Survivor was probably the first real reality TV show that grabbed the whole world's attention, and it remains one of the best ever made. This was the show that started it all, and reality TV shows continue to be made which follow the Survivor formula very closely. This show defined reality television and what it has become today. There was so much going on here that audiences loved. The challenges each week pushed contestants to their absolute limits. There was a strong social aspect of people forming alliances, and a lot of drama came with the threat of being voted off the island. And most importantly, just being able to watch normal people as they were thrust into this very difficult situation was fascinating for viewers of all ages. The universal appeal has made the show a hit unlike any other.
But how much of this show was actually real? That's a question that has sparked a lot of debate recently and started a few seasons ago. One contestant even sued the show because she felt the producers rigged the voting system against her. Other crew members, cameraman, past contestants and even producers have come forward, admitting that certain parts of Survivor are indeed fake. There are a lot of secrets that executives have tried to bury for years, but their lies have been exposed. Does this make the show less appealing? Or does it just give you new, interesting insight into how this amazing reality show was made? You be the judge...
15 They Drive The Contestants To The Tribal Challenges And Councils - They Don't Walk
One of the most popular parts of the Survivor series is the recurrent "challenge," which pits the contestants in all kinds of different competitions against each other, trying to win the revered "immunity" bonus that makes them safe for that week. The camera crews devoted a lot of time to filming these moments, as this was when all the action really took place. Audiences would cheer and feel the suspense rise as these contestants fought it out, putting everything on the line.
But how much of these challenges were actually real? Well, for starters, the contestants don't actually walk to the events. The show makes it seem like they do, because they are filmed putting on their backpacks and walking out into the wilderness. But what actually happens is quite different. These people are put in cars with blacked out windows, and they are driven the areas where the challenges take place.
14 Body Doubles Are Used Frequently
Definitely one of the highlights of the show was seeing more than a few attractive ladies walk around in their bikinis for weeks on end. The producers obviously made sure to fill each season with at least a few babes, and this was done for obvious reasons – to gain more views. It was a tactic that definitely worked, as many tuned in every week just to see the hot girls. And these amazing bodies would be put to hard work, physically exerting themselves as they worked around the campsite, took part in challenges, and did other demanding activities.
But did these bodies even belong to the contestants we all knew and loved? As it turns out, not always. Past contestants, cameramen, and even producers admit that body doubles were frequently used in Survivor, especially in wide angle shots or overhead scenes where it would be impossible to tell who's who.
13 The Producers Sometimes Tell The Contestants Who To Boot Off
One of the most interesting parts of Survivor is the voting mechanism, and the Tribal Council system. This adds a completely different of competition to the show, as contestants must not only be able to win challenges, but also keep in good standing with the rest of the group, or else risk getting booted off by the other contestants. This led to some interesting situations, such as people forming alliances with each other, people getting double-crossed, and enemies being formed that were legendary.
But how real was this voting system? As it turns out, many producers and past contestants have admitted that the decision to vote certain people out might not always be an organic, uninfluenced one. Basically, the producers sit down with contestants and drop subtle hints about who they want gone from the show, and apparently some even tried to convince contestants why certain decisions would be better than others.
12 Conversations Are Re-Enacted
While the majority of the action in Survivor happens in the challenges and Tribal Council moments, most of the time the contestants actually spend on the island is spent at their campsite. This might not seem so exciting, but those who have seen the show know that tons of drama goes down during downtime by the beach. Gossip is spread, fights happen, and romances spark to life. Many confessions and conversations happen during this time, and some are quite interesting.
But how staged are these conversations? As it turns out, some of them are actually re-enacted. A cameraman who worked on the show admitted as much on Reddit. He said that sometimes, contestants have private conversations with each other where the camera crews can't hear them. When the subject of the conversations become known, the crew often gets the contestants to re-enact that same conversation, as if it were happening for the first time.
11 Helicopter Scenes And Overhead Shots Of Challenges Are Completely Re-Enacted
Helicopters have always been a big part of how the Survivor series was filmed. You may recall some of Jeff Probst's epic introductory scenes when each new series of Survivor kicks off, and some included him dangling from a helicopter like the awesome man that he is. But helicopters were also used to film the various scenes that took place during Survivor, and often these were some of the most stunning shots. Overhead shots of swimming races during challenges, and other epic moments were incredibly satisfying to watch.
