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'Rutgers Survivor' brings island antics to New Brunswick

Adam Tropper, Peter Slattery and Max Rubin are responsible for bringing the reality TV classic, "Survivor," to Rutgers—New Brunswick. – Photo by rutgerssurvivor / Instagram

Adam Tropper, a School of Arts and Sciences alum, and Peter Slattery, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, bonded through their love for the reality TV show "Survivor."

The two would become roommates, jokingly tossing around the idea of forming their own version of "Survivor." It wasn't until the two vocalized this idea that they came to the conclusion that it had legs. Other colleges, like the University of Maryland and the University of Michigan, have successfully adopted the show, so the two figured, "Why not us?"

"One of us said something like, 'Wouldn't it be cool if we made our own 'Survivor'? And then the other one said, 'Oh, yeah, what if we did it at Rutgers?'" said Slattery. "The creation, it was kind of like a maybe happy accident."

Last month, their dreams finally came to fruition as the heavily anticipated first episode of "Rutgers Survivor" released, racking up hundreds of views from both die-hard "Survivor" fans and curious individuals among the student body. 

"Rutgers Survivor | Scram!" brings all the iconic aspects of the now 46-season-long reality TV show to the College Avenue campus and other iconic Rutgers locations, jam-packed with strategy, alliances, competition and a unique collection of quirky personalities. 

Before the eventual premiere, Tropper and Slattery faced a number of issues in getting the show off the ground. It wasn't until Max Rubin, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, joined the team and adopted the roles of treasurer and video editor that it felt like the show was an actual possibility.

"It all started during one of my a cappella rehearsals when I saw Peter was wearing a 'Survivor' buff," said Rubin. The buffs are a staple accessory of "Survivor" cast members.

Even though the entire team eventually converged onto this project, each member had their own journey of falling in love with "Survivor."

With newfound time on his hands, Tropper binged through the show during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, though in retrospect, his love for it was evident from childhood.

"If you go all the way back, I probably should have saw the signs because when I was 8, I was a massive fan of 'Total Drama,' and that was basically the parody of 'Survivor,' just cartoon," said Tropper.

Rubin was similarly originally interested in the animated counterpart before his dad suggested he check out "Survivor." Since then, he's seen every season, some more than once. One of his goals is to eventually be on the show.

Slattery first watched the show after it was recommended to him by a seventh-grade teacher — from there, he kept coming back.

Rubin was originally looking to take a small role behind the scenes, but as he began working alongside Tropper and Slattery, he had a hard time telling himself "no." Planning out challenges, the format of the season and other technicalities became one of the highlights of his junior year.

After barreling through the regulatory University-related paperwork or "red tape," as described by Slattery, the club received a great deal of attention at the Fall 2023 Involvement Fair. Members then proceeded to apply for casting in season one of "Rutgers Survivor."

Despite a few hiccups before shooting began, the process ran quite smoothly. 

"Aside from small scheduling conflicts that happened in a couple of the weeks, it was pretty smooth sailing once we were actually recording," Slattery said.

Some of the issues that persisted during the show were more personal.

As the host of "Rutgers Survivor," Slattery had to remain neutral when addressing the cast members and be careful not to provide anyone with an unfair advantage.

The crew gave credit to the contestants, who provided entertainment through confessional interviews and challenge segments. Through their help, the team was able to make such a large project happen.

Though Slattery and Tropper will soon be moving on from Rutgers, the team trusts Rubin, along with the soon-to-be elected members of the e-board, to continue the club's legacy.

"We created a legitimate club that could have a good amount of longevity here at Rutgers — we started something special," said Tropper.

The club not only films episodes for "Rutgers Survivor," but it also holds watch parties for the currently-airing "Survivor" season, cultivating a warm and welcoming environment for Rutgers students.

"I guess the overarching theme of all this is the passion that everyone had — not just us but everyone competing," Adam said. "They all love the show. They all love the idea of competing on it."

The second episode is set to release sometime in the middle of May.

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