Survivor Is Older Than Me…and It’s Still Awesome

After a pandemic-related hiatus, Survivor returned a few weeks ago for its 41st season, and I’m loving it. I’ve watched every season of Survivor when it started 20 years ago (except the 2 that aired while I was in Japan). So technically Survivor isn’t older than me (I’m 40), but you get the idea.

At its heart, Survivor is very much still Survivor: There are 18 people divided into groups in Fiji, and they compete to avoid going to tribal council (where you might get voted off).

But they’ve added a few twists and experiments that I find intriguing to various degrees:

  • It seems to be the most diverse cast of survivors ever, especially in terms of ethnicities and sexualities. I absolutely love this, and I hope it continues in the future.
  • Several times, survivors from different teams are forced to go on a long hike together. At the end of the hike, they’re separately given a prisoner’s dilemma-style decision that could help or hurt them. I love prisoner’s dilemma decisions, so I definitely like the addition of this mechanism.
  • Previously, survivors would go hunting for hidden immunity idols, which always mixes up the game. This season, many of those hidden advantages are “beware” advantages–that is, if you open them, you might gain a great advantage, but you must first activate it by doing something risky. In the meantime, you have a disadvantage (like you lose your vote at tribal). While everyone has opened them so far, I really like the risk/reward they offer.
  • At tribal council, instead of voting for someone, you have the option of rolling a die for a 1 in 6 chance at immunity. I love the twist this adds, both for anyone who feels they’re at risk and anyone who is trying to vote off a certain person–you don’t want to let them know they’re at risk. It’s led to a constant stream of blindsides.
  • The only change I haven’t cared for is that Survivor has tried to lean more into the “survival” aspect of the show. Contestants have almost no food at all, presumably because the producers want them to scavenge and hunt? The result is the survivors are going days with nothing but water. I don’t want to watch them suffer, and I don’t think it makes the show any less authentic to give these people some rice and fishing gear from day one.

There are also some bigger spoiler twists that I won’t reveal, and I look forward to even more of them in the second half of the season.

Am I missing anything (please no spoilers about the last 2 episodes)? What have you thought about the changes?

7 thoughts on “Survivor Is Older Than Me…and It’s Still Awesome”

  1. I don’t care for the punishment aspect and withholding flint. It’s like this game gets super easy for some (Rob & Amber’s Home Depot season) and then awful for others where people get lots more psychological trauma and starvation. That level of starvation can really screw up your metabolism for life.

    I’ve missed the challenge rewards where a few people get a shower, food, a massage, and a bed for the night.

    My husband didn’t watch the show before I met him, and I missed several seasons just because I didn’t want to sit and watch it by myself. I’m thinking I should start streaming the first few seasons to show him what the old days looked like, i.e. bringing a luxury item.

    This season is interesting with the new twists. I like that someone could suddenly have some power who didn’t have it before. I’m not sure how I really like the ‘roll the dice’ feature. It seems like such a very slim chance… yeah, it could really eff the game up for someone if someone were to land on Safe, but the chances are so low, I won’t get my hopes up.

    Reply
  2. I’m not a fan of the fact that they don’t allow contestants more than one pair of underwear. This has caused UTIs in female contestants in the past, which may place those contestants at a disadvantage (apart from other health risks which, in the name of a competition, contestants should not be subjected to). This is along the same lines as your concern about giving them no food. The other changes do seem to keep the game fresh. After all, it is a game.

    Reply
    • I’ve thought about that before – or what if someone’s bra or top breaks. I guess nobody who has to take any kind of medication can be on the show. What if a woman has her period?

      I also don’t think that Richard Hatch’s propensity for stripping nude before challenges would fly today.

      Reply
  3. What have you thought about the “game within the game” and Jeff breaking the 4th wall to address the audience before challenges or tribal? To me, the first is fun, but the second seems out of place. like they’re trying too hard to get people to watch.

    Reply
  4. I’ve been waiting for the Jamey Survivor Blog – thanks!

    1. I also like the diversity of participants and everyone’s desire to “play” Survivor. In previous seasons, there were usually a few survivors who did nothing, were called lazy and after their challenge usefulness was no longer needed were easy votes. It seems like most came to play and “build their resume for the jury”.

    2. However, the birds of a feather flock together alliances have peeked up – the all woman alliance, the all (insert same thing we share) alliance. Is that really diversity if you only work with “x”? I have pushed for a few “specialty” seasons of Survivor – which sorts people ahead of time – a. all-female, b. all athletic male, c.
    the all super fan season (mixed females/males) – just to see the dynamic change.

    3. There has not been much focus on the “shelter” and “shelter building” – which is fine by me.

    4. I also am not a big fan of the focus on “survival” – it’s outwit, outplay and outlast through game play. Give them enough rice to survive daily and if players want to supplement through fishing and gathering so be it. I am not a fan of seafood, but I’d be eating those crabs and turtles. Perhaps with the shortened timeframe (cut down from 37 days to 21 or something) the producers thought a food and fire punishment/scarcity would mix things up.

    5. I do like the creative attempts introduced this season that you mentioned. I agree some seem like long shots, but others really do mix things up.

    6. I dislike the huddling up at Tribal shift in recent seasons.

    7. I know that I could never compete on Survivor (meds, need electricity for sleeping, etc.) and I’m fine with that. However, a more sanitary clothing allowance would seem to be more humane and simple to fix. Allow survivors two identical pieces of clothing and some laundry soap or a laundry service through “Ponderosa”.

    8. I like the times Jeff speaks to the audience directly. It might grow old, but it does offer some insights and can easily be ignored if you dislike it.

    Reply

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