I want to talk to you about my guilty pleasure.

The only TV show I get excited to watch when it finally comes on.

My weeks are marked by how many days because I last watched it and since I don’t watch much TV much at all, I put it in my calendar to remind me of how many days left till the next episode.

Survivor U.S on CBS


If you’re not a super fan, you’re probably vaguely thinking back saying, “Is that show still on?”

Yes it’s still on. There’s a cult following that has kept it going for over 33 seasons.

You might be rolling your eyes thinking I’m one of those reality junkies. You’re wrong.

This is not just any reality TV show.

It is art-imitating-life, Harvard paper-worthy entertainment.

I only started watching it a few years ago. From the moment I realised how close to reality this ‘reality’ TV show was, I was hooked.

I dare you to read this article and not see it in a different light.

The show (U.S Survivor on CBS)


Contestants are dropped on a deserted island to survive for 35 days in tribes. Tribes are forced to work together to make fire, gather food and make shelter.

Tribes start off in 2-3 separate groups where they compete with each other in physical challenges for reward and immunity.

The tribe that loses the immunity challenge goes into tribal council where they have to vote off a tribe mate out of the game, giving themselves a higher chance at winning a million dollars.

All tribes eventually merge where each person competes individually to be the last 2-3 people making a case to win the million bucks.

The contestants voted out of the game make up the jury and they vote for which person deserves the million bucks in the end.

In the game you have to do 3 things:

  • OUTWIT– dominate socially 
  • OUTPLAY– work hard 
  • OUTLAST– don’t fail

Sound familiar?

Hasn’t this been everything you’ve been trying to do your entire life?

Over the season as contestants are trying to dominate socially, work hard and not fail, the following areas either help them or hinder them.

Exactly as it happens in life.

The God’s Intervention (producers of the show & Jeff Probst)


The producers act similar to the ‘powers that be’ element in life. In real life we know it as ‘god’ or ‘government’ or ‘the guys in suits’.

These people ultimately control the game but the contestants are given many opportunities to manipulate the game to their benefit.

In the end, one person reaps the reward of a million dollars. In each season, the producers make small changes in the game to tip opportunities slightly.

Sometimes it’s good and contestants get a life line and sometimes you’re starving, depressed and voted off.

Real Life Equivalent: It’s a game & the house always wins

Getting Lucky (Immunity Idols on CBS Survivor)

Immunity idols when found on the island give one survivor one lifeline to not get voted off. They can use it if they feel like they’re vulnerable and likely to get voted off at tribal council.

This is the ‘luck’ aspect of the game.

Every season, we notice that those that actively look for idols find them. And once they find one, finding the second one is much easier.

In life, we often look at luck as being ‘god’s intervention’ but this aspect of survivor confirms what really happens when people get lucky.

The more you search, the more you get lucky. And once you get lucky once, you’ll get lucky again – it’s only a matter of time. 

This aspect of the game always gives contestants control, even if they’re at the bottom and likely to get voted off. Many contestants have had their hopes dashed by a well-timed immunity idol being played.

Real Life Equivalent: The harder you work, the more luck you’ll seem to have

Preparation is key to surviving CBS Survivor

In order to win the game of survivor and life, preparation is crucial.

Most prepare for the battle by doing some or most of the below:

  • Being strong physically for challenges
  • Being mentally strong
  • Learning grit
  • Being socially aware
  • Learning survival skills like fishing, fire-making and getting food
  • Keeping extra fat deposits on their body
  • Bringing advantageous equipment like toe shoes or glasses.

Real Life Equivalent: You need to prepare for success

You can’t dominate too much or suck too badly


You need to be valuable to the tribe but you can’t be too valuable, otherwise the tribe see you as a threat and will vote you out in fear that you’ll win at the end.

The weak people get voted out as the tribe needs strong people to win challenges but the the strongest are also likely to get voted off for being huge threats in the game.

Real Life Equivalent: If you do too well, others will cut you down.

The realness you get with true hunger & exposure to elements on Survivor

This is the most interesting element of the show because whilst this is a game, it often becomes real for the contestants.

Ironically, real romances have come out of a game about lying and cheating. When you starve a bunch of people, make them cold & wet for days sometimes – all the layers of bullshit cannot be supported any longer.

