Survivor’s use of now-destroyed Ponderosa resort may have saved lives

Coach became the first member of the Survivor Heroes vs Villains jury a few weeks ago, and that meant the start of the Ponderosa web series, which gave Coach the chance to be the center of the camera’s attention for a few days until Courtney arrived, and gave the producers the chance to add in some product placement.

Although the jury members are living in the pre-fabricated–and now pretty banged-up–cabins that housed the crew in both Gabon and Tocantins, they’re located at the Ili’ili Resort, which hosted Ponderosa for Survivor Samoa and Survivor Heroes vs. Villains. Late last September, it was destroyed by the tsunami.

But because the production had just vacated the resort after using it as the Ponderosa outpost for four months, no tourists were staying there, which may have prevented casualties, according to its owner. Danielle Brussani, who is featured in one Ponderosa video, said in an interview, “It was pure luck that when the tsunami hit I had no guests for 10 days because the ‘Survivor’ company, had just left and I closed my resort to do major repairs and clean-up.”

A slideshow shows the destroyed resort, which is visible in Samoa contestants’ publicity photos and pre-game interview videos.

Watching the Ponderosa videos–which get more interesting after Courtney arrives to make sarcastic comments–is difficult without imagining what would eventually happen there. And knowing about the tsunami adds some weight to Coach’s comments about the violent weather there and wondering if it’s caused by an earthquake, or commenting that he can “feel the power of the surf as it comes rushing forward.”

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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, 37, 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.