I Miss Survivor


It’s been two weeks since once of the most shocking wins in Survivor history I’m still processing what we all witnessed. Mike Gabler, perhaps the goofiest character of Season 43, pulled off the Survivor upset of the century and managed to finish the game one Final Council Tribal vote away from playing a perfect game. The man who asked to be voted out first, the guy who laid palm leaves on his sleeping tribemates, the dude who dedicated his challenge win to the great state of Idaho, the self proclaimed Alli-Gabler pulled off not just one of, if not the, biggest upsets in show history and in doing so his game will go down as one of the all-time greats on paper. I think the big thing that people are being hung up on is his edit, particularly how he was depicted as this season’s crazy old man, but at the end of the day the guy kept his name off the chopping block all season and almost always voted correctly. There’s a lot to be said about exactly how he won the game but the more I’ve let it marinate I don’t have nearly as much of an issue with it as some others do.

Regardless, I just miss Survivor already. I work Wednesday nights and I’ve made it my routine to pick up a little pizza for myself on the way home and watch the recording about an hour or so after the original airing. The past two weeks have left me completely thrown off as we enter the doldrums of one of the worst periods on the TV calendar: the break between the fall and spring seasons of Survivor. Now we have to wait until March 1 for Survivor 44. I’ll be sure to get more into that season once the cast is officially announced but based on the similarities between 41 and 42 I think its safe to assume 44 will have a lot of parallels with 43. But one of my favorite Survivor past times is trying to come up with new twists and concepts for future season so forgive me as the blathering I’m about to embark on could get weird.


We’ve seen a lot of change in the last three seasons of Survivor. An abundance of new twists and variations on existing staples of the game have made the new era one that’s practically impossible to gameplan for. As the the last three winners have proved, those who adapt the best have the best shot at winning. Here’s a few of the newer twists the show should keep or enhance moving forward.

  • The Updated Beware Advantage – One of the more entertaining parts of the show in seasons 41 and 42 were the obscure phrases those who found the Beware Advantage had to blurt out in front of everyone at challenges in hopes that someone from the other tribe had found one too. It was funny for TV but man did that advantage really fuck over some people for a long time. Remember, once you have the Beware Advantage you can’t vote until you’ve done what the advantage says. In 43 the way to earn the advantage was much more attainable for players by not having to rely on the other two tribes. The collecting-everyone’s-beads version of this was far more tame but just as compelling for viewers as we got to see Cody, Karla, and Jeanine scramble and flex their ability to manipulate their tribes. Sure, it’s not as flashy but it felt more like old school Survivor which was nice. Hopefully they keep this more grounded version of the Beware Advantage, whether its with beads or something else, in the game moving forward.
  • Choose Your Champion – This was probably my favorite new twist in the game this past season. As a refresher, this gave one person the ability to bet on another to win immunity and if they were right they were immune too. It’s such a simple concept but watching Cody play it correctly (albeit in a challenge that was never technically finished) was great. Since the holder of this advantage doesn’t have to reveal who they picked until after the votes are read my one adjustment would be to either not tell to viewers who they gambled on or don’t make the person reveal their advantage at the challenge. Though he was technically immune, Cody essentially had immunity already because nobody wanted to vote for him on the chance we was right. Perhaps it’s a little too powerful but once future players learn how to play this advantage I think it should be around for a while.
  • Smaller Tribes – A lot of this is so dependent on who gets cast where but having three tribes at the beginning of the game really does make pre-game more interesting. Sure, we may get less attention with each individual tribe, sometimes not getting any screen time at all, which can lead to some disconnect among fans and players (ex. Erika) but giving players nowhere to hide makes for some solid moments. At the minimum I think each season consisting of entirely new players should follow this formula moving forward. Though one thing that fans need to bear in mind is that pre-merge favorites don’t always translate to strong post-merge players. (ex. Shan and Karla)
  • Firemaking Challenge – This one has been around for a while now and while highly controversial at first, still loathed by many, there’s no doubt that its led to some of the best moments of the last few seasons. Sure, it kept Jesse from going to the finals and walking away with a unanimous win but part of what makes the show so great is that the best players don’t always win. Rick Devens and Sarah Lacina may have deserved to win but the heartbreak that they didn’t is what keeps us coming back for me.

Gotta Go

The show does its best to keep us on our toes with new twists and turns. Its a huge part of why the show has lasted as long as it has. That being said, for every game changing twist that becomes commonplace on the show there’s its evil twin that can sour an entire season (looking at you Hour Glass Twist from 41 and 42.) Some of these just have to go.

