"It looks like we've entered the middle phase of a typical reality TV contest. The weakest contestants left early, so instead of eliminating the person who did worst that week, they are going to get rid of the one who hasn't created any drama. Looks like Alex and Cameron will make it to the final episode."
On competition-based Reality TV
, especially Talent Shows
, one needs to exhibit the talent or skill necessary to win in order to justify their continuing existence on the show. Some contestants just don't have that, and most are quickly jettisoned.
However, sometimes a weak contestant will cheat elimination week after week, horrible performance after horrible performance. This is an Elimination Houdini.
Personality can sometimes play a role, but it doesn't matter whether the contestant is a nice person
or a Jerkass
. There is one and only one trait required to be a Elimination Houdini: an utter lack of the talent necessary to win the show, especially in comparison to the other contestants, including those already eliminated.
It's not enough for a contestant to be deemed incompetent by a mere sizable portion of viewers, though. There needs to be an overwhelming consensus that the Elimination Houdini just doesn't belong on the show anymore. What's more, this sentiment should also be shared by the other contestants (for shows with Confession Cams
) or the judges (where the home audience votes and the judges have little to no influence anymore).
And yet, somehow, they survive for weeks and weeks. In shows where the evictions are decided by judges, there may be Executive Meddling
afoot, keeping a contestant on as a human Conflict Ball
to drive up ratings. One the other hand, in shows with public votes, people will often vote to keep on a contestant who's So Bad They're Good
at the expense of technically superior opponents. Either way, it's enough to get some loyal viewers to not watch again... at least for a week or two. It's not uncommon for these people to develop a hatedom
that takes on a life all its own.
There is also another form of Elimination Houdini
, commonly seen in shows like Survivor
in which the contestants vote people out and not the audience. They may be the second person or another target for elimination, but somehow manage to avoid it, and they can do it in several ways. Either they get lucky and someone makes a bone-headed move that gets them
on the chopping block instead, they instead gun for a different threat, a Non-Gameplay Elimination
spares them a round, or the Elimination Houdini
manages to talk their way out of elimination and avoids death. If the players are moderately Genre Savvy
, a bad player may become a Houdini through stronger players actively protecting them - why knock them out now when they could be easy competition in the finals? Often this happens when Tall Poppy Syndrome
It is actually fully possible for the Elimination Houdini
. In shows about alliances, they may be somewhat of a "Deadly Floater" who floats along then slips through the cracks in alliances, or plays enough of a social game their Entitled Bastard
opponent(s) get a good "Not you!" in the final round. Or, in a talent-based show, they have a fanbase who votes for them because they want to see them continue. Maybe they're So Bad, It's Good
The inverse is a Shocking Elimination
, in which a favored contestant is cut earlier than expected, many times in the place of the Elimination Houdini.
Series with their own pages
Sometimes, the Elimination Houdini will actually win
over better contestants.
- Case in point: Dat Phan, the first winner of Last Comic Standing. He actually did quite well with audiences, though the rest of the contestants were the ones who felt he didn't belong on the show.
- And if you ask the other comedians from the most recent season, Iliza Schlesinger also counts.
- Leon Jackson, winner of The X Factor 2007.
- Might have happened with John Sergeant in Strictly Come Dancing thanks to the fans, but he withdrew.
- Gabby West in season 2 of Scream Queens. She actually gave very good performances... that is, when she wasn't zoning out on set, making huge technical mistakes and not listening to Tim Sullivan's instructions. As a result, she frequently found herself up for elimination and only staying on because one of her competitors screwed up even worse than she did that week. Since the prize for winning was a role in Saw 3D, this may have been why her part wound up consisting of her doing nothing but screaming before getting splattered underneath a muscle car. (For comparison, season 1 winner Tanedra Howard, one of that season's most consistently good contestants, actually got a fairly sizable role, returning for the sequel.)
Other reality TV examples
- A good example for So You Think You Can Dance is Season 4's Comfort Fedoke. She had to dance for her life a lot. She was even eliminated once, only to be brought back due to Jessica's injury. She survived another week over early favorite Kherington before getting eliminated for good.
- Another great example is Lauren Gottleib. She was a competent dancer but underperformeded a lot. She developed a Hatedom after claiming she uses the stage name "Misha Chan" because it sounded Asian (the first name). She was saved by the judges TWICE even after they acknowledged she was underperforming.
