Survivor is on hiatus for the rest of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic and so what better time to think about what we’d like to see from the show when it returns. That is assuming Survivor is able to film and make it to air in 2021. Let’s pray to the Survivor gods!
From casting to twists to aesthetics, here are five changes I’d like to see when Survivor comes back.
MORE DIVERSITY ON AND OFF CAMERA
Calls for racial inclusion and increased diversity on reality-tv have picked up steam in recent months, thanks to a petition started by Cagayan alum J’Tia Taylor. And this downtime in production provides a perfect opportunity for the show to fix its diversity issues both on-screen and off.
As Island of the Idols castaway Lauren Beck recently discussed on RHAP, Survivor needs to widen its casting pool to attract more Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) contestants. This starts with changes in the casting team itself—the core group of which is all white. Bringing greater diversity to the casting team and other areas of production, including editors and story-producers, means that BIPOC can have their stories better reflected on TV. This should extend to representatives of the LGBTQ community as well.
Survivor has been casting similar archetypes and showing the same perspectives for years; it’s time to highlight some new stories.
LESS RELIANCE ON TWISTS AND ADVANTAGES
I’m not one of those “Survivor should go back to basics” people; I understand idols and twists will always be part of the game. And in small doses, those things can make for thrilling television. But Survivor’s recent focus on fancy trinkets over its characters has become a crutch. There have been 72 hidden immunity idols between season 30-40—the majority of them from the past five seasons. That’s on top of Extra Votes and Vote Steals and Legacy Advantages and Idol Nullifiers and now Fire Tokens.
It would be nice to see the show scale back on the advantages somewhat as we enter the next era. At least limit the number of idols per season. Idol plays are so frequent now (especially in the end-game) that they’ve become boring in their predictability. When I think of the best and most dramatic vote-offs of the past couple of years, I think of the Aubry blindside in Edge of Extinction or the Sophie blindside in Winners At War. Neither of those votes required idols or advantages, just great gameplay from smart castaways.
Survivor needs to start trusting its cast members to bring the entertainment.
Get exclusive content and features by supporting Inside Survivor on Patreon.
GET RID OF FINAL FOUR FIRE-MAKING
The intention behind the final four fire-making is understandable. It’s a lifeline for the “big threats” to reach the end, and the pros probably outweigh the cons in the eyes of Jeff Probst and co. After all, it helped Ben win, it brought us the first-ever Final Tribal tie-vote in Ghost Island, and it led to the emotionally intense Sarah vs. Tony showdown in Winners At War. But it’s also made the end-game far less dynamic.
Watching people practice fire every finale night is not as entertaining as the final four trying to maneuver one final idol-less vote. And that’s another thing; there are no more idol-less votes where the players must rely on their social and strategic skill to survive. A player can (and has) idol themselves to the final four and then make fire and get into the Final Tribal despite being the biggest target in the game.
Adam Klein summed it up perfectly in an ET Canada interview when he said, “If you haven’t managed your threat level, then perhaps you’re not the best player.” And this ties into the “too many idols and advantages” complaint. The fire-making challenge removes the nuance and complexities that make the game of Survivor so compelling in the first place.
For a show that likes to promote itself as “always evolving,” the fire-making challenge feels repetitive and stagnant.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHALLENGES
Survivor has created some incredibly breathtaking challenges over the years, but recently it has all become a bit same-y. The majority of pre-merge challenges involve some sort of obstacle course (either on land or in the ocean) followed by a puzzle or throwing a thing at another thing. Meanwhile, a large amount of post-merge challenges tend to be balance-based endurance.
It would be refreshing to see Survivor get a little more creative in the challenge department. You only have to look to Australian Survivor to see how much fun you can have with the challenges. Now, I’m not expecting to see Animal Charades make its way to Survivor US (I wish!). But there are other Aussie challenges from which to take inspiration. Pre-merge endurance challenges are something I would especially love to see, tasks that force the entire tribe to work as one.
I’m not saying I want all the challenges to be as physical as in Australian Survivor, which perhaps favors strength too much. However, a shake-up to the routine once in a while would be welcome. Also, let’s bring back those epic mazes!
SHAKE UP THE SHOW’S LOOK
Survivor has an excellent art department; there’s no doubt about that. You can see the tremendous effort that goes into the Tribal Council sets each season. But sometimes seasons blend into one another, especially now the show is stuck in Fiji permanently. And so, it would be cool to see more aesthetic changes to differentiate the seasons from one another.
This could be as simple as changing up the color schemes of the buffs, flags, and challenge pieces. Even better if you can build the season’s entire look around a particular theme, like Pearl Islands‘ fantastic pirate concept. Survivor has some of the best cinematography in reality-television, so let’s make sure what’s on-screen pops.
Let us know what you would like to see in the comments below!