After months of tighter-than-CIA secrecy, here is the exclusive inside story of the TV smash Survivor
. Its creator, Mark Burnett, calls the show "Gilligan's Island
meets Lord of the Flies
meets Ten Little Indians
meets The Real World
," but you knew that. What's new about this book is the view from the other side of the lens. While the contestants gobbled wriggling three-inch beetles and savaged each other, Burnett and company were feverishly running the show and writing this tell-all account. It gives you a better feel than TV can for the natural setting: pristine beaches infested with skin-burrowing bugs that scarred "coquette" Colleen for life; Malaysian field rats attracted by the survivors' food and crawling over them all night; six-foot, yellow-and-black-banded sea kraits (snakes) devouring the rats; 300-pound pythons reeking of rotting meat, poised to drop from trees and eat people.
Except for the crew's hands-down favorite, U.S. Air Force survival trainer Gretchen ("She was wholesome, she was a survivalist, she looked great in a bathing suit"), most of the contestants were nice as pythons. Laid-back Gervase said, "Nothing's dumber than a woman, except maybe a cow," amusing "alpha male" Joel and enraging Jenna, Colleen, and Gretchen (IQ 142). Greg, who stank more than others because he slept in the jungle and got more bug bites, infuriated show host Jeff Probst. Despite "long nights cuddling with Colleen," Greg betrayed her to flirt with the aptly named winner, Rich. "It's like a kitten you find," Greg says of Colleen. "You give it a name, like Fluffy ... you're starving. So you look right in the kitten's eyes and break its neck. Nothing personal." The authors compare gay Rich and homophobe Rudy to the Odd Couple, and Dirk and Sean to "a pair of Malaysian field rats trying to stand up to a yellow-banded krait. The krait, of course was Susan."
The Pagong tribe was young, strong, lazy, and quarrelsome--"MTV's Beach House." The Tagi were older, but a far better team, and so more successful. And the most consistent, cynical, and adaptive contestant won.
Survivor is not just great gossip; it's the most fascinating and massively popular psychology experiment ever conducted. --Tim Appelo
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Staring into the Sun
Full moon over the equator.
In the midst of their island experience, Maslow's hierarchy of needs crept up on the four remaining castaways yet again as they pondered life with a million dollars. The first stage, basic physiological needs, had been met a month before. Security and safety followed soon after, when the island's dangers become bearable. Love and feelings of belonging were closely followed by competence, prestige, and esteem. And while level six, curiosity and the need to understand might happen upon any of them at another point in life (or, in Rudy's case, had been accomplished decades before coming to the island and stayed with him throughout), the question of level five, self-fulfillment, gave a philosophical tinge to castaway life.
Simply, a million dollars was just three days away. They could see it, smell it, taste it. They dreamed of spending it. Would it change them? Would it complete them? Would it make them happy? Or had the previous five-weeks-and-a-day of existence been a futile pursuit? Castaway thoughts wandered to the philosophical and mildly spiritual.
Sooner or later, if Maslow is to be believed, an individual arrives at self-fulfillment. Peace. "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is ultimately to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be," Maslow wrote. The trick is finding that source of peace.
So where did the four castaways stand philosophically, three days before winning a million? At four predictably distant metaphysical compass points.
Sue Hawk festered with rage toward Kelly. On moral and ethical grounds, she wanted to rise above the rage and keep her early pact not to vote Kelly off. "I want to show that I'm a better person than she is. That I don't stab my friends in the back," Sue noted. Vulnerability and rage were becoming synonymous with Sue's character. She spoke frankly, had ceased being guarded in word or action, and, with every day closer to going home, was more aware than ever that acts of duplicity would be replayed on national television. She didn't want to be seen that way. "I've got a life after this," she said bluntly. "I've got to go back to work and look people in the eye and have them know my word is good. Plus, I feel lucky. I've been with Timmy fifteen years. We've got something really special. That's where my life is. When all this is done I'm going back home and know that I'm with someone I love. That's a great feeling, and money can't buy that. I've done some hard things on this show, like vote Gretchen off. But I've also done the right thing, as far as the game goes. Like when I voted Sonja off. She didn't belong here. The night before that, after she'd gotten soaked in the water, she woke up shivering like you wouldn't believe. I threw my body over her to keep her warm. So it may have looked heartless for me to vote off that nice old lady, but I was just trying to do the right thing. That's also why I brought up the alliances at the Tribal Council that one time. I was sick of people pretending they didn't exist. That's what I'm about. I may be blunt, but I'm honest. And I think that scares people like Kelly, who plays the game by lying to other people all the time, pretending to be their friend then stabbing them in the back." Rich and self-fulfillment weren't as easy to decipher. The fa Kelly, on the other hand, would use the million for independence, but until she broke away from her maternal issues, she would find that even money couldn't bring peace of mind. She would be a millionaire, but an unhappy one, still looking for ways to flaunt her independence and tweak the world. If she won the game she would be a beautiful and bland guest on David Letterman and the morning shows. Her picture would grace the cover of People. She would marry, have kids, work hard to maintain her cutting-edge mentality before giving in and buying a minivan and enjoying suburban life. In ten years she would be the subject of a "Where Are They Now?" photo essay, discussing how it was only several years after winning that she found something resembling happiness. Even then, she wouldn't call it happiness or self-fulfillment or inner peace, but something hip, like "coming to terms with what I'm all about." She was Las Vegas, a pleasant boomtown craving substance, but not quite sure where to find it.
Rudy was giving the money to his kids. He and his wife enjoyed a great marriage, loved snow skiing together, and knew a contentment in their life that a sudden influx of wealth or fame wouldn't change. He would continue going to SEAL reunions. He would continue cooking for his wife now and again, because even away from the island, Rudy found joy in preparing a fine dinner.
Regardless of the changes money would or would not make in their lives, one hard fact stared at the Final Four as they lay about the beach on Day Thirty-Seven, pondering what it would feel like to become a millionaire: For three of them, the end would be nasty, brutish, and short.