On April 2nd, Survivor Québec launched its franchise with a refreshingly “old school” extended premiere episode. 19 Québécois contestants and one Acadienne (a term referring to the French-speaking people who primarily live in Canada’s Maritime provinces) set out for a 44-day adventure in El Nido, Palawan, Philippines, to compete for a prize of 100,000 Canadian dollars. Hosted by Patrice Bélanger, the show will air Sunday through Thursday every week until June 18th. Following the 90-minute premiere, the Sunday night episodes will be an hour long, while the weeknight episodes will be just 30 minutes long.
Before I delve into my thoughts on Survivor’s newest franchise, I wanted to add a bit of context to this series. Since Survivor Québec was announced, I’ve seen some people asking, “Why?’ After all, Canadians are now eligible to compete on U.S. Survivor. As a primarily French-speaking province in a predominantly anglophone country, Québec proudly invests in producing francophone art and entertainment, so it was only a matter of time before they adapted Survivor.
While many people living in Québec are fully bilingual in English and French, many still are much more comfortable in one language than the other. I think it’s fantastic that Survivor Québec exists so all francophone people in Canada have the opportunity to compete in this game regardless of their preferred language.
With that all said, Survivor Québéc is off to a very promising start. Bélanger is a passionate and animated host, and the cast is just as excited. Many players mention being long-time watchers of the U.S. version, and they came to the Philippines ready to play. Divided into two tribes of 10, Kalooban and Tiyaga competed in a classic Survivor opening challenge, where they were tasked with collecting as many supplies from a boat as possible within a time limit and transporting them to shore with their raft before knocking over a series of targets using a slingshot.
As far as the rest of this season’s challenges go, based on the preview at the top of the episode and next week’s promo, we can expect to see the return of some Survivor classics like Sumo at Sea and the “throw coconuts into a net while someone tries to hold onto it” challenge, which is apparently called “Nut Bucket” (wow!) according to the Survivor wiki. Sunday’s immunity challenge was closer to the standard U.S. Survivor challenges we see now: roll a boulder, stand on it to collect keys, climb up a big wooden structure, and do a puzzle. So we’re likely to see a mix of old and new favorites from other franchises.
Between the challenges, most of the premiere episode was dedicated to camp life. We really got to meet everyone on the cast, even if just for a brief confessional, and got a clear idea of each tribe’s power dynamics even before heading to the immunity challenge. We’re really seeing the benefits of a two-tribe format here, as we’re getting a lot of complex dynamics and relationships to the point where even the very first vote was interesting and had some real suspense to it.
There was a focus on clear alliance and relationship-building while also delving into some players’ backstories. The standout moment of the episode was the reveal that one player’s brother had passed away from cancer. Another member of his tribe, by chance, happened to meet him and speak to him the day before he died. With the show casting from a relatively small region, a coincidence like that was bound to occur, but this was one of the most powerful ways that could have happened.
Speaking of the cast, I walked away from this premiere impressed with the group of players we have this season. Of course, it’s unfortunate that we’re not seeing a lot of racial diversity here, but hopefully, that’s something Survivor Québec improves on if it gets future seasons. There are already a lot of likable players, some potential villains, budding strategists, and one of my favorite old-school Survivor archetypes, “older guy who makes himself a target by declaring himself the tribe leader.”
The biggest news of the premiere? No idols or advantages. They weren’t mentioned once, and during tribal council, host Bélanger didn’t make any mention of them before reading the votes. We’ll have to wait and see if any get introduced later in the game, but I’m very excited at the prospect of a truly “old school” season. It’s a new franchise, so why not start with something simple and see what might work or not work for Survivor Québec rather than trying to match the other franchises right out the gate? Even if they’re introduced later in the season, it was a great call to at least keep them out of the premiere so we could just focus on the players and their shenanigans.
Overall, Survivor Québec exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t expecting much, especially with how quick the turnaround was on announcing the franchise, casting it, filming it, and releasing it, but the premiere was exactly what I needed to decide to stick with the rest of the season. I wish English subtitles were available so that the anglophone Survivor community could check it out, but as of now, the series is only available with French subtitles. There’s a non-zero chance some bilingual Survivor superfan with way more time than me will do some English subs for it at some point, but for now, I’ll be the English-speaking Survivor world’s conduit to the world of Survivor Québec, and I’ll be back after the season ends to give a full review of all the action!