“Survivor” can be one of the most entertaining shows on television, an adventure on a deserted island where strangers out-maneuver each other and compete in fun challenges. It can also be immensely uncomfortable when the illusion of the game fades away and real-life implications come into play. Below you can scroll through our photos of the 12 most disturbing moments in “Survivor” history, ranked from uncomfortable to ugly.
12. Jerri Manthey booed at ‘All Stars’ reunion
The “Survivor: All Stars” reunion was one of the most hostile in the show’s history, with many hurt feelings. After another painful personal moment involving Rob Mariano and Tom Buchanan, Jerri Manthey made a comment: “This entertainment is coming at a price. What it has cost us is our friendships, our feelings, our pain, our suffering.” The audience then booed her, which may have something to do with her being perceived as a villain but it ultimately became so uncomfortable that Jerri left the reunion entirely before it was over.
11. Jennifer Lanzetti gets a bug in her ear
Jennifer Lanzetti had a rough start to the game on “Survivor: Kaoh Rong” when a worm crawled into her ear and didn’t want to leave. She was in excruciating pain as the bug scraped and dug around her ear, a pain that we could feel in the audience and made us glad we weren’t in her situation. Thankfully it left eventually but Jennifer was voted out the game not long after.
10. Colton Cumbie’s problematic comments
Colton Cumbie became one of “Survivor’s” most hated villains when he played on “Survivor: One World” thanks to his bigoted comments about his fellow tribemates. Some of his moment problematic moments included referring to black tribemate Bill Posley as “ghetto trash” and little person Leif Manson as an “Oompa Loompa,” among others. While he claimed to have changed when he returned for “Blood vs. Water,” he quit the game after only six days because no one wanted to play with him.
9. Michael Skupin falls in the fire
“Survivor” fans got their first taste of how uncomfortably real the show was when Michael Skupin fell into a campfire on “Survivor: The Australian Outback.” We then saw his visible wounds when he ran into the water. He would then become the first person medically evacuated from the show.
8. Russell Swan almost dies
Another scary medical moment can in “Survivor: Samoa” when Russell Swan pushed a little too hard in the challenge and passed out from severe dehydration. There were moments when Russell genuinely appeared to be on the brink of death as the medical team treated him. Jeff Probst described the moment as the most scared he’s been on “Survivor” up to that point.
7. Caleb Reynolds almost dies
Completing the trio of horrifying medevac moments, Caleb Reynolds was another castaway who appeared to be on death’s door. Like Russell, he tried to power through a brutal challenge, all while battling uncompromising heat. He blacked out from heatstroke and appeared unresponsive for a scary amount of time until finally regaining consciousness. The moment was so frantic that we even saw the camera crew as the medical team also treated two other cast members suffering from the heat. Caleb was evacuated from the game as his crying tribemates watched.
6. Shirin Oskooi bullied by tribemates
In “Survivor: Worlds Apart,” Shirin Oskooi was subjected to extremely personal and insulting comments from her tribemates. Dan Foley mentioned he wanted to slap her while Will Sims II directly told her that she has no one who loves her back home. This caused her to break down in tears as only Mike Holloway defended her. To make matters worse, at the reunion show, Will didn’t seem particularly apologetic, saying the onus was on Shirin to forgive.
5. Sue Hawk accuses sexual violation and quits
In “Survivor: All Stars,” Sue Hawk was visibly shaken after a fraught encounter with Richard Hatch in a challenge where he was naked and rubbed up against her. The incident left her an emotional wreck and she angrily quit the game at the following challenge, leaving Jeff Probst stunned. It was one of many uncomfortable personal moments on the show’s first all-star season.
4. Brenda Lowe makes Dawn Meehan take her teeth out
In “Survivor: Caramoan,” Brenda Lowe helped Dawn Meehan find her missing retainer, leaving a frequently emotional Dawn in tearful gratitude. Dawn would eventually vote Brenda out of the game, with Brenda feeling backstabbed. Brenda then instructed Dawn to take her teeth out in front of the entire jury. Dawn did so, and Brenda didn’t even reward her with her vote to win in the end. A clear demonstration of the brutality of a game that mixes strategy with personal connections.
3. Brandon Hantz melts down
Brandon Hantz had a massive meltdown on “Survivor: Caramoan” spurred by his rivalry with Phillip Sheppard. He poured out the tribe’s rice and beans, causing his tribe to make plans to forefit the next Immunity Challenge in order to vote him out. Brandon exposed information to the Fans tribe and lashed out at Phillip, which forced Jeff Probst to step in and calm him down. His tribe forefitted immunity and voted Brandon out unanimously on the spot as he claimed he was the “author of [his] destiny.”
2. Dan Spilo’s inappropriate touching
Several members of Dan Spilo’s tribe on “Survivor: Island of the Idols” accused him of inappropriate touching. The show presented clear evidence in multiple episodes, and Kellee Kim led the charge in wanting to get him out. Others in her tribe then thought she was decieving them and voted her out instead, unintentionally creating a situation of silencing the victim. Dan would later touch a crew member inappropriately, leading to his ejection from the game.
1. Jeff Varner outs Zeke Smith as transgender
Jeff Varner’s despicable outing of Zeke Smith in “Survivor: Game Changers” will go down as the darkest moment in the show’s history. In a hamfisted attempt to demonstrate Zeke’s deceptiveness, he openly asked Zeke in front of everyone why he hadn’t told anyone on the tribe he was transgender. The rest of the tribe was justifiably horrified and chastised Varner for outing someone in such a manner. Jeff Probst said they didn’t even have to bother voting as Varner’s tribe all agreed that he had to go.