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Tough As Nails 4 ends with its closest finish ever and a season 5 surprise

Tough As Nails 4 ends with its closest finish ever and a season 5 surprise
Phil Keoghan during the Tough As Nails season 4 finale (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Tough As Nails season four ended with what host Phil Keoghan described as “the closest finish we’ve ever had on Tough As Nails—all three neck-and-neck,” and then tacked on a surprise about Tough As Nails season five.

The two-hour finale was just two episodes, and began with the conclusion of the team competition.

For the second season in a row, the tiebreaker team challenge wasn’t necessary as a tiebreaker, because we already had a $60,000 team competition winner. But Tough As Nails gave that challenge stakes with some fun one-on-one battles.

Ilima Shim, Larron Ables, and Renèe Kolar watch Aly Bala cut a tire during Tough As Nails 4's final team competition
Ilima Shim, Larron Ables, and Renèe Kolar watch Aly Bala cut a tire during Tough As Nails 4’s final team competition. (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

I do share their contestants’ sadness that the team competition is over; it’s my favorite part. I especially like seeing how they adapt as a group to the challenges’ different demands, and watching how the strategy evolves.

The final team challenge was the now-standard on-on-one trades challenge, where teams picked an opponent and that opponent picked the test: removing a tire from a rim, reeling in a massive rope, or splitting and stacking logs.

After three of those on-on-one rounds, Dirty Hands’ Ellery faced off against Savage Crew’s Larron in all three tests.

The “oldest competitor versus our youngest competitor,” as Phil Keoghan said, began with Ellery way ahead of Larron after the wood chop; he finished the rope and started on his tire before Larron even finished the chopping.

The “huge comeback,” as Phil said, brought Larron to the tire, but Ellery was stil ahead and won. “There is no stopping me—my team needed it,” he said.

Dirty Hands lost the $60,000 last week, so they really wanted the $12,000 this week, just to add to their earnings.

The next rounds included Renne beating Synethia at the rope pull, and Jorge beating mister on the tire-removal, even though Jorge took time to change out his grinder. Actually, it was because he took the time to swap his blade; Mister cut through his tire first but struggled to tear his tire off the rim because his cut wasn’t as strong.

Aly called out Laura, again, which the editing was skeptical of because her desire to prove herself didn’t work out the first time. She wanted redemption, and she got it, beating Laura while chopping wood, and giving Dirty Hands the win.

Aly said, “I owe this growth to my team—they pushed me to do things that I didn’t think I could do, and it showed today.”

The penultimate individual challenge had the final five install 13 pieces of HVAC from a scissor lift. Ellery was going in circles, literally, on his lift, and then decided to work on the ground for a while. Alas, it didn’t pay off, and he and Jake ended up in the elimination together.

Mister won, receiving both $9,000 for his first individual win and going to the final four. Jorge and Larron were next.

Ellery described his individual challenge opponent, Jake, as “like a slow-moving glacier. You think there’s no harm, but he can overpower you.”

That’s almost exactly what happened: They had to build a table, creating arced legs by bending and cutting aluminum tubes, and then adding a wood surface. Ellery was ahead, and Jake made a mistake with the pipe, but ended up catching up and winning.

Tough As Nails 4’s final three challenges

Tough As Nails 4 winner Jorge Zavala during episode 3, because this is the only solo action photo of the winner that CBS provided
Tough As Nails 4 winner Jorge Zavala during episode 3, because this is the only solo action photo of the winner that CBS provided. (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS)

In the season finale, we started with an individual challenge that was as comical as it probably was challenging: balancing a steel ball on a vertical pipes—using an excavator. Then, just to wear them out, they had to move bags of concrete onto a palette.

I wish CBS had press photos of the ball being picked up by the excavator, but alas, the only photos available for the entire finale are from the first half. (CBS only had one photo—from the entire season—of this season’s winner solo.)

It was such a fantastic and hilarious visual, using this massive machine to do relatively delicate work. I say “relatively” because the balls were big and heavy—they weren’t marbles or made of glass—but they also were round and had to be placed on a small point, and the machine wasn’t made for this purpose.

The challenge was run in three heats: First, Jake vs. Jorge, and then Larron vs Mister. The winners went to the final three; the losers went into overtime.

