Another Monday, another Feature Article coming your way! Today, Ozlet Jarrod Loobeek, takes a look at the importance a season’s location can have on the outcome of the game. Jarrod takes things like availability of food and shelter into account, as well as looking into the types of challenges certain locations use more than others in order to determine whether it plays a factor in how the game is played. Have an opinion on the debate? Why not leave it in a comment below!
When discussing Survivor, there are so many elements that are frequently cited as heavily impacting the game but one feature that can play a larger role than perhaps originally thought is each season’s location. It’s clear to even the casual viewer that although each location comes with its own pros and cons, certain places lend themselves better to survival than others. Factors like shelter availability, food accessibility and the weather can play a huge role in the tribe’s morale and individual player’s physical and mental health. Add in to the mix location specific challenges and twists and you’re left with a whole heap of questions and what if scenarios to mull over; would the boot order have been the same given a change in location? Would quitters still have left the game in an altered setting? Would the Sole Survivor still have won if it’d been held in a different place? What follows is a look at just some of the ways that a season’s location can impact the game.
Some seasons the castaways are gifted immediate shelter, whether natural like the caves used in Thailand and Fiji or man-made like the compounds in Africa and Gabon. These choices are dictated by the location and allow the players to conserve vital energy early in the game. By not having to make shelter, the work ethic of the castaways is not immediately clear and there’s less chance of confrontation between players from the get go. Given a different location or camp, players like Debb Eaton from The Australian Outback or Sylvia Kwan from Fiji may not have formed negative impressions so early in the game that contributed to their demise.
While not only having a major impact on castaway’s health, accessibility to food also plays a huge part in players progressing further in the game. One of the default roles from season one of Survivor is that of the provider. In coastal seasons in particular, players who can catch fish consistently can sometimes improve their worth to the tribe and increase the likelihood of making it far in the game. However, not all seasons lend themselves to a provider emerging and many inland locations don’t offer the chance to catch fish, instead restricting the Survivor’s diet to the staple food provided along with edible plants and fruit around the camp. Richard Hatch and Rupert Boneham are probably the two best known providers on the show and despite not being universally liked by their tribe mates, they both used the role of the provider to make it far in the game. Perhaps if these two players had appeared on an inland season like Africa they wouldn’t have gone on to the Survivor success they achieved.
Indubitably the biggest influence a location has on the game is the climate and the weather. While some destinations have searing heat, others have unrelenting rain and it’s these extremes that weigh heavily on morale and health. Locations with rainy or monsoon seasons have proven to be the most difficult for castaways and have led to a number of quits and medivacs. With constant rain the chances of infection are increased and Jonathan Penner and James Clement’s evacuations in Micronesia demonstrate the damage a small cut can do in the wrong environment. While most contestants can handle the starvation element of Survivor, maintaining a strong mental fortitude in difficult weather has proved to be more difficult. The rain and cold of Nicaragua was enough to force both NaOnka Mixon and Purple Kelly to quit the game, a low point that most people agree damaged the ending of the season. In a less wet location both NaOnka and Kelly may have been able to amass the strength to continue for the eleven days remaining in the game.
It’s quite obvious that the natural features and surroundings of a location play heavily on what type of challenges are featured in that season. In the Australia Outback we saw the landscape dictate the one-off cliff jump challenge while in Gabon we saw undulating hills influence many of the challenges. If a season is set on a tropical island, it’s highly likely there will be plenty of water based challenges while if a season takes place in an inland location, the majority of the challenges are going to be land based and focus on completely different skill sets.
Countless times throughout Survivor’s history we’ve seen challenge performance play a key role in whether players have stayed or been voted out. Certain players struggle at challenges full stop, while others tend to excel no matter the task. For some, it would seem a simple change in location could have either saved their skin or hindered them in the game. In Survivor: Caramoan, for Laura Alexander, despite showing strategic promise early in the game, she was targeted after some poor swimming performances in the challenges. On the flip side there’s players like Roger Bingham, whose swimming ability may have been a bigger liability in a coastal based season and resulted in an early boot. Would players like Ozzy Lusth or even dolphin trainer Ian Rosenberger from Palau have been as impressive in challenges if their respective seasons had taken place in an inland location without water based challenges?
Another key way in which the location can influence the game of Survivor is in the twists devised for each season. Many twists are already planned months in advance and would have been used regardless of setting. However, others are culturally specific and come off the back of location scouting. The Men vs. Women twist used in Survivor: Amazon and Vanuatu was reflective of the history and culture of each of the locations while the Outcast twist was reflective of the pirate lore of the Pearl Islands. Pearl Islands without the Outcast twist could have turned out a number of different ways while the Men vs. Women division of tribes can really hinder certain players games and force them to take a completely different approach to the game.
What does this mean for Survivor’s Future?
While this article has been filled with what if scenarios and conjecture, I still think the discussion of location and there impact on the game is valuable and important to Survivor’s future. From Heroes vs. Villains onwards, we’ve seen a similar tropical location used over and over again, with four back-to-back seasons now having been filmed in the Philippines. While these locations may provide a cheaper option for production and lend themselves to strategic game play, (given the availability of food and shelter), it has meant a heavy focus on twists to try and differentiate seasons. While seasons/twists like Blood vs. Water faired better than expected, the majority of these twists have fallen flat.
To keep things fresh, it’d be great to see Survivor move on to a different location that provides a completely new set of natural features and variables for the castaways to conquer. Before the catastrophic events of 9/11, the fourth season of Survivor was scheduled to take place in Jordan instead of the Marquesas. While a Middle Eastern based season doesn’t look like happening anytime soon, it’d be great to see Survivor go out on a limb and pick a unique location never experienced before. Given a brand new destination there wont need to be a whole range of gimmicky twists because the focus will once more be about the quest for survival in a foreign environment. A brand new setting will undoubtedly highlight different elements of the game, allow for new challenges to be developed and allow different types of players to thrive in the game. I for one would love to see an all-star season take place in an inland setting to see if it has any impact on how the game plays out. I’m sure an interesting location and culture could bring back many fans of the show who have stopped watching the show and reinvigorate many current viewers.
While it doesn’t change anything to dwell on how castaways would have progressed given a different setting, it’s important to note how big of an impact a season’s location can have on the game of Survivor. From the survival element of the show, to the type of challenges and twists, players are impacted by their location from Day One. While the tropical island setting seems to be a firm staple feature of the show at the moment, hopefully further down the track we see some unfamiliar locations used to shake things up and revitalise the show for a long and prosperous future.
Do you agree or disagree with Jarrod? Do locations play a role in determining the outcome of a season? Comment below to let us know!