Watching ‘Survivor: Ghost Island’ Like A Casual Fan

The 36th season of Survivor premiers next week, and I’m not all that excited.

I’ve seen every season of Survivor — many of which I’ve rewatched. I have an unhealthy ability of recalling tiny details and pulling quotes from episodes that aired over a decade ago.

Most of that knowledge I credit to listening to reality TV podcasts like RHAP and Dom & Colin; watching YouTube clips of the most iconic moments from the show; and reading post-game interviews and other recap articles. (I’ve also spent far too much time playing Skype-based versions of the show.)

I’m a Survivor superfan no-doubt. In fact, Ghost Island marks my 10th season as a (self-described) superfan — meaning: someone who obsesses over and talks about Survivor well-beyond the one hour per week that it’s actually on TV.

Superfans like myself don’t just like watching the episodes, we love it and feel a special connection to the show and its 35 season lore. Not to mention we’re thankful it hasn’t devolved like Big Brother (though Celebrity BB has been very good so far).

I’m sad to admit, though, that I’ll be watching Survivor: Ghost Island like a casual.

On the flip side of being a super fan is being a casual fan. I cringe just typing those words.

From the superfan perspective, Casual Survivor fans often take on a negative stereotype or reputation.

Superfans’ view (or criticism) of Casual Fans:

They root for the host and show’s favorites — Ozzy, Rupert, Coach — who return again and again for their shot at a million dollars, even though they aren’t that great at the game.

They complain on the Survivor Facebook page when their favorites get voted out.

They don’t remember the names of players from a few seasons back.

They probably can’t name every winner or every season theme or location.

They have a tenuous grasp, at best, of the format and rules of Survivor.

The list goes on…

My dad is a casual Survivor fan.

He’s the one true casual fan I really know.

He’s seen many seasons, but not all. He doesn’t make a fuss if he misses the first few minutes of an episode. His trivial knowledge of the show is spotty. He refers to players on the current season based on what they wear or look like. And he might remember a couple of returnees on a given all-star season.

These aren’t terrible things. My dad still enjoys the show. He’s just not crazy about it like I’ve been.

I’ve written academic papers and articles on Survivor. I’ve listened to countless hours of Survivor podcasts. I’ve had conversations ad nauseam about the show with other superfans.

But somehow, somewhere over the past few months, I lost my passion for the show.

Ghost Island starts next week, and for the first time in 10 seasons I haven’t really looked at the cast and studied the bios. Haven’t watched pre-season interviews or listened to pre-season podcasts.

It feels very strange to go into a season knowing virtually nothing.

Where prior I would have watched or read every castaway’s bio the very day the given season’s cast was revealed, and where I probably would have completed a fantasy draft with friends or family, this season I’ve done none of that.

I can’t exactly pinpoint why I feel less obsessed, and dare I say ‘casual’ about the show…but that’s just where I’m at going into season 36.

I’d definitely still call myself a Survivor superfan, but I’m going to watch Ghost Island with a more casual demeanor.

For the first time in years, I’m not going to be so insanely invested in a Survivor season. It helps that I have night class on Wednesdays, so I likely won’t even watch an episode live.

Slumming it up with the casuals will be strange, I’m sure. How can you not know every castaways name? How can you not pay attention to the edit? And predict who’s going home?

I think part of it is a sign of where I’m at in life.

Survivor has been this incredible constant in my life for several years now. Nothing else has brought me so much joy, so much relief in stressful times.

I’ve been so immersed in every aspect of the greatest reality show on TV, and I’d absolutely love to compete on the show myself.

I’ll still watch every single episode of Ghost Island. But I probably won’t catch every RHAP exit interview the day after. Probably won’t listen to every recap podcast. Probably won’t read articles and analysis.

Signing up for a class that takes place at the same time as Survivor?! Be still my beating heart! I never would have done such a thing prior.

Fair or not, superfans tend to heckle or deride casual fans. They just don’t “get the show” in the same way superfans do. In a lot of cases that’s true.

…But not all.

I’ll be consuming Survivor more relaxed and less intense than normal this season — I simply ask that you (the superfan, because who else would be reading a Survivor related article) don’t lump me in with the rest of the casuals. I promise I’m still a superfan at heart!

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Nick DeMott

Nick DeMott

Golf + Naturalist + Old Man at Heart