Surviving Survivor: A Guide for Aspiring Reality TV Contestants
To All The Potential Reality Stars Out There
So you want to be on Survivor. That's cool--I mean, more power to you. I couldn't do it. (I don't think I could even get the medical clearance.) So if you want to sleep on bamboo and starve for 40 days, great. Go on to the CBS website and sign right up.
But I do have to ask ... have you ever actually seen the show? I mean, have you? It's just, it seems like so many people go on Survivor having never seen the show before, and they repeat the stupid mistakes of contestants past and complain about the "duh" sorts of things that happen when you're sleeping on a beach.
It's rainy all the time? Well, yes. It's a tropical island. That happens on tropical islands.
Rats are running all over you? You're outside. Of course that's going to happen.
You're hungry? What did you think this would be like? Just because Stephenie went on a food reward every other day in that one season doesn't mean that that's normal.
You're cold? Maybe you should wear more than a bikini.
This is a guide to prepare you for an appearance on the show. If you follow these easy steps and you still want to be on the show? Well, at least we know you won't complain.
1. Go Camping
I don't mean the kind of camping where you sit in an air conditioned cabin with a toilet and a shower. I mean the real kind, where you're brushing your teeth with twigs and wiping your butt with leaves. You'll probably eat better than any Survivor contestant ever does, but it'll give you an idea of sleeping on the ground, starting a fire, and being ravaged by angry mosquitoes. All three of which you can probably expect to do on Survivor.
No tents--tents are cheating.
Bonus points if you go while it's raining.
2. Learn How to Make a Fire
Even if you can't figure out the shelter part, fire is essential to surviving Survivor. How many times have we seen contestants go on the show not knowing how to make a fire? And then their team loses because they're so dehydrated and hungry. This can seriously be the difference between getting voted out first or last if you're "the one who can make fire without the flint."
So practice! If you're a regular glasses-wearer, try to see if you can pull a Yau-Man and get the fire started that way. It might not be the same in your backyard as it is on the beaches of some tropical paradise, but it's better than going out there totally unprepared.
Extra special bonus points for figuring out ways to start a fire in the rain.
3. While You're Doing That, Learn to Swim.
Okay, seriously? You're probably going to do 90% of your challenges on a beach. They are probably going to ask you to swim. Sometimes you might be in the shallow end, but most of the time they're going to ask you to jump in the water, unlock a key from an underwater cage, tie it to a monkey, swim to Iraq, raise a flag, jump off a cliff, and then unlock a box full of puzzle pieces (which is also underwater) before assembling your puzzle, setting fire to a string, and winning the challenge.
My point is, you're going to have to go underwater and not die. You might be able to get by--it's happened--or sit out on those challenges. Or always be "the puzzle guy." But you should probably at least be familiar enough with water to be able to get your head wet without drowning.
4. Starve a Little
I was once in the hospital for a week and a half with a horrible bacterial infection in my guts. Basically, eating or drinking anything at all would set it off, so I avoided both.
I was miserable, dehydrated, and starving.
Which means I know what it's like to be on Survivor. Kind of.
If you've never been hungry--never survived on eating a little bit of the same thing day after day--you need to give it a try to see how long you can stand it. I don't recommend doing it for a long period like they do on the show (you don't want to faint at work), but I would recommend trying to go 2-3 days on very little food and water, just to get a taste of what it's like to be hungry. This will also give you a chance to see how hunger affects your body AND your mood. Might be good to find out you transform into Grumpypants McGee before you go on the show.
It might also give you a little perspective, considering there are people starving all over the world (and even in America), and might make you appreciate what you have. Ya know. Just a little.
5. Forget Your Family
I mean, not literally. Unless you can take some kind of vacation.
When you go on Survivor you're going to spend more than 40 days without your loved ones. If you're lucky and you make it to the end, you might get that visit from home. Heck, you might even win a chance to take your loved one to camp or to some special retreat! But you're still going to spend a lot of days (either on the show or in some kind of sequester before/after the show) without them.
Can you handle that? Have you ever lived by yourself? Have you ever taken an extended trip by yourself? Without contacting your family every single day? Learning to deal with things without the support of your family is hard ... but it's an essential part of living. There won't always be someone there for you, and learning how to deal with that is really important.
