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July 12, 2013

Has anyone seen the new NBC television series Siberia? If not, you really should check it out. Not because it is a particularly good show, because it isn’t, but it certainly is an interesting one. The pilot episode is available for viewing on NBC’s website.

Before it aired, the new series was promoted as a ‘reality’ show featuring real people competing in a survivalist environment for a $500,000 prize. It was also scheduled as a ‘reality’ show, airing as part of a three-hour block of programming that also includes American Ninja Warrior and Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls. And it is clearly structured as a ‘reality’ show, complete with frequent confessional segments with the contestants, who are identified in captions by first name and occupation.

But there is nothing real about any of it. It is a 100% scripted show with actors in contrived situations reading lines written by a screenwriter. And yet the show’s creators clearly want you to accept it as reality. But why?

There has never been, as far as I know, a show quite like Siberia. There have been, to be sure, other scripted shows that mimic reality shows, but that has been for the sake of skewering the over-the-top elements of reality television. Burning Love, for example, did a splendid job of parodying The Bachelor franchise, but that show’s creators let the audience in on the joke. In Siberia, no one ever winks at the camera.

What then is the purpose of the new series? It’s not an actual reality competition show nor is it a parody of reality television. It is a scripted show that very much wants to be accepted as a reality show. It is a show, in other words, whose only purpose seems to be to further blur the line between what is real and what is not. And it arrived, conveniently enough, directly on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombings and the possibly even more absurd Woolwich incident in the UK. But I’m sure that is just a coincidence.


“The story of Celeste Corcoran and her daughter Sydney, who also suffered a grievous leg injury on April 15, is one of many harrowing tales beginning to pour out as victims of the bombing recover enough to give testimony. Each narrative gives a deeper appreciation of the damage wrought by the Marathon Day terror.” So said Richard Knox, writing for NPR on May 1, but I beg to differ; as we have seen repeatedly, each narrative just adds more layers of lies.

The NPR story holds that while Kevin was heroically tending to his wife, “the Corcorans thought their 18-year-old daughter, Sydney, was somewhere safe, away from the bombs, watching the race with friends. But in fact, Sydney lay not far away from where her mother fell. She didn’t know where her parents were. She saw no one familiar. She looked down to see blood gushing from a gaping wound on her right thigh … ‘I was just so tired and I thought I was just going to bleed out,’ she recalls in a little-girl voice. ‘I felt like this was it. I was just going.’”

So despite the fact that Sydney was only about 15 feet away from her parents, she didn’t know where they were and they didn’t know where she was. According to NPR. According to the LA Times, however, “Sydney and her parents were standing near the finish line at the Boston Marathon when two explosions ripped through the street, said Paul Corcoran, her great-uncle … The blasts left Sydney’s legs shredded with shrapnel. Celeste’s injuries, though, forced doctors to amputate her legs below the knee, he said. Kevin, a truck driver at a firm nearby, had only minor injuries.”

The New York Daily News claimed that “Sydney, 18, suffered near-fatal shrapnel wounds, including a torn femoral artery.” According to father Kevin, doctors at the hospital told him that “this was a mortal wound and, if the people didn’t get to her when they did, she would have bled to death.” As we already know from the beaver incident in Belarus, torn femoral arteries can be killers. If, on the other hand, you get both legs blown right the fuck off, you can lie unattended for a good six minutes and not even lose consciousness or the color in your skin and lips.

Another Daily News article noted that, “Moments after the second blast, an unknown Good Samaritan stanched the bleeding, possibly saving Sydney’s life. A photo of the heroic moment quickly became one of the iconic images of the Boston bloodshed. ‘(My father) looked down and saw my mom and her eyes were open,’ said Tyler Corcoran, 20. ‘Once he realized she was alive, he noticed both her legs hanging on by skin.’”

