Survivor and the Millennial: A Budding Relationship

What does Survivor mean to the millions of millennials that have grown up with the show over the past 16 years?

Survivor superfan Cam Kuhn talks about what Survivor means to the millennial generation.

It’s almost that time of year. Big Brother is approaching its final stretch; Rob Cesternino is wrapping up his offseason coverage and internet guru’s are digging their hearts out trying to find out anything and everything they can about the upcoming cycles of Survivor.

It’s incredibly hard to fathom that we are in our sixteenth year of tribal councils, immunity challenges, and blindsides. Like many other superfans, I am chomping at the bit just waiting to see what tricks Jeff Probst has up his sleeve. Coming off the back of two fantastic seasons, Survivor has a lot to live up to this year. Do I think they can do it? Oh, I have no doubt. And while Survivor has shifted its focus from “Oh, hey, look- we’re going to China” to “Oh, you play video games for a living? Let’s put you with nine others just like you,” the premise is still the same: outwit, outplay and outlast.

With the upcoming theme: Millennials vs. Gen X, I get excited because for the first time I really identify with one of the divisions. I never identified as a “collar” or an overly-obvious Brain, Beauty, or Brawn. If there is one thing I identify as it’s a millennial. So I put myself in the shoes of the incredibly fortunate players, who are right around my age, coming back from Fiji, having just experienced the best adventure of their life, and I ask myself: What does Survivor mean to the Millennial?

The Vanua Tribe on SURVIVOR: Millennials vs. Gen. X, when the Emmy Award-winning series returns for its 33rd season with a special 90-minute premiere, Wednesday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Vanua Tribe on SURVIVOR: Millennials vs. Gen. X, when the Emmy Award-winning series returns for its 33rd season with a special 90-minute premiere, Wednesday, Sept. 21 (8:00-9:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS Entertainment ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Many would argue that a millennial is defined by the technology they use, how they socialize, or how much college debt they have. And while that’s all great, I look at how another factor has defined my life, that factor being Survivor. I was ten years old when Survivor premiered in the summer of 2000. I remember going to my grandma’s house to stay the night, and she made me watch something on TV where some guy named “Gervase” couldn’t swallow a larva. I thought how stupid, why would anyone do this? Your mind isn’t that open at ten. But it was summertime, and I had nothing better to do, so every Wednesday I would sit with my family and watch the Pagong members get picked off like sitting ducks.

By the time Sue Hawk was giving her infamous rat and snake speech, the show had me hooked. Survivor became an obsession, an addiction if you will. I remember making my siblings play mock Survivor challenges with me, having multiple birthday parties that were Survivor themed, even begging my mom to take me to Dallas in seventh grade to a Survivor fundraising event at the bar Brandon Quinton worked. I sat through two Superbowls (which I had no interest in) to watch the premiere of Survivor: The Australian Outback and Survivor: All-Stars. I even skipped out on a mother’s day dinner, so I didn’t miss the Survivor: Micronesia finale. Sorry, mom.

Survivor always has and always will take priority in my life. I’ve turned down jobs because I can’t work on Wednesday evenings. I’ve upset friends because I won’t let them talk while the show is on. I even wrote my senior thesis on Survivor and how it transformed my way of thinking and communicating. Some people dream of meeting celebrities and finding out what they’re like in their everyday life; I dream of what it’s like to hang out with Survivors. Is John Cochran as witty as he comes off on television? What’s Joe Anglim like with clothes on? Will I ever get to have a sit-down conversation with Corinne Kaplan or Shane Powers? All questions that still are left as an unknown. I dream of what it’s like to be at a starting mat and hear Jeff Probst yell “Survivor’s ready!” I want to feel that rush that Kelly Wentworth felt when she played an idol to blindside Andrew Savage. I want to hear my name following the words “The winner of Survivor is…”


To the many people who find out my obsession with Survivor, they ask the same question: That show is still on? Of course it is. Survivor could go on forever thanks to people like me. Will it? Probably not. And I have a feeling the end is closer than we think, unfortunately. But in sixteen years, nothing has been more constant in my life than family and Survivor. Survivor has been the best friend I never knew I needed. Survivor has been there through graduation, both high school and college, relationships and breakups, friendships and fights, hangovers and adrenaline rushes. I don’t remember a thing I learned in Environmental Economics, but I can tell you how many votes it took to blindside Ozzy and who all voted for him in Micronesia.

One of these days, when Jeff Probst finally decides he’s tired of traveling the world and crushing people’s dreams, he will speak and snuff his own torch out. A very large piece of me will die inside, and I will have to get my fix by watching reruns over and over again. Until then, bring on the alliances, the idols, the challenges, the stunning views of beaches I’d die to visit. I can, honestly, say very few things have impacted my life and brought together a group of friends like Survivor has done for me and many others like me. So to the ten very lucky individuals who are about to represent the superfans who grew up with Survivor like myself, get out there and kick some ass- we’re rooting for you.

Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X premieres Wednesday, September 21 at 8:00 pm (EST), on CBS.

Header Photo Credit: victorulijn via Compfight cc

Cam Kuhn is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas and proud super fan of Survivor. He works as an education consultant for a technology firm and blogs in his spare time. Cam has applied for Survivor 4 times since turning 18, written his college thesis on the communication styles of Survivor, and won Corinne Kaplan's season 32 cast assessment via auction.