“Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.” The fact that the CBS reality show Survivor has managed to stay on the air for 18 years now makes us believe that the real sole survivor is the show itself. But what is it about the show that has enabled it to keep up its ratings after all this time? After all, the basic premise has stayed the same. A handful of castaways are placed onto a remote island, where they must compete in challenges and vote each other out, saying bye to one person every episode. When there are only two or three members left, the members who were voted off, now labeled the “jury”, must vote for who they think should be the sole survivor – and who should receive $1 million.
On the one hand, the fact that Survivor’s basic concept hasn’t changed is exactly what has kept it around this long – because amazingly, the idea still hasn’t lost its appeal. On the other hand, sometimes viewers need a bit of a boost to keep them intrigued – and that’s where the creativity of the producers come in. Every season, they work night and day to make sure that the show is as fresh and inventive as it ever was. But at what cost? What is really going on behind the scenes of Survivor, and how “real” is it?
Once you hear about all of the different things that go on behind the scenes of Survivor, you may think about it a little differently. But the more we reveal to you, the more important it is for you to remember that there is a difference between lying about facts and omitting facts. Let us explain – one interesting revelation is that quite often, the Survivor cast members are actually driven from place to place, and not endlessly walking, as it seems to be on the show. But while this may seem inauthentic… The show producers never actually said outright, “The cast members walk everywhere.” It’s just something that’s implied, because they’re in the middle of the wilderness. But alas, implications have a way of encouraging assumptions, and assumptions have a way of being incorrect plenty of the time.
Haven’t you ever wondered how the Survivor castaways go to the bathroom on an island without a visible toilet, let alone a facility of any kind? And how much do they really eat while they’re roughing it out there, sweating it out during challenges? And finally – how much of what we see on television is an accurate depiction of what actually happened? Because there were number of times where cast members felt that they were portrayed inaccurately on screen by the producers – and as you’ll see soon enough, they didn’t keep quiet about it.
You didn’t really think that only the sole survivor gets paid, right? That would just be preposterous. After all, this is a game show we’re talking about, and in the entertainment business, if you appear on national television – you’re definitely going to get paid. Obviously, the longer one stays on the show, the more money they receive. We know the winner gets $1 million, and some people also know that the runner up gets $100,000. But third gets $85,000, fourth $70,000, and so on…
When you’re out in the wilderness with a bunch of strangers for weeks on end, with a large amount of down time, there is always the chance that things might get hot and heavy between the men and the women. For this reason, the producers of Survivor require the women to take birth control while they’re on the show. While most contestants generally focus on the game and not on meeting their soulmates – it makes sense that the producers don’t want to take any chances.
The one who sued
To be a contestant on Survivor is an opportunity that any hardcore fan would give up quite a lot for – but not everyone that’s been on the show has been too happy about their experience. In fact, there was a contestant in the first ever Survivor season, Stacey Stillman, that decided to sue the show after she claimed that the producers convinced the cast members to vote her out instead of the elderly Rudy Boesch, for the purpose of ratings.
Look what I found
Here’s something that once happened on the show that the producers of Survivor definitely don’t want you to know about. On the season of Survivor: Panama, contestant Shane Powers was suffering from nicotine withdrawal, having been an avid cigarette smoker. When he kilogram of an illicit substance washed up on shore during his time on the show, the camera crew confiscated it soon enough – but not before Powers managed to get a little piece of that action.
Apparently, the contestants of Survivor don’t always choose their own clothing. Reality show it may be, but there is a still a team of producers who may come in before the show and dress the cast members in outfits that they think may fit their external stereotype. For instance – the producers wanted to portray former cast member John Cochran as a nerd, so they gave him a sweater vest to wear, even though he’d never worn one in his life.
When we watch our favorite survivors rough it out on an island for 39 days every season, it would seem reasonable that wherever they are going, they are walking. Well, of course that is what the producers of the show would want you to think – how authentic would it look if the viewers at home saw them being driven around everywhere? It turns out that they are driven everywhere, to and from tribal councils, and challenges as well.
We’d like to introduce you to the Dream Team. Every episode, the contestants of Survivor must compete in a barrage of challenges – the kind that tests them on their level of strength, endurance, and puzzle solving skills. But there is a lot that goes into making these challenges that people don’t realize. In fact, after every challenge is built, Survivor producers recruit a bunch of college interns, known as the “dream team,” to test out the challenges for feedback purposes.
So fresh and so clean
There has always been a lot of speculation as to what kind of hygiene products the Survivor contestants are allowed to bring on the show. Well, apparently they’re allowed only the basics – sunscreen, vital medications, bug repellant, and feminine hygiene products – that’s right, no toothbrushes, combs, shavers, or anything of the sort. But for those at home who are wondering how they keep their bodies free of hair – contestants are encouraged to get laser hair removal before the show.