- An unfortunate side effect of this was that everytime she wasn't eliminated it created a Shocking Elimination for: Anya Garnis, Jaimie Goodwin, and Sara VonGillern.
- The same can be said about Lauren's partner, Neil Haskell. He also developed a Hatedom but at least he didn't say anything silly. And the guys who were eliminated when he wasn't sent home weren't considered shocking eliminations except arguably Pasha.
- Season Three was full of these. Cedric Gardner was one of the most highly regarded soloist at the time, but was wrong for the show because he couldn't do choreography. He was saved twice by the judges.
- In fact he he barely got on the show to begin with because some of the judges were trying to do their jobs but got overruled.
- Many people seem to think that Season 5's Melissa Sandvig was also a Houdini. On Top 8 week, she was paired up with her original partner Ade and got an emotional contemporary piece which was lauded by the judges. The next night, she was safe from elimination and the then front-runner Janette left the show. Many fans are still bitter.
- Season ten had Jenna and Makenzie. Week after week, they ended up at the bottom. Week after week, they were saved over more competent dancers. It reached its max when the judges automatically saved Jenna and made Malece and Amy (the eventual winner) dance for their lives, despite the fact that neither of them were at the bottom before and Jenna was at the bottom several times. Finally, at the top ten, the two Houdinis were up for elimination. The judges eliminated Makenzie, and Jenna was booted the next week.
- Project Runway contestants Wendy Pepper, Santino Rice, Vincent Libretti, Ricky Lizalde and Blayne Walsh have turned out crappy design after crappy design, landing in the bottom three more than any other contestant. And yet, they all stuck around (the first two even made it to the top three, getting to show at Fashion Week).
- And in season six, we have Logan and Christopher.
- Season eight has Casanova.
- Season nine's Joshua McKinley (for the '70s challenge as well as knocking Viktor Luna out of second place in the season finale) and Anya Ayoung-Chee (who got to go to the final four despite submitting outfits that she herself admitted were horrible).
- Project Runway Finland had Antti Asplund, who is, oddly enough, a fairly popular indie designer in Finland. His ability to explain the shit out of his outfits let him slide incredible stuff under the radar, from repetitive designs to designs that had little to nothing to do with the challenge all the way to technical failures... until he decided to dress his model up as a giant violin, which the judges just couldn't forgive.
- While there were some lesser chefs throughout Top Chef, only one truly stands out as an Elimination Houdini: Lisa Fernandes from Top Chef: Chicago. So much so that when she made the top three, Richard Blais said, in a Confession Cam, "Congratulations, Lisa. You just won third place."
- Richard certainly had egg on his face after that considering both he and the judges agreed that his performance in the final round earned him a rather distant third place. Howie from the third season also counts, since he lacked even the most basic teamwork skills, couldn't cook anything but pork, was on the bottom 7 times (despite being eliminated just over halfway through the competition), and outlasting superior competitors like Lia, early favorite Tre, and arguably Sara N.
- The judges on America's Got Talent have sent a few EH-wannabes to the semifinals over some more deserving talent (e.g. Ronny B and Indiggo over Xclusive and Lil Countrie & Page 1ne in Season 3). Still, thanks to mass exodus eliminations, the audience has mostly avoided giving most of them another chance. David & Dania being the reason for the word "most," as they made it to the final round despite using the exact same routine every time.
- It may be a general talent show, but god help you if you aren't a singer. A lot of rather mediocre singers go forward, while other types of talent are eliminated after the second round because "That's the same thing we saw last time." The aforementioned David was called back for a third performance because he called the judges on this, saying (paraphrased) "A singer only has to come onstage with a new song to sing. You expect us to change a magic act that took decades to perfect?"
- On the other hand, one could say that the ultimate Elimination Houdini was Donald Braswell of Season 3. Who, thanks to an injury to a high-risk act that made the top 40, won the right to replace them. And made the top 5. Of course, many would argue he was actually snubbed from the top 40 to begin with.
- Hello, Season 5 judges! You're reviewing all the acts again and are trying to pick the good from the bad! Fantastic! What's that? Ronith deserves a spot?! OK, maybe he is kinda So Bad, It's Good, I guess I can MARY ELLEN?!!?!.
- The current season's Eldinis are shaping up to be the TV-theme-song-warbling Ulysses and ESPECIALLY the tone-deaf little person Big Barry.
- Season 9 has Juan Carlos, a  roller skating dancer that has been put through both the first auditions and Vegas Week over superior acts like The Mighty Atom Jr. sheerly on the virtue that his terrible act is hilariously bad. Howard certainly doesn't think he's funny, but the other three judges disagree.
