Kalpana Kalpana (Editor)

Pirate Master

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Created by
Mark Burnett

Music by
Russ Landau

Original language(s)

Cameron Daddo (host)

Country of origin
United States

No. of seasons

Pirate Master was a CBS reality television show created by Mark Burnett which replaced the previous Mark Burnett show on CBS, Rock Star. It followed sixteen modern-day pirates on their quest for gold, which totaled US$1,000,000. The show was hosted by Cameron Daddo, and took place in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. The show premiered on Thursday, May 31, 2007. The show also aired on CTV in Canada, Sky3 in the UK, premiered on June 21, 2007 on Network Ten in Australia, and premiered on July 4, 2007 on AXN Asia. On July 10 in the US, the show moved to Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (ET). In its Tuesday run, it would follow the 9 p.m. (ET) broadcast of Big Brother 8. As of July 24, in the US, Pirate Master was only online on CBS.com's Innertube, with the last six episodes presented each week on Tuesday mornings.



The premise and show format are based on the airing of the complete show and based on information from the CBS website.

The premise is based on the fictional legend of the pirate captain Henry Steel and the Treasure of Zanzibar. Based on this tale, Steel divided his loot into 14 parts and hid them across the island of Dominica. A special chest, the Chest of Zanzibar, was created with 15 locked compartments, each containing maps and clues to find each of these stashes. The treasure found through the clues in one compartment will contain a key that can be used to open another compartment. The 15th compartment, which can only be opened once each other compartment has been opened in order, contains a map showing the location of every gold stash on the island of Dominica and would lead to the largest prize.


Each week, the contestants are divided into two crews, Black and Red, to hunt for the treasures indicated by the maps and clues obtained from the most recently opened part on the Chest of Zanzibar. The captain and his officers are automatically part of the Black Crew, and the remaining players are randomly assigned to the other crews by pulling colored gunshots out of bags; there may be separate bags for the men and women to even out the distributions on each crew if, for example, the captain and his officers are all of the [same sex. The Black Crew gains the extra player when an odd number of people are available. For the first expedition only, crews are randomly assigned.

Both crews simultaneously go on expeditions and decipher clues along the way to find gold coins hidden around the island of Dominica. During the expedition, there is the potential for the currently leading crew (based on the trailing member of the team) to "sabotage" the other crew at a given point and slow them down in the hunt, such as by causing a net to fall to block passage along a river. There also may be booby traps that can slow down the leading team. The first crew to successfully retrieve the treasure, even if another crew arrived and started searching first, wins the treasure, and indicates their victory by firing a blunderbuss to let the other crew know that the expedition is over.

Should the Black team win (led by the current Captain), the Captain retains his or her position, and has the option to replace his Officers prior to dividing the winnings. Should the Red team win, they elect a new Captain who will select two other crew members as the Officers. For the first expedition only, the winning crew gets to elect the Captain in this same manner. The Captain claims 50% of the total gold discovered, the Officers share 25% of the gold, while the rest of the winning crew members share the remaining 25% of the gold; when necessary, distributions are rounded to the nearest $100. The prized gold is given to the crew members immediately, and allows them to strike deals with each other and vie for long-term security. This money cannot be stolen by other players. Of the total $1 million prize that the show offers, $500,000 will be distributed through the show in this manner.

When there are eight players remaining in the game, only a Captain position is selected, and any current Officers are demoted. The Black crew (including the Captain) and Red crew continue the expedition as before, with the winning team retaining or selecting a captain. The Captain then gets the full amount of the treasure.

Pirates' Court

At the end of each episode, there is a Pirates' Court. Prior to this Court's proceedings, the Captain distributes letters, three of which contain a black ink blot (called a "black spot"). The three contestants marked with a "black spot" are the ones nominated to be voted off and cannot take part in the voting process that follows; the Captain and his officers are not allowed to vote either. The remaining crew members then cast their votes by impaling their ballots on an upturned dagger. The contestant with the most votes is then "cut adrift" (i.e., voted off the show). In case of a tie, the captain decides which of the tied players he will cast adrift. However, if the crew band together and unanimously vote for a mutiny against the Captain, then the officers will have a chance to vote; if they both agree with the crew, the Captain is cut adrift instead; it is unknown if a new Captain is immediately chosen by the crew or not. If either Officer disagrees with the mutiny, the mutiny fails, and the Captain can then choose any player (including those that did not have the Black Spot but that voted for mutiny) to be set adrift.

