Another Monday means another feature article and today our resident Kiwi expert Nick Chester sits down to analyse why the One World twist should return for another season. Having all contestants living on the same beach certainly made for some interesting viewing during the 24th season, but given the season is often considered in the bottom 10 best seasons was it a fair representation of what actually can be done with such a unique twist? It’s time to put your thinking caps on and get to reading!
When I sat down to write this piece, it began with a critique of Survivor production decisions, particularly about bringing Redemption Island back on a frequent basis. The news has come through that Season 29 will actually NOT feature Redemption Island, a move I am very pleased about. However, the fact it was on the table and changed only at the last minute speaks to the fact that production like it, and would consider bringing it back. Whilst Blood vs. Water can also be considered a success, the rush to bring it back for a second season also surprises me. The cast of Season 27 was stellar and hopefully the lesson learned was not necessarily what a great concept it was in itself, but the importance of casting players who want to win, and will actively play in a manner that helps them achieve this. Both cast and twist need to work together, and whilst a good cast can make a great season, a good twist or concept in itself doesn’t guarantee an interesting show.
Which brings me nicely to the One World twist. I feel the concept deserves another shot (and could actually work very well on a Blood vs. Water season). Season 24 is not highly regarded, and with good reason. It has some good moments and watching Kim dominate is impressive, if not wholly entertaining. The failure of the season can be placed in many directions, but the general One World concept is not one of them. The idea of having both tribes live on one beach is a very good one and it would be a shame if this wasn’t attempted again because its first incarnation was less than entertaining.
Season 24 suffered more because of the cast, not the twist.
The concept in itself is filled with so many strategic and social possibilities, but it needs people prepared to talk to the enemy and see past the short term desire to weaken your opponents. A smart player could put in place a cross-tribe alliance early in the game and influence both sides to get what they wanted. Of course, this would take careful management and this could make for some pretty interesting TV. In short, the cast of Survivor: One World was the problem, not the concept. On first glance it looks like the producers picked a bunch of good looking single people, pinning their hopes on the men and women being naturally drawn to each other but this never happened. Also a series of unfortunate events in the first episode set the two tribes against each other in a way that meant there was never really any chance they would be talking and strategizing with each other.
One World should be tried again, and here are a few ideas to help make it work a little better:
Start with a cast full of good players
I don’t agree that Kim only won because she was playing against a bunch of idiots. I personally believe she played so well she made them look like idiots. But there were a number of good players out there, like Chelsea, Sabrina, Alicia, Troyzan and Colton. They understood how to play Survivor but had clear deficiencies in their game that Kim took full advantage of. But it has to be said that some players had no idea what they were doing and therefore made the show uninteresting due to their inability to make moves. If the cast of either season 27 or 28 were put in a One World scenario, you can be sure things would not have been so boring. the likes of Tony, Spencer, Hayden, Kass, Vytas, Tyson, Gervase, Tasha, Ciera and Tina are not going to let the opportunities that a One World setup gives them. Neither of these seasons were completely made up of game players, but having a majority of people who know how to play and will make the most of the twists and opportunities presented to them will ultimately be more interesting than if there are only a couple of players.
Don’t separate the tribes by gender.
The divide by men and women was done in part to help differentiate the two tribes during camp scenes and this seemed to make a lot of sense. The downside is that it creates a very natural rivalry. The One World concept doesn’t work so well when the tribes refuse to work together. This of course wasn’t helped by Michael stealing the women’s supplies and then the fight over chickens on day 1. A natural rivalry became entrenched and any chance of mingling or flirting went out the window. The concept would probably work better if the tribes were divided normally. Naturally, some of the players would be drawn to the other tribe and people they liked on it. Any visual issues with not knowing who was on what tribe could easily be solved by clothing each tribe in a distinctive colour (which often happens in current seasons anyway). Once viewers get to know the players, this problem solves itself anyway. Splitting the tribes by gender was incredibly risky – if it had paid off, it would have made for fantastic TV. But there was a high likelihood that the exact scenario that played out would happen.
