Survivor premiered in the summer of 2000 and instantly became a cultural phenomenon. The original reality television competition sparked an entire genre in North America, and has since spawned over thirty iterations of the show which has maintained a rabid fan base for almost twenty years.
Fans of the show are incredibly passionate and dive deep into the lore of the show to learn behind the scenes secrets about how things operate. Survivor's production team likes to keep a tight seal on their secrets in order to maintain the allure of the show, however things always leak out over time. Past contestants are happy to spill secrets about the show after they have finished the game, but rest assured that producers would much rather keep these under wraps!
Here are 20 Secrets CBS Doesn't Want Fans To Know About Survivor:
20 Jeff Dated A Contestant
"Want to know what you are playing for?" is something Jeff Probst will say each time he introduces a new challenge to his Castaways. However, it seems that Jeff had his eyes set on his own prize following the filming of Survivor: Vanuatu in the fall of 2004.
Jeff and former contestant Julie Berry dated for three years while he continued to film seasons of the show, before ultimately breaking up in 2007. There are certainly no rules written about contestants hooking up after the show, and apparently nothing that says the host can't either.
19 Manipulation Allegations
There is no denying how much of a cultural phenomenon Survivor was during the airing of the first season in the summer of 2000. It seemed like every family was watching this game unfold on television, and they continued to follow it closely after that season ended. However, not every story was about rainbows and roses - there were some serious allegations going on behind the scenes.
Survivor: Borneo contestant Stacey Stillman has alleged that the game was being manipulated heavily by production. Stillman maintains that Executive Producer Mark Burnett lobbied for her to be eliminated over other fan favorites on the show at the time. Her lawsuit on the subject was settled out of court, but remains a big stain on the show's reputation.
18 Non-Disclosure Agreement Broken
Since Survivor seasons are filmed so far in advance of their air date, the contestants return home for a number of months before their season is aired on television. In order to avoid spoilers to the millions of fans who watch the show, the cast are bound by a non-disclosure agreement. This agreement includes not spending time with any other cast from your season.
It seems that not every contestant chose to follow those rules during Survivor: David vs Goliath. Alec Merlino decided to throw caution to the wind in order to pursue a relationship with fellow contestant Kara Kay, and posted pictures of themselves on IG before the season had concluded. As punishment, Merlino was uninvited to that season's reunion show, and faces possible fines from the show.
17 Screwed Up Africa Challenge
The first two seasons of Survivor had gone off without a hitch, and the show maintained its popularity heading into its third season, taking place in Kenya. However, that flawless record was about to end going in to the final immunity challenge of the season.
The final challenge of Survivor: Africa was a trivia challenge about previous castaways. When the final question was posed about determining which Castaway did not have any piercings, Lex van der Bergh assumed he had the correct answer, but was told he was incorrect. Upon further review, Lex was correct, but wound up being voted out since he did not win. When producers learned of the mistake, Lex was awarded additional prize money for the blunder.
16 Contestants Broke Into Production Camp
Over the 39 day period of the show, contestants face harsh elements combined with no access to a consistent food source. Other than small rations of dry food, the tribe is not given any food by production on a regular basis. However, that did not stop the cast of Survivor: Micronesia from stealing food on their own.
In an unconfirmed conspiracy theory - backed up by contestant interviews in Reddit - several Castaways snuck onto the production camp and stole food to bring back to the camp. The contestants themselves - Alexis Jones, James Clement and Erik Reichenbach - have never confirmed this themselves, but it is certainly something the show would want to keep hidden.
15 Pre-Jury Contestants Left In Audience
Following a season of the show, there is normally a massive reunion broadcast featuring all the contestants where they are interviewed by Jeff Probst. This gives the opportunity for all the contestants to tell stories about their experience and receive some more television time.
However, Survivor: Caramoan was a much different story. For the first time, contestants voted out in the first half of the game were kept in the audience as opposed to on the stage. Allegedly, this change was done to mask Brandon Hantz absence from the reunion, but it angered everyone involved. Erik Reichenbach wound up publishing a scathing letter to the producers on the subject, and it has never occurred again.
Survivor: Nicaragua is consistently rated as one of the least-liked seasons of the show, particularly because of some alleged funny business that occurred amongst the show's final contestants.
The splitting of prize money is strictly forbidden by the show's producers, but this did not stop an alleged deal between contestants Sash Lenahan and Jane Bright. During a Reddit AMA, another contestant pointed out the rumor that Sash had propositioned Jane that he would pay off her mortgage if she voted for him to win the game. The rumor has never been confirmed by the show, but it hasn't been disputed either.
13 All Clothing Is Picked By Production
The unique styles of some of Survivor's favorite contestants has become an identity for them on the show. Ranging from Rupert's tye-dye, to Billy Garcia's heavy-metal t-shirt to Cochran's sweater vests, it has set some iconic Castaways apart from the rest.
Since Survivor is a television show designed for audiences, show's producers curate everything in order to get a response from the audience, including the clothing choices of the contestants. All of the iconic clothing choices of the contestants were chosen by production staff, not the Survivors themselves.
12 America's Tribal Council Fail
The first time when older contestants of the show returned for another shot to win the game was in Survivor: All-Stars. Taking place at the height of the show's popularity, it featured some of the show's favorite contestants competing again. While it was great for viewers, there were some shenanigans which have cast a black cloud of this season.
