‘Special Forces’ Season 2 Finalists Talk Grueling Week In New Zealand Wilderness & Their Willingness To Return

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SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details about the Season 2 finale of Fox‘s Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.

After a grueling eight days, five recruits made it to the final challenge of Fox’s Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test.

The finish line is close enough to taste for Olympic speed skater Erin Jackson, Bachelor alums Nick Viall and Tyler Cameron, and TV personalities JoJo Siwa and Tom Sandoval. But first, they must make it through a 24-hour challenge where they’ll have to endure military grade interrogation without cracking under the pressure.

In between interrogations, they’ll be chained in a dark room with their hoods on, subjected to distressing sounds and freezing temperatures. Here’s how they all fared:

Tom Sandoval: The first to go of the remaining recruits, Sandoval barely makes it through the first stage of interrogations. After being sent back to the cell, he uncontrollably shivers for so long that the medic on site thinks he might have hypothermia. When Sandoval is brought in for a check up, they soon realize that, well, there’s a reason he’s made a career on reality television. As the staff puts it, he’s been “overdramatic” throughout most of the course, and this is no exception. He gets sent home.

JoJo Siwa: The former Dance Moms star makes it nearly to the end. After striking up a friendly rapport with her interrogator, the staff believes she has what it takes to make it through the interrogation. But with just about four hours left, Siwa cracks under the pressure. She makes it clear that she could continue if she wanted do, but one of the biggest lessons she’s learned through the experience is how to do what’s best for herself. And what’s best is for her to leave. She self eliminates.

Erin Jackson: With just three recruits left, Jackson is feeling good about her interrogation. She’s made it through many tough hours and, so far, she’s stuck to the cover story that the recruits were in the mountains looking for a rare bird when they were captured. Jackson makes a grave mistake when she pushes her interrogators hand away as they attempt to throw water on her, which makes them even more agitated. To “teach her a lesson,” they bring her outside and threaten to dunk her in an ice bath. Given her established fear of water, Jackson gives up the cover story before they go through with the punishment, telling them she is there with the Special Forces. This is not a failure in the eyes of the staff, who say that it’s just as important to know when to ditch the cover story to save everyone’s lives.

Tyler Cameron and Nick Viall: These two Bachelor franchise alums are the last two to give up the rouse. After Jackson lets the interrogators in on their real plans, they bring Cameron and Viall outside to watch Jackson feast on a much-needed meal while they get further interrogated as water is poured over their heads. Eventually, these two choose to talk as well.

Cameron, Viall and Jackson are all eventually deemed to have successfully completed the course and are worthy of standing among the Special Forces.

Deadline spoke with three recruits — Siwa, Cameron and Viall — about making it to the final stage of the quasi-military training, and why they chose to subject themselves to this kind of beat down in the first place.

DEADLINE: So, I have to start by asking what would make you want to put yourself through something like this.

JOJO SIWA: I think for me, it was truly like, I’ve been so sheltered. I mean, I had never gone on a hike before because the fear — not from me, but from my mom and my team — of if I roll my ankle, my job is out the window. My career is out the window. So I’ve always been, I think I said this in Episode 1 or 2, wrapped in bubble wrap. So I think this for me, it was like I’m 20. I made this choice to do this. No one could tell me no. Then I think when I was there, I got every fixing of every dangerous experience I ever wanted. I think the danger was kind of intriguing to me.

NICK VIALL: I think it’s a combination of things. I mean, I’m kind of joking, but it’s also true that my fiancee, Natalie was like, ‘You got to do this if you get asked.’ I think I thought I might impress her. I’m getting older, and I think I’ve always been into seeing what I’m capable of and testing my limits. I think, as I’ve gotten older, I was big in athletics [when I was] younger, so it’s an opportunity to see like, can I still do stuff like this? Can I challenge myself mentally? There was an aspect of, we just found out Natalie was pregnant, and wouldn’t it be cool if I did this and it’s something I can memorialize for my daughter to watch? Like Tyler said, I knew if I did this, no matter how it worked out, I’d be proud that I did that. Opportunities like that are kind of hard to find.

DEADLINE: Well, did you impress her?

