Unbreakable

Monday 24th November
9:00pm on five

The adventure series with explorer Benedict Allen concludes. In the season finale, the five remaining contenders endure a punishing training regime under the menacing eye of an elite fighting force whose job it is to educate Africa’s armies in the ways of warfare. Who will stand up to these fearsome soldiers and prove themselves to be truly unbreakable?

For the final 96 hours of their Unbreakable ordeal, Benedict takes Angus, Barnaby, Dave, Frazer and Matt to the Drakensberg Mountains in the east of South Africa. Scorpions, snakes and spiders abound here –but there is a much greater threat lurking in the long grass. A group of former South African Special Forces fighters are waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting competitors. “You’ve just entered through the gates of hell!” shouts instructor Papa as his army ambushes the would-be unbreakables.

The challengers are forced to march seven miles uphill to their camp wearing rucksacks that weigh a crippling 30 kilograms. To add to the load, they each carry a heavy rifle. It is a punishing trek in the sweltering heat, and Frazer begins to lag behind his team-mates. Instructor Papa makes the ironman wear a helmet emblazoned with the word ‘loser’ as punishment. “You have to have the mental strength to push you because the body is much stronger than the mind,” Papa says to Benedict.

When the challengers reach their camp, they discover that it is no more than an abandoned airstrip. It is along this old runway that they must perform their next mission. Dubbed ‘marbles’ by the elite fighters, the task requires the men to trudge up and down the paddock while carrying huge concrete blocks. The five competitors all complete the mission, but morale is at an all-time low as the day draws to a close and they are forced to sleep under the stars.

At the crack of dawn, the men wake from a few snatched hours of sleep to find that long-distance runner Barnaby is missing. The entire camp begins to search for him –including the unit’s sniffer dogs. Eventually Barnaby is found safe and well. It emerges that he wandered off after having become disillusioned with the competition. Papa theorises that perhaps he deselected himself because he knew he was already broken. “No unbreakable should walk away from a challenge,” says Benedict, “and because of that, you are broken.”

Although Angus, Dave, Frazer and Matt are shocked to lose one of their number in such an unexpected way, they have no choice but to press on with the final set of tasks. “The aim of the next challenge is to show aggression,” Papa declares. The contenders are to take each other on in a bout of ‘milling’, a short
and violent round of boxing that takes place in a small ring drawn in the sand. First, rugby player Matt fights Frazer. With a sharp hook to the head, Matt floors the ironman. Ex-boxer Dave is in his element in the second round, making short work of cross-country skier Angus. Finally, Matt steps into the ring with Dave, but the boxing champion’s skill proves too much for him.

The day’s events take a dark turn when the contenders are introduced to military-style psychological torture. After being captured and stripped to their underwear, the men are marched at gunpoint over treacherous terrain and locked together in a small cage where they must remain for 20 hours. They are let out once during this period for the most mind-blowing challenge yet – to be buried alive in a shallow, sandy grave for two minutes. Claustrophobia gets the better of Dave in the horrific ordeal and he is instantly eliminated.

Now there are only three contenders left standing – Angus, Frazer and Matt. They are imprisoned overnight in the cage in freezing conditions before facing one last challenge. “You’ve come a hell of a long way,” says Benedict, “but now you’re going to have to push yourself a little bit further.”

The adventure series with explorer Benedict Allen continues. Eight volunteers undergo an onslaught of physical and mental pressure in a bid to be declared ‘unbreakable’. In this episode, the challengers battle ruthless Zulu warriors in South Africa.

In the penultimate instalment, Benedict inducts the five remaining competitors into the ways of the Zulu warrior in KwaZulu-Natal. “This valley was the birthplace of the Zulu nation,” he tells the group. “It was here that they came to dominate great swathes of southern Africa, and you’re about to experience their legendary ferocity.”

Suddenly, some tribespeople spring from behind the grasses and march the outsiders to a nearby village. As the initiation ceremony begins, it looks as though part-time model and former boy band member Barnaby may be broken for the most unlikely of reasons –he has to have his head shaved. “I’m really, really close to breaking,” he admits. Finally, he grits his teeth and goes through
with it, as do Angus, Dave, Frazer and Matt. Now clad in the traditional warrior armour of animal skins and headdresses, the men are ready for a stick-fighting lesson. Zulu fighter Samson informs the group that they have just three days to prepare for a tournament where they will fight one-on-one against experienced warriors. Ex-boxer Dave is determined to prove himself after a disappointing overall performance. “You want to go out fighting,” he says. “You want to give it everything you’ve got.”

