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Tear Jerker / Survivor

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     Moments On The Show 

"You're a warrior, dude. I'm glad you were out here."
  • Jonathan Penner's evacuation in Micronesia. It's enough when the rest of his tribe starts to cry at the news, but when Kathy Sleckman, who's already emotionally on the edge, begs him not to go, it's enough to tip it over the top. Then, cut to the boat where Jonathan is hunched over sobbing and try not to feel sympathy.
  • Russell Swan's exit in Samoa. The tribe leader who worked himself to death is still fighting Jeff telling him they had to evacuate him when he's extremely close to death and routinely passing out.
    • YMMV on whether or not this is Narm, but Russell Swan losing the fourth and final Matsing Immunity Challenge in Philippines qualifies. Going from being the leader of one of the most successful tribes in Survivor history before his evacuation in Samoa to being the leader of one of only two tribes to lose every single immunity challenge visibly breaks his heart. Even worse when you contemplate his Losing Is Worse Than Death mentality spawned by both his loyalty to God and by a small yet powerfully traumatic incident he had as a child that put him on his guard.
      • The whole fourth episode of Philippines qualifies when you take into account that Matsing is not going to have an epic comeback. It's clear that the three of them are just miserable. Malcolm even said it was the lowest moment of his life, and Malcolm isn't the type that gets affected all that often.
  • Erik Reichenbach's Evacuation in Caramoan is very hard to watch. Many remember him as the Fan from Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites who was seduced by Natalie Bolton into giving away his individual immunity necklace - that's guaranteed immunity - so that she could blindside him and send him home. For this, he was even officially crowned as the dumbest person on Survivor. Redemption as a Favorite was obviously the goal when Erik returned for Caramoan. This was no empty promise, as he fought hard all the way to the top 5. Following the Tribal Council immediately before the finale, however, he complains of feeling extremely dizzy. Upon examination, the doctor says that his blood pressure is dangerously low and he is in "a state of starvation." This is because he pushed himself so hard that his body had to compensate to the point where it no longer could. Erik insists that he can return to camp after getting treated, but the doctor says that he cannot allow Erik to continue. Though he accepts his fate, it's heartbreaking to know that Erik wanted so badly to redeem himself from his infamy, and yet his extreme effort to do so ended his journey. However, unlike his first season, he is bid a warm farewell by his tribemates - especially his fellow Survivor superfan Cochran, who cherished their friendship and tells him that he "wouldn't have wanted to play this game with anybody else."
  • Terry in Cambodia getting pulled out of the game with the news that his son was in the hospital, and both his wife and the doctor said he should come home as soon as possible, with Terry not even hesitating or questioning about doing so. His son needed a heart transplant, and was fortunately fine after the surgery.
  • All of the evacuations in Kaoh Rong are heartbreaking to watch.
    • The end of the Episode 4 reward challenge in Kaoh Rong, where THREE people went down after the challenge and the entire production crew getting involved to care for the fallen contestants. It is then deemed that Caleb had to be pulled from the game in a very heart wrenching scene. His tribe members, especially Tai, who really bonded with him, were absolutely distraught. For those who disliked him in Big Brother, you can't help but to feel sorry for him, especially since he Took a Level in Kindness since his time on Big Brother. What makes it so upsetting is that this is rare instance where the show completely does away with editing out the camera crew, because everybody present for production is soon involved in catering to these people, even the filming staff, who are using their umbrellas to shade the people out of commission.
    • Neal's elimination on episode 7 of Kaoh Rong. His fifteen year long dream was looking promising, but he was medically removed from the game resulting in his Manly Tears. The dream is possibly over and he will never have a clear answer if he would have taken control of the game the next two tribal councils. The episode put focus on his friendship with Aubry, and the potetial foreshadowing that many other players could also be evacuated due to infections.
    • At the Final 5 of Kaoh Rong, Joe, after winning a reward challenge despite his old age, came down with constipation and bladder trouble thanks to all of the food he ate. After medical came to camp to check on him, it was deemed that he had to be pulled from the game. For a man his age (he is 72, the second oldest contestant to play) to make it this far and then be pulled due to matters out of his control, it's hard not to shed a tear for him.
  • Pat's medical evacuation in David vs. Goliath deserves special mention given how he was evacuated in premiere episode of his own season. He was perfectly fine until the boat ride back from the first immunity challenge. The waters were rough and the impact of a large wave injured his back severely. He was begging Probst to not leave the game and many of his tribe mates were in tears when he was being medically evacuated. That was probably the most tragic example for a first boot to go out of the game.
    • Some of the weight is lost from this when you see Pat's tribe in tears and remember that they had always disliked him and were going to give him the boot anyway.

Other Moments

  • One of the first tearjerkers in the show's history came during Borneo: A post-merger reward challenge had the castaways compete in an archery contest. The reward was home movies from the loved ones of the castaways. It's all pretty heartwarming to see their families wish them well...until Jeff informs Jenna they never received a tape from hers. Jenna instantly breaks down, and everyone tries to comfort her.
