Survivor Twist Ideas From Other Shows

Could we see any of these twists on future seasons of Survivor?


With Survivor making major changes to the usual formula in Season 41 and beyond, the game is poised to experiment quite a bit. Not only will the next few seasons (at the very least) not feature a central theme and be shorter, production has a chance to really throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

Plus, with a full year off of production, it’s possible that the show could be looking at other reality shows for some inspiration. And, if they haven’t, we have a few ideas that could translate well with the new format. Below, you’ll find six twists from other shows that might work on Survivor.

“The Right to Stay” – Endurance

Photo: NBC

Endurance might be a children’s reality show, but it was gripping television for its six-year run. One of its more interesting twists was The Right to Stay. Immediately upon the game starting, players were put into a competition, and the losers were kicked off of the show.

Survivor has, of course, booted contestants off on day one before. Fans will remember Wanda Shirk and Jonathan Libby being sent away on the first day of Palau after not being picked in a vote. The Right to Stay challenge, on the other hand, does give players a chance to win their way into the game.

If production needs a way to quickly get through numbers with some intense drama, The Right to Stay might be a solution that works. It may not end up being popular with the fanbase, but it would serve a purpose for a shorter 26 day season.

“The Purge” – The Challenge

The Challenge
Photo: MTV

Another option for weeding out competition quickly is The Challenge‘s long-form endurance competition known as The Purge. Here, players take part in a multi-stage challenge that tests competitors both physically and mentally.

Since most Survivor challenges are smaller-scale than a Challenge Purge, this would signify a sizable shift for the show. However, it could also give more power to players who excel at challenges, so it should only be employed once per season.

Survivor could place this at the start of the season, but it might make more sense to take place just before an early merge. Putting it there would give players who might be at risk as a traditional merge boot an excellent chance to stay in the game. However, because Survivor is, at its core, a numbers game, we may see players working together to keep each other in the game. We haven’t ever really seen that play out in The Challenge, giving some added intrigue to the twist.

“Secret Pairs” – Big Brother

Photo: CBS

The Secret Pairs twist in Big Brother 6 saw contestants enter the game with someone with whom they had a previous relationship. Every person had their own partner, but no one knew anyone else was in a pair at the beginning of the game. The houseguests figured out the twist early on in the season, but it could perhaps be better hidden in Survivor.

Imagine a format like Blood vs. Water where players have a friend, co-worker, or family member on the opposite tribe, but Jeff Probst doesn’t reveal this to anyone. Players may sniff it out early, but if they don’t, it could throw some interesting curveballs into the game once the tribes start to swap.

“Detour” – The Amazing Race

Photo: CBS

In The Amazing Race, teams are often given a choice between two different competitions while racing through different legs. These choices are called Detours and making the right choice can be the difference between winning and losing the game. Survivor has experimented with choices in previous challenges, but they could take things to the next level.

Imagine a longer reward challenge in the early stages of the game where players have to complete several obstacles along the island. Some of these stages would give players a choice between two challenges, which could decide the winner. While not an exact replica of The Amazing Race‘s Detours, it would certainly make for more interesting gameplay within that specific challenge.

“Mercenaries” – The Challenge

The Challenge
Photo: MTV

From time to time, The Challenge brings back former greats to face current players in a knock-out elimination. The best version of the twist to date was in Final Reckoning, where the mercenaries were actually playing to win their way into the game. Survivor could take the idea but would need to adapt it quite a bit to make it work.

One option would be for a Redemption Island-like twist where eliminated players compete for a shot back into the game. However, to re-enter, they need to beat a contestant still in the game in an elimination challenge (sort of like the Outcasts twist in Pearl Islands but an individual challenge). This gives the player coming back into the game a little more leeway to play with as they’re not just being added back into the game but are actively changing the numbers game in their favor.

