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Williston teen makes his own at-home version of ‘Survivor’

Published: Jul. 26, 2020 at 7:01 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2020 at 11:04 AM EDT
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WILLISTON, Vt. (WCAX) - For 20 years, the show “Survivor” has been a staple of our culture.

Contestants compete in grueling physical and mental challenges in adverse conditions, earning immunity at tribal council, forming alliances along the way-- some good, some bad-- all taking place in exotic and far away locations around the globe.

It’s captivated our interest. Especially in 2002, when Vermonter Kathy Vavrick-O’Brien made it on the show as a contestant.

It sparked board game versions you can play at home, but one Vermont teenager has given a whole new meaning to the play at home version, with his own “Survivor Williston.”

A Vermont teen created the reality game, "Survivor" in his Williston back yard over three days.
A Vermont teen created the reality game, "Survivor" in his Williston back yard over three days.(WCAX)

The idea came from the creative brain of CVU incoming sophomore Nate Frazee. Born about five years after the show first came on the air, Nate became an obsessed fan in the fifth grade.

“I realized how much it just kind of relates to my way of thinking because it’s such a strategic game, which my mind is always racing. It’s always at different places at once. So I decided I wanted to show my love of the game,” says Frazee.

Close to 20 challenges over three days throughout the Frazees’ and their neighbor’s property. The contestants are trusted family friends, all agreeing to COVID-19 precautions, from sleeping in separate tents to masks, social distancing and sanitizer as needed.

“And they’ve done a great job. I think they’re really used to it. So, it just felt like, if we can socialize and do this, let’s do it the right way so that it can happen,” says Nate’s mom, Eve Frazee.

There were 12 of them at the start of the week. When we were there, the final four were battling in a number of challenges. All lofromoking for immunity, trying to make it to the final without being voted off.

Through it all, Nate does his best Jeff Probst impression.

After trying a scaled-back version last summer, Nate started planning this year’s competition last September, sketching potential challenges in a notebook and building props in his garage all winter. But then March rolled around, putting everything in doubt. However, staying home gave Nate more time to work on the game hoping the fun could still take place.

“Making this, it was lots of hours of hard, hard work, but for me, seeing something just coming from having an idea and seeing it actually turn into something. For me, that’s actually the coolest thing,” says Nate.

After the challenge, it’s a bit of a break before tribal council. Every detail as close to the show as possible, including torches and the famous voting site where contestants make the tough decisions.

A contestant during Nate Frazee's "Survivor Williston" heads to tribal council
A contestant during Nate Frazee's "Survivor Williston" heads to tribal council(WCAX)

“It’s Nate that actually introduced me to the show and I liked it. It’s crazy amazing how he could do this and he did a really good job on it,” says contestant Rosie Bunting.

If you ask Nate if he prefers being a host or a contestant, he’ll tell you it’s neither one. He actually enjoys being a producer the most, putting everything together.

“I love this show so much, that I do hope to work on it, so I decided to go all out and this would be some type of resume for me. So, I just want it to be as immersive as possible,” says Nate.

As another contestant’s flame goes out, we get one step closer to a winner. But for Nate Frazee, pulling off a popular reality show on this scale, during a pandemic no less, makes him the true champion.

“Finally I found something that I connect with and I’m just glad that everybody got to experience it,” says Nate.

But, will this adventure help one young man reach his ultimate goal? I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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