    • The winner of the challenge would get to record their own video message to send back to their family. And Jenna loses that too. While the rest of the castaways join Greg in making the video, we see Jenna solemnly shooting at the target so many times that the bow and arrow leaves scars on her, complete with a tearful voiceover about how much she misses her kids. Her breakdown was so bad that the tribe nearly voted her off out of pity.
    • Thankfully all this sets up a nice heartwarming moment in the next episode: the reward was letters from the castaway's families, including Jenna's. Colleen wins the challenge, but then Jeff tells her that she can select another castaway to share the reward. She immediately picks Jenna.
  • One of the saddest ever eliminations is when Colleen (the last Pagong standing) was voted out in Borneo. She was so well-liked by the cast and viewers alike, even Richard expressed in his voting confessional how much he didn't want to vote her out. The regular Tribal Council music didn't play that episode, instead it was mostly silence. And to really drive in the heartbreak of this vote, the final shot of the episode was a close up of her snuffed-out torch in the middle of an empty Tribal Council set.
    • Jeff is very reserved when giving his infamous "the tribe has spoken" line, and when he says "it's time for you to go" he can barely speak above a mumble. The companion book by Mark Burnett confirms that Jeff was barely holding back tears.
  • Episode 8 of Thailand is often overlooked or seen by some as Narm, but it is truly affecting to see the last 4 Sook Jais so distraught over having no choice but to vote someone out. Jake, in particular, felt extremely guilty for having lost the Immunity Challenge for the tribe. They spent most of their last day as a tribe together, comforting each other. Even sadder when you realize that there is nowhere for them to hide and they are going into the late merge down in numbers 5-3, and all of them will be Pagonged.
  • Lillian being voted out in Pearl Islands, if only for one line:
    Jeff: They don't want you to leave.
    Lil: Yeah, right.
    • In general, Lil is just a truly pitiful case. After being isolated from her tribe and voted out third, she returns via the Outcast Twist, but is drastically in over her head. Constantly emotional to the extreme, Lil would go through the entire merge being lied to, hurt, and demeaned. While she had an epic moment taking down Fairplay in the FIC, she would go into Final Tribal Council only to be completely brutalized by the jury (according to outside sources, including the man himself, Fairplay delivered an inhumanely hateful speech that couldn't be aired solely to make her life hell) and she ended up getting slaughtered in the final vote (6-1). To add insult to injury, when the jury said in the reunion that they would vote for her over Fairplay, they had only done so because producers tipped them off to lie in order to keep Lil from crying during the reunion. And not only that, in the DVD commentary, it was revealed that she was only voted back into the game not because she was the most deserving, it was because the pre-jurors didn't want her around during their pre-merge vacation, so essentially she was voted out of the Outcasts! Regardless of what you might feel about her, there's no denying that it is very hard to have as miserable of a Survivor experience as Lil did (although Woobies like Bobby Jon Drinkard and Kathy Vavrick O'Brien give her a run for her money.)
  • All Stars:
    • Jenna Morasca quitting All Stars to be with her cancer-stricken mother. At first this seems like a heartwarming moment, until you learn that she passed away merely eight days later.
    • Rudy being voted out in All Stars. The 75 year old Navy SEAL veteran was voted out for his age being a burden on the ailing Saboga tribe, despite being respected by all of his tribemates. After Rudy is voted out, Jeff comments on the fact that they didn't want to vote him out, but they didn't have a choice and someone had to go. Jerri is especially in tears.
    Jeff: Well Tribal Council is an interesting place. Always emotional. Tonight was no exception. How could you not like Rudy? 75 year old former NAVY SEAL, hanging with kids a third of his age. A hero in anybody's book. I know you didn't want to vote him out, and yet, somebody had to go, which is exactly what makes Survivor what it is, complicated.
    • Boston Rob and Lex's fight in All-Stars. Going into the game the two were very good friends and were reported to have had one of the tightest friendships between former players at the time. Although they went into the game intending on aligning with each other they ended up on different tribes and eventually came into conflict. And unlike in future seasons where players return and have pre-existing relationships, All-Stars was the first of its kind and there was no precedent in place for how to balance friendship and the game. As a result, Rob and Lex permanently ended their friendship. While the conflict and their behaviour is extremely controversial and divisive in the fanbase, the fact remains that for the first time the game ruined a pre-existing relationship and there was basically no way either player could have been prepared for it.
    • All Stars in general is a very dark season. All of the players were really tight and close with each other, and friendships were put on the line when they played the game. This culminates at Final Tribal Council, where pretty much the entire jury is bitter towards the two finalists. As Jerri said at the reunion, "it's not worth it."
    • The bullying of Shii-Ann was horrible. Throughout the merge, especially after losing Kathy, she was treated like garbage by nearly everyone. They made no secret she was next to go - and when she won immunity they still kept up their terrible treatment, sneering at her victory and outright ignoring her as they targeted each other. The only consolation from her treatment was that Amber gave her a car after the show for being the swing vote that won her the million dollars, but is it no wonder Shii-Ann decided not to return after that?
