Idea No.


Survivor Surprise Party - Eight Challenges



April 2010


Rachel in Lehi, Utah, USA

Runner Up

Survivor Party

We're all big Survivor fans, especially my mom, so I planned a surprise Survivor party for her recent birthday.  The guests consisted of only our immediate family so that we could have an all-day, full-on Survivor competition with pre-assigned tribes without having to work around too many schedules.  Originally, the plan was to have a weekend campout in the wilderness with tribes building fires, maintaining a campsite, hunting for (pre-hidden) food and boiling water from a lake!  By the final challenge, all would be eliminated except for the final two castaways who would face the jury.  A final vote would be held after which I would take off with the un-read votes in some Jeff Probst-style way, then we'd invite all of mom's other family and friends to my mom's house for a big Finale Show at the end of the weekend where we'd announce the winner, have cake and ice cream, and watch the footage we'd filmed of the game.  Yes, that was the plan, but in the end we had to simplify for time's sake.  So we consider this one a trial run for a future more-realistic wilderness Survivor party!  Anyway

INVITATIONS: I sent everyone a letter informing them that they'd been accepted to participate in our upcoming season of Survivor, held in Tule Springs (a large state park near my parents home).  I told each castaway which tribe they'd be on, the blue Paiutes or the green Tudinis, each named after the Native American tribes who used to frequent Tule Springs as a watering hole.  I also included the essential information about where to go, when to arrive, instruction to keep it all a secret from mom, dress comfortably, etc.  At the top of the letter was a custom-made Survivor-Tule Springs logo, created by copying an existing logo from the internet and doing a simple edit in Power Point (I don't have Photoshop, but Power Point can usually handle what I need).  DECORATIONS:  I live in Utah and my parents live in Vegas, so everything I planned to use had to be portable.  Since the party was held at a park, I was able to keep decorations to a minimum.  We arrived early and snagged a large picnic area, and all I really did was hang a large yellow banner with the Survivor-Tule Springs logo drawn on it with black marker.  Then everyone was able to write a Happy Birthday note to mom on it and it became a giant birthday card. 

THE GAME:  Everyone arrived early, and my dad brought got my mom there by telling her he was taking her golfing for her b-day.  She was very surprised to see us all there, of course, and as soon as she'd gotten all the hugs in I pointed to the banner and announced that it was time to get to the game, and it was on!  I'd downloaded some Survivor music from the internet that I'd planned to play as she arrived, but the radio we brought didn't want to work.  Would've been cool.  I had everyone gather into their tribes, there were four people on each, and stand in front of me (Jeff Probst) as I went over rules and instructions, such as not to be too upset about getting voted off, have fun, etc.  We thought about using a point system for the challenges as many have done in their parties so that no one has to actually be voted off and sit out the rest of the party but we decided that voting people off is what makes it Survivor.  So we devised a system that wasn't fully divulged to the castaways until later After the first two challenges, the losing tribe would indeed vote someone off.  But at the third challenge, we announced that those two castaways, and other vote-offs from then on, would become a new tribe, the red Outcasts, and compete against the other two tribes in challenges.  If the Green or Blue tribe won, the other would vote someone off as normal.  But if the Outcasts won, they would draw stones and whoever drew the right stone would get to re-join an original tribe, whichever was lowest on numbers.  Then both of the original tribes would go to tribal council and vote someone off.  So two would leave the original tribes and one would go back in, keeping the original tribe numbers decreasing so that we would eventually get down to our final two players. 

This system kept everyone involved all-day, allowed actual tribal councils to take place, added a new strategic element to the game (the person you vote off had a chance to come back for revenge), and solved the problem of me not having a set-up crew.  The Outcasts became my assistants between challenges, delivering tree-mail messages, helping to set up the next challenge, and doing some filming of the tribes in their camps including essential commentary from each castaway.  I planned for the Blues and Greens to merge at a point when the numbers would be even again, four on the new yellow merge tribe and four red Outcasts.  Then I had to plan each challenge according to how many tribes there would be at that point so it was a little tricky, but it all turned out really well.  Anywho, back to the beginning On one of the picnic tables I'd set out some supplies for each tribe- Tribal buffs (I bought some simple tribe-colored fabric to cut into buffs then iron-transferred our Survivor-Tule Springs logo onto each of them), a tent and blanket, a large basket for tree-mail messages, torches to be lit at tribal councils and snuffed when they got voted off (small jar candles from Walmart in their tribe color, with a Survivor logo label stuck onto them), some muffins and juice and bottled waters for breakfast (which was going to be hidden around their campsite for them to hunt down but time was short), a poster board with paint markers to create a tribe flag, and their first message rolled up into a scroll and tied with twine.  I told them to gather their supplies and open that first message to read as a tribe. 

