Survivor NZ: Dejected super fan Dee says she was ripped off
After 17 years as a "super fan", one contestant's shot at being the sole Survivor was ruined in just six hours.
Dee Harper, a self-professed "Survivor super fan", spends 40 hours a week listening to Survivor podcasts and has seen every episode of Survivor, except for one - her own.
"I will watch it, I just haven't yet, " says the 29-year-old who was voted off the premiere of Survivor New Zealand a few hours after arriving on the beach that would be the show's home for months.
"Survivor NZ was s... for me," says Harper. "In the history of Survivor, over 34 seasons – I may be wrong, so other super fans don't get on my case – but I believe that Wanda, and Jonathan, and Laura Boneham, who then got replaced by Rupert, are the only people to be voted off on day one in 34 seasons in 17 years. So, why would they do that on New Zealand Survivor?"
After getting the boot, Harper says she went through a sort of break-up with the franchise. She says she felt ripped off and was dejected after her single episode.
"I got back and was a little bit sort of down on it for a while."
Harper says she told her fellow Survivor competitors - the people that voted her off - that the show was her life.
"I love Survivor. I really enjoy the game. It's been something that's been a big part of my life since the year 2000. And I think with most things that have been around in your life for that long, you end up having a big love for it – whether it's the best TV show or not," she said.
Sitting outside the offices of Survivor broadcaster TVNZ on Monday morning, Harper says she is not happy to be talking on behalf of the show – but she has decided not to let her experience ruin her love of the show.
"Through having to do all of the crap [media interviews] with all of you guys, I realised the only way for me to get through it and not just come on here and be a real bummer, was by getting my passion back. So, within the last few months I have sort of drove right back into it," she said.
She says she has told TVNZ staff she will do anything she can to avoid appearing on behalf of the show again.
Despite not having seen the episode, Harper says it makes it appear she was voted off because she put her hand up to be the villain.
During the episode, Harper is shown shooting her hand into the air when host Matt Chisholm asks who is willing to be seen as the villain. But Harper says that isn't an accurate representation of what was going on.
"It was well known within all of the contestants that I was cast as the villain," she said.
During the show, viewers were told the contestants had only just met. That was a lie, Harper claims. She said they'd known each other for three days prior to filming.
Harper says the main discussion during those days was why they'd joined the show and what stereotype each of them was going to fill. Harper says they agreed she was cast as the villain, calling an "ongoing joke".
Asked if Harper regretted putting her hand up, she said, "No. And I'm not allowed to explain why."
Given what she learnt, however, Harper says she did regret going on the show.
"If I had known that they would vote someone off within six hours of getting on the beach, I don't think I would have done it," she said.
Harper feels she has been cornered. Despite all her training – she started preparing in February 2016, as soon as the show was announced – there is little she can do, she said.
"I'm not going to have a big cry about the editors and the producers and wah, wah, wah. Because I signed up for a game, so whatever the f… they want to do, I signed that contract. So, I put up with it."
She says she thinks if she survived three days before the first vote she could have stayed in the game.
"But what am I going to do? S... on TVNZ, probably not. Or Warner Brothers [the licence owners of the show]? Nah. Let's not do that," she says.
Harper says everyone knows she wasn't a real villain despite the show making her out to be. "The only thing that makes me a villain is because I have piercing and tattoos. Like, I'm not going to say I'm nice, but I'm not a villain."
She says despite her rude awakening in Nicaragua she hasn't let it spoil her love of the show, and she's managed to fall back in love with it – just not the New Zealand version.