    • Rob Cesternino's run on the season and the aftermath. He went from being the superstar of The Amazon, with his game being a Growing the Beard moment for the series as a whole, to getting the Butt-Monkey edit and being blindsided on Day 12. The devastation on his face is painful to watch. After All-Stars, the poster boy of Survivor Superfans basically dropped out of the fandom and didn't really get back into the series until Heroes vs Villains.
  • Palau:
    • Janu's storyline. Throughout the entire game, she was made fun of by her Koror tribemates. In episode 10, she is sent to Exile Island, where she finally has some peace alone on the island, away from her tribe, which she claims was the best part of her experience. At the end of the episode, she decides that she has had enough and decides to throw a wrench in her tribe's plans by quitting the game to save Stephenie. Who knows what else happened to her that wasn't shown on screen? It's hard not to feel bad for her.
    • As awesome as it was to see Koror's conquering, you really have to feel bad for Ulong in this. Despite trying their best in challenges and trying to get a leg up, Ulong just kept losing Immunity challenges, and going to Tribal Council every time to see another member go home. Stephenie gets the worst of it all, having to watch her tribe get whittled down to just herself, and by that time, her morale was at an all time low that just a tree mail informing her that she's going to Koror was able to lift her spirits up a bit.
  • In one episode of Cook Islands, the Aitus find a bird's nest and Cao Boi pokes it with a stick to see if there are any eggs to be eaten. Then they knock it out of the tree and see that there are none, Penner looks into the bush that the nest had fallen into and finds a baby bird. It was literally less than a day old, as Penner tearfully mentions how it still has the gunk from the inside of its shell still on it. They (most likely futilely) put it back in the nest and hope for the best.
  • A bit of an underrated sad moment is Frosti getting voted out 7-1 in China. He's such a likable character that even Todd, a strategist who had no problems before and after cutting the throats of allies, says he finds it hard to vote him out. When Frosti gets the votes the expression on his face is pure rejection, and every vote comes up for him with a small drawn frown-face. After he leaves to go, no one seems even remotely happy that they had to vote him out.
  • Matty's elimination from Gabon. He was stuck with a truly pathetic tribe and they just keep losing and he keeps suffering. Throughout the ordeal, Matty remains one of the sanest and most good-hearted person on the show. Despite the power shift towards the end of the season, placing the original Fang on top, he isn't consumed by ego the way Kenny and Crystal are. In the end, he loses to Bob (once again!) and receives the spot as the season's fallen angel. Hell, the producers picked up on this gave him a unique soundtrack fitting his tragedy.
  • The ending of the Tocantins auction is this and doubles as a Heartwarming Moment. Jeff puts up the last item up for bid- video messages from home, and allows people to pool money. Everyone begins to give their money to Taj, who left her newborn baby at home to play Survivor, and she is clearly in tears. Even Jeff comments on their generosity in such a cutthroat game. After watching the video, Taj is in tears and is very emotional when she finds out that her husband is there. Jeff then says that only she will be able to see her loved one unless she sends herself to Exile Island to meet her husband there so everyone can see their loved ones. As a thanks to her tribemates, she sends herself to exile. Truly an emotional scene.
  • In the Nicaragua family visit, Chase has promised to take Fabio on the family reward from early on in the game because they bonded over how close they were to their mothers, but when Chase and his mother wins it, Chase decides to pick Sash and Holly. The look on Fabio's face is one of pure heartbreak, and he's bawling as he calls Chase out.
    Dan: He's a scumbag.
    • Not only that, but Jane, who was also left unpicked, said that this summer was the last time she would get to see her daughter before she left for college.
  • Sophie's massive Defrosting Ice Queen moment in the South Pacific finale can be hard to watch, especially seeing it come from someone as tough and controlled as her. After Ozzy and her get into a fight at the F5 Tribal Council, she tries to brush off Ozzy's statements that everyone on the jury hates her, but slowly begins to break down into tears and then sobs. The jury is visibly stunned.
    • Especially heartbreaking is this exchange:
      Jeff: Do you see this as any kind of opportunity, if you survive tonight's vote, of thickening the skin?
      Sophie: I mean, I would say that I learn more from my weaknesses from my strengths. I would think that when I came out here that I would have much tougher skin, so I don't think I'm building skin out here, I think I'm losing it.
  • Kat in One World is lucky to be alive and may not live very long after she was eliminated. Not only did she have surgery several occasions in the past, but she has to undergo surgery again after the season and she could die.
  • While it was highly entertaining and a signature moment in the entire series, Brandon's meltdown in Caramoan has to make you feel at least a little sympathy for Brandon. He is clearly mentally unstable and suffering from the pressure his family puts on his shoulders.
