"Hello. My name is VAL. Welcome to a unique social experiment, designed to push nine humans to their absolute physical, mental, and emotional breaking points. Locked in isolation pods and cut off from all contact, they are not competing against each other, but against themselves. In the end, only one will remain. He, or she, will leave Solitary with $50,000. My role is to observe what makes them strong, and what makes them weak, to push, to pry, and discover who will crack next. Welcome to Solitary."
—VAL, Season 2 opening
Solitary is a Reality Show
which aired on the Fox Reality Channel. It features nine contestants locked in isolation pods, and cut off from all contact with each other and the outside world. Their only companion is VAL, a Master Computer
who serves as the host of the show. While in isolation, they face a series of tests, treatments, and general torture designed to push them to physical, mental, and emotional extremes. When a contestant can't take it anymore, they push a red button, saying they want to quit the game. Eventually, all the players save one quit.
The one survivor wins $50,000.
As said earlier, the main twist of this series is that, compared to other Reality Shows
, Solitary focuses less on interactions between contestants and more on the sheer isolation. With that in mind, none of them know how the other contestants are doing during challenges/treatments. So long as you're not the first player to quit, you move on, but with no idea on whether or not someone had quit, some people will spend literally hours suffering even when everybody else has quit. As such, none of the games are about competing with others, just your own physical/mental/spiritual limits.
The show can be watched on Hulu
There will be spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.
This show has examples of the following:
- The Ace: Number 7 in seasons 1 and 3, who made it all the way to the final treatment without quitting, was the last person standing, and won multiple tests in the process.
- In season one, Number 7 never quit a single treatment. At worst, he tied for first on any given task.
- Action Girl: All the girls, but especially the Number 3s.
- A Death In The Lime Light: The main cue someone's about to quit the treatment? The "Red Button Shot".
- Affably Evil: When she isn't putting everyone through torturous experiments, VAL is actually quite nice.
- All The Worlds Are A Stage: Non-video game example; in the season 2 finale, VAL has Numbers 7 and 8 do a number of activities that are milder versions of that season's tests and treatments.
- She repeats this in Season 4.
- Ambiguous Time Period: The guests have no idea how long they've been in Solitary, what day it is, or if it's morning, noon, or night.
- Ambiguously Gay: Most definitely Number 7 from Season 3.0. He seemed to find the idea to be hilarious. "The other contestants must think I'm gay for sure! Or a girl! Hahaha!"
- An Aesop: It is not uncommon for VAL to have a heart-to-heart chat with one of the contestants, one that points out their character flaws. The players often learn about themselves this way.
- Ascended Fanboy: RobRob, who was obsessed with the first two seasons to the point of building his own pod, became a contestant in the third season.
- Basement-Dweller: Number 8 of season 2; this was mocked by other contestants.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In season 2, the guests were starved for a period of time, then asked what they most wanted to eat. The losers of the test received the food everyone requested... in smoothie format.
- Belly of the Whale: Your whole stay in Solitary is pretty much this.
- Big "NO!": Happens quite often.
- One memorable one was Number 8's in the finale of season 2, as VAL decided to keep him captive forever.
- Big Red Button: Don't push it first, or you lose.
- Book Ends: Solitary 1.0 ended with contestants locked in a box, and 2.0 began with them locked in a box.
- Bound and Gagged: One test in Season 2 had the guests bound and gagged to a chair.
- Bury Your Gays: The very first contestant to be eliminated on the show was a homosexual.
- Butt Monkey: Number 9 from Season 2.
- Call Back: In Season 1, when Number 5 commented that he was, "caught off guard," VAL responds by showing him a video of himself, highlighting the multiple times he had said those very words in earlier episodes. In Season 2, when Number 8 considers quitting, VAL shows him a video of all the times he had told himself that "I'm not a quitter" or "Do not quit again, ever!" And he was right. Number 8 went on to win the second season.
- Catch Phrase: "Hello. My name is VAL."
- "Good morning/evening/afternoon."
- The contestants have "This sucks, VAL!"
- Cliffhanger: Season 3, episode 3 has Number 5's penalty round determining whether she goes home or if Number 2, who hit the red button before her round, leaves. The episode cuts off 5 seconds into her 10-second time limit, and she still hasn't drank what she was asked to. Number 5 completes the penalty round, so Number 2 goes home.
- Season 3, episode 7 ended with the rope treatment going into sudden death. Number 4 won.
