2017 marks the fifth anniversary of the RHAP blogs—not bad for an award-winning, professional podcast. Believe it or not, over the past five years, more than thirty people have written hundreds of blogs for RHAP as an outlet for their fandom. Now, some of us have reunited to share our experiences and celebrate this unlikely milestone.
Five years. Fourteen fans. One platform.
The RHAP Blogs.
The following is based on the recollections of multiple individuals, and memories are always fallible. I have tried to correct and fact-check, but this is neither a definitive nor a complete record of events. The sentiments, however, are sincere.
The parentheses following a person’s name denote the reality seasons they blogged for RHAP.
I’d been a fan of Survivor since the early days. I actually missed the mania for Borneo and really dove in with weekly parties with friends for Australia. By the time we reached the glory of Heroes vs. Villains, I was starting to think that I needed an outlet for all the strategy thoughts flying through my head. During Redemption Island, I started listening to RHAP and was hooked. It fed into my fandom even during some of the weaker seasons of that run.
I had been listening to RHAP since 2010, and it became a huge part of my life. I was always a Survivor fan, but having the podcasts helped turn it into more than just a once a week viewing experience. I have somewhat of an obsessive personality, and wanted to become a bigger contributor to the RHAP community.
In the fall of 2011 (after Redemption Island had aired), Rob put out the call for interns. I was studying abroad at the time, but I wanted to contribute because I really enjoyed RHAP. I had listened to it since the middle of Nicaragua, and it had helped me through a time when I was really sick and couldn’t do anything.
I signed on to be an intern in fall 2011, not thinking much. There was a head of interns every week, and I was picked to be it twice that fall.
I started listening to RHAP during Redemption Island but began to actively comment during South Pacific as Trixie02. The nickname Trixie was given to me by a Scottish pole dancer but I digress.
My recollection of the comments section is that it was a really friendly, supportive haven. My first comment was responded to by an Intern Chris who made me feel like part of the group. I felt there was a lot of great commentary by other females (Laura, Amanda, and Taylor, to name a few), and I loved how respectful the community was.
In January 2012, I remember Rob talking about how he wanted to use the interns more, asking for more help and ideas.
As the fans became more involved with the workings of RHAP, the idea of Rob Has a Blogger was born.
I love Survivor, and I felt I could provide a pretty unique and entertaining insight (from an outsider) to the game. I was hoping it would really elevate Rob’s website and I could be a major part going forward. I really wanted to be part of the Survivor family and thought this could be my in. I have a full-time job so I wasn’t looking for a lot of money, but I just wanted to have fun and maybe make a few bucks. The long term goal was maybe this could get me into a second career.
Facebook message from Jordan to Rob, 2/23/2012
“Rob, it’s awesome that you’re starting to let listeners write blogs on RobHasAWebsite, and as a long-time listener of the podcast, I’d really be interested in joining the fun. I watch every Survivor and Celebrity Apprentice episode, and basically what I would like to do is write a blog that would grade each one based on different criteria (for example strategy, humor, and tribal council for Survivor and drama, arguments, donnie douche quotes, and busey-like craziness for The Celebrity Apprentice). I could call it something catchy like Professor Kalish’s Reality Report Card and give letter grades for each category and then an overall letter grade for the episode.”
“Hey Jordan, I’d be happy to get more stuff, but we’re getting a little Survivor heavy. Would you be interested in tackling The Celebrity Apprentice?
“Tuesday is a light day for content if you could write something for that spot. Let me know what you think.”
While I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t be writing about Survivor, a show that I’m far more passionate about than The Apprentice, I was extremely excited to write my first blog for RHAP. When I watched the next Celebrity Apprentice episode, I took copious notes and wrote my blog in the few days that followed. (Obviously the grading format that I had outlined in my Facebook message never actually came to fruition. I prefer the format that I actually ended up using.) I was happy with how it turned out and somewhat relieved when Rob said in his feedback that it was funny but didn’t have to be as long in the future. It took me hours to write, and I was happy that subsequent blogs wouldn’t take as much time on top of all the writing and studying I had to do as a college student.
I was very happy with how the season went. I worked my butt off to get interviews with past players so they could give their insight. I even paid a co-worker through cupcakes to edit my stories. My articles seemed to spark conversation.
I have been a huge fan since Richie wrote his first Heroes and Heels blog. I remember trying to justify why I liked Troyzan to a very baffled Richie in the comments section.
One of the coolest things that happened during my first season blogging about reality TV was when Rob asked me to be a guest on the Celebrity Apprentice podcast. This was my first appearance on RHAP and I never in my wildest dreams thought it would lead to future podcasts. However, I returned as a guest two more times to talk about the show during the following season.
There was one commenter who constantly provided stats to either support or dismiss what I was saying and I loved it. I really felt during that season that I got everything I wanted, and I was a little bummed that Rob didn’t ask me to come back.
I am pretty sure I just asked Rob if I could write about Bachelor Pad. He asked if I wanted to be more like a producer. It was then that I started fielding questions during spreecasts and google hangouts.
The opportunity to provide content for RHAP inspired a lot of fans, and within weeks, Rob had many, many bloggers, covering whole seasons or just doing one-off commentaries. (This was when Zeke Smith did his stint as Rob Has A Gay Correspondent.)
Meanwhile, Rob was making use of the written word’s platform to carry RHAP and Survivor exposure over to MTV.com, thanks to MTV’s own resident fanboy…
My Survivor story is a familiar one to many fans, I’m sure. After a long summer of hearing about a bunch of crazy people eating bugs in the jungle and voting each other off of an island in a quest for a million dollars, I decided to finally cave in and tune into Survivor just in time to watch Richard Hatch’s historic win—the snake eating the rat, as it were. I’ve been hooked ever since. Whenever possible, I would stand on my proverbial soap box and preach the good Survivor word to anyone and everyone willing to listen—friends and family who were complete strangers to the show, as well as the lapsed fans who didn’t realize Survivor was still on and awesome.
