Carson Garrett Was a 'Survivor' Fan Fave — Now the Internet Is Dumping on Him for a Controversial Business Tactic

Carson Garrett was a ‘Survivor 44’ fan favorite and Sia Award winner. Now there’s controversy around his puzzle business.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Apr. 4 2024, Published 2:23 p.m. ET

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” The popular Dark Knight quote surprisingly describes a Survivor fan favorite: Carson Garrett. He was once synonymous with nerdy charm, surprising social awareness, and a knack for puzzles. As part of Survivor 44’s infamous Tika 3, he was instrumental in the season’s outcome. And yet, fans are now villainizing him on social media.

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One of the most recognizable aspects of Carson’s persona was his dedication to practicing puzzles at home before going on Survivor. In his casting video and in the background footage, he claimed to have 3-D printed the puzzles. Since his time on the show, however, he started his own puzzle-making business, which has caused some unethical business practices to come out of the woodwork (or should we say 3-D-printed work). So we dive into the controversy.

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Etsy ‘Survivor’ puzzle makers brought up the controversy with Carson, claiming that he intentionally stole their business tactics.

We want to start by saying there are two sides to every story. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard from Carson about what really happened, so we’ll share what has been said by multiple Etsy puzzle sellers. The alleged short story of it all is that the puzzles he used to prep were mostly made by Etsy puzzle sellers and not just his 3-D printer. In addition to that, he apparently met up with several of these sellers after filming to talk about a partnership deal, but instead created his own store and then blocked them.

While rumors of this have been circulating ever since Carson launched his store, a thread by Outplay Puzzles went viral on April 3, 2024. “If you still don’t know the full story of Carson and I, I’m going to share it one more time. I just can’t get past the hurt he put my business and myself hope is that one day we can talk about this with him since he blocks anyone who mentions it,” they wrote.

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“I reached out to Carson to discuss a paid partnership. I wanted to give him something in return for the sales he had driven and create a mutually beneficial relationship with someone I saw as both a hero and a friend.

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“We met for coffee, I gave him free products to promote in his content, and we discussed payment. Over the course of an hour he asked tons of questions about how I run and promote my business, how to promote my puzzles, etc. I answered honestly because I thought he was a friend.

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“A month later he launched Puzzlenaut, selling two of my most popular puzzles (a question he made sure to ask at lunch). I went to message and congratulate him on this venture, and ask about how this affected our partnership only to find myself blocked … During his launch he used almost every marketing tactic I mentioned in that meeting, full campaigns I designed for my store that he’s now taken for free.”

They also shared receipts that Carson had bought their puzzles instead of 3-D printing them. In addition, they added that Carson had every right to create his own puzzle store and that’s not where their issue is. “My issue has never been one of competition or copyright but rather the unethical practices and the deceptive way in which he got the literal handbook on how to run a business like mine,” they added in a reply.

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Now, Carson is selling his own puzzles upwards of $80 per puzzle, four times the price of some of the wooden Etsy puzzles. One Redditor who bought one of these noticed that the return address was a 3-D print farm in Georgia, suggesting that not only did he unethically compete with other puzzle makers, but that he is also allegedly dishonest about how his puzzles are made.

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Carson has yet to respond to the allegations, but his good friend Carolyn Wiger has.

As various people weigh in on the controversy, from fans to fellow players to fellow entrepreneurs, Carson has yet to weigh in on his side of the story. From the way it looks now, Carson met with fellow puzzle makers under the guise of working with them intentionally setting out to compete with them. Former Survivor player Kelley Wentworth seems to have sided with Outplay Puzzles in light of the controversy.

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However, his on-screen ally and off-screen bestie Carolyn Wiger came to his defense. “I’m sorry but you have no idea how hard Carson works,” she tweeted back. “Are you kidding me? You go online demonizing him! It’s none of your business how he runs his business! He’s not copying your puzzles!! These are all puzzles inspired by a show that we love!”

As fans continue to side with Outplay Puzzles, Carolyn added, “There’s no argument here! Outplay you offered Carson some small a-- cut to promote puzzles. Immediately I told him. Whaaat?! No start your own business! Several people told him that!! So he isn’t allowed to because outplay does?!! Come on.”

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While Carolyn makes a fair point, neither she nor Carson has agreed to talk with the Etsy puzzle makers privately, according to their public exchanges. While we all hoped Carson was really as wholesome as he appeared on television, there’s no way of truly knowing until we hear his side of the story.

New episodes of Survivor air every Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

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