February 6, 2001 -- Was the phenomenally successful first round of Survivor rigged? That's what one early evictee from the reality series is claiming.
Attorney Stacey Stillman, whom you'll remember as the San Francisco attorney who got booted when her fellow castaways decided she wasn't doing her fair share of work, is suing the executive producer of the CBS series.
Stillman claims that Survivor creator Mark Burnett convinced two other contestants, Christian dude Dirk Been and alphabetical voter Sean Kenniff, to vote against her instead of against 72-year-old Rudy Boesch.
In the 14-page lawsuit filed Monday against CBS Corp. and Burnett, Stillman charges that Burnett rigged the vote so the show would appeal to an older demographic, since Boesch was the last remaining contestant over 40. Considering that the network was desperately trying to secure a younger demographic with the reality series, Stillman's claims seem decidedly odd.
CBS denied the allegations and said Burnett would have no comment on the lawsuit, according to The Associated Press. Kenniff tells the AP that he didn't feel he was coerced, and a spokesman for Been chose not to comment.
"We heard about Stacey Stillman's allegations several months ago," CBS said in a statement, saying that her suit "had no merit" and calling it "frivolous and groundless."
Stillman was the third contestant voted off the remote island that was the site of the first Survivor series. She is seeking damages for alleged fraud, breach of contract, and unlawful business practices. She also seeks restitution for lost prize money, plus $75,000 for punitive damages.
Stillman, who formed an instant dislike of hard-nosed Boesch on the island, didn't go home empty-handed, however, having landed a Reebok commercial while the series was still airing.
The longer-lasting Survivors have had more opportunities to cash in, though: Colleen Haskell is starring in Animal Instincts with Rob Schneider, Jenna Lewis was offered a chance to pose in Playboy, and million-dollar-winner Richard Hatch has them all beat.
Hatch has published a book, made numerous TV appearances, and is currently writing a column on Survivor: The Australian Outback for US Weekly. (He predicts that cranky Jerri will be booted soon — which another original Survivor agrees with. Kelly Wiglesworth tells TV Guide that she ran into Jerri during her travels and that, although nothing definite was said, Kelly got "the vibe" that Jerri was not a winner.