Survivor is a reality TV legend, and most deservedly so. It has been on now for 16 years and has a rabid fan base. Some seasons are better than others, and this one has been a bit up and down, but there is no denying that Survivor has been a huge success.
The filming of the show is always set on some exotic location and it is filmed around the clock for seven weeks straight. What does this mean? Well, it means that there are literally thousands of hours of footage that get cut down into the thirteen weeks that you see on TV.
What else does it mean? Well, you are going to have to read on to find out. Because it goes without saying that on a show like Survivor there are going to be a few secrets- the show just can’t go off exactly the way they say that it does. No reality TV show is totally real. Some are things that you might have guessed while others will totally surprise you. There simply is no way that any show like Survivor is going to occur exactly the way the finished product looks on TV- there are just way too many variables, from cast to location, for something like that to happen.
So what are the producers and directors and even “writers” of Survivor trying to hide and what do they keep right out in the open? Here are 15 secrets that you did not know about the popular reality series.
15. They Can’t Go Anywhere They Want
On shows like Survivor things are rarely what they seem like. It is a so called reality show, but just like in other areas of life, looks can be deceiving, but hey you already knew that I am sure. While you are sitting at home and watching the show it seems that players can just take off and roam around anywhere that they want to go. Which is exactly what the producers want you to think of course. All the time while watching the show you see one of the cast members taking off and supposedly roaming around. The reality of the situation is that this is not true. The players are on a pretty short leash and have to stay within designated areas.
For one thing, there are encampments for crew members, that are nearby and also the contestants could roam around and mistakenly see something that the producers don’t want them to see. That would be awkward right? So, while it seems like they can roam free around the island, or wherever they are, this simply is not true. They are on a short leash and are being watched all of the time.
14. They Get A Ride To Council
You know when the members of a tribe all leave their camp with their torches and walk all serious-like to tribal council? Yeah, that whole thing does not happen at all. Not even a little bit actually. While it looks all dramatic, the reality of the situation is that they all take a Jeep to get there. It is reality TV after all and the producers want to save time, not have their crew members film 8 people walking in a line carrying sticks for half an hour. We suppose it saves on film, too. The thing is the main point of a show like this is to make money, and time is money.
With all that said we definitely see why they do it the way they do. How dramatic would it be if they all said, “Time to go to tribal council, and some guy drove up with a luxury range rover with air conditioning and bucket seats? Not very. This is another really good example of the small things that they do on reality shows that don’t really change what happens a whole lot, but that still aren’t real, at least in the traditional sense.
13. Medical Is Around More Than You Know
If you are a fan of the show than you have all seen the episodes where they make a big deal about calling in the medics after a challenge. It is so dramatic, Jeff Probst waves his arms around and acts all excited, like seeing a medic is the biggest deal in the world for a contestant on the show.
The reality is that all contestants see a medic before and after each challenge, whether it looks like they need to or not. Not only that but there are psychologists that are on hand to monitor the contestants’ mental health. This is sort of surprising. All I have to say about that is that some of those psychologists should probably be fired, because a lot of these people are kind of nuts. We can see that from home!
All of this makes sense of course, this is a litigious society that we live in, and there is no way they are going to have a show like this without top notch medical personnel checking in on the contestants constantly. It is just bad TV to show that side of things, so they don’t. Can you blame them? It is reality TV after all.
12. Contestants Can Be Shy
When you sit at home and watch the show on TV everyone seems to be dying to get camera time; in fact it often seems like some people get kind of bummed out for not getting as much screen time as other people do.
While it seems like everyone’s just dying to talk to the camera all the time, and that everyone is just totally comfortable with each other, that is not always true. These are real people, not TV stars, and many of them have never had even a little bit of time in front of the camera before which is going to make them nervous, most of them anyway. Contestants are often shy at first, and don’t talk much to each other, or to the camera. But once they have been stuck on the island for a few days without a break from the camera they usually get a little more talkative and comfortable with the camera and each other. People can get used to anything after a while. Which is why after a couple days most of these people act like they have been on TV for their entire lives.
11. The Challenges Are Not A Surprise
Well, this is not entirely true. They are kind of a surprise, when Jeff Probst, the long time host of Survivor, first announces them they are. But then a member of the production crew does a walk through of the challenges with all the contestants, and makes sure they understand what is going on. The players can ask questions and think of strategies while they do this. There is also a group of people that run through it first as a sort of dress rehearsal while the crew gets all set up.