VIALL: I think so. [Laughs].

DEADLINE: What about you, Tyler?

TYLER CAMERON: I was actually going through a really tough time. I was just burnt out. I’d just got done renovating my ninth house of the year. The last one wasn’t really going so well, and I was just upset, pissed, because I needed to get away. I was gonna put myself on vacation anyways. Then this came up and I was like, ‘This would be my vacation.’ I watched the show. I was like, it can’t be that hard. When I heard New Zealand, I was like, ‘Sweet, it’s beautiful there.’ I didn’t realize it was wintertime. So it was not a vacation I was really looking for, but I made sure I got a little bit of a vacation on the back end of it. Greatest thing I’ve ever done.

DEADLINE: I feel that way sometimes watching the show as well, like it can’t be that hard. Were there any challenges that when you saw them demonstrated you thought would be a piece of cake and then quickly realized it was not?

CAMERON: I saw them do the truck push, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll crushed this. We’ll nail this.’ And then we had to do the belt carry. It was the worst day of my life. No, second worst day of my life. Interrogation was the worst day of my life. That was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done…Just that whole day. It was miserable.

VIALL: It was all the physical stuff. I mean, the scary things like the heights, that was scary, but we really trusted the DS and trusted our equipment. Bodie [Miller] was super helpful with that stuff. It was like conquering a fear. We always knew we were okay. That had its challenges, but the bee stings, the boat carry, the sled pull… I mean, those lasted hours, and they were a couple miles, and we were redlining the whole time. So it’s three hours of going as hard as you could or else we’d have to do burpees or else we’d have to run more. And then we’d get like, I don’t know, a 30-minute break and then was on to the next physically demanding thing. It was just constant over and over again. That, to me, was the hardest part.

SIWA: I think every challenge you saw, the DS made it look so easy. They would rotate who demonstrated, you’d see the backwards dive off the boat and you’d be like, ‘They made it look easy.’ But then all of a sudden, you get to your turn to go. I remember the helicopter submersion. I remember seeing it and, because I went towards the end of that one, I counted while you all went. The dancer in me was, ‘Alright, it’s four eight counts. You can do anything for four eight counts.’ Because I’m better counting eight counts than I am seconds. I can hold the beat better. So I get in the helicopter and then all of a sudden, the element of the water being freezing and the pressure because you’re going so deep… I thought it was going to be four eight counts. I was ready for it. But then all of a sudden I was like, ‘If this doesn’t end right now…’ Then I felt the shoulder tap. But everything was like, okay, it’s possible, but that also is your time to shine. You’re like, ‘Well, I guess it might not be.’

DEADLINE: Looking back now as the episodes air, can you even believe you did some of those things? I bet you are proud.

VIALL: Definitely proud of it. I mean, for me, I think the thing I find the most enjoyable is when they show us back at base. there’s something about that place that it’s both like PTSD and weirdly comforting at the same time, because it was such an intense and rewarding experience. We’ve all talked about this. When we were filming, we would ask each other like, ‘Would you go back?’ We’re all like, ‘Screw that. Never.’ Now I think we all we would go back if we had an opportunity to do it. There’s something about being in that type of environment with with people like JoJo and Tyler that really just makes you appreciate life a little bit more. That sounds corny, but there’s something about what we had to put ourselves through, stripping us away from any comforts of life, and all we had was each other. There’s something very rewarding about that.

CAMERON: Yeah, I love reliving it. There’s things that you see that you do, and I totally forgot how that went. Things that are said and I totally forgot about that conversation. It’s fun to watch. It’s something to be very proud of. This is my favorite project I’ve ever done, the most proud I’ve ever been of something, and something that I get to show my kids one day. I can always relive this and be like, ‘This is what we did. This is how I met Auntie JoJo and Uncle Nick. It’s just truly incredible.

SIWA: I liked seeing what the DS said about us. That, to me, is fascinating to watch because you never know. But I always remember when someone would get called into the mirror room, which is where you get interviewed by the DS, I was always curious what went on. What did they talk about? How did it go? You’d come back in, and everyone would be like, ‘How are you? Are you okay?’ But you never knew really what was talked about with other people. I remember [them] telling us about it, but actually seeing it and hearing it, it’s interesting.