    • Brandon in general has many tendencies of mental illness and seeing them, the show's treatment and possible exploitation of it, and the derisive reactions of the viewers can be very triggering to people with mental illnesses who watch Survivor.
  • This secret scene from Aras about his former drug addict brother Vytas.
  • Kass, the resident villain and shit-stirrer of Cagayan, winning the Final 4 immunity to the elation of her husband can be a happy tearjerking moment. For one, she made a massive comeback from being long abandoned on the perch twenty minutes after everyone was on the puzzle. To see her pull out the unexpected win while her husband cheers on ecstatically is an unforgettable moment, made even sweeter by the fact that she admits that she needed him there.
  • Shirin explaining her past and how her family was torn apart by domestic abuse in Worlds Apart. Made even worse by Will continuously interrupting her and accusing her of playing the victim.
    • Harsher in Hindsight, as in Cambodia, Shirin shares an antagonistic relationship with Abi-Maria that ends with her laughing at Abi's complaints, who tearfully laments that the reason she wanted to side with Shirin was because she understood what she went through in her season.
  • A sort of underrated sad moment in Kaoh Rong is the lead up to Debbie's blindside. Throughout the episode, Debbie is nothing but supportive towards the women's alliance, actively cheering on the other girls to succeed in challenges and very motherly towards them, and she absolutely trusted Aubry - saying that the remaining Brains were like The Three Musketeers, how she'll never vote out Aubry and Aubry will never her, and even outright saying to Joe at Tribal Council that she "loves that girl". She put so much love and trust into her alliance that, despite how kooky she is, it's actually uncomfortable to watch her get voted out.
  • Darnell's attempts in Kaoh Rong to justify keeping him, begging his tribe to forgive him for messing up a challenge. He's on the verge of tears after making his case, but it does him no good.
    "Things wasn't easy for me. I've always had to fight for everything and to lose, it hurts. I do not want to disappoint no one up here at all. I let all these people down."
  • After Cydney loses the firemaking challenge in Kaoh Rong, she talks about how she wanted to use the money to help herself and her parents to pay their mortgage. It really is a tearjerking moment.
  • Tai having to let Mark go after the Final Tribal Council due to restrictions that prevent wild animals from being brought home from foreign country. He saved that chicken's life and had grown so close to it, it was sad to see them part. Plus, given the fact they were taking care of it, Mark probably grew used to the domestication and doesn't know how to survive on his own so his time on the island was probably short lived.
  • In Millennials vs. Gen X, Adam find a hidden Immunity Idol. At first it's triumphant, until he starts crying and reveals that his mother is also a huge fan of Survivor and has stage four lung cancer. He's feeling both his dreams and nightmares coming true at the same time. He also adds that he hopes his mother can watch him on the show, and that it'll bring her some happiness in her terrible time...but unfortunately, Adam's mother passed away before the season aired, making this pre-recorded moment even more devastating.
    • Adam getting a letter from his mother in episode 10. He burst into tears even before he read it, and was smiling as he read that his mother had been well enough to go see a ballet.
  • While somewhat understated due to her over-the-top nature, it is made clear that Michaela is genuinely hurt by Jay's betrayal. The look she gives Jay as her torch is snuffed screams that she is trying to decide between being enraged and heartbroken.
    • Even before that, the look she gave him after her Big "WHAT?!" and his admittance. She looks as though she's tearing up.
  • Adam trying to defend himself from Taylor and Jay's accusations and insults was eerily reminiscent of watching a kid get bullied. Every time he tried to speak up, they would cut him off or laugh at him. And when he started getting upset, they would mock him by asking him "why are you getting so defensive?". For anyone who was bullied growing up, this scene was uncomfortable and emotional. You definitely felt Adam's frustration and hurt.
    • This scene sort of happens again in episode 10, but instead it was David and Hannah who were being verbally abused by Zeke and Bret, who mocked them for their anxiety and neuroticism. Like above, it hit home for anyone who struggled with anxiety and have been made of for it. Some people online have grimly noticed the irony in the fact that it was two LBGT+ people degrading other people for something they couldn't help.
      • This is especially brutal since Bret admitted to Zeke he stayed closeted because he was fearful that his tribe wouldn't accept him as gay, a very valid fear considering they were from the generation before and dripping with machismo. However, he targeted the least one for having a condition he was unable to help (and had been shown struggling with throughout the full two-hour episode)- and while the two are very hard to compare in severity otherwise, it was still unkind of Bret, who appeared to be supportive of him in the earlier parts of the episode. Then again, in the first episode, Bret mocked David in confessional for, of all things, "having less testosterone than the women"- which indicates that he is not macho like Bret felt the rest of the tribe was. Not only is it very harsh, it also makes one wonder about what Bret has been through and how deep his mask is when dealing with his generation.