So while they don’t know what they contest is going to be when it is announced, by the time that it happens they have had plenty of time to try and figure it all out, and numerous people have already gone through and tested it. This is the key to good reality TV. The whole trick is to make it appear like everything is just happening in the moment, but the reality is that everything has been planned to the tiniest detail. And when it comes to planning details, there are not many shows that do better at it then Survivor. Not even close actually.
10. Most Of What Happens Is Boring
Now I don’t know, maybe this is not a huge surprise to some of you, but the fact is, most of the time nothing interesting is happening at all. Like, really, nothing. They wake up, they yawn, they scratch themselves and say good morning to each other, all being filmed by numerous cameras, but as far as the good stuff? Basically nothing to see here, move along.
Every day each cast member does a confessional, which is the part of the show where they talk to the crew about what they are thinking, but for the most part people are just sitting around talking to each other and doing absolutely nothing at all. Not great TV of course, so you don’t see much of it at all.
You might feel cheated by this but think about it. Imagine what it would be like if you could see it. For one thing you probably would not even like the contestants as much as you already do, because a good portion of their day is just spent sitting on a tree stump and scratching themselves, not plotting brilliant moves and competing in challenges. I don’t know about you but I would shut off the TV pretty quickly if I had to watch all of that.
9. Contestants Are Never Alone
Survivor contestants are watched and recorded all day, 24-7, and are never alone for any period of time at all. Well, they are almost never alone, anyway. Of course, at times they have to go to the bathroom. I think if they were recorded doing that it would give the show a much less family friendly vibe.
But other than that one thing they are watched and recorded every single second of the day. The crew works in shifts, filming the contestants constantly, even when they are asleep. Sounds like a good time right? And a little bit creepy, if you ask us. Who are those guys? The guys that do the night camera shift on Survivor? Sitting out in the jungle running a camera for 8 hours when people sleep?
It might seem odd that they are being recorded all the time, but don’t forget, as we said before not much happens on survivor, so that means when something does happen they have to get it on film, which is why the cameras are rolling all day, and all through the night.
8. The Crew Lives Pretty Well
Figuring out what to do with the crew on a show like Survivor is not an easy thing. It is not like the show is being filmed in Los Angeles where there are hotels and places to eat all over the place, they need to figure out what to do with all of these guys
There are a lot of people that work on Survivor, and I mean a lot. While they look like they are on a deserted island, they actually are on a deserted island surrounded by hundreds of people. If there is a nearby city to where the cast is located, the crew lives there at a hotel. This does not happen often though. More often the show is at a location that is pretty isolated. In this case they, meaning the crew, live in prefab cabins near where the players participate in the show. The cabins have beds and bathroom facilities, and they all eat together in a large catering tent. So while the contestants are roughing it quite a bit, the crew has it a little bit easier. Good work if you can get it. It does not seem to be so bad of a life at all.
7. The Players Really Don’t Shower
Yeah, that part is for real. I think of all the things on survivor that freaks out the average person the thought of going for well over a month without showering or brushing their teeth is what freaks people out most of all. You’re going to be on TV, you will be filmed all the time, you will not have any real food, and you are going to not have access to a shower or any other sort of way to bathe. Sounds great right? Oh what people are willing to do for a chance at fame and a boat load of money.
But it is true. They really go all that time without showering. All they get is a bit of a dip in the ocean from time to time. Has there ever been a show before where people were so dirty? The most amazing thing to me is how some of the women still look totally hot even with no makeup and not showering.
They do get to keep things like feminine hygiene products, contact lens solution, birth control, and prescribed medications, but no toothpaste, soap, or razors, nothing that they could use like that. How totally nasty.
6. Tribal Councils Are Long
Good old tribal council, it is almost always one of the highlights of the show. It is when things really are popping. It always looks so fun and filled with energy, and the whole thing is so fast. The players roll in, (fresh from their ride on the jeep) they say some things to each other, usually people argue a bit, and freak each other out a lot. Then Jeff says it is time to vote, and BANG, someone gets booted off the show. The whole thing just takes a couple of minutes and it is super entertaining, right? Man that was the best tribal council ever.
