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Survivor is an Americanmarker version of the Survivor reality television game show, itself derived from the Swedishmarker 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 comprising the last seven, sometimes nine, 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.

The current and nineteenth season, Survivor: Samoa, premiered on CBS on Thursday, September 17, 2009. Probst has signed a contract to host the show through its twentieth season. This 10th Anniversary edition of the show was also filmed in Samoa and is speculated to be another "All Stars" season, themed around 'Heroes vs. Villains'.

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.

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. The first season of Survivor was broadcast as a summer replacement show in 2000. Since then the show has been broadcast each U.S. television season. Each competition is called a "season," has a unique name, and lasts from 13 to 15 episodes. Starting with Survivor: The Australian Outback there have been two Survivor seasons aired during each U.S. television season.

  1. Survivor: Borneo was set in the South China Seamarker on the remote Malaysianmarker island of Pulau Tigamarker. Corporate trainer Richard Hatch was its winner in a 4-3 vote over river raft guide Kelly Wiglesworth. This is the only season to have aired on Wednesdays; subsequent seasons would lead off CBS's primetime schedule on Thursdays with the finale on a Sunday. This season was also the only season to reveal the winner on location rather than live.
  2. Survivor: The Australian Outback was set in the Australian Outback (though the location was by Australian standards not particularly remote, nor was it arid). Registered nurse Tina Wesson won 4-3 over custom car designer and actor Colby Donaldson. During this series, Michael Skupin suffered burns and became the first contestant evacuated due to injuries. This is the only season to last more than 39 days (to date), running 42 days total. Also this is the most watched season to date.
  3. Survivor: Africa was set in Kenya'smarker Shaba National Reserve, (previously home to the film Born Free). This was the first season to feature a tribal swap. Former USL player Ethan Zohn won, defeating retired teacher Kim Johnson by a vote of 5-2.
  4. Survivor: Marquesas was set on Nuku Hivamarker, the largest of the Marquesas Islandsmarker in French Polynesiamarker marking the series' first return to a beach location since Borneo. For the first time the finalists were all women. Office Manager Vecepia Towery won by a vote of 4-3 over student Neleh Dennis. This season was the only time the infamous Purple Rock tie breaker was ever used.
  5. Survivor: Thailand was set on the island of Ko Tarutaomarker off the coast of Thailandmarker. For the first time the tribes were not predetermined by producers, but were rather picked by the two oldest players, Jake and Jan. Also, this season was the first to feature a fake merge and a delayed merge, resulting in two opposing tribes living together on the same beach. For the first time, the finalists were both men. Used car salesman and former soft-core porn actor Brian Heidik beat restaurant owner Clay Jordan by a vote of 4-3.
  6. Survivor: The Amazon was set in the jungles of the Amazon River region of Brazilmarker. This was the first time the two tribes were divided up by males and females. It was also the first time a reality show contestant competed with a disability, the hearing impaired Christy Smith. Student and swimsuit model Jenna Morasca won by a vote of 6-1 over restaurant designer Matthew Von Ertfelda.
  7. Survivor: Pearl Islands was set in the Pearl Islandsmarker off the coast of Panamamarker. This season was the first and only time players who had been voted out were allowed to return to the game as part of the Outcast Tribe. The winning tribe in the Reward Challenge was able to loot one item from the losing tribe. Also this was the first season in which a player, Osten Taylor, quit the game. Office assistant Sandra Diaz-Twine defeated Boy Scout leader Lillian Morris by a vote of 6-1.
  8. Survivor: All-Stars was again set in the Pearl Islandsmarker, Panamamarker. The game featured eighteen past Survivor contestants divided into three tribes (the first season to use more than 16 contestants). This is the first season that featured an early merge of the 3 tribes down to 2. Administrative assistant Amber Brkich won by a vote of 4-3 over construction worker and bartender Rob Mariano. Just before the live vote was revealed, Rob proposed to Amber. Survivor: 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 (making him the only player in the show's history to win US$1 million on the show without actually being the Sole Survivor).
  9. Survivor: Vanuatu - Islands of Fire was set on islands in the archipelago nation of Vanuatumarker, located in the South Pacific Oceanmarker. The tribes were also divided by gender. Highway construction worker Chris Daugherty, the only male in the final seven, defeated highway repair worker Twila Tanner by a vote of 5-2.
  10. Survivor: Palau was set in the island nation of Palaumarker, located in the Philippine Seamarker. The season started with 20 contestants, but on day two the number was reduced to 18 in a tribal selection process. The season concluded with firefighter Tom Westman prevailing over advertising executive Katie Gallagher by a vote of 6-1. This season was the only one in which one of the tribes, Koror, won all the immunity challenges. Due to this streak and the lack of any tribal swap, there was no usual tribal merge, instead the last member of the defeated tribe, Ulong, simply became a member of Koror. This season was first to feature Exile Island, though was only used once during the show.
