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A Soul-Rending Story Told By The Crying 'Survivor' Winner Last Night

By Lord Castleton | TV | December 15, 2016 |

By Lord Castleton | TV | December 15, 2016 |

So Adam Klein won Survivor.

Throughout the show, he would periodically break down during talking head segments and just kind of lose it. Because his mom was dying. She had stage four lung cancer and the treatments hadn’t worked and he was torn about even going on the show.

As a viewer, I wondered why he’d ever do that? Why leave your dying mother to go on a stupid show?

It kind of seemed like kind of a dipshit move.

And then, add to it that the nature of the game is so corrupt and deception based, that you kind of take all of his emotion with a grain of salt, because…are you just using this, dude? Is this your hook? That you have to win for a quote unquote ‘dying mom?’

Cynical, I know.

But he referenced it enough that people started drinking games around it. When he was in the final three, it felt like he saved that particular reveal up for maximum shock value with the jury, and guess what?

It worked.

There were three finalists and no one else even got a vote. Deservedly so, as he was the only real ‘player’ left in the game. But once he dropped that bomb on the jury, shit was OVER.

So fast forward to the live reveal show last night in Los Angeles, and Adam gets to explain it a bit more. He can barely hold it together as he tells the story.


Survivor was his and his mom’s thing. We have people on our Pajiba boards like that, where it’s a shared/bonding thing. And a couple of years ago, (I guess, because I didn’t watch it then), he and his mom both applied as like a Mother/Son team to compete in a family-based Survivor.

They weren’t chosen.

Then she goes from the picture of health, never smoked a day in her life, eating organic, and exercising regularly to having lung cancer.


And then Adam gets the call to be on Survivor and he’s like no way, but his mom is like: this is a lifelong dream, you have to do it.

So he goes.

But he doesn’t know how his mom is doing while he’s gone because you have no outside contact and it’s killing him. They do an episode which basically has family members visit and a few lucky survivors get to hang out for the afternoon with a family member.

In Adam’s case, his brother was visiting.

But he didn’t win the challenge. He had to rely on the kindness of another contestant to “choose” him. A contestant who was basically his arch rival.

Adam got down on HIS KNEES to beg to be included in the reward. He BEGGED.


I remember being like: is this dude like crazy? He’s so over the top! Jesus!

But his arch rival, Jay, chose him. And Adam got to hear the news from his brother that the final Hail Mary treatment they were attempting, the fourth one, hadn’t worked.


It hadn’t worked.

His mom had no options left.

So Adam played his fucking heart out and out-thought, out-played and out-won(?) everyone else and he ends up taking the million dollar check in a unanimous landslide vote.

But he didn’t know he won for sure until Iast night.

When principle photography on the show wrapped he jumped on the first plane back to San Francisco and raced home to see his mother.

Gushing with tears, he recounted the story last night of getting there just in time.

He had one hour with her.

She passed away one hour after he got home.

One hour.

He told her that he thought he had won. But he wasn’t sure that she actually heard him, and she didn’t live to actually see it. To see that he had accomplished their shared dream of playing on and winning Survivor.


His family was just bawling in the live audience as he told the story, and Jeff Probst put up the number for people to donate to lung cancer research at which point Adam, a homeless shelter manager by trade, committed $100,000.00 of his winnings to the cause.

It was … powerful.

And it reminded me not to take moments with family lightly. One hour. One hour. That’s something that traffic or the TSA or flight delays or any other minutiae could have stolen from him.

But it didn’t. He saw her before she died.

She was, he says, his best friend.

You, too, can donate to the cause of cancer research. If the scourge of cancer has touched your family, you know how unforgiving and catastrophically destructive it is.

Please donate if you have a chance. Hopefully we can whip cancer in our lifetimes once and for all, and more people like Adam’s mom will be able to recover from their ailments and share in the successes of their children and grandchildren.

Adam’s Fund in His Mother’s Name

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Cancer Research Institute

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund

I usually have something fun to interject, but cancer is the motherfucker of all motherfuckers.

Please do what you can to help.

Follow Lord Castleton on Twitter

Lord Castleton is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.