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  • Writer's pictureJack Vita

Liberty University to be home for upcoming 'Survivor' season

For most, the idea of competing on CBS' long-running competition series, Survivor, is nothing more than a pipedream. For 16 students on the campus of Liberty University, it will soon be a reality.

While CBS has yet to resume production of Survivor's 41st season, amid complications presented by the rapid spread of COVID-19, an independent group at Liberty University will be releasing the Survivor content that fans have desperately been missing, beginning Friday, January 29.

Shot primarily on cameras, iPhones and cheap tripod equipment, Survivor: LU will follow the original franchise's format to a tee, minus the survival aspect. While castaways won't be living on an island or huddling up beneath a feeble shelter, they'll be divided into two tribes, competing in reward and immunity challenges, and promptly voting each other out until only one remains to claim the $100 prize.

Inspired by similar college Survivor games, Liberty's assistant athletic director and club sports coordinator Derek Young felt called to bring Survivor to the university's campus.

"[My friends and I] had seen other colleges do it", Young said. "The University of Maryland and University of Michigan at the time were the two major ones. They had very successful YouTube shows, and quite frankly, some of those seasons might be better than the real Survivor. We weren't really sure our season would take off, but after a lot of prayer, God provided a cast for us."

Young and his production team were thrilled when over 35 undergraduate and graduate students quickly applied to compete on the semester-long show. Once they whittled the cast down to 16, they were able to begin production in the fall of 2019.

At the start of each week, the castaways convened for a tribal council, followed immediately by a Survivor-inspired immunity challenge. Unable to be followed around with cameras throughout the week, the contestants were instructed to film strategic conversations and social bonding time, as well as video confessionals, on their own phones and send them over to Young upon completion. For the past year, Young has been working tirelessly to piece the content together, and package it neatly into an hour-long YouTube show that will air live every Thursday at 8pm ET for roughly ten weeks.

Young's love for reality television was just one of several motivating factors for him to bring this project to life. He and his peers saw Survivor: LU as an opportunity to build a tight-knit fellowship at a prominent, influential Christian university.

"The reason we do this is to create community," Young said. "It's honestly a family. These people wouldn't have known each other otherwise, if it weren't for this. There were a couple of students that were considering leaving Liberty, prior to playing Survivor. They were freshmen and they just didn't fit in, but Survivor was something they were able to do every week, and it gave them a sense of involvement with the school."

Though Survivor: LU's first season has yet to air, the experience in itself was a great success. Survivor: LU has since shot two more seasons, and production for season four is currently in the works.

So how could a game as dirty as Survivor, exist on one of the nation's leading faith-based institutions? How could Survivor, a game with a history of tearing social relationships apart, actually bring people together?

"Undoubtedly, lying and deception can be a huge part of Survivor," Young said. "However, our contestants fully realize that, within the parameters of the game. When you go through such a unique set of circumstances, that others are unable to relate to, it creates an inexplicable bonding experience. Enemies within the game have since become friends. At the end of the day, God was glorified."

Survivor: LU premieres live on YouTube, Friday at 8pm ET. Subscribe to Survivor: LU's YouTube channel and never miss an episode.

For more entertainment and sports analysis, follow me on Twitter @JackVitaShow, and subscribe to the Jack Vita Show on iTunes or wherever podcasts are found.

(Image via Liberty University)


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