Tribes split by gender in a One World setup might not work as well as expected.
Create reasons to make the tribes work together
Survivor: One World began with a truck raid, and players squabbling over supplies. Manufacturing this type of conflict should be avoided as it only leads to short term entertainment and builds a divide between the tribes. Instead, provide one tribe with a tarp (and make it a big one), and the other with a flint. Cooperation and bartering should be a mutually beneficial arrangement, which encourages players to work with their opponents. Likewise, ditch tribal reward challenges and make them one group challenge – where the tribes have to complete a task in a set time by working together and receive a shared reward – this means there is benefit in keeping the opposing tribe strong, rather than weakening them by denying them a luxury you have. I didn’t even hate the “do it yourself” challenge concept, but again this wasn’t handled all that well and could be made more interesting.
Replace idols with pre merge individual immunity
The original plan in One World with the hidden immunity idols seems to be that by having to hand them to someone on the other tribe, you would build bridges with those players. This didn’t really work in practise as there was only one time this happened. Perhaps a better way is to not have hidden immunity idols, at least until after the merge and replace them with individual immunity, voted on by the tribe that wins tribal immunity. This means there is a constant need to talk to the other tribe and build good connections. Smart players could use it to build long term alliances, and keep their allies around even when they didn’t go to tribal council. This would have both strategic and social benefits, and make for pretty interesting viewing.
Shake the tribes up, and often
One season I think is really underrated is Survivor: Gabon. In large part, this is because tribal dynamics were constantly shaken up. The tribes were shuffled early and then again when the players expected a merge. One of the benefits of having two tribes on one beach is that there is no hurry to merge them – everyone knows everyone so you don’t need to merge before the jury phase. One problem with season 24 is that the actual “One World” portion of the game only lasts 4 episodes – and this first phase of the game was arguably the most interesting to watch. Once we as viewers have a few episodes to know the players and emerging alliances, have a tribal shake up. When only 12 players are left, instead of merging, have a second shake up. Merge at 10. Keep things unpredictable. And don’t send one tribe to a new beach. This completely negates the point of the season. Old allies now on different tribes should be able to still talk and compare notes – it also makes tribal politics more interesting as you don’t want to display your allegiances too clearly.
Lots of tribal shake ups – like in Gabon – would help.
Or have no tribes at all?
A potentially game changing idea, although admittedly it could be confusing for viewers. The game has no tribes at all, and teams are drafted by a school yard pick at each challenge. The losing team goes to tribal council. This has huge strategic and social implications and means the dynamic is forever changing. Large alliances would need to be built, which would be hard to maintain. It also means no one is safe just for being a physical asset in challenges, as there is no guarantee this will benefit you every week. The first few weeks would be hard work for viewers, as it is harder to identify people without a tribe to put them in, but the payoff in terms of interesting TV is potentially massive. This would be a risky season, but could be well worth it.
What if there are no tribes?
Use it in an All Stars Game
Perhaps the best use of the twist is with players who all know each other prior to the game. It means there are no limits on who you can scheme with and it could really ramp up the chaos already present. This could be especially interesting if players have former allies from previous seasons on the other tribe, but on the same beach. As stated earlier, it’s also a twist that would work very well with a Blood vs. Water season, or a Fans vs. Favourites season. The intermingling of players from various tribes would work better in these seasons as fans/family members wouldn’t be able to resist talking to the opposing tribe
So here’s hoping the One World idea isn’t completely dead and buried. I can certainly understand producer’s reluctance to try it again, given things didn’t work so well last time. But one bad experience shouldn’t put them off forever. As can be seen in some of the suggestions above, the idea is really good and should be given a second chance. It’s no medallion of power – it has huge potential if used correctly and with a cast that can see its benefits. Fingers crossed that one day, One World will be back.
Do you agree or disagree with Nick? Would you like to see the One World twist return? Comment below to let us know!