In an incredible stroke of good fortune, I was able to increase the size of my soap box, thanks to stumbling my way forward as a full-time entertainment news writer and reporter. I was a few years into my career, serving as a movie blog editor at MTV News, when I finally convinced my bosses to indulge my obsession with the world’s greatest game. And what luck! Just in time for the riveting Survivor: One World.
Aside from the joy derived from witnessing Kim Spradlin’s master class victory, the best thing to come out of One World (at least in my world) was a friendship and partnership with your pal and mine, Rob Cesternino. The so-called Smartest Player to Never Win became my partner in crime during that season, as we recapped every episode of Season 24 over on MTV.com. If you only know our work together from RHAP, Post Show Recaps and The Evolution of Strategy, then you’re missing out on some gems from our earliest collaborations, including this nasty nugget.
A few months after One World ended, Rob and I were set to recap another season together for MTV, and this time, I was going to provide exit interviews as well. And what luck! Just in time for the actually riveting Survivor: Philippines. And then the other buff dropped: MTV pulled the plug on coverage one day before the season began, opting to focus on covering its own reality programs instead. Needless to say, it was a bummer. I was really excited about getting to do what I already loved doing in my daily life—evangelize Survivor’s continued excellence for all the world to hear—except somehow, improbably, doing it as part of my job. Suddenly, that opportunity was gone, and this round howard was a very sad howard indeed.
One World didn’t just kill Survivor for MTV. It marked the end of Reality News Online, David Bloomberg’s website which had hosted amateur writers for various reality shows since the genre first took off.
Halfway through One World, technical difficulties took Reality News Online down for a couple of weeks. Unbeknownst to us writers, David Bloomberg had already had concerns about keeping RNO going; when it went down, he got to experience life without editing and posting half a dozen articles about reality TV on a daily basis. That convinced him, and he announced his retirement from reality punditry. (How’s that working out for you, David?)
As he apologetically informed us, that meant RNO had to close permanently. It was a wrench for all the writers. Not only were we out of a gig, but we were out of an online home and losing a community of fellow fans.
When I had started writing for Reality News Online, during Heroes vs. Villains, I had mostly left work to parent my one-year-old, and I wanted to blog Survivor by way of finding some mental stimulation. Now I had two small children, and I still needed those moments of online escapism. It was time to look for other options.
I was helping out with RNO during One World—thanks in part to Matt Quinlan. It was just transcribing secret scenes and the like; I was doing grunt work in hopes of getting a column down the line. In the meantime, I had decided to start blogging about Survivor on my own website (after years of couch-quarterbacking) and wrote an essay a day during the pre-season, predicting the boot order along the way. Turns out I was pretty accurate about various pieces of the narrative, and, thanks to Twitter, I was able to get some players’ eyes on my predictions.
Anyway, when RNO was on its way out, I searched for another outlet, which led me to cold call (really, cold email) Rob and say I’d like to help him change Rob Has a Podcast to Rob Has an Empire. Not really sure what due diligence he did at that point (I pointed him to RNO, Matt, and my blog), but he welcomed me aboard, at least in part because, as he told me later, he wanted to build his blog presence.
To get a jump on my involvement with RHAP, I ended up writing about Big Brother 14 that summer. Writing about Dan Gheesling and Ian Terry was fun, but I was really looking forward to Survivor in the fall.
Somewhere in there, Rob okayed the expansion of the blogging team…
Andy: “Do I imagine putting together a dream team of Survivor column writers? Yes. Do I see you as part of that dream team? Also, yes.”
Sarah: “Ooh! I’ve always wanted to be part of a dream team!”
— Email exchange, September 2012
In fall 2012, RHAP was expanding rapidly. Starting with Andy, bloggers got their own author account, instead of having their blogs posted under Rob’s name. There was an Amazing Race blogging team and a regular Bachelor blogger. Rob Has A Website was being redesigned to showcase the new forms of content—we even tried out RHAW as a hashtag, though it never took the brand from RHAP. By the third episode of Survivor: Philippines, Rob had added The Know It Alls live recap and three blogs to his weekly Survivor coverage, doubling that of past seasons.
RHAP was still pretty young—growing quickly for sure, but still finding its audience. I remember thinking that it was a good idea to help Rob put out more content for folks to engage with, and one way to drive engagement was to give folks something to visit daily.
I was a business school student at the time, and was interested in the opportunity to try my hand at content marketing. In some ways it was my first time writing copy in any official way. So, seemed like a win-win. When Rob asked, I was happy to do it.
I’ve always been vastly more comfortable with the written word than the spoken word. When podcasts first started to emerge online, I held something of a grudge against them. I couldn’t understand why listening to a recording was more attractive than a piece of text that you can read at your leisure and easily scan for a particular reference. While I knew RHAP existed, I had never bothered looking it up, and I had no idea it hosted blogs until Andy told me what he was doing.
My stance on podcasts had softened a little by that point, partly because one of the other RNO writers, Bill Hammon, had a podcast and had invited Christian Williams and me to do a pre-season assessment for Philippines, which had been a lot of fun. I had started my own independent blog, but two episodes into Philippines, Andy offered me the chance to join a team of writers again. I had never listened to RHAP—I hadn’t even seen Survivor: Amazon though I knew of Rob by reputation—but I had read Andy and Glenn’s blogs, and I knew I wanted in.
