Survivor season one is the reality TV show that changed television. CBS’s genre-defining reality competition show wasn’t the first American reality TV show (PBS’s An American Family, MTV’s The Real World), nor the first competition (MTV’s Road Rules), nor even the first broadcast network reality show (ABC’s Making the Band).
But from its cinematic editing and dramatic game play to its exponentially increasing ratings, it was a hit that set the standard for reality competitions—and made it clear to other networks that the genre.
In 2000, I’d just been fired from my job recapping The Real World, and while I obsessively followed Survivor and blogged about in reality blurred‘s early pages, I didn’t recap or review season one—not until 20 years later, when I rewatched the show in 2020, a year that only had one new seasons of the CBS show..
While I don’t think there can be spoilers for 20-year-old TV shows, these recaps were written in hindsight, so they discuss both the events of the episodes and what’s ahead in the season. Enjoy!
A recap and analysis of Survivor Borneo: season 1, episode 1, "The Marooning," which first aired on CBS Wednesday, May 31, 2000, stranding 16 Americans on the island of Pulau Tiga to play a game for $1 million.
The first alliance in Survivor history was not Richard Hatch's creation, but began with Kelly and Sue on Survivor Borneo, season 1, episode 4, “Too Little, Too Late,” which originally aired Wednesday, June 21, 2000.
Some players are content to just hang around and have fun while both challenges and editing perpetuated harmful stereotypes on Survivor Borneo, season 1, episode 5, “Pulling Your Own Weight,” which originally aired Wednesday, June 28, 2000.
In the last immunity challenge before the merge on Survivor Borneo, season 1, episode 6, “Udder Revenge,” which originally aired Wednesday, July 5, 2000, Tagi takes a tiny lead, which sends it into the merge with a majority. That’s how close we were to Tagi becoming a verb.
Tagi and Pagong join together and the game shifts to an individual game for one tribe—but not for the other!—on Survivor Borneo, season 1, episode 7, “The Merger,” which originally aired Wednesday, July 12, 2000.
If Dr. Sean hadn't used his alphabetical voting method, Richard Hatch might have been voted out during Survivor Borneo, season 1, episode 9, “Old and New Bonds,” which originally aired Wednesday, July 26, 2000.
Gervase's new kid gets a lot of attention Survivor: Borneo episode. So does strategizing: Jeff Probst's recap of Tribal Council to discussions of whether to break up an alliance, strategy has moved to the forefront of Survivor: Borneo, season 1, episode 10, “Crack in the Alliance,” which originally aired Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2000.
The reward challenge for Survivor Borneo, season 1, episode 12, “Death of an Alliance”—which originally aired Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2000—turned out to be pivotal for the show’s crew and host Jeff Probst, who told the story of what happened behind the scenes when the cast threatened to not compete in the reward challenge.
A dramatic final challenge and an epic Tribal Council speech—plus the announcement of who's won the $1 million prize—conclude Survivor Borneo, season 1, episode 13, “The Final Four,” which originally aired Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2000.
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Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.
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