Many Behind-the-Scenes 'Survivor' Stories "Outlasted" the Rumor Mill to Be Proven True

24 years and 46 seasons later, some of the craziest ‘Survivor’ rumors are actually true, from finding cocaine to smuggling items.

Jamie Lerner - Author
By

May 16 2024, Published 1:54 p.m. ET

'Survivor: Winners at War' cast
Source: CBS

Every season of Survivor has different rumored behind-the-scenes stories from feuds to contraband. Now that we’re in Season 46 of the 24-year reality series, there are plenty of tales that have hit the rumor mill. Some are obviously untrue, but others have actually been proven true thanks to player interviews and solid reporting.

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Throughout the years, stories of players sneaking in beef jerky (through their anal cavities) to off-camera feuds, there have been more than enough Survivor rumors to keep us entertained between seasons. But which rumors are actually true? We round up all the rumors that have been proven to be true.

'Survivor 41' tribal council
Source: CBS

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ — “Weasel Woo”

Woo in 'Survivor: Cagayan'
Source: CBS

According to “Chaos” Kass and other sources, Yung “Woo” Hwang, Woo took various items from cameramen and production without getting caught. Kass alleged that he stole medicated mouthwash; Survivor spoiler source Redmond alleged he stole various supplies; the season’s winner, Tony, said in a Reddit AMA that he just took some clean drinking water form the camera guys. Regardless, it seems like Woo was responsible for some sort of in-game theft!

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‘Survivor: Micronesia’ — Amanda lied to look like a “good guy.”

Amanda Kimmel in 'Survivor: Micronesia'
Source: CBS

Survivor: Micronesia had some of the most rumored behind-the-scenes drama, from alleged game-rigging to how several players actually quit the game. But one rumor that was proven true, as confirmed by Ozzy and Parvati, was that Amanda Kimmel actually knew Ozzy would be blindsided. Knowing how she’d be perceived by the audience if she knew and decided not to tell him, she also pretended not to know about the blindside in front of cameras so she wouldn’t be portrayed as a villain.

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‘Survivor: Borneo’ — The bar visit reward was initially just a beer.

Jeff Probst and Kelly Wigglesworth in 'Survivor: Borneo' during the bar reward challenge
Source: CBS

As confirmed on the official On Fire podcast, Jeff shared that one of the most iconic rewards of Survivor was actually supposed to just be one glass of beer. However, players weren’t excited by that after some spectacular rewards, so they changed the reward at the last second to be a visit to a “local bar,” which was actually created by the art department, to watch the first few minutes of the premiere Survivor season.

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‘Survivor: Africa’ — Contestants were paid out for challenge error.

In Survivor’s third season, a Final Four immunity challenge was about how well the contestants knew each other. One question asked about which women didn't have any body piercings. Big Tom and Lex guessed Lindsey, while Kim Johnson guessed Kelly and subsequently won the challenge. It was later discovered that Tom and Lex were also correct, but the loss led to their vote-outs, so they were rewarded with the second-place prize money of $100,000.

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Big Tom, Lex, Kim, and Ethan at the 'Survivor: Africa' Finale
Source: CBS
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"It was an honest mistake, simply attributable to human error during the production of the series," CBS spokesman Chris Ender said to 19 News. "The producers feel horrible about it and they dealt with the situation as soon as they became aware of it." An additional rumor suggested they were all offered spots on Survivor: All Stars because of this, but that reasoning hasn’t been proven, as they were all popular contestants regardless.

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‘Survivor: China’ — Production drew Courtney Yates’s blood to make sure she could survive.

One of the gifts of COVID-19 was that EW conducted extra Survivor interviews to help us fill the void of a world without new Survivor seasons. Courtney Yates revealed that she was the only contestant regularly blood tested (in secret) because production was concerned she was too skinny to survive. Allegedly, they thought she would be an early boot, but when she lasted longer than expected, they needed to take medical precautions to make sure she would survive.

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Courtney Yates cast pic for 'Survivor: China'
Source: CBS
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“I'm pretty sure they did it because they thought that I was anorexic (I'm not) and dying,” she told EW. “They were like, ‘Hey, we need to talk to you.’ I was like, ‘Okay?’ And so in the middle of the filthy jungle away from everyone, they swabbed my elbow and took vials of blood. And then I was like, ‘What is this for? Are you doing this to everyone?’ And they're like, ‘Well, it's only some people. And if you tell anyone, they're going to think you're weak. So don't say anything.’"

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‘Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains’ — Boston Rob and Tyson used fuel form the boat to start a fire.

Tyson, Boston Rob, and Ethan Zohn in 'survivor: winners at war'
Source: CBS

Tyson Apostol is one of the many Survivor podcasters (and winners) we love and follow, thanks to his podcast on The Ringer titled The Pod Has Spoken. He has corroborated plenty of behind-the-scenes rumors, one of which included himself and Boston Rob. He confirmed that they used fuel from the boat to start a fire on Day 1 and that they were able to do this a few times before they got caught.

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‘Survivor: All Stars’ — The tribe swap was engineered to eliminate Amber.

Rob C., Amber, and Boston Rob in 'Survivor: All Stars'
Source: CBS

While it hasn’t been confirmed that production specifically wanted to eliminate Amber, it has been confirmed that the tribe swap was definitely rigged. Jerri Manthey revealed years later that the buffs they drew were stacked neatly in an urn and that they were told to line up in a specific order. Rumors have continued to speculate that production wanted to isolate Amber to keep bigger names in the game instead but luckily for them, their plan didn’t work, and Rob and Amber became the most iconic Survivor couple to date.

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‘Survivor: Australian Outback’ — “Beef Jerky-Gate”

In a recent episode of The Pod Has Spoken, now-reality producer Katie Gallagher (and Survivor: Palau contestant) brought up the infamous beef jerky scandal. Kel, the culprit in question who allegedly snuck beef jerky into the camp, either through his anal cavity or by sewing it into his clothes, which he learned through his military training, has never confirmed this. But Jerri, all the players, and even Jeff Probst have all come out saying they believe Kel was eating beef jerky during the game.

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‘Survivor: Panama — Exile Island’ — The Cassaya tribe found cocaine on the beach.

Probably the most explosive and shocking rumor, and the one with the most sources, the cocaine rumor is easily a favorite Survivor story. The season’s winner, Aras, described what happened in his quarantine questionnaire as did fellow player, Shane Powers. In the Reddit thread full of Survivor rumors, a producer on the season also confirmed it to be true.

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Shane Powers on 'Survivor: Panama'
Source: CBS
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"Aras and I were 'showering' at the beach, and a kilo of cocaine washed up at my feet," Shane said to EW. "I ran into the woods with it and was going to bury it and think about what could be done with it." The producers immediately confiscated it, however, and the Redditor revealed, “NONE OF THE CONTESTANTS, PRODUCERS, CREW, OR OTHERWISE used the cocaine. In fact, very few people saw it. It was just a wacky thing that happened.”

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Are there any more corroborated true stories from Survivor’s expansive rumor mill? We want to hear them!

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

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