I was all in on Survivor: Philippines—great season, a ton of fun to write about, and throughout, Rob was completely supportive and excited that the RHAP blog presence was growing. Rob and I even talked about his website redesign, where he was going to give the blogs a more significant space… and yet, when the redesign was done, the blogs were way below the fold, which was not only disappointing, but even then, I saw it as a harbinger of things to come. (On an unrelated/related note, Rob also arranged for me to have a seat at the Philippines finale, and I got to help him backstage, a kind and thoughtful gesture that I never fully thanked him for, something I regret to this day.)
I had no idea what I was getting into. RNO had had a clearly defined submissions system in place, whereas RHAP was still figuring itself out. I’d send to Andy who would proofread and send to Rob who would put a title, feature image, and caption on the piece—I didn’t always share Rob’s sense of humor, so waiting to see what my latest magnum opus would be called was one of the more surreal quirks of that period.
But it was intoxicating! I had landed in this whole new community, which was ready to analyze my opinions. RNO had never had a comment section. I was used to getting one or two emails about an article; now I found whole debates going on about what I had written. It was always an unofficial policy of us bloggers to respond to as many comments as we could, and that quickly became one of my favorite parts of the experience.
I couldn’t fathom how Andy had ambitions beyond this. In an early email exchange, Rob told me that he wanted us bloggers to get our own “rabid following,” but I had no real idea of how to market myself and was happier leaving the promotion to him.
Along the way, I started helping Rob with a project where we’d look at the entire show’s run… the e-book predecessor to his later audiobooks. Rob would write and I’d give feedback and edit. We made it through All Stars, where he wrote a long—and I’d guess cathartic—piece about his experience, and then it was shelved somewhere during Caramoan.
I always enjoyed engaging with Rob’s audience. The couple of years I was part of the team the show was really taking off, winning its first awards and rapidly growing its audience, so there was always a lot of energy in the room. I was always pleased with the work all of us were doing and the feedback we were receiving. I think we were able to generate some entertaining content that folks enjoyed. It was fun!
If Philippines had been a test, we passed with flying colors. When we came back for Caramoan, we were resident rather than “guest” bloggers, and Rob got us all to give our columns official names by way of branding us. Scott St. Pierre, RHAP producer and editor extraordinaire, came on board to help us out with images and posting. And, of course, we expanded the team again.
I started blogging at RHAP in order to infiltrate Nick Maiorano’s life and destroy it from within.
Jokes (or are they?) aside, almost immediately after things fell through at MTV, Rob offered the opportunity to take my love of all things Survivor on over to RHAP—which brings us to the Wiggle Room, or at least the earliest edition of it. What’s now become known as a weekly podcast featuring occasional Wanda Shirk sightings originally started out during Survivor: Caramoan as a weekly blog. Well, a mostly weekly blog, anyway, as I wasn’t always the most reliable or punctual of the RHAP blogging crew.
I’ve told this story before but I started as a contributor in Veruca Salt’s editing thread over at RTVW during Palau. I was fascinated by her approach and the way she could dissect scenes. She was especially good at spotting continuity errors and how the scenes were spliced together to tell a story that really wasn’t there. I used a slightly different approach, looking more for themes and how they affected the characters. After a few years, she stopped writing so I took over. Unfortunately, RTVW was losing many of its posters so I went over to Survivor Sucks which had been the #1 Survivor site since Borneo. Of course, Sucks isn’t for everyone, but I have a thick skin, and I never shied from a debate.
It was at Sucks that Andy noticed my post and he invited me over to RHAP. I was thrilled by the offer and I really wanted to meet new Survivor fans. The atmosphere was much friendlier and it gave me a lot of interesting feedback.
For this season, I stole an idea from RNO: the pre-season roundtable cast assessment and predictions article. We tweaked the format a little, creating an email chain in which each person wrote their take on a contestant then sent it on to the next blogger in line. The resultant piece can be a little unwieldy, but it’s a lot of fun to do. Over the years, each new Survivor blogger has been welcomed onto the team via this often chaotic ice breaker. The Survivor team was a big enough bloc to form our own subgroup among the blogs, which I suspect felt a bit exclusive to bloggers for the other shows. It wasn’t our intent, but I know I, for one, always felt a special affinity for the people I’d collaborated with.
The early part of the Caramoan blogging experience was great: The team was strong, we had a roundtable podcast, we did the “pass the blog” column which was epic and awesome, and everyone was excited. And then a number of realities kicked in.
Thanks to the growth of RHAP and social media, our blogs now had a much higher profile than we were prepared for. Most of the season’s players were reading them. I lucked out in that the contestant who seemed to be the most interested in mine was sweet Dawn Meehan.
The Hantz family read at least my column regularly. Russell Hantz used to tweet me about it. That was kind of funny. One time I wrote that I didn’t think Russell would ever play again, and he told me off on Twitter. He said he DEFINITELY WILL PLAY AGAIN. (He hasn’t.)
Unlike Philippines, Caramoan would prove to be a deeply controversial season which still provokes discussion today, mostly around Brandon Hantz.
The Brandon mess—and my Bedlam column. I got too close and saw how the sausage was made… and I had to share my honest opinion about it all. Rob took some heat for it, and eventually the blog was taken down. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled.
Before that, Rob had told the blogging team that we needed to lighten up on players.
Email excerpt from Rob to the Survivor bloggers, 3/20/13
“When I was first starting the podcast, I would kill people on the podcast because the listeners loved it and I figured that they were never going to hear what we said. Then we got big enough that the people we were killing on the shows started to hear what we were saying. Over time, I try to hold myself to the rule that I try to avoid saying things about people that I wouldn’t say if I knew they were going to overhear it. I’m not going to say that I have a 100% success ratio, but that is at least the goal.