Over in the UK, the Daily Mail informed readers that, “Celeste and Kevin’s daughter, 18-year-old Sydney Corcoran, was lying on the ground with dire wounds to her leg. She had become separated from her parents in the blasts. Two strangers rushed to help her – one created a tourniquet around her injured leg that ended up saving her life while the other tried to keep her alert as the color drained from her face. ‘From the moment I got in the ambulance I wanted to know where they were,’ Sydney said of parents, her eyes welling with tears. ‘I thought I was going to wake up and have no one left but my brother.’”

In Lowell, Massachusetts, where the Corcorans are said to live, the local paper reported that, “shrapnel from one of the bombs that exploded during the Boston Marathon shredded both of Sydney’s legs, leaving her with deep arterial injuries.” With all of that as background then, we now know what to look for as we review yet more images from that day. Like so many others in this incredibly poorly-scripted saga – Hoody and Reinsch, Li’l Jeff and his mom, The Other Jeff and his girlfriend, Michael and Nicole, and Jeff and whoever the hell it was that he was supposed to be with – the Corcorans got separated in the blast. Sydney’s legs were both shredded. Celeste’s were attached only by skin and had to be amputated. And Kev escaped with minor injuries.

Let’s first review one of those ‘iconic’ images of Sydney so that we will be able to recognize her in the Thorndike and Tang images. As we can see below, Sydney was dressed in black and dark gray, with a large black handbag. The most distinctive feature of her clothing was the lime green band around her waist, which will make it relatively easy to track her movements.

Let’s take a look now at one of the earliest Thorndike images. It’s still pretty smoky but Celeste (red arrow) is on the ground, right next to Eric Whalley, and Kev is bending over and standing over her (blue arrow). Sydney, as can be seen, is just a few feet away, walking away from mom and dad (green arrow). On her shredded legs! And with her torn femoral artery!

In the next image, also from the Thorndike collection, we get a clearer view of Celeste Corcoran (red arrow), wedged in between Eric Whalley and Nicole Gross. We also get a clearer view of Sydney (green arrow), who in this pic has all her weight on just one of her shredded legs.

Next up we see that, miraculously enough, Celeste (red arrow) is able to hold her legs up despite the fact that they are attached only by skin. Sydney, meanwhile, (green arrow) now has all her weight on her shredded right leg, the one that also has a torn femoral artery. Whalley (yellow arrow) is, for whatever reason, beginning to make his way over to the railing. His wife Ann (orange arrow) will also make her way over there. She will then, like her hubby, make a high profile, bloody exit, though she isn’t bloody yet.

In the next image under review, both Kevin (blue arrow) and Celeste (red arrow) are looking at, and undoubtedly communicating with, the daughter (green arrow) who was either separated from them in the blast or was assumed to be elsewhere watching the race with friends. Meanwhile, the Whalleys continue to make their way over to the railing.

Moving on now to the Tang images, we see that Kev (blue arrow) mistakenly believes that Celeste (red arrow) has been stung by a jellyfish and he is preparing to give her a golden shower. Michael Gross (dark green arrow) has begun his desperate search for Nicole (light green arrow) and Eric Whalley (yellow arrow) is now almost in position. Elsewhere, we can see that there are no victims on the ground behind where Big Brown (orange arrow) is standing.

In the next frame though, none other than Sydney Corcoran (green arrow) is now lying just beyond where Big Brown had been standing. It is perfectly obvious that she had no problem walking over there despite her grave leg injuries. Meanwhile, Kev (blue arrow) continues to focus on assisting Celeste (red arrow), and, in a promising development, Michael (orange arrow) appears to have spotted his beloved Nicole (yellow arrow).

Someone has decided that Sydney’s location did not have the proper backdrop for her ‘iconic’ photos so her rescuer is walking her over to a better location (green arrow). It’s always good to be upright and moving as much as possible when dealing with a torn femoral artery. The old hag who will be wheeled out with a bloody face and left hand doesn’t look as if she has started to bleed just yet (red arrow). And it appears that Michael (orange arrow) is dangerously close to finding Nicole (yellow arrow), but it hasn’t been 3-4 hours since the blast so let’s wait and see what happens.

