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Survivor (U.S. TV series)

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Fan-made recreation of the logo for Survivor: Borneo.
FormatReality competition
Created byCharlie Parsons
Presented byJeff Probst
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons19
No. of episodes259
Running time42 minutes
Original channelCBS
Original runMay 31, 2000 (2000-05-31) – present
Related showsExpedition Robinson
International versions
External links
Official website

Survivor is an American version of the Survivor reality television game show, itself derived from the Swedish television series Expedition Robinson originally created in 1997 by Charlie Parsons, and first broadcast in May 2000. Mark Burnett produces the American series. Its host is the former game show emcee and news reporter, Jeff Probst. The CBS television network broadcasts the premier run of each season, and syndication to other cable networks follows. Russ Landau composed the theme song.

The show maroons a group of strangers (as one or more tribes) in a desolate locale, where they must provide food, water, fire, and shelter for themselves, while competing in challenges to earn either a reward, or an immunity from expulsion from the game in the next of the successive votes for elimination. While much rarer than elimination by vote, medical conditions, such as injury or infection, have eliminated several contestants. The last two or three survivors face a jury historically comprising of at least the last seven players voted off. That jury interrogates the final few, and then votes for the winner of the title of Sole Survivor and a million dollar prize.

The American version has been very successful. From the 2000-2001 through the 2005-2006 television seasons its first eleven seasons (competitions) rated amongst the top ten most watched shows. It is commonly considered the mother of American reality TV because it was the first highly-rated and profitable reality show on broadcast television in the USA, and is considered one of the most important shows of the first decade of the 21st century.[1][2][3]

The show completed its nineteenth season, Survivor: Samoa, on December 20, 2009. Probst has signed a contract to host the show through its twentieth season.[4] The 10th anniversary edition of the show was also filmed in Samoa. The show's second "All-Stars" season is titled Heroes vs. Villains. The twentieth season will premiere February 11, 2010.[5] In January 2010, CBS ordered two more seasons, the 21st and 22nd, making it television's longest-running reality competition series.[6]

On November 4, 2009, it was announced that the show would be turned into a video game. The Survivor game would require players to participate in various challenges like those in the reality shows in order to win.[7] A previous version of the game, in which the player could play as any of the 32 Pulau Tiga and Australian Outback cast members or create a character from scratch, was released on November 13, 2001, but received poor reviews.[8]

On January 19, 2010, Jennifer Lyon of Survivor: Palau died at the age of 37 after a 5-year battle with breast cancer, becoming the first former Survivor castaway to die.[9]


Format and rules

The first U.S. season of Survivor followed the same general format as the Swedish series, but since then, the show has introduced several twists to the core rules to keep players on guard in newer seasons from relying on strategies present in previous seasons. These changes have included tribal switches, seasons starting with more than two tribes, the ability to exile a player from their tribe for a short time, and a hidden immunity idol that a player can use to save themselves at the tribal vote.

U.S. Survivor seasons

The United States version is produced by Mark Burnett and hosted by Jeff Probst. It airs Thursdays on CBS. Each competition is called a season, has a unique name, and lasts from 13 to 15 episodes. The first season of Survivor was broadcast as a summer replacement show in 2000. Starting with Survivor: The Australian Outback there have been two Survivor seasons aired during each U.S. television season.

