Five Awkward Moments from Past Survivor Reunion Shows

Usually my weekly(ish) articles are about looking back on the most recent episode, and then further back on Survivor history. Well this week I’m going to try something completely different! Looking forward to the finale… while still looking back at Survivor history. After the finale we’ll all be so busy discussing the winner and our favorite moments that I wanted to take a minute (or several hours… these blogs take work!) to highlight the unsung hero of the Survivor season: the live Survivor Reunion.

Caramoan reunion

I was thinking back on the live finale and noticed that most of the memorable moments were horrifically awkward. Being horrifically awkward myself, I thought it would be fun to look back at the moments that made us cringe. However, it turned out that there’s a shit ton of those, so I narrowed it down to five.

5. Russell offers to pay Natalie White to be the Sole Survivor

This got so much more delicious after Heroes Vs. Villains, didn’t it? Some awkward moments are only cringe worthy, but some just lead to schadenfreude. The first time through, when fans were still largely pro-Russell, it was merely uncomfortable to watch him get verklempt while Natalie is interviewed about her win.

It's just dusty on the stage.
It’s just dusty on the stage.

But then things got really weird. It was one thing when Russell tried to argue that he had a great social game and played the best strategic game in the history of the show (that he didn’t really watch), but it was quite another when he said all he cared about was the title of Sole Survivor. Of course, Natalie would have no reason to just give Russell the title, so he offered to pay her $10,000 to have Jeff declare him the Sole Survivor.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 8.26.37 PM
I think this tells you what she thought of that.

The next several minutes are spent with Probst trying to reconcile the audience being so convinced that Russell should have won with the jury being so convinced he should have lost. The awkwardness is compounded after the fact, when you realize that Russell knows he’s certainly lost Heroes Vs. Villains and had entered that season convinced that he won Samoa.

4. Jeff Probst asks poor sweet Erik Huffman if he’s still a virgin

Underrated Survivor cutie pie Erik Huffman surprised a lot of people when he told Jaime that he was a virgin.

“Beautiful Cinnamon Roll Too Good For This World, Too Pure.”

But much like his and Jaime’s light flirtation, it wasn’t really a story arc on the show, just a brief character moment. Then came the reunion…

After talking to all the other major characters from Survivor: China, Jeff turns to Jaime Dugan to get her to talk about the fact that she’s started dating angel-faced Erik. Then Jeff moves on to Erik and everyone can tell where the conversation is going because Jeff looks like this:

Bro. BRO.
Bro. BRO.

And no hedging about it, Jeff straight up asks Erik if he’s still a virgin, now that he’s dating Jaime. Everyone laughs and teases Jaime a bit, but Erik immediately answers, “Of course.” Soon after, though, James can be seen leaning in, reminding everyone why that might really be Erik’s answer.

"Mama's watchin'"
“Mama’s watchin'”

So it’s hard to say if Erik was telling the truth or if he just didn’t want to talk about losing his virginity on national television. Which, fair. It’s almost like that’s none of Jeff Probst’s business!

However, I’m pretty sure we all know Erik’s status now.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.

3. Kat Edorsson is top-heavy

Kat changed all of our lives when she got voted out of Survivor: Blood Vs. Water. Never before had we had a proper way to analyze the dateability of Survivor contestants, besides their looks and personalities. But on that fateful night when Kat was voted out, she made the declaration that resonated with millions of Americans, as well as a few people from the Commonwealth.

Damn straight, Kat. Dating is for winners.
Damn straight, Kat. Dating is for winners.

When it’s revealed at Redemption Arena that Kat was the one voted out, there is some solid evidence that Kat probably was more into Hayden than Hayden was into Kat. She clearly wants him to switch places with her, but he sidesteps it by saying he’s in a good spot and to “think of the future” (read: “think of our future if I win more money”).

Then came the reunion. Probst talks to Kat about her aforementioned quote and if they are still a couple. She says they are, but still long distance and that she made some changes to keep up with Hayden.

Hayden and Kat
Hey hun? Remember when we talked about thinking before speaking? No? Gonna keep saying top heavy?

She repeatedly gestures towards her (well-covered up) chest while saying she’s top heavy now. Hayden nervously laughs throughout the whole thing while Jeff keeps pressing. “You changed your body so he would stay with you?” She says no and Hayden laughs in apparent horror and now no one knows what’s going on.

Okay, so real talk: Whether Hayden felt that way or not, if Kat really did get breast implants as a way to hold on to him, that’s terrible and really sad. But man, was that an awkward moment to watch, which got that much worse after they broke up.

2. David Murphy proposes to Carolina Eastwood

Ho boy. This was a rough one, and like with Hayden and Kat, gets that much worse when you know the aftermath.


At the Survivor: Redemption Island reunion, Jeff took a few minutes from talking to Boston Rob and Phillip to check in on David Murphy’s love life. Now why would Jeff (or literally anyone else) care about David Murphy’s love life? Well it just so happens he’s been dating Carolina Eastwood, the first boot of Survivor: Tocantins. David explains they met right after he got back from the island, and it took him a little while to get Carolina to like him.

