Age and youth have always played a vital role in the ‘Survivor’ game. Whether at the expense of the older players – who tend to be voted out first – or younger players – who have often lied about their age to look older to their tribesmen – age can have a serious effect on someone’s game.
As Mike Gabler mentioned in the “Survivor 43” premiere, only one person over 50 has ever won the game; younger people will be much more likely to take home the prize. But who are the youngest participants to ever participate? Well, as of season 43, exactly 10 teens have ever participated in the show (the minimum age to participate was lowered from 21 to 18 in 2008).
Here’s a comprehensive list, as of 2022, of the 10 teens who participated in “Survivor” (Note: The ages listed here refer to the ages of the participants at the start of the game):
In 2018, Keith became the eighth teen to ever compete on ‘Survivor’ when he appeared in Season 38, ‘Edge of Extinction’. However, despite his youth, he didn’t fit in well with the tribe and was voted out second due to his poor performance on the challenge (and notably lack of swimming ability).
Despite staying on the Edge for 11 days, Keith, along with fellow Edger Wendy Diaz, soon raised the flag and went home shortly after failing to return to the game via the Edge of Extinction challenge. day 17.
Brandon’s childhood was more or less irrelevant because he tried to hide something other than his age from the rest of his tribe—his family history. Brandon, who likens it to “being akin to Hitler,” was the famous cousin of “Survivor” supervillain Russell Hantz, but tried to shun his past in an effort to renew the Hantz family name. His efforts did not last long, however, and when his Upolu tribe found out who he was, they embraced him as one of their own. He was eventually voted out when Upolu was only five, however, after being considered too much of a jury threat (quite the reverse of his toxic uncle).
Brandon returned the following year for season 26, “Caramoan,” but quickly proved he was unequipped to return, suffering a nervous breakdown on Day 13 and forcing his tribe to sacrifice immunity and hold a makeshift tribal council. to eliminate him.
Sami, the 19-year-old animal cremator, is the latest in a long line of teens expecting Fabio Birza to be the youngest ever winner. In the current season, Sami has so far proved his worth to his Baka tribe, both physically and intellectually, but it is unknown how long that will last for him. No doubt Sami — who has told his tribe he’s actually 22 — still has a lot to overcome, but it’s still possible he could become the first-ever teenage “Survivor” victor.
In 2018, 19-year-old waitress Jessica Peet was placed on the underdog “David” tribe for the famous “David vs. Goliath’s Gorge. Despite her age, however, she became the first person to be voted out (but the second person was eliminated, following the medical evacuation of her tribesman, Pat Cusack, three days earlier) after the majority of the tribe was threatened by the connections she had with other tribesmen.
Famed as one of the members of “Boston Rob” Mariano’s dominant Ometepe alliance, Natalie Tenerelli eventually became the first — and so far only — teen to reach the Final Tribal Council in Season 22, “Redemption Island.” She did this together with Boston Rob, who more than once compared her to a “daughter” (at the time, Rob indeed had two young daughters waiting for him at home).
However, Natalie’s youth and inexperience ultimately played a key role in her downfall; the judges saw her as strategically incompetent and a coward of Rob, awarding the latter the million dollars by a crushing 8-1-0 vote, while Natalie got no votes.
Last year, Swati competed in ‘Survivor 42’ and it quickly became apparent just how much her Ika tribe separated based on age as she quickly bonded with 24-year-old Tori Meehan and 21-year-old Zach Wurtenberger. However, that alliance quickly fell apart and Swati and Tori turned against Zach on Day 3 after Ika lost the first challenge, eliminating Zach unanimously. When Ika lost immunity again on Day 9, Swati quickly became the next target after it was discovered that she had told almost all of her other tribesmen that they were her “number one”, leading to her swift elimination.
Eventual winner Maryanne Oketch gave Swati a shoutout in her Final Tribal Council speech, saying she noticed early on how younger players, including Swati, were being targeted early on, leaving Maryanne an under-the-radar game. It worked out for the then 23-year-old, who quickly became the fifth youngest winner in the game’s history.
To this day, Julia is the only 18-year-old woman to ever appear on the show. She turned 19 on Day 10 of her season, “Kaôh Rōng”, but was eliminated a few weeks later, on Day 29. She would eventually cast her jury vote for her close friend and ally, Michele Fitzgerald, who would become the 7th (now 8th) youngest winner of all time.
Michael Yerger, one of only four 18-year-olds to ever compete, tried to hide his age from his tribesmen. Though he was eliminated on Day 29 after a tiebreaker vote, Michael would soon help make ‘Survivor’ history after voting for Domenick Abbate as a judge, resulting in the first-ever 5-5 tie judge vote. Zero-vote second runner-up Laurel Johnson became the deciding vote, where she would vote for her ally Wendell Holland, who then became the winner of the season.
Michael turned 19 a week after filming the season.
At the time, Spencer Duhm was the youngest contestant to ever play “Survivor.” Taking advantage of the then recent rule change that 18-20 year olds could apply, Spencer took advantage of this when he was just 18 years old and became the youngest contestant ever to compete in ‘Tocantins’. Spencer was placed on the ill-fated Jalapao tribe and was ultimately voted out before the merger, on Day 15.
Interestingly, Spencer — who is gay and tried to hide his sexuality from his tribesmen — ended up dating Todd Herzog, one of the youngest “Survivor” winners ever. However, the relationship would not last.