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Outwit, Outplay, Do Your Homework

How Students’ DIY Version of “Survivor” Has Gone Viral Online and to Other Campuses

By Annie Krakower

"Survivor Maryland" contestants sit around a fire pit during tribal council

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Huddled around a fire for warmth, Terps (except the guy in flip-flops) gather to vote out a tribe member.

Chris LeCompte ’16, the infamous pot-stirring contestant of “Survivor: Maryland’s” second season, sat before the tribal council facing elimination. Head down, he blurted out why he’d been distracted heading into the vote: His dog died.

His fellow Terp tribe members, gathered around a picnic table bookended by tiki torches near La Plata Beach, couldn’t help but be moved, and LeCompte went on to finish fourth and return for season five: “All-Stars.”

Except: LeCompte’s dog had not died. Sammy wasn’t even sick.

Welcome to the ultra-competitive world of “Survivor: Maryland,” UMD’s student-run, smartphone-shot version of the CBS reality show.

Undergraduates with a flair for the dramatic, the strategic and the slightly outrageous have signed up for Maryland’s game since 2012, with around 20 Terps divided each semester into tribes to face off in physical and mental challenges, and vote each other out until a winner emerges for a whopping $100 prize. So it’s exactly the same as the TV reality-show stalwart, except that one lasts 39 days, maroons contestants in remote locations and awards the victor 10,000 times as much.

And while the “real” show is chugging along with 38 seasons since 2000, “Survivor: Maryland” has developed a cult following of its own, with thousands of views on its YouTube episodes, a robust Reddit and Twitter presence, and student versions of host Jeff Probst popping up at colleges across the country.

“Since there are no stakes—very minimal stakes, I guess—it’s all prideful, and it’s all just competitive nature,” says Drew Lerner ’20, the third and current host of “Survivor: Maryland.” “The genuine emotion on the screen is what people connect to.”

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