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Series / Tough As Nails

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"It's time to get to work!"

Tough as Nails is an American Reality TV competition created by Phil Keoghan of The Amazing Race fame, and his wife, Louise Keoghan. It premiered on July 8, 2020, taking the annual place of The Amazing Race because the COVID-19 Pandemic was widespread around the world and caused Schedule Slip across the board for CBS, leaving the 32nd season to air in late October 2020 while this show filled the gap. Tough as Nails was renewed for a second season, which wrapped in April 2021. This season was actually filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, under strict protocols. The day before the second season finale, CBS renewed the program for two more seasons.

The competion brings together twelve hard-working contestants who all have difficult jobs that require a lot of effort. The competition puts everyone through their paces by featuring a series of varying challenges which involve hard tasks. The contestants are divided into two groups who both work together to complete challenges, and also compete individually.


In a rare departure from most competitions, nobody is completely eliminated from the game, and all competitors get to receive equal time in the spotlight.

The team challenge has two teams of six people picked by designated leaders (teams can decide on different leaders for each challenge based on helpful communication and skillsets) try to finish eight strenuous jobs at unique job sites to receive a $12,000 cash prize split as $2,000 per team member and receive a large Badge of Honor signifying their accomplishments. Whoever has the most wins at the end of the group challenges (a tiebreaker is held in case both teams have equal wins under their belts) received a bonus $60,000 prize, $10,000 per contestant.

In the individual challenges, the cast each participate in grueling tests of skill. Those who finish in first receive advantages, while the contestants who rank in the bottom two have to compete in Overtime, a do-or-die challenge where the loser must clock out their time card and is out of the running for the grand prize. When down to five competitors, it becomes the only challenge segment in play, and at four competitors, the slowest to finish is bumped out of the game, with no Overtime. This leads to a marathon final challenge between the last three contestants that tests their skills in every area of the game and ends with the first to finish.


Whoever prevails through all the individual champione is bestowed the earned title "Tough as Nails", and walks away with a $200,000 grand prize and drives off in a Ford truck (the first season had a 2019 Super Duty, and the second had a 2021 F-150).

Tough as Nails sees a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. These challenge are not for the faint of heart. There are sometimes injuries and situations where one must face their fears. The experiences each person goes through in the game, good sportsmanship, cheering on everyone, and the bonds forged are perhaps the most important aspects of the game. It teaches you to put your heart in the game and give it your all.

The third season premiered on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, once again filmed during the pandemic.

This series provides examples of:

  • Butt-Monkey: Young. He is forced to compete in Overtime four times before losing.
  • Consolation Prize: After being eliminated from the individual competition, players remain on the show in the hopes of earning some cash through team challenges.
  • Covered in Gunge:
    • Season 2, episode 2 features a challenge where contestants must transport slime eels between two tanks.
    • Later in the season an individual competition has the contestants draining oil from junked cars and carrying it in pans to fill up plastic tubes. Much spillage ensues.
  • Four Is Death: Young lost his fourth and final Overtime challenge, which, ironically, was about firefighting when he himself had been one for nine years.
  • Iconic Item: The authentic work whistle that is used to signal the start and finish of challenges.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lee seems to prefer a dark brown baggy t-shirt.
  • Non-Gameplay Elimination: In a series where normally nobody is eliminated, to boot, as normally those who lose in the individual competition still stick around for the whole season to keep playing in the team competitions. Tara Elverson was injured in the second episode of Season 2 and lost the individual competition, and it was revealed in the opening of the third episode that she was not medically fit to continue on and would not be returning to the series. At the same time, it was revealed that Mikey "Eyebrows" Guerriero was gone as well, though no explanation was given for his being out, though it was later revealed in a podcast that he had broken a rule off-screen. As Tara was from Dirty Hands and Mikey was from Savage Crew, this meant that both teams were down a member. Later on in the season, Patrick "Freight Train" Harmon of Dirty Hands was medically evacuated from a challenge, forcing him to be punched out from the individual competition. Although he recovered to the point that he could return to continue participating in team competitions, ultimately COVID restrictions prevented him from doing so. Thus, for the remainder of the season, Savage Crew had to sit out one member of their team in each team competition. He did ultimately come back in the finale, just to provide moral support, and reappeared in Season 3 as the experienced helper for package deliveries.
  • Product Placement: Ford trucks. One is awarded as a prize at the end of the season and they are also used for both transportation and utility within the series itself.
  • Sudden Death: Season 1, the team competition ended in a 4-4 tie. The tiebreaker was to nominate a single team member to complete all three sections of the last team competition on their own, with the fastest winning the entire season for their team.