But were these overhead shots even depicting real challenges taking place? According to many people who worked on the show, the answer is a definite no. Body doubles were actually swimming in those races, for example. And pretty much any other time they shot a wide, overhead helicopter shot, they didn't use real contestants. The reason being that if they were shooting the real contestants, they'd also get the cameramen and crew in the shot, and this would ruin the cinematic experience.
10 Contestants Are Given A Long Time To Prep For Challenges
The challenges are a suspenseful time not just for the audience, but for the contestants too. These moments are often the most important scenes in the entire episodes, where contestants will try their absolute hardest to gain immunity. While a lot of things on this show might be fake, the cash prize at the end most definitely is not. That's a lot of money for most people, and these people will do anything to get it. The challenges vary greatly from time to time. Sometimes they are based on endurance. Others will be based on skill or intelligence. But no matter what, contestants are always pushed to their limits.
But the show might actually be a little misleading when it comes to how much time these contestants have to prepare for the challenge. The editing of the show seems to suggest that the challenge begins right after the rules are (briefly) explained. But that's just not the case. In actual fact, the contestants are given about 45 minutes to ask questions, and prepare their strategies for the challenge. These moments are cut out of the end show.
9 Producers Pick Everyone's Outfits
Part of what sets each contestant apart is their personality, but in many ways we assume certain things about their persona based on the clothes they wear. It's often very hot in the locales chosen for Survivor series, and as a result contestants don't actually wear that much. But we can assume that people who wear little are comfortable with their bodies, and in many ways this shows confidence. An old man who wears an old cowboy hat can be seen as a weathered, shrewd man who knows how to rough it in the wild.
But are these outfits even chosen by the contestants themselves? The short answer is no. Before each series, the contestants are taken before the wardrobe department, who makes sure that their clothes are "camera friendly." What this means is that no logos are showing, and that the outfits are suitable for the show. But on another level, the wardrobe department and the producers pick out certain clothing items to convey a certain feeling about someone. For example, one male contestant was told to wear a sweater vest because Justin Timberlake was wearing them at the time.
8 Crew Members Help Contestants Build Fires And Find Food
Obviously, Survivor is centered around one thing – survival. Contestants really do have to figure out how to live on a desert island, and in reality this is no easy task. While it's debatable how much effort they actually had to put into their survival efforts, there's no doubt that being a contestant on Survivor isn't as easy as sitting at home and watching it. They really do have to rough it, and this means creating shelters, finding food, and wearing the same outfit over and over again. Some contestants prove adept at survival skills, while others get exposed as totally useless.
But how much of this survival work was actually done by themselves? Did the crew ever help the contestants with things like creating fire? As more than a Survivor contestants have later admitted, the crew did prove to be quite helpful at times. Numerous contestants have admitted that camera crews actually lit their fires when no one was looking with a lighter...
7 They Actually Give Them Potable Water To Drink
One of the most interesting and prevalent dilemmas around the Survivor campsite was the quest for drinking water. And this is indeed one of the most challenging things about surviving in the wild in real life. People can suffer from dehydration much quicker than almost any other threat in the wild, including hunger and in many cases extreme temperature. The contestants on the show seemed to always be struggling with boiling their water, which was essential to make it safe to drink.
But how necessary was this really? It is true that the contestants were provided with clean drinking water, right from the start. As one cameraman confesses on Reddit, this was most certainly true. Clean, potable water was simply dumped into a well, which the contestants would draw their water from. The water was completely safe to drink, providing you didn't care about the odd piece of dirt or spider. So why did they go through the trouble of boiling it? It probably just made for good television.
6 Jury Speeches Are Completely Scripted And Rehearsed
One of the most disappointing parts of Survivor was seeing your favorite character get booted off the island. It really sucked, especially when this character was widely loved by everyone, and no one could really figure out why this character was told to leave. But the producers obviously knew that there was a benefit for keeping these favorites around, because they actually remained on the show, if only to serve on the "jury" of the Tribal Council. This jury played a major role in the voting process, and it was always fun to see tribe members return.
