Endurance cast member on Intervention, addicted to snorting “bath salts”

Last night’s Intervention featured Skyler Russell, a 24-year-old addicted to a drug disguised as bath salts; he appeared at age 14 on the first season of Discovery Kids’ Endurance (which was Survivor for teenagers). He and his orange team partner placed fifth; that season’s winner was The Real World Cancun cast member Jonna Mannion.

The episode suggested Skyler’s mother was kind of a stage mom (“I pushed him every direction … and I pushed hard,” she said) and had him doing commercials and modeling by age 13; she also had him apply for the show. “I was a little more excited than he was,” his mom said. And his grandmother said, “She’s played a huge role, I think, in his drug use. … For her, he just was never good enough.”

Skyler started using marijuana at 18, and at 23, started inhaling bath salts, doing up to 10 lines a day for the past seven months. He’s now paranoid, hears voices, and sees “shadow people,” who he fights with weapons he creates, like a flashlight with a tissue over it. Citing the DEA, the show explained with on-screen text that bath salts “are synthetic stimulants that contain the amphetamine mephedrone. Snorting bath salts produces a high similar to cocaine and meth.”

It was pretty scary: He’d deny having hallucinations and then insist there were piles of dead bodies, or “shadow people” with him. At one point, Skyler climbed a tree “to expose these invisible people who are still following me,” and later climbed onto the roof of his house to fight “shadow people.” He’s been taken to the ER four times over half a year for psychosis.

The episode showed clips of Skyler on Endurance, showing him wearing a t-shirt with the show’s name on it, but oddly, it was never mentioned by name, nor did he discuss his experience on the show at all. Intervention also showed a clip from a newspaper that clearly quoted his mom saying, “J.D. Roth (host/producer) told me they found the fencing aspect very interesting,” and also clearly said that the show was on NBC.

Most depressing of all was the result of the actual intervention, which he at first resisted by quickly changed his mind. There was no footage of Skyler after he went into treatment, but on-screen text said this:

“After detoxing from bath salts, Skyler was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

His therapists do not know if his condition was caused by bath salts.

Skyler returned to Arizona and continues to use bath salts.”

Update: The online version of the episode included significantly different text from the broadcast version. It ommitted the last line about Skyler continuing to use, and instead said, “Skyler has been sober since September 30, 2011.” There was a similar update for Jessa, who it said had been sober since August; the broadcast version said she relapsed on marijuana.

I asked A&E why the two were different, and learned that the broadcast version was, sadly, the most recent: Jessa relapsed and Skyler continues to use. The online version wasn’t update, but will be shortly. Clearly, what we see on TV at the end of the episode really is a recent update.

The Quest ends its journey stronger than it began

Verlox from The Quest

A review of the finale of summer's best reality series, which wasn't always perfect but was thoroughly entertaining right down to the finish, which included phenomenal challenges and special effects. Will ABC give it a second season?

Plus: an interview with the actor who played Verlox and the ogre.


Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

Shark Tank

Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

Also: Before the show began, Shark Barbara Corcoran was cast and then replaced--but then she sent this amazing e-mail and won the job.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.