It read Complete your tasks, don't be late, Meet back at base at half past 8, To keep your tribe you must pass the test Of which tribe delegates the best.  Also rolled inside was a list of tasks- Set up camp, create a tribe flag, and hunt down breakfast.  Then they each left to choose a campsite on opposite ends of a wide grassy area and decide who would fulfill which tasks before meeting back for the first immunity challenge.  Between each challenge I allowed a good half hour or so of break time, not only for me to set up the next challenge, but to allow for camp time and filming.  One tribe got into it and gathered sticks for firewood and made a little fire ring in front of their tent even though the park didn't allow us to have real fires.  Then they'd bring up fake arguments at tribal councils about who wasn't pulling their weight at camp and such, just like the show, so it was hilarious. 


1-ROPE MAZE   Each tribe had to designate one member to string a ring of keys along a rope maze, which wound around posts in the ground and had small pieces of rope tied in knots at intervals that they had to untie to get the key ring past.  The end of the rope was tied to a backpack.  The player had to untie the rope from the back pack to free the key ring then hand the set of keys and the backpack to a waiting second tribe member.  The second player had to run back to a picnic table and figure out which key would unlock a padlock on the backpack zipper.  Once opened, they would pull out a puzzle and hand it to the remaining two tribe members to piece together.  I'd planned to make my own puzzle from wood and paint but the woodshop at our local college ended up being too busy to make the cuts for me and I don't own the right saw.  So I took the easy way and bought a couple of sweet Winnie the Pooh puzzles from the dollar store.  Worked just fine.  The first tribe to complete their puzzle won immunity.

2- WATER BALLOON LAUNCH   Tribes received a tree-mail message that read At 9:30 sharp your next battle begins, Immunity and reward for the tribe that wins, Teamwork and aim are the skills you'll need, If you want to be the tribe to succeed.  I created a huge 3x3 square grid in the grass by sticking wooden skewers in the ground and stringing bright yarn along them then placed a plastic plate in each square with a certain point value, 1-5, written on it in black marker.   Tribes had to form pairs to launch water balloons from towels into the grid and score points.  Since one tribe was now down to three players they just took turns launching.  Each tribe got ten turns and the one with the most points at the end won immunity and reward-a basket of snacks, crackers and chocolate milk bottles. 

3- HISTORIC MAP  With a couple of challenges out of the way, You may be feeling confident that you're here to stay, Meet at base at 10:30 and race for the lead, You'll do well if your tribe has the gift of speed.  This was the first challenge with three tribes competing.  The Outcasts had two people, the Blue tribe was down to two (as a side note, that was my mom's tribe and the cutthroats voted her off at the very first tribal council, at her own party!  So messed up, but so funny), and the Greens still had four so I had them sit two people out, one of which was my dad who was glad for the break since this was a pretty intense foot race.  Tule Springs has a little historic area of old buildings with plaques describing what their function once was.  Tribe pairs had to race from our site across the park to the historic area and fill in the names of the buildings on a blank map I'd given them.  I copied this map from the park brochure online and used Paint to erase the building names before I printed them out on cardstock for easier on-the-go writing.  The first tribe back with the correct names filled in (I had an answer key to check them) won immunity. 

4- REWARD TRIVIA  11:30 is lunch time but it must be earned, You must study some history and recall what you've learned, Read about Tule Springs and if you want to eat well, You'd be wise to pay attention to every detail.  With this message came a study sheet for each tribe member (Outcasts each got one as well).  The sheets were pages I'd printed from the park's online brochure that told the history of the park and various facts and info.  Everyone got twenty minutes or so to read and memorize as much as they could, then assembled at the picnic tables.  I handed out notepads and markers that they could write their answers on as I asked them a series of ten questions.  For every question they got right they won a small ticket (I'd made them with the logo and 1 food item printed on cardstock and cut out).  As this was going on I was grilling up some burgers, and when it was over each ticket they earned was good toward one item, such as a burger patty, a bun, condiments, a drink, a bag of chips, a piece of fruit, a stick of gum, etc.   There was a menu listing each item.  I was worried (though secretly kind of hoping) someone would get just one question right and end up with nothing but a bare burger patty, but everyone actually did really well and had a good lunch. 

