‘Survivor’: Over a Dozen People Have Quit the Game

Survivor is known for its difficulty and the strength it requires – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It isn’t an easy game to win, but its reward of $1 million pulls in a staggering amount of contestants prepared to do whatever it takes to win the competition. Despite how difficult the show may look on-screen by viewers, it’s way more difficult in person. So much so that contestants have had to quit despite not being voted off at the Tribal Council.

Survivor contestants competing on the show, in the water, with one contestant jumping off a platform
Survivor: Ghost Island | Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

‘Survivor’ and the terms of the game

First and foremost, 16-20 contestants are broken into two teams, called tribes. Their goal is to make it 39 days and be the last one standing, so to speak. They are then dropped off into separate areas of the season’s location, where they aren’t provided with essentials. They have to build their own shelters, fire, and find a water source (preferably as soon as possible!). They meet every couple of days to participate in challenges that can be mentally and physically draining on the contestants. However, winners receive some much-needed rewards like food, equipment, shelter, or something from back home like a letter or video. 

In the Immunity Challenges, the winners are safe from elimination while the losers make their way on foot to the Tribal Council, where they meet with the host and discuss prior events. Each contestant casts a vote (secret!), and a fellow tribe member is voted out. Eventually, the numbers go down, and the tribes merge, so all members attend the Tribal Council. Rewards begin going to one winner who can sometimes share it with another contestant or two.

Insider reveals that only a few players have had ‘perfect games’ in Survivor, and it was season 25’s winner, Denise Stapley, season 18’s JT Thomas, and season 26’s John Cochran. This means that these three winners were never voted against and won the “final tribal councils with a unanimous vote.”

Grueling competitions and players play in tough conditions

The competitions are known to take a toll on contestants physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not to mention the strain that already takes place with scarce food sources and the difficulty of living in the elements. To be honest, it’s surprising more people haven’t quit Survivor.

A few of the most disturbing things to happen on Survivor in the 40 seasons its been on include Erik Reichenbach collapsing because he was dehydrated and had an infection, Joe Dowdle developed a serious leg infection, Jonathan Penner was told his knee infection could cost him his leg, James Clement’s infection could have spread to rest of his body, Debbie Warner went down from heatstroke, Caleb Reynolds was airlifted from the beach because of medical concerns, and Cydney Gillon collapsed and needed medical attention. Not to mention Russell Swan pushes himself almost to the brink of death, to the point he needed oxygen and his blood pressure was dangerously low.

Those terrifying moments were only a handful of scenarios where contestants risked their lives for the game because of the grueling competitions and tough living conditions. The Ringer catches some firsthand point of views from contestants on the show. They explain that “it’s impossible to restrain yourself, so yeah, you’re gonna get sick” when eating reward food after a long time scrounging. In response to “If a contestant were about to eat something dangerous, would production stop them?” former contestants responded with variations of “I don’t think so, but I don’t know,” and “Well, I would sure hope so.” 

Players that have quit the game and why


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Given the game’s difficult circumstances, it may come as no surprise that there are players who have quit Survivor. In total, 13 players have found the game beyond their capabilities and had to walk away. According to Fandom, a quit is actually a rare elimination method, as most players are typically voted off instead of choosing to leave voluntarily. 

Some of these players include Osten Taylor was the first contestant to quit in the season Pearl Islands. He was physically fit but still became the first quit due to the physical strain the game took on his body. All-Stars was the next season to see two more players quit, Jenna Morasca and Susan Hawk. Morasca wanted to be with her family and Hawk left after another contestant reportedly nakedly rubbed against her during a challenge, making the environment too uncomfortable to continue. In Palau, Janu Tornell quit because she felt on the outs in her tribe.

In Fiji, Gary Stritesky quit and in the Philipines, Dana Lamber left due to the toll the game takes on the body. In Micronesia, Kathy Sleckman left voluntarily because of the mental toll of the game, and Lindsey Ogle left Cagayan because of her disagreements with a tribemate. Blood vs. Water saw Colton Cumbie leave because he felt like he was on the bottom of his tribe.

Julie Mcgee left San Juan del Sur because her boyfriend was eliminated a couple of days before. In Edge of Extinction saw Keith Sowell and Wendy Diaz quit because of the game’s nature. Lastly, Sandra Diaz-Twine called it quits in Winners at War because she didn’t want to “face the misery of living on the Edge of Extinction.”