Continual physical punishment, sleep and food deprivation, and gruelling tests that explore the limits of human endurance. Why do we love watching people – all from the safety of our couches – being subjected to intense mental anguish and physical pain?
Maybe there’s an innate need to know we could do it, if need be. To know when to bend to the environment or make it bend for you.
For the past decade, ex-SAS instructor Bear Grylls has been the go-to survival man. Across a series of shows, we’ve watched him get buried alive, half-drown in torrid rivers and scale unthinkable heights while living off an appetising banquet of rancid camel, moose heart, rhino beetle larvae and his own urine.
If you enjoyed watching him endure those hellish experiences, then get ready for season two of SAS: Who Dares Wins.
Contestants just like you and me are dropped into the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon jungle – a place where the rivers broil with anaconda and piranha, and where mosquitoes carry chikungunya, dengue and zika. But that’s the least of their worries. Also awaiting them are five ex-Special Forces soldiers keen to recreate the SAS’s elite selection process and put these every day civilians to the ultimate psychological and physical tests.
What is your breaking point?
Bear Grylls broke his back in three places following a freefall parachuting accident in Africa. Rather than signalling the end, it proved to be the beginning of his great adventure, including scaling Mount Everest just two years later. In SAS: Who Dares Wins, contestants are constantly reminded that what they think is their breaking point is not really their breaking point.
Say no to machismo
We know Bear Grylls is in touch with his feminine side. He once listed a make-up mirror (for reflecting the sun and signalling to planes), bra (to filter water), lipstick (to write on rocks) and tampons (to light a fire) as survival essentials. It also seems that machismo, strangely, has no place in the SAS training. Jason “Foxy” Fox, an ex-SAS demolitions expert says, “Macho guys who come to prove a point about their hardness usually quit first, having proven nothing.”
Can you handle the psychological confrontations?
The main purpose of the SAS training is to test the contestants’ psychological makeup. It involves constant baiting, put downs and prods into the depths of their inner selves. It leads to meltdowns and uncontrollable tears. Bear Grylls has said, “Crying is a waste of water!” But he’s been known to puddle up, too. In the first SAS: Who Dares Wins season, we found out crying isn’t the end. Only giving up is the end. As the credo goes: “There’s always an option, you can always keep going.”
“We sow the seed and let them eat themselves up”
One of the hardest aspects of the SAS training is who to trust? Especially when you’ve got the instructors sowing distrust among the contestants. It’s all very disorientating – one minute, it’s every man for themselves; the next, you’re expected to be working as a team. They’re looking for mavericks who break the rules and also want people who can be moulded, all the while adhering to very strict rules.
“The SAS bond is unique”
The ultimate goal is to see if the contestants have got something inside they didn’t know they had - a resilience, a strength of character or a way of thinking through pressurised situations. Bear Grylls once told GQ magazine that passing SAS selection was his proudest moment. “That's where I learnt so many of the skills that I use on the show,” he explained. “And just the hard graft - 180 of us started and only four of us passed at the end. Those guys are still my buddies.”
Watch season 2 of SAS: Who Dares Wins on Mondays at 9:30pm on SBS.
Missed the last episode? Watch it right here: