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    34 Absolutely Bonkers Things From Old "Survivor" Seasons They Don't Do Anymore

    Like passing around a conch shell at Tribal Council and drinking cow's blood.

    After a long hiatus, new episodes of Survivor are back on our TV screens.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    It's almost as good as getting an Outback Steakhouse reward.

    But over the course of its now 41 seasons, a lot has changed.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    Mostly for the better, so claps for that. 

    And there were some things the show did in the first few seasons that now seem totally bonkers given where the show ended up.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    So to celebrate Season 41, here are a bunch of weird things that happened in the early seasons that you probably forgot all about.

    CBS / Via giphy.com

    1. Jeff didn't give commentary during the challenges.

    A tribe carries a large crate out of the water in an immunity challenge in Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    Watching those early challenges, the silence is DEAFENING! Jeff is not giving his usual play-by-play in which he roasts contestants and says vaguely sexual things like "so close but he just can't get it in the hole." Instead, we get some intense music and the contestants' heavy breathing and muttering. Thank goodness Jeff realized the audience needed him to fill the dead air. 

    2. Jeff used a conch shell to direct conversation at Tribal Council.

    Jeff Probst holding a conch shell at Tribal Council
    CBS

    In the third episode of Season 1, Jeff channels The Lord of the Flies and brings a conch shell to Tribal Council for whatever reason. Basically, whoever is holding the conch is encouraged to speak openly about the tribe (aka give up the dirt.) Obviously, this tactic does not work — the castaways, even at this point, realize it's not a smart move to start talking crap about someone sitting right next to them who will have a vote in 20 minutes. The conch was scrapped and Jeff just got better at asking questions. 

    3. The torches were extinguished at waist level.

    Jeff Probst extinguishes Sonja Christopher's torch in Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    In the first episode of the show, the art department made the hole the torches fit into just a little too deep, meaning that poor Sonja's torch was practically at her knees when it was snuffed. They quickly rectified this and established the classic torch snuffing shot that we all know and love. 

    4. Nothing was waterproof.

    Wet Jeff Probst holds up a damp, illegible vote.
    CBS

    It would appear that the original Survivor squad also forgot that it would rain out there in the jungle. Tribal Council had very little cover, meaning that Jeff and the contestants were soaked through. Also, the parchment they were voting on resembled that brown paper towel they had in my elementary school, so the votes got very soggy and smudgy. 

    5. No one knew where to stand for the cameras.

    Contestants stand in a chaotic formation blocking each other on the beach on Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    God bless them, but the contestants were just standing wherever they darn well pleased in those early seasons. Look at this formation at a challenge in Borneo. They're blocking Sue and Rudy completely from view, and there's also some random crew members in the back of the shot. Things have gotten much more professional now with all the shots being lined up perfectly.

    6. A contestant voted off players alphabetically.

    Sean Kenniff holds up a vote reading "Colleen" in Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    In the early going, contestants also hadn't quite figured out why to vote people out or how to form alliances. Dr. Sean from Borneo decided he was just going to vote for his tribemates in alphabetical order so he didn't make waves. The strategy got him a good amount of press but not the million dollars. 

    7. Contestants had to hike to Tribal Council.

    A tribe hikes through the dense forest on Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    On the show now, we see contestants walk down the beach with torches in single file and then magically appear at Tribal Council. In between, they're transported by boat or bus because the sets aren't always near each other. In the early seasons, though, contestants were doing a LOT more hiking, and that included through the jungle to Tribal Council.

    8. There was a large chest of money at Tribal Council.

    The tribe sits at Tribal Council across from a large chest of money in Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    In a real Pirates of the Caribbean move, the Borneo Tribal Council set included a large chest of money that sat across from the castaways. I wonder if it inspired more cutthroat gameplay as contestants stared at it for an hour before voting off their friends. 

    9. Castaways got intros about their lives outside of the game.

    Lindsey Richter sits in an office with her dog on Survivor: Africa
    CBS

    Think of the budget this required! In early seasons, Survivor sent cameras to visit the contestants' homes or places of work to film little intro packages about them. You're a doctor? Let's get some shots of you in scrubs at the hospital. A teacher? What about a blackboard shot of you writing in cursive? Production realized at some point this was costly and you could just use a "Joe Schmo: Doctor" chyron at the bottom of the screen during confessionals and not have to send a film crew to Fargo General. 

    10. Castaways paid tribute to their eliminated competitors.

    Sandra Diaz-Twine and Jonny "Fairplay" Dalton hold groups of torches on Survivor: Pearl Islands
    CBS

    In a segment of the show that I quite frankly miss, the final few castaways used to pay tribute to their eliminated comrades. The finalists might say a few words, we'd get a montage of the dearly departed's best moments and a thought or two about their game. It served as a nice wrap-up to the season, and between the nostalgia and this damn song they always played, I would get very emo. Or maybe we could just get Billie Eilish to sing "Yesterday" instead? 

