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Reality Bites

Truth be told, the show’s premise is a bit overstated: the vehicles never actually escape the island. And some precious moments don’t show up on film. Before Banks left for Scotland, Paluska gave her a mosquito net hat but didn’t say why. Experience had taught him that the island was infested with biting flies that plagued the contestants throughout the shoot. “During one scene where the hosts were talking to us, the director yelled, Cut!’ And we all scattered to put our mosquito hats on,” Banks recalls.

Some sequences, like the balloon race, were shot repeatedly for dramatic effect. Paluska’s most amusing memory: the crew filmed each team celebrating victory-complete with champagne and a dazzling helicopter ride around the island-before the final race had even begun. “I guess,” he muses, “they had the helicopter by the hour.”

Paluska and Banks returned to the Institute inspired to work and ready to reflect on some valuable lessons. It was satisfying, says Paluska, to show progress on a technical project within the course of one day: the work proceeded at a faster pace than most of his graduate school research. And he was surprised at how serious and competitive both teams were.

As for group dynamics, Banks learned that she “could back down and not always have to be the leader.” More important, she adds, despite some personality clashes, she bonded with members of both teams and has kept in touch with them. In all, she says, “it was the most incredible and fun experience of my life.”

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