The excitement of reality competition shows stems from a variety of factors. It’s exciting to see contestants demonstrate their talents while vying for the top prize, whether it’s in a singing or talent competition program or something out of the ordinary like surviving outside.
The most well-known program of this type is “Survivor,” which wrapped up its 43rd season in December 2022. A heart valve expert named Mike Gabler, 52, won the top prize of $1 million, but it was what he did thereafter that changed history.
Gabler said on the set of the series after-show that he would be giving all of his prizes to veterans in need after winning the title of Sole Survivor. The generous winner said to the panel of judges, including presenter Jeff Probst, and his rivals:
“There are many with greater needs for that money. And I’m going to donate the full winnings — the entire $1 million award — to soldiers in need who are overcoming mental issues like PTSD and helping to stop the suicide epidemic in honor of my father, Robert Gabler, a Green Beret.”
Before being named the winner, Gabler revealed his strategy to viewers of the popular CBS show, and he kept his word. As soon as he revealed his intentions, Gabler said:
“We’re going to help people and do good. We all did this during season 43. They will each receive one million dollars. Guys, we created history.”
This is a first in the show’s 22-year history, and it’s obvious that Probst and Gabler’s other competitors were in amazement at his amazing act.
Gabler, a native of Kingswood, Texas, said he didn’t come from a wealthy family but that he “worked extremely hard” and was “lucky” after Probst questioned him about his financial condition at home. He claimed that watching the show had shown him that he was “wealthy at home” and that his life is “wonderful.” Gabler promised to be a better husband, father, son, and brother when he returned home, adding, “I’m going to do all those things just like we’re all going to do that.”
The final episode of “Survivor” season 43, which was filmed in Fiji, featured a competition between the top five contestants: Gabler, Cassidy Clark, Owen Knight, Jesse Lopez, and Karla Cruz Godoy. After Clark, Knight, and Gabler reached the final three, his victory was assured by a 7-1-0 vote.
Before making his historic declaration, Gabler gave the program and his rivals high marks:
“Here, everyone of us has the possibility and the experience of a lifetime. The lessons we all gained from one another are invaluable. We have all improved.”
The second-oldest winner of “Survivor” in history, Gabler, posted a picture of the “special occasion” with the message, “Thank you everyone for being on this journey with me,” on Twitter.
As for why he enjoys “performing the after-show in the jungle immediately following the announcement of the winner,” Probst said to Entertainment Weekly earlier in the season:
“It’s so unpolished and genuine. I’m aware that some viewers miss the fanfare surrounding the players’ return months after the program had concluded. I am well aware that having a live audience and watching the athletes in their best attire may be really thrilling. However, there is no comparison with the dialogues. The forest is the place to be!”