“What I’m hoping for from you guys is that you try to hold yourselves to the same standards. You guys write whatever you want and I usually don’t even see what you’re writing until I’m reading it on the site—but what you’re writing is an extension of me. The site is called RobHasAwebsite and it’s my face at the top of the site, so I believe that there is an unspoken belief by most people that I endorse what you guys are writing.”
While I totally understood Rob’s stance—he needs the goodwill of the players and CBS to keep the machine running—I didn’t like the idea of censoring our blogs.
I didn’t feel censored, but I am inherently more moderate in my writing than Andy, who was known for his “scorched earth” approach. The counter argument to that is that my writing lacks conviction, while Andy’s passion shines through. (And even then, it can’t be said that none of my blogs ever caused trouble.) The artistic merit of either tack is subjective, though it’s the ethical responsibility that is more often debated.
I got really turned off by the way the show handled Brandon Hantz; it felt exploitative and gross. It is a show, and the spectacle is part of the fun, but there’s a decency line that I think they’ve crossed a few times in the past.
I also was guilty of this. I once wrote a little blurb about Pete Yurkowski that, at the time, I thought was funny, but it actually really wasn’t. I don’t think it was horrible or anything, just dumb and in poor taste. Pete seems like a nice guy. He didn’t deserve that.
Like Glenn, I’ve crossed the line in what I’ve said and written about the show, the game, and the people who have played it. I’ve undoubtedly gone further and done so more often than most. But I do, in fact, have a moral compass, and lines I will not cross. And Survivor went way past the boundaries of decency with Brandon. And it took me a long time to recalibrate my feelings about Survivor in the aftermath.
Working with Rob had started to feel like a job (and I already had one of those). I was writing my own column, editing others, helping Rob with his book. It was all overwhelming. And then, when the Brandon thing happened, I lost my faith in the show. I lasted for one column after Bedlam, and I had to put the show, and RHAP, behind me (the former, temporarily, the latter, permanently).
I let Rob know how I was feeling… we talked on the phone about it, he asked me to sit on it for a night… I did and then let him know the next day that I was done.
We have always been able to be honest with Rob. He sent out another email after Andy’s departure encouraging us to talk to him if we were suffering burnout. Losing Andy so abruptly was a shock: we had just started out as a team, and our leader was gone. However, we carried on, the season picked up tremendously post-merge, and things got back to being fun. But we no longer had that person who wanted to give the blogs the moon.
I’ve remained active in the community, and written, on and off, for Jeff Pitman and True Dork Times. He has always let me write whatever I want (as he put it, tongue-in-cheek, “terrible, terrible freedom”), and even re-posted the Bedlam column that Rob took down.
A FB friend thought I’d have fun playing in a live game, one that he was in during its inaugural season: The Durham Warriors Survival Challenge. I played in Season 2, and then, based on my performance and what I wrote about it, I was invited to join the production team. I’ve been helping design the game ever since (we just wrapped Season 5). It’s a four-day game that takes place on Bob Crowley’s farm in Maine, and we have Survivor players in the game every year (six of them each of the past three years; this year we had Sunday, Mama C, Susie from Gabon, John Raymond from Thailand, LJ from Caramoan, and Adam from Millennials vs. Gen X). It’s really a ton of fun, and being on the production side allows me to understand the game in deeply satisfying ways.
Bloggers coming and going for all reality shows proved to be a fact of life. Producing upwards of 1,000 words a week (many of us did much more) for a three month season is a demanding time commitment. But it was also a rewarding one, so as old bloggers and shows left, new ones would take their place.
One time after recording a podcast, Rob asked if I wanted to come to the taping of Reality Gamemasters because he knew I was in the NY area. Of course, I was very excited to go (I cut a weekend class I was taking to be there!) and meet other RHAP listeners for the first time in person. This was also my first time meeting Rob in person which was really cool for me as a big Survivor: The Amazon fan since middle school.
After Gamemasters filmed, I had the opportunity to participate in a long conversation with Cochran, Fishbach, Sophie, and Andrea about Survivor, specifically the history of the show. I had already been contemplating talking to Rob that night about writing a blog about past seasons of Survivor as this was at the time not being done on the website. (Now we’re lucky to have the great Lessons in Survivor History blog by Catherine Lucas!) During that conversation, This Week in Survivor History clicked in my head, and I actually pitched it to those four survivors. They all seemed to think it was an interesting idea which was the impetus to approach Rob at the bar later that night. He was on board which is how that blog was born.
This killed the Celebrity Apprentice blog as I didn’t have time to write two. In all fairness, I wasn’t enjoying the Apprentice writing as much as I had originally because, while enjoyable, the show wasn’t nearly at Survivor’s level.
After I graduated from business school, I went on to do other things personally and professionally. I didn’t have the time anymore to dedicate to the project. While I enjoyed doing the column, I felt like Rob deserved someone who could give it more focus.
I’ve written about movies and TV for years, and a site that I contributed to (the now-defunct Sound on Sight) wanted to expand their coverage of TV recaps. On a whim, I had taken a shot at writing about Survivor for One World. I disliked their word limit (1,000!) and having to write so quickly after the episode, but it still felt natural. They also wanted me to focus more on recapping the episodes, and I just wanted to discuss strategy. I commented regularly on the blogs by Sarah Channon, Josh Wigler, Michel Trudeau, and others, and I wondered if RHAP was a better fit than my current set-up. After Blood vs. Water, I asked Sarah if Rob might be interested in adding more bloggers to the fold. I had doubts there’d be any interest, but the stars aligned.
