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Jump off the ladder! yelled the supportive Tough As Nails cast

Jump off the ladder! yelled the supportive Tough As Nails cast
Ilima during on the Tough As Nails 4 episode 7 team challenge, which had the teams assemble scaffolding (Image via CBS)

There was a fear of heights, but not of failure, on Tough As Nails this week.

Savage Crew and Dirty Hands were all tied up at the beginning of Tough As Nails’ seventh episode, which means there a max of two episodes left in the team competition for the $60,000 bonus.

And the competition is getting fierce and cutthroat—well, for Tough As Nails, which remains mostly friendly and warm.

There was a fascinating shift, though, illustrated by Dirty Hands team member Beth, which she shared on the drive to this episode’s job site: the Buena Park Training Center of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, not far from Disneyland.

“Failure is okay,” Beth said, after punching out last week. “It doesn’t define you. It’s what you do after that defines you.”

What happened after was Dirty Hands lost—barely!—and Beth’s approach changed. “We have to stop patting ourselves on the back when we lose,” she said. “We’ve gotta win two in a row now.”

Two groups of people, one wearing black and one wearing orange, stand beneath banners saying "Southwest Carpentry," "Savage Crew," and "It's my 714"
Tough As Nails 4 teams at the start of episode 7: Ellery Liburd, Beth Salva-Clifford, Sergio Robles, Aly Bala, Jorge Zavala, Synethia Bland, Phil Keoghan, Lamar Hanger, Jake Cope, Mister Frost, Ilima Shim, Larron Ables, Laura Bernotas, and Renèe Kolar. (Image via CBS)

The loss came with a relatively simple task: assembling two stories of scaffolding.

For this task, Savage Crew elected Jake their crew boss, with Jake saying that his team previously thought “he’s too loud and too wild.”

On Dirty Hands, Sergio took the role, telling us, “I can’t even count the hours I’ve touched scaffolding” Dirty Hands indeed!

While Dirty Hands has three actual carpenters, it wasn’t really carpentry skills that paid off for Savage Crew, but their attention to detail—although I suppose attention to detail is part of carpentry! Small errors in alignment compounded; Dirty Hands had issues with their cross bars because their foundation wasn’t solid.

Still, it was very close. “Has the whole season been like this, Phil?” guest Tough As Nails alum Hanger asked.

Two people smiling while standing at a table with work tools
Tough As Nails alum Lamar Hanger returned for Tough As Nails 4 episode 7’s carpentry-themed challenges (Image via CBS)

The team challenge introduced us to Laura’s fear of heights. While she stayed on the ground for most of the challenge, she briefly overcame it to climb up the side of the scaffolding to hand things to her teammates.

That proved to be important, because Laura ended up in overtime with Larron, who is apparently someone who’s on this season of Tough As Nails.

The individual challenge, which had only seven competitors, had the cast build another scaffold, and then install 72 acoustic tiles, so that someone on HGTV can rip them out later because they are hideous.

In addition to their tiles, they also had to cut holes for an HVAC vent and sprinkler hole, and then clean up their job site.

That proved important because Jorge finished first but had alignment issues with some of his tiles; Ellery finished second but had shit everywhere, which Phil Keoghan observed is likely due to his work as a firefighter, where a clean job site does not matter at all. (A clean firehouse and truck probably matters, but now I’m extending the metaphor too far.)

Mister finished next, but had an issue of a non-square tile, and Ellery continued to clean, scraping up dust with another ceiling panel. But Jorge was able to fix his screw-ups first, and won $7,000. The money is getting bigger!

Ultimately, all Dirty Hands team members were safe, but “all” means just two, because four have punched out so far.

It was the first trip to the Overtime challenge for both Laura and Larron, and they faced an apparently simple but actually complex task: building a 30-foot ladder by nailing in 15 steps.

A person in a harness falls through the air, with a crane behind them
Laura jumps off the ladder during Tough As Nails’ overtime challenge

The challenge was really climbing, carrying, and nailing while clinging to the ladder, compounded by the heights, which you’ll recall from eight paragraphs ago.

Upon seeing this was the challenge, Laura started crying, and Phil tried to reassure her by pointing out they had a “five-point harness” for them to wear. Oh, five points! No problem. Four points, I quit!

All of this culminated in a pretty emotional and spectacular moment, when Laura, high up on her ladder, realized it’d be quicker to just jump down rather than climbing.

Other people yelled “trust your gear!” to her, and I really don’t think it’s the gear I wouldn’t be trusting, but instead the person holding the other end of the rope, or at least that was my experience at Boy Scout camp when I was frozen with fear climbing up a ladder to traverse a log that’d been nailed between two trees. But I digress.

Laura’s jump was shown in slow motion, and she landed on her feet to applause and cheers. When she jumped, her harness looked so loose around her shoulders. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to look? She landed safely, of course, and then raced back up the ladder.

Laura will, alas, have to be content with a personal victory, because Larron beat her to the top of the ladder, ringing his bell and staying in the competition.

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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 it’s made and what it means.

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Sunday 12th of February 2023

I know it's supposed to be one big happy family and I want it to be that BUT Jorge keeps winning all these individual competitions. They all must secretly want him out of the individual competitions.


Friday 10th of February 2023

"While Savage Crew has three actual carpenters, it wasn’t so much their carpentry skill as their attention to detail that paid off" - This is wrong, it is Dirty Hands who had three members with carpentry experience. They lost despite seemingly having a professional advantage.


Thursday 16th of February 2023

@Andy Dehnart, if it helps savage crew is orange and dirty hands is green, but yah I generally agree that the teams dont stand out as much this season, not sure why though

Andy Dehnart

Friday 10th of February 2023

Oops, thanks! I'll fix it. I am having a tough time keeping the teams and their members straight this season. Maybe it's because past seasons had stronger team identities somehow? I don't know!


Thursday 9th of February 2023

I was really bummed Laura lost after overcoming her fear of heights.