- Some contestants from The Apprentice have managed to avoid being fired numerous times despite their collective screw-ups. Omarosa is the prime example, though Lenny from season 5 is another good one off the top of my head.
- The UK incarnation of the show had Michael Sophocles who, despite constantly proving to be totally useless in the tasks, survived until the final regular task due to an admittedly quite convincing win in his first attempt as team leader, and the fact that he actually reminded Sir Alan Sugar of a young version of himself.
- Syed from Series 2. He had already been in the boardroom in the first week before blowing the budget on a catering task by ordering 100 chickens, but managed to stay in to the final regular task (his fifth appearance in the boardroom).
- Stuart from Series 6.
- Noorul from Series 5 managed to get to Week 6 without appearing in the boardroom at all despite the fact he did virtually nothing on the tasks. Part of the reason he was fired on that episode was that Sir Alan was aware other candidates had complained about htis.
- Myles from Series 9. He just about managed to avoid getting fired for his mistakes in the Dubai task by sheer luck of the opposition doing even worse. But the real best example of this was when he told Alex to go with the 'Deadly Dinners' idea in the food task, and ended up completely destroying any chance of the team winning in the process. Yet Alex was the one who got fired instead, despite the fact that his idea could have actually won the task. Thankfully, he then got fired after seriously messing up the next episode.
- Celebrity Apprentice can be really bad about this since Trump will often keep a contestant who is a bad manager, screws up all the time and is despised by others on his/her team. The person is simply too big a source of entertainment for the audience to fire yet.
- Gary Busey was a prime example. He screwed this up, acted like he was a complete loon and yet Trump went out of his way to keep him despite EVERYONE agreeing that Busey should go.
- The first WWE Diva Search featured Carmella De Cesare, who made it all the way to the final before losing at the very end, thus taking second place overall. She had managed to become so universally hated that it's seriously believed they deliberately fudged the votes and kept her on just so people would keep waiting to see her finally get eliminated (and thus hopefully keep watching.) This is the WWE, after all—totally scripted Face vs. Heel matchups is what they do. Her existence was finally justified when, just before the winner was announced, Trish Stratus took both competitors apart in a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Would Marie Osmond have made it as far as she did on Dancing with the Stars if she wasn't so well known?
- Master P is a better example of an Elimination Houdini than Marie. The studio audience booed him, the judges said he should go; it was only the phone votes that kept him kept him in the competition.
- Cloris Leachman got endorsed by VoteForTheWorst.com, an Idol-centric Web site that usually disregards DWTS. That's pretty telling.
- Then there's Michael Irvin, who can't dance, accordingly brought up the rear in the scores most weeks, survived half the show on viewer votes, only being in the bottom two once, finally hit the bottom three and a dance-off where the judges alone decided who stayed and who went-and still survived! Of course, at the time this is being written another dance-off is coming up next week...
- Bristol Palin from Season 11. Three times she's finished at the bottom of the judges' standings, and is always near the bottom of the overall standings, yet has managed to make it all the way to the finale, even beating Brandy in an elimination to do so, leaving the audience stunned. Bristol ran out of luck in the finale and finished third.
- It is believed by her hatedom that the only reason she stayed alive for so long is due to a number of internet campaigns being conducted on her behalf and a large base of tea partiers who support her mom for political reasons.
- Bill Engvall in Season 17. Despite being on the bottom of the judges' scores for awhile, he's outlasted Elizabeth Berkley and Leah Remini.
- Finland's national version of this show had a real case of Houdini in Season 3, where Finnish MP Antti Kaikkonen was nicknamed Kanki-Kaikkonen (a good translation might be "Stiffie-Kaikkonen") early on in the season, never really got past being an extremely stiff and awkward dancer, had a score average of 14.9 (with a high score of 22 in episode six and a low of eight in the first episode), scored lowest six out of eight times... and finished in fourth place.
- The first season of WWE Tough Enough had Darryl, a big fat guy who went on and on about how he had the best shot at winning the competition and the wrestling contract because Vince Mc Mahon likes big guys and he's miles ahead of all the other contestants and all. He only got on the show at all due to Executive Meddling on the part of MTV, as the trainers/judges, the other contestants, and the audience all found him loathsome. Mind, the trainers did do something about him, as he was the first one cut from the program... but it still took about 4 weeks to get to that point, as the other contestants were quitting like crazy throughout the season.
