Survivor, the long-running adventure reality show, is finally making its way back across the pond, with 18 recruits from around the UK competing in the ultimate test of “brains, brawn and betrayal”.
First conceived three decades ago, Survivor hit screens in Sweden in 1997 under a different name. The most popular version of the show is the long-standing CBS series in the US, which is currently airing its 45th season.
Despite the show’s success overseas, Survivor hasn’t aired on UK shores since two series in 2001 and 2002. But now, the show is returning.
Presented by The Masked Singer host and I’m a Celebrity favourite Joel Dommett, Survivor UK will see a group of strangers marooned in a tropical location. They are then divided into two tribes, where they must compete against each other in a range of physical and mental challenges for rewards or immunity.
Throughout the series, the competitors will play physical and psychological games, fending for themselves and living on bare rations.
They are hoping not to be voted out along the way, because in the end, only one competitor can be named the Sole Survivor and win £100,000.
Below, you can meet the competitors up for the challenge on Survivor…
Aged 34, brand strategist Ashleigh is an upbeat and proactive person willing to push herself in order to get what she wants. Over the years, the London native has put herself through many challenges, from boxing and skydiving to starting her own business. Ashleigh has coeliac disease and unfortunately suffered a gluten flare-up three weeks before filming began, which she says impacted her training and meant she wasn’t at “peak fitness” at the start. Still, she was up for the challenge. “I knew I wouldn’t be the most physically fit, but I work well in a team and enjoy more mental and strategic challenges. I was excited about the team games and puzzles!” she said.
Hailing from Bridgend, Christopher took on the Survivor challenge to push himself. The 36-year-old describes himself as a team player, able to work under pressure and “adapt to any situation”. When it came to the show, he didn’t have “a big master plan, but I did have the strategy to keep my eyes and ears open and to do my best. That way I can just adapt and make moves when needed, take it day by day and never give up even when things turn really tough.”
Raised on the original 2002 series of Survivor, Doug “wasted no time” in applying for the show’s reboot. The 32-year-old came to the competition in hope of making his family on the Isle of Mull proud and had an impressive two-prong game plan. “Firstly, establish myself as an indispensable member of the tribe during the early phase of the game,” he said. “Then secondly was to find myself a ‘Shield’ player… Someone ideally who would take a real leadership role within the tribe and more importantly, is regarded as a bigger target than myself.”
During lockdown, semi-pro footballer Hannah, 30, became obsessed with Survivor. Then she heard it was returning to the BBC, and had to apply. “I saw myself as a strong physical player, but I also thought my positive energy, authenticity, and social skills could be real game changers,” she said. “Survivor is as much about strategy and alliances as it is about physical prowess, so I wanted to bring a well-rounded approach to the game.”
“The ultimate challenge of a lifetime”: that’s how 38-year-old Jess described Survivor. In the run up to the show, the fitting model from London increased her gym sessions, but still found life without her luxuries to be her “literal worst nightmare”. Still, it was worth it. After all, she says, “I thought the £100,000 might come in handy”.
At 29, Laurence has already travelled the world. Born in Vienna and raised in Costa Rica, he now lives in London while studying for an MPhil at Cambridge University. In preparation, he practiced starting fires with flint and eating bugs. “I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger in terms of biceps, or Machiavelli in cunning… so, all I could rely upon is being the source of good morale through buffoonery, and the ability to adapt to everything and everywhere as a product of globalism and having worked in 11 countries,” he said.
A professional boxer, 28-year-old Lee felt that Survivor was “a great opportunity to test myself and let the world see me for who I really am”. From Limerick and based in Belfast, Lee hadn’t seen the show so didn’t have a “proper strategy”, but said he felt his “massively competitive” nature would allow him to excel. “It’s a test of mental strength, which I handled well so for me it was grand,” he said.
Leilani was at “a crossroads in my life” when she decided to apply for Survivor. The barista, who also works as a cleaner at a yoga studio, hadn’t watched the show, meaning she was unaware of the psychological aspect of the game and ended up really missing her son. The 45-year-old admitted: “I thought it was just about living right on the beach and competing in physical challenges, so I had no game plan whatsoever!”