But just like most other things that you see on this show, that is not what really happens, of course. What seems like it takes just two minutes really takes anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. That does not sound nearly as fun and entertaining now does it? Thinking of someone like Dan Foley sitting around hemming and hawing at tribal council for 90 minutes does not sound exciting at all, not even a little bit actually. And maybe just a little bit annoying. Well, you learned the truth, you can’t unlearn it
5. Producers Tell Players What To Wear
This one surprised even me, and I don’t need to tell you I am pretty jaded and don’t get surprised by a whole lost. While cast members are allowed to bring their own clothes to the show, it doesn’t mean they can wear whatever they want. Producers get to decide what they wear. They have even picked out bathing suits before for players. We have to give them a big hand for that, because whoever picks out the bathing suits for a lot of these women really does a pretty amazing job, there is no doubt about that, some of them look amazing.
Then of course are the nerdy and smart guys. You know how almost every year there is some super smart white collar type guy who wears a long sleeve oxford? Well don’t waste your time yelling at the TV about it, because it was not their fault, the producers told him to do it.
Cochran, who is a well known Survivor player, who won the championship one year never wore sweater vests in the real world for example, but the producers told him to wear one because it looked smart and nerdy. Really? I feel so used now.
4. They Recruit Most Of The Contestants
If you are trying to get on Survivor, I hate to break it to you, but the chances of that happening are even less than you thought. I know, I know, you have been working on your video for weeks, filming yourself looking as cool as you possibly can, trying to appear funny and smart, showing off your abs, telling stories to the producers about just how great you are going to be when they pick you for the show.
Sorry buddy, you pretty much have no chance at all. While they get tens of thousands of applications, only a handful are what they are interested in. They usually recruit people to be on the show that they think would make good contestants. For example on the Survivor Fiji season, all of the players were recruited except for one.
So just know that while you are in your garage doing one more take for your video for the producers, those same producers are on a beach in San Diego asking some hot chick who is playing beach volleyball if she wants to be on the show. Don’t blame me for telling you, I am just the messenger.
3. Players Stay Around After They Are Voted Off
Of course you know that when a player has reached the jury that they stay around the show and don’t leave they go to the Ponderosa and have some awkward conversations and hang out. In fact some of the Ponderosa’s that they show on line are better than Survivor itself. For those of you that don’t know they do a little show after each member is kicked off where they interview them and show them meeting the other contestants who had already been booted.
But the rest of them that are kicked out earlier have to hang out too, at least until the jury is picked; then they can go home. Everyone has to take a 7-week vacation from whatever job they have to be on the show, so it must be a total drag to be the first one out, in more ways than one. It isn’t like you get to go home and chill out, you have to hang around for another month or so feeling like a loser. Well, not just feeling like one, you are a loser. At least you’re not being filmed anymore and can be a loser in private, like the rest of us.
2. What Happens When The Votes Are Tallied?
You know how when the votes are read it always seems so dramatic? It is always so wild the way the votes are read, it is almost like the producers and Jeff are reading the votes in a way that makes things the most dramatic.
Well, yeah, they make it that way of course Haven’t you learned anything yet? This is Survivor, nothing is quite as it seems. After the votes, Jeff meets with the other producers, and they sit around and go back and forth until they decide the order to read the votes that will be the most dramatic. So just like so many other things on this, or any other reality TV show, the whole thing is kind of real, and kind of not.
Man, after reading the previous piece about how long the tribal councils are, this must make things even harder to stomach. Imagine all these people fighting for a million bucks while Jeff Probst and a bunch of other dubs are over in the corner trying to figure out a way to read the votes that stresses you, and the viewers, out the most. The whole thing sounds way too nerve wracking.
1. They Use Body Doubles
This one is a little odd. They use a lot of body doubles on Survivor for challenges. So when you are watching a body run around during a challenge on TV it very well might not be who you think it is. They aren’t stunt men, the contestants really do the challenges, but these people make sure that the producers and camera men get the best shots that they need for the show.
They wear the same clothes as contestants, and are used a lot in aerial shots, or sometimes even in close up shots. So if you see a close up shot on a pair of legs running, then it may or may not be who you think it is. If you ever notice why you see shots from up above, but never hear a helicopter, it is because the shot you see was filmed later, using body doubles. Next time you watch a show notice how many aerial shots they use when they do challenges, and when you do see it, now you know that none of what you are seeing really has anything to do with the show at all. Which is kind of what reality TV Is all about.