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The tribe has spoken: Students organize ‘Survivor’ competition on campus

| Friday, February 18, 2022

Seven Saturdays, 24 students, one survivor.

Almost 22 years after the first season of the reality competition show “Survivor” aired on CBS, Notre Dame students gathered in the Joyce Center on Saturday afternoon for the first installment of ND Survivor, a multi-week competition based on the hit television show.

Over the ensuing six Saturday afternoons, students will participate in physical and mental challenges and vote each other out of the game until one survivor remains. The final survivor will win a $25 gift card of their choice.

Courtesy of Mike Guyette
After losing the first ND Survivor challenge Saturday, members of the green tribe strategize before tribal council.

Mike Guyette, a sophomore from Albany, New York, is the host of ND Survivor and organized it with the help of some friends and classmates. He began watching “Survivor” in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic lockdown.

“I’d watched it for a few months, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is totally something I could do with my friends,’” he said.

That summer, Guyette’s brother hosted a “Survivor”-inspired competition for Guyette and 19 of his friends. Although Guyette did not win, he said it was such a success that he and his friends played again the following summer. That time, he won. Following his victory, he decided to bring the fun of “Survivor”-style competition to his friends at Notre Dame this year. They rented an Airbnb over fall break where they played out a season. 

After playing three seasons with friends, Guyette said he wanted to organize a season with “random people” and began promoting ND Survivor on Instagram at the beginning of the semester.

“We put posters around campus, and because of that, we got like 130 people to fill out the interest form,” he said. “I emailed all those people and asked them to submit a full application, and 42 people ended up doing that. I guess the whole thing was spread by word of mouth. I chose 24 people — 21 of them I had never met before.”

Guyette said applicants were evaluated for enthusiasm and uniqueness. Some of the applicants he selected are huge “Survivor” fans while others have never seen the show.

“Some people are big athletes, some are extremely smart, some do theatre and arts,” he said. “Overall, they’re as different as possible. We have freshmen to fifth-years.”

Saturday afternoon, the 24 contestants were split into six teams known as tribes. The tribes competed in two challenges and participated in two tribal councils — meetings where the losing tribe must vote out a member. For the first challenge, three members of each tribe were given a volleyball, and each had a chance to knock down six cardboard boxes set up by another tribe. The last tribe to knock down all six boxes lost the challenge. The green tribe lost and took part in tribal council while the other tribes waited in another room.

The second challenge consisted of three parts: running, math and shooting a basketball. Two members had to run five times around the gym and each lap earned them a number. Once a tribe’s runners collected all five numbers, two additional members multiplied the numbers. If their answer was correct, then the final tribe member had to shoot a three-pointer.

“The last team to do all three was the loser, and unfortunately that was the green tribe again,” senior and contestant Nicholas Trittipo said. “They had tribal council, and that was the end of ND Survivor day one.”

Now that the contestants have been familiarized with the structure of ND Survivor, future Saturdays will feature three challenges and three tribal councils. On the last Saturday, Guyette will hold a final tribal council where contestants who were previously voted out will vote for a winner among the final remaining contestants.

As the host, Guyette said he is most excited to meet new people “in the context of ‘Survivor’” in the coming weeks.

“I’m meeting 24 people who seem super cool, but I’m … watching them backstab their friends and go off in challenges,” he said. “These things are so cool to me.”

He hopes to host a season of ND Survivor at least once a year until he graduates. 

“I totally want to build the ND Survivor community,” he said. “I’m planning to turn this into a club and have ‘Survivor’ watch parties too.”

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About Claire Reid

Claire Reid is an associate news editor at the Observer for the 2022 - 2023 term. She is a junior from Madison, Wisconsin in the Journalism, Ethics and Democracy program.

Contact Claire