  • Jessica's exit from the game in Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen-X, is heartbreaking. She really didn't want to draw rocks but she went to do so believing that it is her only shot at winning the game. And she got the unlucky draw. As she ended up pulling the black rock, she was crying on her way out of tribal council, and in her final words she broke down again mentioning that if she flipped she wouldn't be sitting there. Not only that, but many of the cast members were crying at her sudden elimination- even Jay, who had a history of being brutal and hardcore and had no allies. Jeff even expressed dismay, modifying his usual Elimination Statement from "the tribe has spoken" to "the game has spoken" just to make it clear that no one had a hand in her elimination- a freak stroke of misfortune took her out of the competition.
  • The loved ones visit is this and heartwarming. From everyone crying and smiling, to everyone talking about how much their loved one meant to them. David crying and saying how he wished he was as brave as his dad, Hannah comforting her mom, Bret and Zeke breaking down, and Adam meeting his brother. Especially Adam meeting his brother, since he's so, so desperate to hear how his mom is doing and is tempted to use the advantage... but he doesn't. Because he can't take that away from everyone. And through the challenge, he struggles so desperately and apologizes to his brother as he fails. And it would have been so horrible, if not for Jay showing kindness and taking Adam on the reward.
  • Jay and Adam finally put their antagonism to rest in the most heartbreaking way possible. After Jay and Adam argue with Jay telling him he'd take Adam to the end if Adam wouldn't turn on him, Adam remorsefully declines before tearfully telling Jay about his dying mother, which leads to Jay breaking down in tears and admitting he's afraid one day his own mother will die because of her brain aneurysms. It's a very powerful and tragic scene of two boys who had been on opposites sides bonding together through the pain of their ill loved ones, and afterwards Jay admits he can't hate Adam anymore after hearing what he was going through.
  • In the finale, Ken was forced to turn against his closest ally in the game because he was too much of a threat. When confronted with it at the Final Tribal Council, he broke down clearly regretting decision saying he had to do it because his daughter means everything to him.
  • At the live reunion, Adam reveals when he returned home, his mother tragically died hours later. Although he got to tell her that he won, she never got to see him play. Truly a Bitter Sweet Ending.
  • Malcolm's final words in Game Changers. He clearly didn't expect to go out pre-merge, was trying (and failing) to hold back tears as he lamented his fate, and sounded very hurt by what he saw as a betrayal from J.T. Poor guy...
    • And then J.T. and Michaela's exchange when J.T. is eliminated;
    Michaela: "Tell Malcolm you sent him home."
    J.T.: "I will."
  • Debbie's apparent mental breakdown in episode 5 is just as sad as it is bizarre, terrifying, and oddly humorous. What makes it worse is that her anger at Brad and Hali is completely misplaced; both of them like her.
  • Seeing Sandra's torch get snuffed for the first time is heartbreaking. The fact her tribe applauds her in respect and her final words were nothing but love and respect for the game that changed her life for the better makes the feeling all the more bittersweet.
  • The entirety of the Game Changers episode 7 Tribal Council. Varner had no one in his corner and saw an opportunity to make everyone flip their trust on Zeke by painting him as untrustworthy, but took it a step too far by indicating he was secretive of a fact that he didn't want to be shared- he was once a female. After Varner outed Zeke as transgender in an effort to save himself, the entirety of the tribe turned against him, as what he did was a personal attack that went way beyond the game. What makes it even worse is when Jeff hammers in the fact he was not just telling the tribe this- he just made this public knowledge to millions of people watching the show, as if he got so caught up in the game play within the tribe he forgot it was being filmed for an at-home audience. In fact, there was absolutely no mention of this information in Zeke's previous appearance on the show- his sexual orientation was the only thing viewers knew, but the vast majority would not have realized this was just the tip of the iceberg without intimately knowing Zeke or doing some morally questionable digging into his personal history. In short, he ignored Zeke's confidentiality, did so in front of Tai, who himself is homosexual and was furious, made Andrea break down crying almost immediately because of how hard she took it, and set a tremendously bad example of what one must never do on a competition- inflict irreparable damage to someone's personal life beyond the game so bad that it will never be the same when they go back to it- that will go down in infamy. Jeff even warned him of the ripple effect it would have on the LGBT community as well. Varner basically resigns from the game and the vote is completely skipped because everyone else on the tribe is unquestionably united in ousting him from the competition. When he says his parting words in the post-elimination confessional, Varner is in tears with his hands over his face in shame, knowing he's going to bear a mark of disgrace for the rest of his life.
    • It becomes a meta-Tearjerker for Varner. What he essentially did was nothing short of privacy invasion and crossed the line between forgivable and inexcusable. He violated Zeke's by publicizing sensitive information that he didn't want others to know to avoid drawing attention to himself, and Zeke is uncomfortable with people questioning this aspect of his life and probing for the whole story. Even worse, this is a rampant issue on the Internet as well as real life. Varner basically opened the door for the world to know this, and the poor man was so torn up over realizing what he did, he went suicidal for a while and had to undergo therapy. The fact that this episode went to air probably doesn't help his plight one bit. It also comes as a stark reminder not to take a game show too seriously, because greed can drive people to reprehensible actions that can never be taken back, or as Jeff Probst so clearly put it, "You can't un-ring the bell."
