Survivor begins its 30th season tonight, and this felt like a good occasion to look back through the archives of all my Survivor coverage from 15 years. There were more than 1,700 stories and posts, for a total of 69 pages, and I decided to highlight some of my favorite writing about the show I still love 30 seasons later, even if it sometimes disappoints me. What Mark Burnett created and Jeff Probst now runs really is an exceptional body of television.
A disclaimer: This list of stories is not an exhaustive history of the show in link form, and there is somewhat of a bias toward later seasons. That’s primarily because, in the early years of reality blurred, I was mostly just linking–to stories in local papers or things buried on the web–so there isn’t a lot of writing.
Also, I’d planned on choosing just 30, but I couldn’t cut some of these out, so I went with 51: one for every million viewers who watched the season-one finale. And yes, I totally cheated by using many links on some of these. Enjoy.
- The night that sealed the deal: 51 million people watched Rich win Survivor (and also freaked out).
- Mark Burnett admits what the show was really all about.
- As part of Stacey Stillman’s lawsuit claiming her elimination was rigged, which got her counter-sued for $5 million, Dirk Been says Mark Burnett suggested an alliance.
- Remember the time when Survivor Sucks was thought to be Mark Burnett, and when spoilers came from analyzing web code instead of talking to former cast members?
- Who is Ellipsiiis? The better question now: remember Ellipsiiis?
- By far my favorite early headline was this one: on Pulau Tiga, the body odor was like “hot garbage.”
Some Survivor news I broke
- The big one: Survivor’s rule book and cast contract.
- Survivor spoiler sued, gives up Russell Hantz as the source of the leaks (a lawsuit Mark Burnett denied known about).
- Blood vs. Water, the twist that seemed almost unbelievable at the time.
Behind the scenes on Survivor
- The last milestone: Survivor’s 10-year anniversary party, which reunited more than 200 of the show’s cast members.
- My first time observing Survivor’s first three days in person.
- Behind the scenes of Schmergen Brawl, the brutal challenge that made Survivor history.
- I reported on how challenges are created for NPR.
- Something that people still ask: where Jeff Probst gets his shirts.
Old and new Jeff Probst
- Probst: “I will ride this motherfucker down until it crashes me on the sand.” I love early Jeff Probst so much.
- Probst: “I want to be liked.”
- Jeff wins the first-ever reality host Emmy.
- I still want Probst and CBS to let the Survivors tweet.
- Yes, I sometimes admit I’m wrong.
- Survivor’s status quo sexism: barely noticeable, totally Probst
- More sexism: Why Survivor’s returnees tend to have penises
- RIP Survivor, murdered at 26 by Jeff Probst. I still stand by the central ideas in this piece, even though, yes, that season recovered and the show is still very much alive.
- Cats react to John Rocker and Jeff Probst. I should do this more. But with tarsiers.
Interviews with winners and others
- Survivor producer Mark Burnett told me: “You ask such stupid questions”
- After CBS called Survivor Gabon Marcus’ penis “virtually undetectable,” he told me, “even my penis was surprised to see itself on TV.”
- Colby Donaldson says “reality was manipulated” on Survivor Heroes vs. Villains–specifically, using pick-up shots to fake some action.
- Before she won again, Sandra Diaz-Twine told me she’d have the same strategy “because they’re dummies.”
- My first conversation with Tyson Apostol.
- When I first met Russell Hantz, he said he controlled everyone.
- Eventual winner Bob Crowley had a surprising approach to the game.
- Rob Mariano had the right idea but he was one season too early.
- Rob Cesternino talks RHAP, Survivor, spoilers, and more.
- Ben “Coach” Wade talks about the response to him and his game play: “It’s hurt me; I’m human.” I later went and spent time with Coach, including staying in his home, for a Playboy story.
A recap of Survivor recaps
- Survivor’s magnanimous, selfless queen graciously steps aside to let others play.
- Survivor contestants pee in their own pool.
- Oh, the old ABCs: thanks to Sean’s brilliant voting strategy, Jenna gets kicked off.
- How the Survivors would introduce themselves at the merge if they were honest
- Why Survivor Philippines was so satisfyingly great.
- Jon lies about dead grandma. I was very mad about that, clearly.
- Rob Mariano’s win: the most satisfying, well-deserved, obvious victory in Survivor history.
Survivor news and Survivor in the news
- Mark Burnett admits to using stand-ins and re-enactments during Survivor. Because it’s done so well, this still surprises people, even me. (Just watch for the doubles during helicopter shots.)
- Survivor 2 production cards reveal biographical details, character roles.
- Todd Herzog on Dr. Phil: exploitative and necessary
- An early note to journalists, where I asked them to please watch the show before writing about it.
- A former cast member comes out, admitting, “I truly hate myself.”
- The middle of many years of legal drama: Richard Hatch sentenced to more than four years in prison for lying “repeatedly.” Oh, the irony.
- How Survivor winner Cochran got a job writing for a CBS sitcom (which recently got cancelled, alas).