records of all relatives of a ‘fugitive’ less than 5 minutes later.

    • AArdvark

      I swear this is going to evolve into “The Running Man” in another ten years.


    • Tex-Hogger

      The winners are from Waco. They run an “escape room” there. The local TV station did an interview with them and really didn’t get into the details. Interesting concept, but I am with you, it looks to be heavily weighed toward the Hunters. It’s not easy to “fall off the face of the earth”, but you can plan it out. The biggest things are to not use cell phones, cut all contacts with all friends, family, co-workers, etc. Then the hard part is to get and stay off social media. It is where cash is your friend.

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