Another Wednesday, means another Survivor Oz Top Ten is coming your way! This week, new Ozlet, Colin Hilding all the way from Winnipeg, Canada steps up to the plate to deliver you his first, (of many), articles. Your in luck to because this is the first of a two part top ten! This week, Colin discusses the top ten failed twists in the history of Survivor and next week, he’ll bring you the ten best. But what are the top ten failed twists? Well there have been plenty of different inclusions in the game of Survivor across it’s twenty-six season span, from Idols and Islands to Kidnaps and Rocks, nothing has been left out. Read on to see Colin’s list then comment below with your thoughts!
In twenty-six seasons of Survivor, there have been plenty of twists to the game. Some have been good, some have been bad, but all have been introduced with the same intent, to keep the game fresh and unpredictable. While everyone has their own opinion on what twists were entertaining, this list is focusing on the twists success in the game. Some were introduced with specific purposes that they failed on, while others may have been considered successes by producer’s standards, but in the end they failed to capture the appreciation of the audience.
10. One World – One World
Amazon and Vanuatu had already played with the ‘Men vs. Women’ format with much success. Recycling it again years later wasn’t going to add a lot of new drama, but putting both tribes together in the same living environment just might have. Based solely on the description, the One World twist seems like an interesting idea. There could have been a lot of potential for new levels of drama and competition. Rival tribes could now have an influence on each other’s votes. Deals could be made on both sides before a Merge. Teams could be forced to work together for mutual survival. Unfortunately none of this happened. The best entertainment we were provided with were some petty arguments over sharing Reward items. There’s no way this is what the producers were hoping for when they dreamt up One World. When a twist is introduced, and the entire season is named after it, you know they have high hopes. Clearly One World never lived up to these hopes.
9. Exile Island – Panama
Two season earlier in Palau, Survivor had toyed with the idea of stranding a single castaway on an island all by them self, but at the time it was only for a single night. For season twelve, the Exile Island twist would be the key focus of the entire season. One and sometimes two contestants would be stranded in every episode, with the added bonus of a Hidden Immunity Idol being buried on Exile Island. The main problem with Exile Island has always been the lack of drama that could ever appear on screen. When one person is by themselves for twenty-four hours, there’s nobody to talk to, and basically nothing to do. Basically you’re left with the search for the Idol. When the Idol was found so early in the season, the excitement was killed. What followed was absolutely nothing happening week after week, a few times with the person abandoned on Exile Island not even being featured on screen during their episode. When the season is promoted under the title of Exile Island, and Exile Island itself is left out of episodes entirely, I think it’s safely categorized as a disappointment.
8. The Outcasts – Pearl Islands
On Day Eighteen, after six castaway votes-offs, the biggest twist in the history of Survivor was revealed to the remaining Pearl Island players. All of the previously voted out castaways were still living on the island, and they were now eligible to be voted back into the game. There’s not much that can be said about the Outcast twist that hasn’t already been said. Despite the season’s popularity, it’s pretty much a general consensus that the Outcast twist was a failure, and cost more deserving players a better spot in the game. Even Jeff Probst has come in with heavy criticism towards The Outcasts. The twist may not have been so despised had the contestants been told about it before hand, or the Outcasts voted back in not been given immediate Immunity without truly earning it. The bigger controversy is whether or not the Outcasts truly were kept on limited food rations like the Morgan and Drake tribes. Even if they were, they never had to compete in a single challenge, and the Pearl Island challenges were gruelling. The odds were stacked in the Outcasts favour from the beginning.
7. Tribal Leaders – Samoa
The tribal leaders twist is one that is so insignificant to the overall game, that most forget it was even a part of the show to begin with. Right off the bat, Jeff Probst orders the tribes to elect one leader. Any Survivor fan knows that the unofficial leaders in past seasons almost always cause drama. Leaders are bossy and make bad judgement calls, which alienate them from the tribe. Leaders are democratic and make good judgment calls, which cause some tribe members to feel threatened. Power struggles ensue, etc, etc. For whatever reason, nothing dramatic came of this twist. From what we saw on television, the leaders only ever assigned duties in challenges and selected observers to travel to the rival’s camps. Furthermore, there were never any leader shake-ups, as the twist was kind of designed for. The leaders selected at the start of the game kept their role all the way to the Merge, with the exception of one medical evacuation. Considering how irrelevant this twist ended up being, it’s a mystery why it was even shown on air. It would have been easy to edit the twist out without changing the overall storyline of Samoa
6. Four Tribe Divide – Panama
Season twelve of Panama began the era of gimmicks in Survivor. The first twist wasn’t Exile Island, but the unexpected division of the sixteen castaways into four tribes of four members. This twist was so successful that it lasted a whopping three days! That’s right, the four tribe format was abandoned after only a single episode. It’s hard to imagine how it could have even worked on paper. Having to follow four tribes instead of two meant the amount of screen time spent in each camp was cut in half, and the opportunities for dramatic personal interactions was cut in half as well, since any contestant only had three people to play off of instead of seven or eight. In early episodes, before characters had been established, Survivor’s success is very dependent on personal conflict. Better seasons have shown us that you need a bare minimum of six members to make this work. While the idea of separating the tribes by both age and gender was very interesting, it was not going to work with such small tribes
5. Giving Away Immunity – Marquesas
In a long list of Survivor, no twist was more irrelevant than the change to Individual Immunity that came in Marquesas. For the first time ever, the person who won Individual Immunity had the option to assign their Immunity to someone else. Of course this would make them completely vulnerable, which is why nobody bothered to do it for close to three seasons. The fact is it wasn’t until six years later in Micronesia that the twist provided any drama whatsoever. In Marquesas it was seven straight weeks of asking and refusing. The real issue with this twist isn’t that nobody utilised it, it’s that the audience was reminded of the twist every week when it clearly was never going to come into play. On screen, no player even considered using it, so why bother to include it in the show in the first place?
