Secrets the cast of Naked and Afraid let slip

On Discovery's hit survival reality series Naked and Afraid, two naked strangers are dropped off in the wilderness and challenged to survive for three weeks. The official description of the show claims that "Each duo will be left high and dry with no food, no water…and no clothes. They must survive on their own for a full 21 days, with nothing but one personal item each and the knowledge that the only prize is their pride and sense of accomplishment." Despite this description, several leaks and interviews with former contestants have called into question the actual amount of "reality" that's included in this reality show. Let's take a look at some of the most damning evidence that Naked and Afraid is completely fake.

They're not quite alone

The psychological impact of isolation is touted as one of the most important aspects of the show. Filming locations vary from episode to episode, and while some are more isolated than others, the contestants are never really alone. They are constantly followed by cameramen, producers, and medics. While the contestants are generally left alone at night, the production camp is within walking distance and earshot. Prior contestants have explained that they are given a radio and a whistle to signal for help if they need it or can't make the walk to the crew's camp. Additionally, contestants occasionally come into contact with local residents. Honora Bowen, a Season 3 participant, revealed that there was a town only a few miles from their filming location, and not only would they hear the local DJ playing club music long into the night, but they would frequently encounter locals playing soccer on the beach or swimming in the lagoon.

They receive some medical help along the way

There's also a medical team on the set in case of emergencies. While this should be expected of a show that deprives contestants of food, sometimes producers neglect to include footage of medical interventions performed during the course of the 21 days. In one prominent example during the show's premiere, contestant Kim Shelton suffers from severe food poisoning after eating a turtle. She's shown sleeping and vomiting for three days, before miraculously making a recovery on the fourth. What they don't tell you is that her recovery was hastened by the producers providing her with bread, rice, and baby food, as well as medics giving her two intravenous drips of saline to rehydrate her. In the same episode, Kim's partner, Shane, is portrayed as weak and seen constantly complaining about his painful foot. The showrunners chose not to reveal to viewers that Shane had actually broken three toes, causing the excruciating pain.

A crew member may be responsible for a contestant's illness

Even though she returned to the series multiple times, Phaedra Brothers' first experience with Naked and Afraid wasn't great. According to an interview with Channel Guide, Brothers claims her location was switched last minute to "a completely different ecosystem" of which she hadn't trained. Also, her luggage — which contained all of her carefully designed pre-show prep nutrition — was lost, leaving her to rely only on production staff for food. Brothers claims that the night before her first day of shooting, "one of the Indian men who was a part of the crew" prepared her a "really great chicken curry dish," except hours later she became horribly sick to her stomach. And instead of issuing a disclaimer that she'd gotten sick beforehand, the show's narration "claimed that Phaedra's illness was due to drinking untreated water."

Brothers claims that she complained to Discovery about the blatant lie, but was told, "If I said anything other than the storyline they picked, they would delete my online comments," which she also claims they've done. "They decide the storyline. But in that particular incidence, I think they thought it would be a better, more dramatic story [to say her illness was a result of drinking untreated water], but it wasn't the truth." Brothers said. In fairness to the show, Brothers does insist that the rest of the experience was authentic and they they got no outside help from the crew, but the question remains: If they were so willing to lie about her illness, what other dramatic moments have been faked?

There is money to be made

Naked and Afraid attempts to set itself apart from similar reality shows like Survivor by claiming contestants are not offered any prize money, and that the only rewards are a sense of pride for those who complete the challenge, but that's not completely true. Even though Discovery and production company Renegade 83 don't call it "prize money," contestants are offered a cash incentive if they complete the full 21-day challenge. While an official figure isn't available, previous stars have pegged the amount as somewhere between $20,000-$25,000.

Some contestants have sticky fingers

While Naked and Afraid likes to portray contestants as only eating what they can hunt or gather, that's not always the case. On several occasions, stars have later admitted to stealing food from crew members or local residents. One contestant claimed to have scavenged chocolate, salt, and even some Campari from a fishing hut she found. When the same contestant later appeared on Naked and Afraid XL, she said she was able to steal some packets of "Emergen-C" supplement and shared them with her team. Additionally, in a Facebook conversation allegedly between XL contestants Dani Beau and Shane Lewis, Lewis claims to have stolen several pounds of food during his last few nights on the set and later stashed it for his teammates Jeff Zausch and EJ Snyder.

Location. Location. Location.