- Combat Pragmatist:
- Number 7 from Season 2 and Number 9 from Season 3 deliberately choose specific opponents and repeatedly hit them with every penalty and handicap they could, to demoralize them psychologically and hopefully get them to quit. Number 9 succeeded, though he was being excessively cruel about it.
- Number 3 from Season 2 wasn't above cheating to win, and in one Treatment she opted to go for the penalty rounds because they involved leg movements, which was something she could do well.
- Comedic Sociopathy
- Companion Cube: At least once a season, the players get the chance to interact with one of these.
- Computer Voice: VAL's voice for the first season was high-pitched and alien. It became more human in the second season.
- Crazy-Prepared: RobRob in Season 3.0. He had built his own pod and performed all the treatments seen in the previous seasons as training for Solitary, and also memorized the personal information of all 18 previous contestants, to the point where he was able to write out their names, numbers, and the reasons why they were eliminated during the experiment.
- Determinator: You're either this, or you're done.
- Eat That: Slightly averted. Eating challenges typically involve normal food. The hard part is continuing to eat the food without vomiting.
- Oddly enough, the contestant's main diet consists of a tasteless "meal bar," which is often reviled.
- Eliminated From The Race
- Elimination Catch Phrase: "Your stay in Solitary is over."
- Elimination Houdini: In-universe. Number 8 from Season 2 sees himself as this.
- Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: Season 2's Ball Gag Treatment. Even VAL couldn't understand the contestant's mumbling at times.
- And during Season 3's Tongue-Against-Glass Treatment, a few lines had subtitles of pure gibberish. Of course, by that point, it's highly possible that the contestants were speaking pure gibberish.
- Everyone Meets Everyone: Averted. The contestants NEVER meet. The sole exception is in season three, which still averts the trope: each contestant meets one other contestant.
- Fake Video Camera View: Used when the contestants compose video diaries.
- Fanservice: A good amount of challenges either require or encourage the contestants taking their clothes off.
- Faux Affably Evil: VAL may encourage the contestants at times and make humorous comments, but she enjoys every torment they go through, and eventually decides to keep the winners imprisoned forever.
- Force Feeding: See Eat That.
- Genre Savvy: In Season 2 and onwards, several of the contestants have watched previous seasons of the show.
- Gilligan Cut: In Season 4, Number 1 wished for anything but pickle relish and refried beans. Cue another guest mixing exactly that.
- Girls Are Really Scared of Horror Movies: Inverted in Season 1, when VAL showed the guests a short movie filled with intentionally disturbing images. The one who found it most disturbing was male, who at one point turned away from the movie while shouting, "OH LORD! OH GOD! WHY?!" and after the test, called it, "Shocking, horrific . . . I don't see anything right about that." Meanwhile, one of the female guests wasn't disturbed at all, and actually enjoyed the movie.
- Played straight in Season 2.0, when a similar movie and test was posed to the guests. One of the women was easily the most disturbed; before the test began, she rallied, "No scary movies in my pod!" screamed and shouted during the movie, and after it was ended, declared that "I give it TWO THUMBS DOWN!"
- Go Mad from the Isolation: A lot of the contestants have done this.
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: One piece of music used is this.
- Heroic RROD: Pretty much everyone, eventually.
- Hypocrite: Number 7 of Season 1, despite his strong faith is... quite a Jerkass.
- I'm Not Here to Make Friends: You couldn't even if you wanted to.
- In a similar vein, one of VAL's mantras is "You are not competing against each other, but against yourself."
- Several guests outright state this as a creed during the experiment; the line was repeated verbatim in Season 3.0.
- Important Haircut: Number 7 in Season 2 gives himself a haircut near the end to symbolize his determination.
- In the End, You Are on Your Own
- Insistent Terminology: Contestants are Guests.
- It's Personal: In season 2, Number 9 takes a handicap personally and does one more round during treatments to spite Number 7.
- Jump Scare: Right when VAL is talking about the scents the contestants will be smelling, and at the tenth scent... Roadkill. A picture of a dead fox is shown.
- The Mad Hatter: A few of the contestants admit to being this. Seriously, anyone who agrees to be on this show must question the benefits of sanity.
- Master Computer: VAL.
- Mind Rape: One challenge involved watching a movie comprised entirely of intentionally disturbing images.
- In a later challenge, the video comes back. Only this time it occupies an entire wall of the slowly shrinking cells the contestants are locked in.
- Morality Pet: The mice in season 2.