This means they’ve known each other for less than eight months, and have been dating even less time than that. It’s important that you know that.

After weird stilted banter with Jeff about how well it’s going, David gets out of his seat and goes to Carolina in the audience. She looks… let’s go with “not super stoked.”

The happiest moment of her life?
The happiest moment of her life?

David goes through all the standard proposal speech stuff while Carolina says things like, “Shut the flipping front door!” and “You guys really like blindsiding me!” and eventually some sort of string of profanities that got cut by CBS.

But my personal favorite moment is one I rediscovered while getting screenshots. Who is that in the background during this totally genuine proposal? None other than Amber Mariano, the original Survivor fiancée.

"Mine was better."
“Mine was better.”

People view the David Murphy proposal in a couple of different ways: One is that Carolina is not into this at all. She doesn’t look that excited, and saying she’s blindsided might imply they haven’t talked about marriage yet. After all, they’ve only been dating a few months. A lot of people got the feeling that Carolina really only said yes to avoid humiliating David on national television.

The second theory is that the whole thing was staged. Obviously David had to plan this out with production, but this theory subscribes to the belief that Carolina knew what was coming. This could explain why she says her line about being blindsided twice, once during the proposal and once it’s finished. She came up with a line she thought was clever and wanted to be sure it was heard.

Whether the proposal was awkward due to a lack of commitment or simply a matter of poor acting, I think we all learned a valuable lesson: If you’re going to propose on Survivor, make sure it guarantees you a million dollars.

Rob and Amber proposal

1. Literally the entire Survivor: Caramoan reunion

The whole. Damn. Thing.

I feel pretty confident in saying that this was the worst reunion show of all time. Including the ones hosted by Bryant Gumbel and Rosie O’Donnell! While there are specific moments I will address shortly, the underlying issue is the show didn’t want anyone to notice that Brandon Hantz wasn’t allowed at the reunion for… well, you know. So instead of inviting the pre-jury onstage once the votes were read, they stuck them in the audience.

Caramoan reunion
And you thought JURIES could be bitter.

This would generally be regarded as a bad move. And rightly so! Not only is it disrespectful, but with fewer cast members to talk to, Probst now had time to kill.

Things continue in a downward trend when Jeff starts to talk to Dawn about everything that happened with Brenda. Dawn says how it was hard playing against her true character because the game is always personal. She reveals that she deleted her Twitter because there was so much negativity after Brenda was blindsided and says that she and Brenda have not spoken since the show despite Dawn’s multiple attempts to reach out and apologize.

And that’s when Jeff brings Brenda in via satellite. No, she’s not so bitter about being voted out that she refused to attend the reunion (though maybe…), it turns out she’s super pregnant! So after the ugly incident at Final Tribal where Brenda asks Dawn to take out her false teeth and after hearing that Dawn has reached out to apologize to Brenda, only to be ignored, Jeff asks Brenda to apologize to Dawn, right?

Nope! Dawn is “given the opportunity” to apologize to Brenda for… voting her out?

"Can't say anything bad about me because I'm carrying the miracle of life!"
“Can’t say anything bad about me because I’m carrying the miracle of life!”

Then Jeff goes to Phillip which leads to Phillip talking about the “BR Rules”, which leads to Jeff talking to Boston Rob in the audience, which somehow leads to Boston Rob promoting his book, The Boston Rob Rulebook which is a real thing you can buy for some reason.

Who bought this? Reveal yourselves to me.
Who bought this? Reveal yourselves to me.

That might seem like enough awkward moments for one reunion show, but Jeff didn’t just kill time in the Survivor: Caramoan reunion, he murdered it.

Jeff attempts to actually talk to the players for a little bit, discussing Andrea’s game and Malcolm’s overall appeal. But when Malcolm mentions he has a lot of young fans, the pull of the audience is too strong to resist and Jeff approaches an 11 year old girl.

chris hansen
Not like that!

So Jeff talks about Malcolm to this poor sweet brace-faced girl, who will definitely not look back on this moment with embarrassment or regret.

After some more actual conversation with the actual players this season, Jeff returns to the audience to talk to Rudy for some reason. Even weirder was that they played a video message from Richard Hatch to Rudy, and then we all had to pretend we were all still okay with Rudy saying “queer.”

"I'm too old to change!"
“I’m too old to change!”

And that’s the tale of how three former players and a pre-teen got more airtime than over half the cast. This reunion show was instantly unpopular, so while there will always be awkward reunion moments, hopefully there won’t be a reunion show quite as uncomfortable as Survivor: Caramoan.

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Emma is the token chick of the Purple Rock Podcast. She has watched the show continuously since the second episode and is pretty sure she's never seen the pilot.

Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Micronesia, Cambodia, Cook Islands, China, Philippines

Favorite players: Courtney Yates, Parvati Shallow, John Cochran, Cirie Fields, Yul Kwon, Kim Spradlin
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42 thoughts on “Five Awkward Moments from Past Survivor Reunion Shows

          1. Without having seen the contract the players sign: Yes, they can sue him, but whether they do depends on what they can get out of him. There’s not a lot of value to be had from losing a pre-jury player going on the pre-jury trip, and, more likely than not, they actually saved money. By all accounts part of Vytas’s decision involved not taking the pittance prize he won for being first out, so he doesn’t owe them that. They could maybe argue that by bolting he created spoilers that are damaging to the show, but that’s pretty speculative and I don’t know how much a jury would actually award for that, but probably less than the costs involved in suing him.

            I’m waiting for an actual lawyer like Matt to come along and tell me how I’m wrong, but my general sense is that while they could sue him, there’s no upside in doing so.

          2. They also pay the contestants more money to be at the finale. So they’re saving that cost.

            This is also far from the first time someone bailed on sequester. Brad Culpepper did and they invited him to come back. I think the issue this time is that this season had more attention on it due to the voting and maybe they’re starting to think about trying to discourage this behaviour.

          3. I also think Production knows that returnee seasons get spoiled easily (See All Stars for a prime example). On top of that, we are seeing a cast that is highly involved with social media, which is just a minefield for spoilers.

          4. Thanks for the insight — I never would have known about the previous pre-jury bailers, which is why I was wondering how much of a big deal it would actually be. I guess that’s where social media has once again changed the story — you used to have to really seek out spoilers, didn’t you? 😉

        1. My guess is that it’s because of his social media activity when he got home, spoiling that he didn’t make the merge.

  1. I basically agree with all of these, with the exception of ‘are you still a virgin,’ which isn’t so much about that moment as that it’s in such a rich tradition of Jeff probing weirdly into male contestant’s love lives that I’m basically numb to that. (See most recently the Joe/Jenn thing after Worlds Apart, and also we’re also probably getting another of those tonight, so yay?) Not that I can fault you for bringing up China, because bringing up China is always the correct course of action.

    Instead I would have subbed in the entirety of the Words Apart reunion – the aforementioned Joe/Jenn thing, the Shirin/Will exchange, Rodney’s sad, weird birthday party. It was a clusterfuck.

    1. I was downright uncomfortable for large parts of the WA reunion. Of course Dan is a complete clod, but production really twisted the knife.

  2. I really love Dawn so I have still never watched the Caramoan reunion because it sounds so uncomfortable. That picture of the pre-jurors is pretty great though.

    1. I believe I read somewhere that Dawn originally lost her teeth while being mugged. So the removal of them probably brought back some horribly traumatic memories. Yay!

  3. This is the right five. Number six is a tie between the Dan business and Shirin/Will last year.

    One we didn’t remember well enough to mention, but still matters: Probst browbeating Chris at the Vanuatu reunion in retaliation for his then-girlfriend Julie.

    1. I forgot about the Dan business when I was arguing for the Worlds Apart finale. The fact that they had to call in a counselor to calm him down after that says… things.

    2. Holy moley, all the Dan stuff was just horrible. Probst was determined to stretch out the ugliness that infected that whole miserable season, including showing that endless “behind the scenes” clip. Just ugh.

      1. I actually like that behind the scenes clip, just because we generally don’t get to see that stuff. The logic of spending a huge chunk of the reunion on shaming Dan is questionable, but it was cool to see what Survivor looks like when you can see the cameras.

      1. Semi-ironic (profile picture 155,000% ironic). C’mon, everyone who can overlook how filthy and smelly they must be has a SILF.

  4. Cambodia reunion predictions thread:
    – Danny Deitz will make an appearance, sending it to commercial with donation info.
    – Val segment via satellite
    – Monica will get no mention

    What else you got?

    1. Invisi-Monica is an easy call, the real question is whether Wiglesworth gets any air time.

      Probst will go out of his way to provoke Abi-Maria somehow.

      Savage will continue to be as petulant and perspective-lacking as at Ponderosa.

      Even if Jeremy doesn’t win, how he got to the finale (at least) with no votes against him will be a topic.

      I’m going to be watching Probst closely when he hypes next season for signs of sincerity.

    2. I got Jeremy announcing his son’s name, especially if he wins.
      I also have Probst asking awkward questions to Spencer about Marcella.
      We are going to get some Varner color.
      I also think we will have a Stephen dodo montage and a Keith in the background montage.

    3. Resolution of at least one Abi-Maria feud. Maybe with Peih-Gee?

      Joe and his Dad.

      I don’t think much for Kimmi. I think any “how does this compare to old Survivor” will go to Wigles or Varner.

      1. I think the Abi “resolution” will be with Tasha, especially if Tasha makes it to FTC and Abi burns her in her speech. If not, Peih Gee is a definite possibility.

  5. These are all terrible, except for sad Russell, which was awesome.

    The chances I’m going to watch the reunion tonight are slim, so everyone catch me up afterwards.

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