Naked and Afraid has become one of the Discovery Channel's biggest hits over the course eight seasons. Its concept of dropping an unclothed man and woman to fend for themselves in the wild for 21 days is unprecedented.
However, while there is real danger during those three weeks (or 40 days on Discovery's XL version), the show bends the definition of "reality" the same as any other survival show before it, and thus what you think is real might not actually be happening at all, or at least to some degree.
It's time to talk a look at some of the biggest behind-the-scenes facts and accounts from participants of the show in order to further analyze what is "real" and what isn't. These facts delve into what the producers don't let you see on screen, from the storylines they exploit to rules of the game they knowingly break.
The contestants who spoke out aren't to be necessarily trusted either, but most of these examples can be backed by more than one participant of the challenge.
Keeping that in consideration, here are the 15 Secrets The Producers Don't Want You To Know About Naked And Afraid.
15 Contestants Have Stolen Food From Producers
Continuing the rivalry between producers and survivalists, the participants stretched the meaning of doing whatever they could to last in the wild. When supplies are scarce and competitors grow weaker by the day, there's always an alternative they know they can count on: the supplies of the production team.
Shane Lewis once again found himself the topic of conversation when he supposedly snuck away some peanut butter, chips, bread, trail mix, and Frosted Flakes from the crew. It was one of his last nights there, and he stashed most of the goods for teammates. The food would end up lasting four weeks for his fellow contestants.
Honora Bowen also mentioned contestants stealing food, and admitted she stole packets of Emergen-C from a medic tent. It wouldn't be the only people she stole from.
14 The Show Is No More Than A Few Miles From Civilization
There are all sorts of sickness and wild animals to come across in these kinds of settings, and Naked and Afraid has given us plenty of examples. However, if having cameramen and producers around daily makes the challenge seem less private, so does the blaring music from nearby villages.
That's what participants experienced in Brazil, when techno beats would thump until 4AM. There were also times when players would hear cars in the distance or see people out playing soccer.
The producers like to keep the groups in contained areas for maximum control, and their choice for such a close proximity to towns and villages proves that.
One time, Naked and Afraid shot in central Florida, in a small community call Sorrento, where plenty of people live. It's also less than a day's walk to Disney World-- nothing says wilderness quite like massive spinning teacups.
13 A Producer Was Nearly Killed By A Snake
Costa Rica holds true to the thought that the most beautiful locations on Earth are often the most dangerous. Such was the case for Naked and Afraid producer Steve Rankin, who was scouting the strip of land for potential shooting locations when his foot was bitten by a fer-de-lance snake.
Rankin said his knees were like jelly and he was "panting like a horse" after being bitten by the pit viper. It's a wonder that he survived the time it took to carry him off on a stretcher, drive him to a helipad, and air lift him to the nearest hospital. After all, the fer-de-lance snake kills approximately 125,000 people each year.
We'll save you the details of rotting flesh that the skin surgeons had to cut off (though the image might already be in your head). Although the show has only ever mentioned the incident in passing, it's a story that Rankin will carry with him for the rest of his days.
12 A Contestant Compared The Show To A "Nazi Experiment"
Honora Bowen is easily one of the most infamous contestants that Naked and Afraid has ever had. She's been a contestant twice, and has withdrawn from the 21 and 40-day challenges. However, for as many haters as she's compiled during her time on the show, she's the source of a lot of the shocking behind-the-scenes material.
Bowen compared the show to a "Nazi experiment" for several reasons. Beyond the show misrepresenting her and twisting narratives, producers would ask her questions to try and elicit emotional responses. They even forced her into starting arguments with her partner, and she accused producers of groping her and pinching her nipple when she "blacked out."
The producers took none-too-kindly to such remarks, and she was allegedly threatened with lawsuits over her comments against the show. Whether it's true or not, it certainly puts the "no publicity is bad publicity" motto to the test.
11 The Show Is More Scripted Than You Think
Reality TV can never really be all real, even in the case of Naked and Afraid. Though the serious and raw nature of the show seems to dictate a more realistic tone than Survivor or The Amazing Race, it doesn't mean the producers aren't looking for any way to maximize entertainment value.
