Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

‘Solitary 2.0’ guarantees abuse, but no promise of cash

Reality show contestant quits after one episode

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In a span of 24 hours, Kimberly Shields was blindfolded, forced to sit in a cramped box for three hours, and sleep-deprived. When she was really exhausted, she was told to dance, or listen to noises like dogs barking or babies crying for hours on end.

It was the babies crying that finally did her in.

‘‘I don’t think I’m ready for children now,” joked 27-year-old Shields, a former Silver Spring resident and Paint Branch High School alumna.

Oddly enough, Shields did all these things by choice as a contestant on the second season of the Fox channel reality television series ‘‘Solitary 2.0.” The show has been called ‘‘cheap and depraved” by reviewers, and ‘‘an intense psychological experiment” by the network.

For Shields, it was the ‘‘craziest thing” she had ever done.

‘‘You really don’t realize how much you need control in your life,” she said from her home in Santa Monica, Calif., where she moved after graduating college. ‘‘Afterward, I slept... for like two days.”

Shields, an aspiring actress, heard about tryouts for the show on the Web site Craigslist. The show was described as a test of contestants’ limits, where cast members would be forced into solitary confinement and presented with a number of challenges. In the first season of the show, challenges included drinking vials of jalapeno pepper juice and lying on a bed of nails. Participants’ only contact with the outside world on both seasons is a disembodied robot voice named Val.

The last contestant to quit wins $50,000.

Shields, who quit after the first episode that ran Aug. 11, said she had not seen the first season of the show before going to the tryouts.

‘‘Every single person was like, ‘Kim, you’re crazy. I can’t believe you’re going on this crazy show,’” Shields said.

Shields knows about reality television and the Fox network. Her fiancé, Dominic Saraceno, proposed to her four months ago on the fifth season of reality show ‘‘The Simple Life,” which stars socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie.

‘‘Paris Hilton picked out the ring,” Shields said.

Lincoln Hiatt, the executive producer and creator of ‘‘Solitary 2.0,” said Shields was chosen as a contestant for his show because she was vivacious and talkative, and it was obvious that she was someone who was stronger because of her life experiences. During the show, Shields confessed that she had overcome a battle with alcoholism.

‘‘She had a means for coping with difficult situations in a way that someone who has never been tested can’t,” Hiatt said.

Her fiancé said he wasn’t worried at all when she was chosen to be on the show.

‘‘She’s really strong. I was excited for her, mostly,” Saraceno said.

Rebecca Baber, who has taught at Paint Branch for 26 years, said Shields had an outgoing personality while at the high school, and participated in cheerleading, the student government and event planning.

Shields is now looking forward to the reunion show Dec. 15, where she will finally be able to meet the other contestants face-to-face.

‘‘I would just ask them how they made it through that far. I was drained after just one day,” she said. ‘‘Maybe if the prize was $1 million, I would’ve lasted longer... but even then, I’m not sure. I was more worried about my sanity still being there.”