5- TIC TAC TOE  You've had a small break and a chance to eat, Now back to base camp at 1:00 for a treat, If your lunch wasn't filling don't despair, There will be plenty of delicacies for your tribe to share.  I drew a 4 x 4 square grid on a plastic tablecloth with black marker and draped it over one of the picnic tables.  In each square was a covered plastic plate with something unpleasant to eat.  A chunk of tofu, stinky cheese, sardines, bitter baking chocolate, spam slices in tobasco sauce, and thanks to a local Dinosaur museum's gift shop I also had flavored crickets, chocolate covered bugs, and crispy bbq flavored grubs.  Lots of good stuff!  The grid had to be bigger than the typical 3 x 3 to accommodate the three tribes.  Each tribe took a turn choosing a square trying to get three in a row, and had to eat whatever treat they uncovered to win that square.  If they got it down they got to place a new plate in their tribe color on that square.  Once again, everyone was braver than I expected and ate all that they were supposed to (I felt bad making the portions too big, though) so it ended up a cat's game.  But I had a tie-breaker planned.  One person from each tribe had to down a bottle of turkey-sweet potatoes baby food and the first one to finish won immunity. 

6- REWARD AUCTION Be at base camp at 2:00 for a more relaxed game, Most of you will probably be glad that you came, For some classic Survivor fun you won't have to fight, To beat out the others just lay your bets right.  I made some Survivor bucks on Power Point with the logo on them, printed them on green parchment paper and cut them out.  Each player got a certain amount to bid with.  I provided several snack items, some good some not so great (i.e. rice cakes), and we had ourselves a classic Survivor auction. 

7- BLOCK PUZZLE Join forces against the Outcasts if you wish to survive, You must trust each other for your tribe to thrive, Come meet at 3:00 with your new buffs in hand, Your fate will depend on your leader's command.  For this one I'd gone to Home Depot and bought a wooden post and had it cut to make 30 wooden blocks, about 4 x 4 x 4.  After sanding them all down, I separated them into two groups of 15, laid them in two pyramid formations and painted one set red for the Outcast tribe and one yellow for the merge tribe.  Then I painted identical images on one side of each pyramid to make puzzles.  I spread the blocks all over the lawn at the park.  Each tribe had to choose one person to be the Commander and the other three were blindfolded.  The Commander had to guide his tribemates, all three at the same time, to their tribe colored blocks which they had to pick up and carry to a pile near the Commander.  Once all of the blocks were collected they could all remove their blindfolds and carry the blocks to a picnic table.  There they had to work as a tribe to assemble the puzzle pyramid.  The first tribe done won immunity. 

8- BOCCE BALL  You fate will be decided at 4 o'clock at base, You've outwitted, outlasted, and run a good race, This final challenge will widdle down what's left of your tribe, Leaving two to face the jury and their bitter diatribe.  By this point we were down to the final four (which was supposed to be final three except the merge tribe won the block challenge rather than the Outcasts, meaning that no one got voted off slight oversight on my part but it was easily remedied during this final challenge).  This was a simple, easy final immunity challenge.  I used a croquet set, planting one pole into the ground on the lawn and one near the players as a throwing point.  Each player got a ball to toss at the opposite pole, trying to get their ball the closest.  Since there were four players left, I had them throw in rounds.  Round one eliminated the player whose ball landed furthest from the pole.  The three remaining players threw again for a second round and the closest person won immunity and basically chose who to take with them to the final two in the last tribal council. 

JURY INTERVIEWS-  Now that we were down to two final players, all of the other players became the jury and took turns asking them questions and such like in the show.  And just like in the show, we had some who went easy on them and some who carried a chip on their shoulder and used this as an opportunity to chide the finalists (all in good fun, of course).   It ended in a final vote, and I whisked the votes away to be read later in the comfort of our living room.  The two finalists, my husband and my brother, used this break time to shave and clean up, just like the real players do for the Survivor Finale show each season.  Then we all gathered again and I read the final votes.  My brother won unanimously, and I presented him with a spectacular trophy (found at Deseret Industries and altered a bit- I added a stick on Survivor Tule Springs logo and stuck a label reading Sole Survivor over the original engraving of 1st prize for such and such), and a grand prize Movie Night package-a DVD, lots of movie treats, and a gift certificate for a local restaurant that I'd bought for half price on   It seems that most cities have deals like that, either through or local radio station websites.  Everyone had a great time at this party, despite being out in the sun all day.  Everyone really got into it and made it a very memorable day.   I wish I could tell all of the hilarious moments we had, but hopefully this will help someone else make some of their own!    Happy Partying!

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