Jake beat Jorge, then Mister beat Larron, and between the two winners, Mister had the fastest time by seconds, so he won the $10,000. “I never made that much money that quick,” he said. A great finale for Mister!

The overtime challenge for Jorge and Larron involved jackhammering three concrete blocks to remove three poles. I think there’s a jackhammering poles joke there somewhere but I’m too tired to make it.

Jorge was slightly ahead, and they were working on the third stake at the same time, but Jorge’s technique prevailed, and he made his way into the finale.

Jorge’s win made Sergio cry—”I love this guy,” he said—and continued what I’d argue is a winner’s edit for Jorge. Tough As Nails doesn’t exactly have the same kind of editing as strategic competitions, but it did give an arc to Jorge, who developed a strong relationship with Sergio, and talked about his growth as a person.

Jorge, Mister, and Jake faced off in the final obstacle course, which had elements similar to previous finales, but also seemed tougher.

It the final three:

  1. smashing their way through a wall
  2. carrying 10 planter boxes through the hole and stacking them into a staircase
  3. unchaining tires
  4. putting the tires on a minivan
  5. driving it through a plastic tarp and, sometimes, right into a water barrel
  6. cutting a hole through a container wall with a grinder
  7. smashing an ice block to free a saw
  8. sawing wood to make steps for a ladder
  9. climbing the ladder
  10. sawing through chains to release a beam
  11. crossing the beam
  12. untangling huge rope knots
  13. winding the rope on a spool to pull up a cargo net
  14. climbing the cargo net
  15. grabbing the truck’s keys

Jorge was ahead at 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, followed by Jake, with Mister a clear but not distant third. But then Mister passed Jake at 7.

Jorge stayed ahead at 9, 10, and 11, followed closely by Mister.

But by 13, the rope wind, they were all on the same obstacle at the same time. However, Mister missed a knot in his line, causing him to have to undo the entire spool.

“This is the closest finish we’ve ever had on Tough As Nails—all three neck-and-neck,” Phil said.

At the end, it was Jorge climbing the cargo net by himself, well ahead of his fellow competitors, winning the $200,000 and Ford truck, plus the Tournament of Champions belt. Okay, it just looks like that. I guess all competition belts look like that?

Mister finished next, and then so did Jake, joining Jorge atop the stack of containers, and capping off another great season of Tough As Nails and friendly but fierce competition through a series of great challenges—plus some fantastic moments like Phil’s dad winning episode three.

Tough As Nails season 5 news

Phil Keoghan stands next to a large work whistle on a dock with the ocean behind him
Phil Keoghan and his work whistle during the premiere of Tough As Nails season 4 (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS)

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the finale was the coda, in which Phil Keoghan revealed not only that Tough As Nails season 5 has been filmed, but that the show is leaving its Los Angeles, Calif., setting, which has hosted the first three seasons.

Specifically, Tough As Nails 5 filmed in Hamilton, Ontario, late last summer, according to The Hamilton Spectator, which notes that Canadians were able to apply for the first time for season five.

Phil Keoghan told the paper:

“I’ve never met a Canadian who hasn’t got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder when it comes to Americans. I don’t know if I’ve seen a more passionate group of people in the world of hockey who love any time a Canadian team beats a U.S. team. Part of the reason for opening up the casting to Canadians is we want to foster rivalry between the USA and Canada.”

I don’t know if Tough As Nails needs nationalism added to its winning formula, nor do I think it needs rivalry driven by something external. Its competitors find plenty of rivalry even in a competition where everyone is supportive and kind to each other.

But I am thrilled it’ll be back, whenever CBS will give that season to us. Tough As Nails season 4 filmed in November 2021, so I hope we don’t have to wait more than a year for season five!

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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 5th of March 2023

I was rooting for Jorge or Larron to win. I was disappointed when Mister and Jake made it to the final three but Larron didn't.

They need to install cameras on the shipping containers and have them pointed at the contestants who climb up the cargo net and pull themselves over for the win (place or show). It looked very tiring for Jorge and it looked like he could barely pull himself up and over.

Very happy Jorge won.

I enjoyed the show very much and look forward to the next season.


Tuesday 28th of February 2023

My heart completely broke for Mister when he came across that missed knot. But I was rooting for him or Jorge, so I was happy Jorge won. Great finale!