4. The Purple Rock – Marquesas
Throughout Australian Outback and Africa, tied votes were not only becoming common, but it was becoming too easy to manipulate the voting system in the event of a tie. A new twist needed to be introduced in the event of a tie to prevent the game from becoming predictable. In Marquesas, we were introduced to the purple rock. In the event of a deadlocked vote, everyone in the tribe, except for the one with Immunity, would draw a rock from a bag. Whoever drew the purple rock would be eliminated, whether they had received votes that night or not. Of course the only time in Survivor history it has even come into to play was the first time, in the Final Four of Marquesas. And as luck would have it, the one to draw the purple rock did not receive any votes and was the one eliminated. It should be noted that unlike most Survivor twists, the idea of the purple rock is to discourage contestants from ever using it. This was never meant to be a game changing twist like the Outcasts. The threat of a purple rock elimination is meant to force tribes to come to a proper decision at Tribal, and in that sense it could be considered a success, but there is a very good reason why in all the years since no tribe has ever pushed a purple rock elimination. It’s a terrible way to exit the game, and a huge risk for everyone on the tribe. It’s also guaranteed to frustrate the contestants and fans, which is exactly what happened in Marquesas.
3. The Medallion of Power – Nicaragua
Like the ‘Men vs. Women’ twist from Amazon, Nicaragua was relying on a clear tribal division as the primary gimmick of the season. They chose a tribal division along age lines, with one tribe consisting of players thirty and under, and the other made up of players forty and over. There was so little faith that a group of forty and older players would have a prayer of winning challenges, that they introduced the ridiculous Medallion of Power, which would give one tribe an advantage in each challenge if they chose to use it. Obviously this was the only way old people would be able to win in such physically demanding challenges such as “bounce a ball into a barrel” and “toss the bean bag” not to mention the brutal “guide the blindfolded person”. The challenges were never physically demanding in the first place, and even when it was used, the medallion never really gave enough of an advantage to make a difference, so why have it in the first place? The other question one needs to ask is if the medallion’s purpose was to even the odds between the old and young, how does it help when the young tribe spends just as much time in possession of this advantage? As soon as the Tribal Switch occurred on Day Twelve, the Medallion of Power was retired, and thankfully has never been used since.
2. Have vs. Have Not’s – Fiji
Seasons twelve to fourteen were filled with a series of experimental twists that were intended to reinvent the game and keep things fresh. Perhaps none of these twists failed more than the Have vs. Have Not’s concept of Fiji. On Day One, the castaways were all placed together on one beach and given every provision imaginable. Once a perfect camp had been built, they were divided into tribes. The first challenge decided which tribe would keep the perfect “luxury camp” and which tribe would be forced to rough it, you know, kind of like a Survivor is supposed to. The result was obvious to everyone except for the producers. The “have” tribe ended up steamrolling over the “have not” tribe in almost every single challenge. The Moto tribe had a perfect shelter, cookware, plates and cutlery, a hammock, and a cushioned couch. The Ravu tribe had one machete and a very angry man named Rocky. The trend of rich domination continued even after the players were switched up in a Tribe Switch. Who would have thought that a group of pampered players would end up with such an advantage over their cold, poorly sheltered, starved competition? Boo Bernis said it best during episode three when he uttered the words “It’s not even survival, its thrival”. It’s also not even entertainment; it’s just plain boring to watch.
1. Redemption Island – Redemption Island
So everyone hated The Outcasts in Pearl Islands, right? How could they possibly take the same failure and make it last twice as long, and be twice as boring? Introduce the game changing twist of Redemption Island of course! When you’re voted out, you go to an isolated island and wait for the next person to be voted out. Then you compete in a scaled down, really dull challenge called a “duel”, and the winner stays alive for at least one more episode. Repeat the process until the winning player eventually re-enters the game, only to be voted out immediately afterwards. Repeat the process with even more people participating in equally scaled down, really dull challenges until another player re-enters the game. Sometimes the same eliminated contestant could even be voted back in twice, only to be voted out twice again. Considering players are usually voted out for a good reason, this was how it was always going to play out. The twist was not only a waste of time from a game standpoint, but the most air time of the season would end up going to people who were fairly eliminated in the opening episodes, robbing us of a real opportunity to get to know a lot of the characters of the season. In reality, it wasn’t just the overuse of Boston Rob throughout the season that has lead to the poor development of this season’s cast; it was the overuse of the Redemption Island players. With the twist’s failure in the game, and a near unanimous negative reaction from fans, the only logical choice was to bring the twist back for a second season, without a single change made to the format. Jeff Probst has been quoted as saying that the twist may come back in the future, (clearly due to the overwhelming fan support for Redemption Island and South Pacific as seasons).
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!