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Phil Keoghan’s dad won Tough As Nails’ third episode

Phil Keoghan’s dad won Tough As Nails’ third episode
Phil Keoghan laughs when he realizes his dad, John Keoghan, cannot be produced on Tough As Nails season 4, episode 3

Tough As Nails episode three challenges all involving working with trees at a nursery. The overtime challenge was effectively a combination of the first two, meaning there wasn’t a whole lot of variety, and these weren’t the best challenges in the show’s history.

But it was an episode absolutely worth watching thanks to Phil Keoghan’s father, John Keoghan, who made a cameo appearance—actually, two.

John Keoghan has appeared in Phil’s biking documentaries The Ride and Le Ride, but it was his appearance via Facetime on CBS prime-time TV that stole the show.

Tough As Nails players before the individual challenge on season 4, episode 3: Jake Cope, Ilima Shim, Laura Bernotas, Sergio Robles, Renèe Kolar, Larron Ables, Aly Bala, Mister Frost, Beth Salva-Clifford, Jorge Zavala, and Ellery Liburd (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS)

The Tough As Nails cast learned about their team challenge wearing rain jackets, because it was pouring.

Their task: retrieve 40 trees, of 10 different varieties, from a massive tree farm.

To give the contestants a little help, Phil called his dad on FaceTime, or some non-Apple version of video chat, and asked him to read off the names of the 10 trees.

But John Keoghan, who was introduced on-scree as “agronomist/Phil’s dad,” didn’t just want to pronounce words for his son. He wanted to share his knowledge, so he proceeded to share information about the varieties after saying their name.

“Just the names is good,” Phil said, trying to produce his father. It didn’t work.

“We’re never going to get these names,” Phil told the contestants, laughing. “We’re only at number six. We gotta get to 10!”

And that’s when the joke got even funnier, thanks to the editing heightening the humor. The editors cut to footage of clouds passing overhead.

Then they took it one step further, showing time-lapse footage of seeds sprouting from soil. It was absolutely hilarious.

A man with a clipboard in one hand holds a phone in his other hand, and talks into it, with a flowering tree behind him
John Keoghan talks to his son, Tough As Nails host Phil Keoghan, via video chat, while also being filmed.

John eventually finished, and Dirty Hands and Savage Crew took off. They were hampered by the rain, discovering that it was hard to write at all, though Larron had the genius idea to just write on the inside lining of the rain jacket he was wearing.

Savage Crew won, even though Dirty Hands arrived back with their final load first—because they’d actually missed a tree because of bad communication. Once again, the leader took responsibility: “It’s my fault for not checking,” Beth said.

The individual challenge brought the teams back to the same nursery, where they had to repot a magnolia tree in a planter that they had to build, without plans. Phil also revealed that the winner would get more than just $2,000: the individual prize is now $3,000. Nice, but also, CBS, stop being so cheap and give these amazing people more money. I’d say $10,000 for an individual challenge win, and $24,000 split for team wins.

Phil Keoghan stands behind a large work whistle
Phil Keoghan and Tough As Nails’ work whistle in episode 3 (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS)

Another supporting character provided some humor: The nursery employee who checked their work rejected it with thumbs down. Beth told us, “He was very dramatic about it,” and mocked his theatricality with both her thumbs.

After a lot of people struggled, and Sergio’s back injury flared up and caused him to writhe on the ground until a medic sprayed his back with something, George eventually won. Sergio finished his, too.

That left Renee and Mister, both teammates, in overtime. It was a version of the previous challenge: finding 24 trees (six each of four types), repotting them, and loading them onto a truck. While they were close at one point, Mister won, and Renee punched out.

And that’s when John Keoghan made his final appearance of the night. Underneath the credits, the editors included footage of Phil’s dad continuing his tour of the trees as the episode ended. It was a perfect cap to a hilarious unscripted moment, and I’m so glad Tough As Nails embraced that instead of editing it out.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how itโ€™s made and what it means.

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Wednesday 18th of January 2023

Maybe, it was filmed in northern California because they get lots of rain up there. It has been like a desert in Los Angeles for the last ten years until December 2022.

I'm glad Jorge won the individual challenge. I like him and Lannon.


Thursday 19th of January 2023

@Antonio, I live in northern California; we haven't been getting a lot of rain here either. (Until the last 3 weeks.) And after last night at Inglewood tires, I'm sure they're in LA. :)


Friday 13th of January 2023

I loved Phil's dad so much! He was very entertaining and so cute.

Do you know when they filmed this? I don't remember that much rain in California until the last couple of weeks.