Note: The following story contains spoilers from the “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” Season 2 finale.
After a grueling eight days of military training in the New Zealand mountains, Tom Sandoval, JoJo Siwa, Nick Viall, Tyler Cameron and Erin Jackson competed in the final — and arguably most intense — episode of “Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.”
Nick Viall, Tyler Cameron and Erin Jackson emerged as the winners of the second season of the Fox survivalist show. The recruits were thrown into a capture and interrogation simulation during the last stage of the experience, during which they were hooded, bound and kept in stress positions in a freezing cell.
“I kind of broke down,” Viall said of the moment when the Directing Staff (D.S.) told the three finalists they had passed the training course. “I was pretty delusional — we’re outside shivering and it really felt like we were hanging on to our lives, so to speak. Once we knew we passed, I definitely got really emotional and [it] felt like a really surreal moment.”
“It was like every ache [or] pain, the cold went away,” Cameron added. “I wasn’t cold anymore. It was such a great feeling to finally close that gap and accomplish that.”
As the remaining recruits neared the conclusion of the experience, the former “Bachelor” reflected on his companionship with “The Bachelorette” alum, noting, “we had so much fun prior to getting caught and captured and running around, and then, while we were being tortured, I could hear Tyler, and we were just kind of looking out for each other.”
Cameron added that spending the last day alongside Jackson and Viall “forged that bond” and “made it forever,” saying that the group was thrilled to see Siwa — who withdrew prior to her interrogation — at dinner that night.
“When you go to something like that, they strip you down and they break you down, and then we have to build each other back up when we’re feeling that lack of confidence and shaken,” Cameron said. “For us to get through it, it’s a brotherhood. It’s a family.”
Below, Cameron and Viall detail the most excruciating parts of their “Special Forces” journey and what they’ve learned from the experience.
TheWrap: Prior to joining the show, how far did you think you would make it?
Nick Viall: Honestly, I was pretty sure I could probably make it halfway, and after there, I was unsure. My family had more confidence in me than I had in myself, because I didn’t really know what to expect. I was genuinely worried about the food because I’m kind of a picky eater and I knew … they weren’t going to meet my requirements, so to speak.
When we first started, after Day 2, I was like, I think I can do this, and then … Day 4, Day 5, I didn’t think there was a chance. It was, it was a lot of up and down. And it just got to a point where I was literally just trying to get to the next hour, and then when I got to that hour, I was just trying to get the next hour after that. I didn’t expect to finish, but I thought I’d give it my all. I knew I’d do decently, but finishing was something I wanted to, genuinely, genuinely tried to do. But I was open to the possibility of not.
Tyler Cameron: I was overly confident — very overly confident. I watched the season before that, saw Hannah [Brown] get through it [and] Carli Lloyd get through it. I was like, “well, they can do it,” then I got into it and I was like, “they’re badass — those girls are tough.” I questioned myself a ton. There were times where I was like, “What am I doing here? I don’t need to be here any longer.” But I just always knew people back at home wouldn’t accept it. I know I would be upset. I think that’s some of the driving forces has kept me going.
The last training exercise amped up the stakes with a capture and interrogation. What was the hardest part of this last stage?
Viall: The stress position, and the torture music that they made us listen to. I honestly remember slowly raising my hand to tap out a couple times, and then just never really did. I kind of lost track of time [and] I was kind of delusional at that point.
But those stress positions were truly agonizing and painful, and it really hurt. For the first hour, I was really struggling, and then for some reason, I think once I got into the interrogation, that kind of gave me a second wind because I felt like I had done well in there. Then I kind of got this like, “you know what, I’m going to finish” stubborn mentality of fighting through it.
Cameron: That was the most miserable day of my life. The cold was what just put me out — it just really broke me down. So many times, I fell out just because it made me so weak, so defeated. But I just knew that we were right around the corner — I’m trying to bridge this gap and accomplish something all the way through.
Tyler, in the final deliberations, the D.S. said you were a great team player but sometimes they found you arrogant, and that sometimes held you back. What lessons did you learn from their critique?
Cameron: I think my arrogance gets the best of me quite a bit. I think the way I take on life is like, I want to figure it out for myself — I want to put my hand on the stove and burn myself. That’s something I’ve battled, is my own arrogance and self-belief, and then I learned the hard way. I think that’s just kind of the way I’ve taken on life, is just learning the hard way, and it hurts financially, emotionally, and sometimes physically.
Is anything going to change moving forward?
Cameron: I’m trying — it’s definitely hard. I still like to figure it out myself and figure it out my own way. I kind of go against the grain. I’ve always been that way, and sometimes it works out for me, sometimes it doesn’t.
The D.S. continued to call you a “gray man” throughout the show. Do you think that accurately described your experience on the show?
Viall: I didn’t know what a “gray man” was until I got done. In life, I’m usually pretty outspoken and have a lot to say, but during selection, Bode [Miller] kind of took the role of a leader — he’s very knowledgeable — we learned a lot from him, and Jack [Osbourne] was also very knowledgeable.
I just tried to find my moments of supporting my friends and being encouraging, but I was more quiet. Halfway through, I was just trying to survive, so a lot of my energy was focused on getting through each hour and trying to support my peers. I think I just kind of flew under the radar and was always kind of in the middle of the pack — didn’t really shine, but apparently, that was a good thing.
“Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test” Season 2 is streaming on Hulu.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.