In the days leading up to the stick fight match, the competitors participate in a customary cleansing ritual. The village witch doctor concocts a potion made of plant extracts that is designed to rid the body of evil. The contestants have to consume an entire bucket of the brew and then purge it. Barnaby performs the worst in the challenge, and is forced to help the village washerwoman as punishment . “I’ve got a horrible feeling in the bottom of my stomach from a minging drink and the prospect that my
head’s about to get caved in,” he says.

That night, a sudden bout of diarrhoea and vomiting strikes Barnaby down. Team medic Dr Fiona Ramsden puts him on a drip in order to replenish lost fluids. Dave is also feeling poorly, as a golf-ball-sized abscess in his lower back has flared up. In the absence of adequate facilities, Dr Ramsden is forced to drain the pus-filled wound manually. Tournament day dawns and the sickly pair are declared fit to fight. “Show these Zulus even if you’re not equal to their skills, you are every bit equal in terms of
courage,” Benedict tells his men.

There is a festival atmosphere in the air as the entire village turns out to watch the epic battle. Each would-be unbreakable takes on a Zulu warrior, with the best two performers set to fight each other for the winner’s shield.

Lightweight Barnaby kicks off proceedings, but his opponent quickly eliminates him with a blow to the head. Cross-country skier Angus is less than confident after his lacklustre training bouts, and he too bows out early. Ironman Frazer breaks all the rules by using hands as well as sticks to fight.
His relentless attack results in his opponent surrendering. After consistently matching his enemy blow for blow, Dave is disappointed when he is struck out –the blood streaming from his head wound is regarded as a sign that he is not fit to fight. Matt is the only contender who manages to strike his opponent. Finally, Frazer and Matt face off against each other. Who will win the best-fighter belt and edge closer to glory?

The adventure series with explorer Benedict Allen continues. Eight volunteers undergo an onslaught of physical and mental pressure in a bid to be declared ‘unbreakable’. In this episode, the challengers attempt to conquer the alligatorinfested Everglades in the United States.

Filmed across four continents, Unbreakable takes eight super-fit members of the public on a punishing global trail to undergo a series of brutal challenges. The contestants will learn to survive in the world’s harshest environments and endure some of the toughest military training around.

This week, the contestants find themselves in the wilderness of the Everglades wetlands at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. They will be sharing the territory with two million alligators and 60 species of venomous snake, and perhaps most formidable of all, their Native American guide. “My name is not important to you,” he sneers. “But you will call me Teacher.”

“This is the road into one of the last great prehistoric landscapes on earth,” says Benedict as the five remaining contestants arrive at the border of the Everglades. As an introduction into these harsh environs, the competitors are charged with cutting open a dead alligator and removing its entrails with their bare hands. This is done to access the ribs, which are sharpened against a rock. These crude tools will then be used to harvest sawgrass for sleeping mats. Teacher tells the group that alligators make a bed of the same material because it protects them from snakes during the night.

Once the ribs are salvaged and fashioned into knives, Angus, Barnaby, Dave, Frazer and Matt then have to make their way to camp by nightfall. The only problem is, an alligator-infested swamp lies in the way and the only transport available is a traditional dug-out canoe. For some of the bigger men, including rugby player Matt and ex-boxer Dave, the narrow boat proves difficult to manoeuvre. With the ever-present threat of alligators, it is a nail-biting crossing for the wouldbe unbreakables.

What the contestants do not realise is that they will soon be getting even closer to these powerful reptiles. The next morning, wildlife expert Bob gives the men a lesson in alligator wrangling before laying down a challenge – each competitor must capture an alligator and clamp its jaws shut. Bob demonstrates the safest technique – he sneaks up on an alligator, sits atop its back and covers its eyes with his fingers before seizing its jaws tightly with both hands.

Matt is the first to try his luck against the vicious beast. He confuses the alligator by waving his shirt over its eyes as a distraction. But this tactic backfires as the creature gets a hold of the fabric in its jaws. Eventually Matt mounts the alligator and succeeds in the challenge. “I was absolutely crapping myself,” he says. “That is scariest thing I have ever done.” Meanwhile, musician Barnaby worries he will lose his piano-playing fingers to the hungry gator. “I’m contemplating going home,” he admits.

The final task set by Teacher is a game of stickball, or ‘Little Brother of War’. “This is a combat sport,” explains Benedict, “and that means it’s a contact sport.” An early form of lacrosse, stickball was originally played to settle disputes between Native American tribes. Sometimes the matches got so violent that players would die as a result.

Teacher instructs the competitors to take a lacrosse stick in each hand. As well as being used to channel the ball into the goal, the sticks act as weapons against opponents. Whoever hits the goal five times first is the winner. There are no rules and no time limits – except that the game must be completed. Will this epic tournament finish off the weaker of the remaining contestants?

