A great way to realize that you are old is to find out that Survivor is currently in its 25th season. I like the show. Sure, it has its fair share of bad seasons, manipulative editing, and self-aware contestants, but the actual game itself is interesting in a few ways.
Survivor is an evolving jumble of physicality, social dynamics, observation, psychology, and the blurred line between emotions and tactics. Trends from previous seasons are seen by new contestants, informing how they play the game. If you watch the show to pick up on how differently each contestant justifies their own actions and interprets those of others, it's worth sitting through the low points. Plus, there are some great shots of eels barfing.
So here we are, 25 seasons in, with hundreds of contestants who ultimately fell short of the million dollar prize. Most of these people were simply outnumbered, part of a losing alliance when it came time to vote. Some were injured and needed to be evacuated. A few even quit. The most remarkable contestants, however, are those whose departure from the game can be attributed to one crucial mistake.
- While attempting to secure her place within the alliance before a tribal council, Colleen Haskell misspoke. Instead of saying "Don't vote me out," she quoted the entirety of Al Capone's baseball bat speech from The Untouchables and held up her tiny fist, scowling at each player in turn.
- Michael Skupin promised his team that he would provide food. After a week they caught on to his lie, realizing that the plates he handed them only contained imaginary steaks. To make matters worse, an emotional Skupin admitted that the steaks were laced with imaginary poison.
- At tribal council, Clarence Black made an error while casting his vote for the next person to be thrown off the island. Instead of writing down his rival's name, he wrote his own name seventeen times. Each counted against him.
- Tammy Leitner angrily waved off her tribemates, insisting that she could start a fire. Nearly three hours later, all she had to show for her efforts was an incredible origami swan with over thirty points of articulation. In a confession to the camera, she held the swan up and spoke through it as a puppet: "I don't actually know what fire is."
- Penny Ramsey touched the orb while the others slept, foolishly hoping to glean some understanding of its limitless power.
- During a crucial challenge, Rob Cesternino was unable to slow dance without stepping on his partner's shoulders.
- After enjoying a challenge reward of pizza and a screening of an upcoming Adam Sandler movie, Rupert Boneham proclaimed that he had seen all that there was. He walked into the forest, never to be seen again.
- Ashlee Ashby turned out to be a pair of twin sisters. Their ingenious plan to cover twice as much ground and establish relationships with twice as many people would have worked, if they weren't ghosts and therefore ineligible to win the grand prize.
- Gary Hogeboom found the first hidden immunity idol on Survivor. When played, it would have nullified any votes cast against him. Unfortunately, Gary traded the idol to the ocean for a jacket made of moon dust. This error proved to be even worse when it turned out that the ocean was not an entity that was capable of understanding trades, much less agreeing to them or acquiring jackets made of moon dust.
- Moments after entering the maze of mirrors, Becky Lee found her way out. Or perhaps I should say it found her.
- In an attempt to cheer up his tribe, Yau-Man Chan set out to remove the beating heart that hung over their camp. At first he tried to cut the vine that it dangled from. His machete, however, was no use against the odd material which proved to be equal parts metal and plant. When that didn't work, a frustrated Yau-Man began throwing rocks. Finally, he decided to play the Wish Talisman that he had won just that afternoon, a magical item that would grant him any desire. Yau-Man held the charm tightly to his chest, closed his eyes, and wished that the camp was ten feet further up the beach.
- Sherea Lloyd refused to take part in the cannibalism challenge, citing a sore knee.
- Jessica Kiper made the critical mistake of revealing that if she went to the jury, she would vote to give the million dollars to the person who had played the game best, without carrying grudges or making her decision based on ethics or religious doctrine.
- John Cochran was revealed to be a Something Awful goon. The show's security team rushed into action immediately, wielding futuristic poles with strange looking hoops at the end. Cornering a snarling Cochran, they managed to close one of these hoops around his neck, at which point the device emitted an electric charge that rendered him frozen in place. To this day the shamed contestant remains under observation in a secret chamber more than a mile below Rikers Island.