Survivor – The Lost Seasons

lostSurvivor by its very nature is a show that is forced to adapt and make last minute decisions that will inevitably lead to many additions, cuts and changes. From Wanda and Jonathan returning for Guatemala to redemption island featuring in San Juan del Sur we've seen many twists removed last minute. Over time these changes become forgotten about as Survivor moves forward producing new seasons and twists, each one more audacious than the last. While lost twists are interesting, lost seasons are even more so and for today's feature Ozlet Jarrod Loobeek excavates three lost seasons from the Survivor graveyard. Read on to find out what could have been.

Season 4: Survivor Arabia

When it comes to lost things there’s usually a scale of grandeur involved. As objects and places become lost or forgotten they take on their own mystical aura as they pass into myth and legend. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon or one of the many legendary cities of gold immediately spring to mind when I think of famous lost locations but when it comes to lost Survivor seasons, the Holy Grail would have to be Survivor Arabia.

wadi-rum-3035_640Wadi Rum, Jordan.

Back in the days of Survivor’s big and bold locations Mark Burnett had set his sites on Wadi Rum, Jordan, for the location of season four. Most extensively talked about in his autobiography Jump In, Survivor Arabia (as it was slated to be called) was a truly mouth watering prospect that had potential to trump Survivor Africa as the most difficult season yet. Set against the red backdrop of the desert, Survivor Arabia was going to be based on a Bedouin theme and feature: the castaways entering the game on camel-back, tribe camps at man made oases and white tents for shelter. It’s not hard to picture the stunning visuals such a season would have offered and it takes little imagination to conjure up an idea of what the culturally unique soundtrack for the season could have sounded like.

Bedouin TentsSurvivor Arabia could have offered visuals such as this.

Unfortunately after the events of the September 11 attacks, shooting in the Middle East became an impossibility and the decision was made to move the fourth season to The Marquesas only two months before shooting was set to begin. While the cast for season 4 wasn’t 100% locked in before the move, production equipment had already been transferred to Jordan where it was kept from the Survivor team forcing them to buy new equipment for Survivor Marquesas. While it’s hard to tell just how far along pre-production was before the sudden change of location, judging by the withheld equipment I like to think there are lost relics of Survivor Arabia floating around somewhere. Indeed if rumours are to be believed a logo was already designed for the season before it was cancelled. While the current political and economic climate do little to suggest Survivor Arabia will ever reappear, I for one would not be averse to seeing a future season use the Bedouin theme in a different location.

Season 16: Survivor All-Stars 2

While failed plans to film Survivor Arabia are plain to see, the intention of a second All-Stars for the sixteenth season is a lot murkier. While there are a couple of stories around the origins of the lost All-Stars 2, the main one seems to be that the original plan was for season sixteen to be a full returnee season but after looking at the available castaways Jeff and the crew felt the all-star theme was outdated and predictable. Further evidence that an all-star season was planned includes the number of players contacted to see if they were interested in returning for season sixteen (including past winners) and the simple fact that the first all-stars was season eight so it logically follows that the next should be eight seasons later.

Survivor_Micronesia_Official_LogoThe second all returnee season could have happened 4 seasons earlier.

So what could we have expected from a second All-Star season and how would it have impacted the Survivor landscape? Well for one thing it would have set a precedent for having a full returnee season every 8 seasons and it’s likely we would have seen a third all-stars for season twenty-four. In terms of returning players it would have opened the door for many players from Vanuatu through to China who we’re yet to see return. If the show followed the pattern of the original all-stars it’s likely we would have got to see some a whole bunch of winners return for a second shot at the million (potentially even all on the same tribe to avoid the instant targeting from Survivor All-Stars).

S9-S15 WinnersImagine a selection of these winners all on the same season!

While Micronesia currently stands as my favourite season of Survivor, the thought of a full returnee season with the likes of Twila or Shane and maybe an ORIGINAL Guatemala returnee (I’m looking at you CBS) almost makes me consider whether having season sixteen as All-Stars 2 would’ve been even better.

Season 23/24: Survivor Tonga

Of all the lost seasons, this is perhaps the least exciting but it definitely still deserves a mention as it could have prevented many trends that have since found root in Survivor production. Similar to the late cancellation of Survivor Arabia, two months out from filming the twenty-third season of the show, production pulled out of filming in the Vava’u Island group in Tonga. Reportedly due to accommodation prices, the Survivor crew made the decision to move production back to Upolu, Samoa, the location previously used for Survivor Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains.

Vava'u Islands Vava’u Islands, Tonga.

With Tonga and Samoa being geographical neighbours, many could argue that the change had little impact and Survivor Tonga is a boring lost season. While it’s true that arguably the move did little to alter the scenery or art direction of season twenty-three, it did result in Survivor going with the name South Pacific for that instalment and for the second time ever using the same location to film three separate seasons. Add to that One World and the total is bumped up to four seasons in the same location. While the gradual tightening of the shows budget may have seen more repeat filming in the same country anyway, it seems the idea really blossomed from the ease of shooting season twenty-three and twenty-four in Samoa (after this we went on to see four seasons shot back to back in the Philippines, followed by a return to Nicaragua).

4 SamoaSeason 23/24 seemed to contribute to the trend of overusing the same location.

While it doesn’t change anything to dwell on the past, it’s interesting to look at what Survivor had planned to get an idea of what could resurface in the future. While I’m sure there’s plenty more lost seasons out there, from these three alone you have to respect how quickly Survivor can recover from major let downs in pre-production. So could we see any of these lost seasons return? Well it’s entirely possible given that most of the major legwork has already been done planning these locations. Of the three, Survivor Tonga seems the most likely to make a successful return given the roadblocks to shooting there were relatively minimal and the government were fully onboard with the show going ahead. I certainly hope we get to see some of these lost seasons make a triumphant comeback in the not too distant future.

Which of these lost seasons would you most liked to have seen? Is there a chance for any of these seasons to be revitalised?  Let us know in the comments below!


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5 Comments on Survivor – The Lost Seasons

  1. Gabriel Snuffles // March 9, 2015 at 10:00 am // Reply

    This was a great article, but it makes me so mad to think that we could have had Survivor Arabia. I knew that they were thinking about having it in Jordan, but I didn’t know the plans were so set! Can you imagine having shelter in a oasis in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a couple of tents! It would have been amazing! Aaarghh!

  2. I would loved to have seen Survivor Arabia down the road, but I think it served the aesthetic of the show better to film in Marquesas at the time. The show was coming off of 2 desert-like locations in a row, and I remember a lot of people felt the show’s return to an ocean setting was very refreshing. If Survivor Arabia had been Season 4, my reaction at the time would have been, “Really? Another desert?!”

  3. If Micronesia was all stars then Jeff Wilson would be in it 😮

  4. Survivor: Arabia would have been great but it’s almost next to impossible with threats coming from ISIS in Western Asia, Taliban and Al Queda in South Central Asia, and Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea and Western Indian Ocean corridor.

  5. I wish that survivor would start choosing bolder locations again. The last time they had that was all the way back in season 17

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