Are Survivor Cast Members Ever Really Alone?

"Survivor" is all about braving the elements. Contestants are dropped into hostile environments and pushed to fend for themselves. The remote areas "Survivor" sends its cast members to (such as the secluded islands in Fiji) are typically associated with a loneliness so grand it drove Tom Hanks to befriend a volleyball, but not when you've crash-landed there to film reality TV. "Survivor" contestants are only alone when they're going to the bathroom. Besides those brief moments of peace while squatting in the outback, producers, cameras, and Jeff Probst are constantly in their spaces, filming confessionals and berating them during challenges. 

When you sign up for "Survivor," You're signing up for 24/7 film crews and having everything you say edited into a season-long story arc. Camera operators lurk nearby both tribes, working out of "camera camps" equipped with fresh water, food, and extra batteries. The crew is there to capture every single moment, from the countless hours of tribe members daydreaming about food, to pivotal moments of secrecy when two players sneak off to plot a mutiny. 

Crews are constantly around contestants, which has required the show-runners to take painstaking lengths to limit their influence on the game. Can you imagine hanging around next to the same people for 24 hours a day, sometimes for up to 39 days, and never saying a word to them?  Especially in a game like "Survivor," when every contestant must at least consider lying, cheating, and backstabbing their way to a million bucks, there's bound to be a few players who try to use the camera crews to get an edge.

Do Survivor players ever interact with camera crews?

It is against the rules for "Survivor" contestants to address the camera operator, and show producers have protocols in place to further limit these interactions. During an interview with People, Jeff Probst said that crews are not allowed to speak with players and that if a player were to ask a crew member for something, their question would be met with "awkward silence." However, In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread, an unnamed "Survivor" crew member gave a slightly different answer. When they were asked if they were allowed to speak with contestants, they said, "Yes, but I rarely do. It is not encouraged." A bit more relaxed than Probst's point of view, but the entire staff seems committed to limiting unfair advantages. 

That being said, it's impossible for the crews not to influence things at all. In the same thread, the camera operator admitted that if two crews leave and follow one or two people, it does turn heads. Crews are aware of the influence they hold and have gotten creative in how they limit the amount of information their shooting habits give. Former "Survivor" player Rick Devens explained on Twitter that when players are off looking for idols, camera crews would mess with their heads by pointing the cameras all over and zooming in on spots with nothing of value. Being constantly around camera crews creates plenty of opportunity for mind games, but that's peanuts compared to the influence players have on each other. 

The hardest part of Survivor is the other people

It's not just the camera crews that "Survivor" participants must learn to live with. "Survivor" contestants are also never free from each other. According to several contestants, this can be the most difficult aspect of the entire competition. Former cast members got candid about living alongside other members of the show during an interview with The Ringer. Carolyn Rivera from "Survivor: Worlds Apart" said that constantly being surrounded by other cast mates is "one of the hardest things about the game." Two-time contestant David Wright said the real problem is that you're around these strangers 24/7, and you just never feel like you can truly trust someone. The most eye-opening quote came from Malcolm Freberg, who said that it is difficult because "Survivor" contestants are not ordinary Americans but "a bunch of wackos who are on reality TV."

While being constantly filmed can be annoying, strategizing, scraping the bottom of a pan for rice, and sleeping on bamboo with your competition 24/7 makes players feel immense paranoia. After filming, these players often form lifelong connections, go to concerts together, and get into podcasting, but during the shoot, no one can be trusted. So, not only are these players never alone, but they are also constantly surrounded by other half-starved, sleep-deprived players trying to outwit, outplay, and outlast each other for a million dollars. This constant interaction drives players to their edges — which makes for fantastic television.

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