The adventure series with explorer Benedict Allen continues. Eight volunteers undergo an onslaught of physical and mental pressure in a bid to be declared ‘unbreakable’. In this episode, the challengers face a hellish week in the hands of the US Navy Seals.

Filmed across four continents, Unbreakable takes eight super-fit members of the public on a punishing global trail to undergo a series of brutal challenges. The contestants will learn to survive in the world’s harshest environments and endure some of the toughest military training around.

This week, the would-be unbreakables journey to the headquarters of the US Navy at Virginia Beach. “You are about to experience the training programme of the toughest of elite forces – the US Navy Seals,” says Benedict. Angus, Barnaby, Carla, Dave, Frazer and Matt receive a less than hospitable welcome as instructor Steve Erle orders them to drop to the ground and do press-ups while he sprays a hose in their faces. “When we get bored, we make up crap for you to do!” he shouts.

Day one offers up a series of beach-based challenges designed to test the competitors’ endurance levels in salt water and sand. After performing gruelling exercises in the surf, the contestants are covered from head to toe in sand and forced to crawl back and forth across the shoreline for three hours. As well as extreme physical discomfort, the challengers suffer a barrage of verbal insults from the instructors. “Slowly they are going to weaken – I can see it in their faces,” observes Benedict.

The relentless day of training is rounded off with a midnight run along the beach. However, a twist has been added to this seemingly straightforward task – the instructors have not told the group where the finish line is. Three hours and 15 miles later, the contestants are still running and have to be ordered to stop. Back at camp, medic Fiona Ramsden confirms that Carla is suffering from dehydration and exhaustion. “My body is just absolutely wrecked,” Carla says.

On day two, there is no let-up as the challengers awaken to the sound of gunfire. The instructors burst into the room and order the recruits to perform a series of exercises. Despite her ill-health, Carla does not receive any special treatment. “Why are you here?” shouts Steve. “Why have you not quit yet?”

Next, the challengers are split into two teams based on height. Barnaby, Carla and Dave make up the first group, which is christened “the smurfs”, while Angus, Frazer and Matt are branded “the gorillas”. The reason for this division soon becomes clear – the teams must each carry a tenstone log on their shoulders as they complete several tasks including a gruelling obstacle course dubbed “the mother” by the navy seals.

To cap off their taxing week, the competitors are dealt out three watery challenges – a 20-metre swim, an underwater knot-tying task and the dreaded “drownproofing”. In this final task, the challengers have their wrists and ankles bound as they repeatedly sink to the bottom of a pool and rise to the surface again for air for 20 arduous minutes. Carla is terrified of the water. Will this be the challenge that breaks her?

Explorer Benedict Allen presents this brand-new adventure series. Eight volunteers undergo an onslaught of physical and mental pressure in a bid to be declared ‘unbreakable’. In the first episode, the hardy participants contend with the heat, humidity and wildlife of the Amazonian jungle. They must endure tribal rituals, survive a gruelling run, wrestle an anaconda and wade through piranha-infested water.

Filmed across four continents, Unbreakable takes eight super-fit members of the public on a punishing global trail to undergo a series of brutal challenges. From the Norwegian arctic to the Sahara Desert, the volunteers will learn to survive in the world’s harshest environments and endure some of the toughest military training around. They will be bossed and cajoled by physical trainers and survival experts as they bid to outdo – and outlast – each other.

The eight volunteers, comprising six men and two women, are drawn from a variety of sporting backgrounds. They are at the peak of their physical powers and boast experience in body building, triathlons, martial arts, boxing and rugby. But their personal fitness will be nothing without the advice of their mentor throughout the series, hardened explorer Benedict Allen. “You need a huge amount of will to be able to keep on going,” he says. “You’ve got to believe you are unbreakable.”

The first destination is the Amazon jungle in Guyana. The eight men and women are desperate to prove themselves in their first trial – and for exboxer Dave it is an opportunity to make up for disappointments in his former career. “This is going to give me the chance to put the record straight and to show people what I’m capable of,” he says. For 20-year-old martial arts champion Heather, meanwhile, the trip holds no fear. “You could chuck me in a desert, you could chuck me anywhere you want, I’m gonna succeed,” she declares.

But the Guyanan jungle is an unforgiving environment for newcomers, as the team’s instructor for the week reminds them. “Everything in this jungle wants to bite you, wants to eat you, wants to fall on you from a great height – including me!” says special forces veteran Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham. After enduring a painful initiation ceremony with the local tribe, in which they are stung by huntsman ants, the volunteers are sent on a brutal run through the dense undergrowth.