I started blogging at RHAP because I thought there was a slight chance it could help my case with casting. BUT it was mainly because I was pissed I wasn’t cast for S25/26. I first applied when S23 was airing so I saw all these players get cast/on my TV and it annoyed the hell out of me. Basically, I was in f*ck-it-mode (pardon my language). Plus, I wanted to entertain myself.
“Rob sincerely has an embarrassment of riches with his bloggers!”
— Commenter Dsharden, April 2014
In January 2014, Rob made a decision that would alter the course of RHAP permanently: he made it his full-time job. Among other things, this was the genesis of the RHAP Patrons.
The move was well-timed. Cagayan was a gift of a season to produce content for: unpredictable and solidly fun with no real controversy—something much needed after Caramoan and even Blood vs. Water which had had a determined spoiler plaguing the comment boards of RHAP.
Cagayan was a great place to start. I wrote a lot of wrong things about Tony but had a blast doing it. My first RHAP appearance was on the traditional bloggers’ preview podcast with Rob. I had been on a lot of podcasts but hadn’t really gotten nervous about doing one. This was very different. I’ve always been more of a fan than an analyst, so I was a bit star-struck by talking to Rob.
Rob asked me to describe my blog, and I stumbled through an explanation about strategy that sounded really generic and didn’t make a lot of sense. Josh, Sarah, and others were on the show, and they were pros. Rob never did another bloggers’ preview after Cagayan, so I’m pretty sure that I single-handedly killed the bloggers’ podcast.
With patron and sponsor commitments to meet, Rob’s time was now at a premium, and his communication with us stopped almost entirely. Scott St. Pierre continued to be our main point of contact, though he was also becoming increasingly busy. Part of that was due to the blogs, which were thriving in the spring of 2014. The Bachelor, The Amazing Race and King of the Nerds each had their own weekly blog. Cagayan had regular coverage from five bloggers, plus occasional features from Josh. Then there was bonus content from Jordan’s This Week in Survivor History, and the Survivor: Riverlands spin off from an off-season podcast. The blogs weren’t being monetized, but they still required time and effort to host on the site.
During Cagayan, I noticed an appeal from Rob for a volunteer to edit blogs after someone went on a tirade about typos. Like any good troll, I corrected his grammar. I was surprised that Rob accepted me as editor after I told him my commenter name but he had a great sense of humor about my sarcastic quips. I originally worked with half of the bloggers while another editor was assigned the others. Eventually, in Seacrest style, I became the lone editor (the other was a no-show). Dunkelman who?
I helped produce podcasts until summer 2014. I had to get a legal internship and a summer paying job at the Anaheim Angels that summer, and my schedule was not as conducive to helping as much with the Big Brother podcasts.
The incredibly busy Scott St Pierre used to do the search engine optimization and cover work, but as he became more in demand for the podcasts, I was asked to run the blog section.
As much fun as I had had, I decided to stop writing because even though it was insanely unlikely, I didn’t want anyone to recognize my writing if I ever got on the show. Plus, entertaining myself felt complete.
I stopped blogging at RHAP because I successfully infiltrated Nick Maiorano’s life and destroyed it from within.
More jokes (OR ARE THEY) aside, I stopped blogging at RHAP because… well, because a few things happened at once. First, I started writing about Survivor for Parade Magazine. Even after the MTV fiasco, I never gave up on wanting to cover Survivor as part of my job. I spent about two years knocking on a whole mess of doors, pitching exit interviews and the whole shebang to a variety of news outlets, before Parade answered the call… AND WHAT LUCK! Just in time for Survivor: Cagayan, a top five baby season if ever there was one. It was an awesome opportunity—”huge,” one might say—and it led to a lot of equally awesome opportunities with Parade over the next few years.
My association with Parade solidified at the same exact time as another creative partnership: “The Evolution of Strategy”. Rob and I first discussed the audiobook after recording our Cagayan wrap-up podcast, the first of what went on to become a seasonal tradition of finale post-mortems. Season 30 was about a year away, and Rob wanted to do a big rewatch project to commemorate the occasion. He needed someone who knew Survivor well already, had already seen each season a few times, and would have the time to commit to revisiting and commentating on one different season of Survivor every week or so. Luckily, I was the mad dog for the job, and TEOS was the constellation we produced: a 300-hour audiobook that required almost double that amount of time to record over the course of almost a year and a half.
Between TEOS and Parade, I was effectively living and breathing Survivor every waking minute of my life. In order to have something resembling a life outside of Survivor, I simply couldn’t find the time to stay in the RHAP blogging trenches.
As for so many others, after a couple of years things had changed for me. I was preoccupied with real life issues, recalibrating the balance between my online hobbies, my family and my own personal goals. Out of necessity, I only posted a couple of feature blogs for San Juan del Sur. I returned to writing weekly for Worlds Apart, but all the controversy of that season made it a weekly source of stress. After its finale, I retired from regular blogging for good. Ever since, I’ve blogged whenever I damn well please—and thankfully Christine has tolerated me doing so!
One of the bonuses for being a patron was access to an exclusive Patrons-only Facebook group, and this quickly became a community in its own right.
I’ve been on the Patron Facebook group since the early days, and it’s a cool way to connect with a lot of avid fans of Survivor, TAR, and RHAP. I don’t feel like it’s replaced the comments section. It’s more likely to have become a new spot for fans that used to spend time at Survivor Sucks or Previously on Survivor. It’s become more of a community of people that know each other than just a place to discuss Survivor and reality TV.
In the off season of 2014, after Cagayan, Angie Caunce posted in the Patron Facebook group, asking for help writing some Survivor biographies for the RHAP website. I wrote a lot of biographies, and although we never used them for the site, Rob and Angie noticed how much Survivor history I knew. That off season, I was on maternity leave, with plenty of spare time, and I helped with a lot of the research for the summer series of podcasts, eventually appearing as a guest on the podcast, talking about how to manage the jury. After this, Rob asked me to write a weekly blog. Being a long-term fan of the show, the chance to write for RHAP was a dream come true.
