The Cons Of The Blood vs Water Format

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Another Monday means another feature as we give you a bit of a run down on some topics in the next few weeks related to the Blood vs Water format and the two Blood vs Water seasons. First up this week your favourite Canadian Ozlet Colin Hilding sits down and gives you the cons of such a format for Survivor and some suggestions on how things should change should the Blood vs Water twist return for a third time. As always we want to hear your thoughts! So read on and let us know below what you think! Click for more!

We have now seen the Blood vs Water format on two of the most recent three seasons of Survivor. Although the seasons played out very differently, some consistencies have developed both on the positive and negative sides. My personal opinion is that the format could continue going forward, but it will need some serious tweaking, and certainly not as often as once a year. While I will be looking at some of the negatives that have developed over the two seasons, I want to be clear that I am not judging the seasons as a whole. I feel Blood vs Water 1 played was an entertaining season, and Blood vs Water 2 definitely picked up near the end. After close analysis of the individual seasons, and how the format worked for and against it, I’ve come to the conclusion that the strengths of Blood vs Water seasons occurred despite the elaborate twist itself. The issues I see are based solely on how the format itself will struggle going forward.

The biggest issue with Blood vs Water is the idea that loved ones could play together in the game. It’s an interesting idea, and there could always be another Ciera and Laura situation, but almost guaranteed the vast majority of loved ones will stick together as an unbreakable alliance. When you look at the pairs who had a chance to play together in the past it’s easy to see why this becomes an issue for the show.

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Take the pair of Josh and Reed from San Juan Del Sur. When they were on opposing sides before the tribe swap, Josh was arguably the biggest player on the show. He was playing the game as hard as he possibly could, and it made for great television. As soon as he and Reed were paired up again it’s almost as if Josh had fallen asleep right in front of the viewers’ eyes. I see a few reasons why this happened. First of all, Josh was now with Reed in an unbreakable alliance. Neither had any doubt that they would remain loyal. Survivor is a game built around the isolation and paranoia of the players in the game. Josh had no need to scramble as much as he did before. Worst case scenario he was in a minority but had an easy extra vote. Best case scenario he had an ally to do half of the work for him. It’s no wonder Josh suddenly became boring to watch. He could spend less time making allies, scrambling and pleading his case when it came to strategy. The fact is no player in the game with a loved one will need to play as hard as they would on their own. You could have 4 strangers in a solid alliance and not feel as comfortable as having one loved one from home in the game with you. That gives a player far too much security to make them an interesting character to watch.

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Reed may be an even better example of this than Josh. Pre merge he was possibly the most insignificant character on the show. Sure he was on his own, but never in jeopardy. Nothing changed when he and Josh were paired up again, but as soon as Josh was out of the picture, Reed started to scramble and fight harder than anyone else in the game. He focused every ounce of his energy on the game, and would try any strategy he could to move himself forward. With the comfort and security of playing with Josh, Reed was as dull as they come. The second that security of a partner was taken away, Reed become one of the biggest scramblers and most entertaining players I’ve seen in years.

You don’t need to look at a Blood vs Water season to know that having unbreakable alliances makes for a boring game. Look only at seasons like Redemption Island for proof. If there’s no jeopardy of an alliance cracking, the show becomes predictable and boring. While some may debate that the Ciera and Laura vote proves loved ones will turn on each other, that only happened once, and there’s no guarantee it would happen again.

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So is there an adjustment that can be made in the game to force more conflict among loved ones? The remedy for this issue won’t be in forcing pairs to dual in a “Hero Arena”, but in the casting of the pairs. The only way to avoid players becoming too secure once reunited is to pick pairs that are already at odds, like siblings who had a falling out, or an estranged parent and child combo. However unless the entire season is made up of such pairs, even siblings who can’t stand each other would consider aligning simply to survive elimination from the tighter pairs.

No matter who you put into future editions or how the game transpires, it’s certain that many of the pairs will be split by the time a merge even comes. If the merge comes and you mostly have individual players left, it simply becomes a regular season of Survivor. The hoped for drama of loved ones either working together or turning on each other will never have the chance of occurring. San Juan Del Sur had more pairs make the merge than the previous edition did, with 2/3 of the merge players being with a loved one. I’d argue that even with so many pairs playing together we still never saw anything different from a regular season of Survivor. In the end there were a few scenes of Jon and Jaclyn arguing over whose idea for a vote out was a better option. While it was interesting to see how a couple handled a disagreement like this as opposed to two strangers in an alliance, I don’t think it really brought anything radically entertaining compared to past seasons. And keep in mind that for the drama we had with Jon and Jaclyn, or Ciera and Laura the first time around, the majority of the loved ones pairs never brought anything of interest to the show when they came together.

With any Blood vs Water season the producers have a choice whether they want to separate the pairs into competing tribes or have 2 tribes with 4-5 groups of loved ones on each side playing together. Each option has serious issues.