#NameLocationOriginal tribesWinnerRunner(s)-upVoteNotes
1Survivor: BorneoPulau Tiga, Sabah, Borneo, MalaysiaTwo tribes of eightRichard HatchKelly Wiglesworth4-3Only season to air on Wednesdays.
2Survivor: The Australian OutbackHerbert River at Goshen Station, Queensland, AustraliaTwo tribes of eightTina WessonColby Donaldson4-3Michael Skupin suffered burns and became the first contestant to be evacuated due to injuries; only season to film for more than 39 days, running 42 days.
3Survivor: AfricaShaba National Reserve, Kenya[10]Two tribes of eightEthan ZohnKim Johnson5-2First season to feature a tribal swap
4Survivor: MarquesasNuku Hiva, Marquesas IslandsTwo tribes of eightVecepia ToweryNeleh Dennis4-3The only time the infamous Purple Rock tie breaker was ever used
5Survivor: ThailandKo Tarutao, Satun Province, ThailandTwo tribes of eight picked by the two oldest players, Jake and JanBrian HeidikClay Jordan4-3First to feature a fake merge and a delayed merge
6Survivor: The AmazonRio Negro, Amazonas, BrazilTwo tribes of eight divided by genderJenna MorascaMatthew Von Ertfelda6-1First time a reality show contestant competed with a disability - the hearing impaired Christy Smith
7Survivor: Pearl IslandsPearl Islands, PanamaTwo tribes of eightSandra Diaz-TwineLillian Morris6-1First and only time players who had been voted out were allowed to return to the game as part of the Outcast Tribe; first season in which a player, Osten Taylor, quit the game
8Survivor: All-StarsPearl Islands, PanamaThree tribes of six returning playersAmber BrkichRob Mariano4-3Survivor: America's Tribal Council was held four days later, and a second million-dollar prize was awarded to Rupert Boneham for being voted by the viewers as their favorite contestant; Mariano proposed to Brkich during the Reunion.
9Survivor: Vanuatu - Islands of FireEfate, Shefa Province, VanuatuTwo tribes of nine divided by genderChris DaughertyTwila Tanner5-2Chris was the only male remaining in the final seven; Chad Crittenden was the first amputee contestant.
10Survivor: PalauKoror, Palau, MicronesiaA schoolyard pick of two tribes of nine, starting with Ian and Jolanda; two eliminated without a tribeTom WestmanKatie Gallagher6-1Only season in which one of the tribes, Koror, won all the immunity challenges - Stephenie LaGrossa, the last member of the defeated tribe, Ulong, was simply absorbed into Koror.
11Survivor: Guatemala - The Maya EmpireLaguna Yaxhá, Yaxhá-Nakúm-Naranjo National Park, Petén, GuatemalaTwo tribes of nine, including Stephenie LaGrossa and Bobby Jon Drinkard from PalauDanni BoatwrightStephenie LaGrossa6-1First season to include a hidden immunity idol.
12Survivor: Panama - Exile IslandPearl Islands, PanamaFour tribes of four divided by age and genderAras BaskauskasDanielle DiLorenzo5-2First season to include Exile Island throughout the show and first to offer the hidden Immunity Idol throughout, which could only be found by being exiled to Exile Island.
13Survivor: Cook IslandsAitutaki, Cook IslandsFour tribes of five divided by ethnicity: African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, and AsiansYul KwonOzzy Lusth
Becky Lee
5-4-0Both Exile Island and the Hidden Immunity Idol were used throughout the season; first time three castaways were involved in the final vote, with a jury composed of nine members
14Survivor: FijiMacuata, Vanua Levu, FijiTwo tribes of nine divided by Sylvia, who herself joined Ravu after the first tribal councilEarl ColeCassandra Franklin
Dre "Dreamz" Herd
9-0-0First time the total number of castaways was an odd number (19), due to the last minute withdrawal of one contestant.[11] As part of the twist to this season, one tribe enjoyed much luxuries while the other had virtually nothing; first unanimous victory.
15Survivor: ChinaZhelin Reservoir, Jiujiang, Jiangxi, People's Republic of ChinaTwo tribes of eightTodd HerzogCourtney Yates
Amanda Kimmel
4-2-1A twist involving kidnapping players from the opposing tribe replaced Exile Island
16Survivor: Micronesia - Fans vs FavoritesKoror, Palau, MicronesiaTwo tribes of ten: fans against popular past contestantsParvati ShallowAmanda Kimmel5-3Two contestants, one from each tribe, were sent to Exile Island; first season to have three castaways leave due to reasons other than being voted out.
17Survivor: Gabon - Earth's Last EdenWonga-Wongue Presidential Reserve, Estuaire, GabonA schoolyard pick of two tribes of nine, starting with the oldest players, Bob & GillianRobert "Bob" CrowleySusie Smith
Jessica "Sugar" Kiper
4-3-0First season shot and aired in HD.[12] The show premiered on September 25 as a two-hour event.[13] On Exile Island, the player selected could choose the clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol or take comfort of a hammock, pillows and fresh fruit.
18Survivor: Tocantins - The Brazilian HighlandsJalapão, Tocantins, BrazilTwo tribes of eightJames "J.T." Thomas Jr.Stephen Fishbach7-0Two players were sent to exile, where one would receive a clue to the hidden immunity idol
19Survivor: SamoaUpolu, SamoaTwo tribes of tenNatalie WhiteRussell Hantz
Mick Trimming
7-2-0The tribe who won reward sent one of their castaways to accompany the losing tribe back to their campsite and observe them until the next immunity challenge.
20Survivor: Heroes vs. VillainsUpolu, SamoaTwo tribes of ten returning players, deemed as "heroes" or "villains"TBDTBDTBD

