|image from cbs.com|
Behind those midriffs is a lot of serious psychology, I promise.
The show has grown and morphed over the years (also a key ingredient if you are to survive in entertainment), but the central formula has always been the same: Take about a dozen and a half people out of this mostly-cooperative society we live in, and place them in a highly competitive one, where conventional standards are effectively defenestrated. A society is created in which people aren't punished for behaving dishonestly. In fact, such behavior is encouraged as a means of winning the game.
Hidden immunity idols, the occasional opportunity to betray your entire "tribe" or team to benefit yourself, and the ultimate truth that there can only be one winner demand that the game is played with an individualist mind. People are reduced to the very bottom rung on Kohlberg's moral ladder: How do I avoid negative consequences, and what's in it for me?
This is also the reason that people who come into the game sitting on the top rungs of that ladder, thinking in terms of what is truly and universally "right" or "wrong," or, more specifically, "I'm going to prove that the game of Survivor can be played with integrity," have doomed themselves before their feet ever touch the sand. For that level of morality to work, you need a society that's cooperative, one that looks down on those who "play dirty" as it were, simply because it's "wrong."
But Survivor doesn't offer a sense of moral fulfillment as its grand prize. It offers a million dollar check. And we, as the viewers sitting comfortably in our living rooms, love to watch people deteriorate into animals. Of course, the significant lack of any real clothing certainly doesn't hurt.