After two seasons of writing the TWISH blog, Rob asked me to record it as a segment to go between the recap and the voicemails. I was very excited to turn my blog into a podcast. While I loved writing, I much prefer speaking and the back and forth with Rob has always been a highlight of my week.
The turnover was the same, and so was the choice: people wanting to contribute to RHAP could do so via the blogs or the podcast. However, the latter choice was more readily available than ever before. More people had the equipment, know-how and desire to record their own podcast. The creation of Reality RHAP-ups made a place for “non-Rob” shows which began to acquire their own talented roster of people who could crossover as RHAP guests. Shows gradually disappeared from the blog section and moved into RHAP-ups.
The exception was Survivor, always the flagship show for RHAP. While there was demand for more Survivor podcasts, Rob took responsibility for that himself, steadily adding new podcasts until there was one for every weekday. The blogs stopped being considered part of the official line-up unofficially, and they receded into the shadows… until one of our own cast an unexpected spotlight on them.
“While I was busy making incorrect predictions during the past two years, Nick actually played the game!”
— Dan Heaton, The Kaoh Rong Roundtable Preview, September 2016
I don’t think of myself as a blogger, but I thought it was fun to have on my “résumé” for the fans to pick at! It (maybe) gave me a little extra street cred with RHAP nation.
There’s always excitement when somebody who knows the online community gets on the show—we’ve seen it with Spencer the RHAP fan, with Adam the Redditor, etc. It’s the ‘one of us’ factor. That factor goes to a whole new level when ‘one of us’ means one of half a dozen people who has covered a season on the website with you, somebody with whom you’ve argued Survivor and exchanged trash talk in a fantasy league. Blogging is how we manifest our fandom, and it was a little crazy to see that ‘one of us’ on the show.
As much fun as having Nick on Kaoh Rong was, it brought home to me just how much the blogs had diminished since Cagayan. Back then, we could easily expect fifty comments for each blog; these days it was usually less than ten, sometimes none. We were no longer advertised as part of RHAP’s coverage, and a lot of RHAP fans probably had no idea we (still) existed. I had been vaguely aware that this was happening, but I had been a little distracted from Survivor and RHAP. I’d let it slide. Nick’s casting—I’ve known enough would-be-players to know getting on the island is no easy feat—made me feel embarrassed by my own apathy.
It wasn’t even just Nick. Starting with Cambodia, Josh had been going out on location to do pre-season press for Parade, putting him on equal footing with Gordon Holmes and Dalton Ross, both of whom I had been reading long before I started blogging. Not only that, but he had filled in as a Know It All during Cambodia and had just converted his old blog to a weekly podcast. (For that matter, my former RNO boss, David Bloomberg, had come out of retirement to do the same thing.)
Within two months of each other, a full third of our Cagayan roundtable had stood on the beach with Jeff Probst. The other four of us were doing exactly what we had done two years ago, with fewer returns.
It’s really blogs in general that have gone down in readership across the board. I’ve also seen this with film blogs.
The audience for Survivor blogs has dwindled, and with it, my interest in devoting time to the medium. Josh was always the best of us, and I’m thrilled with his success.
I always felt self-conscious about the written Wiggle Room. I never felt that I held a candle to the other bloggers, and I’m not just saying that to suck kneecaps. Okay, maybe a little. But in all sincerity, I always felt my blogs lacked the clear focus you would find in Sarah’s longform writing, or Michel’s edit analysis, or Andy’s cleverly structured 13-pronged takes. I could never find my angle, at least not while I was an active RHAP blogger. Once I started recording TEOS and writing for Parade, I finally realized that when it comes to Survivor, I’m at my best when I have a scene partner: someone to talk things through with, or someone to interview and then write about. I didn’t have those ingredients in place during my time as an RHAP blogger, but I’m very thankful to have them in place now.
It’s been awesome to podcast about The Amazing Race Canada the past few seasons (and guest a few times for the U.S. version). I also loved doing the blogs, so I wouldn’t say either is better. They’re just different. The great thing about podcasts is having the chance to bounce thoughts off another person in real time. There’s also a sense that you’re talking more directly to the audience and responding to their questions on the show.
With the blogs, the comments are amazing too, though it’s less consistent. I also think The Amazing Race works better for podcasts than blogs since it’s less about digging into the strategy. It’s fun to talk about a great cast (which makes a good TAR season), but there’s only so much you can write about it. Because Survivor is more about social dynamics and strategies, there’s a lot to dig into with blogs. I’ve always found it easier to write about Survivor than TAR.
The reasons for the decline of blogging are a subject for debate, and people with a lot more online marketing expertise than I have failed to find a solution. But I didn’t want the blogs to go on a march to extinction as the current line-up retired. I began talking to others on the team, to Dan, to Christine… and then Rob and I had a pretty candid conversation—entirely cordial! But candid. In theory, Rob was willing to support us, but in practice, he didn’t know how to monetize the blogs. Nor did I.
It’s hard for me to judge how unreasonable my own expectations are. As I said to Rob, “It’s our hobby vs. your job,” and we’re a poor investment. However good our content is, none of us are ever going to have the name recognition of a past player. While Rob’s proven himself capable of writing a decent blog, his true talent and interest has always been in podcasts—and general online trends have been toward podcasting rather than blogs. RHAP brings traffic to the blogs, not the other way around.