VIALL: I was very touched by watching Tyler’s interrogation, talking about his mom, and JoJo’s. It was a way for you to to bond, and to see what they were going through, you just have so much love for everyone that we experienced this through. It’s been fun to watch. Doing it was different than watching The Bachelor back. You can sit back and enjoy it and get to be so proud of yourself and proud of your friends.

CAMERON: You’re gotta watch the show with a closed captions, cause it is so funny what the DS says.

SIWA: It is so funny. There’s one line in the beginning when he was like, ‘You’re like a drunk on the Titanic. The boats going down and you’re wondering why the bar’s closed.’

VIALL: I didn’t know he called me noodle arms.

CAMERON: You’d tell him you have a great podcast and he’d be like, ‘That’s f*cking boring!’ He’s like, ‘You look like a damn walrus…’ Jjust like the funniest things that they call you.

DEADLINE: Despite how harsh they appear to be during filming, I heard you have a great relationship with the staff off camera.

VIALL: they are the greatest group of guys. It was fascinating. There’s a method to their madness…There’s a reason why they don’t give you a pat on the back. And if they do, it’s very strategic. I mean, my interrogation Billy was really hard on me and challenged me. But at the very end, he was like, ‘You can do this.’ And honestly, had Billy not given me that words of encouragement at that moment, I don’t know if I would have finished. It was just a little bit at the right time. And so they’re very smart guys, but they’re big teddy bears. They want to see us all do well. It’s been great to keep in touch with all of them. They’re really incredible people.

CAMERON: I’m scared not to be their friend, honestly. [Laughs]. No, I mean, to earn their respect was, I think, one of our biggest goals. That was a huge accomplishment.

DEADLINE: I think it’s obvious in some of those interrogation scenes that they really do care about you and want to see you succeed.

SIWA: They are like the best stage parents.

DEADLINE: Do if there’s a Special Forces all star season, you all are ready to sign up?

SIWA: I’ll be there.

CAMERON: Yeah, just double the fee.

SIWA: It’s interesting though, because I think now doing it as friends would be a complete different ballgame, because we we had each other but we were strangers. Now, imagine how we would be able to be there for each other.

DEADLINE: All three of you have had your fair share of grueling moments, albeit very different, on your previous reality shows. How would you compare the experiences?

CAMERON: I think it’s like a psychological warfare. the biggest battle after The Bachelorette is watching it again and then reliving it with your partner, whoever it is, and then also the fan base. There’s a lot of ups and downs with that fan base, and they don’t hold back. So I think that really prepares you mentally for a lot, and I think that was part of the reason why I could kind of take if with all the criticism from the DS.

VIALL: Part of it, too, is like when we’re filming Special Forces, it didn’t feel like we’re filming a show. I tell people we were just in the simulation. We didn’t have any conversations or access with producers. There wasn’t downtime, where we’re like talking about what we were doing next. We were fully at the mercy of the DS, and despite their harshness and their criticism, we knew that they wanted us to do well. I don’t know about Dance Moms, but I think you feel more alone on The Bachelor and you don’t really know who you can trust and who your friends are. And Special Forces just despite all the challenges, there was a sense of camaraderie and having a team of people looking out for you.

SIWA: To me, it’s weird because I think about it and I was so young. I mean, I was 11 and in a very cutthroat environment but then at the same time, cameras cut at four o’clock. We worked from eight to four, cameras cut, then we stayed at the studio and danced all night. So we always made a choice to continue coming back every day, but there was that moment of like, ‘Alright cameras off. Now, we go have fun.’ We go into crafty, we make funny videos. I think the difference is with Forces, there was no, ‘Alright, we’re going to take a 30 minute break. All right, it’s lunch, enjoy your 30 minutes, we’ll be back it.’ It was, ‘Food’s in the mess. Eat. We’ll tell you when we need you.’ You never knew. Some days, we had five minutes. Some days we would have a two-hour break. But you never knew where you were going, what you were doing, how long you were going to be there for. Nothing.

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