Lex van den Berghe Talks Upcoming Survivor Format Changes

Lex shares his thoughts on the upcoming Survivor changes.

Photo: CBS

After what felt like forever, Survivor is almost back, much to the delight of fans all over the world. Survivor’s return, however, comes with notable changes that may or may not sit well with fans: dropping the titles in favor of just the season number and reducing the game to just 26 days.

Obviously, the global pandemic has influenced these changes one way or another. Quarantine protocols may have impacted how much time production has to film back-to-back seasons. But what matters most is that Survivor is back, right? That doesn’t mean, however, that fans are not without reservations.

Some may feel that not doing the full 39 days could rob viewers of moments that could be integral to how the game unfolds, while others might think that a more fast-paced game would force players to play more aggressively. To some, watching the players battle the elements is still good content.

But since the show hasn’t been showing a lot of these camp life moments in recent seasons, would it really matter? Will this affect the overall strategy in the game? Are viewers going to be shortchanged?

We asked some Survivor fans from a couple of local fan groups (Survivor Superfans – Philippines & Official Pinoy Survivor Fans) if they’re okay with a 26-day game setup and found that out of 216 responses, 59.2% felt the shortened days won’t be a problem, while 20.4% said they prefer the usual 39 days. The remaining 20.4% don’t really mind.

Then a thought occurred to me: how would former players react to these changes? So I reached out to some of our favorite Survivor players to find out what they think about these literal game-changers.

Lex van den Berghe

Africa, All-Stars

How do you feel about reducing the number of days to just 26? How do you think this will impact one’s gameplay?

I’m not at all a fan of shortening the game duration, but I understand that it’s more than likely a decision that was driven by budget reasons, along with the challenges brought on by the global pandemic. I do believe it will have a profound impact on the game itself and on the players and their strategy.

In my opinion, the longer the game is, the more critical it is for the players to have a multitude of sophisticated, varied, and nuanced strategies. If you plan to survive a game for a million-dollar prize, with a number of other players who want the same thing, the longer the game is, the more complicated a task it will be to win.

A longer game tests the players’ abilities to adapt and adjust their strategies and moves over time, and most any player that is still around on day 36 or 37 most likely earned their way there with strategy, wits, resilience, and grit. Luck and chance play a much bigger role in a shorter game.

The Australian production of Survivor is actually a 55-day game—now THAT’s a real challenge for body and mind! I’d much rather see [Jeff] Probst and [Mark] Burnett make our game longer than cut nearly two weeks off of it.

In relation to the show dropping the subtitles for the new season, what would you “drop” from your gameplay if ever you get the chance to play again?

I suppose I would treat the game of Survivor more like… a game, and try not to take everything so seriously. My first two seasons, I played very emotionally. My game certainly would’ve benefitted from my occasionally pausing and assessing everything as rationally as possible. I would also not insist on always being in the driver’s seat and in control of everything.

In Survivor: Africa especially, I was only happy if I was constantly in the leadership position, and I did most of my planning, strategizing and decision-making alone. I had a strong alliance with Big Tom and Ethan, but I rarely consulted with them on game moves and decisions. And most of the time, they were more than happy to let me make all the decisions and dictate how the game should go. They recognized that by sticking my neck out, I provided them with a shield and distracted the other players by making myself a larger, more dangerous target.

Lex, Ethan, Tom
Photo: CBS

To be completely honest, it would’ve been damn near impossible for me to make these changes to my gameplay back when I originally played (20 years ago now) because I was a younger, less experienced, and less mature person. I’ve changed quite a bit these past two decades though, and would like to think that I’ve gained some wisdom and addressed some character flaws from my younger days that needed attention.

How have you been since the last time you appeared on the show?

My life is essentially the same as it was before I played Survivor, which is just how I like it. Yes, I’m a bit older than I was, and my sons are now adults, but I’m still living happily ever after in Santa Cruz with my wife Kelly and our dogs and cats. I play drums in a few different bands, I still travel as much as I can get away with, I’m blessed with countless close friends, and I’m thankful for each and every new day I spend above ground.


Written by


Wowie is a copywriter and brand strategist based in Manila, Philippines. He’s been a Survivor fan since 2001, after seeing a rerun of Colleen’s boot. Since then, Survivor has become a major influence in his life: wrote a thesis on Survivor: The Amazon, started a blog, tried out for Survivor Philippines (and failed), and went on to seek out life’s (mis)adventures.

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