Ken Tucker
January 09, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EST

Sarah Palin’s Alaska wrapped up its first and final season with two hours of Palin-mania: Our Sarah and her family went gold-prospecting, kayaking, blueberry-picking, and moose-kissing. (You do it by putting a banana in your mouth and extending it to the moose’s mouth. No kidding.) Palin also offered her own critique of the infamous Kate Gosselin episode. Really two episodes shown back-to-back, Sarah Palin’s Alaska spent much of the first hour in Nome, “on a quest for gold,” Palin said, and in Valdez, “where the original Gold Rush began.”

She rode a four-wheeled ATV in Nome to a stretch of beach where gold might be found. Palin’s goal was to find enough for a present for her mother: “a piece of jewelry with [some] gold we found ourselves.” She and various members of her family, including husband Todd, daughter Piper, and her father Chuck, did the contemporary version of panning for gold. Later, her brother Chuck, Jr., and another diver plunged into the ocean to gather gold on the bottom of the sea. Sarah helped supply the air and hot water being pumped down to the divers, leading Chuck to exclaim, “Our life is in your hands, Sarah!”

Palin and her family found more than an ounce of gold — worth, the clan was told, “more than $1,150.” “We were blessed,” said Sarah. The gold was melted down and made into a ring for Sarah’s mom and a plaque for her dad, for their 50th anniversary — the golden anniversary, appropriately enough.

The second hour was a clip show, with scenes from the season interspersed with Palin’s straight-to-the-camera explanations and justifications. She defended her caribou-hunting episode (why bother? it’s not as though it was illegal) and said “some critics” thought the moment when we saw Palin watching two bears fighting was “faked or photo-shopped.” (Really? Not me.)

Sarah and her dad had a good retrospective laugh over the Kate Gosselin episode, chuckling over clips of Kate whining about being cold and wet on her abortive camping trip with the Palins. “It was a bit of a country mouse, city mouse kind of thing,” said Sarah. “Ya gotta give it the old college try, though.” Palin added, “I never heard the kids complain; they were innocent, sweet, curious spirits.” Her dad said, “She was out of her elemenrt, poor lady.”

So what should we take away from a season of Sarah Palin’s Alaska? That Palin has a lively family that seems, from what we saw, pretty well-rooted. (Yes, I know: It’s all in the editing. But the casual, unrehearsed remarks we heard, and a willingness to get one’s hands dirty, count for something in assessing people.) That Palin never misses an opportunity to apply some sort of populist spin to the most ordinary situations. (Seen jogging this night, she passed a woman, asked her name, and introduced herself without breaking stride. Then she added a bit further down the path, “Nobody’s better than anyone else around here.” Um, who said they were, Sarah?) Still, anyone watching the series for evidence of Palin’s fitness for, say, a future run for President would come away without much evidence pro or con.

But the woman sure can shoot a gun, fillet a fish, and finger a Blackberry — and a blueberry — with uniform dexterity.

What do you think of Palin and her Alaska?

Twitter: @kentucker

For more: ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’: No second season. (Dang?)

P.S. Check out the latest EW TV Insiders Podcast as Dalton Ross, Mandi Bierly, Adam B. Vary, and I tackle subjects ranging from The Bachelor (thank goodness Mandi watches that) to Adam’s exclusive scoop on the new American Idol judges panel to what mid-season TV shows are worth watching (that’s where I come in). You can hear it right here.

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