    11. Jeff performed death-defying stunts.

    Jeff Probst skydiving out of a plane on Survivor: Vanuatu
    CBS

    In the first dozen seasons of the show, Jeff got very involved in a bit which saw him delivering the final votes to the reunion show in increasingly outlandish ways. From a helicopter to a jet ski to a motorcycle, we see Jeff arriving in various badass ways. This topped out around Vanuatu when he skydived. Really, where could he have gone from there? 

    12. Challenges would last for extremely long times.

    Keith Famie crouches on a pole for 10 hours and 17 minutes in Survivor: The Australian Outback
    CBS

    Nowadays, Survivor likes to keep on a pretty tight production schedule that allows contestants to compete in an immunity challenge, return to camp for a bit of scheming, and then head out to Tribal Council. This means that even the most grueling endurance challenges only last an hour or two. Not so in the early seasons. In Survivor: The Australian Outback, three contestants stood on poles for over 10 hours and only came down from their perches because Jeff offered them food. Then, they had to be taken directly to Tribal Council because it was so late. 

    13. Castaways hiked miles to get to their camps at the beginning of the seasons.

    A tribe carries a pallet of supplies through the desert on Survivor: Africa
    CBS

    Producers LOVED to start the season with a grueling hike in the early years. Give the contestants hundreds of pounds worth of supplies and then make them carry those for miles to their camp. Now, the contestants more or less just appear at their camps with supplies. I will say these initial hikes made for some instant DRAMA, so I wouldn't be opposed to bringing them back. 

    14. There were so many maps.

    The tribe consults a map on Survivor: Africa
    CBS

    Oh my gosh, SO MANY MAPS. And maps that appear to be hard to decipher and necessary to finding your way. The long opening hikes often involved these hand-drawn maps, and usually, whoever decided to take the guide role quickly found themselves on the chopping block. 

    15. There were quiz competitions.

    Helen Glover holds a box that says "True" on Survivor: Thailand
    CBS

    Challenges are fairly streamlined in the new era of Survivor. Pre-merge, we usually get team challenges that are some kind of obstacle course ending in a puzzle, and then post-merge, we get a number of endurance challenges and then individual obstacle course/puzzle moments. In the early seasons, the challenges were much more interesting (even if there were some duds). A frequent pick was a trivia competition in some form or other. These got scrapped almost entirely at some point, but I wouldn't be opposed to them throwing in some rogue multiple choice every now and again. 

    16. And competitions where you had to rip off hunks of meat.

    Stacy Kimball gnaws at a hunk of meat on Survivor: Fiji
    CBS

    Another weird competition from the early days was this classic where contestants have to see who can pull the most meat off of a hanging animal carcass using only their teeth. This is the type of mildly disgusting ingenuity I'd like to see more of on the show. A slide puzzle could never. 

    17. And fish-sorting competitions.

    A tribe sorts through a large pallet of fish on Survivor: Thailand
    CBS

    But then we also got kind of lame competitions like this one where contestants just had to sort a large pile of fish quickly. Not that thrilling to watch, and you couldn't tell which fish was which on camera. 

    18. And lots of DIY creativity challenges.

    A beach with a sign reading "SOS Tagi is Groggy" on Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    Early Survivor also employed some creativity challenges where the castaways had to design, build, or decorate things. In a challenge from the original season, both tribes had to create large SOS signs on the beach. 

    19. Seasons had recap episodes halfway through.

    A tribe celebrates on Survivor: All-Stars
    CBS

    These I hated. You rush home from a middle school basketball game to watch your favorite TV show and instead of getting someone voted off, you just got a recap of the first half of the season. Yes, there was some additional footage provided and I'm sure if you love the at-camp portion of the show, this was entertaining, but there was no strategy and no one new went home. No thank you. Glad these are gone. 

    20. Castaways instant messaged their families on desktop computers.

    Elisabeth Filarski sits at a computer desk in the wilderness with Jeff Probst behind her on Survivor: The Australian Outback
    CBS

    Survivor loved to flex early aughts technology, such as when they built an internet café (remember those?) in the Australian Outback so contestants could IM their family members while eating croissants.

    21. Old-school VHS players showed up occasionally.

    A TV playing a VHS video of a castaway's kid on Survivor: Borneo
    CBS

    An old-school VHS player and TV also made an appearance in the early days. Of course, it was brought out in a giant wooden crate to give it a Survivor feel. 

    22. Production made contestants wear their Survivor clothes to the finale.

    Ethan Zohn and Kim Johnson sit together at the finale of Survivor: Africa
    CBS

    In a production move that can only be described as cruel, they made the cast of Survivor: Africa show up to the finale (shot in New York some six months later) in the clothes they'd been wearing their last night IN AFRICA. Can you imagine? Those must be disgusting. And also, it made everyone immediately look like they were 20 pounds heavier and squeezed into their outfits because at the end of living in the African bush, they'd all become emaciated. 