U.S. television ratings

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of the United States version of Survivor on CBS.

Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.

Survivor: Borneo doesn't have a ranking because it aired in the summer of 2000. It would have ranked #2 in the 1999-2000 U.S. television season, assuming it would have attained the exact same viewership numbers as it did in the summer of 2000.

ProgramTimeslot (ET/PT)PremieredEndedTV SeasonRankViewers
(in millions)
(in millions)
(in millions)
(in millions)
Survivor: BorneoWednesday 8:00PMMay 31, 2000[14]15.51August 23, 200051.69[14]36.70[15]1999-2000#228.30[16]
Survivor: The Australian OutbackThursday 8:00PMJanuary 28, 2001[17]45.371May 3, 2001[18]36.3528.012000-2001#129.80[19]
Survivor: AfricaOctober 11, 2001[20]23.84January 10, 2002[21]27.2619.052001-2002#520.69[22]
Survivor: MarquesasFebruary 28, 2002[23]23.19May 19, 2002[24]25.8717.89#420.77[25]
Survivor: ThailandSeptember 19, 2002[26]23.05December 19, 2002[27]24.0820.432002-2003#621.21[28]
Survivor: The AmazonFebruary 13, 2003[29]23.26May 11, 2003[30]22.2917.65#819.97[28]
Survivor: Pearl IslandsSeptember 18, 2003[31]21.50December 14, 2003[32]25.2321.872003-2004#620.72[33]
Survivor: All-StarsFebruary 1, 2004[34]33.541May 9, 2004[35]24.7623.92#321.49[36]
Survivor: VanuatuSeptember 16, 2004[37]20.06December 12, 2004[38]19.7215.232004-2005#619.64[39]
Survivor: PalauFebruary 17, 2005[39]23.66May 15, 2005[40]20.8015.48#520.91[41]
Survivor: GuatemalaSeptember 15, 2005[42]18.41December 11, 2005[43]21.1815.212005-2006#818.30[41]
Survivor: PanamaFebruary 2, 2006[44]19.20May 14, 2006[45]17.0711.65#1116.82[46]
Survivor: Cook IslandsSeptember 14, 2006[47]18.00December 17, 200616.4213.532006-2007#1315.75[48]
Survivor: FijiFebruary 8, 2007[49]16.68May 13, 200713.6311.43#1514.83[48]
Survivor: ChinaSeptember 20, 2007[50]15.35December 16, 200715.1012.222007-2008#8[51]15.18[52]
Survivor: MicronesiaFebruary 7, 2008[53]14.02May 11, 200812.9210.84#11[51]13.51[51]
Survivor: GabonSeptember 25, 200813.05[54]December 14, 200813.7711.742008-2009#15[55]13.81[55]
Survivor: TocantinsFebruary 12, 200913.80[56]May 17, 200912.94[55]11.59[55]#19[57]12.92[58]
Survivor: SamoaSeptember 17, 2009[59]11.66[60]December 20, 200913.97[61]11.68[61]2009-201013.45[62]
Survivor: Heroes vs. VillainsFebruary 11, 2010[5]

