'American Grit' finale recap: Clare Painter and Mark Bouquin win for Noah Galloway's team
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 06/10/2016
American Grit crowned Army Sergeant Noah Galloway's team members Clare Painter and Mark Bouquin the winners during Thursday night's special two-hour finale episode on Fox.
Clare "The Fisherman," a 47-year-old horse trainer and fisherman, and Mark "The Lumberjack," a 26-year-old Timbersports athlete, each won $250,000 after surviving Season 1's final epic circus together.
"Noah is an incredible inspiration, and for some reason, he saw something in each one of us and pieced us together to make a real solid team," Clare said following her victory.
"I feel great. It was amazing to have this chance to compete with and against so many amazing people. It seriously was awesome," Mark explained.
"Leading my team on American Grit has been great for me," Noah told the cameras. "I miss being in the military, and to have these four tough men and women that were here to be pushed and to be challenged, that makes me proud."
Clare and Mark beat out five other civilians in the final circus.
American Grit's final episode began with host John Cena explaining the four teams led by military heroes would embark on another challenge called an "evolution." The four leaders are Noah, Army Ranger Nick "The Reaper" Irving, Marine Gunnery Sergeante Tawanda "Tee" Hanible, and Navy SEAL Commander Rorke Denver.
Noah's team consisted of Clare; Mark; and David "The Olympian" Neville, a 31-year-old college track and field head coach.
Nick's team only had Jim "The Boston Cop" Vaglica, a 54-year-old police officer, remaining.
The only remaining civilian on Tee's team was Tony "Touchdown Tony" Simmons, a 41-year-old sports performance coach and former NFL player.
Rorke had Tabatha "The Roller Girl" Chandler, a 39-year-old registered nurse; Mario "The Triathlete" Robinson, a 25-year-old personal trainer; and Ashley "The Marine's Daughter" Hazlett, a 31-year-old event coordinator, on his team.
The season's ninth evolution required each team to race off to complete four obstacles hidden in the woods -- a tire show, freeing a tire from a puzzle, crawling through a mudpit, and finally, solving a puzzle attached to a hitching post.
After each obstacle, one member from each team had to carry a tire back to the starting line and mount it on the team's post. Teams had to travel together but one person was designated each tire to carry. However, for someone like Tony, he had to do everything himself since he was a single player.
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Tony won the evolution for Tee's team and was therefore safe from the circus, automatically earning himself a spot in the finals.
John then explained the three losing teams must send one member into the circus, the most brutal combination of military exercises which Rorke previously described as "a savage beating." The first person to give up/fail/pass out in the circus and ring the bell would be sent home.
Jim, David and Mario were ultimately chosen to compete in the penultimate circus, one of the most challenging to date.
For the circus, the three participants were instructed to complete a muscle-draining obstacle course complete with climbing a three-story cargo net, ascending a 30-foot log structure and tumbling down a canyon. Mario arrived at the finish platform in first place and won some study and rest time as a result. Jim got there second, so David had to start the endurance portion immediately alone.
The endurance portion of the circus featured a giant two-story ladder the civilians had to climb down, walk under, climb back up, and repeat until their bodies couldn't continue. After each rotation, the players had to hit a button. Mario got to skip two rotations, while Jim got to sit out one rotation.
In the end, Mario forgot to hit his button on one rotation, so he was out due to a mental mistake.
"It's my fault. I accept that. The past nine weeks is definitely something that I'll grow from," Mario said following his ouster.
It then became time for the final evolution of the season, which required each team to cross a waterfall hand over hand suspended from a cable above. They had to cross individually and the average time of all a team's members would be what counted. The winning team would earn a big advantage in the final circus.
Team Noah won the final evolution of the season and they were thrilled. John then prepped everyone else for a "bigger, badder and transformed" circus.
Noah's team started the final circus with a one-minute advantage because they had won the previous challenge. The final circus included added hurdles such as a barbed-wire mud pit. All seven civilians ran the course at the same time, and for the endurance portion of the challenge, they had to hang from a rope attached to the top of a wooden post.
The civilians repeated the whole circus twice. The team to reach the endurance platform first for each run received a three-minute advantage, the second-place team earned a two-minute advantage, and then the third-place team got a one-minute advantage.
Everything came down to holding onto a rope for as long as possible. Ashley "Haze" dropped out first after about 15 minutes and rang the bell.
"Rorke has been a teacher, a father, a friend, an incredible Cadre. I didn't win, but I'm definitely walking out with a lifetime of memories," Haze said.
David dropped next because he just couldn't hang on any longer.
"I definitely gave it everything I could possibly give it... I'm a minister, so I'll continue to preach God's message and I will remember this forever," David said.
Tabatha dropped out next.
"I didn't win $250,000 but I faced a lot of fears that I never thought I would. But ringing out sucks," Tabatha noted.
Jim did his best but failed the endurance challenge next.
"I came here for a challenge and I gave it everything, but American Grit found my limit," Jim said in his final words.
Tony finally fell, crowning Noah's team members Clare and Mark the season's champions together.