The humidity and claustrophobic environs of the jungle are akin to that of a steam room, and the group is soon wilting under the pressure. “Pain is glory!” bellows Billy, but body-builder Nathan can take no more and collapses in convulsions. While his team mates carry on to set up camp, Nathan is rushed to the medical tent. The following morning, he decides to bow out of the contest. “Eighty per cent of this business is about the mind,” says Benedict. “If you don’t have that desire to keep on going, then really you’re finished.”

Benedict’s next act is to perform a tribal ritual he first experienced in Papua New Guinea, where tribesmen beat themselves with a bamboo whip. Benedict gamely participates in the ritual along with the team, until everyone’s back is flayed raw.

Later, the would-be unbreakables go fishing for piranha. Heather is particularly nauseated at the prospect of having to bite into the fish’s skull to kill it, but eventually passes the task. The next day, the volunteers head into the jungle to chop down a nutritious palm tree that will serve as their lunch. After the odd mishap, they succeed in their mission – but the worst is still to come in the form of a sixfoot- long anaconda…

Tell us about the series.
Unbreakable is all about seeing what ordinary people have that could make them extraordinary. We took eight fit characters off around the world and put them through hell to see what physical and mental strengths they could find in themselves to get them through it.

How did you select the participants?
We wanted people who were already physically very fit and had a discipline of sorts, so we got a wide selection of people. A boxer, an Olympic-class skier, a gym instructor, a rugby player. They were all put through their paces and tested psychologically to make sure that they were able to take some of what we were going to put their way.

What qualities does it take to be ‘unbreakable’?
What it takes is belief above all. Eighty per cent of any struggle is mental. Okay, you’ve got to be fairly fit, but it’s all about the mind. You’ve got to be able to move your mind away from the hell you’re going through into a better place.

Which was the most punishing exercise for the
participants?
There were certain things that were worse for certain people. In the Arctic in Norway we subjected them to high explosives. For some people, just the waiting for that was absolutely terrible. Later on, they were taken to a tent and gassed to see how long they would last. For other people, being buried up to their neck in sand by the French Foreign Legion was bad. Things affect people in different ways.

Can women compete equally with men in these
challenges?
It isn’t entirely a level playing field. The key for the women was to make themselves useful. Both of them had to find other ways to make up for their lack of strength. They both had extraordinary stamina – more than most of the men. They had by far the best communication skills.

How did you find presenting rather participating
in the challenges?
It was terrible, in some ways! I mean, I wanted to be part of the project and I found it very fascinating and loved it. But it was so hard because I’m naturally somebody who does get involved. But I had a very clear role, which was that I was a sort of a mentor, encouraging them on. I had a great fondness and a great pride for them all, actually. However hard it got, they all did their best and that was brilliant. It was very fascinating for me and the main reason why I wanted to do it was just seeing what it is that gets ordinary people going.

What drives you to push yourself to extremes?
When I was a little boy I just wanted to be an adventurer. I was very romantic about the whole idea because my dad was a pilot, so he brought back exciting things from Africa. Furthermore, he was a test pilot and I think I’ve got that mental ability to focus and to be very, very calm in a crisis. And once I’d done my first adventure, I realised I was actually quite good at it. I’m not a great athlete but, as I said earlier, it’s about the mind.

What has been your toughest trial?
I think on my first expedition [in the Amazon], when I ran away from gold miners because they attacked me. My canoe capsized and I lost everything. I ended up walking out of the forest and having to eat my dog to survive. It was extra terrifying because I was so naïve. I was 22 when I left home and I didn’t have a clue what I was up against. It was just terrifying to think I was going to die this lonely death, starving in the jungle. I suppose that did spur me on to do other expeditions because I wanted to understand why I hadn’t died.

Is there anywhere in the world you would still
like to explore?
I’d love to cross the Taklamakan Desert in northwest China. It means ‘go in and won’t come out’. It’s the largest waterless place on the planet. It’d be great to cross through it and come out!

Unbreakable is a new eight-part, hour-long series presented by one of Britain’s leading adventurers, Benedict Allen. The series takes ten intrepid volunteers on a gruelling global trail that sees them undergo a series of demanding challenges. These include: intensive training with the Navy Seals; surviving the Guyanan Jungle; braving the Norwegian Arctic and enduring extreme military exercises with the South African Special Forces.

They will have to withstand some of the world’s toughest military selection tasks and learn to survive in the world’s harshest environments. Along the way they will grapple gators in the swamp, wrestle anacondas in the jungle, dive through ice holes into arctic water, be buried up to their necks in the African desert, fight off ‘the bends’ in 100 feet of water, battle to save a sinking ship and endure in an Afrikaans trial with the South African Special Forces. They will be beasted and bossed by physical trainers and survival experts as they bid to outdo and outlast each other.

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