On the other hand, I was and am proud of our line-up. It might have been just the Survivor bloggers left, but they were still churning out four very different blogs every week. We had the only edit analysis on RHAP, and even when Michel wasn’t right, he was always insightful—and ready for debate! Catherine’s Lessons from Survivor History catered to old-school nostalgia while covering the current season. Hell, I liked that we actually provided female commentary in the male-dominated fandom conversation. I wanted all of that to be recognized.
Besides, I was and am a little bitter that podcasts were winning the battle of media domination. This should be where I wave my cane and shout “Get off my lawn!” but… it’s Rob’s lawn. (You win this round, Rob.)
With the Kaoh Rong merge coinciding with April Fool’s Day, I thought it would be fun to imitate Nick. I had so much fun writing that blog!
Once that was over, I thought I’d give blogging a shot with the moral support of some of the other bloggers. My working titles were Casual Survivor and Your Grandmother Watching Survivor but “someone” thought the grandmother was too mean, so I settled on the former. (The grandmother, based on several I met in the Middle East, would have been afraid of contracting Hep C on the Brawn tribe, for example). I do not take reality shows that seriously because the OTT drama is what I live for as well as the “survival” aspect. I truly consider myself a casual because I often dislike players the superfans adore.
A reader of my TARstorian blogs and a listener to my podcasts sent me a link to one of Christine’s posts because it had an almost identical tone to what I do. Two years ago, I started a weekly blogging series where I would screenshot complaints from those on Twitter and Facebook who talked about TAR, and I would respond to them with lots of sass and pop culture references. Production for all versions of TAR would tell me this was their favourite part of my TAR coverage each season.
People thought my name was his moniker. Lol.
Christine also became my moral support and co-conspirator in my quest to bring fresh interest to the blogs. If I had one advantage from being on the team since the beginning, it was that I had picked up a lot of contacts. Working on the basis that we needed to find an audience of readers, not podcast listeners, I reached out to other people who hosted writing sites: Jeff Pitman, Andy Dehnart, and Martin Holmes.
None of them had any magic solutions either, but this was how the Jury Jeopardy competition started, where each site makes their predictions for how the jury will vote. Blogs don’t lend themselves to collaboration as well as a podcast, but I have always enjoyed projects where I can work with others. I don’t know if Jury Jeopardy has done anything to increase traffic, but it’s been a hell of a lot of fun to do. That’s really what has characterized this past year of blogging for me… stop taking this platform for granted, and have fun with it.
I still consider myself an RHAP blogger, yet I stopped writing every week after Kaoh Rong. It had nothing to do with that season. After five seasons, I found it a little harder to keep up with the pace of a weekly series. My blogs often passed 3,000 words, and I didn’t want to start phoning in my coverage. I’d rather contribute here and there when I have something to say. We also had our second daughter in 2013, and I found it harder to balance everything at home. I still love Survivor and dissecting each episode, but blogging is tough to sustain over the long run.
When Dan announced he was retiring, I recruited Christian Williams who had written a strategy column back in the RNO days. I had kept loosely in touch with Christian over the years, knew he was still watching Survivor, and had always been a fan of his writing.
Rob warned me that he’d rather have quality over quantity for the blogs, which is a stance I agree with, though fortunately Christian fit the bill. The other suggestion Rob had was that we do more feature blogs. After all, there is plenty of coverage out there during each Survivor season… if we want to get attention, we need to cover something nobody else is talking about.
Rob gave me access to the RHAP Twitter and Facebook pages to promote the blogs. I’m not a fan of social media, so this task is not my forte, but I plod along. Rob later asked me to compile summaries of each blog for a short plug following David Bloomberg’s podcast as well as to moderate comments.
The quest to bring more traffic to the blogs is ongoing, but I’m at peace with where we are now. We’re our own fan-run off-shoot of the main site—not so much part of the RHAP stable as we are the chicken coop in the yard—but we still have our own little community of readers, and we still have this outlet for our fandom. I can’t legally work in the USA, so monetization was never a personal goal. Instead, blogging was a way to preserve a side of myself that my real life could no longer account for. (Quite literally when I switched to my maiden name.) Meeting some incredible people along the way has been an unexpected and much-appreciated bonus.
(Sorry to darken the mood.) I found it difficult to continue blogging right before Thanksgiving when my nephew was murdered. My brother had to watch a graphic video of the murder during the holiday season, and spending my time joking about a reality show seemed grossly unsupportive of me.
I eventually finished up Millennials vs. Gen X but emotions came flooding back when I tried to write Game Changers, so I happily faded behind the scenes. As much as I am light-hearted, I have a serious work ethic and am quite introverted, so being the unknown woman behind the curtains suits me just fine. Another major factor was that the blog was not that popular, and I thought I should make room for a younger blogger who is hipper and who doesn’t reference Rosemary’s Baby. I will say that while some may dislike negative comments, I adore the creativity of trolls, and since I mildly poke fun at contestants, I should take criticism.
I hope I have made positive contributions toward keeping blogs alive on a podcasting site. I enjoy working at RHAP. It has grown tremendously but still has a hometown feel to it, largely because Rob has a clear vision of how he wants the site to look and feel. I know sometimes I am too enthusiastic but I cannot do anything without full commitment. That is who I am. I admire the patience of Scott St. Pierre and Mattie (Matilde Rosero, one of RHAP’s webmasters) who often field my queries, and I really value the team of bloggers and have read each of them starting with Richie.
One of my fears has always been that the blogs would become too much hassle for Rob to continue hosting them. Christine has volunteered an insane amount of time to keep our part of the site running, and I can’t imagine we would still be here if she hadn’t stepped up. Andy was the driving force to get us established; Christine is the reason we made it to our fifth anniversary.
Whether we’ll make it another five years remains to be seen. But we’re still open for business, and though old faces might leave, new ones will always be welcome.
