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The Untold Truth Of Survivor

With an impressive 32 seasons and counting under its belt, it's safe to say Survivor is a television institution. Over the course of the last 16 years, viewers have witnessed plenty of controversies, mishaps, and just plain bizarre behind-the-scenes shenanigans. We all know what's happened in front of the camera. But here's something you may not know: the untold truth of Survivor.

Executive producer Mark Burnett allegedly rigged the first season

It's hard to overstate the cultural impact of Survivor's first season, as the show became an immediate nationwide sensation. A large part of that was due to the popularity of 72-year-old military man Rudy Boesch, who shocked everyone by almost making it to the end. But after the season it was alleged that producer Mark Burnett had rigged the competition by intervening to persuade contestants to vote off Stacey Stillman instead of Boesch. Stillman sued; while Burnett denied the allegations, other contestants corroborated her charges, and the lawsuit was eventually settled out of court.

A production mistake cost two castaways a chance at a million dollars

In the third season finale, the contestants squared off for a key immunity challenge. With a chance at a million dollars on the line, Kim Johnson and Lex van den Berghe had to guess which of their former tribemates never had a body piercing. Kim's answer was deemed correct, giving her immunity and leading to the ousting of fellow contestant Tom Buchanan. One problem: Lex's answer was also correct! Realizing that the mistake had potentially cost both Tom and Lex a chance at the ultimate prize, the producers awarded Tom and Lex each a $100,000 consolation prize.

A bag of cocaine once washed up on Exile Island!

Maybe the most bizarre story to come out of Survivor in the past 16 years is the fact that during the show's 12th season (Survivor: Panama), two contestants randomly found a brick of cocaine that washed up on the beach overnight. Yes, it sounds like the beginning of an Elmore Leonard novel, but it's true: Aras Baskauskas and Shane Powers actually found a kilo of cocaine in the surf. As you might expect, producers rushed in and took the coke away before anything too crazy could go down. Talk about a reward challenge!

Some of the challenges are actually re-enactments

With any reality show, it can be hard to tell where reality actually ends and artifice begins. Take the challenges, for instance. Only a small fraction of what actually takes place during team challenges is actually shown; before the teams compete, the producers slowly walk them through the entire thing, answering questions and showing the players how the challenge works. More surprising, though, is the fact that most of the aerial shots of castaways running around are actually re-enactments filmed after the fact using crew members as stand-ins for the castaways. The magic of television!

One survivor hid contraband somewhere...uncomfortable

Just before contestants are allowed to begin their Survivor experience, they are subjected to one final strip search to make sure they haven't brought any contraband with them. If this seems excessive, there's a pretty good reason for it: one contestant actually smuggled a canister of matches onto the show by sticking it up his butt! Who would be so ruthless and shameless? The answer is probably obvious to any hardcore Survivor fan. Yes, it was the original Survivor himself, Richard Hatch, who pulled it off when he returned for season eight's Survivor: All-Stars. Um, congrats?

Welcome to Ponderosa

Last year, Survivor finally raised the curtain on one of its biggest mysteries: just what happens to contestants once they get voted off the island. The answer, as revealed in the web series Survivor: Ponderosa, is that they relax in the lap of luxury at a holding area nicknamed Ponderosa by the production team. While some cast members who get voted off very early are sent back to the States for holding, players who make up the jury have to remain on site for filming. They get to hang out at a private resort while their former tribemates suffer away. Getting voted off doesn't sound so bad after all.

Most of those applications you've been sending in go right in the garbage

For a so-called "reality" show, there often seems to be little reality in the casting process for Survivor. That became apparent when it was revealed that almost all of the people picked for season 14's Survivor: Fiji were just aspiring actors from California. It also helps to know someone on the inside—Survivor: Fiji contestant Boo Bernis has reportedly helped nearly a dozen of his friends land spots on later seasons of Survivor, including the infamous Russell Hantz. Maybe you should just send your application to Boo instead of Mark Burnett.

Those pixelated bars don't always cover up everything

Given the nature of the show, it's pretty common for Survivor to feature a little nip slip or other inadvertent nudity. But it's always tastefully covered up with one of those pixelated blurs—or almost always, that is. Yes, on occasion, Survivor has angered censors by accidentally including unedited shots of nudity. For instance, during season 17's Survivor: Gabon, contestant Marcus Lehman accidentally gave the entire nation an unexpected dose of full frontal when he had a wardrobe malfunction during a challenge. CBS edited the footage for replay, but didn't catch it during the initial airing. Whoops!

One challenge is so dangerous it has been permanently banned

Survivor likes to bring back its most popular challenges, but there's one challenge you won't be seeing ever again: the Schmergen Brawl. A cross between basketball and quidditch, the Schmergen Brawl involved contestants battling for three balls, which their teammates would then try to score with. It doesn't sound like much, but the players took that "battling" part very seriously: both times the challenge was used, a player ended up being evacuated and medically disqualified. Twice was enough for CBS, which officially put the kibosh on the brawl for good before anyone else got seriously hurt.