^1  The season premieres of Survivor: The Australian Outback and Survivor: All-Stars each aired after a Super Bowl. Survivor seasons (competitions) broadcast in winter/spring have had episodes moved to Wednesdays at 8:00pm to avoid conflicts with broadcasts of the first two weeks of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. For Survivor: Marquesas and every competition beginning with Survivor: The Amazon, the finale was broadcast Sunday Night at 8:00pm. In addition, for the spring Survivor season (second competition of the television season), this finale has almost always coincided with Mother's Day in the United States (2009 was an exception).


Locations of the different seasons

The American version of Survivor has been shot in many locations around the world since the first season, favoring warm, tropical climates.

ContinentLocations (Season number)
AfricaKenya (3), Gabon (17)
AsiaBorneo (1), China (15), Thailand (5)
OceaniaAustralia (2), Cook Islands (13), Fiji (14), Marquesas (4), Palau (10, 16), Samoa (19, 20), Vanuatu (9)
North America (Central America)Guatemala (11), Panama (7, 8, 12)
South AmericaBrazil (6, 18)

Post-show auctions

At the end of each U.S. Survivor series from Survivor: Africa onward, various Survivor props and memorabilia are auctioned online for charity. The most common recipient has been the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Most recently, proceeds have gone toward The Serpentine Project, a charity founded by Jeff Probst, dedicated to helping those transitioning out of foster care upon emancipation at eighteen years of age. Items up for auction have included flags, mats, tree mails, contestant torches, contestant clothing, autographed items, immunity idols and the voting urn.

Controversies and legal action

Turmoil between players is commonplace for any reality series, but Survivor has had a few instances which went beyond mere intertribal squabbles. More recently, there have been debates, some even prior to the series' premiere, regarding the formatting of the show:

