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

Updated September 23, 2021 7.8k votes 1.3k voters 52.3k 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.

  • 9

    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

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  • 10

    Jonny Fairplay Lied About His Dead Grandma

    Video: YouTube

    Survivor was its share of villainous behavior over the course of its first six seasons, but none fully embraced the villain persona like Survivor: Pearl Islands (Season 7) player Jon Dalton, AKA Jonny Fairplay. Before the infamous lie that came to define his legacy, he played a ruthless game, voting out stronger tribemates, instigating fights, getting intoxicated before Tribal Council, and so much more.

    During the family visit, a Survivor tradition by which a relative or friend of the castaways comes to the island to offer moral support, Jonny Fairplay helped orchestrate one of the most notorious lies in reality TV history. His friend Dan had come to the island to deliver news that Jonny's beloved grandmother had died. Fairplay was visibly devastated and the tribe agreed to throw the Reward Challenge to him so he could get more info about the passing of his family's beloved matriarch.

    Unbeknownst to the tribe, Dalton had planned the whole thing with Dan, and memorably stated, "My grandmother is sitting home watching Jerry Springer right now."

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  • 11

    The Hantz Family Saga

    The Hantz family caused quite a bit of mischief on Survivor, starting with Russell Hantz. Proclaiming himself to be the best player in the history of Survivor, he bulldozed his way to the end of both Survivor: Samoa (Season 19) and Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (Season 20), reveling in the scheming and backstabbing elements of the game. He made a lot of enemies along the way and managed to lose the final jury vote both times.

    After losing the second time, Russell argued at the live reunion show there's "a flaw in the game" and the American public should have a percentage of the final vote. Producers didn't heed his advice, and Russell has become notorious as a love-him-or-hate-him character. Some say he reinvented the game for the better, others say he ruined it.

    Russell's nephew, Brandon, appeared on Survivor: South Pacific (Season 23). While he took a gentler approach to the game than his uncle, he showed signs of aggression and instability. Russell appeared at the reunion show and, instead of supporting Brandon, criticized his nephew's bad gameplay on the island. 

    Brandon returned for Survivor: Caramoan (Season 26) and had multiple psychological meltdowns that culminated with him pouring out the tribe's rice and beans. He launched into a verbal tirade against his tribe at an Immunity Challenge that was so over-the-top Jeff Probst had to massage him to calm him down. The tribe had an impromptu Tribal Council and voted him out unanimously at the challenge. This led to viewers questioning  how Brandon was able to pass the psych test, with some arguing that he never should have been allowed to play. 

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  • 12

    Stacey Stillman Sued Mark Burnett, Claiming The Show Was Rigged

    Survivor came pretty close to ruining its reputation after just one season. Stacey Stillman, the third person voted out of the show's inaugural season, sued producer Mark Burnett after claiming he interfered with the game and helped orchestrate her exit. The Tagi tribe had lost an Immunity Challenge and was thus scheduled to go to Tribal Council that night. After producers determined, from interviews with the tribe, that 72-year-old Rudy Boesch was going to receive the majority of votes and therefore be eliminated from the game, Stacey claimed producers instructed two members of that majority to switch their votes to her.

    Stacey was voted out that night. She said in the lawsuit that, as two of the oldest contestants had been eliminated first and second, Burnett and company didn't want to lose the oldest demographic of TV watchers by having the only other old person voted out next. 

    CBS counter-sued for $5 million for speaking out against the show, and the case was settled out of court.

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