Survivor’s 10-year anniversary party: from 20-season buffs to season 20 details

Saturday night, well over 200 of the 301 Survivor cast members–plus crew members, press, and members of the Television Critics Association–gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate the show’s 20th season and 10-year anniversary. Here are my reports, thoughts, and observations from the event:

  • The reunion/party/event was held in stage 46 at CBS Television City, the soundstage that is home to American Idol during the spring, so it’s at least used to drunkeness. The same stage is also used for L.A. Survivor finales, and next door is stage 36, home to Dancing with the Stars.
  • CBS reps said that around 900 people were expected, including critics, press, cast, and guests. Estimates from people there last night, however, were that around 500 seemed to be there at any one time, though people came and went throughout the evening; as I was leaving, Danny from Gabon was arriving. CBS said 214 cast members would attend, but that list didn’t quite match reality, and they also had plus-ones–some of whom were fans, and I don’t mean friends who happened to be fans.
  • Also in attendance: Big Brother host Julie Chen and her husband–and CBS executive–Les Moonves.
  • There was a wall with every logo and a hut with a thatched roof in the center had a bar and fire, in addition to several food stations and a couple other bars.
  • For security, everyone had to wear a buff, though no one wore it as a bikini top, alas. Here’s mine on my pale wrist, and a much higher-quality version of it lying flat. As you can see, it has all 20 seasons’ logos on it, but some press received red Heroes vs. Villains buffs. I saw one person with a purple buff, but have no idea what that meant; maybe they ran out of red?
  • Contestants wore blue buffs, and also had blue name tags on lanyards with their name and season, which was very helpful, especially when cast members’ egos were so big they couldn’t fit the lanyard around their head so they just didn’t wear a name tag. But that’s not to say everyone was so arrogant: When I met Mia from Vanuatu and looked obviously at her name tag, she joked, “I can’t believe you can’t remember who I am! I was on for four episodes.”
  • The party was interrupted by a recording of “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child (oh yes), and executive producer Mark Burnett toasted 20 seasons of the show. Jeff Probst took the stage, and thanked the cast all the way back to Borneo, and also “those of you that are here that are super-fans.” He finished by saying, “And to all of our crew members, whether you were on the show one season or you have been producing the show for all 20, I just want to raise a toast to 10 years of great times. We’re all part of it together. Here’s to Survivor!” Then “I Will Survive” started playing and Probst yelled, “Crank up the music–let’s karaoke!”
  • The season 20 cast members all had publicists standing nearby, probably to prevent them from leaking the results of the show that they’ve already leaked all over the Internet.
  • Russell Hantz tried to pretend that season 20 had not yet filmed, and when challenged by a critic, looked to the publicist, who said he couldn’t talk about strategy, which of course had nothing to do with when it filmed. And, of course, we knew the seasons were filming back to back last summer, never mind the fact that CBS aired a freakin’ preview that showed clips from the cold open. Ridiculous.
  • Want to see pictures of cast members who attended? Here’s Survivor.com’s great gallery, from Corinne’s surprising openness to an ass acting like an ass.
  • Cast members walked a red carpet on the way in, resulting in these kinds of pictures: one, two, three, four. The first-season final four were not photographed together. Hmm.
  • Season 20 cast gossip from their conversations with TV critics: Jonathan Penner lost his spot to Russell Hantz; Colby took the same Texas flag with him for season 20, but waterproofed and modified it, so luxury items will apparently be allowed; Probst called Fairplay a “quitter” when explaining why he wasn’t invited back as a villain; Mark Burnett thought Rudy Boesch is too old to compete on season 20; and Jerri Manthey “gave them a lot of material.”
  • Other reports: Richard Hatch challenged some questions by saying he’d answer them only if critics proved they’d done their research; Yau-Man is still bitter about Dreamz (still!); Russell is still upset about his loss (unsurprising); Ozzy is now acting.
  • Jenna Morasca was interviewing cast members in an “Ethan Cam” corner so they could send thoughts to Ethan Zahn, who’s completing his stem cell transplant in isolation. Here’s a clip of that was shot by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Gail Pennington.
  • Contestants danced.
  • As I was about to leave, Coach spotted me; he was telling critics about filming a movie this spring. He told me he had a great quote for me, and said, “I think it defines you. Voltaire said, ‘The measure of a man is not in the questions that he answers, but that in the questions that he asks.’” As much as it warmed my heart to be complimented by the Dragon Slayer, I couldn’t find the quote when I Googled later, but instead found that Voltaire actually said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” I may revise this once I see season 20, but I’ve grown to like Coach ever since he was voted off last spring, and he’s super-mellow now, compared to the way he was both in Brazil before the game and, of course, during it. But it’s good to know he’s still mixing philosophy with Clay Aiken lyrics.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.