  • In February 2001, Borneo player Stacey Stillman filed a lawsuit claiming producers interfered in the process of the game by persuading two members of her tribe (Sean Kenniff and Dirk Been) to vote her off instead of Rudy Boesch.
  • During a reward trip, Colby Donaldson removed corals from the Great Barrier Reef. In the same trip, a helicopter involved in the production flew around protected sea bird rookeries.[63]
  • At the trivia immunity challenge for Africa's final four players, host Jeff Probst asked which female player in their season had no piercings. Kim Johnson answered Kelly Goldsmith, got the point, and went on to win the challenge, which pushed her to third and ultimately (after another immunity win) second place. Tom Buchanan was eliminated. Months later, the cast and producers (who were preparing for the live finale and reunion) watched the episode backstage. During the rebroadcast of the challenge, Lindsey Richter shouted to the TV that she had no piercings. Lex van den Berghe's answer had been Lindsey, yet the show had not awarded him a point, thus significantly changing the outcome of the game (van den Berghe was eliminated in third place). CBS later paid van den Berghe and Buchanan a settlement.[64]
  • In the fifth episode of the All-Star season, a naked Richard Hatch may or may not have come into contact with Sue Hawk after she blocked his path during an immunity challenge. Hatch was voted out that day for other reasons; Hawk quit the game a few days later (episode six). Hawk considered filing a lawsuit against the parties involved, but appeared with Hatch on The Early Show the morning after the sixth episode aired, stating she opted out of legal action because CBS had helped her "deal with the situation."[65]
  • In order to be sure to win a Reward Challenge in which the castaways competed to win a visit from their friends or loved ones, Pearl Islands Survivor Jonny "Fairplay" Dalton conspired beforehand with friend Dan Fields in what has been described by Probst as the greatest lie on Survivor to date. Fields told Dalton that his grandmother, Jean Cooke, had died, in order to win sympathy from his tribemates and subsequently the reward. In reality, Cooke had not died, a fact that only emerged to his tribemates once the episode had aired. When the show staff heard the report of Cooke's death, they called Dalton's family to offer condolences, only to have Cooke herself answer the phone. Dalton admitted in confessional after the challenge that his grandmother was alive and "probably watching Jerry Springer right now." On that season's reunion show, Jeff Probst had a short interview with Cooke, who was indeed alive and well.
  • Rupert Boneham, originally on Survivor: Pearl Islands and then part of Survivor: All-Stars was an extremely popular player with television audiences, but finished eighth and fourth, respectively, in his appearances on the show. As part of Survivor: All-Stars, a special Survivor: America's Tribal Council contest for the 18 players was created, where the winner would be selected by the viewing audience and would receive US$1 million prize; Rupert won this prize, unsurprisingly, with more than 80% of the votes cast. Many long-time Survivor fans saw this as a way of diluting the overall concept of the show, that instead of outwitting, outplaying and outlasting your fellow tribe members to win the game, a player could now play specifically to gain popularity with the show's audience, regardless of how well he played the game, and still would be rewarded with a large prize.[66]
  • Richard Hatch, the winner of the first season of Survivor, was charged and found guilty in January 2006 of failing to report his winnings to the IRS to avoid taxes. He has been sentenced to four years, three months in prison.[67]
  • The 13th season of Survivor, known as Survivor: Cook Islands, began with tribes grouped according to race. Host Jeff Probst claims the choice "came from the criticism that Survivor was not ethnically diverse enough."[68] Several long-term sponsors, including Campbell's Soup, Procter & Gamble, Home Depot, Coca Cola, and General Motors[69] dropped their support of the show shortly after this announcement, leading to speculation that the decisions were in response to the controversy. Each of the companies has either denied the link or declined to comment.[70]
  • Mark Burnett has also received criticism for reenacting scenes with actor stand ins which he claims were used to increase production value and did not affect the outcome.[71]
  • The program angered its fan base when Jeff Probst revealed that Survivor: Fiji ignored the thousands of viewer applicants and instead used their own recruited players. It was revealed that Gary Stritesky was the only actual applicant chosen, while the rest used on the show were recruits.[72] While Probst defended the process by claiming they wanted to find more diverse players, 10 of the recruits were from California (13 the previous season) and many were young unemployed actors found in places like bars and MySpace.[73] One example was Mellisa McNulty, a Fiji recruit, who was unable to even make it to the island, quitting because of a panic attack merely five hours before departing.[74]
  • At the Survivor: China reunion show, Denise Martin told producers and the audience her unfortunate story of being demoted to a janitor from a lunch lady because of the distraction she was to students. Because of her claimed misfortune, Mark Burnett awarded Martin US$50,000. Martin ultimately recanted the story after the school district publicly stated that she had taken the custodial position before appearing on the show.[75] She also decided to donate the $50,000 to charity.[76]
  • A brief uncensored shot of Marcus Lehman's genitals during the premiere episode of Survivor: Gabon has led to the show and network being asked to apologize for the incident.[77]


The wild success of Survivor spawned a wide range of merchandise from the very first season. While early items available were limited to buffs, water bottles, hats, t-shirts, and other typical souvenir items, the marketability of the franchise has grown tremendously. Today, fans can find innumerable items, including computer and board games, interactive online games, mugs, tribal-themed jewelry, beach towels, dog tags, magnets, multi-function tools, DVD seasons, Survivor party kits, insider books, soundtracks, and more.

