Two recruits on SAS Australia employed what many fans are calling dirty tactics on Monday night’s episode of the reality television show, and the online backlash was swift.

Sprinter Jessica Peris was up against Olympian Jana Pittman in a challenge that saw them try to knock each other off a log that was suspended in the air above fast-moving water. Peris was victorious, but only after throwing a handful of sand in Pittman’s eyes, causing her to become disoriented.

Later, fellow sprinter John Steffensen employed the same tactic against actor Dan Ewing, and the pair were loudly criticised on social media, with many calling the move a ‘dog act’ and a ‘dirty tactic’.

Others defended the move, arguing that “in war, it’s life or death”. Without consulting a military strategist or historian it’s hard to be certain, but ‘throwing sand in your opponent’s eyes’ probably isn’t a widely employed tactic in modern warfare.

As it turns out, the pair were acting on advice from the Directing Staff. Mark “Billy” Billingham spoke to Peris as she was preparing to walk across the pole, suggesting, “You know what I’d do? Keep your cool, keep looking at her … Handful of dirt when you get close enough. Face full of dirt … Boom, sweet, take her out.”

Peris tried to apologise to Pittman during the journey back to base camp, but Pittman let her know exactly how she felt, telling Jess, “Only you two did it. I just didn’t expect it from you (Jessica) … I expected it from him. … It’s just different personalities. I’ve never been a particularly aggressive person. No offence, doll, but there is no way I could’ve done that. Maybe that’s my weakness.” In response, Steffensen argued that there were “different rules here”.

AFL player Heath Shaw ultimately won the challenge, but departed at the end of the episode, along with Peris and ironman Jett Kenny.

This article first appeared on Over60.