  11. Survivor: Guatemala - The Maya Empire was set in the Yaxha National Park. 18 Survivors (16 new contestants plus Stephenie LaGrossa and Bobby Jon Drinkard from Palau) were stranded amongst the ruins of the Maya civilization. This season was first to include a hidden immunity idol, hidden near camp, though was only available post-merge, and was not rehidden after its use. This idol was found by Gary Hogeboom, a retired NFL quarterback who sought to conceal his past profession from fellow contestants, believing it would increase his chances of being voted off. The season concluded with sports radio host Danni Boatwright defeating pharmaceutical sales representative Stephenie LaGrossa by a 6-1 vote.
  12. Survivor: Panama - Exile Island was set again in the Pearl Islandsmarker of Panamamarker, marking the third time this location has been used for Survivor. This is the first time the contestants were divided into four tribes: Younger Men, Younger Women, Older Men, and Older Women. This was also the first season to include Exile Island throughout the show, and to offer the hidden Individual Immunity Idol throughout. The idol could only be found by being exiled to Exile Island. Bruce Kanegai became the second person in the history of the show to leave due to a medical emergency. The season concluded with yoga instructor Aras Baskauskas defeating medical sales representative Danielle DiLorenzo by a vote of 5-2.
  13. Survivor: Cook Islands took place on the Cook Islandsmarker in the South Pacific Oceanmarker. Tribes were initially grouped into four tribes by ethnicity: African Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians. Both Exile Island and the Hidden Immunity Idol were used throughout the season. This is the first time three castaways were involved in the final vote, with a jury composed of nine members (with some entering the jury before the merge). The season was won by management consultant Yul Kwon, who edged out waiter Ozzy Lusth and attorney Becky Lee by a vote of 5-4, with Becky receiving no votes.
  14. Survivor: Fiji, the fourteenth season, took place on the island of Fijimarker in the South Pacific Oceanmarker. For the first time, the total number of castaways starts with an odd number (19 total) due to the last minute withdrawal of one contestant. As part of the twist to this season, one tribe enjoyed much better living conditions (such as ready-to-assemble structures, furniture, dishware, and a working shower) than the other tribe prior to the merge. Both Exile Island and the Hidden Immunity Idol returned, with 2 Idols in play, initially one on each beach. The same final three with a jury of nine format from Cook Islands was also used in Fiji. The season concluded with advertising executive Earl Cole defeating civil engineer manager Cassandra Franklin and cheerleading coach Dre "Dreamz" Herd by a 9-0-0 vote, the first unanimous vote in the show's history.
  15. Survivor: China was the fifteenth season of the show, taking place in remote Chinamarker. A twist involving kidnapping players from the opposing tribe was introduced, replacing Exile Island from the prior three seasons. There were two Hidden Immunity Idols, which were hidden in plain sight at each tribe's camp. Flight attendant Todd Herzog defeated waitress Courtney Yates and hiking guide Amanda Kimmel with a vote of 4-2-1.
  16. Survivor: Micronesia - Fans vs Favorites was the show's sixteenth season, taking place in Korormarker, Palaumarker, a part of the Micronesian archipelago. This season's twist was that ten self-proclaimed Survivor superfans competed against ten popular past contestants. Exile Island made a return after being absent for the China season, now with two contestants, one from each tribe, being sent to exile on occasion. This was the first season to have three castaways leave due to reasons other than being voted out. Charity organizer Parvati Shallow defeated aspiring designer Amanda Kimmel with a vote of 5-3.
  17. Survivor: Gabon - Earth's Last Eden was filmed in Gabonmarker, Africa during late June using high definition (HD) cameras, making this the first season shot and aired in HD. The show premiered on September 25 as a two-hour event. A small twist was introduced with Exile Island; the player selected may opt for the clue to the Hidden Immunity Idol, or they take comfort provided by a small shack with a hammock, pillows and fresh fruit. High school physics teacher Robert Crowley defeated hairdresser Susie Smith and pin-up model Jessica "Sugar" Kiper with a vote of 4-3, with Sugar receiving no votes.
  18. Survivor: Tocantins - The Brazilian Highlands was produced in 2008 and premiered on February 12, 2009. For this season, the minimum age requirement has been lowered to 18 in most states. This season returned to the nation of Brazil, but to a different part than that used for The Amazon. The season ended with cattle rancher James "J.T." Thomas defeating corporate consultant Stephen Fishbach in a 7-0 vote, only the second unanimous vote in Survivor history.
  19. Survivor: Samoa was produced in 2009 and premiered on September 17, 2009.
  20. Survivor 20 has been ordered and was cast simultaneously with Survivor: Samoa. Production for this season will begin immediately after Samoa.

