Former ‘Survivor’ Player Shares How People Poop on Island, Stories

  • I was on CBS’ “Survivor” three times. Here’s what you need to know about pooping on the show. 
  • Tribes designate a part of the beach, dubbed “Coconut Grove,” to do their business. 
  • Some players prefer the aqua-dump technique, which can be cleaner but less private.

On “Survivor,” there are no bathrooms, port-a-potty, or


toilet paper

.

If you’re chosen to play, it’s fair to worry about how you’re going to relieve yourself. It’s a nuance of island life that isn’t often shown because — let’s be honest — do you really want to see that?

But since you’re morbidly curious — you’re reading this article, after all — here’s everything you could possibly want to know about “doing your business” on “Survivor,” plus a few scarring anecdotes that might make more than a few of you reconsider applying for the show:

Each tribe designates its own ‘Coconut Grove’

Survivor players sitting and standing around a fire at camp, with the ocean and flags in the background

There’s language specific to “Survivor” used at camp.

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


Fun fact: Before the game starts, the show’s producers teach castaways island-specific verbiage to use during the game.

One such phrase is “going for a walk,” which is what we say when we’re being pulled away for an interview to not break the immersion for the audience.

So if a player says they’re “going for a walk,” they’re letting their tribe know they’re leaving camp by themselves for a valid reason. (A high-risk maneuver is to lie about going on a “walk” and spend 30 minutes searching for advantages and idols.)

Another bit of “Survivor” lingo is “Coconut Grove” — each tribe’s designated section of the beach that players use as their bathroom.

It’s singled out for practical reasons — now both the castaways and camera crews know to approach that area with caution. Plus it keeps the stench in one spot.

It also helps maintain the show’s PG rating. We can announce our bathroom breaks on camera as “I’m headed to Coconut Grove” instead of “I’m leaving to take a shit.”

(Conversely, a low-risk maneuver is to lie about going to Coconut Grove and spend 10 minutes searching for advantages and idols.)

Doing your business in front of others is kind of like jumping into a cold pool 

Russell Swan, Denise Stapley, and Malcolm Freberg standing at a challenge and covered in mud

From left, Russell Swan, Denise Stapley, and Malcolm Freberg on “Survivor: Philippines.”

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


“Survivor” prides itself on casting people from all walks of life, but competitors’ different life experiences also play out in subtler ways, like their comfort with “going” in front of others.

On my first season, I was marooned with a handful of new players and one returnee, Russell Swan.

He was an old hat at island life and our leader since day one, taking charge of getting a fire started, deciding where to build shelter, and putting us all to work. But Russell didn’t immediately establish where our Coconut Grove would be.

About an hour into the game, the youngest member — a tiny pageant queen from Utah — asked me, “Where are we supposed to go to the bathroom?”

On cue, Russell — 6 feet and 200 pounds of beefy, shirtless muscle — walked out of the jungle, turned to a tree 10 yards down the beach, and relieved himself.

The pageant queen audibly gulped and squeaked, “Oh.” I was laughing so hard that I nearly broke a rib. 

Those jitters don’t last long, though. Biologically speaking, you’re going to have to poop eventually, so everyone gets over their hesitation pretty quick.

It’s like jumping in a cold pool — uncomfortable at first, but you don’t even notice it after a while.

Players don’t poop as frequently as they normally would 

survivor lauren

The cast of “Survivor: Island of the Idols.”

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


Peeing isn’t too dramatic. Pooping, I assure you, can be.

The good news is, you usually don’t need to go No. 2 for a while. Since they’re starving, most players don’t drop their first deuce for several days.

One season, a tribe mate of mine needed two weeks to poop. We all knew about the ongoing situation and had an impromptu dance party in her honor when it finally happened.

If you’re doing your business on land — be it beach or jungle — your best play is to dig a hole and cover it up when you’re done. Make sure you have some leaves nearby to wipe with, though a handful of greenery will not get your undercarriage as clean as a roll of Charmin. Not even close.

The fabled ‘aqua dump’ has its pros and cons

survivor player standing and sitting in the shallow part of the ocean

The cast of “Survivor: South Pacific.”

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


Your other option is the “aqua dump,” which is exactly what it sounds like. You wade into the Pacific to an appropriate depth, assume the position, and just let it go. 

It’s much more sanitary. Once you’re done, you simply reach down, grab a handful of sand, give yourself a gentle wipe, and you’re just as clean as when you started.

But the aqua dump is a complicated psychological maneuver.