For those of you who don’t know what the cast members do when they get voted out after the merge, you’re in for a treat. It may be hard to get your torch snuffed, but if there’s any consolation to the cast members, at least they get to wallow in their misery at Ponderosa – which is basically a paradise island resort for the jury members to hang out and party, with the freedom knowing their game is over. It also doesn’t hurt that they have their own personal chef.
One of the most interesting things about Survivor is that the contestants appear to be out there all alone, but the fact of the matter is that they are far from it. In the confessional interviews they give during the show, there is always a crew right there listening to the cast member. But while they are present, they might as well be a fly on the wall – because they aren’t allowed to talk to the contestants at all.
Much longer tribal council
At the end of every episode, at least one player is sent home. This is done by one tribe having to attend tribal council with show host Jeff Probst, where one tribe member is then voted out. Now, before the votes actually take place, there is a dialogue that takes place between Jeff and the cast members – and on screen it normally takes 10 to 15 minutes. But that couldn’t be further from the reality of the situation – tribal council actually takes up to three hours sometimes.
Blacked out windows
We’ve already discussed how the Survivor contestants get driven around to many of the places they go, such as tribal councils and reward challenges, but here’s another piece of knowledge that may interest you – the cars they ride in have blacked out windows. This is so that when they get driven around the island, they can’t see what’s going on outside, such as where another tribes camp is, or where tribal council really takes place.
If you’re a diehard Survivor fan that has been trying to get on the show for years, and been unsuccessful at it, this little fact may upset you. Because while it is true that the producers are always accepting inquiries for the show, it turns out that they too are always recruiting people to be on the show. The producers of the show are always looking for specific characters, such as when they recruited Survivor legend Parvati Shallow after she failed to get on the Amazing Race.
We’ve all been there – we are watching Survivor at home, and it comes time for an immunity or reward challenge, and something seems fishy when it starts. Where are all of the cameras? How can they pull of so many of those angles without catching another camera occasionally? The answer is that there are many reshoots done after the fact, and there is an excessive use of body doubles. You heard us correctly – there is even a body double for Jeff Probst.
The aqua dump
There has always been talk regarding how the contestants of Survivor go to the bathroom. After all, there isn’t a facility for them to use, nor is there any toilet paper for that matter. So how do they do it? Well, there has been speculation for a long time regarding the famous “aqua dump” – that they do their business in the ocean. And it turns out that this is exactly what they do, once they find a proper spot that is well out of range from anyone to see.
Jeff’s bad call
In a recent season, there was a contestant by the name of Caleb Reynolds who was a huge fan favorite. But guess what – Jeff Probst originally didn’t want him on the show. “I was not so sure about Caleb,” he said, before adding that CBS pushed hard to include him. Jeff would later admit his mistake, saying that CBS was “absolutely right” and that “Caleb is rock-solid.” After all, even Jeff Probst can make the occasional mistake.
What do they look for?
Although it is true that the producers of Survivor do a fair amount of recruiting to get the best possible cast members on the show, there are obviously a large amount of people that apply and manage to get on the show as well. So what do the casting directors really look for? Well, you certainly have to have an out-there personality – but casting director Lynne Spillman revealed something they look for that may surprise you – people with a sales background, because it means they have strong social skills.
Scraping for food
Before every reward challenge, Jeff Probst usually shows the cast members a plate of something tasty and delicious, which they would receive if they win – and viewers at home can practically see the drool coming from the contestants mouths. This is because they truly eat close to nothing – surviving by average on a half a coconut, or 100 calories, a day. Former Survivor cast member Bruce Kanegai even said that during his 25 days on the show, he probably ate a total of four full meals – yikes.
Scary hot day
After being the host of a wilderness-based reality show for over 35 seasons, you might expect that Jeff Probst has seen quite a lot in his heyday. But very recently, in Survivor: Kaoh Rong, there was an event that scared Jeff more than he’d ever been on the show. On a sweltering hot day, three cast members all suffered various levels of injuries during a challenge, and one of them, Caleb Reynolds, had to be evacuated after his body temperature went up to 107 degrees, causing him to go unconscious.
You did me wrong
If there’s something that’s always been true about Survivor, it’s that the editors control how we perceive things. Dan Foley, a former contestant from Survivor: Worlds Apart got upset with Jeff Probst after he watched on screen how the producers portrayed him. He told Jeff, “You did me wrong.” Jeff asked, “How do you figure?” And Dan said, “You cherry picked things to show, sometimes out of context.” While Dan’s anger may be understandable – he must have anticipated it when signing up for the show.