‘Survivor: Twin Cities’ encourages teamwork, dedication, friendship

The semester-long project by the Reality TV at UMN student organization provides students with physical and mental challenges based on the hit TV series.


Image by Amirah Razman

“Survivor: Twin Cities” is now in its second season. The Reality Television at the University of Minnesota student group organizes the project (left to right) Eidan Silver, Bryce Riesner, Truong Vu, Tyler Karle, Anna Sullivan, Vijaya Gopalan.

by Amirah Razman

The Reality Television at the University of Minnesota student organization began filming the second season of “Survivor: Twin Cities” this semester, with challenges occurring across many locations on campus.

“Survivor: Twin Cities” is based on the hit reality series “Survivor,” and students from all backgrounds and abilities can sign up to participate in a localized version of the show.

Reality TV at UMN President Eidan Silver said he was inspired to start the club and film “Survivor: Twin Cities” by other schools that also create adaptations of the show.

“Some of my friends thought it would be interesting to have a club about reality TV,” Silver said. “We decided to do ‘Survivor’ because we like reality TV and ‘Survivor’ is one of the best reality TV [shows] out there.”

The club recruits 14 players to participate in a semester-long, low-budget production of the show. The production is inclusive for all participants by having a combination of physical and mental challenges.

“The game’s designed in a way that anybody can play, anybody can win,” Tyler Karle, a first-year economics major, said. Karle was a contestant in “Survivor: Twin Cities” during the fall 2022 semester and returned in the spring as a crew member.

The organization films the competition, but clips are only published in a Google Drive shared with the cast and crew, Silver said. The organization’s goal is to eventually edit the entire show and publish it online.

Anna Sullivan, a first-year acting and elementary education major, said she decided to participate as a contestant in the fall after seeing Reality TV at UMN promoting the show at a student club fair.

“Once a week, we would meet up and do the challenge and vote somebody out,” Sullivan said. “It was a lot of fun, and now I’m in the crew. I’m still involved, and I made a lot of friends.”

Karle said being a contestant was a fun experience for him, especially in his first semester of college.

“It kind of surprised me how much I was thinking about the game outside of the game,” Karle said. “It was like it was constantly going on, you were constantly running scenarios in your mind.”

For Vijaya Gopalan, a third-year student studying animal science, being a contestant on “Survivor: Twin Cities” was a test of her own physical and mental abilities.

“I really wanted to challenge myself and see how far I could go with it,” Gopalan said. “It was nice having that to do during college because you have school and other stuff going on, so it makes you look forward to something every week.”

Origins in a residential hall

Before the club was formed, Silver started a game of “Survivor” with residents of Middlebrook Hall, according to Gaby Gutenkauf, who graduated from the University last semester and is one of Silver’s roommates and a contestant of “Survivor: Twin Cities.”

“[Silver] was asking our roommates if anyone was interested, and I said I’d do it,” Gutenkauf said. “I don’t have a lot of time commitments, and it was something fun to do and to get me outside.”

Silver said an important aspect of the group is its ability to build community. The challenges contestants face relate to the college experience, such as a scavenger hunt that allows contestants to explore different areas of campus.

“It’s fun to look for idols hidden on campus. Especially as a freshman, it was definitely harder because I don’t know campus as well,” Sullivan said.

For Gutenkauf, gaining new friendships was an important part of joining the “‘Survivor: Twin Cities” cast because participants work in teams to solve challenges such as solving color pattern puzzles blindfolded or holding a lime on top of a spoon using their mouths.

“These are all people who applied from every corner; no one’s in a specific major or something like that,” Gutenkauf said. “It’s all people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and they get to come out with a good group of new friends at the end of it.”