- Mind you, watching Al Snow tear him down for an under-his-breath comment, unfavorably comparing his behavior to that of Snow's ten-year-old son, was one of the show's Crowning Moments of Awesome.
- For the 2011 revival, it looks like Miss USA Rima Fakih is the show's Elimination Houdini. Week One saw her cheat in taking bumps by sticking padding down her shorts, while Week Two saw her survive despite arriving to training 20 minutes late. Then she got eliminated two weeks later.
- Executive Meddling kept her around, as her participation in the show was heavily hyped even before the show began. She was only eliminated when they could no longer justify her winning.
- This phenomenon has produced not one, but two winners of the civilian seasons of The Mole. In season 2, Dorothy was set to be eliminated but another contestant took a bribe that week to leave the game sparing Dorothy, who would go onto win. In Season 5 the eventual winner scored last on the quiz three times, staving off elimination by being slightly faster than his opponents. Despite winning, he was confirmed as the only person in the final four who wasn't sure who the mole was going into the elimination.
- Jolette from La Academia, the Mexican version of American Idol. Despite her angry stage antics, she somehow managed to become The Woobie to the audience, and next thing you know, she manages to keep going on and on for one month and a half, only leaving the show after getting the boot from the producers. The fact that losers in La Academia are picked by audience vote, and a fan theory that Jolette's family was using mass dialers to skew the results, really didn't helped to keep her entertainment industry cred.
- Lacey from Rock Of Love Girls: Charm School pretty much made it clear from the first episode that she had no intention of changing her ways. Nearly all of her confessionals feature her talking about her latest brain dead scheme to screw over the other contestants or how happy she was because someone she hated went home. She even went so far as to antagonize a drunk Heather into throwing a plate at her, a sober Dallas into throwing a whole apple at her head, and having Brandi C. yell at and spit on Destiney's face. Brandi C. sincerely apologized to Destiney for it, but she was still expelled even though the judges knew and complained about Lacey being a shit-stirrer. Obviously, Lacey falls under the "Kept on for the Ratings" category. Unfortunately, she's not even an interesting villain...
- Ashley seems to be on the fast track to this on this season of Charm School. On the bottom for 5/8 eliminations, she not only called fellow contestant Bubbles "retarded" TWICE, but she also has shown very little progress compared to those that are eliminated. The only progress she has shown was owning up to her absolute awfulness, but then again, had none of the other girls owned up to their bad behavior...would they even been on the show in the first place? She made it to the final 3, but only because of Rikki's policy of keeping girls who "needed Charm School more" over girls who made actual progress.
- While we're talking about girls from Rock Of Love, does anyone remember Megan and Brandi C.'s stints on the first season of I Love Money? Brandi C. barely made it onto a team at all, was up for elimination 4 damn times, and the only reason she was eliminated was because she quit. Megan was in a similar scenario, except she made it so close to the end because of being the smartest contestant. She made her way to the end with her looks, and also only got eliminated because she quit. She was probably gone next anyway, but who knows.
- By retrospect, Hottie from Flavor of Love was this, given that it was obvious that she was only on the show for fame and fortune. Even Flav himself admitted that keeping her as long as he did over someone else was stupid.
- Kalle from the Finnish Idols 2008 season. He got to the top four mostly on heavy metal fans voting for him, despite having almost zero stage charisma and being almost tone deaf. The judges complained about Kalle's performances increasingly every week untill he was eliminated.
- Nikki Ziering from Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling. Despite her lack of talent/motivation and utter stupidity (when asked by Eric Bischoff if she'd taken away any experience from the show partway through, her answer was 'I got nothing'), she stayed on for at least half the season. Possibly because she wore nothing but a tight t-shirt and underwear when she wrestled. Of course, Dennis Rodman letting her have it for claiming that 'this wasn't what she signed up for' is quite possibly one of the show's few Crowning Moments of Awesome.
- Nekisa from Shear Genius season 2 was on at least 2 episodes longer than she should have been, being in the bottom for every challenge, including short cuts, for 4 episodes in a row.
- This runs ridiculously strongly Americas Best Dance Crew. First season it was runner-up Status Quo, and season two's Super Cr3w could easily be argued as this as well, struggling with low votes every week until they actually clinched the competition. Note that the fan favorites are the two third place crews, Kaba Modern and Fanny Pak. Very few fans take the show seriously as a competition anymore and try to just watch it for the sake of entertainment.
