In Defence of Exile Island


Monday is here which of course means that feature you have been looking for is here to read! Our resident sheep loving kiwi Ozlet Nick Chester is back doing what he does best and debating the hot topics of the show you love, as this week he takes a look at the twist known as Exile Island, and tells you why he feels it’s time to look forward to it rather than be against it! Need your mind changed? Click below to read more!

With the cast reveal for Survivor 29 came confirmation that Exile Island is returning after an 11 season hiatus. Since its last appearance, a lot has changed and I think a few eyebrows were raised at the return of what seems like a redundant idea now. For whatever reason, we seem to be getting recycled twists quite frequently now, following on from the Tyler Perry idol last season, we have Blood vs. Water and Exile Island back in play. Exile Island is an odd twist in that a large part of it is about the survival in the wilderness element of the show that has become more redundant as strategy takes centre stage. However, used correctly, Exile Island has a lot of potential. It hasn’t worked to great effect yet, except in some unusual circumstances, so here’s hoping things will change. So here is a very brief rundown of the highs and lows of Exile Island, along with an outline on how things appear to be planned for this coming season. And a few ideas that could potentially make Exile Island and interesting permanent edition to the game going forwards.

Exile Island –a brief history


It seems the idea of Exile Island was born out of Janu’s night alone in Palau. Following the introduction of the hidden immunity idol in Guatemala, the combination of these two seemed a great way to theme a season, and Survivor: Panama was based around Exile Island to a large degree. Players were left alone to fend for themselves, with the only comfort being a clue to the hidden immunity idol. The first couple of versions of this twist didn’t work as well as could be hoped, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it turns out watching one person live alone is generally pretty boring. Most times they will say it’s hard, maybe make a fire…and that’s about it. Once it became clear that Terry and Yul had the idols in their seasons, there was also no reason at all to watch Exile Island, knowing the person wouldn’t find it. The second reason it didn’t work all that well is that to limit the possibility of many people having the idol, tribes generally stuck to sending the same people to Exile Island over and over again. Gabon was a good example of this, and watching Sugar go again and again was uninteresting TV. In Fiji, the idol was harder to find at it wasn’t clear who had them until after the merge, making Exile Island somewhat more worthwhile. Micronesia and Tocantins both used a setup that has some good possibilities, which was to send multiple people to Exile together. This allowed fans and favourites to begin to interact in Micronesia, although this evolved in Tocantins as exiles started to think strategically, forming the “Exile Alliance”. Although this ultimately didn’t pan out, the idea of using bonds formed across different tribes at Exile certainly has merit and could lead to some interesting strategic possibilities.

Its easy to write Exile Island off as pretty boring but it actually has had some pretty cool moments, and even a bit of character development at times. One of Survivor’s funniest and most iconic moments is Coach’s trip to Exile during Tocantins. Of course we also had the fake idol debacle in Micronesia, and Bob making his fake idol as well in Gabon. I still love Dan wandering around unable to find the first clue in Gabon and Earl being a badass and killing snakes in Fiji. So it hasn’t been all great TV, but it has still served up a few classic moments that make it worthy of further use.


Exile Island gave us this moment. That makes it worthwhile.

Exile vs. Redemption


Of course, the background to this twist returning is that it is in place of the planned Redemption Island. In Blood vs. Water 1, Redemption Island was brought back, much to fans dismay but was almost universally viewed as the most successful iteration of this particular twist. I would say this is damning the twist with very faint praise. Redemption Island ultimately messes with the foundation of the show – that people have to survive the vote, and don’t come back when they are voted out. Redemption Island, especially in the second half of the game allows players to bypass the section where they vote people out who eventually become jurors. Jeff’s speech at the start of final tribal council usually begins with “now you have to ask a group of people you have had a hand in voting out to vote for you to win”. If someone who came back from RI was in the finals, they could theoretically have not had to do much of this at all. Just because it gave the game a more emotional edge in Season 27 is no reason to have it completely mess with the fabric of the game. I think there are ways to have this emotion in a BvW season without having to have Redemption Island so I’m very pleased to see it gone. My idea to have the winning tribe be spectators at tribal council gives Blood vs. Water season the raw emotion of seeing your loved one go home without messing with the game. It’s a shame they aren’t doing this. I think it also makes a blindside even more brutal, and given how much Jeff loves blindsides, I think he would love this idea. Seeing Brad Culpepper’s eventual end in the game drawn out through Redemption Island was to me no fun at all – imagine how much better this would have been as Caleb reveals he is going to vote for him, with Monica watching on in horror as it becomes apparent that Brad is in real trouble. Way better than Redemption Island. And as for Blood vs. Water serving up some “epic” moments at Redemption Island – people yelling at each other and flipping the bird is entertaining but not exactly epic or restricted to Redemption Island.

