MURFREESBORO, TN — The new competition series Hunted has arrived at CBS. (Wednesdays 7-8pm central). The show follows nine teams of two in a real-life manhunt as they attempt the nearly impossible task of disappearing in today’s vast digital world. Meanwhile, highly skilled investigators combine state-of-the-art tracking methods with traditional tactics to pursue and catch them. Murfreesboro businessman and adventure seeker Lee Wilson is one of the show’s contestants, who landed on the show after receiving a random email. “I actually had no clue this show existed until I almost deleted an email from my inbox with the subject line ‘t.v. show.’ I hit ‘undo’ really quick because I was curious,” recalls Wilson. On the show Lee is tasked with evading capture with his follow fugitive for 28 days with the nearly impossible task of disappearing in today’s digital world, while being tracked by the nation’s best in law enforcement.
From searching their targets’ homes and scouring their internet and cell phone histories, to identifying behavioral patterns, Hunters in the field and Command Center investigators work together to identify clues to potential hiding places and collaborators that can ultimately lead to capture. Will the anxiety of being fugitives on the run cause teams to make a critical error, or will they be able to stay off the grid long enough to avoid being found within 100,000 square miles of the southeastern United States? A grand prize of $250,000 will be awarded to each team that successfully evades being caught for up to 28 days.
The Hunted show contestants are often referred to as “fugitives” but according to Lee it’s no problem for him. “It doesn’t bother me in the least, mainly because I always quickly add that I’m a “white hat fugitive” — I was living my dream.” Wilson shares more insight about being a fugitive on Hunted.
TRIBUNE: Who is Lee before becoming a part of the cast of HUNTED? WILSON: My resume is all over the place — I have a degree in English Literature, worked in photography briefly, tutored, did construction, hauled junk, earned a masters degree in theology, and worked for almost a decade in Student Life at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Somehow all of that clicked together perfectly two years ago when I discovered that it is possible to build really cool rooms that tell unique stories and people will pay money to get locked inside of them for fun — so I became an escape room creator. Two years ago, my business partner Jared Dauenhauer & I decided to open a one week pop-up escape room in Jackson, Tennessee that exploded with success. Looking back, we call it the “experiment gone horribly right” and the success has led to amazing things like opening Murfreesboro Escape Rooms, Waco Escape Rooms, and being cast for HUNTED (along with my best bud Hilmar Skagfield.”
TRIBUNE: Did you have to do any special training to prepare to be a contestant? WILSON: I can’t give away any specifics but we worked very hard to be ready for whatever might come our way when we were on the run. Despite my childhood dreams, I’ve never been a fugitive before and pretty much all the role models for successfully outrunning the authorities are not inclined to come out of hiding to talk to me, so all of our preparation was focused on being ready, come what may. Hilmar and I spent a ton of time on the phone scheming up crazy ideas. That was probably the most fun we had getting ready for the wild ride we went on during the hunt. Oh, and we watched a lot of “Oceans” movies together when he was in Tennessee.
TRIBUNE: What was the most challenging aspect of being on HUNTED? WILSON: The psychological and emotional toll of being chased is beyond what I can succinctly communicate. For the entire time you are at large, every person is either a potential hunter swooping in to capture you or a liability because they might recognize you and turn you in. Every decision is second & third guessed. Every interaction with technology could endanger you. It feels like paranoia, but it’s not, because you actually are being tracked by the CIA. And you only really have one person you can truly rely on — your fellow fugitive.
TRIBUNE: What modern convenience did you miss the most while being off the grid? WILSON: I was ready for a digital purge when the hunt began, so once the phantom phone vibration in my pocket went away, it was not difficult at all to be unplugged. There were definitely some nights though that I wished I could FaceTime my wife and kids and let them know I love and miss them.
TRIBUNE: Overall, what did you learn about living life off the grid? WILSON: The ‘app-ification’ of our lives makes us feel like we can do everything quickly and multi-task our way to success and happiness. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really work and our minds are scattered — mine is at least. Cutting out all the clutter created a level of single-minded concentration I don’t think I have ever experienced before.