10. Better Location
Some people don’t give location a second thought however Blood vs Water was set along Palaui Island in the Philippines, arguably a better location than the rocky beaches of San Juan Del Sur.
Give me the turquoise blue lagoons and the lush greenery of BvW over the rocky barron sticks and twigs of the ‘beach’ in Nicaragua any day. Even though the challenges were pretty much on par, on SJDS we were promised more water but really they mostly ended up being land and obstacles based. Another reason why the location in BvW 1 was better it was the first time had this specific location in the Philippines, whereas Survivor had already filmed in San Juan Del Sur twice before (season 21, 22)
9. None of Jeff Allowing Players to Make the Rules
It was bizarre to watch Jeff arrive to give rice to the Hunaphu tribe and see him humour their feeble attempts to try and swap fishing gear for flint. Sure, it made for good TV but really helped cement the fact that this was a bunch of bizarre players, many it seemed who had never seen much Survivor before.
It was also equally as odd when Jeff decided to cut the pecking order challenge short instead of letting it play out. It got a little bit old seeing players give up rewards or opt to go to Exile Island, even though I think in Natalie’s case it was a good strategic move.
In particular the trading tarp for more rice is not a precedent I think that should have been set as it can give one tribe far more energy with little consequence to win challenges in the crucial pre merge phase of the game. Blood vs Water 1, despite new twists felt by the book, however there were several elements of the second outing which felt like they were being made up as they went. Exile Island for example… But we shall get to that.
8. A More-Game Aware Cast
In BvW 1, Because of the returning player aspect and maybe because there were less couples in the post merge game that were an obvious 2 person alliance, more of the cast members came out to play.
In the original season there were also loved ones who were very up to speed on the nuances of the game thanks to their loved ones and the pre merge gameplay was much stronger. From sending Rachel to Redemption Island in attempt to goad Tyson to trade places with her, and Caleb making a power play to turning on the guys alliance and vote Brad Culpepper out, there were many classic gameplay moves in the first season.
Compare this to SJDS where you had lots of couples who could have been cast on the Amazing Race instead of Survivor and you have a cast that was by comparison very less game aware.
7. More Memorable Contestants
As well as a more game aware cast, the original Blood vs Water outing generally had more memorable contestants across the board. It was fascinating to get an insight into how well old school players like Tina and Gervase played in the modern era of Survivor and see how their relationships with their loved one impacted the way they would play the game.
Call me harsh, but really the cast of San Juan Del Sur were pretty forgettable and while this isn’t exactly the fault of the contestants all the time, and could be largely the editing, between Alec, Wes, Dale, Kelly, Drew and Julie we got quite a few clunkers that were hard to care too much about, largely because we didn’t get to see much of them.
Because we knew 50 per cent of the cast in the original BvW season, it was easy to feel connected to the cast from the outset and root for their loved ones alongside them. We also had great early characters of John Cody, Marissa and Brad Culpepper.
I’m a strong believer that the Blood versus Water format is most successful when played with half returning players as we already know somewhat the personalities of the original players and how they may play we can quickly see how their loved ones complement or contrast the returnees.
6. Stronger Momentum and Consistent Editing in BvW 1
While San Juan Del Sur definitely picked up energy with the Jeremy and Josh blindsides, all in all the momentum of BvW 1 was stronger from start to finish. This includes the pre and post merge phases of the game. Apart from the Drew boot the pre merge of San Juan Del Sur was pretty much a snorefest, which wasn’t even really saved by the tripe swap.
There were definitely less people that got shafted with the editing in the first Blood versus Water. The second series did have many unpredictable moments post merge, but it with the limited screentime of Natalie and Jaclyn – even Missy in the pre-mergy, who ended up going far into the game it was hard to feel their momentum in the game, compared to Tyson and Gervase who were featured prominently from the beginning of BvW 1.
5. Rocks Were Drawn
Seriously who could have ever predicted (before the ad spoiled it) that we would see another rock draw. I never did, but since BvW 1 can see how at the final 6 or the final 4 it can really make sense.
While there were definitely unpredictable moments in SJDS, nothing could top the purple rock scenario that we saw against during the original BvW season. It has been 23 seasons since we had a purple rock scenario and I hope we see more. It’s an interesting legacy for BvW 1 to have and rock drawing scenes has to be among the most suspenseful on the show.
4. More Individual Players After the Merge
In the original, more singles were left at the merge except Tina/Katie and Laura/Ciera. However in San Juan Del Sur, because of the early tribe swap where many couples were reunited, it was easy to see that they would now stay together for the remainder of the game.
Compare this to Blood versus Water where more individuals were left at the merge and you have less chance of two or three couples teaming up and making for a large voting block. Personally, I’d prefer fewer couples left after the merge as I feel there’s going to be more unpredictability.
Only seeing another season of the Blood versus Water format will we be able to know what happens with couples at the merge and if they would decide to play against one another.
3. Turning on Loved Ones
Okay it probably didn’t need to be done and her alliance would have understood if she said that she couldn’t but it was a smart social move by Ciera, and the dramatic tension of her voting out her mum made for top television. This was something we didn’t even get close to seeing in season 29.
Realistically I get that it’s unlikely loved ones will turn on each other very often in the format we did get to see the emotional turmoil between Ciera grappling with the idea of voting out her mum. It could have been even better, so if they ever do another Blood vs Water season, it would be amazing if loved ones did turn on each other –but let’s be honest it’s unlikely.
I thought Julie McGee might be the only one we would see turning on Rocker, but instead she turned her back on the game to go on a pre merge holiday around Central America with him. It’s a pity because she probably could have gone really far in the game. McGee over Missy for me.
2. Redemption Island Instead of Exile Island
In the Redemption Island Arena each week we used to see verbal stoushes between contestants and dramatic plays right out of the gate when Rupert switched with his wide. Even post merge, with Aras and Vytas getting screen time and Tina eliminating Katie was emotional gold. Compare this with Exile Island in San Juan Del Sur which kind of fizzled out and the duels for reward offering none of the intensity as someone leaving the game for good.
Keith getting emotional every time he was up against Wes was probably the only good part. There is so much you can say about Exile Island in season 29 that didn’t really work. Post merge it felt even more redundant and in some episodes didn’t even get screentime (poor Alec.) I’m not saying end of Exile Island for good, but if I’d have to choose I’d go with Redemption Island for any future season.
1. The Concept Was Fresh and Unexpected
Perhaps they brought back the Blood versus Water format back too soon and we wouldn’t be having this debate if it was played every 5 or six seasons. Part of the reason why the original is still the best is because it was so fresh and we had no idea what kind of drama and emotions we would see from loved ones playing together, but this was still so fresh in our mind when season 29 came around just one year later. I can get why they (CBS) would want to strike while the iron was hot, so to speak, but now I seriously question whether they will do another one.
Personally I hope they do, since even though the original was better in so many ways (try these ten ways for example) I still think San Juan Del Sur had many good moments, many of them because of the BvW format. I’m just not sure if we need to see another just yet!
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there challenges that didn’t make the top 10 that you feel should’ve? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!
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