A second million dollar prize was introduced as America's Tribal Council, which involved fans voting for the winner of the prize. After over 85% of the vote went to contestant Rupert Boneham, it was clear that the twist was curated to provide Rupert with extra money, even though he did not win the game.
11 Sugar's Downfall
Jessica "Sugar" Kiper has appeared twice on Survivor, being one of the few contestants to make it both to the show's finale and be eliminated first in two separate seasons. While notorious for her appearances on the show, her actions following her time on the islands have ensured she will never be brought back again.
Sugar's battle against substance abuse have landed her in rehab several times, including a stint on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Survivor considers itself a family show, and have preferred to distance themselves from stories like Sugar in order to maintain that image.
10 Brutal Bug Bites
Considering that each season of Survivor strands the Castaways on islands without a large amount of food, water or shelter, it would be difficult to call any of them more brutal than the other. However, even Jeff Probst claims that Survivor: Marquesas was amongst the most brutal conditions he has ever faced.
Taking place in the French Polynesian islands, the islands were infested with what locals called "no-no flies", which left brutal bug bites all over everyone involved, including the production crew. There is certainly a reason that they have never returned to this location!
9 Probst Hated All-Stars
Survivor: All-Stars may have been a great experience for fans to see their favorite contestants again, but the host certainly hated it. Following years of popularity, contestants of the show had started to developed egos, which made it a very difficult time for to Jeff Probst host.
Jeff has stated that he even considered quitting following All-Stars, as he did not like the direction that the show was going in. Thankfully, he has stayed on and remained a constant contributor to the show in multiple roles.
8 Todd Herzog's Abuse
When ranking winners of Survivor, Todd Herzog usually ends up near the top of the list. His strategic and social gameplay in China was among one of the best games that fans had ever seen. However, he has never been brought back to play again, which is a result of all the personal demons he has faced.
Todd's battles against addiction have been well-documented on shows like Dr.Phil, which have been very unfortunate to watch. Survivor has never had Todd back on the show in an attempt to distance themselves from his behavior, but we all wish him a speedy recovery.
7 Marcus' Wardrobe Malfunction
Survivor may be an edited television show, but editors don't always catch things that should be removed. With so much action going on at challenges, producers are focused on capturing it all on screen, and not necessarily removing any "naughty bits".
Contestant Marcus Lehman became infamous when his shorts rode up during the premiere episode of Survivor: Gabon, and he showed off "little Marcus" to millions of people watching on television. The producers removed the shot from other broadcasts of the show and apologized for letting it slip, but have never spoken about it again.
6 Denise Lied About Losing Her Job
"Lunch Lady" Denise Martin endeared the hearts of viewers with her story of how much she loved her job, but saddened everyone when she revealed that she had been let go from her role to participate on the show. Feeling sorry for her, producer Mark Burnett gifted Denise with a large cash prize.
Unfortunately, Denise later revealed that she had not actually been let go, but had requested to move positions. This gaffe made a fool out of Burnett, but thankfully Denise gave her money to charity instead of squandering it.
5 Caleb's Injury Was Serious
Survivor challenges are no joke, as sometimes even the most fit contestants struggle to complete the tasks under the island heat. This was never more apparent than in Survivor: Koah Rong, where an intense challenge in the heat caused several contestants to pass out and receive medical attention.
None were worse off than Caleb Reynolds, who needed to be airlifted out of the game to receive hospital attention. While this was a big moment on the show at the time, the show never revealed just how serious the situation was. Caleb revealed that he was close to death while on the show, and had he not received attention that quickly he could have perished before our very eyes.
4 Fiji Casting Fail
In order to provide fans with the an ethnically diverse cast, show's producers began reaching out to acting agencies during Survivor: Fiji to provide them with contestants. The show usually relies on submissions from fans of the show, but this time decided to go a different route. Unfortunately, it did not go well.
Other than a handful of contestants, each of the Castaways had never seen the show before and were unaware of how to play the game properly. This resulted in a lackluster season which was lamblasted by fans. Fiji remains one of the lowest rated seasons of the show, all because of how the cast was chosen.
3 Charges Against Michael Skupin
Michael Skupin's most infamous moment used to be how he fell into the fire in Survivor: Australian Outback and became the first medically evacuated contestant. Following the legal allegations made against him, he has fallen from grace.
Skupin used to be one of the show's most popular contestants, but now they will never mention his name. Skupin was ultimately convicted of his crimes in 2019, and is now listed as an offender for life.
2 Colby Broke Australian Law
Colby Donaldson was - and remains - one of the most popular contestants to ever appear on Survivor. As the original "hero" of the show, he stood up for everything that was right and was endeared around the world for it. His prowess in challenges and good looks made him incredibly popular, and the show has never hesitated in bringing him back.
However, it is likely he will never be welcome in Australia again. Following a reward challenge to Australia's Great Barrier Reef, Donaldson took off a piece of coral from the reef as a souvenir. Little did he - or the production staff - know that this is a major fine in Australia. Survivor apologized and paid the fine, but it certainly angered an entire nation.
1 Contestants Do Not Walk To Challenges
Each time there is a reward or immunity challenge on the show, the tribes are shown walking into the challenge scene as a unit. Without any vehicles in sight, it looks as though the tribe has walked for miles to get to the scene of the action.
As contestants have revealed afterwards, they are trekked from challenge to challenge by production instead of being made to walk. The challenges are very labor intensive, so producers would rather them save their strength for what matters. However, it certainly does change how viewers know the show once they know the truth!