I’ve been a fan of the TV show Survivor since the very beginning. I watched Richard Hatch win it all in 2000 and I haven’t missed an episode since. That’s 25 seasons and 375 episodes. (If you watched every season back-to-back, 24 hours straight, it’d take you 17 days!)
My love for the show reached its zenith this weekend when I was treated to the opportunity to go the finale and live reunion in Los Angeles with my friend Lee, who does business with Mark Burnett, the creator and producer of the show.
I had no idea what was in store for me when I arrived at CBS Television City on Sunday, but it was an event I had been looking forward to all season long.
Little did I know going into the night that I would be treated like VIP. Not only were we in the audience, but we were seated in the very front row, next to the family of final four contestant Malcolm.
Before the 2-hour finale began airing, we mingled with Mark Burnett himself and a few past contestants. I even had an awkward run in with a moody contestant from last season. At first I couldn’t pinpoint what season she had been on and when I asked she snapped at me, reminding me it wasn’t that long ago… Without me even saying another word, she immediately went into defense mode, yapping about how she was edited as the cockroach of her season because she ticked off some producer during filming… Dang honey, chill out! Then I rubbed elbows with long-time dreamy host Jeff Probst, and previous contestants Rob Cesternino, Parvati Shallow and Burton Roberts, yum.
It was exciting and surreal to sit in the studio and watch the two-hour finale. Audience members and especially family members cheered and jeered at different points of the show. I probably had a smile on my face the entire time.
After the final tribal council aired and it was time for Jeff to read the votes and announce the winner, the entire cast came out and got set up for the big live reveal. At this point I was rooting for Lisa but thought Michael had the best shot of winning. However, both of them delivered weak answers to jury questions during the final tribal council and I knew Denise had made a much stronger case for the million dollar prize.
Before I knew it, the votes were read, Denise had won 5-1-1 and it was time for the live reunion show. This was my chance to appear on national television for the second time! (The first being when I stood behind a person being interviewed by Al Roker during The Today Show in 2001.)
It was fascinating being part of the live show. There were cameras zipping around everywhere and countdowns-til-the-next-commercial flashing all over.
After the reunion concluded, we jetted for the hallway where Lee knew the cast would exit the set. He knew if we acted fast we’d have a chance to take a picture or two with a contestant or two. We poked around, crossed paths with many of this season’s notable contestants including Jeff, Pete and RC, and Michael, Malcolm and Lisa, and I got to congratulate Denise on her win. We even popped into the media tent (we literally had all-access!) and I got to meet one of my favorite contestants of all-time, the sweet and friendly Jerri Manthey!
Finally after about 2 hours of stalking around CBS, we finally had the chance to pull grumpy, hottie, fourth place contestant Malcolm aside for some quick snapshots.
A lot of my friends poke fun of me over my long standing love for Survivor, but I have no shame. There aren’t many things I’ve done in my life for 12 years straight and I’m proud to say being a Survivor fan is one of them. It’s a fascinating show about how strangers interact and treat each other under extreme conditions, what drives people to win, competitiveness, physicality and basic human interactions. The experience changes people in positive ways and it’s always inspiring to watch that unfold. The show is always set in beautiful locations, from Africa to the Amazon to all over the South Pacific, and it makes me want to explore the world. Every season is different and worth watching for its own reasons. As long as it’s on, I’ll be a loyal viewer.
As dorky as it may sound, being at the finale and reunion was a night I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life. I had a blast and am so grateful for the experience.
Thank you again Lee, I owe you big!
For all my photos from the night, visit my Survivor finale Flickr album.