March 26, 2024 | Miles Brucker

Game-Changing Facts About Survivor

Thirty-four seasons in and still going strong, Survivor first aired on CBS in 2000 and has filmed in 18 different locations around the world including Africa, China, Brazil, and the Philippines.

Here are a few things you might not have known about Survivor.

1. Ikea for Stranded

The idea for Survivor is not wholly original and was, in fact, based on a 1997 Swedish television series called Expedition Robinson.


2. Can’t Spell Trebek without Trek

Before Survivor, host Jeff Probstt was best known as the front man of Rock & Roll Jeopardy.

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3. Hatching a Plan

Season One winner, Richard Hatch, failed to report his winnings to the IRS and was sentenced to four years and three months in prison for tax evasion. Apparently, he didn’t think the IRS owned televisions.

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4. In Russia, Everyone is Survivor

The Survivor theme song was composed by Russ Landau and the lyrics (there are lyrics?!) are based on an ancient Russian folk song.

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The song is remixed every season to incorporate indigenous sounds from the area where it is filmed. We’re looking forward to Survivor: Pharrell.

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6. Why You Gotta Be So Rudy?

The oldest contestant was Rudy Boesch who competed twice, with his latest appearance at the age of 75. Boesch was a former Navy SEAL who set physical and operational standards with SEAL Team Two and with his gruff, no-nonsense “Rudy-isms,” was one of the most popular contestants on the show.

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7. Where There’s a Will

The youngest player to ever compete was 18-year old Will Wahl, who was on the 33rd season of the show, appropriately titled Millenials vs. Gen-X.

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8. The Wonder Down Under

The most popular season of Survivor ever was the second season, set in the Australian Outback.

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9. Bigger is Better

Every season of Survivor lasts 39 days except the Outback season, which lasted 42 days. Those 3 extra days made all the difference.

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10. Strong Immune System

Colby Donaldson holds the record for individual challenges won (thus gaining immunity) with nine.

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11. It’s Never the Ones You Suspect

Despite Colby’s physical dominance, the winner of the season was Tina Wesson, an unassuming middle aged woman who wasn’t even supposed to be on the show and was called in as a last minute replacement.

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12. Survivor: Al Qaeda

The fourth season was set to film in Jordan, but after the events of 9/11, they moved filming to the Marquesas Islands instead.

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13. Double Dip

Sandra Diaz-Twine is the only Survivor in history to have won the game twice.

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14. The Anti-Sandra

On the flip side, Francesca Hogi has appeared on the show twice, and both times was the first one voted off the island.

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15. Survivor: La La Land

The least popular season thus far has been Survivor: Fiji. It is though that one of the reasons why it was so unpopular is because a lot of the contestants were boring. It was later brought to light that the producers ignored most of the applicants and instead recruited contestants amongst unemployed actors from California.

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16. We’d Panic Too

One of those recruits, Melissa McNulty, had a panic attack the day before flying out to the island and, as result, that season started with an uneven number of contestants.

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17 .Testing 1-2-3 Testing

Early on in the show, there was a challenge where contestants had to balance a wooden pole with jugs of water. Midway through, one of the poles broke and they had to reshoot the whole game with new rules. Since then, every challenge is extensively tested to make sure everything works.

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18. Carmageddon

In every season where they give away a car, the winner of the car has also never won the million dollar prize. Contestants now refer to this as the “car curse". During Survivor: Guatemala,  the car curse was acknowledged and challenged for the first time. Cindy was given the option to keep a brand new car for herself or give each of the four remaining players a new car of their own. Cindy took the car for herself and was the next person voted out.

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19. Always Bet on Black

The 13th season, Cook Islands, grouped all the contestants by race for the first few days. This, understandably, caused quite a bit of controversy and the show lost many of their advertisers.

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20. Battle of the Sexes

In Survivor: The Amazon, tribes were divided by gender. That season was won by Jenna Morasca.

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21. Medic!

Fifteen players have been evacuated for medical reasons including Caleb Reynolds, who passed out from heat exhaustion, and Michael Skupin, who inconveniently fell face first into a fire.

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22. Madea Eats Her Own Arm

Tyler Perry was the one who came up with the Season 28 twist where an immunity idol could be played after votes were cast.

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23. I’ve Made a Terrible Mistake

Eleven players have quit on their own.

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24. The Finer Things

Each Survivor can bring one luxury item with them. These have included ukuleles (firewood), a Texas flag (blanket), and a skateboard (more firewood).

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25. News of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Jon Dalton, or as he was known Jonny Fairplay, lied about his grandmother passing away so he could win a reward challenge. When CBS called his grandmother’s home to offer condolences, his grandmother answered the phone.

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26. Maybe It was Opposite Day

Denise Martin from Survivor: China lied to everyone about being demoted from school lunch lady to janitor. Feeling sorry for her, Mark Burnett gave her $50,000 only to discover that she had actually been promoted instead. She gave the money to charity so she wouldn’t look like a Jonny Fairplay.

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27. As Long as I Know How to Love

Ethan Zohn, winner of Survivor: Africa met Jenna Morasca, winner of Survivor: The Amazon when they both competed on Survivor: All-Stars in 2003. Sadly their relationship came to an end in 2013 after 10 years. They gave a statement saying that they are parting on the best of terms.

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28. She was Robbed

Ethan and Jenna were not the only ones to be hit by cupid’s arrow. Rob and Amber made it all the way to the finals of the All-Stars show and just before the announcement of who won, Rob proposed. Amber ended up winning the million dollars and accepting the proposal. Everyone's a winner.

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29. Quite the Honeymoon

Rob and Amber were so popular that they were asked to participate in The Amazing Race. They came in last place but were still a fan favorite.

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30. So we all win?

During Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. season the entire cast and crew had to be evacuated when a cyclone hit the island. They were broight to base camp so that everyone would be together. Each tribe was put in a separate room with absolutely nothing in it. No food, no blankets, no pillows, nothing.

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