The fourth episode introduced a "Royal Pardon" found in the treasure, a document given to the Captain after the expedition. Prior to the distribution of the next Black Spot letters, each player may bid secretly for the Pardon. At the Pirates' Court, after the votes have been placed, the winning bid of the Pardon is announced, and the bid amount is paid to whoever currently holds the pardon. If that player has the most votes, that player is safe, and the next highest vote earner is cut adrift, and the Pardon is removed from the game. If he does not receive the most votes, he retains the Pardon but must sell it to a different player via silent auction by the next Pirates' Court. The Royal Pardon is removed from the game after the ninth Pirate Court, whether it's used or not.

When there are eight players remaining, the Captain solely selects two players for Black Spots. Because there are no Officers, a unanimous vote for mutiny will result in the Captain being set adrift immediately.

Ghost Crew

The eighth episode introduced a "Ghost Crew" made up of the previously eliminated seven players. The remaining players in the game compete as a single Black Crew against the Ghost Crew. Should the Black Crew win, the rest of the game played out as normal. If the Ghost Crew should win, they not only keep the treasure, but get to decide which three of the remaining players would get the Black Spot for the Pirate's Court, and there would be no Captain or Officers until the next expedition.

End Game

When only three competitors are left, an expedition is performed, with each player competing against the others. The first player to the treasure becomes Captain and receives the expedition's treasure, and is guaranteed to be competing for Captain Steele's bounty. The other two players face a Pirate's Court made up of the previously eliminated players, who ultimately decide which player joins the Captain in the final expedition.

The final two players, prior to the final expedition, each select three additional crew members from the previously eliminated contestants to assist them on the expedition. The final expedition includes portions that only the finalist can perform in addition to where teamwork can be used. The finalist who is the first to find Captain Steele's treasure wins $500k and the title of Pirate Master.


The show is notable for its evocative setting and props. Much of the show takes place on the ship, called the Picton Castle, but the contestants also disembark and explore island rivers and muddy riverbanks in search of gold. Skeletons, keys, and other pirate-themed paraphernalia are scattered about the foggy island environment.

Other stereotypical pirate-like features include pirate-themed music, pirate-like clothing (note that the captain and the officers don garments signifying their superior rank), and the performance of laborious chores aboard the ship. The ship's main mast sports a Jolly Roger, stylized with a Pirate Master logo.

The ship itself is manned by the real crew of the Picton Castle, though the show contestants do assist with manning the sails and other tasks.

Reasons for Being Cut Adrift

  • Episode 1: John Lakness - His attitude initially put off a few people, and the theft of the compasses did not help.(10-0-0-0.)
  • Episode 2: Christian Okoye - Physically strong, his size made him slower and held his team back.(5-4-0-0.)
  • Episode 3: Alexis Shubin - Jumped ship during the treasure hunt, costing her team time.(4-4-0-0.)
  • Episode 4: Cheryl Kosewicz - Voted out for her close connection with Joe Don.(4-3-0-0.)
  • Episode 5: Sean Twomey - Perceived as being untrustworthy.(5-1-0-0.)
  • Episode 6: Joy McElveen - Was slow and weak at expeditions.(3-2-0-0.)
  • Episode 7: Joe Don Morton - Perceived as a threat.(3-1-0-0.)
  • Episode 8: Jupiter Mendoza - Called out the captain for Mutiny and shown as a wild card.(3-0-0-0.)
  • Episode 9: Azmyth Kaminski - Former captain/strongest competition. (5-0-0.)
  • Episode 10: Nessa Nemir - Strong remaining competitor. Targeted by Jay. (4-0-0.)
  • Episode 11: Kendra Guffey - Weakest remaining link and considered sneaky for eavesdropping. (3-0-0.)
  • Episode 12: Laurel Schmidt - Considered the weakest of the remaining pirates, and outed for her lack of fellowship with the crew, save Louie. (1-1-0.)
  • Episode 13: Louie Frase - Jay chose to honor his alliance with Ben and Christa over Louie. (1-0-0.)
  • Episode 14: Jay Hatkow - Had made too many enemies amongst the Ghost Pirates (12-1)
  • Black Spot Reasons

