Hidden immunity idols. Blindsides. Alliances. Strategy. The occasional romance. There are many reasons to watch the CBS hit series Survivor, and fans on the Hill are in for a thrilling new experience: the Kenyon Buffs, the College’s newest student organization. The name itself is emblematic of the show, referring to the versatile accessory that Survivor contestants wear in accordance with their team colors.
Zach Sclar ’22 and Teddy Fischer ’22 sought to create this outlet for Survivor fans at Kenyon since their return back to campus this spring. The Kenyon juniors, who live in a New Apartment, started a tradition of watching the show together. Fans since middle school, Sclar and Fischer are well-versed in all things Survivor, and were inspired by their shared passion to spearhead a campus-wide initiative.
“I think starting [this] club will bring a lot of people together with this weird niche interest,” Fischer said. “When people come up to me and talk about Survivor, it’s not like they watch the show casually. They want to talk about specific players and seasons and moments.”
According to the club’s statement of purpose, Kenyon Buffs hopes to create a space where students can “regularly watch, analyze, discuss, and worship the hit CBS competition-based reality TV show Survivor. We will meet weekly to watch at least one episode of Survivor and to discuss the cultural and historical merits of the interpersonal and strategic dynamics represented on the show.”
The multiple-Emmy-nominated reality TV show, which has aired since 2000, features 16 or more players, split into different teams, living in harsh conditions with limited supplies for 39 days. The players participate in mental and physical challenges to win rewards and most importantly, “immunity,” which keeps one team safe for the round while the other team must vote off one of their own members. Around halfway through the game, the teams “merge” and players compete individually for immunity until only two or three remain. At this point their fate turns to the voted-off players, who form a “jury” and vote for which player will walk away with one million dollars. The show achieved popularity due to players’ distinct personalities, thrilling strategies and cutthroat moments.
On Sunday, April 4, Fischer and Sclar gave a presentation during a virtual Student Council meeting in hopes of getting their organization approved.
“We’re the Buffs,” they said in unison. “And here’s why you need us.”
The two proceeded to share a photo of President Sean Decatur posing with winner of Survivor: Africa Ethan Zohn, which they found on Decatur’s Twitter account.
“I think that this shows that there is clearly an appetite and a hunger for Survivor-related content on this campus,” Fischer said during the presentation. The two proceeded to dive into a detailed description of the show, and explained the need for a space for Survivor on campus.
In addition to the club’s weekly meetings, Sclar and Fischer also proposed the idea of hosting a biannual mock version of Survivor on the Hill to bring the community together. Sclar and Fischer believe that playing the game would allow students to overcome social barriers.
Sclar proceeded to explain that the way fans discuss Survivor is similar to a newsroom during an election year. “We see human beings at their best and their worst, making the show an incredibly complex and captivating display of human psychology,” he said.
Sclar and Fischer then showcased four highlights from the show, including Survivor: Pearl Island’s Johnny Fairplay’s most notorious moment, which is well-known to fans of the show.
Their presentation proved to be successful, and was met with support and enthusiasm from Student Council, which approved the club shortly after.
Since the club’s approval, Sclar and Fischer have seen increasing student interest. “There’s something inherently authentic about the show,” Fischer said. “I unironically think it is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. I think it is a masterclass in storytelling … It’s a representation of interpersonal human relationships that’s much more authentic than any other reality TV show.”