      • It gets even worse when you find out that Varner was fired from his real estate job due to the negative backlash, because some fans of Survivor had contacted his work and demanded they fire him. Not only did he damage Zeke's life, but his own as well. Many fans are worried that he'll relapse in depression and become suicidal again and are trying to get his work to rehire him. You can't help but pity a man who's life is in shambles after an ill thought-out mistake that he clearly regrets. Fortunately for him, he got a new job which according to him in the finale was actually better than the one he previously held.
      • This can all be negated, however, when Varner decides that he's the true victim of Zeke's outing incident and that Zeke should apologize to him for all the pain that resulted from his actions. He tries to profit off of it by peddling his book at the reunion show. Even worse is that he weighs in on the whole Island of the Idols controversy by saying the sexual harasser is being unfairly painted by the edit when literally all evidence suggests otherwise.
      • It shouldn't be glossed over how terrible the public fallout of this could have been for Zeke. While the LGBT community has definitely been making headway for transgender people, there is still a sizable portion of society that outright detests them for being different. Varner's actions could have very well resulted in Zeke's ostracism and that's not an exaggeration. The worst part about the Cry for the Devil mentality is forgetting how it affects the true victim.
  • Zeke's betrayal of Andrea in episode 8 is especially hard to watch. The two of them are friends in real life, and seeing Andrea's reaction to his betrayal makes that even more disheartening, especially since she was the one to immediately jump to his defense when he was outed by Varner.
    • Even worse as it has affected their friendship in real life. In a Skype conversation between the two he treated her like crap, and when she asked him what his family and friends in real life would think of him treating her like this, he tells her they don't like her.
  • In an ironic reversal from what happened during her last playing of the game, Michaela is forced to betray Zeke and help vote him out. When he goes up to get his torch snuffed, the poor girl is in total tears.
  • Cirie's elimination in Game Changers. Despite being one of the biggest threats left to win, she is eliminated through no fault of her own when everyone plays immunity idols except her leaving her as the only person who can go home.
  • Debbie casting her vote for Brad to win the game and prefacing it with "It's good to know in this jaded, crazy world that good guys finish first." Sarah, the person who rubbed her the wrong way, ended up winning anyway, because Brad decided to browbeat Tai into submission and poisoned the jury pool.
  • Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers sees a painful moment in "Knights of the Round Table" when Desi is the victim of a tiebreaker. She goes from being one of the most confident and powerful competitors to absolutely brokenhearted, continuing all the way to checking into the Ponderosa.
    • From the same episode, Ben getting upset at Joe for saying negative things about how he treats the word of Marines, saying that he has been unable to come to terms with many things he did in the Corps and has to live with these thoughts every day. This is a man who is trapped in a nightmare that chases him nonstop, even with a family by his side. He doesn't run from it, because it waits on him. He can only cope with it. Some people who end up like that might go insane, but thankfully not Ben.
    • Unfortunately, circumstances force Ben to undergo a Face–Heel Turn later in the season, and the buildup to it is genuinely tragic. His conflicting loyalties force him to betray one of his closest allies, Chrissy, for the sake of his long-term game, and his role as a Double Agent effectively destroys his friendship. Then he lears that his new allies, including his friend Lauren, are planning to thank him by double-crossing him. Ben responds by revealing all of Lauren's advantages to Chrissy, Ryan, and Mike to blindside her, escalating the situation into a dramatic showdown at tribal in which it becomes clear that Ben and Lauren are no longer interested in being civil with each other. Ultimately, Ben uses his idol to single-handedly eliminate Lauren. This is tragic because Ben states in several confessionals that he was trying to escape the darkness of his past and leave behind some of the horrible things he says he did, but the game of Survivor forced him to backslide into it. He gets better and wins the game, though, so it isn't too disconcerting in the long run.
  • The emotional moment in the finale of Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers when Ben loses the final challenge after a close heat with Chrissy due to several awful mistakes and believes an upside-down u will haunt him for the rest of his life, and Jeff even uses that statement as a lead-in knowing he says that. It makes the surprise twist all the more satisfying.
  • Stephanie's elimination in Ghost Island, backed in a corner with no chance of surviving, she says that it was her dream to play Survivor and she is there for her kids.
    • Really, the whole episode was a gut-punch in a way that hasn't really been seen for such a clear boot since Thailand's final nine episode. We see Michael breaking down during a confessional while talking about how important this is for him at such a young age, and even Jenna, who hasn't been given much screentime, was shown to be struggling with the fact that she couldn't change her situation. The icing on the cake, though, may be at Tribal Council: Jeff sees that he isn't going to stir anything up among the Naviti five, and instead just asks Stephanie, Michael, and Jenna in turn what being on the show means to them. It's devastating to watch knowing one of them would be going home in just a few moments. It really shows how close the Malolo three had become, and it makes Stephanie's boot all the more heartbreaking.