- And in season 5, it was Hype 5-0, Saltare, and Bluprint Cru. Hype 5-0 put up lackluster routines every single week; Saltare was seemingly kept by the judges solely for the novelty (they used jump ropes, a very unique gimmick); Bluprint was given immunity by the judges at one point but even so kept landing in the bottom 2 or 3, where they were always excused by the judges. Note that Bluprint is from Canada, and thus none of their friends or family could vote for them, yet somehow they stayed on the show.
- Blu Print Cru was more understandable, as they were easily one of the best teams of the season and the judges decided to save them over less talented teams.
- Notably, the week after Saltare turned in one of the most disastrous, error-laden performances ever on the show, nobody was eliminated due to some mix-up in tallying the votes.
- In Season 8, Iconic Boyz, Instant Noodles and Street Kingdom are being regarded as this by fans. Iconic Boyz are considered good dancers but not up to par with other groups due to their age; Instant Noodles have just not impressed fans with overall lackluster performances; and Street Kingdom are excellent at their style but often can't handle choreography and also ignored their challenge during the Black Eyed Peas week. Nevertheless, they remained over other crews considered more talented.
- Who Wants to Be a Superhero? got quite a few of these. How Fat Mama made it as far as she did is still unknown. Hyperstrike in the second season, despite being a less-charismatic version of Feedback from the first season, somehow made the final three (in part because Parthenon blew it on a Secret Test of Character).
- Hyperstrike/Parthenon is testament to how much character matters in reality TV. Although Parthenon performed well in challenges, he had a bland personality. Hyperstrike was an average player, but he played the superhero role to the hilt and impressed the audience (and Stan Lee) with his acrobatic skills.
- Speaking of Strictly Come Dancing (see the John Sergeant example above), there have been these most series. In season three it was Fiona Philips, in season four Claire King, and obviously in season six John Sergeant.
- Also Christopher Parker in series one (whose rubbishness was, arguably, a key factor in making the show such a huge hit) and Julian Clary in series two.
- Series Two didn't really have any Elimination Houdinis. It's unique amongst all Strictly series in that the worst dancer DID go every week. Julian Clary was only the worst dancer in the semi-final, so although he went further than he should it was only by one round and didn't fight for the trophy
- Lisa Snowdon in series six might also qualify, having been rescued from the dance-off by the judges three times - including, controversially, over early favourite Austin Healey in the quarter-final - only to be the first one eliminated in the final, despite getting the highest score from the judges. You could also argue that EVERYONE was an Elimination Houdini in the semi-final, because an unforseen turn of events meaning that it was impossible for the public vote to rescue one couple from the dance-off meant that the show's producers decided it wouldn't be fair to eliminate anyone that week.
- It's been suggested that the creators have started intentionally including a "John Sergeant figure", most obviously the former MP Anne Widdecombe in series 8, who made it to week 10 by bowing to the inevitable and playing it for comedy.
- Murder In Small Town X had a particularly egregious one in the form of Kristin. The premise of the show had it that two players would be sent to two separate locations in "The Killer's Game", where one would be "murdered" and the other would receive a clue to the mystery. Kristin, one of the more abrasive players in the game, was sent five times on this 1/2 shot at elimination before finally being "killed off." Perhaps it was merely a lucky streak, but unconfirmed reports from crew members who worked on the show suggest that because Kristin was Ms. Fanservice and the drama-causing I'm Not Here to Make Friends person, they had been ordered to "cook the pot" as it were to make sure she would stay around for a while.
- Its British counterpart The Murder Game had an even more of Houdini in Andrew who played the "Killer's Game" seven times without getting eliminated, until the final episode where Andrew ends up being the only one to correctly name the murderer and ends up winning the game.
- Chelsea from Sci-Fi's WCG Ultimate Gamer, despite being completely out of her element (the sole PC gamer on a show full of console games) and really not that great, made the final 6, over the much stronger (yet more argumentative) Dante and Ciji. She did win a number of the "real life" challenges that figured into half the final score for each episode, however. 6th out of 12 seemed about right.
- Ron from season 7 of The Biggest Loser was below the yellow line (i.e. one of the two contestants who might be eliminated) on about half of the episodes, yet made it into the final four (losing, eventually, to his son).
