Monday has rolled around once again and with it comes another new Survivor Oz Feature Article! This week, we continue the Blood vs. Water theme, as Canadian Ozlet, Colin Hilding, backs up a minor point from last weeks article and explains why the Blood vs. Water twist would work much better with all “newbies”. Colin explains how new players would mean hidden connections, that loved one’s wouldn’t just play the game because they are paired with a returnee and how it would change the game strategically. Don’t forget to get involved in the conversation by leaving your thought’s on Colin's article below!
Ten years ago, just as Survivor: All-Stars was ready to air, I had a discussion with my brother about possible twists that Survivor could use in the future to keep the game fresh. During that conversation I thought about the idea of a cast made up of two tribes, where each person would have a spouse, relative or friend in the game with them. Now years later, that concept has finally been introduced in Blood vs. Water. Even though I long ago thought this concept was intriguing, I will admit to being one of the many, if not majority of fans who were extremely skeptical about the twist working. My skepticism surrounding the season was not because of the loved ones twist, but more because of all of the additional twists that were thrown into the season with it, as well as the overuse of returning players. I can admit now that Blood vs. Water has turned out to be a pleasant surprise, somehow managing to feel more like a classic season than Survivor has in years. While many of the twists, such as the Hidden Immunity Idol, Redemption Island and Day Zero still don’t completely work, in my opinion having players in the game with loved ones has made the season more interesting, and shaken up the game in a new way.
In a recent interview with Dalton Ross on Entertainment Weekly Radio, Jeff Probst discussed Blood vs. Water and confirmed that the Blood vs. Water twist will definitely return in the future. Jeff mentions in that interview that they are already experimenting with casting ideas, and debating whether the concept needs returning players to work, or whether it could be done just as well with all new players. The worry with new player is that the audience would have a hard enough time keeping track of a new batch of characters, let along having to remember who was married to who, who was related to who, etc. In my personal opinion, the Blood vs. Water twist not only would work even better with all new players, but also is by far the better choice for the format. Some of the reasons why I believe this is the case are:
TWISTS WON’T BE AS NECESSARY
It is now common knowledge that the Redemption Island twist came into the game to give the returning players a better chance. The ease in which Hidden Immunity Idols are found, particularly in returning player seasons, probably comes down to the same planning. The fact is, when returning players are mixed with new players, there is way too much paranoia surrounding the elimination of returnees, thus we end up with twist after twist after twist that are designed specifically for them. As good as Blood vs. Water was, it was in part due to the contestants’ refusal to go along with some of the twists, especially the Hidden Immunity Idol. Imagine how cluttered the season would have been if we had to deal with twenty-five percent of the time on Redemption Island, and then another twenty-five percent of the time on finding Hidden Immunity Idols, then the recirculation of Idols week after week. The fact that we were finally given a season where the Hidden Idols had less screen time than half the cast is only because the players refused to go along with it anymore. Idols have their place in the game, but will be there regardless. However, if new players continue to be mixed with returning players, I fear one day Probst will be offering the Reward of the clue to the clue to the buried box that contains the map to the island that’s actually a clearing in the middle of the jungle that contains the Hidden Immunity Idol.
New players would mean less twists.
That of course leaves Redemption Island, which I almost hate to say kind of worked this season. I say kind of because it added some drama with the option to switch places. Although Rupert was the only one who did it, (and it’s highly unlikely any future player in their right mind would switch), it left some suspense open every week. It also added some interesting interaction between the tribes and made the exits more emotional than they had been in the past. The problem is, post-merge, Redemption Island didn’t, and probably never will, work as a twist. As the playing field becomes narrower and narrower, pairs are eliminated and Redemption Island will always be plagued with the same issues it entered with in season twenty-two. Plain and simple, new players always means a simpler and purer game.
MORE CASTING CHOICES
Thousands of people audition for Survivor each season. (Note: Photo not actual image of auditions).
There have been many standout characters this year among the newbies; particularly Ciera and Vytas. Even as much as people hate on him now, there’s no doubt that Brad Culpepper provided some great drama early in the season. Unfortunately, there were a lot of invisible characters this season among the loved ones. Without naming names, many of the newbies were kind of after thoughts in casting, picked solely because the producers wanted bigger returning players to come back and the twist called for someone to be brought along with them. Even though there are hundreds of returning players to pick from, many either don’t want to come back again, or simply can’t commit to the filming dates. Any season of Survivor can result in thousands upon thousands of new applicants. Especially after so many years with limited spots for new players, there are without a doubt an even larger number of applicants who would be great for the show. That’s not to say that we won’t end up with some duds on an all newbie season. The fact is, either due to editing or poor performance, every season has its duds, but in my opinion, at least we can be sure that the people are being cast solely for their own potential and not because the show needed their more entertaining loved ones.
This is by far the best argument to make for an all-new player version of Blood vs. Water. While the concept for the twist calls for each player to be in the game with a loved one, there’s no reason why the players have to make their connections known in the game. Imagine if Rupert and Laura Boneham weren’t already well known in the Survivor community. If it had been Rupert’s first time playing and nobody else on the island knew who he was playing with; would Laura have been targeted so quickly? Even better, imagine how much more dramatic Rupert’s sacrifice would have been when he took Laura’s place. Players would have been learning for the first time that these two players had a connection. You can also take the targeting of Rachel as an example. She was picked off because her tribe wanted to try and draw out Tyson. Imagine the drama if a tribe voted someone out assuming they knew who the loved one was on the other tribe and happened to get it wrong. What if the plan to get to Tyson came down to the incorrect assumption that Ciera was actually playing as his partner instead? Now you have people being voted out for the wrong reason. What I always believed would work about the Blood vs. Water twist is how it would force new strategies to be considered and played. The possibilities are endless if this were to be done with new players. Without knowing who was playing with whom, players would be over analyzing, seeing family resemblances where there may not be any, picking apart every casual look or spoken word at challenges.
Image if you didn’t know who was related to who!
Although the entire concept of Blood vs. Water was intended to change things up with the game, particularly forcing alliances to remain more neutral, the exact opposite ended up happening. By the end of the season, the unbreakable alliance that the twist was intended to do away with is what it came down to. The Tyson, Monica and Gervase alliance was formed out of necessity when all of their loved ones were eliminated early. In fact, with the exception of Katie and Tina, every single pair had been separated by the Merge, which was absolutely the right strategy to play the game, but clearly backfired on the intended purpose of the twist. There is no way that CBS and the producers brought in the Blood vs. Water twist knowing that all pairs would be eliminated half way through the game. In reality, it is the best strategy to split everyone up and even the odds, so the players should be applauded for their game. The show runners however failed in their attempt to entirely change the way the strategies were played. Pairs in the open cannot make it to the Merge together. As many times as the show tries the twist, there’s no way any players, new or experienced, will allow that to happen. The one remedy is to keep the pairs anonymous for as long as possible. As I said, the possibilities for strategies, good and bad are endless under this scenario.
Although a pure season of Survivor, with new players, without twists, gimmicks or celebrity casting would still be my ideal scenario for upcoming seasons, there is no doubt that the Blood vs. Water twist will return. Chances are the format will be worked into a cycle on a semi regular basis along with a Fans vs. Favourite season and pure All-Stars seasons. If the format is brought back, I hope that CBS, Burnett, Probst and all involved give it a chance with new players, as I believe this is the key to making the format work.
Do you or agree or disagree with Colin that the Blood vs. Water twist would work better with newbies? Comment below and let us know!