'Love in the Wild' crowns Samantha Woods and Mike Spiro champions
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 08/18/2011
Love in the Wild crowned Samantha Woods and Mike Spiro its first-season champions during Wednesday night's finale episode of the new NBC reality dating series, which featured singles attempting to find love in the Costa Rican jungle.
"Being here with Samantha has been an awesome experience. I got to zipline; I got to sail. I got to meet an amazing girl, and now I get to take Sam around the world. I'm crazy about Sam. She's smart, she's beautiful, she's funny, and she basically found a way into my heart," Mike, a 29-year-old commercial real estate broker from San Francisco, CA, explained after the couple claimed their victory together at the finish line.
"I came here to find love, but I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would actually find that special guy. He makes me happy; He makes me giddy. He makes me a better person at the end of the day, and he's who I want to go home to. I have learned that you just have to follow your heart and it worked out for me. I feel like I'm the luckiest girl in the world," added Samantha, a 23-year-old wedding planner from Huntington Beach, CA.
As the winning couple, Mike and Samantha received Love in the Wild's grand prize -- an all-expenses paid first class trip around the world for two, stopping in cities including London, Paris, Athens, Rome, and Singapore.
Heather Pond, a 26-year-old public relations professional from Sonoma, CA, and Miles Haefner, a 28-year-old client services manager from Saint Louis Park, MN, finished in second place.
"I think that even though we did lose -- even though we came in second -- we're leaving with something that's genuine and real, and you can't buy that," Heather said.
"This has been the most amazing incredible experience of a lifetime, and to be able to come here and meet someone like Miles, I feel so lucky. It sucks we lost, but you can't put a price on finding something that Miles and I have. There's that amazing feeling -- the butterflies, the excitement. I haven't had that feeling in so long, and I feel like I have that with Miles. I can't believe I found it here in Costa Rica in the jungle. I wasn't expecting that at all."
"It's frustrating to make it this far to the end with Heather and not win the grand prize, but at the same time, the fact that we made it this far is because of what we have together. I don't see myself dating anyone else besides Heather. I think she's amazing. She's really the total package for me and I'm falling in love with her definitely. I think that we're going to make it happen. We're going to make it work," Miles explained.
Love in the Wild host Darren McMullen then met with the final two couples who had formed very strong connections throughout the season and began falling in love after undertaking a series of adventurous activities in the hopes of winning luxurious rewards.
Darren explained the couples' last adventure would determine the season's winning couple. Samantha and Mike and Miles and Heather were told their final challenge would be long and tough, taking them two days to complete.
The couples were then instructed to swim out to a canoe, hop in and unroll their first map. The map would detail instructions that would take them up the river to an open river mouth. From there, they must paddle up the river to where the water got shallow, drag their canoes in and discover their backpacks filled with overnight gear, food and dry clothes.
It was important for the pairs to follow the instructions very carefully on their maps in order to complete all the tasks successfully. At the end of the first day, they would camp out overnight. On Day 2, they were required to depart in the same order and with the exact time separation determined when they had reached the first day's finish line.
On Day 2, the couples were instructed to climb all the way to the top of a volcano to the lake where they would follow their maps' instructions and finally run to the finish line.
Miles proved he wasn't a strong swimmer and got his team off to a slow start at the beginning of the challenge.
The teams paddled their canoes to the point where the Agua Caliente river flowed into the Arenal Lake. The end of the river was marked by two red buoys.
Samantha admitted she had a little trouble paddling, but Mike was very encouraging. However, their slow progression in the canoe allowed Miles and Heather to catch up.
The couples then were required to assemble an ox cart and ride in it to their next destination -- an ox drop-off area. Heather and Miles' oxen were much faster than Samantha and Mike's, so they both got to the drop-off area right around the same time. It became a foot race, and they neck and neck running to the finish line.
Mike and Samantha finished the first day's tasks in first place 26 seconds ahead of Miles and Heather, who were only about 50 yards behind them. The couples then camped out overnight and they had to cook their own food and pitch their own tents. Mike struggled to put together the tent, but Heather ironically assembled hers very quickly.
Mike and Samantha bickered a little throughout the night because nothing seemed to go right for them, but after they had solved all their minor issues, they realized they could only become stronger and closer through resolving their arguments.
The following day, the couples had to hike to the lake located at the top of an extinct volcano and then paddle out to an island on a raft to get their next map. They attempted to complete the tasks in heavy rain and fog, which only made things more difficult, but both teams never gave up and were determined to win.
The couples then ultimately had to run to the finish line, and Mike and Samantha were ahead of Miles and Heather. Samantha fell and rolled her ankle, which slowed her team down and enabled Miles and Heather to get on their tails and catch up.
Despite how close the adventure was, Samantha and Mike arrived first and were greeted by Darren at the finish line. He congratulated their efforts and celebrated their victory by offering them a bottle of champagne. Heather and Miles arrived shortly after, upset they had come so far and lost but also happy because they had found each other.
"We won the whole thing! I'm speechless. It's amazing," Mike said after winning the adventure.
"I'm still in such shock, like really? Around the world? We get to go around the world!" Samantha said.
"Around the world, that's awesome in itself, but we found each other in the process. I get goosebumps when I look at her. It's something really special and I know where that's heading. Deep down, I know where that's heading," Mike explained.
"I'm happy. I really am. I just never saw it coming to this. These are happy tears, just so everyone knows that. I never would have expected this and I'm just so happy!" Samantha exclaimed.
According to an update featured at the conclusion of Love in the Wild's first-season finale broadcast, Samantha and Mike are still together and happily planning their trip around the world, while Heather and Miles are also still dating.