- From Season 9, Sam. While he needed to be there for a while, he eventually reached the point where it was obvious he was able to do it at home. But he wasn't sent home for 3 or 4 weeks. Why? Because his cousin Koli was so dependent on him, the other contestants tended to vote for the other person. The only reason he was finally eliminated (making it to the final 6) is because he got the same number of votes as Michael (who really needed to be there), but lost a lower percentage of weight loss. And how much weight did he lose? To date, he is the only contestant on the show to have reached their weight loss goal before going home. Bob and Jillian even both commented at several points (Jillian at one point shouting this to Koli) that Sam didn't need to be there anymore, as he was in better shape than anyone they'd seen still on campus.
- Almost every season has one of these, as a "non-threat" who is constantly kept around to give other contestants a better chance of winning. In season 10 it was Elizabeth, who was below the yellow line almost EVERY week, and yet made it to the final four.
- In Season 12, Bonnie has been on the losing team 4 times in 7 weeks, but has managed to escape elimination despite losing a total of 33 pounds in 7 weeks. Granted, one of those weeks she was immune due to a good week by her and bad weeks from her teammates, but the other three...
- Season 13 has Conda. She is intensely disliked by the show's fanbase, is inconsistent with her weight loss, and causes a lot of drama in the house, including another girl of cheating when she beat Conda in a competition inside the gym in week 3. She has been on the losing team 6 times in 8 weeks...and has had a grand total of one vote to eliminate her, due to successfully manipulating her teammates into voting off the people she wants off for personal (and usually petty) reasons. She got into the finals and placed third.
- In There Goes The Neighborhood, The Schindlers fit this trope to a T. They were almost always on the block, performed poorly at challenges (Until the last, in which they only won the right to host a neighbourhood barbeque and had more time to campaign to the others) and were only really used by the others to further their own social games.
- Double act Jedward on the sixth season of The X-Factor UK possessed no talent except the ability to slick their hair up, yet they kept being saved, most controversially by Simon Cowell who refused to eliminate them leading to a tremendous backlash against the show and his favouritism. Ironically enough, when they were finally eliminated, another act, Olly Murs had actually finished bottom of the public vote, but the judges finally came to their senses and sent John & Edward home instead. That said they have had a fair amount of success after the show.
- The 2010 series gave us Wagner who had even less singing ability, had a tendency to try and ogle or grope the female dancers, and was frequently booed by the audience after each performance. He amassed a shocking amount of support through the competition largely down to a combination of So Bad, It's Good, those who enjoyed the sheer entertainment value and people who basic wanted to screw over the judges. Once he got in the bottom two, though, he was gone. We also had Katie Waissel who could sing (at least when nerves didn't get the better of her) but who was unpopular for other reasons and somehow survived a record four eliminations before finally going out just before the semi-finals.
- There's a coincidence. Katie Waissel had once dated Michael Sophocles, an Elimination Houdini on the previous years' series of the Apprentice. Both were eliminated from their respective shows two episodes before the final.
- The 2012 series gave us Rylan- a performer with no talent making his second out of three appearances on a competitive reality show in as many years. Due to a rabid fanbase and the supposed entertainment value, he made it all the way to the top six. Only after the two favorites to win were in the final two did the judges come to their senses.
- The US version gave us Marcus Canty, who managed to survive to the final four over stronger competition, despite being in the bottom two three times in a row. The third time, he benefited from Nicole Scherzinger taking a cue from Paula (who had pulled a similar stunt earlier in the season when it was two of her groups on the chopping block) and voting to keep him because she "didn't want to hurt his feelings". This sent it to deadlock and the public vote, which eliminated Rachel Crow instead. He finished in 4th place overall.
- Fictional, but because the public voted in Sims Big Brother 5, this still applies. Pamela was repeatedly put on the block and not evicted. Only when the housemates got to vote near the finals was she finally evicted from the house. She was more or less kept around solely because it seemed like anyone who was up against her on the block was evicted.
- Invoked by Keri and Yvette in Sims Big Brother 6. Neither Keri nor Yvette seemed to be able to win any challenges, nor be part of any major alliance. Their entire plan was to actually lay low out of the drama while the two main alliances duked it out with each other, then, when one of them wins (or their numbers were reduced enough), start trying to win Head of Household challenges. And quite honestly, it worked, as Keri and Yvette managed to make it to the final three and knocked out an entire alliance in one week thanks to a conveniently placed Double Elimination Week. (Neither of them won, however.)
