September 08, 2008 07:28 PM by Lisa Stauber
America’s Toughest Jobs is making the remaining 11 contestants hunt for gold this week, and they’ll be facing the harsh Alaskan wilderness, bears, and raging rivers. The Crow Creek mine has hundreds of millions of dollars of gold hiding in the water. “If you’re willing to do back breaking work, you may be lucky enough to find on of these,” host Josh Temple says, dangling a gold nugget.
“You can dig all day, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t find squat,” he says. The contestants will be judged on teamwork, skill, attitude, and how hard they work, and will have two guides to help them, Sean and Nate.
Learning to Find Gold
“Safety is an issue,” Sean says. “Falling in the creek is not an option.” Eric, a 53 year old sculptor, is excited by the challenge. They’ll be panning the old fashioned way, with shovels and gold pans. “It’s cold!” Ben says. “Hypothermia is not a joke.”
Next, the guides make them move a large rock. Nate’s excited, thinking the dirt looks like prime gold dirt. They’ll average 3 grams of gold for every ton of rock processed. Sandy’s found the first piece, and they’ve got gold fever now!
The contestants are armed with tweezers and squeeze bottles to suck up the tiniest flakes. Rie, a model, hasn’t found any gold yet and neither has Phil. The guides think Phil and Ben are not doing it correctly, and have a tiny chance of finding anything good.
Phil breaks the safety rule, and tumbles into the creek. “I just didn’t have my footing,” he says, but manages to pull himself out.
It’s time to camp, and the guides help them put their tent up. Rick, Sandy and Micaela have all found gold, and now the challenge is to stay warm and dry through the night so they are fit to work tomorrow.
It’s a lesson in teamwork, and the contestants are failing. No one seems to be able to cooperate and the tents are not going up quickly. “Leadership has to actually lead somewhere,” Nate says. “I haven’t seen any end product.” Bryce starts calling names, and Rie vows revenge. They are wet, cold and tired and the Alaska night is only 3 hours long.
It rained, and the water is a foot higher and much more dangerous. Rick and Micaela are cooking up the grub, while Rie, Sandy, anBen go fetch wood. Everyone else just stands around watching, and Rie watches Bryce having a coffee break. “Bryce is lazy,” she says.
Nate is judging everybody on everything, including teamwork. The coffee drinkers might pay the price later, when the bottom four are picked to compete against each other.
Teams of two or three will use a vacuum to suck the sand into a tray with running water and a piece of carpet. The gold is heavy and should get trapped in the rug. Teams are picked, and Steven is the last one chosen. He’ll be helping out the girls, working with Rie and Sandy.
The water is barely above freezing, and someone’s got to go into the creek with the hose to suck up the sand. They are looking for clay and mud and need to work the big rocks out of the way. Steven takes a break to have a snack while the girls keep at it. “It’s very relaxing for the mind,” Steven says, while Sandy can’t believe what she’s hearing. “Steven is only a follower,” she says, “without much to offer.”
Michaela has taken over Phil’s team. “She works harder than most of the guys combined,” Sean says. “She’s kicking their butt!” Michaela has impressed with her hard work again. Phil and Bryce decide to try something different, moving a rock somewhere else. Over an hour later, and the rock hasn’t budged. “It a little bit of a waste of time,” Nate observes.
Eric’s team is working hard, and they get lucky with the first gold strike. Ben’s found his second wind today, and he’s excited about their gold find. Phil is regretting his pick of Bryce. He was hoping to use Bryce’s muscles, but Bryce is lazy and not very helpful. “You just try to conserve strength by being efficient,” Bryce says about his standing around.
At the end of the day, the teams have to pan out their sluice and pick out the gold. Phil and Bryce can’t dredge and can’t pan either. Sean tries to teach them, again. “They would’ve been saloon workers,” he says, disgusted. The find was 1.75 oz., and it’s worth about $1700. The first year’s salary of a gold miner is $15,000 and that will be added to the pot. Sandy is voted the best worker.
The Worst are Chosen
The bottom four are Bryce, Phil, Steven, and Ben. They’ll have to go up against each other and go back to work the claim. In 15 hours, whoever has the least gold will go home. First, though, Josh Temple gives them a satellite phone to call home. Steven gets to talk to his mom, who survived breast cancer and is now battling stomach cancer. “She’s such a strong woman,” he says, “it gives me strength.”
The men are on their own, and can work as long as they want, all night even. It’s still freezing and wet, but they are a lot more motivated. All four have chosen to work in the dark. It’s time to weigh their find, and Steven comes in with a whopping 4.7 grams. Ben’s got 3.4 grams, and Bryce has 3.5 grams. Phil’s up, and weighs in at 2.4 grams. He’s going home this week, after acing last week’s trucking challenge. He’s got a new future, though, quitting his sales job and taking an offer from last week’s trucking company to drive 18 wheelers in Alaska!
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Photos courtesy NBC.