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.
Program Timeslot (ET/PT) Premiered Ended TV Season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Date Premiere
(in millions)

Date Finale
(in millions)

(in millions)

Survivor: Borneo Wednesday 8:00PM May 31, 2000 15.51 August 23, 2000 51.69 36.70 1999-2000 #2 28.30
Survivor: The Australian Outback Thursday 8:00PM January 28, 2001 45.37 May 3, 2001 36.35 28.01 2000-2001 #1 29.80
Survivor: Africa October 11, 2001 23.84 January 10, 2002 27.26 19.05 2001-2002 #5 20.69
Survivor: Marquesas February 28, 2002 23.19 May 19, 2002 25.87 17.89 #4 20.77
Survivor: Thailand September 19, 2002 23.05 December 19, 2002 24.08 20.43 2002-2003 #6 21.21
Survivor: The Amazon February 13, 2003 23.26 May 11, 2003 22.29 17.65 #8 19.97
Survivor: Pearl Islands September 18, 2003 21.50 December 14, 2003 25.23 21.87 2003-2004 #6 20.72
Survivor: All-Stars February 1, 2004 33.54 May 9, 2004 24.76 23.92 #4 21.49
Survivor: Vanuatu September 16, 2004 20.06 December 12, 2004 19.72 15.23 2004-2005 #6 19.64
Survivor: Palau February 17, 2005 23.66 May 15, 2005 20.80 15.48 #5 20.91
Survivor: Guatemala September 15, 2005 18.41 December 11, 2005 21.18 15.21 2005-2006 #8 18.30
Survivor: Panama February 2, 2006 19.20 May 14, 2006 17.07 11.65 #11 16.82
Survivor: Cook Islands September 14, 2006 18.00 December 17, 2006 16.42 13.53 2006-2007 #13 15.75
Survivor: Fiji February 8, 2007

16.68 May 13, 2007 13.63 11.43 #15 14.83
Survivor: China September 20, 2007


December 16, 2007 15.10 12.22 2007-2008 #8 15.18
Survivor: Micronesia February 7, 2008 14.02 May 11, 2008 12.92 10.84 #11 13.51
Survivor: Gabon September 25, 2008 13.05 December 14, 2008 13.77 11.74 2008-2009 #15 13.81
Survivor: Tocantins February 12, 2009 13.80 May 17, 2009 12.94 11.59 #19 12.92
Survivor: Samoa September 17, 2009 11.66 2009-2010

 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.
Continent Locations (Season number)
Africa Kenyamarker (3), Gabonmarker (17)
Asia Borneomarker (1), Chinamarker (15), Thailandmarker (5)
Oceania Australia (2), Cook Islandsmarker (13), Fijimarker (14), Marquesasmarker (4), Micronesia (16), Palaumarker (10), Samoamarker (19, 20), Vanuatumarker (9)
North America (Central America) Guatemalamarker (11), Panamamarker (7, 8, 12)
South America Brazilmarker (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 Reefmarker. In the same trip, a helicopter involved in the production flew around protected sea bird rookeries.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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." Several long-term sponsors, including Campbell's Soup, Procter & Gamble, Home Depot, Coca Cola, and General Motors 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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. One example was Melissa 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.
  • 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. She also decided to donate the $50,000 to charity.
  • 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.


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.

DVD releases

Best of
DVD name Release date
Season One: The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments January 1, 2001
Season Two: The Greatest and Most Outrageous Moments September 25, 2001

Full seasons
DVD name Release date
The Complete First Season: Borneo May 11, 2004
The Complete Second Season: Australian Outback April 26, 2005
The Complete Seventh Season: Pearl Islands February 7, 2006
The Complete Eighth Season: All-Stars September 14, 2004
The Complete Ninth Season: Vanuatu December 5, 2006
The Complete Tenth Season: Palau August 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

See also


  12. General Motors also announced their discontinuation of sponsorship into the 13th seasons at nearly the same time as the announcement of the racial split, but the decision was made months prior to the announcement, and thus was purely coincidental.

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