- A more minor example, in Sims Big Brother 2, Dora came in last on the Solitary-style challenges, therefore being made the "Unlucky Houseguest", and part of the conditions of being the Unlucky Houseguest was that she had to be nominated every week for awhile. Naturally she survived elimination before finally asking to be voted out because it stopped being fun for her. Dora was mostly kept around because she wasn't a threat, being unable to compete for Head of Household competitions. (Which may not be as bad as you think)
- In Big Brother Sim Edition 2, Pepper. Pepper was almost constantly gunned for merely for being annoying, but she somehow managed to make the final two, mostly because Melissa quit and let her continue in her stead, she lucked out on a Termination Room Twist (Which meant one houseguest had to be eliminated, but they'd win a prize), because she managed to make a deal with Socks, and because Stella disliked Socks more.
- Minor examples happen in the UK version of Big Brother. The way that series works is that everyone casts two nominations, and the ones with the most nominations are put up on the block, against public voting. Some contestants actually do receive a large number of nominations or are put up on the block (sometimes consecutively) against the public vote, but manage to survive, or never receive enough from fellow houseguests to be nominated. (Rex and Mohamed in 2008 for example received plenty of nominations but never enough at one point)
- Big Brother 2009. We have Freddie/Halfwit (long story), who received 45 nominations total and was put up for eviction a total of eight times in the season. (Five of those week were consecutive!), but he managed to survive with sometimes way over 60% of the public vote of his favour before his luck ran out and he was evicted on Day 72.
- Marcus also received 46 nominations, but many of 'em were spread out...however he was put up four times in a row, although two of them were when there were more than ten people on the block. (Oftentimes a case of other housemates breaking the rules and being nominated as punishment)
- Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag, aka Speidi, on Celebrity Big Brother. It later came out that they had a secret investor in America paying for them to stay in.
- Interestingly, Canada's Worst Driver has had a few of these. Of course, on CWD, your goal is to leave as soon as possible, but some drivers were shortlisted several times yet lasted long. Examples include Billie Jean from Season 3, who was shortlisted every episode, yet was the fourth to leave, Ashley from Season 4, who was shortlisted 5 times and was named The Worst, and Diane, the final graduate from Season 8 who was shortlisted 3 times.
- Aria on Season 6 of The Next Food Network Star. Her cooking was pretty consistently mediocre, and her point of view was just boring. Yet she managed to make it to the final 4. Brad is also pretty notable, since even though he could cook, he could not come up with a culinary point of view at all, and only managed to settle on one shortly before he was eliminated.
- Dzintra was on her way to becoming one in the first few weeks of Season 6. The first episode she didn't even cook because she "got something in her eye" and had to go to the hospital! Then she consistently underperformed and showed she was just plain crazy and still didn't get eliminated until the fourth week. Also, Aarti is a special case because few people thought she should win, but the judges seemed smitten. In any case, it runs into The Runner Up Takes It All territory, as second-place finisher Tom also got a show on the network, one that seems to be getting much more publicity.
- Katie Doyle from the eighth The Real World/Road Rules Challenge went up for elimination via "The Inferno" more often than any other female competitor, owing to her mediocre performance during challenges and tensions with her teammates. After a few failed attempts to off her, her team even went so far as to throw a mission and give up the cash prize just to force Katie into the Inferno against one of the opposing team's strongest players. The ploy did not work — Katie persevered in each case, ultimately making it to the final round and sending home a couple of her more popular opponents in the process.
- To be fair this happens a lot in this series of challenges thanks to both twists and other contestants not exactly being the brightest bunch. Back in 'The Gauntlet' Road Rules team member Sarah was placed into eliminations on five separate occasions and beat each one to stick around to the end. You then had Beth who outlived her welcome on Gauntlet 2 but hung around for a long period of time to her team-mates annoyance. Kina, Derrick and Alton were in eliminations multiple times too but were simply there due to a twist. Wes and Casey in 'Fresh Meat' being put into elimination too for five rounds. Theres Svetlana in 'The Duel' who was thrown in multiple times for being out of the main crowd and hung around long enough to almost win the whole thing. Ev in the island was almost booted on several occasions but was also kept around thanks to twists.
- Magic: The Gathering.com's Great Designer Search 2 had this in Jonathan Loucks. He was consistently been told that his set mechanics are too complex. In round 3, many of the players following the competition had him pegged to leave... but Jonathan Woodward got the heave-ho instead, because, in Mark Rosewater's words, "the other designers all turned in better submissions", though players at large begged to differ. He would be eliminated the next round, however, after completely jettisoning a few ideas he had that the judges actually liked in favor of an obviously unworkable theme (colorless mana matters).