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Separating them, which we have seen in both seasons so far, basically makes it an individual game from the start, leaving the viewer to wait until the merge for any of the promised drama that the concept was created for. Team challenges alone aren’t enough to make the season something unique. That’s the reason why both Redemption Island and the Hero Arena duals were paired with Exile. I actually do like the drama that unfolded in both Redemption and Exile duals so far, but it also takes far too much screen time away from the rest of the camp drama and vote out strategies. I wouldn’t be opposed to duals in future seasons to keep things interesting pre merge, but coupling it with meaningless twists like Redemption and Exile is what kills it. Even if these twists are kept, they should be phased out by the time the merge comes.

The second option for dividing is to start with each tribe having an equal number of pairs. So for example, each tribe is made up of 5 pairs, making a total of 10 players. While you would without a doubt have a great first vote out due to a power struggle to form a 3 pair majority, there’s just no room for pre merge drama to unfold. And that’s still no different than a regular season of 10 strangers fighting for a 6 player majority. While there is always the slightest chance that loved ones could turn on each other, it’s not realistic to think that it would happen that early in the game. A season starting with couples on the same tribe would end up being like the early episodes of Panama or Cook Islands, with too few players in the mix to make for interesting game play.

My original idea of this article was to write about both the pros and cons of the Blood vs Water format, with an equal amount of time spent on the positives and the negatives. Surprisingly what I found once I started writing was that the negatives far outweighed the positives. And for every positive I could think of, like Ciera and Laura’s vote or Jon and Jaclyn’s fighting, I saw no difference between past blindsides or fights that occurred between strangers on regular season of Survivor. On top of that, there is no guarantee that moments like this would even occur. As I said earlier, the majority of pairs that play together are less interesting than they were on their own. I want to say again that this is not a judgment of how Blood vs Water or San Juan Del Sur played out as a whole. I simply can’t see how the best moments of those seasons were really effected by the Blood vs Water twist. Maybe we had a few unique moments along the way, but the best moments of these series could have happened with strangers or loved ones. I personally wouldn’t have an issue with Blood vs Water returning every few years, but I no longer hold any expectations that the twist can provide anything new to the game of Survivor.

What do you think of the Blood vs Water format? Do you agree with the cons Colin has listed? Let us know below!

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10 Comments on The Cons Of The Blood vs Water Format

  1. Bvw is only good in returning players. Plus it was fresh to see actual returnees in s27 not clowns from caramoan which I skipped anyway.

  2. This could not have been written more perfectly! Josh and Baylor were two people I loved to watched before they were with their loved ones. Reed was incredibly entertaining when he wasn’t with Josh. Couples like Laura and Ciera and Jon and Jaclyn are great but one of a kind. Very few people have the guts to vote off their mom like Ciera did and I believe she deserves more credit than what people give her. Jon and Jaclyn also deserve credit for their ways. People hate on redemption island but redemption island really helped blood vs water 1 work out good and be far better than San juan del sur!! Redemption island made everyone who went there memorable. I mean who doesn’t remember the line “fuck you brad Culpepper!” The first blood vs water worked better because they really pitted loved ones against each other in an exciting way unlike San juan del sur. Two loved ones fighting against each other in redemption island is much more dramatic and exciting than exile duels

  3. I personally don’t like the BVW twist and hope next season it’s different. I had a total eye roll when I saw the preview for the last season (San Juan Del Sur).

  4. I dont see how it was a con that reed flipped out due to josh being voted out, and that reed was insiginifcant mumbo jumbo. That is how the game is set up in non blood vs water formats. With normal players, Corinne doesnt freak out until Marcus is gone. iTs the exact same thing, except reed & josh came into the game together. Its a natural reaction to lose your shit when an alliance member leaves…

    • I think you missed the point of the article. The entire point I was making is that there is nothing in either Blood vs Water season that sets it apart from any regular season of Survivor. The whole point of using Blood vs Water in the first place was so there would be a new dynamic of drama and strategy brought to the game, and as I said and you seem to agree, there’s really no difference at all

  5. Adding on to your idea of pairs being more boring, the dynamic two person/three person that is the core of many solid alliances is difficult to forge with pairs. This would require a much bulkier 4 or 6 person core, and there is no guarantee that your core-duo person connects with the other person in your pair.

    The inability to form a solid core with a pair could be the reason why a single has won the past 2 BvW seasons.

    • with the idea of alliances being like an onion, everyone in the alliance needs to believe that he/she is in a top 2 position. This doesn’t happen in a pair, unless one of the pair can convince an alliance mate that he is preferred over the second person in the pair.

  6. The only advantage of B vs W seasons is having returning players. There’s the interest of seeing the loved ones of some of our favourite Survivor players. In addition, those loved ones are more likely to be interested in the game compared on average to the loved ones of complete newbies. Their lives already invested in Survivor because their partners etc have already played – that’s especially the case with Survivors who have played more than two times.

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