Surviving Modern Day Survivor (Part 2)

Aaron ConnTelevisionLeave a Comment

Jeremy and Jeff

Surviving Survivor


Jeff Probst accepting a hidden immunity idol from Jeremy Collins in Cambodia.


This is the second part of my article on Survivor. If you haven’t read the first part, click here.

Idols, advantages and twists

Survivor Hidden Immunity Idol

The hidden immunity idol from Heroes vs. Villains.

Survivor has found ways to stay fresh over the years by adding new twists to the game every now and then. Some of these twists have become staples to the game such as tribal swaps. Then there are those twists, such as Redemption Island, that don’t go over well. When it comes to the hidden immunity idol, this is has been a double-edged sword for some fans. Since their introduction in Guatemala (Season 11), idols are now sought out items in the game. Idols are a nice wildcard in the game but in the past few years, they’ve become an annoyance.

There are now good portions of the episodes in the recent seasons that are devoted to contestants looking for idols. This is Survivor, not a treasure hunt. In the earlier seasons, contestants had to rely on their social skills to stay in the game. Now if a contestant doesn’t have the numbers, they can always count on the chance that there’s a piece of wood out there for them to find.

Surviving Survivor

A tearful Cirie Fields in Game Changers after being “voted off”

Things got out of hand during Game Changers (Season 34) during the final six tribal council. Before the votes were read, almost every remaining contestant went up and played an idol/advantage for themselves or someone else. With this overload of idols, all of the votes that had been cast beforehand didn’t count. This left four-time player Cirie Fields as the only one who wasn’t safe. With this, Cirie was eliminated from the game. Prior to this, Cirie had not received any votes cast against her and was playing a fairly good game. Many fans were angered by this and rightfully so: this moment proved that there are too many idols and advantages in the game. Jeff Probst, however, has gone on to say that he loved this moment. So with that, nothing was changed to prevent this from happening again.

Survivor Cook Islands Final 3

The final 3 in Cook Islands. From L to R: Yul Kwon, Becky Lee and Ozzy Lusth

Another damaging change to the game is the final 3 twist, in which the game ends with the three remaining contestants facing the jury vote- as opposed to the original final 2. When this twist was first seen in Cook Islands (Season 13), many long time fans were pissed. In previous seasons, fans thought that most of the people who finished third in previous seasons were people that “should’ve won” the game. Now with this change, that third place could be saved. The logic behind this is idiotic as that “should’ve won” title is now passed on to the person who finishes in fourth.  With the exception of a few seasons, the final 3 is now a permanent part of the game- which no longer makes this a twist.


Kaoh Rong winner, Michele Fitzgerald

In my opinion, the seasons of Survivor since Cambodia and Kaoh Rong have been very damaging (Seasons 31 and 32). In Kaoh Rong, New Jersey bartender Michele Fitzgerald was declared the winner in a 7-2-0 vote. Michele’s win was met with controversy as many fans felt that runner up Aubry Bracco deserved to win. These fans were not alone as Jeff Probst couldn’t hide his own disappointment before and after the season aired. One thing to keep in mind is that Kaoh Rong was filmed before Cambodia. This was done so that the show could pull off the fan vote decided All Star cast of Cambodia, which would film in the summer and air in the fall of 2015. Since the filming of Cambodia, the followings twists and advantages have been added:

  • The Legacy Advantage First introduced in Millennials Vs Gen X, the Legacy Advantage is a special type of idol that can be played only during the Final 13 and Final 6 Tribal Councils. Should the person with the legacy advantage be voted off, they must give it to another person still in the game- hence the twist’s cringe-worthy name. Survivor Legacy Advantage
  • The New Final Tribal Council Format– Starting in Game Changers, there was a change to the way the jury worked at the end of the game. Instead of having each juror speak on their own, the jury would have an open discussion with the finalists in different portions. This new format was Probst’s idea, which he first hinted to in an interview with the Toronto Sun in September 2016. When asked if bitter juries were coming back, Probst said that he felt Kaoh Rong’s jury was an “aberration.” Probst proceeded to explain that he had an idea for next season that would help the jury “be less bitter.”
    Survivor Game Changers jury

    The jury from Game Changers

  • The Final Four Fire Making Challenge– Starting in Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, the endgame was changed again. Instead of having a regular vote out, the person who won the last immunity challenge would choose one person they wanted to go to the final 3 with. The two players that weren’t chosen would be forced to compete in a fire making challenge for the last spot. This twist was hated by the fans, with many thinking the twist was created in order to save eventual winner Ben Driebergen. Personally, I think the twist was planned in advance. However, the contestants weren’t told beforehand- which isn’t fair. Come Ghost Island, the contestants were told about the change before the game started. Despite the hatred for the twist, Probst is quoted to saying that the twist is here to stay.
    Survivor Fire Making Challenge S35

    Ben Driebergen and Devon Pinto competing in the controversial Final Four Fire Making Challenge in HHH

Letter to Russell

A letter Jeff Probst gave to Samoa runner up Russell Hantz- complete with one of Russell’s idols

I’m not against Michele’s win. If you end up winning your season, you deserved it. With all of this retooling to the game, it makes me think that the show is trying to prevent from anyone like Michele from winning again. Toying around with who ends up winning the season is nothing new: idols and the final 3 have done this already. Also, this isn’t the only time Probst hasn’t liked a winner.  Probst didn’t get along with Thailand (Season 5) winner Brian Heidik. He’s also stated that Russell Hantz should’ve won over Natalie White in Samoa. I don’t know if Michele’s win was the reason why all of these changes were made. However, it does seem like the show is now tinkering the game in a way so that the winner can always be an alpha male or a strategic female. Also keeping in mind that the show is staying in Fiji, you can bet that we’ll be getting the same thing over and over again.


So with that being said: is it time for Survivor to end?

Click here to read Part 3.  

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Aaron ConnSurviving Modern Day Survivor (Part 2)