'Survivor' Changes Up the Game -- Finally
by Stephanie Earp, posted Dec 20th 2010 5:00PM
Another season of 'Survivor' has come and gone -- and I guess I can even say the person I was rooting for won. The thing is, I only starting rooting for Fabio two weeks ago, when I realized that the time to pick a favorite had long since passed. Sure, like a lot of people, I was rooting for the male model formerly known as Judson, but only from a dearth of options. What was I supposed to do? Root for 'villainous' Sash, whose claim to fame was getting Marty to give up an idol? Sash called himself a backstabber, but his mild-mannered play looked more like a back massage to me. Come on, guy! Villains are supposed to be evil!
Then there was Chase, who floated to the final four like a pretty princess, never really making any calls at all. And even Fabio, who pulled off that triple immunity win right when he needed it, seemed fairly clueless most of the time. I would like to point out that it takes a very fine actor to play dumb. I'm not sure Fabio is the next Tom Hanks, you know what I mean? Sigh. This was pretty sorry batch of castaways, let's be honest.
But that's the wonderful thing about 'Survivor.' I've waxed on about this before, so I'll keep my fawning to a minimum, but the game is so good, so well plotted, that even a troupe of blah, boring folks like the 'Nicaragua' contingent can't keep it down. There are always unexpected delights - like Jane's strength in the immunity and reward challenges, bitchy NaOnka deciding to quit all of a sudden, and of course, Fabio's immunity end run which disrupted all the best-laid plans of the Sash/Chase/Holly alliance -- although all of those words -- 'best' 'laid' and 'plans' - feel wrong in the circumstances.
But it is definitely time for a shake-up, and Jeff Probst and his blue shirt and dimples announced just the kind of game changer 'Survivor' needs heading into its 22nd season. For those who tuned out of the live reunion (which would be completely understandable) it's called 'Redemption Island' and it works like this: those voted out at Tribal Council head off to an island where they live alone until the next offing. Then the two outcasts fight it out in a challenge. One goes to the loser's lodge and the other sticks around to fight the next person. At some point, the last person left rejoins the game, with their shot to win still intact.
I love it! Finally, the concept of 'Exile Island,' which has been around since Palau, gets a chance to actually affect the strategy of the game. Players will think twice about voting off a potential immunity monster if they know that's exactly the skill that will help them survive. In 'South Africa' they sort of toyed with this idea, but there was a lack of structure. It feels like the 'Survivor' showrunners have finally figured out how to incorporate the concept into the existing game. (Change in 'Survivor' often takes a few forms before it sticks. The immunity idol has had a number of different rules attached to it before the current system of showing it after voting, but before reading, came into place.)
Another new rule was announced, brought on by the double-quit of Kelly and NaOnka -- going forward, players who give up for reasons like 'the weather sucks' or 'I'm tired' may or may not get to serve on the jury. This a bit of a no-brainer, but I did wonder what would have happened if these two hadn't quit when they did. Would be watching the 'Survivor' finale on Christmas Eve?
I'm curious to see how the 'Redemption Island' twist plays out. Will the players at the main camp know what's going on over there? If the idea is to keep it secret, how will they manage that once the jury comes into play? Would it ever be feasible for a player to plan on being on the island, to make that their strategy?
And most important, will Jeff ever trade in his blue shirts for something else? I hope not. Some things are perfect the way they are.