“Saboteur” – Big Brother/ The Mole

The Mole
Photo: ABC

Of all the twists mentioned in this article, this might be the one with the most potential. The Saboteur twist sees one contestant actively working against the interests of the rest of the group. We’ve seen it in Big Brother, and it was the central theme of The Mole (which is now available on Netflix US). Survivor would take things up a notch by including two saboteurs. There are several ways production could use this twist, but here’s an example.

The game would start with one saboteur on each of the starting tribes. Everyone would know each tribe has a saboteur, and the saboteurs would know that they were eventually swapping back to the tribe they’re actually working for. However, they have to survive without being caught until their current tribe goes to Tribal Council. Then, their current tribe would vote on who they think is the saboteur.

Whoever gets the most votes is out of the game, but if it’s the saboteur with the most votes, the tribe receives some type of reward. If the saboteur survives the vote, they reveal themselves and head back to their actual tribe, potentially with some type of reward for the tribe and/or an advantage for themselves.

Or, if you wanted to prolong the saboteur twist a bit longer, the true moles could be kept a secret until the very end of the game. The saboteurs could be given tasks to complete throughout the season and if they can avoid being voted out and make it to the merge, they are awarded a hidden immunity idol.

Even if Survivor isn’t interested in taking ideas from other shows, the next few seasons undoubtedly give production one of the best chances they’ve ever had to experiment with gameplay. Things will already need to change so much with shorter seasons, and new twists will be needed to cut numbers down more quickly. All I can say is, bring on the purge.

Written by

Ricky Frech

Ricky is a freelance writer from Memphis, TN. He currently writes about video games and entertainment for IGN, Overlode, and more. Ricky received his MA in Media and Strategic Communication from Oklahoma State University. When he's not rewatching Survivor: China for the hundredth time, you can probably find him playing board games or hanging with his wife and dog.

4 responses to “Survivor Twist Ideas From Other Shows”

  1. Loved the article ! Thanks.

    The Endurance-inspiree twist is actually quite popular in other versions of the Survivor Franchise. In Koh-Lanta (the French iteration of the format), we’ve had sudden deaths challenges for quite a long time now (8-10 years maybe ?).

    It is usually quite impopular with the hardcore superfans but the casual viewers are usually more fond of it. A few unexpected defeat in the last 2-3 seasons have generated a lot of backlash, that said.

  2. I am highly mixed on this. As much as I love Survivor (which I’m sure people wouldn’t believe) there are things that get on my nerves & frustrate me about it that I am very vocal about. I have always liked the location-theme format which was done away with by staying in Fiji….so they had to rely on gimmicky-themes (some of which were good & some weren’t)….now they are staying in Fiji but dropping the themes & only referring to the seasons by the season number. That, to me, does not describe the season(s) in any way.

    My problem with this article, however, is if they spoof (for lack of a better word) other shows that takes away the originality of the show/seasons that I think the show needs to stay relevant. Where is the excitement & “wow factor” in that?

    With that being said, I stopped watching Big Brother & The Amazing Race years ago because I lost interest in them because there was nothing interesting/unique between the seasons. My concern is that is the direction that Survivor is headed.

  3. Two ideas I have:

    1) Partners: At the beginning of the game, tribe members are randomly assigned a color. Everyone will have one other person on their tribe with the same color (i.e., in a tribe of ten, there will be five color pairs). Two people with matching colors cannot vote for each other, though if they want to eliminate their partner, they can influence others to vote for that person. Two people whose partners have been eliminated are then partnered up themselves.

    2) Blood vs. Water/One World: Contestant pairs with a pre-existing relationship (siblings, spouses, etc.) are split into two tribes, then made to live together on one beach. Imagine having your loved one with you, but it being frowned upon to share resources with them!

  4. I think it would be good to see a survivor show with all contestants being some kind of celebrity impersonator. So they could have the Elvis impersonator, the Dolly Pardon impersonator, the Clint Eastwood or Chuck Norris impersonator. Maybe the Ringo Star impersonator, etc. Get enough impersonators to make it interesting.

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