Survivor Oz Top 10 – Top 10 Most Physically Brutal Challenges


Top 10′s are back for another week, and this week Ozlet Julian Groneberg counts down his top 10 most physically brutal challenges in the history of Survivor! Maybe a challenge that caused some pretty serious carnage will battle it out with an endurance challenge that had people barely recovering throughout the game? Or maybe there will be challenges that were so darn brutal that you will cringe just thinking about them again. You’ll have to click the link below to see what makes the top 10 and what doesn’t! Remember to debate the choices too in our comments section below after you have read them!

When you think of some of the most compelling challenges in Survivor, chances are they are also some of the bloodiest, and injury inducing. Over the years we’ve seen brutal physical challenges of many different varieties, and trying to pick just 10 challenges for this top 10 was a challenge in itself! Whether they inadvertently caused injury or just looked plain painful to compete in, some of these challenges were too brutal even to be repeated in future seasons, while others were physically gruelling challenges made such great TV that they were always going to be played again. So without further ado, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back upon 10 challenges where contestants were pulled, pushed, torn, at or otherwise subjected to immense discomfort.

10. “Slingshot Challenge” – Fiji & Tocantins


This challenge has been used, adapted and tinkered with in countless seasons, but probably in Survivor Fiji and Survivor Tocantins the potential of the challenge to cause some potentially painful clashes between contestants was most on display. Essentially the contestants were divided into pairs as balls were flung into the air where they would try to catch or defend. Boo injured his knee and it was later revealed that his ACL popped out (he kept playing after he popped it back in.)  In Survivor Tocantins the challenge was repeated but with handheld nets to launch the balls into the air. JT lost a tooth and proceeded to play, showing that this is one challenge which really gets the contestants fired up, and can cause some painful spills

9. “Kicking and Screaming Challenge” – Cook Islands, Gabon and Cagayan


There is little doubt that the name of this challenge (also used in Survivor: Gabon and Survivor: Cagayan) is completely apt for the kinds of physicality, tenacity and brute force. Essentially players clung for dear life onto a pole trying to resist being plied off by the opposing tribe members. While there weren’t any notable injuries from this challenge, there is little doubt that this has been one of more bruising challenges (and enjoyable to watch) challenges we’ve seen. Not only does sand gets flung including in the face, mouth and eyes of players, the determination, grip and true grit of the contestants are on display as they try to resist being dragged or have their arms pulled out of their sockets.  While the player match ups were a little one sided when we saw this challenge recently in Survivor Cagayan, please feel free to repeat this one any day, over a stock standard puzzle piece challenge.

8. “Survivor Sumo” – Palau, Fiji, Heroes vs Villains & Blood vs Water


Few rules in this challenge other that try to push, drag or overpower your opponent off a raised platform and into the water, or in later seasons, the mud. There’s little doubt that this one challenge that got the contestants hot under the collar, especially between Boston Rob and Colby where testosterone fuelled macho-ness was on display in a tightly fought physical contest. James showed an uglier side of his character as he took out Randy and unleashed an unprovoked tirade of abuse which seemed to come out of nowhere. One thing is for sure, the four times we’ve seen this challenge we always see some pretty brutal and unceremonious displays of both physicality and aggression.

7. “Clear the Deck” – China


Getting naked was the plan for some contestants as a strategy to put off opponents in a challenge that got very up close, personal and physical. With 3 on 3 and separated by gender, players would try to wrestle each other into the water. Dave brought an air of Richard Hatch by playing in his birthday suit, but it didn’t seem to matter as Fei Long came out victorious. One theme is consistent in these physical challenges where contestants need to use brute force to overpower each other. All gloves (and in the case of Dave – clothes) come off.

6. “Slip Through Your Fingers” –  Thailand


This one is just plain painful and quite frankly borderline brutal to watch as the Brian, Clay and Jan fought for their lives to outlast one another while holding a very uncomfortable stance. If that wasn’t enough they had to do this while grasping coins between their fingers, in front of dancing flames which would have made for very sweaty palms. Despite the physical pain of being braced into this position, it remains one of the most spellbinding Final Immunity Challenges of all time which incorporated Thai culture into a compelling and nail biting finish in an otherwise lacklustre season.

5. “Survivor Pig Out” – South Pacific


It might not be physically as painful on the body, but tearing strips off a pig caused for some serious ulcers and lacerations to the mouth all of which was painful to watch, and no doubt even more painful for the contestants.  As contestants hoed into a roasted pig, and exchanged all manner of oral fluids, the instalment of this challenge in Survivor South Pacific was by far one of the grossest challenges and brutal. Several players reported after the challenge having chipped teeth, cut lips and bleeding to the gums and mouth. The prize? Being able to keep the strips of roast pig (and the included saliva) that they had collected. Thanks CBS, you shouldn’t have…

4. “Battle Dig” – Panama & Heroes Vs Villains


An epic challenge that was memorable on Panama but really set the scene for Heroes vs Villains. One that is doubtful they’ll ever bring back again, but they should! How epic it was!

