INTERVIEW: US Marine strives to survive on Discovery’s ‘The Wheel’

Shon Joyner warms up by the fires in the Bush Plains of Northern Argentina on an episode of The Wheel. Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel.

There’s ambitious survival programs on TV, and then there’s The Wheel. The new reality series, which is set to premiere Friday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m. on Discovery, follows six people as they attempt to conquer six different locations in 60 days. Their goal is personal. There’s no pot of gold after this survivalist rainbow; instead, they are competing with themselves for the ultimate self-satisfaction.

Shon Joyner is one of the survivalists on the program. At 18 years old, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served for nearly eight years, a time period that included a promotion to President George W. Bush’s presidential guard. He learned many physical and tactical skills while deployed in Iraq. One of the feats of strength that likely helped him with his time on The Wheel was when he would hike weekly while carrying half his body weight.

Joyner came to The Wheel after a recommendation from a friend and fellow Marine. “A friend of mine who I was in Iraq with, who I served in the Marine Corps with, he lost his arm and his leg in combat, and he found the link [to the show],” Joyner said recently in a phone interview. “He said, of all the Marines that he knows, or that he knew at the time, that he felt that I was the one that could do the best and possibly complete this task.”

Somewhat surprisingly Joyner said his toughest challenge on The Wheel was the isolation, that sense of being alone in the wilderness. “I’ve never been a person to be out in the wilderness just by myself for days going on to weeks, or for however long I lasted,” he said. “I just depended on my faith and just self-resilience.”

He was vague on specifics on how far and how long he accomplished the challenges on the show. However, he did allow that the first location he was dropped off at was the hardest one. Other than that, viewers are going to have to tune in for details.

“It was to prove something to myself,” Joyner said of his motivation. “With the way society is sometimes you need to get a wake-up call and see if you still have that inside you to push yourself, whether it may be just at a job interview or accomplish anything for that matter.”

He added: “It was a life-changing experience for me. I had no idea how much I would be affected by what I did, and even though there’s going to be a lot of things I don’t want anybody else to see, due to my circumstances, I’m just going to have to own everything. And I’m blessed for everything that happened to me for trying to take on this difficult task.”

Shon Joyner attempts to catch some fish to curb his hunger on The Wheel. Photo courtesy of Discovery Channel.

At the beginning stages of the show’s taping, Joyner felt competitive with the five other “contestants.” However, by day two or day three, he was focused solely on himself. His goal was to get through to the next obstacle. Perhaps some further motivation in the back of his mind was his own upbringing and what some old friends and old bullies would think of him now.

“I grew up in a rough neighborhood, in the ghetto, and my survival then I guess I used it to get through life to use for my survival on The Wheel, even though they are two totally different forms of survival,” he said. “I used what I had at that early age. When bad things happen to you at a young age, it affects you, and you remember it sometimes just like yesterday. So even though I didn’t have the wilderness, or the camping or the outdoors experience, that survival that I had at a young age, I felt like it helped me a little bit for the show.”

On The Wheel, Joyner needed to learn to respect Mother Nature, the person who calls the ultimate shots. “One thing I learned up there is that in our everyday life, we feel that sometimes we can call the shots, especially to our career, our work path, but when you’re out there, you don’t really call the shots,” he said. “I have a huge respect now for the outdoors. It wasn’t going to be the fun and games that I may have thought at times, so I definitely have a whole new respect for the outdoors and Mother Nature.”

By John Soltes / Publisher /

The Wheel premieres on Discovery Friday, Jan. 13 at 10 p.m. Click here for more information.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at, among other publications. E-mail him at

One thought on “INTERVIEW: US Marine strives to survive on Discovery’s ‘The Wheel’

  • February 10, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Marine my ass,afraid to touch anything,shouldnt even be on this show,the women is more a survivor than he is,couldnt make it as a boy scout let alone a marine,


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