- Mr. Fanservice: Number 5 of Season 1 is a compassionate, disciplined, Buddhist martial artist, still reeling from his divorce... with killer abs.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Season 2 had Ominous Latin Chanting set to a montage of the guests assembling dominoes.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In this case, VAL is the villain, more or less, dealing out torment after torment until the contestants quit.
- Nightmare Fetishist: Number 8 in Season 1, Number 3 in Season 2, and Number 9 in Season 3.
- Off the Rails: This was how Number 6 got eliminated in Season 1.
- Oh, Crap: Very prominent throughout as the guests react to the tests and treatments.
- Onion Tears: Taken about as far as it possibly can be in reality during Season 2.0 when VAL has the contestants grate fresh onions as a challenge.
- Paranoia Gambit: In Season 3, VAL made the guests sit in chairs and ignored them to see what they would do. Some sat perfectly still for an hour.
- Pet the Dog: VAL's interactions with lategame contestants leaving.
- Plucky Girl: EVERY single contestant in pod number 3, without exception.
- Not to mention Number 5 in Season 3.0. Her fate? Eliminated by "her body".
- Pre-Battle Banter: Seen between Numbers 4 and 7 in the finale of Season 3.
- Prison Episode: Season 4's "Escape From Valcatraz."
- Pungeon Master: VAL seems to delight in naming things after herself. "Valphabet", "Pledge of Valleigance", and "Escape from Valcatraz", to name a few.
- Reunion Show: Slightly subverted, in that the players have never met before.
- The Rival:
- Number 7 to Numbers 8 and 9 in Season 2.
- Numbers 4 and 7 in Season 3.
- Samus is a Girl: Played with. WE knew Number 3 in season 4 was female, but everyone else, upon hearing she played football in high school, thought she was male. This exist in diffrent ways with each contestant, but Number 3 is the best example.
- Sassy Black Woman: Number 8 in Season 3.
- Sequel Difficulty Spike: Since the contestants have often watched the show before, VAL ramps up her tests and treatments every season.
- Serial Escalation: How Val chooses to end some of her more randomized Treatments, stopping them before they actually take place. (Ironically, despite the relatively high levels of Genre Savvy in the show, the contestants rarely recognize that this means the treatment is over.) Notable examples:
- First example: After the guests had consumed a huge amount of food in the gluttony treatment and were barely managing not to vomit, VAL teasingly asked them, "How does a plate of lasagna sound?" The guests' reactions were along the lines of, "You have GOT to be kidding me!" before they opened up the meal slot and found that the treatment was over.
- Season 1: The liquid fire treatment where Number 7 nearly drank vials #17 and #18 combined.
- Season 3: The stool sample treatment, where the final round would've involved sitting on a spiky lawn aerator. And Number 8 STILL tried to sit on it!
- Season 4: During the shots round, they had to make a cocktail with their sweat VAL had collected in an earlier challenge!
- Sigil Spam: That green octagon.
- Spear Counterpart: A red, male VAL appeared in Season 3 for the coffin treatment.
- Stealth Pun: VAL imprisons guests in Pods. Open the pod bay doors, VAL!
- Too Kinky to Torture: Number 3 in season 2.0. She was a masochist, and would often compliment VAL on how wonderfully sick and twisted her treatments were.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers for the upcoming episodes are ridiculously spoilery. First of all, you can quite easily determine what challenges will come next. When they show scenes of the upcoming treatment, it is also fairly easy to guess who will win the test. The trailers are also spoilery in general.
- Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Number 3 from Season 2 wasn't above cheating to win. This worked out well once but backfired on her later.
- Video Game Caring Potential: Sometimes large amounts of food that certain players win are "shared" between other players on a whim. Since VAL makes no suggestions towards it, this doesn't happen very often.
- Exhibited by the guests of Season 2 to their pet mice.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: In Season 2 and onwards, much more interaction between players occurs. This typically consists of taking away luxuries from, and giving punishments to, the other players, causing rivalries between pods.
- What You Are In Your Pod
- Worthy Opponent: Numbers 7 and 4 in season 3.
- You Are Number Six: VAL never refers to the contestants by name, only by the number on their pod.
- Subverted in the season finale of 4.0. After number 6 (who was formerly number 7 on 2.0) washes out for the second time, as he exits the pod VAL refers to him as number...Tyler. Definitely a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Also subverted in the season finale of the previous season, 3.0. After the final treatment ends, VAL tells Number 4, "You are my number one fan . . . and I am yours, RobRob." Also a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.