  • When Angela reunites with her daughter in Ghost Island for the family visit, even Jeff gets choked up a bit, at the idea that Angela had to sacrifice her family for her career, and it was previously stated she got divorced because her marriage couldn't handle it. It hits very close to home for him: Probst's personal background includes a divorce triggered like hers with Shelley Wright for similar reasons, as it took place a year after he began his dream job as host of Survivor. He also dated a contestant and broke up with her, Julie Berry. His current spouse, Lisa Ann Russell, didn't become his wife until 2011, so Jeff had to deal with getting past these emotional blows for ten years- and probably still does in the present, in some ways.
    • Angela later reveals on the Survivor Subreddit that there was more to this than we saw in the final cut. Jeff made production stop for 45 minutes to regain his composure because of how badly this affected him. Jeff Probst does cry... off-camera.
  • The David tribe bonding over their respective dark pasts while huddling in the shelter for warmth. It starts with poor Jessica, who's just a 19-year-old girl, breaking down and feels bad for doing so because she's always been the one comforting others due to having to be mature person in her family thanks to her mother being in a toxic relationship. This leads to Bi admitting her own past with domestic violence, due to having been in a previous relationship with an abusive boyfriend, and she comforts Jessica by telling her she's a hero to her mother. And this in turn makes Nick, who was earlier portrayed as a manipulative Smug Snake, to eventually admit his tragic past in losing his mother to drugs, to which he cries for the first time since her death. It's shockingly dark and sad, but also rather heart-warming, to see an entire tribe bond over their struggles in life and become closer due as a result.
  • Alec's desperation to win an Immunity Challenge that would decide whether he continued in the game or not. With his back to the wall, Alec hangs on for over five hours. Realizing that Christian might beat him, he makes one final, heartbreaking appeal.
    Alec: Christian. You're safe. I'm not.
    Christian: I know. And I know how you must feel, right now, in this moment. I just... I might never get this opportunity again. (tears up) I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
  • The penultimate episode of David vs. Goliath ended with sad music playing as the camera lingered on a close up of Christian's snuffed-out torch after his Shocking Elimination, in a moment that was very reminiscent of Colleen's elimination back in Borneo.
  • During the family visit in Edge of Extinction, it's revealed that Gavin had only been married to his wife for two days before he had to leave to come out to play. Everyone is moved by this and it becomes heartwarming when Ron picks Gavin to go on the reward.
  • When Karishma from Island of Idols starts talking about her Arranged Marriage to Janet and Jack. How terrible it made her feel that in the eyes of her family, she was only worth something if she was married, and how her relationship with her husband was more like that of a roommate than genuine love.
  • The merge episode of IoI is the darkest since Will blew up on Shirin. An episode starting with a content warning is a sure sign that it would be a rough ride.
    • Dan has been out of focus for the most part, but we finally see why: he's a fucking creep. He touches the young women inappropriately and it has reached a point where Kellee delivers a confessional about being objectified and having to hold your tongue because of how it will impact her socially. It's a reflection of current society and production is forced to step in. It doesn't help
    • Missy, Elizabeth, and Lauren choose to weaponize the sexual harassment. Missy and Liz play up their discomfort to make it seem that the target is definitely on Dan. They lull Kellee into a false sense of security and solidarity and use her human vulnerability to vote her off. In essence, a woman spoke up about her experiences and was punished for it while the creep responsible for everything got off scot-free. As is the case in real life.
    • That's not the worst part, because at least Kellee goes to Ponderosa to hang out with Jack and eat cookies. They dragged Janet into this, too. They play up the discomfort angle so much that Janet tanks her game because she prioritizes their safety and comfort.
    • They "thank" for this by gaslighting her. They make her feel like she's losing her mind by pretending that she made it a bigger issue than it actually was. She was torpedoed to the bottom for wanting to be a good person. She spends the night staring into the horizon.
    • During tribal council, they go all in on her. They make her and Kellee out to be snakes for wanting to get rid of Dan. Aaron pipes and says that Dan is the actual victim because it's his name being dragged through the mud. Never mind that Janet and Kellee both put their necks on the line and were punished for it. Does this all sound familiar?
      • Is that, according to the rules of Survivor, Kellee is literally silenced (because she's a member of the jury) while her tribe mates dismiss her claims and Dan continues selling his side of the story and pretending to be a nice guy unfairly getting his name dragged through the mud.
    • Jamal, Janet's biggest and most vocal ally, lost his vote because of a Diabolus ex Machina and there's nothing he could do to safe himself and Janet. He leaves without even looking back. Janet is now alone in world full of snakes and rats.
  • Winners at War has a moment where Rob is doing an Edge of Extinction challenge and slips and injures himself, making it impossible for him to complete the challenge in time. He just keeps going, talking about how much it sucks that he couldn't finish because of a bout of bad luck.
    • In the same challenge, Danni's reaction to finishing 7th. Only the first six people got fire tokens and she finished only a few seconds after six(Wendell).