So how is this going to work?


From what I understand, the “duel” element of Redemption Island will remain with loved ones taking each other on in Reward Challenges. This in itself is a plus as I have never thought much of reward challenges – they are just filler and don’t end up adding much to the game. This idea seems to make them more interesting right off the bat. Players will have to beat their loved one for the good of their tribe, which will make for either some emotional moments or epic match ups. Either way, it should be good TV. The winner will then get to send a player from each tribe to Exile Island. Again, this is good. Multiple people makes Exile better. There will be a clue to the idol, which is located back at camp. Once again, this is great – the idol should be available to everyone, but made easier to find through clues. What makes this Exile different is that it seems at least on paper that an individual will be deciding who goes, not the tribe. This could mean that a dominant alliance doesn’t always have control of the situation, and outliers could find they have power, at least in a fleetingly. I think the best parts of Exile have been used here, and its more boring aspects are minimised.

Making Exile work

So how can Exile be made to work? Well, I think how it looks like it will be done in San Juan del Sur seems to be good of resulting in interesting game play, and entertaining TV. I think firstly, you have to send multiple people there. Watching one person make fire and sit in the rain is not good TV for more than about 10 seconds. But having multiple people allows for cross-tribe alliances and strategically sending people who will work with your allies. People could send the loves ones of their allies in the hope of forming wider relationships as times goes on.


Sending multiple people to Exile makes for better strategy and more entertaining TV

I also think Exile Island should have the same rules as sitting out challenges – no one can go there twice in a row. This just ensures the same people don’t go over and over, and allows the idol to be found by several people, which has to be good for the game. I also think the idea of giving the idol and expiry date (and then being put back into circulation) keeps Exile Island relevant, so once it’s found you don’t just spend the rest of the game sending people there with no purpose. Or, for those who don’t like lots of idols, end Exile at the merge, regardless on if the idol has been found or not. If it’s a twist that is designed to get interaction between the two tribes, it is only needed until the merge. Something that I think would have worked well in a Blood vs. Water season is to run Exile Island the way it was done in China – the person is exiled back to the winning tribe for 24 hours, and has to give a clue to the idol to someone on that tribe. This made for some pretty interesting interactions in China, and given the loved ones dynamic, could have been good here too.

So can Exile Island make the most of its reprieve from the Survivor Twist scrapheap and make for interesting TV in this coming season? I think so, but a lot ultimately depends on the players themselves and how they use it. I hope it works at least as well as Redemption Island, thus making it a viable option to get rid of that horrendous twist once and for all. Exile Island can get boring really quickly, and hopefully the way it has been set up will minimise this as much as possible. And if not, I think there are ways it could be utilised in the future to make it a viable option for good TV. Only time will tell, but I for one (and maybe the only one) am very intrigued to see where it leads.

What do you think of Exile Island? Are you looking forward to seeing it return? Comment below to let us know your list!



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4 Comments on In Defence of Exile Island

  1. I think the winner of the Reward can only choose one person from his/her tribe and that person would be joining his/her loved one since he/she lost the challenge. So you’re not only winning reward but you’re sending your loved one to Exile

    With that said, the strategy of “People could send the loves ones of their allies in the hope of forming wider relationships as times goes on” does not apply in this case

    • Hi there, sorry yes thats what I meant but worded it badly. I think than point is still.valid- it allows your loved one to know who your allies are and they can use this to build further connections on their tribe. My apologies for my lack of clarity. Nick.

  2. Nick, you made a small mistake, China never used Exile Island, it being the only season during the Exile Island period (Panama to Tocantins to be clear) to not use the twist. The twist you’re referring to from China was the kidnapping twist, a completely separate twist from Exile Island used during the season. The way the twist worked, where the winning tribe in a reward challenge kidnapped one person from the losing tribe, was the reason it was only used pre-merge.

    • Hey Tyler…see comment above. Same issue -i just worded it badly. I like how the “exile” worked in China- with the island replaced with the other tribes camp. Great way to get inter-tribe dynamics going.

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