That said ...
There are people who could easily go months and months without seeing a single family member. And there are those who will start crying on day two. You don't necessarily need to run away from home, but I recommend a lot of soul-searching to see if you have what it takes to be away from your family for an extended period of time without going nuts, especially if you can't literally get away from your family for a week.
And there's another thing to consider--how will your family function without you? If you're single, it might be as simple as getting your boss to give you an extended, unpaid break. But if you're not, how will everything work out at home with you absent? Is it possible? It's another thing to think about. Not just how you'll react to being away, but also how your family will deal with it.
6. Practice Puzzles
There are lots of puzzles on Survivor. If you don't want to be "swimming guy," aspire to be "puzzle guy," and bone up on your word scramble and slidey puzzle skills. Regular jigsaw puzzles might help too. (And if you find out that you just suck at puzzles, you can feel comfortable bowing out of those particular competitions.)
If you find yourself getting pretty good at finishing puzzles quickly, the next step is to try to solve a puzzle when you're starving, dehydrated, and have just completed a triathlon. Good luck!
7. Stand on a Soda Can
It doesn't have to be a soda can. But stand and balance on some kind of small object. Particularly when the individual immunity comes up, you're going to wish you had some serious balancing skillz.
So overturn a small wastebasket, find a balance beam, step on a teacup ... anything that will get you balancing on a tiny, precarious surface.
And bonus points if you can find something like the challenge where you're basically balancing your feet on an inch of wood jutting out of two planks. (And remember that it'll be 105 degrees, you'll be starving and dehydrated, and Jeff Probst will be yelling at you the entire time.)
Maybe there'll just be some guy in your camp like Special Agent Phillip who drives you insane. Maybe you'll make it to the end where you have to hold seven balls between two sticks and not drop them, or balance a stack of dishes on your head. Whatever the case may be, you will need to learn how to concentrate, put pain aside, tune out Jeff Probst, and move on toward your goal.
Meditation--learning how to zone out and focus on your task to the exclusion of everything else--will help you greatly in reaching your goals, whether that's not killing someone, or just winning a challenge.
9. Don't Bathe
This might be the time to shun your family and hide away for a while.
How long can you go without bathing before you feel absolutely disgusting? (For me it's about a week. But I tend not to get stinky quickly.) Remember that you won't have deodorant or showers or toilet paper. If you're a woman, you'll be having your period as usual (apparently the show does provide some sanitary products). Things can get pretty stinky very quickly.
If you're one of those people who needs to shower 1-4 times per day to feel normal, consider how you'll feel not showering for an entire month. Or brushing your teeth. Or shaving. (If you're a woman, you might consider how you feel about letting the world know you're a mammal--that you actually grow hair on your body.)
This tip is for the hygiene freaks. If you can't go a day without brushing your teeth, washing your hair, or shaving your legs ... Survivor might not be for you.
10. Go to the Gym (At Least a Little)
In the early stages of Survivor, the strong tend to be favored over the weak. At the beginning of the game it's important to have a strong tribe that runs faster, throws further, hits harder, etc. etc., while in the latter half those qualities may make you a threat. So you want to be strong, but unless you're sure you can win every single individual immunity challenge in the second half, you don't want to be too strong.
So I recommend going to the gym and working out a little. Build some muscle and endurance. Practice your throwing skills (can you do that at a gym?) and lift some heavy things. But don't get too built. Not only will you be a threat, but your body will become difficult to sustain with the lack of food and water. The big, muscular guys always fall harder (See: "Good" Russell nearly dying during a challenge).
If you're female, this advice is doubly important. The skinny, weak "bikini model" type girls almost always get kicked out first unless some ass annoys everyone to death (and then she goes second). It might seem a little unreasonable to expect a 110 pound girl to be able to lift half her body weight, but I would recommend being able to lift at least 30 pounds fairly easily so you won't be totally useless in any challenge that requires dragging things around. It will also make you more useful around camp if you can carry things.
Now You Are a Swimming, Camping, Balancing PuzzleMaster.
If you just follow these ten tips, you should have absolutely no trouble surviving those 40-ish days, and possibly winning the show.
(Oh, I forgot 11. Don't be a d-bag. That usually helps things.)
So are you ready to apply? Having second thoughts?