18 Survivor Scandals That Rocked The Island And Almost Tore The Show Apart

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Vote up the most buckwild scandals in Survivor history.

Survivor may have a reputation as being one of the more legitimate reality TV shows, but it hasn't been without its share of scandals. The show is as guilty as any of having juicy reality TV scandals on camera and off. Some of the biggest Survivor scandals have come to the forefront through stories from past contestants, while others unfolded right before your eyes, on the show itself.

Contestants have lied about passed relatives, made vicious personal attacks, promised favors after the show in exchange for jury votes, and more. One contestant almost passed while performing in a challenge, resulting in questions about how producers could have let this happen. The show also narrowly avoided a possible series-ending scandal in its first season. For a chance to win $1 million, even the best Survivor players will do and say just about anything to get ahead; most of the craziest Survivor scandals revolve around greed and desperation.

Let's take a deeper look at the most notorious moments in the show's history, the behind-the-scenes reality TV drama you didn't know, the biggest, most insane Survivor scandals of all time.

  • 1
    501 VOTES

    Michael Skupin Was Found With Naughty Images of Children

    This scandal doesn't necessarily involve Survivor, but it was still a huge story. Michael Skupin, the guy who fell in the fire and had to be evacuated in Survivor: The Australian Outback (Season 2), and later returned for Survivor: Philippines (Season 25), was caught with naughty footage of children on his computer while police were investigating a financial scam he had created. He was convicted of four counts of possession and sentenced to at least one year in prison, with the possibility of extending to four years. 

    This was particularly shocking to some considering Michael is a family man with seven children and of devout faith. He was also charged with four years probation in addition to owing $31,800 to the victims of his financial scheme.

    501 votes
  • 2
    683 VOTES

    When Jeff Varner Outed Zeke Smith As Transgender

    In early 2017, Survivor proved it could still make national headlines. In Episode 6 of Survivor: Game Changers (Season 34), a desperate Jeff Varner revealed to his tribemates at Tribal Council that Zeke Smith was transgender, asking him openly why he hadn't revealed this information to the rest of the tribe. While Jeff suggested this meant Zeke was deceitful, the rest of the tribe was mortified by Jeff taking away Zeke's agency in revealing details of his personal life. Zeke maintained his dignity through this experience and Jeff was unanimously voted out.

    Jeff was ripped apart on social media, while Zeke was given the opportunity to tell his story on The Hollywood ReporterThe Talk and more. Some were offended by CBS' decision to even air the segment, considering it was also outing Zeke to the world. Zeke revealed producers asked for his permission in airing this, saying he was "granted unprecedented autonomy" in collaborating with how the episode would be presented.

    683 votes
  • 3
    487 VOTES

    The Time Caleb Reynolds Almost Perished

    The Time Caleb Reynolds Almost Perished
    Video: YouTube

    Those who do not watch Survivor sometimes accuse the show of being fake. The moment Caleb Reynolds almost perished showed just how real the show is.

    In Survivor: Kaoh Rong (Season 32), castaway Caleb Reynolds was competing in a Reward Challenge, the blazing sun of Cambodia beating down upon him. The 28-year-old was tasked with digging up bags of balls in the sand, an hour-long challenge that caused him to lose consciousness. The medical team was sent in, who observed his heart rate dropping. Two other contestants also required medical attention. Caleb's condition was too serious for him to stay in the game, and he was medically evacuated.

    Criticism of the show's producers, for allowing for such a brutal challenge under such hot conditions, arose in the wake of the episode. The show can be a fun, escapist adventure for the audience, and it can be raw and real for contestants, but not at the expense of almost having someone pass. Jeff Probst said this moment was "the most frightened I’ve been in all my time on Survivor."

    487 votes
  • 4
    147 VOTES

    Dan Spilo Became The First Contestant Ever Removed From The Show, Due to "Inappropriate Touching"

    Dan Spilo Became The First Contestant Ever Removed From The Show, Due to "Inappropriate Touching"
    Photo: Survivor: Island of the Idols / CBS

    On Day 36 of Survivor: Island of the Idols, Dan Spilo was removed from the show after "a report of another incident, which happened off-camera and did not involve a player." This was the first time a player had been removed from a season of Survivor.

    Jeff Probst surprised the players when he approached camp at the end of the day. He told them, "I just spoke privately with Dan, and I want to update you guys. A decision has been made, and Dan will not be returning to the game. He won't be coming back to camp, he won't be on the jury, he's gone."

    The news follows player complaints of "inappropriate touching." Kellee Kim first made the complaints, and was subsequently voted off the island on Day 22. That same day, Spilo was reportedly warned about his behavior. 

    However, it apparently continued, with Spilo allegedly inappropriately touching a producer on the thigh while getting onto a transport boat. Spilo was not invited to the reunion show for Survivor: Island of the Idols, and instead released an apology via a statement to People

    147 votes
  • Colton Cumbie appeared on Survivor: One World (Season 24) with a clear chip on his shoulder. He frequently mocked his fellow tribemates, behind their backs and straight up to their faces, and often acted like he was better than others. His most offensive moment came in his interactions with Bill Posley, an African American stand-up comedian who seemed to get under his skin.

    Colton referred to Bill as "ghetto trash" and urged him to get a real job, even as Bill was trying to make amends with him. When the topic of race was brought up at Tribal Council, Colton talked about living in Alabama and going to an all-white private school, and mentioned he has important African-American people in his life. When asked who, he sheepishly admitted, "my housekeeper. She’s like a member of our family."

    Many Survivor fans were outraged by Colton's words and behavior.

    448 votes
  • 6
    360 VOTES

    Producers Botched The Final 4 Trivia Challenge For 'Survivor: Africa'

    Producers Botched The Final 4 Trivia Challenge For 'Survivor: Africa'
    Photo: Survivor / CBS

    At the Final 4 stage of Survivor: Africa, the Immunity Challenge was trivia-based; the castaways having to answer questions about the personal lives of those who had been voted out. One question asked which of the female castoffs had no body piercings. Kim Johnson answered Kelly Goldsmith, which was true, while Lex van den Berghe answered Lindsey Richter, which was also true, but not known to producers. He did not win the point, while Kim did, causing her to win Immunity.

    Lex, Tom Buchanan, and Ethan Zohn were all in a tight alliance with Kim as the no. 4, but since she won Immunity, Tom was voted out. Kim also won the next Immunity Challenge and voted out Lex. The error was discovered at the live Survivor: Africa reunion show, when Lindsey revealed to producers that she too didn't have piercings.

    As a result, the show rewarded Lex and Tom $100,000 each, the same amount runner-up Kim received. Who knows how Survivor: Africa would have ended if the error was discovered during the challenge itself.

    360 votes