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

Updated August 20, 2020 7.8k votes 1.3k voters 51.7k views19 items

List RulesVote 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.

  • 5

    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.

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  • 6

    The Time Contestants Broke Into Production Camp For Food And Drink

    Photo: Survivor / CBS

    One Survivor scandal that didn't make air is when contestants broke into production's camp to steal food. Survivor: Micronesia contestants Alexis Smith, Erik Reichenbach, and James Clement all supposedly conspired to ransack the production's supply of food and drinks. The food raid was confirmed by fellow contestant Kathy Sleckman in a Reddit AMA

    It was James, Alexis, and Erik who got busted breaking into production camp. James told me in New York that even while I was still there, they had stole gatorades and peanut butter and hid it in the med box.

    This obviously goes against Survivor rules. Kathy said Erik admitted he was yelled at, and was worried he wouldn't get paid for appearing on the show. Oddly enough, James, Alexis, and Erik were voted off one after the other, causing conspiracy theorists to believe they were disqualified, and producers scripted the vote-offs. Erik has denied this.

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  • 7

    Richard Hatch Rubbed Himself All Over Sue Hawk

    Video: YouTube

    One of the ugliest moments in Survivor history occurred between two all-stars from the first season, Richard Hatch and Sue Hawk. The pair was aligned throughout their first season, but when both returned for Survivor: All Stars (Season 8), a rather unfortunate event went down.

    Richard, who has a proclivity for going unclothed, was competing against Sue in a challenge with a crisscrossing balance beam. That's when Richard ran straight into her, member first, at which point Sue felt violated. While Richard was voted out for unrelated reasons after his tribe lost the Immunity Challenge, Sue was distraught over the next few days and made her feelings known to Jeff Probst before the next Reward Challenge. 

    Sue screamed at Probst that she felt "violated, humiliated, dehumanized, and totally spent" from the incident, and was done playing. She quit, visibly shaken, and a boat was called in to collect her. Richard and Sue appeared on The Early Show the morning after the episode and revealed they had reconciled and moved past the incident (though Sue did say "Every time I woke up, I could re-feel Richard [unclothed]. Kept flashing through my head. And started feeling really bad.") Regardless, the moment contributed to what was a very sour season of Survivor, with many hurt feelings and unpleasant moments.

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  • 8

    Shirin Oskooi Was Verbally Abused By Tribemates

    Video: YouTube

    Much of the gameplay from Survivor: Worlds Apart (Season 30) was overshadowed by abusive comments made against Shirin Oskooi. Dan Foley mocked her name, calling her "Shinini" and said somebody needed to slap her. Will Sims II went even further, telling her nobody liked her and she had no loved ones waiting for her back home.

    At Tribal Council, Sims appeared to show no remorse for calling her out on a personal level, even as she described her background of verbal abuse growing up. He claimed he didn't verbally assault her, and she was just "playing the victim."

    Sims apologized to Shirin and her family at the live reunion show, but Shirin noted he had only done so after the huge public outcry and did not accept his apology.

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