People’s real personalities come out.

Their fears, their paranoia, their narcissism, their inner child – all comes through. So does their need for stability, support and care which can sometimes create bad decision-making.

This is one of the biggest reasons the show is so great to watch. It’s as real as a TV show can get.

Real Life Equivalent: Real emotions come out when you’re hungry and battle the elements

Manipulative people win on Survivor

in order to win, you need to be part of a majority alliance that votes the same way so that you don’t get targeted.

You also need to make strategic moves big enough to prove to the jury that you deserve to win the million dollars. This means that blindsiding your own alliance members must happen.

In a game where it’s stupid to trust anyone, you need to trust in your alliance not to vote you out.

It’s this supposed oxymoron where paranoias breed and only those that are one step ahead of everyone else will win.

Real Life Equivalent: You have to trust those closest to you in order to survive, even when there’s no good reason to. The good people never win.

Your past will haunt you on Survivor


In the end, there’s 2-3 contestants left who make a case to the jury about why they deserve a million dollars. The jury is made up of the same contestants they had a hand voting out.

This is the karma aspect of the show.

Your moves in the game need to be brutal enough to be noteworthy but respectable enough that the people you betrayed give you the money.

It’s a fine line.

And if a contestant has gotten on a jury member’s bad side, they might make a case to other jury members to vote against you.

This can cost you a million dollars.

Real Life Equivalent: Karma is a bitch.

Applying CBS Survivor lessons to my life

When all these aspects are combined, I can’t think of a single aspect of life that this show doesn’t cover.

I will often find myself pondering about certain brilliant moves contestants have made and how I could apply this wisdom to real life.

The show is very complex in it’s simplicity – exactly as life is.  

I’m someone that believes strongly that knowing all the ways people are likely to manipulate me gives me control. Control to know what’s going on and to be able to respond accordingly.

I’ll never understand people that choose to focus on only the good side of human nature. I feel sorry for them because they’re terribly ill-prepared for the shit some people will put them through.

And it’s their own fault.

This show gives me the best container to learn about human nature – my favourite subject. 

And because there’s so many different kinds of people you’d never meet in real life, it gives you a a safe way to study many different personalities.

I even take my love for the show a step further and get so involved with the characters:

  • I get upset for days when the tribemates I care about get voted off or they don’t win.
  • I LOVE it when people I dislike get voted off.
  • I watch extra clips on the SurvivorCBS Youtube channels.
  • I passionately discuss with friends about a certain manipulative move that gets made in the show that can be used in life.
  • I ponder on how certain people trigger me just by being who they are and why that is.
  • It allows me to look at myself and how I would perform in certain situations.

I have drunkenly sales-pitched this show to my friends on many occasions. And have been passionate enough to get them to watch it. Especially if they’re an entrepreneur and interested in manipulation & game winning dynamics.

Would I go on CBS Survivor?

Apart from the fact that I couldn’t get on American survivor as an Australian, I have so much respect for the contestants because they put themselves through the toughest conditions mentally and physically.

I’d like to think that one day I could do it but then again I think to myself, ‘Do I really want to put myself through potential long-term trauma for only a chance at a million dollars?’ – I don’t know, probably not.

I’m not someone that’s motivated by money and I’ve worked so hard to do very little work in my life. No sense in changing that now.

But I LOVE watching other people do it.

And I have HUGE respect for those people that have won the hardest challenge I’ve ever seen.

Human Evolution of CBS Survivor

When the show started in 2000, I was 11 years old and really not into watching people eat bugs and starve their butts off.

These days the show has evolved so much in the last 15 years that I’ve committed to watching the full series and doing a detailed article on many of the strategies and social experiments that go on.

I’m also interested in seeing which aspects have been added and taken out over the years to make it as awesome as it is.

It might take me more than year to complete. There are over 500 episodes of the show and each season seems to have something surprising in store that previous seasons have not seen.

This evolution of how contestants have uniquely played the ‘same old show’ is what’s most interesting of all. Put humans in similar conditions over 15 years and watch us evolve in unprecedented ways.

Real Life Equivalent: Awesome