  • Episode 1: Louie/Joy: Louie - his talk of mutiny; Joy - her likability. They received no ballots.
  • Episode 2: Kendra/Joy: Kendra - her slow swimming; Joy - her bad knee. Kendra received 4 ballots.
  • Episode 3: Laurel/Cheryl: Laurel - her "not having a side"; Cheryl - her association with Joe Don. Cheryl received 4 ballots.
  • Episode 4: Azmyth/Joe Don: Azmyth - Louie's "outgoing Captains must be tried" policy; Joe Don - Louie's "vendetta" against him. Joe Don received 3 ballots.
  • Episode 5: Louie/Laurel: Louie - his "outgoing Captains" policy; Laurel - her not being trusted by Jay. Louie received 1 ballot.
  • Episode 6: Joe Don/Kendra: Joe Don - his threat status; Kendra - her slow swimming. Kendra received 2 ballots.
  • Episode 7: Nessa/Louie: Nessa - her flirtation. Louie - filled the last vacancy for no hateful reason. Louie received 1 ballot.
  • Episode 8: Laurel/Kendra: Laurel - her rudeness to Azmyth; Kendra - her slow swimming. They received no ballots.
  • Episode 9: Kendra: Her lack of speed and general weakness. She received no ballots.
  • Episode 10: Kendra: Her slow swimming. She received no ballots.
  • Episode 11: Louie: Volunteered to play pawn alongside Kendra. He received no ballots.
  • Episode 12: Ben: Cited for his alleged mutinous plans against the captain, and being a possible threat. He received 1 ballot.
  • Episode 13: Ben: Christa had promised Jay that she would give him the power of the sole vote. That left Ben and Louie with the Black Spots. He did not receive the ballot.
  • Episode 14: Christa: Was automatically given the Black Spot for losing the expedition. She received 1 vote.
  • Critical reception

    Pirate Master did not perform well in ratings, drawing in only 7 million viewers on the premiere episode, and subsequent showings drawing in less. Joshua Alston of Newsweek called the debut episode a "confusing muddle". Some critics have considered that the failure of both Pirate Master and On the Lot represent not only troubling issues for Mark Burnett, but for reality television as well. In the UK from episode 5 onward, the show was moved from its Sunday night primetime slot on Sky's main entertainment channel Sky1 to Monday nights at 6 p.m. on Sky3; a channel which usually only shows content from Sky1 but on a 12-18 month delay. The final episodes were aired on Sky3 at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. In Australia, free-to-air Channel Ten moved the show from its 7.30 p.m. Tuesday timeslot to Sunday afternoons on July 27. CBS moved the show from Thursday at 8 p.m. to Tuesday at 10 p.m. After continued low ratings, CBS canceled Pirate Master on July 23, 2007 and aired the remaining episodes on CBS Innertube.

    Despite being removed from American television in mid-run, the show went on to win an Emmy award in the category of outstanding original main title theme music.

    Pre Show

  • Azmyth appeared at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
  • Post Show

    Cheryl Kosewicz, the fourth person to leave the game, was found dead inside her home on July 27, 2007, after an apparent suicide. The show paid respects to her death in the final episode with a brief blackscreen dedication message before the final credits. On fellow contestant Nessa's MySpace webpage, Cheryl blamed the show for causing friction between herself and her boyfriend, who committed suicide two months prior.


    Pirate Master Wikipedia

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