A few weeks ago, I analyzed the ages of all Big Brother houseguests over 17 seasons, to see if CBS’ summer reality competition was getting younger. Now, it’s time to do the same for contestants on Survivor, which has aired two seasons a year since 2000.
reality blurred Survivor age correspondent Clark Wilcox ran the numbers, and included extra data, such as how many players over the age of 40 made it to the merge and the average age of those who make it to the final Tribal Council.
The results, as with Big Brother, are fascinating. For starters, Survivor Cambodia: Second Chance will be the show’s second-oldest season ever, and it’s only barely behind Nicaragua.
Survivor cast members’ ages, 2000 to 2015
|average age||average age of final two or three||players 40+||players 40+ at merge||youngest||oldest|
|Borneo||35.8||31||3||1||Jenna Lewis, 22||Rudy Boesch, 72|
|Australian Outback||33.7||32.5||4||2||Amber Brkich, 22||Rodger Bingham, 53|
|Africa||35.1||42||7||4||Kelly Goldsmith, 22||Kim Johnson, 57|
|Marquesas||34.8||28.5||4||2||Neleh Dennis, 21||Paschal English, 57|
|Thailand||35.4||40||5||4||Robb Zbacnik, 23||Jake Billingsley, 61|
|Amazon||32.2||27.5||4||2||Jenna Morasca, 21||Roger Sexton, 56|
|Pearl Islands||30.6||40||3||2||Michelle T. and Darrah J., 22||Lillian Morris, 51|
|All Stars||36.7||26.5||8||4||Jenna Morasca, 22||Rudy Boesch, 75|
|Vanuatu||33.6||37||4||3||Eliza Orlins, 21||Scout Cloud Lee, 59|
|Palau||32.4||35||4||2||Jeff Wilson, 21||Willard Smith, 57|
|Guatemala||31.2||27.5||4||2||Morgan M. and Brianna V.,21||Jim Lynch, 63|
|Exile Island||35.1||24||5||2||Misty, Austin, Danielle, & Aras, 24||Bruce Kanegai, 58|
|Cook Islands||31.9||28||3||1||Candice Woodcock, 23||Sekou Bunch, 46|
|Fiji||33.7||34||4||2||Michelle Yi, 23||Gary Stritesky, 55|
|China||30.2||23.7||2||1||Michael “Frosti” Zernow, 20||Steve “Chicken” Morris, 48|
|Micronesia||33.2||24||5||0||Jason S. and Erik R., 22||Yau-Man Chan, 55|
|Gabon||32.7||44.3||4||3||Kelly C. & Ken H., 22||Gillian Larson, 61|
|Tocantins||31.8||26.5||3||1||Spencer Duhm, 19||Sandy Burgin, 53|
|Samoa||33.3||31.7||4||1||Ashley Trainer, 22||Mike Borassi, 62|
|Heroes vs. Villains||33.8||32.7||3||1||Amanda K. & J.T. T., 25||Randy Bailey, 50|
|Nicaragua||37.6||25||10||4||Kelly Shinn, 20||Jimmy Johnson, 67|
|Redemption Island||34.3||35||5||4||Natalie Tenerelli, 19||Phillip Sheppard, 52|
|South Pacific||32.1||29||4||2||Brandon Hantz, 19||Rick Nelson, 51|
|One World||33.3||29.3||4||2||Colton Cumbie, 21||Greg “Tarzan” Smith, 64|
|Philippines||34.6||46.7||7||6||Angie Layton, 20||Artis Silvester, 53|
|Caramoan||30.8||36||4||4||Brandon H. and Julia L., 21||Phillip Sheppard, 54|
|Blood vs. Water||33.8||39.7||7||4||Marissa Peterson, 21||Tina Wesson, 52|
|Cagayan||32.3||34||4||2||Alexis, Morgan, and Spencer, 21||Trish Hegarty, 48|
|San Juan Del Sur||32.6||33.3||3||2||Baylor Wilson, 20||Dale Wentworth, 55|
|Worlds Apart||33.9||43.7||5||4||Jenn Brown, 22||Carolyn Rivera, 52|
Cambodia: Second Chance||37.2||N/A||6||(unknown)||Spencer Bledsoe, 22||Terry Deitz, 55|
The average age of a Survivor cast member has been 33.5, compared to 28.9 for Big Brother. The average age of the finalists has been 32.9, slightly younger but only slightly. In other words, it doesn’t appear that age gives any kind of statistical advantage.
That said, it’s less likely that players 40 and over make it to the merge: about half of them are voted out pre-merge. There are an average of 4.58 of those Survivors every season, and an average of 2.5 make it to the merge. (I’ll leave it to you to judge the relationship between a season’s average age and its quality of game play.)
What is Survivor continues to cast relatively large numbers of players over 40–often 25 percent or more of the entire cast. For many reasons, it’s superior to other shows on television, unscripted and not, but I think its commitment to diversity in casting, both age and otherwise, is part of what makes it so strong.