3. “Schmergen Brawl” – Samoa & Heroes vs Villains


Survivor Samoa brought us one of the most violent and fierce free for all’s we had yet to see in Survivor’s long running history. Ben was disqualified in the basket ball like game for unfair tripping of contestants and Mike Borassi needed to be evacuated after the challenge due to dangerously low blood pressure.  Despite all this the challenge was repeated in Survivor Heroes vs Villains where the injury list mounted and James Clement injured his knee, of which he was still limping during the reunion show. After this the challenge was never played again when CBS finally deemed it too dangerous. This basketball free for all must definitely go down in history as arguably one of the most brutal physical (and borderline violent) challenges we would ever see.

2. “Cat & Mouse” – Micronesia


During Survivor Micronesia, one of the most dangerous challenges in the show’s run to that date was the cat and mouse challenge where two sets of contestants in tandem would chase each other to attempt to retrieve a flag within 60 seconds. Chet who couldn’t keep was unceremoniously dragged by Joel after banging his head badly. The injury tally continued with a Parvati sporting a bloody lip, but worst of all was the gouging to the knee Jonathon Penner would suffer, which later became infected and saw him medically evacuated from the game in an injury that quickly could have become life threatening. Described as a challenge where people were running around in an obstacle course of sharp objects, this challenge drew plenty of criticism from the viewing public, and because of the hazardous nature of the challenge it was never again repeated in following seasons.

1. “12 Mile Overnight Race Through Jungle” – Guatemala


Call me biased towards my favourite season, but yet have we to see again such a gruelling introduction to Survivor as brutal as that in Survivor Guatemala where contestants had to complete a epic 12 mile hike in dense jungle to reach camp. Not only did contestants have to spend their first night alone in the jungle, the race to the finish included carrying weighty supplies and trying to navigate through jungle filled with howler monkeys and sharp needles which punctured shoulder skin.  Many of the supposedly stronger members (Bobby Jon and Blake) were down for the count in the days after the challenge it was that physically brutal. The 40 degree heat and the fact that the reward was a better camp only compounded the intensity and tenacity of the contest of which the contestants were still reeling from days after. For these combined reasons and the number of casualties from this one challenge alone, it takes the place of the most physically brutal challenge we’ve seen on our screens while watching Survivor.


What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!

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26 Comments on Survivor Oz Top 10 – Top 10 Most Physically Brutal Challenges

  1. James Clement injured his knee in the Schmergen Brawl challenge of HvV, not Battle Dig. Stephenie and Rupert were the ones injured in that challenge.

    the Zhan Hu women (Peih-Gee, Jaime and Sherea) won the Clear the Deck challenge of China, not Fei Long. that was the first victory of Zhan Hu that season.

    • The fact that he calls himself an editor and doesn’t remember certain details about survivor seasons is just n embarrassment. And he calls himself a fan. *hmph*

      • I don’t call myself an editor – thats what they call me. And as for remembering every single detail over 28 seasons – ring a ding ding! Cry me a river!

    • I may be wrong on this one but when he was talking about Fei Long winning he was probably talking about them winning the round when Dave went nude, not the entire challenge

  2. I think the slingshot challenge was also played in Thailand

  3. Hey Ben! Here’s an idea for top 10! Top 10 players who shud not have returned. You can also include those who returned for the 2nd or 3rd time but should not have returned for 3rd or even 4th time…
    Btw, Great top 10…….

  4. Great list, I would’ve included the immunity challenge in All-Stars where everyone but a caller was blindfolded & sent to find puzzle-pieces, everyone was wiping out– particularly Big Tom who took a nasty hit in the head.

  5. Diane Ogden // July 10, 2014 at 4:32 am // Reply

    The chariot of fire was pretty brutal…. I should know.

  6. Take a look Julian: You’ve put the wrong text under the Battle Dig entry.

  7. I can’t argue with number 1 here. That would have been my first pick. Bravo!

  8. Pig Out was used in Amazon as well, wasn’t named the same but it was still the same challenge nonetheless

  9. I would have put the attack zone (especially the All-Stars version) instead of pig out I think…

  10. Physically brutal challenges are the most exciting ones to watch. Though sometimes it’s not fair for contestants like Chet or Cochran to play in those challenges, they really make the show much more interesting than doing the puzzles over and over again. Puzzles may be fun to solve by yourself but it’s boring to watch people solve them on TV. I don’t like the “Cat & Mouse” challenge though, it’s way too dangerous. And I hate “Survivor Pig Out”.

    Heroes vs. Villains had the most exciting pre-merge challenges ever. I LOVE Survivor Sumo, Battle Dig and Schmergen Brawl.

    I think you should add the water slaughter challenge in Caramoan (the very first challenge that season) and the beach bash reward challenge in Micronesia. They were very physical challenges too.

  11. Thank you Julian. Finally someone can tell these people that you guys are doing this for them, and if they yell at you for not having every fact right, its okay because you are doing this for us.


  12. What about the challenge where they run around a track and try to catch each other?

    • They did challenge like this in both Palau (in water) and Gabon (on a dirt track) where they were carrying either bags of weight or a giant snake weight.

  13. I loved seeing Colby knock Boston Rob on his ass on HvV!

  14. in honor of “Cat and Mouse”, “I hit my head.” “I don’t care.” “I know.”

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