It’s hard to relax as waves crash against your back and fish swim around your legs. And unless you have access to an isolated stretch of beach, you’ll be doing this while staring at your camp full of tribe mates who know exactly what you’re doing.

I’ve heard it’s fallen out of favor with castaways in recent years. One former player pointed out that the beaches in Fiji — where the show now films every season — don’t allow for as much privacy as they did in my day. 

But even back then, there were many players who simply refused the aqua-dump lifestyle. After all, you can always just go on land, then wade into the water to finish cleaning yourself up. 

If you’re not careful with the tides, you can end up with a ‘Baby Ruth’ incident

Survivor players standing and sitting in the water by a cave with a waterfall

The cast of “Survivor: Caramoan.”

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


Anyone old enough to remember the 1980 movie “Caddyshack” knows the pool scene, in which a kid tosses a Baby Ruth into the water and causes a panic. That same thing happened on “Survivor: Philippines,” except, unfortunately, it wasn’t a candy bar.

Another important consideration when aqua dumping is the tide. You don’t want to be unloading when the water’s coming in, since your deposit can head toward the beach, or worse, bump into your back. 

Someone once ignored the tide schedule while taking care of their business, which eventually made its way to a small pool where our tribe would often relax. 

On this fateful afternoon, two castaways were having a strategy discussion in the shallow water as the 6-inch log drifted toward their powwow and came mere inches from colliding with them.

They only realized what was happening and avoided the incoming disaster because the camera crew couldn’t stop laughing. As far as I know, no one’s taken credit for the floater to this day.

Since there are limited options, sometimes you’ll see things you wish you hadn’t

Survivor players carrying a net and walking on the sand with the trees in the background

The cast of “Survivor: Winners at War.”

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


As you might have guessed, the aqua dump isn’t for everyone. 

There are also times where that technique simply isn’t an option. Toward the end of “Survivor: Philippines,” most of our merge tribe was using the far end of our beach for aqua dumps. It was hidden and quiet with calm water — the perfect toilet. 

But this was also a popular place for producers to host interviews (or “walks”). So if a castaway was in the middle of one, the toilet was off limits for an hour.

Denise Stapley and Malcolm Freberg on "Survivor: Philippines." in a fort built out of bamboo

Denise Stapley and Malcolm Freberg on “Survivor: Philippines.”

Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images


One time I was interviewed down by that stretch of beach, probably acting overly cocky about the next tribal. After we finished up, I said my goodbyes to the producer and started the 100-yard hike back toward camp. 

I was completely lost in my thoughts, not even thinking about gameplay, just staring out over the water and appreciating how lucky I was to be —

“Malcolm!” Denise Stapley cried — half from shame, half from laughter — 10 yards to my right while squatting over a hole on the beach, bikini bottoms off, mid-poo.

She claims she called out to prevent me from accidentally walking right up to her, but I swear I wouldn’t have noticed her had she kept her mouth shut. 

Instead, I’ll have that image chiseled into my brain until the day I die.   

Food challenges can end up making things worse 

Survivor players sitting at a table covered with food and clinking glasses

The cast of “Survivor: Caramoan.”

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


No history of “Survivor” bowel movements would be complete without discussing the “Caramoan” food challenge.

During the first immunity challenge after the merge, John Cochran and I made it to the final round, in which we raced through plates of pig brains. 

I still maintain that I got my brains down first, but the ginger raised his arms before he finished swallowing, so he got the win. I’m not salty or anything.

After coming back from tribal council, my stomach felt as if a dozen monkeys were having a dance-off. 

I didn’t even try to participate in the customary post-tribal discussions. I just high-tailed it into the woods — no aqua dump because no one’s allowed in the water after dark — and pulled my pants down just in time.

I then repeated that procedure at least three more times throughout the night.

Andrea Boehlke, John Cochran, and Malcolm Freberg standing at camp on SURVIVOR: CARAMOAN

From left, Andrea Boehlke, John Cochran, and Malcolm Freberg on “Survivor: Caramoan.”

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images


The next morning, I climbed out of the shelter a shaky and broken man.  

I saw Cochran looking equally rattled. We compared notes and realized we were both suffering from the same horrors of the intestinal tract and deduced that, since we were the only ones sick, it must’ve been the pig brains.

These constant, painful runs did not stop until the end of the game for either of us.

During the week or so after this incident, Cochran and I would high-five as we constantly swapped out of Coconut Grove, like wrestlers tagging each other into the ring. 

I’m not sure I’ve ever formed such a strong social bond in such a disgusting way.

CBS and John Cochran didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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