Lots of puzzles and an 'infernal Ferris wheel': this is how the 'Survivors' tests are created
Two contestants from ‘Survivors’ competing on the Hell Wheel, one of the most popular events on the show.Mediaset

If there is something that gives great television moments to SurvivorsBeyond its cast of contestants, are the elaborate tests that take place live from the islands of Cayos Cochinos (Honduras), where the reality TV show takes place. Challenges of physical endurance, mental acuity and some general culture decide which of the participants is the leader of the week and provide them with rewards in the form of food or survival utensils. They also provide content and narrative rhythm to a program that occupies three of the nights of the weekly Mediaset grill. The creation of these games is one of the elements that takes the production team the longest, since they begin to devise them three months before the start of the season and do not stop updating them until the last day of broadcast. The bailaor Antonio Canales, the presenter Agustín Bravo and reality stars such as Melyssa Pinto and Marta López have had to face them in this edition of 2021.

Jorge Javier Vázquez, on the set of 'Survivors'.

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“This format is done live in only two countries in the world and, therefore, we have to do it in such a way that its resolution is quick and effective, that generates dynamics among the participants in a limited time. In the rest of the countries, this part is recorded and, therefore, it can be edited later, which allows for more freedom when proposing them ”, Javier Sánchez Ureta, a member of the team of Survivors.

Unlike other screenwriters, he is focused on making games. There is a team of more than 20 people dedicated to the development, adaptation, staging and construction of these tests, often made of large structures that must be transported to these tiny Caribbean islands. “Sometimes the challenges are inspired by others in the international format Survivor in any of its versions, and are adapted by our team according to our needs. As many times, however, new, original and more visual ones are created, ”says Sánchez Ureta.

“The boats in which the test materials are transported to the islands carry up to 1,000 kilos of wood and other items,” explains Javier Sánchez Ureta, scriptwriter of ‘Survivors’ games from Honduras.

Although they have always been a relevant part of a format that has just completed 21 years of history in Spain, these competitions are gaining prominence in recent editions. More and more, between three and five a week, to meet the growing presence of Survivors in primetime on Telecinco and Cuatro on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. And they are becoming more and more shocking. “Now they are placed right at the beginning of the broadcast, so that the program goes directly into action and the viewer gets fully into its dynamics,” says Alfredo Ereño, general director of the production company responsible for the space, Bulldog TV by phone from Madrid .

Among the most recurrent are the puzzles that culminate and complement the physical challenges. It is a way of giving another type of emotion, comments the scriptwriter who deals with them: “Normally, a good survivor must be good physically, but also mentally. Also, as people of many ages and physical shapes compete, we must give everyone a chance to get a reward. With this type of evidence, the one who, a priori, he may seem physically weaker, he also has a chance of winning.

The apnea test, converted into a group challenge in this edition of 'Survivors'.
The apnea test, converted into a group challenge in this edition of ‘Survivors’.Mediaset

The complex structures that appear on the screen are manufactured in a construction workshop near the offices where the program is based, they explain from Bulldog TV. The transfer of the material to the key from which the production company broadcasts is done in boats, with the structures normally separated by pieces, but ready for final assembly at the location where the game will take place. “In these boats, which are often used exclusively for transport, up to 1,000 kilos of wood and other materials are transported,” says the scriptwriter. Before the famous of Survivors face them, a specialist has evaluated the safety of these structures and the ability to be playable by all of them. Once assembled, part of the program team that is in Honduras, the field tests and the games are adjusted to the reality of the contestants, who will struggle with a significant deficit of sleep and food.

These tests also play an important role in a key factor in the Spanish edition of Survivors: offer food several times a week to the contestants to endure more than three months in extreme conditions “and receive food supplements that they cannot find for themselves in that environment,” recalls the general director of Bulldog TV. This version lasts up to five times longer than others such as the British, Australian or German, which last for a period of between 20 and 38 days.

The participants with Lara Álvarez, trying to solve one of the puzzles in the contest after taking a physical test.
The participants with Lara Álvarez, trying to solve one of the puzzles in the contest after taking a physical test.Mediaset

But the reward must be earned. One of the most anticipated tests is the infernal ferris wheel, in which the aspiring winners must hold on with legs and arms and without falling into the water to a structure that spins at an uneven rhythm and accompanied by a disturbing mechanical noise. It was one of the most remembered episodes in the 2018 edition, in which Sofia Suescun managed to overcome her opponent Logan Sampredo lasting almost 11 minutes in the structure, with his muscles in tension and after almost three months competing. Despite the impact on the viewer, it has not been repeated until this year. “It is an excessively hard test and the profile of the contestant has to accompany it. It is not by chance that he has recovered this time; Another year we tried to do it, but due to the physical conditions of the participants or the wear and tear they had suffered throughout the edition, it was ruled out ”, says Sánchez Ureta.

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