Survivor Lives Through Fiji Coup
by Natalie Finn
Tue, 5 Dec 2006 05:11:00 PM PST
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There was danger of an audience revolt this season when Survivor segregated its tribes. Not until now, however, did the hit CBS show have to deal with a full-on coup.
But luckily for the pioneering reality series, a military coup in Fiji has not affected production on Survivor's 14th season, producers said Tuesday.
On Monday, soldiers bloodlessly took control of police headquarters in the Fijian capital of Suva, on the island of Viti Levu, claiming that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's government is corrupt. Police were locked out of their building, but no shots were fired. Fiji's military commander announced Tuesday that he had assumed control of the country and that the prime minister has been confined to his home. The U.S. State Department then temporarily suspended aid to the country after condemning the military's actions.
Survivor is being filmed on Vanua Levu, Fiji's second-largest island and a 30-minute flight away from Viti Levu.
"Our producers on location have been assured by the Fiji military that we are safe on the remote island where we are filming and that our cast and crew will be permitted to leave the country safely when the show wraps production," CBS Entertainment spokeskman Chris Ender said.
Host Jeff Probst, who's also on location, said that filming on the South Pacific archipelago has not been interrupted, implying that Survivor's own brand of warring factions are still battling it out for immunity and brownie points.
"To be shooting Survivor while in the midst of a coup is a bit surreal for all of us here in Fiji," Probst wrote Tuesday in an email to Entertainment Weekly. "We have set up our satellite TV in the catering area [for producers and crew members only], and during dinner the entire crew watches the local news to get updates on what is happening.
"Everyone here is safe and the disruptions thus far have been minimal. We had a few production staff stationed in Suva that we brought back to base camp, and during the past week any crew members that were scheduled to fly to location were unable to due to flight cancellations. Otherwise, we have continued filming without interruption."
Not so fortunate was Nicolas Cage's latest film, Time to Kill, which was filming in Thailand earlier this year. Production was shut down in September after the military overthrew the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It was reported that Cage hightailed it out of the country on a private jet as soon as he was informed of the situation.
But back in Fiji, Survivor may still be under the gun, figuratively at least. Fiji Times Online reported last week that multiple landowners in Labasa, the largest town on Vanua Levu, have accused the Native Land Trust Board of negotiating a bum deal with the show's crew, saying filming has migrated into "taboo areas" and is violating the villagers' ancestral lands.
A lot of money will have to be spent to carry on ritual ceremonies to clear the land of any curses left behind by the Survivor shoot, a village spokesman said.
On the other hand, the land board has insisted that the presence of the CBS show will bring great economic benefits to Labasa and that compensation was being doled out to the landowners accordingly. The villagers are insisting that they be paid extra when filming strays beyond the boundaries of the original lease agreement.
Meanwhile, Survivor: Cook Islands is chugging along on Thursday nights. Seven castaways remain in contention for the million-dollar prize.