Many of the competitors consider themselves qualified actors because of the "performances" they've given on the show. Contestant Shane Lewis said that the show "gave it the Hollywood treatment." Because the survival element is not enough, participants have repeatedly cited that producers provoke drama for the sake of catching it on camera.
When Canadian survival expert and filmmaker Les Stroud was asked about teaming up with Discovery's shows, he referred to Naked and Afraid as a show where they "fake, contrive, set up, pretend, or otherwise lie." This coming from a guy who once had a show called Survivorman: Bigfoot.
10 The Show Failed To Mention When A Contestant Broke Three Toes
Shane Lewis was another contestant known more for his antics than for his survival skills. However, he had a legitimate reason for failing the challenge, even if the show never fully revealed it.
After just four days in Costa Rica, Lewis broke three toes before filming even began for Naked and Afraid XL. The injury was portrayed as if it happened during the challenge, but was only briefly mentioned, but it was never once mentioned that Lewis broke his toes.
Lewis had accused the show of trying to be too dramatic for the sake of ratings, but was also disappointed that the show made him look "pathetic." Given how much drama the show tried to evoke, it's interesting they gave Lewis higher marks than his partner, but never told the audience about the extent of his injury.
9 Honora Bowen Stole Some Supplies
Amid her constant ruffling of feathers, Bowen continued to test the boundaries of the game. She was swimming in a lagoon during the competition in Brazil, when she came upon a shack. Once there, she noticed she'd uncovered an unintended treasure.
Granted, it was really only a little bit of Campari, potato chip crumbs, and remainders of chocolate wrappers. To her, though, it was crucial. She even found coconuts, pots, pans, a knife, and many other items in the shack.
However, by the time she returned back to shore, according to her blog, the whole production team was waiting for her. Turns out, there were locals who had rights to the place and fished there on the weekends. Bowen would have to return all the goods to their rightful owners.
"What would you do if you found alcohol and potato chip crumbs? I'll be damned if you say you wouldn't do the same thing," she said. She would later go back to the shack for more supplies anyway, only to be tracked down by a production assistant in the middle of a thunderstorm.
8 Production Hides The Fact That Prize-Money Is Awarded
Naked and Afraid doesn't specify having prize money for winners, but it's not like the contestants are simply playing for the love of the great outdoors.
Contestants have an opportunity to win $5K cash for completing the challenge. However, that's not necessarily predicated on finishing the competition, but could also involve playing along with whatever Discovery's storyline may be for the given episode the contestants are on.
Bowen was such a controversial figure on the show, they coaxed her to come on the XL version for $23,500 if she could finish filming.
The show's meager $5K payout seems pretty weak for what the contestants go through on an everyday basis during their time in the wilderness. It's definitely a reason for the show to never discuss it, seeing as the contestants see very little of what Discovery gets from sponsors and the ratings that promote them to the masses.
Also, if they don't complete filming, players may never see any of the money. At least they get a Naked and Afraid fire starting kit for being chosen out of thousands of applicants, which is worth a whopping $30 retail price.
7 A Competitor "Miraculously" Recovered From Food Poisoning
This time around, Shane Lewis was in the background of Naked and Afraid drama. Instead, it was his partner who was having a rough time.
Kim Shelton's luck turned for the worst while filming in Costa Rica. She captured and cooked a turtle to eat, but quickly got food poisoning.
She was sick for three full days, at one point telling the camera she had nothing else in her system to vomit. Shelton had to sleep the majority of the time because she was so weak. It seemed she'd have to forfeit the contest.
However, on the fourth day, she'd seemingly made an astounding recovery out of thin air. The real reason for the improvement was the fact she'd received an IV from the show's medical team and was being fed baby food, bread, and rice by them. Of course, the cameras never showed any of this to the audience.
6 Contestants Have Gotten Medication And Emergency Equipment From The Crew
Naked and Afraid prides itself on forcing contestants to be minimalists, yet the show is perfectly fine with keeping you on schedule with your prescription.
Further contradicting the idea that contestants are left to fend for themselves, the producers give individuals all sorts of emergency items.
Though tampons are an absolute must for multiple reasons (the show-runners don't want to invite predators to the set), there are also some head-scratching decisions they made when it came to medication.
