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Survivor History and Future

The reality TV show Survivor has been, and still is, a huge success on a global scale. With Survivor: China debuting today, we take a look back at the history of this popular show.

The premise still has the contestants isolated on a remote island or section of land, and this season the location is China. Here they compete for cash and other prize rewards in “challenges” in the hopes of being the final “Survivor” and winning a cool cash prize of one million dollars.

The show had its origins in the UK, as do most of the popular US reality shows these days. The original format was created in 1992 by Charlie Parsons, and here is a little bit of trivia to wow your friends with – the first production of this show was the Swedish show Expedition: Robinson in 1997.

The host who guides contestants and viewers alike is former news reporter and game show emcee, Jeff Probst. Participants are given a minimum of tools and/or food to start with and they have to do the rest. Divided into “tribes” they compete for extra food or simple technology, like fire, to ease their existence. The losing tribe in these challenges then must vote to expel one of their members. And so the process continues…

To make it easier for the viewers to identify with the tribes and individuals, tribe members wear an identifying scarf or hat. We see special interviews and background stories on each person, as well as side interviews with them done on location.

The TV execs do take precautions and try to ensure the safety of the participants while giving the viewers a “real” show. Medical emergencies can occur and a stand-by medical team is ready to tend to the individual and even extract him or her from the location.

The producers have generally made sure that all players will not back out prior to being stranded, and will generally have backup players ready to go if one does drop out, but in the case of Survivor: Fiji, one contestant backed out the night before day one of the game. Since producers were not prepared for this turn of events, Fiji was the first season to feature an odd number of players, and subsequently required the production team to alter how the tribes would initially be divided.

The Challenges

There are two types of Challenges: Reward Challenges and Immunity Challenges. The Reward Challenges offer the contestants little extras to make life a bit easier, such as food, technology (such as fire), clothing, and such.

The Immunity Challenges, as the name implies, offers protection from being voted out of the game. This vote is held in the weekly Tribal Council where the losing team from the previous Reward Challenge must vote one member out.

An additional twist has been the introduction of the Immunity Idol statue. Anyone finding this Idol may use it at any time to save themselves, but only before the vote.

The Jury

All eliminated players except the final nine leave the game altogether. The remaining players who have been voted out remain as the Jury. It is they who will vote to pick the final winner. They are also present at every Tribal Council, but do not interact with any players. They are just observers at this point.

Final Tribal Council

On the last day of the competition, the final two (or three) players usually clean up or burn down their camp as a tribute to surviving to the end of the game. They then go to the final Tribal Council where they meet the jury. The remaining players state their case as to why they should be voted the winner. The jury members are allowed to ask them questions and then cast their votes.
The dramatic ending where the winner is revealed is in a much publicized Live Finale show back in the US. Family members and friends attend and we get to see a bit more of the winner’s family and get a few words from him or her.

About The Prizes

Lately, there has been a reward challenge when 5 or 6 players remain for a car. Since no one who won a car ever made it to winner of the game, it is now called the Survivor Car Curse. The player chosen as Sole Survivor receives a cash prize of $1,000,000 (before Uncle Sam takes his cut). The Sole Survivor also receives a car provided by the show's sponsor.

Every player does get a cash stipend just for participating on the show. The amount depends upon how long he/she lasted. In most seasons, the runner-up receives $100,000, and third place wins $85,000. The known prizes for Survivor: All-Stars were as follows: 2nd = $250,000; 3rd = $125,000; 4th = $100,000.

Glimpse of Survivor: China

Jeff Probst revelas that this first episode involves a Buddhist ceremony, which a few tribe members find emotionally overwhelming. Then they are dumped on two separate islands with only the clothes on their backs. The two tribes are named Fei Long (Flying Dragon) and Zhan Hu (Fighting Tiger).

This season’s twist is the Kidnapping. Each week, the tribe which wins the Reward Challenge is allowed to kidnap a member of the losing tribe. The one who is kidnapped is given a note from Jeff Probst and instructed to give it to an opposing tribe member of their choice. The note contains a clue on the whereabouts of the Hidden Immunity Idol within their camp. At the next immunity challenge, the kidnapped person is returned to his or her original tribe.

Survivor: China begins Thursday, Sept. 20 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on CBS

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