  • Shot In The Dark – Kudos to Jeff and the production team for trying something new but it just doesn’t work. I believe its only been played four or five times in the past three seasons but the fact that the show puts so much emphasis on it it needs to actually work at some point. Perhaps 44 will be the first time we see someone pull it off but clearly the players haven’t embraced it so why should the viewers?
  • Knowledge is Power – Again, this is one that sounds better in theory than in practice. As we saw in 43, now that players are aware of its existence it leads to complete chaos as to who has what advantage as they’re being passed around constantly to throw off the their scent. Sure, this led to Jesse getting both of his idols in 43 and two of the biggest reveals of the season but the idea of Survivor is to desceive your way to a million dollars and being able to lose that advantage just because someone knows what you have feels pretty lame. Players who have it also need to stop telling others that they have it since it defeats the whole purpose.
  • Final Tribal Format – This is one where I just miss the good ol’ days. While I don’t think we need to go back to the Sue Hawk days I’d like to see them bring back the opening and closing statements from finalists and questions broken into Outwit, Outlast, and Outplay. The current format doesn’t give finalists the opportunity to control their own narrative and puts everyone on the defensive most of the time. One thing that Erika, Maryanne, and Gabler shared was that they didn’t play particularly aggressive games so those around them who did (Deshawn and Mike) were playing from their heels the whole time. Granted, Mike had an all-time bad Final Tribal performance, but still. It’s a perfect format for these players who like to sit in the middle.

New Twist Ideas

The possibilities are endless here but its still fun to think about what could be. Some of these are based on previous aspects of the game that I think could be enhanced.

  • Survivor Casino – I feel like I’m in the minority here but I’m bummed fire tokens from Winners at War never took off. Now the pandemic shutting production down may have had a little something to do with this but I truly believe that if players knew about fire tokens heading into a season it could completely alter how strategy plays out. Players could become voting mercenaries by exchanging tokens for votes. Expand the menu of what tokens can buy players and who knows what people would be willing to do. But with a Survivor Casino there’s endless possibilities on what powers fire tokens can give players. Include everything from Choose Your Champion to roulette and coconut craps. I would propose having someone from the losing tribe sent there by the winners similar to Ghost Island. Once we get to the merge I’d throw in the opportunity to go to the casino by giving whoever wins the reward challenge to either take their reward or go to the casino.
  • Advantage Nullifier – Certainly not the most creative idea but I think this could be an interesting twist on Knowledge is Power and idol nullifiers. The idea is that this advantage would give a player the ability to prevent another from using their advantage in real time and can be used at any moment. Someone plays an idol? Not so fast! You won an advantage in the challenge? Not so fast! You want to cast your extra vote? Too bad! It’s essentially knowledge is power but rather than forcing the person with the advantage to hand theirs over to another it wipes it from the game completely and keeps a level playing field. There’s a few logistics issues like how would one be able to play this to prevent an extra vote from being cast but I’ll leave that for the professionals to figure out.
  • Prisoner Exchange – Hear me out on this one because it’s a little out there. As a reward during pre-merge, one tribe gets to take one member of another tribe hostage. They pick the player, bring them back to their camp, then send a separate player from their original tribe to the hostage’s camp. They get to look around the camp, speak with the other tribe, and negotiate the hostage’s release. And everything is one the table. Food, supplies, advantages, players, whatever it takes to get that player back. Before a final offer is accepted or declined the negotiator heads back to their camp to discuss with their tribe. The decision is revealed at the immunity challenge and if no agreement is reached, the prisoner becomes an official member of their new tribe. Using this past season as an example, if this happened at 14 and Coco won the reward and elected to take Cody prisoner from Vesi, Cody would go back to Coco’s beach after the challenge. There Cody can interact with the tribe all he wants, exchanging whatever info he chooses depending on whether or not he wants to go back to his tribe. From there, Coco sends Karla to Vesi to negotiate Cody’s release. Knowing they need Cody in challenges, Vesi is adamant about getting him back. Karla knows this and asks for Dwight, their machete, flint, and the fishing gear Cody stole from them in the previous episode. Knowing that’s far too high a ransom, Vesi counters with the fishing gear and their flint in exchange for Cody. Karla heads back to camp, discusses with Coco, and at the next immunity challenge they reveal there’s no deal and that they’re keeping Cody. I think this would be awesome to watch as there’s so many variables to consider. Does the prisoner want to stay? What will they tell their new tribe? Does their tribe even want them back? Would the winning tribe offer one of their own players in exchange for keeping the stronger player? What happens to the hostage after the exchange? Now that I’m thinking about it I’m almost upset the show hasn’t done this yet.

Now I’m all revved up for Survivor again and I want to keep goign down this rabbit hole so next week I’ll be doing a piece on ideas for potential future season themes and players I’d like to see return. Ho boy March 1 can’t come soon enough.

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  1. I Miss Survivor: Part 2 – Too Much Popcorn

    […] week has passed and I’m fully embracing how pathetic it is how much I miss this show. Last week I went over some of the game’s new twists and advantages and even proposed some new ones. […]


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