My All-Time Favorite Challenge on Survivor

I absolutely love the creativity of the challenges on Survivor. Most impressive to me is that they’re made in such a way that anyone has the potential to win. Big, tall, short, small–your physical traits do not have an impact on the majority of challenges in Survivor, particularly the individual ones.

Many Survivor challenges follow a specific pattern. It’s a formula that works, but it’s still a formula: Do something physical, then solve a puzzle or do something precise. Both portions make for great TV, but you’ll frequently see people catch up after a slow physical portion to win if they’re good at puzzles. The head start doesn’t always matter much.

A few episodes ago in season 45, however, there was a challenge that literally tied the two portions together in a super clever way that I hope they repeat in the future.

In the challenge, each contestant had a rope tied around their waist. 30 feet into the challenge, they each encountered an obstacle entangled with a long stretch of the same rope. Then, 40 or so feet later, the final portion of the challenge involved throwing some bean bags to knock over letter blocks and then assembling a long word with those blocks.

The wonderful hook about this challenge is that the contestants didn’t know exactly how much rope they needed to reach the end of the challenge (or have enough flexibility at the end of the challenge to retrieve missed throws or errant blocks). They didn’t need all of the rope, but they definitely needed some of it. Some contestants had to go back and forth several times until they had enough.

It was riveting to watch the different strategies, and I just love how the decision in the first third of the challenge (how much rope to unravel) played into each contestant’s ability to thrive in the final portion. It was an excellent challenge, and I hope to see more like it.

This makes me think of a Survivor challenge I’d love to see: Start each contestant in the middle of the challenge, with the choice to do the physical part or the puzzle in either order. Perhaps link them so that the puzzle is slightly easier to solve if you complete the physical part first and the physical part is slightly easier if you solve the puzzle first.

Do you have a favorite challenge in Survivor history?

2 thoughts on “My All-Time Favorite Challenge on Survivor”

  1. I emailed Jeff Probst for his podcast, although I obviously don’t expect a response, but I would love to see a Survivor theme park! I’d line up over and over to play Simmotion (the one where they put multiple balls on the wire track), but my wife and I both would pay good money to try those challenges (we both cannot apply for health reasons)!

    • I wonder if something like this could work in the same way that “ninja gyms” became popular due to American Ninja Warrior.


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