October 03, 2008 08:47 PM by Lisa Stauber
America’s Toughest Jobs is sending the contestants to new heights this week, as they work on a bridge maintenance crew. Last week, they faced bulls in the ring. Now they’ve got to climb to the top of a suspension bridge to paint in Los Angeles. “I love heights!” Michaela says. Is it going to be another episode of the girls outshining the boys?
Dave White will be their boss and guide. He’s been on the bridge for 20 years, and as usual, the contestants will be judged on skill, attitude, and how hard they work. “Listen, ask question, and don’t rush into anything,” he tells the crew. Ben’s worked on buildings before, but Steven looks scared. “I’m not too fond of heights,” he admits. Chris says he’s pumped up and won’t freeze up like he did on the oil rig.
The First Task
First, the crew must prepare the subdeck, then walk on a high wire for some electrical work. They’ll finish out the day on the main deck for some corrosion prevention. They have to walk underneath the road, twenty stories up to get to their first assignment. “This job is very, very dangerous,” Steven says. Now they’ve go to haul up their supplies on a 200 foot long pulley on a tiny platform over a huge drop. He gets his rope caught up right away.
Chris is next. “Do I have to go all the way out?” he asks. Looks like he is still afraid of heights! Sandi gets her supplies without breaking a sweat, and the rest of the crew steps up too. They have to clean the beams carefully or the paint won’t stick, and if the paint bubbles rust will get in. Jane, the assistant supervisor, makes sure they know how careful they have to be.
The crew gets to take lunch on a platform, with killer views. Chris can’t enjoy it, though. “Sure it scares me!” he says. “I want to have lunch on the ground.” The job isn’t getting any easier, and the crew climbs another twenty stories to the main road. They’ve got to clean the lamps, 400 feet above the ground. Oh, and they’ll have to walk on a round cable with less than 8″ of walking surface.
Dave White, the boss, thinks Sandi and Ben are standouts. Ben’s past construction experience gives him an edge on this job. “It’s a little higher than my regular job,” Ben says, “but it’s no more risky or strenuous.” Sandi tries to help Chris out, encouraging him to face his fears and to not look down. “I’m not gonna watch you struggle,” she tells him.
Chris makes it up the wire, even though all he’s thinking about is dying and leaving his kids orphaned. He gets to work unscrewing the lamps to clean it and change the bulb. He can’t get the lamp loosened, but eventually gets the job done and makes it back to the roadway.
Painting the Cables
Now it’s time for painting, and they’re right next to the freeway. Dave puts Ben in charge of the other contestants. “Watch the ladder,” he tells the crew. Ben decides to show off, and makes it into a race. Sandy’s got Bryce on his team, and he’s not exactly speedy. Sandy’s in a hurry and not paying attention, and swings the ladder into oncoming traffic. She doesn’t hit anything, but it’s a near miss and Dave’s pretty upset. “That kind of thing cannot happen,” he says.
Dave selects Ben as the best, and thinks he’d be a great hire. Sandy and Chris are chosen to go head to head. “You’re a little cocky,” Dave tells her. Their task is to climb up the main cable at night, and get a burned out light working. The slowest one will be going home.
They’ve got to turn on four lights each, and will work on opposite sides of the bridge. Bryce is the only contestant rooting for Chris. Rommel hopes Chris wins, but only so that he doesn’t ever have to compete against Sandy.
Sandy feels comfortable, and runs up the cable while Chris takes it slow and steady. She gets her first light finished and moves on to her second, 32 stories above the water. Chris hasn’t even gotten to his first lamp yet. “It’s too much for me,” he says. “I might as well just pack it up now.” He makes the mistake of looking down, and throws in the towel. He quits and Sandy wins by default.
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Photos courtesy NBC.