Survivor Accusations Aired on Rivera Liveby David Bloomberg -- 07/10/2002
On January 11, Peter Lance appeared with Joel Klug and Sean Kenniff (and some other folks who are not relevant to this article) on Rivera Live with Geraldo Rivera. Lance is the author of The Stingray: Lethal Tactics of the Sole Survivor, an unauthorized book that provided a great deal of behind-the-scenes information that Survivor producers and CBS would rather nobody knew. (See a full review at Book Blows Lid Off Survivor Secrecy.)
Several revelations and admissions came out of the show. While none were earthshaking in and of themselves, they do add insight both to some of the Lance's work and to questions that have been asked about the first series.
One of Lance's contentions has been that the producers interfered with the play of Survivor to such an extent as to possibly have violated FCC regulations about game shows. He gave several examples of this type of activity in his book, but most are difficult to verify because the ex-contestants won't talk about it due to their painfully constrictive contracts.
On Rivera Live, however, Lance got Kenniff to admit to one incident that definitely showed such producer interference. Lance was discussing the time when Tagi and Pagong were about to combine, and the tribes needed to have ambassadors go out to a private dinner to discuss where the tribe would go, what its name would be, etc.
Lance said to Kenniff: "For example, you were not the original ambassador chosen. The original ambassadors were Kelly and Greg that were chosen to represent the tribes."
Kenniff responded that this was correct.
Lance continued: "But because you and Jenna were the best-looking single heterosexuals on the island and the most potential for a tryst that night on the sands pit..." Kenniff again agreed.
Lance went on: "the point is during that night, according to Mark Burnett's own book, you got a little tipsy, and you gave up the alliance; you revealed the Tagi alliance." Kenniff agreed yet again.
Lance summed it up: "Now that was a strategic piece of information that could have been used, and it only happened because Mark imposed you on the game. And all I'm saying is if Regis Philbin was coaching the guys on Millionaire with the same degree, don't you think the FCC would be upset?"
Unfortunately, Rivera chose that point to go to commercial, and Lance's point was lost as new guests entered the discussion. It would have been very interesting to get reactions on this point from Kenniff and Klug. Alas, it was not to be.
Lance tried again several times to bring the point back to his allegations. At one later point he noted, "What I allege is that the producers intervened at various points to affect the play--the course of play. It may not matter. … But the--the point is al--many of the millions of people that watched this show believed that what they were seeing was absolutely what happened." Readers of Lance's book, however, know this isn't so.
To further emphasize this point, he noted that host Jeff Probst lied to viewers at one point in stating that Klug had chased a snake away from camp. In fact, Klug had killed the snake, and admitted on Rivera Live that he had done so. So why did Probst lied. And what else might he have lied to viewers about?
Another key point Lance made in The Stingray dealt with the contracts all Survivor contestants had to sign. Lance brought this up here as well, stating, "They've given their life rights away." He noted that "the lecture agent that represented many of them in Boston told me that hundreds of thousands of dollars was lost in the first few weeks after the show because CBS had a gatekeeper in New York saying, `You can do this. You can do that. You can do this. You can do that.'"
His main point in discussing this was that actors have unions to protect them from such abuses. By using non-actors on Survivor and similar shows, the producers don't have to worry about such things. As Lance noted, "They're doing end-runs around the collective bargaining agreements that have protected performers for years."
One key example he gave was of Sonja, the first person voted off the island. Lance explained that she only got paid $2500 – yet she had to sign agreements that the producers, network, etc. were not liable for any injuries, or even death! Everybody is making money hand over fist except the actual contestants.
On something of a side note, there has been rampant speculation, including a mention in The Stingray, that Sue may not have been the one who wrote the forever-to-be-remembered speech vilifying Rich and Kelly at the end of the first Survivor series. Many have said that it was simply not possible that this otherwise fairly inarticulate truck driver could have come up with such a great speech.
Kenniff talked about that speech a bit and said, "she wrote every single word of that." He did note that she asked him to proofread it, but said it came from her. The only part that might not have come directly from her own head was "the whole ‘snake and the rat' thing," which he said, "was something that we were all passing around at the time on the other side of the island."
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