Damnit!! He was so close but apparently he lost her in the smoke and haze and Michael is now walking away looking very discouraged (orange arrow). On the plus side though, the flames that burned his head and face seem to have left his sunglasses undamaged. Sydney (green arrow) is now in place and ready to have her life saved while Kevin (blue arrow) continues to tie belts around his wife’s barely-attached legs.

The next image is of Celeste being carried off to a waiting ambulance while Kev follows dutifully behind. Notice that although Kev tied at least two and possibly three belts around her legs, they are all gone now and have been replaced with numerous bows and ribbons that are apparently supposed to simulate real tourniquets. And her legs, both of which will be amputated, appear to be attached by more than just skin. Bizarrely, her rescuers never cut away her pant legs to assess her injuries.

Returning now to an early Thorndike image, we see Kev looking as though he is trying to help Celeste get up on her feet, requiring her to put weight on her barely-attached left leg (black arrow). Alongside of her is Eric Whalley (white arrow), whose legs don’t look as if they have started to bleed yet in this pic. Big Brown (brown/orange arrow), meanwhile, is in her original position along the fence, and the lady in pink (dark blue arrow) is very near Krystle Campbell and Karen Rand (purple arrows). Pink’s accomplice (lighter blue arrow) is lurking directly across the street, waiting for the barricades to come down. We can also see that Michael Gross (upper green arrow) started out alongside the Team Keryn guy (upper red arrow), whom he appears to be communicating with in some of the images. The Director (yellow arrow) is also in the huddle of people just beyond the victims’ circle. Elsewhere, Nicole (light green arrow) is alongside Jeff (lower red arrow), Mery and Hoody. And the girl at the end of the darkest green arrow is supposed to be Nicole’s sister, Erika Brannock, though the two were apparently fighting that day because they never acknowledge one another in any of the available images. Erika, alas, supposedly lost a leg.

In the next image, we see that Sydney made a remarkable recovery and was able to stand on her shredded, nerve-damaged, artery-severed legs just a few days after the bombing. But that is hardly surprising since all of the Boston victims have made remarkably quick recoveries. And not just in terms of their physical recoveries; their psychological recoveries have been even more amazing. There has been no mention of that in any of the feel-good media stories, as if it is perfectly natural for those with freshly amputated limbs to be among the happiest people on the planet. But it isn’t. In the real world, the sudden and unexpected loss of a limb can be the most traumatic event that life can throw at you.

The psychological process is very similar to what one goes through after losing a very close family member, particularly a child. For in both cases, the person has lost what he/she feels is a very important part of themselves, which they will now need to get through life without. There is normally a series of phases that a person in recovery goes through, with anger, resentment, confusion, fear, deep depression, and suicidal thoughts and actions being very common.

That is especially true with younger victims. As noted, “The age at which one receives an amputation plays a role in the recovery process. Desmond and MacLachlan note that for a young traumatic amputee, limb loss may represent the loss of life opportunities, whereas for an elderly person with peripheral vascular disorder, amputation may offer increased mobility, a decrease in pain, or both.” None of the Boston victims, young or old, benefited physically from the sudden loss of a limb.

“A recent article in the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics by Deirdre Desmond, BA (Mod), and Malcolm MacLachlan, PhD, noted that depression, anxiety, hopelessness and suicidal ideation are common barriers to psychological adjustment and rehabilitation efforts. The authors stated that individuals who have suffered a traumatic injury often experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and rates of clinical depression reported in outpatient settings range from 21 percent to 35 percent … Spouses can especially feel overwhelmed with many conflicting emotions. Sometimes, a partner will feel so unable to manage that they leave.”

So in the real world, the sudden loss of a limb is a major, life-changing event. It has been known to destroy families. It has been known to lead to suicide. It has been known to lead to a lifetime of bitterness and anger. But not, of course, when the victims are ‘Boston Strong.’ In Boston, amputees have been the happiest, most well-adjusted people you’d ever want to meet since the minute they woke from surgery.

The last two images are of the impossibly happy and smiling Corcoran family, who just couldn’t be more thrilled about the loss of mom’s legs.