One of the most entertaining moments involving the jury was the members' speeches. These were often touching, moving, and extremely entertaining. But is it true that these speeches were actually completely scripted and rehearsed? The truth is yes, they were. The producers actually wrote the speeches, and they were practiced by the jury members ahead of time.
5 Crew Sometimes Gave Them Food When No One Was Looking
The quest for food is always going to be a big part of any survival challenge, and this was most certainly true with this show as well. You probably remember contestants trying just about every method to try and catch or forage a meal, and this included wading into the water and trying their hand at spear fishing, for example. The best food, however, was given to the contestants as a reward for winning a challenge or doing some other bonus activity. Nonetheless, you could plainly see that as time went on, almost ever contestant lost a lot of weight and began to look very hungry indeed.
Could it be that the crew was guilty of passing contestants food when no one was looking? As one cameraman admits on Reddit, this most certainly did happen from time to time. The example he used was when a crew member passed a female contestant a single piece of butterscotch candy, but there is no doubt that this wasn't just a single isolated incident.
4 Producers Make Contestants Walk To The Challenge Over And Over Again
If you've ever worked on a film set or been anywhere near one, you know that some directors love to repeat things over and over and over. Even mundane things that are seemingly boring are repeated again and again, until everyone gets extremely frustrated. People often forget that the set of Survivor was technically a TV set, even if it was a reality TV show. The producers and the crew had a vision for the show that was extremely cinematic in nature, and that meant creating moments which felt like they were straight out of a movie.
Incidentally, this quest for a cinematic feel necessitated the sacrifice of some realism in Survivor. We've already mentioned the fact that contestants didn't have to walk to challenges, but the crew went to great lengths to make it seem like it was some epic journey to the site of the challenges. Apparently, after they got out of the cars, they were told to walk up to where the challenge was taking place again and again. This was so the crew could get different angles of the contestants approaching the challenge area.
3 Some Of The Contestants Are Actors
While the setting, the challenges, and the overall premise of Survivor are a huge draw to the series, the contestants are what keep audiences coming back for more each week. And Survivor has been great at choosing some really interesting people to compete in the reality show over the years. This is even more impressive when you understand that most of the contestants have never even seen the show before, as the producers wanted people who were totally new to the system.
But how many of these people were hired based on their personality, and how many of them were hired based on their look? As it turns out, about one third of Survivor contestants were hired through agencies that represented actors and models. Suddenly, it all makes sense why there were so many hot people on the show...
2 They Give Them A Book With Instructions On How To Survive
While surviving is always a challenge, it's always made a lot easier if you know what you're doing. Even a rudimentary knowledge of the outdoors will help you big time if you ever get stuck or lost out in the wild. Most of us, however, are total "city slickers" with absolutely no knowledge of how to survive in the wild. On the other hand, there are a few of us who have spent some time camping and hiking, and we would probably be okay if we ever got lost out there.
After watching a few episodes of Survivor, it was obvious who had these skills and who did not. Some seemed to be pretty savvy at constructing shelters or finding food and water. But how much of this was actual inherent knowledge, and how much of it was simply information given to them by the producers? According to some past contestants and producers, each contestant was given a detailed book on how to survive in that area. So why were some better than others? According to these insiders, most contestants never bothered to open the book!
1 They Also Give Them A Box Full Of Medical Supplies
Surviving is a serious business, and a lot can go wrong. A simple cut can become infected quicker than you think, especially in tropical climates. Stomach issues can actually be quite dangerous in certain situations, particularly if there is no medial attention nearby. Poisonous insects and animals also lurk in these areas, and things can get ugly really fast if precautions are not taken. And many more unforeseen things can go completely wrong if you're really out there surviving on your own.
Of course, Survivor was a respected and legitimate show, so they couldn't have anyone becoming seriously injured on the show – or worse. Cuts above a certain severity were treated immediately, and there was actually a box full of medical supplies that was accessible at all times. This box included things like feminine hygiene products, basic first aid, and even fluid for contact lenses. You can see why they included this safety measure, but it still takes away from the whole spirit of survival somewhat.
Sources: ew.com, survivor.wikia.com