I’ve written an editing analysis after every episode for the last twenty-five seasons so I feel it’s time to take a break. There are too many posters that use spoilers in their comments and that takes all the fun out of the experience. There’s also the fact that I’ve stopped believing in this show’s integrity. For many years, I knew production was influencing the outcome but this latest season made absolutely no sense.
Christine reached out to me if I wanted to contribute to RHAP. I don’t know if I necessarily “picked” to blog about Survivor NZ—I love exploring the small English language market versions of TAR and Survivor, and I knew nobody else would be paying attention to it even within the superfan community. It’s one of the things I also like doing with TAR Asia—turning a relatively obscure piece of a franchise and promoting its material enough to make it into relatively common knowledge within certain groupings of the superfan community.
Since I rarely do small scale blog posts (a season of TAR nowadays usually takes up 1,000 pages in my Word documents), doing brief blog posts for another website was a welcome side venture. I didn’t have to collect any screencaps. I just type, whether or not I am sober is optional, and send it off to Christine who does the rest of the boring stuff for me.
Big Brother is a live game that we watch unfold in front of our eyes over the course of three months. With the live feeds, we have an inside look on the game as moves are made, votes are flipped, alliances are formed, and alliances are destroyed. There’s so much to dissect in any given week in the Big Brother house, and as someone who loves watching this game play out, I’ve often got a lot to say about it. I think Power Rankings are a fun way to break down the game each week and while many others have put out fantastic Power Rankings content for Survivor for years now, RHAP has never done so and I was more than happy to get that ball rolling.
“Rob is the King, Nicole is his Queen. I am just the loyal pauper who wants to make my King happy. Until I blindside their sorry asses, and take their website and dog, Reyes. I mean thanks for the opportunity Rob, looking forward to writing for you!”
— Richie Glanzer, February 2012
To RHAP this up (ha, ha), I will say this: I remain grateful that Rob gave me an opportunity, I had a lot of fun with the blogging team, and I appreciated all of the interaction I had with Rob’s rabid fan base. From time to time, I wonder why I left. And then I remember—everything above, and a lot of other smaller pieces that would take too much time to recount, even if I could dredge up all of the details—and I know that leaving was the right thing to do. I’ve continued reading the blogs and enjoyed being on the fringes of the community, focusing my Survivor fandom on helping out with the DWSC. The game of Survivor is always brilliant, even when the show itself falls far short of what it can be, and I’m shocked that for a small window of time, a middle school English teacher in Connecticut helped shape the conversation.
Having never allowed anybody to read my writing before, writing the blog has been a huge confidence boost. I’ve enjoyed being more and more involved with the fan community.
Since my blogs have turned into the TWISH segment on RHAP, fans come up to me at events such as live KIA’s to talk about old seasons of Survivor. In the past, I never had this luxury as none of my friends continued watching the show past middle school. Not only has my fandom increased, but so has my sense of community around the show. I have become very close friends with many of the listeners and Patrons through these Survivor conversations. I spend a lot of time with the NY Patrons and many of our conversations are no longer Survivor related. However, we still talk about the show, both old seasons and new whenever we hang out. If I hadn’t started writing blogs for RHAP, I don’t know if I would have been nearly as involved in the community as I currently am.
Even after leaving the blogs, I still felt very plugged into RHAP and the Survivor community through TEOS, Parade, and even Post Show Recaps—perhaps even more plugged in than ever before. Seriously, I’ve met so many incredible people and made so many incredible friends though Rob’s planet and the surrounding satellites. I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful for the opportunities both Rob and all of you have afforded me since coming into your world. I might not write blogs about Survivor for RHAP anymore, but this community courses through the veins of every single Survivor experience I have had over the past four years, and beyond. I hope it will remain that way for many years to come.
TL;DR: Nick Maiorano stinks.
I liked it because I was able to be a part of something. It was always fun to help Rob by pulling questions, writing recaps, helping with social media, or writing a blog about a reality tv show. I felt like RHAP was this little community—well, now huge community—that felt like a secret club and was a place where I could find a group of friends that really understood me. I wasn’t just someone in the crowd. In real life, it is hard to be social and outgoing, and I am very much an introvert so finding RHAP was a great way to grow as a person and feel like I belonged. Because of that I loved to be involved any way I could.
It’s been a positive experience in every way. I’ve been able to connect online with so many cool people that share my fandom for Survivor and RHAP and even met a few in person. Blogging regularly has also made me a better writer and enhanced my enjoyment of the show. It’s such a great community around the podcast, and my small part has been amazing.
It probably leads to another chunk of the Internet wondering what lab I was built in, and trying to determine what type of species I am. The more people who wonder if I am indeed human or a lab creation, the more absurd origin stories and myths begin to circulate the Internet.
RHAP became, for me, an extended family. I gained great new friends in Andy, Dan, Sarah, Christine, Nick, Scott, Catherine and all the others. I always watch Survivor alone but it got to the point where I’d wonder what Dan or Sarah would say about a particular scene, how Nick would find a way to argue with himself, what lesson Catherine would give us and what gems Christine would find about the casuals to make me laugh. It was a great experience and I want to thank Rob for making it all possible.
Where Are They Now?
Want to hear more from somebody in this blog? Most of the bloggers can be found on the Patron Facebook group, various reality events, and/or Twitter.
Follow Catherine on Twitter.
Follow Christine on Twitter.
Follow Dan on Twitter.
Follow Glenn on Twitter.
Follow JFrey on Twitter.
Follow Jordan on Twitter.
Follow Josh on Twitter.
Follow Logan on Twitter.
Follow Matt on Twitter.
Follow Nick on Twitter.
Follow Richie on Twitter.
Follow Sarah on Twitter.