Another features Monday is here and it’s time to conclude our two-part series looking at which season is better: Blood vs Water or San Juan Del Sur. Last week Ivan gave you his take on BvW, and now it’s the turn of Ozlet Noah Groves to lend his voice of support to SJDS. Click below to read his take on it and then decide in your mind which is better!
Better Use of Idols
The original Blood vs Water really didn’t take advantage of idols and the longstanding twist took a backseat. That’s all well and good except for the fact that they constantly brought this up! Time after time idol clue was frustratingly burnt and valuable viewing time was wasted. When the idols finally came into play Tyson was basically given the clue by Hayden and Caleb and then found the second idol after playing his first one, possibly the worst season for idols ever. Come San Juan Del Sur and the idols became much more dramatic and entertaining. Early on we did have a Rocker idol that didn’t really come into play but also had Val’s farfetched two idol lie that lead to a brilliant second vote out. Following on from that was the infamous episode four and Keith accusing Jeremy of having an idol and wanting to avoid “sub alliances” and then going on to find the idol himself that lead to a fantastic tribal council in the merge. One of San Juan Del Sur’s most well-known moments in “Stick to the plan” in which two idols are successfully played at the same time to lead to someone who in most situations would have been safe that night. Jeff Probst’s quote “nobody has a vote” epitomises this awesome idol moment. It doesn’t end there, the idol’s came to a climactic end with Natalie holding the final idol handing it over to Jaclyn in an extremely unpredictable and shocking moment.
More Old School and Survival Elements
Blood vs Water one was heavily dominated by strategy and gameplay and didn’t often have time to breath. That is not to say that San Juan Del Sur didn’t focus on strategy but it certainly focused on camp life and survival more than its predecessor. Just look at the premiere where we saw the different methods of fire building and Dale’s double lensed tactic, poison leaves on the Coyopa shelter and Drew taking charge of Hunahpu building. Jon went on to lose the Hunahpu flint and a negotiation had to be taken with master Probst and in true poetic justice the second flint was rediscovered and Drew attempted to barter once more. Hunahpu continued to win the challenges but partly due to eating twice the amount of rice than Coyopa which in turn lead to more barter with Jeff where for the first time since season two a tribe needed to do this. While it wasn’t dominating the air time San Juan Del Sur certainly did bring back the Survival elements and juggled it just enough to work alongside the character moments, challenges and strategy.
No Returning Players or Redemption Island
This is a minor point but a point that should be mentioned in passing none the less. While Blood vs Water worked great with returning players as it was a chance to view these players in a new light and whether or not their loved ones could match their game. At the end of the day though it was still returning players for the third time in a row and sixth time since season twenty so in the order of things all new players after Cagayan for Blood vs Water worked. The twist works both ways but San Juan Del Sur proved the doubters that all newbies can fit in and in the grand scheme of Survivor’s legacy, three all new player seasons are welcome. While Exile Island can’t be defended it was still refreshing not to have Redemption Island return for a fourth time and the vote outs of people such as Josh, Jeremy, Wes and Jon had so much more impact than they would have had with Redemption Island. Redemption Island did work in Blood vs Water one but at the end of the day it is better out than in.
Better Use of the Theme
Outside of Ciera voting her mother out was there ever really much of the theme utilised in Blood vs Water. There were some fun moments such as the Baskauskas rivalry, the Rupert and Laura switch and the Rachel vote out but outside of that it was pretty much singles ruling throughout the entire game. San Juan Del Sur portrayed a much heavier use of the loved ones theme. Most notably is Jon and Jaclyn who are probably the closest pair of Survivors since Boston Rob and Amber in season eight. Up until Jon was voted out, they were one hybrid morphed player who did everything together. This couple also showed the most depth and emotion and really challenged the notion of playing with your loved ones, climaxing during the day long fight against the lovers. The other notable couple were Missy and Baylor who continued the trend of mother and daughters being successful in Blood vs Water season, this couple played together as well but had Missy cleaning up and constantly defending her daughter in a more one way relationship. The use of Exile Island wasn’t as successful as it was probably intended by the producers but gave us some of the Blood vs Water relationship drama that filled the void of the drama of Redemption Island. San Juan Del Sur was much more successful in producing what the original theme was intended to play out.
Stronger Winners Arc
Natalie’s win and ‘edit’ was far more satisfying than Tyson’s in season 27. Tyson from about episode 3 onwards had a hugely overexposed edit and by the time he finally made it to the final tribal council, no viewer was shocked of his win. It really was one of the most obvious wins in the 29 seasons of Survivor. It was predicted by many that Tyson would be going to the end and drama such as the rock draw was lost due to the edit. Natalie’s win was much more satisfying and less obvious than Tyson. It was certainly no shock when Natalie won but the journey to the end and the edits of the other players made the winner harder to predict. Natalie received a well-crafted edit where we saw what we needed to from her and I would argue we didn’t see enough of her leading up to her starring final three episodes. Look at the remaining contestants who were left in the final episode, Keith was a worse player but received a season long large edit that was much more frequent than Natalie with Baylor also having a consistent edit from day one. Even Missy and Jaclyn had a small chance based on their edits which weren’t too far behind Natalie until the last few episodes. Natalie’s story of her sister being the first one voted out and then recovering from the blindside of her biggest ally Jeremy made for a unique and entertaining underdog story. As mentioned above Natalie did have a well-crafted edit and her win was explained satisfactory enough without shoving it in our face as was done with Tyson.
