We’ll admit it: reality TV isn’t exactly our cup of tea. There’s something about the staging of all those shows like Big Brother that makes us feel like we’re watching something scripted or created.
Instead, we personally would rather watch something like a cooking or baking competition; there might still be some scripting to it, but at least there’s also skill.
But Survivor is a cross between these two kinds of reality TV shows. It’s full of drama and human emotions (we’d get emotional, too, if we were stuck on an island with a bunch of strangers), but it also features a very specific skill set: survival.
Is it as “real” as we think it is, though? While there are a few surprising things that are fake about this show, we’ve found fifteen ways in which, yeah, Survivor is totally legit.
20 Those ‘Model Types’ Still Went Through Rigorous Casting
Apparently getting cast can be as easy as knowing somebody on the inside. Survivor has been known to pluck a few models/actors to fill spots on the island when they couldn’t find enough real people, Insider reports.
However, they still go through the rigorous casting process. Knowing someone might get them in the door, but it’s their personalities that get them on the island.
19 FAKE: They Definitely Don't Jump Right Into Challenges
Survivor definitely makes it seem like Jeff explains how to do the challenges and then they immediately jump in and complete them (sometimes perfectly). Insider reminds us that this definitely isn’t the case.
What we don’t see is the tutorial walk-through of every challenge, as well as all the time the teams get to strategize!
18 The Voting Is Definitely Real
Make no mistake: the voting is all real. People are actually voting people off the island. However, Insider tells us that there is some manipulation of the reveal.
After the votes are tallied Jeff Probst sits down with other producers and decides how to deliver the results of the voting. At least, that's what Insider tells us!
17 Producers Test All The Challenges Before Letting The Contestants Loose
Some people might think that the challenges the contestants compete in are rigged. Rest assured, this isn't the case! The folks over at Factinate have said that the producers do test all the challenges before the contestants actually get to do any of them.
Well, a "Dream Team" of fit crew members does the actual testing. But the producers are there.
16 FAKE: Some Scenes Do Get Re-Enacted And Re-Filmed
There's one thing reality TV does best, and that's capturing the contestants' most emotional moments. We get to see them survive physical trials and emotional ones too. Insider does report that not all those genuine moments are caught the first time around.
Sometimes they have to reenact and recapture those breakups and makeups. Hey, we don't mind. It's good TV!
15 There Can Be Some Legitimate Dangers
In a show like Survivor, where the challenge literally is to survive, it should go without saying that there are dangers. Some people do think that, because it's television, everyone is safe.
Factinate has confirmed that there have been real medical emergencies and dangers that take contestants off the islands. The danger is REAL, people!
14 And Natural Disasters Have Been Known To Halt The Games
The producers might like to have a handle on content, but they can’t control the weather. When they’re out in the wild, sometimes there’s extreme weather.
It’s no surprise that the show needs to halt so they can be safe. EW refers to one specific time back in 2016 when they actually had to evacuate due to a cyclone.
13 The ‘Content’ Rules Are Strict
This refers to a few different standards that Survivor has. Most notably, however, apparently contestants aren't allowed to chat as they're herded from challenges to camp.
Today says that it's because the producers don't want to miss out on any juicy interactions. Fair; we don't want to miss those either!
12 Tribal Council Is Real, But Edited
Nicki Swift has a great article all about the ways in which Survivor is fake, but many of them don’t impact the watchability or the stakes of the show.
One of the things that’s mentioned is tribal council. Tribal council is apparently more like an hour long, not ten minutes. The editing cuts out the extra stuff, however, leaving us with the meat.
11 FAKE: The Camera Crew Gets A ‘Dream Team’ Run Through To Practice Angles
We mentioned this mythological "Dream Team" earlier. What purpose do they serve other than to ensure the challenges are safe?
Well, Today says that not only do they provide body doubles for the aerial shots, but they also do a walkthrough. This way the camera folks can practice getting the best shots.
10 Camera Crews Can’t Tell Anyone Anything, But They Still Tip People Off
Nicki Swift provides this quote, which comes directly from a Survivor cameraman. They say, “if two crews (six people) leave and follow one or two people, it does get noticed."
This gives ample opportunity for other contestants to follow and spy on the secret strategy rendezvous. Talk about a helpful survival tip!
9 FAKE: No, The Contestants Aren’t Forced To Walk To Challenges
Some of the islands that they drop the contestants into are big. Some are smaller but include rough terrain. Regardless of the size of the island, nobody wants to waste energy walking.
Nearly every article we read mentioned how the contestants are transported from camp to challenges. Can’t waste all that survival daylight!
8 There Is Some Superstition To The Prizes
Any avid Survivor fan knows that the person who gets the car almost never gets the grand prize. Even the producers of Survivor have noticed that! There’s some kind of bad luck that comes with the car, as many of the articles we read pointed out.
Though, now that we think about it, maybe it’s just the other contestants’ jealousy over the new car.
7 People Of Any Age Are Welcome On The Islands
Survivor casting might be picky, but they definitely don’t take away casting opportunities due to someone’s age. In fact, Insider mentions that the youngest competitor was 18, while the oldest competitor was on the show when he was 75.
We can’t even imagine being on the show now, and we’re in our 20s!
6 Even The Crew Lives On The Island
It would be super cost effective to fly every crew member in and out of the island every day, right? Definitely wrong.
The Survivor team is a team, and everyone is living on the island. However, Today mentions that the crew lives at a Base Camp set up somewhere on the island. Presumably with electricity and running water.
5 The Injuries Are Real
It’s sad but true. Remember when we said that the dangers on the island are real? So are many of the injuries that we witness. While some people don’t have to get sent home because of them, Factinate lists the current number of send-homes as 15.
15 survivors have had to be evacuated due to injuries or medical emergencies.
4 The Voted Off Survivors Are Still On Site (Kind Of)
The world was surprised when Survivor Ponderosa was released. This is kind of a survivor spin-off. It features the voted-off cast members as they wait out the rest of the competition.
They spend this time in Ponderosa, the nickname for what is essentially a luxury holding camp for voted-off survivors. At least, the ones who need to be back for the finale.
3 FAKE: Yes, The Crew Will Help Them Get Food/Fire/Other Essentials
We’re still not totally convinced this is true, but Nicki Swift lists it. Swift writes, “Erinn Lobdell told RealityBlurred.com that while she competed on Exile Island in Survivor: Tocantins, a camera operator lit a fire for her with a lighter.”
It’s better than having to evacuate one of the contestants, right?
2 They Really Have No Idea Where They Are
This is one we couldn’t believe. Sure, they know where in the world they are. But when it comes to navigation, the contestants are kept in the dark as much as possible.
Today writes, “in Gabon, they were driven in vehicles with black plastic covering the windows. That prevents contestants... from seeing parts of the production such as base camp.”
1 Everyone Is A Winner (Even Though Only One Takes Home A Million)
Finally, the most legit part of Survivor: everyone gets paid. While the final survivor does get a million dollars, Insider reveals, “everyone gets a certain amount of compensation... The second place player gets $100,000, which isn't the worst thing.”
It’s certainly not! In some ways, everyone who gets off the island is a winner on Survivor.
Sources: Nicki Swift, Insider, Today, EW, Factinate