Why Survivor is the greatest show on TV


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In this special video and article I am going to be presenting a theory on my favorite TV show SURVIVOR and what makes it so great.


There is no doubt that the show has been successful. At the time of writing it has survived for over 17 years, 35 seasons and 500 episodes. It also boasts an extremely loyal sub-culture of fans (like myself) who not only watch it religiously each and every week but also spend significant time discussing it with friends or through online communities.

Since I began watching Survivor back in 2011 I have always felt that there was something special about it. From the concept, to the locations, to the strategy to the music and more. This might be a little bit out there but the whole production of the show to depicts a condensed version of life itself. It provides an inside look into the fundamentals of human nature in a very real way. For me it captures the very essence of what it means to be human from the basic struggles of facing the hardship of nature to more elusive themes such as morality and self-acceptance.

To satisfy by curiosity on this subject. I decided to use each level of the famous model ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs’ to analyse certain elements of Survivor in relation to human psychology.


1) Physiological needs

To kick off each season of Survivor a group of contestants (or players) are abandoned in a remote location with near enough nothing but the clothes of their backs. The main priority at the very beginning of the game is establishing a camp, finding a water source, making fire and building a shelter. They won’t last the 39 day period of the game without these necessities.


These initial requirements correspond with our Physiological needs as human beings. The Survival situation is already compelling to us as appeals of our most basic nature.


2) Safety needs


After the Physiological needs are dealt with the players are next concerned about their safety. And here I don’t really mean physical safety but instead their safety within the context of the game.


Every 3 days the tribe comes together to vote someone off, removing them from the game. This act corresponds with death. One player will essentially be ‘killed off’ every few days. What this does is created an atmosphere where no-one is safe and where every players needs fight to keep themselves alive.


This usually plays out very naturally with groups of people coming together to form a strong alliance in order to keep each of them safe. At this point strong bonds between haven’t nesserialy emmerged these groups provide the illusion of temporary safety.


3) Love and belonging


After some time passes the initial group that formed previously may hit some hard times. As numbers in the game dwindle it’s becomes more and more important for the players to not just be in a strong alliance but to feel like they belong in that alliance.


Stronger bonds are starting to form between players and those who feel  left out of the loop may take actions to find a greater sense if belonging with other players in the game, even if they were previously considered the enemy. This act is known as flipping and happens commonly. This can sometimes work out for the player who flipped but on other occasions it leads to greater isolation.


4) Self-esteem


We now move into the later half of the game. Where the mindsets of the remaining players begin to shift from being focused on their tribe to being more focused on themselves. This is a game that only has one winner after all.


To win the game in the end the players need to receive the votes from those that have previously voted out and to secure these votes they need to be respected and players amd people.


Those who don’t feel like they are respected at this point often try and build their self-esteem by making moves which shake the game and prove their worth as a competitor. It is often a risky move but they feel that without gaining respect from others they won’t stand a chance in the final showdown.


5) Self-Actualization


The reason every player came out here was to win the game. This is the greatest accomplishment of all are really corrosponds to Self-Actualization.


However, there can only be one winner and the fight for this top spot truly reveals the truth in character.


6) Self-trancendence


Once the game is over and the winner is announced. All of the players who competed on that season, are reunited and reflect on the game. At this point it doesn’t matter if they were out first or won the game. They all have the opportunity to trancende themselves and be appreciative of the fact that they were a part of the narrative. They have their place in the greatest show on television.


To me this simple idea is really what we all have to come to terms with when our ‘season ends’ and the next one is revealed.


We need to have faith in the format.


And accept that the game will live on even when we have stopped playing it.



Ben Worrall


Also published on Medium.