Tuesday, February 06, 2001

'Survivor' sued - Former contestant charges producer rigged her ouster, manipulated outcome

I'm not sure this is such a big surprise. Stacey Stillman filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that the 'Survivor' producer, Mark Burnett, convinced two other contestants, Sean Kenniff and Dirk Been, to change their votes from Rudy Boesch to Stacey. Burnett was worried that it would look bad if the first three contestants voted off were also the oldest, according to Stillman.

I think we first have to acknowledge that the original show and its sequel are already heavily manipulated. Burnett and his editors decide what conversations and confessionals to air and when; they form 'scripts' for each show, intended to make the audience feel a certain way about the individual contestants. Remember, they literally shoot hours and hours and hours of videotape, and we get a one hour sum-up per week. We don't know these people at all - we only know what the producer decides to tell us.

With all that in mind, would a producer like Burnett go to the extreme of suggesting to contestants who they should vote for? What would Dirk and Sean get out of it? Dirk was out on his ass soon after Stacey, and while Sean lasted a lot longer, his stunning idiocy presented little threat to the others, so he ended up being a sacrificial lamb. So it doesn't seem like Burnett promised them anything show-related if they did things his way. This makes their participation in this little scheme rather unlikely. Then there's the possibility of being caught, which would be disastrous for the integrity of the show. Would Burnett risk it all just to get the early Tribal Council outcome he wanted? I doubt it.

Could it have happened? Sure. Did it? I doubt that we'll ever know. Should Stacey Stillman be suing CBS? Not unless she's got some decent evidence, and let's not forget, she's a practicing attorney. Get me Johnnie Cochran!


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