A chosen group of Northwestern contestants compete in a game of strategy, strength and wit until one sole survivor remains on Zoom. Although they weren’t cast away on a deserted island like contestants on the CBS reality show Survivor, these students resolved to outlast one another through social, mental and physical competitions. Now, Survivor Northwestern is filming its second season, with former and current castaways hoping it quickly becomes a campus mainstay.

Communication second-year Kylie Boyd unsuccessfully applied to the CBS show before joining Survivor Northwestern as a Season 1 castaway and current Season 2 co-host

“Playing on campus absolutely prepared me if I ever end up on the real show,” Boyd says. “The level of gameplay on our season, I will confidently say, was higher than some of the seasons of actual Survivor.”

The production consists of students vlogging their strategic conversations and competing in weekly virtual challenges to form powerful alliances and win safety from elimination.

Illustration of a laptop screen with a Survivor contestant waving at a camera.

Last year, Class of 2020 alumnus Chase Reed was the show's only producer, which delayed the first season release to a potential fall 2021 premiere. To improve the efficiency and quality of production, 11 students and alumni formed an official production team for Season 2.

“When you're watching it on TV, there are so many question marks because the editing team is crafting a story where each of the cast fits a narrative,” says Season 2 Executive Producer and Weinberg fourth-year Carson Knoer. “I'm really excited to get the opportunity with Season 2 to be on the other side and craft those stories and craft those narratives for the whole new batch of castaways.

The move to remote classes interrupted Knoer’s experience on Season 1, which began in January. Still, challenges and gameplay continued virtually.

challenges and gameplay continued virtually. “Survivor Northwestern was a godsend,” says Knoer. “It gave me the opportunity to reach out and connect with people consistently online from home in a way that my other student orgs did not.”

In March, fellow Season 1 castaway Matthew Albert turned to his Survivor community when the coronavirus hit his hometown of New Rochelle, New York. After the SESP third-year’s father contracted the virus, Albert was confined to his bedroom.

“All that I had to brighten up my days was Survivor,” Albert says. “When I reflect on my season, and the people who I’ve worked with specifically, I think of them as so much more than allies.”

Season 1 castaway and Season 2 casting director Sami DeVries left her season with a ride-or-die friendship with Boyd. The two second-year theatre majors bonded over their similarities, aligning from the beginning.

“I love my friends outside of Survivor, but there's something really special about the bonds that I have with the people that I met on Survivor that I can't really get other places,” DeVries says.

In casting the second season, DeVries aimed for a group that represented the diverse interests and identities of Northwestern students.

“We wanted lots of different people with lots of different personalities that would mesh well together but not mesh too well together,” says DeVries. “Whenever we would read applications, we would decide what archetype this person could fill.”

Since the show is not yet a registered student organization, the team has been fundraising and spending out-of-pocket. As Knoer and other production team members watch Season 2 unfold, they already plan to film Season 3 in the winter and continue growing the organization.

“Being a part of the inaugural cast is something that is really special to me because I do see this being present for years to come,” Knoer says. “To be part of that first group is really powerful.