One of the more novel merchandising items has been the interactive Survivor: The Ride thrill ride at Great America in Santa Clara, California. The ride includes a rotating platform on which riders are divided into one of four "tribes." As the ride moves along an undulating track, riders can be sprayed by water guns hidden in oversized tribal masks while drums and other familiar Survivor musical accents play in the background. Other theming includes Survivor memorabilia throughout the queue line and other merchandise for sale in nearby gift shops.[78]

DVD releases

Best of

DVD nameRelease date
Season One: The Greatest and Most Outrageous MomentsJanuary 1, 2001
Season Two: The Greatest and Most Outrageous MomentsSeptember 25, 2001

Full seasons

DVD nameRelease date
The Complete First Season: BorneoMay 11, 2004
The Complete Second Season: Australian OutbackApril 26, 2005
The Complete Seventh Season: Pearl IslandsFebruary 7, 2006
The Complete Eighth Season: All-StarsSeptember 14, 2004
The Complete Ninth Season: VanuatuDecember 5, 2006
The Complete Tenth Season: PalauAugust 29, 2006

Complete seasons on iTunes

Currently available
Season 9: Vanuatu
Season 10: Palau
Season 11: Guatemala
Season 12: Panama
Season 13: Cook Islands
Season 14: Fiji
Season 15: China
Season 16: Micronesia
Season 17: Gabon
Season 18: Tocantins
Season 19: Samoa

See also


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  2. ^ Bianco, Robert (2009-12-29). "The decade in television: Cable, the Internet become players". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/news/2009-12-28-decadeTV28_CV_N.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  3. ^ Goodman, Tim (2010-01-01). "Decade in review: Television". San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/01/DDF21B93LU.DTL. Retrieved 2010-01-08. 
  4. ^ Dalton Ross (February 1, 2008). "'Survivor: Micronesia': EW's On Location Preview". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20175195_4,00.html. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  5. ^ a b Kate Stanhope (December 21, 2009). "Survivor Reuniting Former Cast Members for Heroes vs. Villains". TV Guide.com. http://www.tvguide.com/News/Survivor-Reuniting-Cast-1013263.aspx. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
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  8. ^ , December 22, 2009, http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/survivor, retrieved 2009-12-22 
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  11. ^ ""The Slug" - Jeff Probst Talks "Survivor: Fiji"". http://asapblogs.typepad.com/theslug/2007/01/jeff_probst_tal.html. 
  12. ^ Glen Dickson (2008-04-13). "NAB 2008: Sony Nets Big HD Camera Sales". Broadcasting & Cable. http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6550937.html. Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
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  18. ^ "Zap2It: 'Survivor' Finale Reaches 41 Million". May 4, 2001. http://tv.zap2it.com/tveditorial/tve_main/1,1002,271%7C67657%7C1%7C,00.html. 
  19. ^ "E! Online: CBS Wins Season (via WNDU)". May 25, 2001. http://www.wndu.com/entertainment/052001/entertainment_7900.php. 
  20. ^ "Hollywood.com: News Roundup: Carey makes McBeal guest appearance". October 22, 2001. http://www.hollywood.com/news/detail/id/1096693. 
  21. ^ "Zap2It: 'Survivor' Finale Draws 27 Million Viewers". January 11, 2002. http://tv.zap2it.com/tveditorial/tve_main/1,1002,271%7C73071%7C1%7C,00.html. 
  22. ^ "Media Life Magazine: Mercy, it's a killer of a midseason". January 16, 2002. http://www.medialifemagazine.com/news2002/jan02/jan14/3_wed/news1wednesday.html. 
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  26. ^ "Hollywood.com: News Roundup: A Hero Will Rise Again". September 23, 2001. http://www.hollywood.com/news/detail/id/1620990. 
  27. ^ "Reality TV World: 'Survivor: Thailand' finale draws big ratings". December 23, 2002. http://www.realitytvworld.com/news/survivor-thailand-finale-draws-big-ratings-822.php. 
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