The popular CBS competition show, Survivor, premiered its 44th season on March 1st. After 23 years, the hit show is still considered to be one of the best reality competition shows on the air. Castaways are dropped on a remote island, left to fend for themselves among a tribe of strangers, eliminating their peers at weekly tribal councils until one sole survivor is crowned champion.
As per the slogan of the show, participants compete in situations that require them to outwit, outplays, and outlast. While navigating social dynamics among the tribes can certainly be mentally taxing, the physical toll put on players’ bodies during rewards challenges is brutal. Among the wide array of challenges featured on the show since its debut, several stand out as particularly more grueling than the rest.
10 This Much
Sometimes the demanding Survivor challenges are the simplest ones. “This Much” certainly has a very straightforward premise – competitors stand with their arms outstretched using only their fingertips to hold up two discs pressed against wooden poles. To make matters worse, weighted objects, such as ceramic pots, are often hung from the discs.
It would be exhausting enough for one to stand hold out their arms for an extended period of time, but the added component of holding up discs makes this challenge a true test of stamina. Having made appearances in two separate seasons, it is likely fans will get the chance to see the challenge again in future episodes.
9 A Crate Idea
Although Survivor is ultimately an individual game, players do compete in tribes in the early stages of the competition, meaning that certain challenges require teamwork to claim victory. “A Crate Idea” requires teams to work together to roll and eventually stack a series of crates in order to reach a tall platform.
Not only that, but the crates must be stacked in a particular order to reveal the puzzle on their sides. The size of the crates makes it very difficult to roll them and the added bonus of having all team members climb them requires a high level of communication. Collaborative challenges like this one are a reason why Survivor remains one of the best competition shows.
8 Get a Grip
Another relatively simple challenge, “Get a Grip” is a challenge reminiscent of one found on the Netflix competiton show, Physical 100. The challenge features competitors hanging onto a tall pole by wrapping themselves around it, with only narrow foot holes to support themselves.
“Get a Grip” has made appearances in nine separate seasons, making it a fan-favorite challenge. Audiences in particular enjoy marveling at the often unbelievable amount of time that players are able to hang on for – some contestants have last over two hours.
Although there have been several iterations of the challenges, the premise of “Vertigo” remains the same. Contestants stand on a pole in the ocean and lower a bucket, collecting water that is poured into a chute, either unlocking a key or a flag. Evidently, challenge calls for players to hold their balance incredibly well while maneuvering a heavy bucket filled with water.
In later versions of the challenge, contestants have even needed to jump off of their pole to complete a puzzle following the water retrieval portion. This component makes the challenge even more fatiguing not only physically, but mentally, as well. If “Vertigo” appears again, audiences may be able to expect even more updates the challenge.
6 A Bit Tipsy
In “A Bit Tipsy”, players must hold onto a long rope that stabilizes a platform in which they must stack a series of letters to spell out the word “immunity”. If the letters fall, the contestant must start over and rebuild. The winner not only needs to be able to stack all of their blocks, but also be able to hold them still for three seconds in order to be crowned champion.
“A Bit Tipsy” demands laser focus and patience, as rushing through the challenge often leads to blocks repeatedly falling due to unstable platforms – with this challenge, slow and steady wins the race. Players must keep their composure and remain calm to effectively stack all eight blocks.
5 Uncomfortably Numb
Yet another simple challenge is the Survivor staple, “Uncomfortably Numb”. While balancing on a small perch, contestants grab onto a wooden handle next to their head. Players must remain with both their feet on the perch and their hands on the handle for as long as possible. While some contestants drop out just minutes in, some are able to hold themselves for nearly an hour.
“Uncomfortably Numb” is a test of endurance and strength. Unsurprisingly, the challenge is named after the debilitating sensation of numbness competitors feel after spending so much time in the static position. Watching players push themselves beyond their known physical limits are why the show is one of the most anticipated reality shows to have returned in 2023.
4 Sumo at Sea
“Sumo at Sea” has contestants stand on a floating platform in the ocean, battling to knock their opponent off using large pads. Players demonstrate ruthless aggression while simultaneously attempting to balance on the slippery platform. Typically done as a team challenge, the tribe with the most points wins.
Although it may be assumed that this challenge is best suited to stronger competitors, speed and agility can play a big factor in securing a victory. Additionally, since it is a head-to-head challenge, players must truly be able to get into the minds of their opponents in order to anticipate what their strategy might be.
3 When It Rains It Pours
In “When It Rains It Pours”, players must hold their arm above their head for as long as possible. The catch is that their arm is tied to a rope which is connected to a bucket of water above them. If their arm drops, so does the bucket, dousing them with water and eliminating them from the challenge.
It is enough of a physical punishment to leave one’s arm raised above their head, but the imminent threat of cold water splashing onto one’s head makes “When It Rains It Pours” a truly strenuous battle. To add insult to injury, the show’s host, Jeff Probst, often tempts players to give up by offering replinishing food items for them should they opt to surrender.
2 Hands on a Hard Idol
Inspired by the true event, Hands on a Hardbody (for which a documentary detailing the competition was made), “Hands on a Hard Idol” is another simple challenge. The challenge has players keep one hand touching an Immunity Idol while balancing on a small log. If a player removes their hand or falls off the log, they are eliminated.
While the challenge includes factors of balance and stamina, at its core, “Hands on a Hard Idol” is a waiting game. In true Survivor fashion, competitors are forced to outlast their opponents, despite the physical toll being put on their own body. Additionally, since players are positioned so close to each other, mind games are an inevitable component.
1 Sea Legs
“Sea Legs” is a challenge that seems highly similar to a competition one might find on Netflix’s Squid Game. Players must balance on a floating, triangular platform, often having to position their bodies in certain ways as the challenge progresses. Because players must move their feet to increasingly smaller foot holes, the longer a one lasts, the harder it becomes.
With appearances in nine seasons, “Sea Legs” is an iconic Survivor challenge, due to the many physical and mental factors at play. The challenge’s dynamic component of increasing difficulty weeds out competitors who are ultimately unable to endure the test of balance and strength.
NEXT:7 Best Competition Reality Shows That Showcase Queer Excellence