Age and youth have always played a crucial role in the game “Survivor”. Whether it’s at the expense of the older players – who tend to often get voted out first – or the younger players – who have often lied about their age in order to appear older to their fellow tribesmen – age can have a serious impact on anyone’s game to have .
As Mike Gabler mentioned in the premiere of Survivor 43, only one person over 50 has ever won the game; younger people are much more likely to take the prize home. But who are the youngest contestants to ever compete? Well, as of Season 43, there happened to be exactly 10 teenagers who have ever competed on the show (the minimum age for participation has been lowered to 18 from 21 in 2008).
Here’s a comprehensive list, as of 2022, of the 10 teens who took part in “Survivor.” (Note: The ages listed here refer to the age of the participants at the start of the game.):
In 2018, Keith became the eighth teenager ever to appear on “Survivor” when he appeared on season 38’s “Edge of Extinction.” However, despite his youth, he did not fit well into the tribe and was voted second place for his poor performance in challenges (and notably his lack of swimming ability).
Despite Keith staying at the Edge for 11 days, Keith, along with Edger Wendy Diaz, soon raised the flag and went home shortly after failing to return to the game on Day 17 via the Edge of Extinction challenge.
Brandon’s youth was more or less irrelevant as he tried to hide something other than his age from the rest of his tribe – his family history. Brandon likened it to “being related to Hitler” and was known to be the nephew of “Survivor” supervillain Russell Hantz, but tried to avoid his past to renew the Hantz family name. His attempts didn’t last long, however, and when his Upolu tribe found out who he was, they accepted him as one of their own. He was eventually voted out when Upolu was five after being deemed too much of a jury threat (quite unlike his toxic uncle).
Brandon returned the following year for Season 26’s “Caramoan” but soon proved he wasn’t equipped to return, suffering a nervous breakdown on Day 13 and forcing his tribe to sacrifice his immunity and hold an impromptu tribal council to get around to eliminate him.
Sami, the 19-year-old animal cremator, is the latest in a long line of teenagers who expect to usurp Fabio Birza as the youngest-ever winner. So far this season, Sami has proven his worth to his Baka tribe both physically and intellectually, but it’s unknown how long that will last for him. No doubt Sami – who has told his tribe he’s actually 22 – has a lot to overcome, but it’s still possible he could become the first-ever teenage winner of ‘Survivor’.
In 2018, 19-year-old waitress Jessica Peet was inducted into the underdog tribe “David” for the famous “David vs. Goliath” split. 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 fellow tribesman Pat Cusack three days earlier) after being threatened by the majority of the tribe through the ties she had with other fellow tribesmen became .
Famed for being one of the members of “Boston Rob” Mariano’s dominant Ometepe alliance, Natalie Tenerelli eventually became the first – and so far only – teenage girl to reach the Final Tribal Council in season 22’s “Redemption Island.” She did so alongside Boston Rob, who famously compared her to a “daughter” on more than one occasion (at the time Rob actually had two young daughters waiting for him at home).
However, Natalie’s youth and inexperience played a key role in her downfall; The jury saw her as strategically incompetent and a rock jumper of Rob’s, awarding the latter the million dollars in a landslide 8-1-0 vote while Natalie received no votes.
Last year Swati took part in “Survivor 42” and it quickly became clear just how severely her Ika tribe was splitting by age as she quickly bonded with 24-year-old Tori Meehan and 21-year-old Zach Wurtenberger. However, this alliance quickly broke and Swati and Tori turned on Zach on Day 3 after Ika lost the first challenge, resulting in Zach being eliminated by unanimous decision. When Ika lost immunity again on Day 9, Swati soon became the next target after it was discovered that she had told nearly all of her fellow tribesmen that they were her “number one”, leading to her immediate elimination.
Eventual winner Maryanne Oketch praised Swati in her Final Tribal Council speech, where she said she noticed early on how younger players, including Swati, were being targeted early on, prompting Maryanne to play a more under-the-radar game to play. It worked out for the then 23-year-old, who soon became the fifth youngest winner in the game’s history.
To date, Julia is the only 18-year-old woman to have ever taken part in the show. She turned 19 on the 10th day of her “Kaôh Rōng” season, but dropped out a few weeks later on the 29th day. In the end, she cast her jury vote for her close friend and ally Michele Fitzgerald, who would become the 7th (now 8th) youngest winner ever.
One of only four 18-year-olds to ever compete, Michael Yerger famously tried to hide his age from his fellow tribesmen. Despite being eliminated on Day 29 following a landmark vote, Michael would soon help make Survivor history after voting for Domenick Abbate to be a juror, resulting in the jury’s first-ever 5-5 draw. Second-place finisher Laurel Johnson, with zero votes, became the deciding vote on which she would vote for her ally, Wendell Holland, who then became the season’s winner.
Michael turned 19 a week after filming for the season wrapped.
At the time, Spencer Duhm was the youngest contestant to ever play Survivor. Spencer took advantage of what was then a recent rule change that allowed anyone aged 18 to 20 to apply, and took advantage of this at just 18, becoming the youngest contestant to ever compete on “Tocantins.” Spencer was assigned to the ill-fated Jalapao tribe and eventually voted out on day 15 before the merger.
Interestingly, Spencer – who is gay and tried to hide his sexuality from his fellow tribesmen – ended up dating Todd Herzog, one of the youngest Survivor winners of all time. However, the relationship would not last.
In the years since Spencer Duhm’s appearance on Survivor: Tocantins in 2009, only one person has surpassed him as the youngest player ever.
In keeping with the season being split not only by age but also by generations, Will Wahl became the youngest-ever “Survivor” contestant when he appeared in Season 33 in 2016, starting at just 18 years and 8 months. It’s a record he still holds to this day. However, his fate was sealed on day 34 after he was voted out for betraying his alliance.
“Survivor 43” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS.