South Jordan family ‘survives’ TV show competitionMar 09, 2023 10:22AM ● By Rachel Aubrey
(From left to right) Kiley, Sydney, Parker and Heather took part in a unique bonding experience in the desert of Baja, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Abbey Kovacevich)
The Newbold family is not unlike your average family. There is mom Heather, a registered nurse, dad Kiley, owner of a marketing agency, and teenagers, Sydney (Jones), 18, Parker, 14, and a daughter away at college. Despite being a blended family, the Newbolds have found success in their every-day endeavors. Both parents enjoy the outdoors and being active outside, while the kids enjoy being outdoors less than their parents. Unlike most families, blended or otherwise, the Newbolds were given the opportunity to bond, unify and collaborate in a very unique way.
The show is called “Survivalists.” It’s a competition reality show in which two families compete against each other. Think “Amazing Race” meets “Suvivorman” meets “Crikey! It’s the Irwins.” Each family races the other across rugged terrain relying on “teamwork, communications and survivor skills.” Previous seasons took place in the U.S. while the current season was filmed on location in Baja, Mexico.
The beginning of this once in a lifetime journey for the Newbold’s began in September 2021 when they were initially approached to interview for the show. Parents Heather and Kiley discussed the idea with their children, and after a little persuading, and mention of a cash prize, they began a lengthy interviewing process.
The family admitted that the questions asked in the interviews focused less on survivor skills and more on the dynamics of the family. A dominant theme throughout previous episodes of the show was that of helping families who may be struggling interpersonally.
Not having the intense rifts as seen in some episodes by former participants, the Newbolds approached the opportunity as a chance to unplug from technology, to rely on each other and make memories.
“Being a blended family, we felt like this could be something that could really bring us together,” Heather said.
In January of 2022, Heather got the email disclosing that they had been selected. The Newbolds then had approximately three months to plan and prepare.
Part of the preparation included logistics: securing passports for the kids and taking time off work. Then there was the physical preparation: hiking to build endurance, learning to orienteer with a compass, and learning how to build a fire. (The latter two skills coming under the advisement of the production team.) Unique to the current season was the omission of the GPS unit. In the previous two seasons, participants were allowed to use a GPS. The Newbolds met the task of learning to use a compass head on, taking a class with a guide and practicing around the Salt Lake Valley prior to boarding their flight.
“I was digging deep into the boy scout knowledge,” Kiley said.
The family touched down in the southern tip of Baja, Mexico, in the town of La Paz in April of 2022. There were nerves and excitement upon landing, there was also apprehension, as most of what was going on in terms of show production was kept secret.
Less than 24 hours after arrival, the family was briefed, given their gear and taken to the location. There were four days of filming total, and the Newbolds had microphones on their person most of that time, except for when they got to sleep. All the behind-the-scenes work, coupled with hiking through the hot desert of Mexico, made for a long four days. Although some reality competition shows portray a lot of dramatic moments for entertainment value, “Survivalists” approached scripted and unscripted dialogue in a different way.
“They weren’t trying to manufacture drama,” Kiley said. “They just [wanted] real family experiences."
Looking back on the four days, a week total of being in Mexico, both Heather and Kiley said that their expectations going into the show were achieved. For Heather it was creating a stronger bond with her stepson Parker, and for Kiley it was that their kids came to realize how capable they are even without technology.
“I had an expectation or hope of the kids recognizing the restorative power of being outside,” Kiley said. “Both of our kids learned, ‘I’m stronger than I think I am.’”
“Survivalists” is in its third season and is hosted by Colin O’Brady, a 10-time world record-breaking explorer and one of the world's best endurance athletes. The episode featuring the Newbolds aired on Sunday, Feb. 19 on BYUtv. You can view all previous episodes at https://www.byutv.org/survivalists.