    23. Tribes got to be so small.

    Bobby Joh Drinkard and Stephenie LaGrossa stand together on Survivor: Palau
    CBS

    With all the tribe swapping and merging, the tribe sizes stay pretty even and consistent in more recent seasons. In the early going, however, tribes would get VERY lopsided quickly. In Marquesas, there was a tribe of only three, and in Palau, Stephenie LaGrossa outlasted her entire tribe, becoming the sole Ullong member to make the merge. 

    24. People took off their clothes for no apparent reason.

    A tribe including three naked men push a cannon through the forest on Survivor: Pearl Islands
    CBS

    IDK why, but people loved to just strip down for challenges. Truly makes not a lick of sense. Were they trying to intimidate people? Were they worried about being hampered by their shorts? I don't get it. 

    25. Gross food competitions happened every season.

    Linda Spencer sticks her tongue out with a mouth full of blood on Survivor: Africa
    CBS

    Survivor used to LOVE making contestants wolf down disgusting food items. They still bring these challenges back occasionally, but it was EVERY SEASON for a while. Really trying to outdo Fear Factor. 

    26. They ate rats.

    Joel cooks a rat over the fire
    CBS

    And even when they weren't in challenges, they ate gross stuff. Nowadays, they've got rice and fishing equipment so the food situation doesn't get too dire, but in the early seasons, they were eating rats, bugs, bats, and slugs. Disgusting. 

    27. Contestants had to hike 11 miles through the jungle in the middle of the night.

    Stephanie LaGrossa leads her tribe on a long hiking challenge in Survivor: Guatemala
    CBS

    In Guatemala, they started the show by forcing the two tribes to race 11 miles through the jungle. It took them so long, they had to sleep in the middle of the woods. Everyone got sick, people were dead tired by the end. Nurse Margaret, one of the contestants, spent her first week trying to patch everyone up and then got voted off for being too maternal. Sort of a sick and twisted way to start the show and just begging for a medical emergency, but also I like the drama of it all. 

    28. Killer animals roamed around camp.

    A crocodile cage so that the castaways can swim on Survivor: Guatemala
    CBS

    Now that the show has been camped out in Fiji for quite some time, wildlife doesn't appear to be much of a problem, but in some of the earlier seasons, dangerous animals were a threat. In Africa, they had to build a wall to keep lions out of the camp. In The Amazon, they couldn't swim because of the piranhas. And in Guatemala, there were SO MANY crocodiles in the water that they had to give the castaways a croc-proof swimming cage. 

    29. The competitions involved a lot of wrestling.

    Amanda Kimmel wrestles with Sherea Lloyd in the mud on Survivor: China
    CBS

    There was a period in the early-to-middle seasons of Survivor where they loved making the contestants get as physical as possible in the challenges. Everything involved mud wrestling, nearly drowning people, and dragging humans through the sand. Injuries were caused, and so they eventually scaled it back, but it was a gladiator ring for a while. 

    30. And pulling off each other's clothes.

    Castaways yank each others clothes off on Survivor: China
    CBS

    And in the wrestling challenges, everyone got their clothes ripped off. So many blurs. 

    31. Jeff didn't host the reunion shows.

    Rosie O'Donnell stands in front of castaways at the Survivor: Marquesas reunion
    CBS

    Jeff Probst is a consummate host, but for some reason, they didn't let him host the reunion show until Thailand. For the first four seasons, the reunion was hosted by Bryant Gumbel and then Rosie O'Donnell, who, while great, did not know nearly as much about the show or contestants as Jeff did. 

    32. Every episode included Tree Mail readings.

    Amber Brkich and Elisabeth Filarski look at Tree Mail on Survivor: The Australian Outback
    CBS

    Before every challenge, contestants get a heads up message in Tree Mail. Now, we rarely see these little riddles and rhymes and mostly just go straight to the challenge. In the early seasons, though, we got to see every single thing that arrived at the camp via this message box. So many cryptic poems about balance and stamina. 

    33. The water supply was disgusting (and dangerous).

    Lindsey Richter scoops water out of a swamp on Survivor: Africa
    CBS

    Now, every tribe camp just has a well. Yes, the water still needs to be boiled/purified, but at least it's fairly safe to begin with. Not the case for the early seasons. In Africa, they were drinking water from a stagnant pond. No amount of boiling was helping that water, and half the cast got sick. 

    34. Finally, contestants brought luxury items with them.

    Keith Famie and Jerri Manthey use a large Texas flag to build a shelter on Survivor: The Australian Outback

    Finally, in current seasons, contestants are bringing next to nothing to the island. Sometimes, they don't even get bathing suits. In the early seasons, however, not only did they get multiple changes of clothes, but they also got "luxury items." These were special items that the contestants chose to bring along with them to pass the time. Scrabble sets, guitars, magic 8 balls, and backgammon boards were all brought by contestants. Most famously, Colby brought a giant Texas flag to The Australian Outback and they used it as a tarp for much of the season. 

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