Another Feature Article comes your way today this week all the way from Austin, Texas! Ozlet Clayton Shirley returns to bring you an article discussing the Survivor rituals of torch snuffing and Buff burning. In his article, Clay discusses why torches and Buffs are significant in Survivor, which of the two rituals are more difficult for contestants, which one he prefers and the emotional responses each offers. As always, we want to know your thoughts, so make sure you leave a comment at the bottom of the page!
The snuffed torch. It has been a staple of Survivor from the very beginning and undoubtedly always will be. It is the quintessential Survivor image. Even if someone has never watched an episode of Survivor in their life, chances are that they’re at least familiar with the torch snuffing. For years, having your torch snuffed meant utter finality. It meant you had been voted out, your time in the game was over, you’re done. However, once Survivor: Redemption Island came along, things changed. Having your torch snuffed no longer meant the end of your Survivor experience, but that you would have a chance to fight for your life and re-enter the game through Redemption Island. Naturally, the show needed something to replace the snuffing of the torch as a true act of finality that represented the end of one’s game once they had lost a Redemption Island Duel, (or “truel”, if you will). Thus came the burning of the Buff. Perhaps production came up with the idea by looking to Randy Bailey, who burned his Buff in the Tribal Council fire after being voted out in Heroes vs. Villains. Though Randy burned his Buff by choice, since then several contestants have been forced to burn their Buff as a way to signify the end of their game. This new way of sealing one’s fate has proved an appropriate, yet strangely personal solution.
In all of the seasons of Survivor, nearly every single contestant has had a torch. The contestants leave their torches around camp, not paying any attention to it until the time comes for Tribal Council, where they will carry it with them and place it behind them while Tribal Council takes place. Unless they are voted out, they take the torch back to camp where it sits until next time. The torch is very much a part of the game, but it ultimately acts as a piece of physical symbolism and not much else. People don’t typically take their torches with them nor do they tend to develop any kind of attachment to it. It is set decoration incorporated into the game. The torch is there to get snuffed and that’s about it.
The Buff is a different story. Like torches, Buffs have been around since the very beginning of Survivor and like torches, they have their own representational purpose. In this case, the purpose is to distinguish what tribe a contestant is on. Beyond that, the Buff had virtually no purpose other than to give contestants a stylish fashion accessory. Yet the Buff, unlike the torch, is a constant. While we may forget it, if we are looking at a contestant, we are also looking at a Buff. Whether it’s at camp, challenges or Tribal Council, the Buff is always there. In a way, the Buff is more representational of a contestant than their torch is; which could be why the burning of the Buff feels much more personal than the snuffing of the torch. We must remember that the Buff is not only a content for the viewer, but for the contestant as well. It means your part of the show. It means you’re on a tribe. It is a representation of your place in the game that you are wearing almost one hundred percent of the time. Naturally, all of this may lead to contestants developing an emotional connection with their Buff. When Kristina Kell was forced to burn her Buff in Redemption Island she even pleaded with Jeff Probst to let her keep it. To be a long time fan of Survivor, make it on the show, and then be forced to burn your Buff would unquestionably be very difficult, painful thing to do. For the vast majority of Survivor contestants, the Buff was the guaranteed souvenir, something you would always have as a reminder of your time on the island. With the inclusion of Redemption Island, the burning of the Buff becomes the last knife twist to the end of one’s Survivor game.
Ultimately, very few people are happy to leave the game of Survivor. You’re not likely to see a contestant more angry or stunned than when they have been voted out at Tribal Council. When someone loses at Redemption Island, the emotion you are most likely to see is sadness. Unlike Tribal Council, one’s survival at Redemption Island is completely in their hands. If they lose, it’s on them; their failure, their loss. Clearly, that can result in a much more emotional response than simply being voted out. Even Russell Hantz shed tears at Redemption Island arena. While I personally will always prefer Tribal Council to Redemption Island, Redemption Island does offer a completely different exit for contestants, one that is both physically and emotionally exhausting and ends with you being forced to discard your last physical reminder of the game into the flames. I imagine most of them would have preferred the torch.
What do you think is worse? Getting your torch snuffed or burning your Buff? Comment below to let us know!