- Megan from SyFy's special effects makeup competition Face/Off was an abysmal, egotistical competitor, consistently on the chopping block for her poor performance while showing active hostility toward anyone who badmouthed her, making excuses for her lack of skill, and often deferring to her partner for the bulk of the work on team challenges. Yet somehow, she managed to escape elimination...until the second to last episode, where the judges finally wised up and kicked her out on the spot. Even more shocking, while the judges seemed to accept her excuses up until that point, her last performance in the last challenge so disgusted them, they forewent conferring with the challenge winner first (a formality they usually indulged in, for the rest of the series).
- Season 2 had Jerry. He wasn't quite as egotistical as some of the people on there, but what he lacked in ego, he made up for in lack of skill, despite his relatively advanced age and work experience. Despite finishing in the bottom 3 all but one week (where, granted, he finished in the top 3), he made it to week 7, getting eliminated in a double elimination.
- A notable example was in the first season of Sweden's version of Dancing with the Stars. The line up included a comedian who wasn't that good to begin with, and who got sick of the show and wanted to be sent home after a while. The viewers wouldn't have it however, and he stayed on the show, doing increasingly bad performances to the point where he made one sitting down.
- WWE's fourth season of NXT had Johnny Curtis, who WON as one of these. A combination of immunity won in the right weeks and the most popular rookie Derrick Bateman being eliminated due to injury in the final three, which led to him being a face in the finals against a heel Brodus Clay (meaning he'd automatically take home the fan poll) led to him winning.
- After winning, Curtis was immediately kicked back to developmental and later deprived of his prize (as his pro, R-Truth, had turned heel), while Clay was immediately rushed to the main roster. Some time later, Curtis would finally be debuted on the main shows... with several weeks of terrible puns, and when he finally did debut, it was against Mark Henry, who at the time was in his "destroy all my opponents and crush their legs" phase, and was quickly written off TV, and was then sent back to NXT. Not very hard to see who WWE wanted to win.
- Back in the first season there was David Otunga. Inexperienced in the ring and not incredibly skilled doing mic work, he managed to last all the way to the final two, though not without help, as once WWE flat-out fabricated an excuse to disqualify a contestant from a challenge to guarantee he won, making all the way to the final two over much more talented and popular wrestlers. The biggest reason seemed to be his connections, as he's married to singer-actress Jennifer Hudson, and WWE is always trying to increase its mainstream exposure.
- Many people feel this way about Alex from The Glee Project, who was in the bottom three more than any other character (four weeks in a row), and complain that his Camp Gay diva personality and vocal range appeal to Ryan the most.
- In Machinima Top FPS, the contest works similar to survivor, where players are gradually removed. In three of the four eliminations, the ones that complete the task get the boot.
- Since the entire premise of The Bachelor is watching dating drama unfold, it should come as no surprise that each season has had at least one contestant viewers almost unanimously agreed is a bad egg. Courtney, from the latest season, is an arguable example, since many viewers have come to despise her catty attitude and utter lack of tangible chemistry with Ben.
- In The Weakest Link, someone who is the weakest link statistically speaking often survives making it to the penultimate or even final round because the voting doesn't always go with the statistics. However, Statistically Speaking, it's possible for the weakest link to only be so because they were asked fewer questions than everyone else. This is some people's strategy. Keep the stupidest person around until the end: they may cost you some money, but when it's down to the final two, you're a lot more likely to win.
- The "keep the bad players in" strategy was demonstrated in the Doctor Who episode "Bad Wolf," which found Rose competing in a lethal, futuristic version of The Weakest Link. One of her competitors deliberately voted to keep her in until the final round, since she didn't know anything about local popular culture and would therefore be easy to beat.
- In The Glass House, a Follow the Leader show inspired by Big Brother based on more Audience Participation, Erica fits this trope. out of all the people in the final three, she actually faced elimination three times. While Andrea did receive more nomination votes overall, she never received enough at once to be sent into Limbo.
Non-reality TV examples
- Unusually for a non-Reality show, Monsters University manages to play this trope in many ways similar to a reality TV show. Oozuma Kappa, the Ragtag Band of Misfits who clearly is outclassed by all their competition. They manage to survive elimination in the first round because a team was caught cheating and disqualified by default. While Oozuma Kappa gradually gets their act together, they proceed to outplay just one team, eventually finding their way in the finals and still only winning because one member cheats.