More Humour and Light hearted Moments
San Juan Del Sur was a fairly light hearted season. The arguments and drama was minimal and the humorous moments rose ahead. Blood vs Water had its fair share of humour in #coconutbandits and Brad Culpepper’s comedy but between loved ones getting voted out, people quitting and Redemption Island arguments there wasn’t much space to breath. San Juan Del Sur was the opposite. The biggest successor to bringing this fun season was Keith who was never dull, always hilariously and most of the time unintentionally. Keith is one of the best characters in Survivor history and played the biggest role in the comedy aspect of San Juan Del Sur. While Keith may have been the most prominent, so many other players had a share of comedic and light hearted moments. Jon, who was the alpha male also doubled as a goofball, Alec was a collector of meat, Baylor played the game with her “homie g,” Reed tried to run a couples counselling session to save himself, Natalie and Nadiya brought their sass and then there is Drew, who is cringeworthingly hilarious to watch. The best single example of San Juan Del Sur’s comedy was the episode 10 immunity challenge which is, in my opinion, one of the all-time greatest challenges. Every single player had their own moment in the spotlight and made us laugh with Wes bringing his best with his chicken nugget eating story and asking Jeff Probst about his time being naked on Two and a Half Men. And speaking of Probst, even he was on the ball this season with his humour.
Blood vs Water had its fair share of shocking moments, namely Ciera voting out her mum, Tina winning the final redemption dual and the second ever rock draw (not really that shocking thanks to CBS commercial spoiling) but apart from that it was a fairly predictable season. Was there ever any occasions where we had no clue what would happen next or were surprised at who was voted out each week? San Juan Del Sur is the polar opposite and is all the better for it! Gone are the predictable vote outs and one of the most obvious winner edits and enter a multitude of possible “winners edits” and potential winners and some of the most shocking, didn’t see it coming vote outs in Survivor history. The one that immediately comes to mind is the Jeremy boot, which in my opinion is the biggest viewer blindside in Survivor history. Jeremy’s vote was so shocking because he was not only painted by many as the most likely to win due to his overexposed edit, he also had just gained the numbers one week prior and was expected to go deep in the game. And what about the Stick to the Plan vote which had a rare occasion of two people successfully playing their idols with Wes then taking the fall. Jon was a blindside, Baylor was blindsided thanks to the shocking idol play, Val, a player with a large early edit was voted out second. The list goes on…Not only that but alliances constantly shifted throughout the game and wasn’t just a case of pairs vs singles and then newbies vs returnees like the original Blood vs Water.
Better Character Development and Fleshed Out Players
Thanks to San Juan Del Sur having all new players there was a heavier emphasis on who these people are and watching them learn and adapt. The newbies were viewed as ‘so and so’s loved one’ rather than a player on their own and the returning players stole most of the airtime. That is not to say some people received less airtime than others in San Juan Del Sur, but it was spread out across the board and there was a heavier emphasis on character. Keith started the game having no clue of the game and we watched him learn his way to the final four while battling his emotions regarding the theme of the season. Both Jon and Jaclyn started out quite on their respective tribes but when joined together their story was shown, each week learning and witnessing something about the couple. Natalie was viewed as a fairly one dimensional abrasive person in The Amazing Race and became a three dimensional player mixing strategy with storylines. Missy and Baylor’s relationship felt more fleshed out than someone like Tina and Ciera and even couples like Drew and Alec or Julie and Rocker got their fair share as well. With a theme that is so heavily targeted towards emotion and characters, San Juan Del Sur took a backseat from the game bot strategy to deliver on this aspect.
At the end of the day both Blood vs Water seasons are solid editions to the Survivor franchise but the second one did it better. San Juan Del Sur has so much to support and defend, realistically the article could be twice the length of this and it could easily go down as the most underrated Survivor season ever. Unfortunately Jeff Probst has been critical on this season and didn’t have the same reaction as the original. Blood vs Water had a strong cast but San Juan Del Sur had in full a stronger one with less neglected edits. Due to the less than positive reaction to San Juan Del Sur, a Blood vs Water 3 is much less likely than after the original season but I say bring it on! Blood vs Water have so many variables and potentials that a third season, in my opinion, would be more than welcomed.
What do you think about San Juan Del Sur? Is it a better season than Blood vs Water? Let us know in the comments below!
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