BHS Alum, Former Harrison County Family Court Judge Crislip Enjoys Survival Challenge Experience

By Chris Johnson on September 11, 2023 via

It’s probably safe to assume Drew Crislip subscribes to the notion that age is just a number.
All the proof needed came earlier this summer when he accomplished something that many think they can do but few actually do it – compete in a survival-based competition reality show.
The most popular of these type shows is Survivor, which premiered on CBS in 2000. Crislip competed on Survival Challenge which is best described as an abbreviated version of Survivor.
And he did so at age 67, becoming the oldest to ever compete on the show.
“I already knew I don’t know how old I am,” Crislip said. “I’m really blessed to have any aches and pains and I never claim the title of senior citizen unless it gets me a discount. I however was certainly reminded by sleeping on the ground how boney my hips are, that’s for sure.
“They asked about my age during the reunion show and a lot of people think it’s a young man’s game. They are wrong. Five of us were over 50 and one of them was the runner-up.”
Crislip grew up in Bridgeport and is a 1973 graduate of Bridgeport High School. From there he went to West Virginia University where he graduated from law school. Crislip lived in other parts of the state before moving to Clarksburg in 1994.
He served as the Family Court Judge for Harrison County for 15 years before moving on to being an attorney for the FBI where he remained until he moved to Charleston in 2016 after being appointed as a federal administrative law judge.
Along the way he fell in love with one reality show in particular.
“I’ve been a fan of the TV show Survivor since it started,” Crislip said. I had a screen test once, which a first-round thing.
“I’m connected on social media with a lot of people who have been on Survivor. One of those folks happens to be from eastern Kentucky which isn’t far from here. He told me about Survival Challenge. There is a Facebook group LRG (Live Reality Games) and Survival Challenge was the original. It was created by a couple of people, including Bob Crowley, who won a season of Survivor.
“When Survival Challenge started it was on Bob Crowley’s property in Maine. It’s moved since then to Illinois. We just finished the 10th season. The first seven have been edited and are on YouTube. This one will be eventually, the whole thing is live streamed but in terms of editing for a series, it hasn’t happened yet (it hasn’t for Season 8 or 9 either). They are in the process.”
Crislip was one of 180 people who applied for one of 24 spots in Season 10. He knew as far back as February that he had been selected but he had to keep quiet about it as the show’s creators didn’t want any of the 24 to know who any of their cast mates were so there wouldn’t be alliances created.
Once July rolled around, a lot of effort remained to keep the cast separated even when they were in the same town.
“It’s in a rural area about three or four hours from Chicago,” Crislip said. “Many of us were on the same train from Chicago, from the Chicago Airport. A lot of it was on the honor system. Many us stayed in the same hotel but effort was made for us not to check in at the same time, eat breakfast at the same time.
“None of us saw each other prior to being picked up. We all had individual handlers. When we got to the location, we were placed, standing in rows like 10 feet apart. Until everyone got there we couldn’t look in a certain direction.”
Once the actual competition started, Crislip said it was a situation where you didn’t notice you were being filmed.
“You weren’t even aware of the camera,” he said. “You were a little aware of people being around with cameras but didn’t have any actual Survivor alumni with us this season. In many of the seasons people who have played or even won Survivor have been cast members. They say to a person, Survival Challenge is the same experience, just abbreviated. Many of the same challenges, you see on TV and we were in tribes.”
The contestants didn’t have much down time before the challenges began.
“The initial challenge was where we basically had to get to a location about a mile from where we were,” Crislip said. “The first night we were placed in groups of four. The first thing we had to do, there were four different challenges, one was a swimming challenge, one was a trivia challenge, one was digging in a sandpit to find items and one had to do with tying knots. We had to decide among the four, who was going to do each challenge and each of those challenges had the potential to win material that we would need to endure the night sleeping out in the woods. I did the swimming challenge.”
This initial competition involved six groups of four, with all six groups having to divide up the challenges the way Crislip’s group did.