This includes letting a contestant, Matt Struzel, who may or may not have actually had ADD, use Adderall every day. Other contestants have received B Vitamins if they were vegetarians.
Bowen was Struzel's partner, and she ended up prescribed with something as well: Malarone to keep her from contracting malaria. Instead, she got nausea, dizziness, and lucid dreams, among other symptoms.
Even though the contestants are alone at night, they, according to competitor Charlie Frattini, are equipped with emergency radios and whistles.
5 Honora Bowen Faked Passing Out In Brazil
As if she hadn't appeared enough already, this time Honora Bowen finally had enough of Discovery's shenanigans and faked blacking out.
She'd only been there 16 of the 40 days she needed to complete Naked and Afraid XL, but it had already been one too many.
Between the symptoms caused by her drugs and the lack of calories, she'd reached what would be many people's tipping point. Add in the pumping music late at night, her yacking Adderall-induced partner, and critical producers, and she had clearly been hit by a perfect storm.
She lost it to the point of climbing a tree and snapping the necks of baby birds so she could roast them. Mood swings happen to be a side-effect of Malarone.
She said she had "felt like a dying animal." So it was when she'd had enough, she waited for the production crew to leave for lunch and pretended to pass out so they and her partner would find her laid out on the sand. Producers still believe she really passed out, and don't buy her story. True or not, it was her time to leave.
4 A Contestant Got Sick From Something The Production Team Cooked For Her
It's an understatement to say Phaedra Brothers had a rough time in Naked and Afraid. Most of it happened before she even began competing.
After training for the challenge to be in Northern India, Discovery found out there was a tiger mauling people in the area. Needless to say, they switched locations. However, that meant going to the Himalayas, a different ecosystem than Brothers hadn't adapted to.
Her fire starter and all pre-challenge food never arrived, so she barely ate before the competition. The night prior to the challenge, a member of the Naked and Afraid crew decided to make her a chicken curry dish. She loved it, at least until she got food poisoning from it.
3 One Million Moms Get Sponsors Removed From the Show
If the disdain of rugged and tenacious competitors can’t upend Naked and Afraid, then it looks like it’s up to the Moms.
One Million Moms is a group Discovery would rather you not know about. They took issue with the show’s nudity, which blurs frontal nudity but usually not the backend.
Since Discovery has technically been known for being a family-focused channel, they took Naked and Afraid’s TV-14 rating as an obvious straying from past programming.
Their website states that the group “was begun to give moms an impact with the decision-makers and let them know we are upset with the messages they are sending our children and the values (or lack of them) they are pushing.”
Sure enough, Pedigree and Delta Faucet pulled their sponsorships, and Moms is now after Hershey to do the same.
2 Editing Manipulates The Truth More Than You Think
Denise Contis, an executive producer for Naked and Afraid, told the Wall Street Journal back in 2013 when the show started, that there was nothing scripted or manipulated on-screen. However, this is not true.
While it’s imperative to get as much filming in as possible before massive editing sessions, having all that film can allow producers to create entirely new outlooks on characters.
Creating villains is something reality shows do best. The complaints by Bowen and Lewis are well-documented, where the show completely disregarded their struggles and accomplishments to focus on the way they weighed their respective teams down.
Allison Teal was another participant who called out the show, saying that none of the things she created, like fishing supplies and a ladder, were ever used in an episode.
1 Producers Took Advantage Of The Death Of Honora Bowen's Father
There were several factors that pushed Honora Bowen over the edge while on Naked and Afraid XL. However, one in particular involved the death of her father.
Only a couple months before beginning her challenge in Brazil, Bowen’s father had passed away, and it was obviously a fresh wound.
When they had discussed the one item she should take with her for the show in the past, her father had merely suggested she consider taking a magnifying glass, because you could manipulate a fire with it while the sun was still out and use it to help in purifying the water.
When a producer heard about what her father had mentioned to her, he decided he wanted the magnifying glass the crew had given her to instead be referred to as “my dad’s magnifying glass” whenever she spoke of it. They made her say this over and over again.
She ended up having to “pretend that an inanimate object had a sentimental value” while she tried not to starve.
Did you know about any of these dark Naked and Afraid secrets? Can you think of any more? Let us know in the comments.