‘Survivor’ medical evacuations through the years: How Nick Wilson and Michele Fitzgerald benefited

As “Survivor: Winners at War,” the 40th season of the landmark reality competition series, continues to heat up we take a look back at all the times players were evacuated from the game for medical reasons in its first 20 years (see above). Though some players removed from the game once later returned to compete again, none of them have ever returned and won. That isn’t to say their evacuations haven’t had a long-lasting impact on the show–both Nick Wilson and Michele Fitzgerald benefited greatly from the removal of players in their path to a win. And now they both have a chance at a second win on “Winners at War.”

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The last time a player was removed from the game for medical reasons was in Season 37 “David vs. Goliath.” Pat Cusack was well-liked by his “David” tribe and was primed for a leadership position there among an entire tribe that had their sights on voting out the cocky Nick after losing the first immunity challenge. Unfortunately, on the way back from that challenge the tribe boat hit rough waters and Pat incurred a back injury that required his removal. Pat’s evacuation from the game saved Nick from attending tribal council and provided him more time to course-correct and eventually win.

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While Pat’s removal was the earliest in show history, Season 32 “Kaoh Rong” holds the title for most removals from one season–it had three! Caleb Reynolds was removed in episode 4 after his body was incapable of stabilizing after heat stroke during a challenge, Neal Gottlieb was removed in episode 7 after a medical evaluation deemed his knee infection to be too severe to continue, and Joe Del Campo was a late-game evacuee when he had to leave as a 5th placer due to bladder problems. That season was ultimately won by Michele, a member of Caleb’s tribe when he was removed and among the merged tribe that saw Neal and Joe’s removals. Michele’s win is one of the most divisive among fans because of her laid-back, quiet play–do you think she’d have won had so many people not been forcibly taken out?

The first player ever removed from the game was Michael Skupin, who fell hands first into the campfire during Season 2 “Australian Outback.” He suffered sever burns to the hand and was taken away by helicopter in a shocking and unforgettable early episode. He later returned to play on the 25th season “Philippines,” where he was one of three returnees that had been medically evacuated in a previous season. He was that season’s runner-up, losing to first-time player Denise Stapley, who like Michele and Nick, is currently vying for that $2 million prize on “Winners at War.”

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