He said the swimming was done in a deep pond and it required going roughly the length of a football field to a platform and back. Once he arrived at the platform he had to grab one of six keys before returning. Once back ashore, the key corresponded to a box (if you grabbed key number four, you opened box number four). If you didn’t want that box you could go stand behind another and you had to take what was in there and the person who had the key to that one had to take what you originally opened.
“I was not the first one back but I had the best box,” Crislip said. “Three tarps in one box. It was nice because it had been raining that day. One of my colleagues got another tarp, another one got some kindling. And one got a flint. One thing we didn’t get was food. One of the other groups had a pot with a cup of rice so we were able to do some bartering. We gave them a tarp and they gave us their rice. It was a really good situation for that first night. We had two tarps under us and one over us.”
Crislip’s group won a block stacking challenge the following morning before the contestants were ushered off to a new, central location and divided into tribes where you couldn’t be with anybody you were with the first night.
They would go on to do seven or eight reward challenges that day and immunity challenges started the following day (Friday). Eight contestants were voted off early Friday, one more later in the day to leave 15. By Sunday morning there were five left with the final vote later that evening, followed by a big reunion.
“I was voted off the first day,” Crislip said. “I got to participate in 12 out of the 20 challenges total and then after my torch was snuffed, we had some consolation challenges we competed in.
“Part of my downfall, I was mindful I didn’t want to put a target on my back from being too assertive or aggressive but I probably stood back more than I should have. I didn’t assess the impact of doing that within that compressed time frame.
“There’s that tension where you have to work with people and deceive people and wonder if you are being deceived. That is an emotional, taxing situation. It’s like playing poker but you are living it and not just playing a game for an hour or two and you are doing it without sleep or food.”
Crislip said a woman from Minnesota won the competition that featured people from all over the country and as young as 20 up to him at 67.
One new aspect introduced to this version of Survival Challenge was something they called a cast chair crew headed up by a guy with a doctorate in psychology that was on had to make sure contestants were OK once they were voted off.
“I was fine, a little disappointed of course but there were some people that kind of needed that cast chair crew,” Crislip said.
“It was definitely a bonding experience. It was kind of like camp, but you are working together and working against each other at the same time.
“I didn’t know the existence of these live reality games and there are many of them. There was a guy from (Huntington) West Virginia that played Survival Challenge some years ago. The only reason I know that, in preparation, I watched all the previous seasons.
“There are other LRG games all around the country. There is one called Can You Survive that three or four of my castmates recently played in Maine. Some of them are one day, some are a week. The great thing for me, this was the original and created by a guy who won Survivor.
“You feel like you become part of the Survivor family.”
Being part of not just the Survivor family but the LRG family as a whole presents another opportunity that takes place in December every year in Orlando for Crislip – the Hearts of Reality, which is basically a reality con (similar to a comic con, etc.) where many of the well-known reality stars gather for a meet and greet all in the name of a children’s charity.
“Survival Challenge has a place there even though it doesn’t have the fanbase like Survivor or Amazing Race,” Crislip said.
Four days after he was home from Survival Challenge, Crislip was off to Webster County for an annual youth camp he runs. He also keeps busy with eight grandkids to play with. Another crack at a live reality game may or not be in the cards but he wouldn’t trade the experience of this summer in large part to the connections he made with his fellow contestants.
“We are constantly talking about stuff and sending photos of our families,” he said. “We all watched those four that competed in Can You Survive on a livestream together. There will be several of us go to Hearts of Reality.
“It’s like any other group, the chance of all of us being together is incredibly slim, but I’m connected with a whole new group of people. It’s hard to imagine there won’t be a connection for a long time. It’s all goodness and light.”
To learn more about Survival Challenge visit its website HERE
The Live Reality Games Facebook page can be found HERE
Editor's Note: Submitted photos courtesy of Survival Challenge.

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