The baby of the group (aged just 21), Nathan applied to be on Survivor because it’s “the ultimate challenge” – and to have a fun summer. Passionate and with “a glass half-full perspective on life”, the hospitality worker said he wanted to play the social game and use the fact that he would be underestimated to his advantage. In the end, he “embraced the dirt”, but was so hungry he was craving foods he doesn’t even like. “There was just no taste or flavour in my mouth. We were trying every possible way to get flavours in our food!” he said.
Nathan comes from London but now lives in Manchester, where he works as a fitness instructor and operations manager. The 35-year-old is a big believer in the Japanese concept of Kaizen, or continuous improvement, and felt like Survivor was the next stage for him to achieve this goal. He planned to play the game by building strong relationships, and said he ended up “thriving” away from his home comforts – even if he did miss his toothbrush…
The oldest player in the game, Pegleg, 54, is also one of the most impressive. Having one leg (hence the name), the surf school owner had “a lifetime of overcoming preconceived ideas of disability” to prepare him for the tough mental sides of the competition. He gave up a lot to be there too. “Going into the show I was World Champion in my surf division and I gave up the opportunity of retaining the title to be on Survivor as I had to miss three competitions whilst we were filming,” he said.
Rachel hails from Whitstable, where she works as an insurance claims handler. The single mother was motivated to apply to go on the show to show her kids that “not having a dad around does not mean that one parent isn’t enough”. Encouraging and honest, Rachel, 40, entered the show without as game plan, but said that she hoped her sporty background would give her the physical background she’d need. “My life experiences have already given me a lot of mental strength and coping mechanisms,” she said.
One of the youngest players in the game, 23-year-old Rach differs from the many Survivor superfans, and had never heard of the show when she saw it was returning. That soon changed, and she binge-watched the back catalogue in order to prepare. The 23-year-old certainly has fitness on her side as a personal trainer and bodybuilder, but says her youth also allowed her to get everything she could out of the show. “Giving up everything in my life to take part in Survivor was huge for me and I was so grateful to have been given the opportunity,” the Glasgow local said.
Ren was excited to play the “mental and social aspects” of the game of Survivor. The outdoorsy 28-year-old said that the show is “not about playing the game you want to play, it’s about playing the game the jury wants to see you play”. In preparation, Ren 3D-printed the more popular puzzles to practice, and the network data scientist “controversially” ended up loving life in camp. The lack of food, however, was handled “poorly”. “Turns out I really hate rice and beans,” Ren said.
Richard’s day job as a pensions manager may not seem like the most obvious fit for Survivor, but don’t be fooled. The 36-year-old from Dalkeith is also a emmeber of the RAF Reserves, and applied for the show as an opportunity to challenge himself mentally and physically. His strategy was to “try to be in the middle of the pack and look for opportunities that I could use to my advantage”. After all, he said, “I always play to win.”
At 44, Sabrina is one impressive player: an ultramarathon runner, charity founder, author, mother of four and grandmother of three. To prepare herself for the show, she “ran two multi-stage 300K off-road trail ultramarathons”, putting herself in “a deep dark hole physically and mentally”. It paid off for Sabrina, who hails from Stroud and said she took to the game like “like a duck to water”. “I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it, it felt like home!” she said.
Shai, 33, grew up watching Survivor in Sri Lanka and jumped at the chance to be on the show. After all, “who wouldn’t want to be stranded on a random island with nothing but basic rations against a bunch of random strangers, competing in the best game ever”? The finance risk manager’s strategy for the game was to lay low and seize control midway through, and says he quickly became accustomed to life without luxuries on the island.
Like many of her fellow competitors, Tinuke has always been a fan of Survivor and watched every season of the show in preparation. The self-proclaimed “disco dynamite London babe” is no stranger to thinking outside the box, having worked as a professional roller skater or years. The 30-year-old says she was competitive on the show, but was proud of herself for “acing it” at showing what she can do. “My self-imposed bar was already sky-high, but now it’s off the charts! No more limits, baby!” she said.
Survivor UK airs on Saturdays and Sundays on BBC One.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies