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Mission Impossible

It sounds like the opening line of a bad joke: a plumber, a software engineer, a graphic designer, and an MIT student are stuck on an island. But it’s a reality for Paluska’s team. In this episode, each team is instructed to build a one-person hovercraft-a vehicle that rides over land or water on a cushion of air. From day one, the plumber and the engineer are at each other’s throats, arguing about the design. Paluska finds technical block diagrams are not effective for communicating his ideas. The designer mediates. The engineer annoys everyone. Competitive juices flow, and tensions climb sky-high.

The conflicts come to a head at the end of day four. The plumber-whose behavior strikes Paluska as erratic-lashes out at his team in an obscenity-laced off-camera tirade. Although Paluska feels a line has been crossed, he puts his concerns aside for the sake of the team.

The competition boils down to a showdown on the beach on the final day. To win, Paluska and his team must beat the other team’s hovercraft in a land race. They catch a break when their opponents’ craft-which seemed to work during its test runs-fails to get moving quickly enough on the sand. Paluska’s team ends up winning the race, and a wild celebration ensues. “Winning cures everything,” he says.

Banks’s experience, filmed a few weeks later, is a roller coaster ride as well. Her teammates are a district attorney, an aerospace engineer, and a theater technical director. Their mission is to build a one-person cable car-using a bicycle and an electric motor-to cross a ravine. Throughout the week, there are disagreements about how to get this done. The engineer clashes with his teammates, especially Banks, who wants to take charge. “He was nerdy, obnoxious, and wouldn’t admit being wrong about anything,” she says.

One highlight of Banks’s episode: constructing a battery out of lime juice and metal to power a voltmeter that can  charge up the cable car’s battery. In their climactic race, Banks’s teammates come up short, but she insists that the experience is all in good fun.

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