This may seem like a no-brainer, as each remote locale obviously poses its own distinct difficulties, but show producers have admitted that through the careful selection of where they drop off each team of contestants, they're able to direct the kind of content they're looking for. "The location really informed the creative," executive producer Denise Contis told Salon in much more fashionable industry lingo, adding that in certain situations they knew contestants would be able to find water much more quickly than in others. In another situation, she said they knew the ground at the location was "full of burrs," so a lot of the focus of the episode would be on the contestants trying to make shoes, which also resulted in most of the shooting taking place "within maybe a half-mile radius." Any chance that little tidbit helped for scheduling, budgeting, and location crew staffing?

Of course, one could argue that these instances are simply byproducts of the nature of trying to shoot a TV show around people surviving the wilderness. But would a network like Discovery risk blowing millions of dollars on production without ensuring a viable plan for the shoot, and/or leave the possibility of being left with nothing interesting for the editing room? Not likely.

Editing is manipulative

On the original Naked and Afraid series, the 21-day survival experience of the contestants is condensed down to one 44-minute episode, with a new pair of stars appearing each week. As you can imagine, lots of editing is required in order to fit three weeks of footage into less than an hour of television, and sometimes the end result doesn't accurately portray the reality of what happened during filming. As with the medical intervention left out of the series premiere, contestants have revealed that editing sometimes purposefully leaves out interactions and events that change how they are portrayed in the final cut. Like most reality shows, there's usually a "good guy" and a "villain," and it appears Naked and Afraid doesn't mind creating those roles via editing, even if the facts don't quite fit that narrative.

They're puppets for producers

]In a 2013 interview, executive producer Contis told The Wall Street Journal that "There is no manipulation, no element of scripted reality." Despite this claim, it seems that as with most reality shows, producers and crew members will put their thumb on the scale from time to time in order to tilt the story. Previous contestants have given examples of this manipulation, like Bowen from Season 3: "The locust that my partner gave me was after I had gone hunting for locusts for days, and it fell on a cameraman who gave the locust to my partner and told him to give it to me. This same cameraman was also constantly feeding us ideas to make things more interesting."

Additionally, producers pull contestants aside for daily "diary" segments, and often ask leading questions in order to film dramatic responses or even confrontations between partners they wish to portray as being at odds with one another. Bowen claimed that not only was a "fight" between herself and her partner provoked by producers, but that the show runners also instructed her to repeatedly say that a magnifying glass she carries during her episode was a gift from her father, even though it was given to her by the crew on the first day.

More soap opera than survival skills

In her Reddit AMA, contestant Alison Teal sticks mostly to the script that the show doesn't aid the contestants outside of providing emergency medical treatment. Although, she does say that prior to being dropped at the location for the first day of shooting, she made sure to slather on the sunscreen. Which if you ask us is a blatant cheat right out of the gate, because the last time we checked jungle ferns weren't dispensing SPF 50.

She also admitted that she was slightly disappointed that the show didn't showcase some of the more impressive things she did, like building a 40-foot ladder, or making fishing nets and hooks, but instead seemed to focus on what she called "the action packed scenes and character dynamics…" In Teal's case, this was pretty much whittled down to her show partner, Jonathan, complaining the entire time, and her stepping in his poop. Sure sounds like the "extreme survival" scenarios Discover Channel promised us!

Bowen puts the show on blast

In addition to the previously mentioned explosive claims she made on her blog, contestant Bowen also gave a tell-all interview to Empty Lighthouse, which alleged all kinds of behind-the-scenes chicanery. First, she claims that she came across an abandoned shack, from which she scavenged a basket, a pot, and some fishing line, only to be told by a producer that she had to put it back because "the natives have rights to this place and they come on occasion." She also claims she was instructed not to tell her show partner, Matt, about the place. Of her partner, Bowen claims that he was allowed to take Adderall, even though show producer Steve Rankin supposedly told her that they "all knew" it was a fake prescription, and that another contestant, Luke, was able to take his "homemade tincture," which she claims was a mixture of "cognac and fish oil and all these other herbs" that provided him with advantageous amino acids.

All of this arguably shady supplementation particularly rankled Bowen, because she was allegedly denied her own prescription of salts and potassium she was to take for a kidney issue, until producers found "10 packets of salt pills" in a local town and doled them out to her sparingly. So, it's safe to say that she definitely has an axe to grind with the show, and her commentary should be taken with that in mind. That said, part of her general statement about her experience with the show nicely sums up the exact message we're getting at here: "You know, just to try to watch it with an open mind. Pretty much everything you see on TV is fictional, even if it is reality TV."