    • Michele towards the end of Winners at War. The majority alliance makes it painfully clear she is next to go, and even when she manages to save herself with an immunity win, the one ally, she has left, Nick, is sent to the Edge.
      • Michele manages to make it to the end despite constantly being in danger and fighting from the bottom, but comes in third. And the worst part is she would have gotten some votes had Edge of Extinction not been in play, as Adam, Danni, Nick and Wendell came to her post-game and said they would have voted for her, but were worried that Natalie would've won and voted for Tony to ensure she wouldn't. Although Danni at least was lying because in her juror video she talks about choosing between Tony and Nat to vote for, and is clear she's not voting for Michelle because she doesn't think she should win.
    • Tony beating Sarah at the Final Four fire-making challenge. To see Tony, who had applauded at blindsiding Sarah in Cagayan, breakdown sobbing in Sarah's arms after defeating her while she consoles him because the two had become genuine friends and partners was absolutely devastating. Cops R Us easily cemented themselves as probably one of the best alliances from just how emotional their journey was.
    • Amber herself saying she didn't deserve to win All-Stars. She let fans opinions get to her head and even though she won the most of any Survivor contestant in a single season, convinced herself it was all a fluke. Adding on to that is either her own husband didn't stand up for her or they edited out what would've been a touching display by having her own husband, the man she beat, tell her that he still believes she deserved to win no matter how many fans think she didn't.

     Moments Off of the Show 
  • All those ill-conceived jokes about Bill Boyle (B.B.) Andersen being dead for years became totally depressing when news got out the poor man actually did pass away after suffering from a brain cancer that took his life.
  • As if Jenna's mother passing away wasn't bad enough, we later learn that Africa winner and Jenna's fiance, Ethan Zohn has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Doubling as a Tear Jerker for Ethan and Jenna again. The poor girl just can't catch a break.
    • And they broke up, after a decade.
  • In June 2014, Blood vs. Water contestant's Caleb Bankston's death due to a train he was working on derailing, apparently only weeks before he was to be married to his fiance, Colton Cumbie.
    • On the day Caleb and Colton were supposed to be married, Colton posted this. Try not to cry.
    • The death of any Survivor is truly awful. B.B. Anderson from Borneo passed away in 2013 after succumbing to brain cancer, and Jennifer Lyon from Palau died from breast cancer in 2010, just ten days after visiting the ten-year Survivor reunion.
  • Another unfortunate death on August 29th, 2020 with the death of Cliff Robinson of Cagayan.
  • On March 17th, 2016, Josh and Reed broke up.
  • After China wnner Todd Herzog won the show, he started to have an drinking problem. He made an appearance on Dr. Phil where he could barely walk and was clearly miserable. It's hard not to feel bad for the guy.
    • Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse for Todd. He's set to appear on Dr. Phil again, as his drinking problem has gotten so bad that he's in a wheelchair and has seizures - and is shown in commercial to possibly have one while on the show. Poor guy...
      • Todd has accused the Dr. Phil show of sabotaging his recovery and setting this up for ratings. He claimed he arrived with his father and was sober, then they separated him from his father and left him alone in a dressing room with vodka and red bull and then gave him a Xanax so he it came time for the show he was completely intoxicated. Dr. Phil's defense was basically "addicts lie".
      • Thankfully, things finally seem to be getting better for Todd. As of his 2018 Reddit AMA, he's now happy and healthy.
  • Adam's mother passed away shortly after filming wrapped on Millennials vs. Gen X. Fortunately, he was able to subvert Never Got to Say Goodbye, as he made it home an hour before her time came. He even got to tell her that he knew he won.
  • On December 31 2016, Gabon contestant Dan Kay unexpectedly passed away.
  • For those who don't hate Richard Hatch, his financial issues after the show could be considered this.
  • Ashley Massaro, ex-WWE Star and Survivor: China player, passed away on May 16th. Her death was later revealed to have been suicide.
  • The death of Rudy Boesch (91) on November 2nd, 2019. One of the oldest contestants and the second Borneo player to go.
  • In Cook Islands winner Yul Kwon's pregame Entertainment Weekly interview for Winners at War, he revealed the reason he's finally playing again after 27 seasons, and it's a doozy:
    "One of the reasons I am playing this time around [...] is Jonathan Penner is one of my closest friends. Coming out of Survivor, we stayed in very close touch. I’ve gotten to know his wife, his kids, and vice versa. His wife, Stacy Title, is suffering from ALS. And it is an absolutely brutal, devastating disease. She was diagnosed about a year and a half ago, and at this point [May, 2019] she’s lost all motor function except for the ability to move her eyes. And maybe some rough head movements. And it’s just been an incredibly, incredibly difficult burden on her and Jonathan, and their kids."
    • Yul then promised that if he won, he'd donate the entire $2 million to ALS charities, which unfortunately didn't happen. Though since every contestant was guaranteed at least $25,000 for competing, it might not be all bad

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