Features Monday is upon us and this week we bring you the first in a two-part series looking at which season is better: Blood vs Water or San Juan Del Sur. With both featuring the ‘Blood vs Water’ twist and both occurring within 12 months, there are many similarities and differences to look at. But ultimately when it comes to comparing the two, which one wins? Which one loses? Or is it impossible to tell? Ozlet Ivan Ornelas this week sides with Blood vs Water and goes over why he thinks it’s the better season. Click below for more!
Good Selection of Returning Players
In any returning player season, the players that do get asked back make a huge difference as to whether or not the season will go well. Blood vs. Water was the first “exactly half new, half returning players” season not in a Fans vs. Favorites format. Because of Blood vs. Water, the players asked back would have a huge influence on the types of new players that would play because the player pool was focused down to loved ones of the returning players. Of the 10 returning players, I was glad to see Gervase, Monica, Tina, Tyson, Laura, and Kat again. Based on how their previous Survivor journeys ended I felt given another opportunity, they likely had more to offer and add to the season this time around. Also most of their loved ones had potential to contribute to a great season as well, and much of such potential was realized. I was ok with Aras coming back (he’s a good guy, but I usually don’t beg for winners to return unless they need Redemption, like Tina did after Survivor All Stars) but he brought Vytas with him, someone I felt would be good to have on Survivor. Similarly for Colton I was more excited about Caleb, especially since he and Colton were such opposites. For Rupert, I knew ever since Boston Rob got his 4th season it was only a matter of time Rupert did so I let it slide, especially since a season like Blood vs. Water was the perfect season for Rupert to reappear in, and with his wife, no less. Candice wasn’t many people’s favorite returning player this season but she was only included because RC and her dad had to pull out last second, and ultimately they did a decent job despite neither Candice or John making the merge. In any reality show, a strong cast is a reliable foundation for a remarkable season and Blood vs. Water certainly had one.
Redemption for Redemption Island
Prior to this season we’ve seen Redemption Island in Survivor: Redemption Island and Survivor: South Pacific. In both instances they were very bland affairs with few surprises, few moments of interest, and ultimately very little effect on the game. With the Blood vs. Water twist, these problems were remedied. Many duels were emotional affairs, some of which had harsh words exchanged between players. the winner being able to give a Hidden Immunity Idol Clue to anyone in the game added an interesting and different dimension to the strategic game we’ve grown accustomed to in the few seasons prior to this one. the duels were far from one sided compared to previous Redemption Island seasons and had many upsets such as Aras losing to Tina and Vytas and Vytas losing to Tina and Laura M. Having everyone in the game witness every duel gave more opportunities for interesting moments and interactions to occur. Finally, Redemption Island did have more of an impact on the game this season than the others in which it appeared (albeit not a gigantic amount) simply by, for the first time having players return from Redemption Island and not be immediately voted out the next Tribal Council. So how did Redemption Island redeem itself this season? By finally being more than just 25% of an episode’s screentime and being a decent twist for once.
Returning Players Struggle with the Twist
Usually in newbie vs. returning player seasons, returning players have a distinct advantage over the newcomers. Such an advantage was on display in Galang’s early domination in challenges. However, even though the veterans have played Survivor before, this season’s twist showed new sides of old players’ personalities as well as challenged them in ways they weren’t challenged before. Some things didn’t change (Gervase speaking before thinking, for example), but Rupert switching places with Laura, Monica offering to switch places with Brad, and Tyson heavily considering switching places with Rachel. He would have if Rachel had said yes, and if he did, who knows, the season could’ve been drastically different. As everyone learned, playing with people you know is different than playing with strangers, and an already complicated and emotional game can be taken to even greater levels of emotion and complication. All of that added to the appeal of this season.
First Drawing of Rocks in 23 seasons
Ever since Day 37 of Survivor: Marquesas in which a luck-based event snuffed the torch of a player who never had his name written down the whole game, the threat of drawing rocks had a everlasting effect on strategy and voting results in the series. Since most people were not willing to lend their fate in the game to luck, it seemed as if a rock drawing wouldn’t ever happen again. It felt that way on Day 32 of this season. Hayden and Katie were clearly on the outs with Ciera, Gervase, Monica, and Tyson in control of proceedings. However, Hayden’s efforts to get Ciera to force a 3-3 tie in a hail mary to alter the end game managed to work, and with the vote deadlocked between Hayden and Monica, Katie, Ciera, and Tyson would draw rocks, in the 2nd rock drawing of Survivor history (unfortunately a different color than in Marquesas). The result seemed anticlimactic for some since it resulted in sending Katie, the quietest member of the group of 6 that caused the rock drawing, to Redemption Island, but this occurrence opened up new ideas, new strategies, and new possibilities for future seasons to come. Perhaps instead of avoiding rocks, players may try to cause rock drawings because otherwise they lose an ally regardless. The best part about this moment is that no party had anything to lose and everyone had everything to gain from this drawing.
An Underrated Final 3
Yes, the eventual Final 3 were in a good position for most of the season and there was little doubt in Tyson’s eventual victory. However, the fact that Gervase, Monica, and Tyson were able to control this game for such a long period of time is truly fascinating. Before Blood vs. Water, none of them were known for their strategic game but for their personality quirks. Going into this season, none of them were expected to play a decent strategic game but they all did. A Pagonged Richard Hatch victim, a 14th place finisher from one of the worst seasons of Survivor, and a person who committed one of the top 5 dumbest moves in Survivor history had a better season than even they could’ve imagined. I found that very fascinating, this unlikely trio coming together and outplaying many “more likely” candidates people expected could win this game. Their tightness proved frustrating but maybe it was because this odd combination proved to be a winning one.
Blood vs. Water seasons in general will always prove to be complicated, emotional, and entertaining affairs, but what makes the original stand above its successor is its casting and in featuring a few more breathtaking moments. Maybe it’s a sign that this twist functions best with a mixture of new and old faces. After all, both Blood vs. Water seasons featured one sided tribal stages so the “old players have an advantage” complaint may not have much bearing in this debate. Or maybe, like many movie series, the original tends to be better than its sequel.
Noah Groves will defend San Juan Del Sur next week!
What do you think about Blood vs Water? Is it a better season than San Juan Del Sur? Let us know in the comments below!
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