There’s been much said about the recent season of Worlds Apart, and while it may have fell short of the promised excitement, there were plenty of twists, turns and memorable characters and moments that ensured that the 30th season is one that definitely won’t be forgotten. This week Ozlet Julian Groneberg offers his rebuttal to the last week's argument that San Juan was the better of the two recent Survivor seasons. Do you agree with his 10 assertions why Worlds Apart made the better season and was far superior? Read on to find out and leave a comment to tell us what you really think!
10. No Quitters
Every season that includes a quit is a major buzz kill from a gameplay perspective. Had she had stayed in the game, the singles alliance plus Missy and Baylor could have gained game control and as a single player who definitely seemed non threatening, McGee had the potential to go a lot further into the game. Maybe its because I was rooting for her to come into her own and show some girl power, but it was hard to watch McGee going out the way she did. Any quit leaves a bad taste, and despite the reasons being sometimes understandable, its hard to appreciate someone who voluntarily leaves the game.
Contrast this with Worlds Apart and for the first time in several years of Survivor the entire cast remained in tact until they were voted out. Despite the whinging of Jen that she wanted out, there is a major difference between being dead in the water, and voluntarily quitting. The fact that we didn’t see anyone voluntarily quit in Worlds Apart is a tribute that the fact that this cast came to play, and play hard.
9. No Time Wasted on Exile Island and Hero Arena
I’ll give props to the production team for trying something different when it comes to the implementation of Hero Arena for the chance to win tribe glory in reward form, as well as the chance to send someone to Exile Island. Sadly, the battles between loved ones never quite played out as they were intended, and sending your loved one to Exile never seemed like that much of a big deal. Not to mention the small-scale carnival style challenges in the small arena felt a little trite and low budget. Between these challenges and scenes of Exile Island, a big chunk of screen time was dedicated to less incidental scenes that could have been better spent in character development.
In terms of twists trialled in Worlds Apart, yes, Dan’s extra vote proved to be someone of a moot point in terms of what it achieved, but it did throw spanner into the works in terms of strategy discussion. Plus, compared to the twist of seeing the return of Exile Island, I strongly believe the extra vote has plenty more mileage in terms of what it can offer in future seasons. I’m convinced after San Juan Del Sur, that I never need to see another incarnation of Exile Island or the ‘Hero Arena’ ever again.
8. Stronger Winners Arc
There’s a fine line between having a winner feel too obvious, and one that comes out of the shadows as a complete surprise. Ultimately its a balancing act so a season doesn’t feel too predictable but is still satisfying and the winner’s is portrayed as the ‘best player’ that season. Although Natalie’s win was welcome and well deserved, I felt the winner’s arc was someone stronger during Worlds Apart with Mike’s storyline. Mike was the leader of a strong strategic alliance throughout the pre-merge and responsible for holding the blue collars together after the tribe swap. With Lindsey’s prophecy that one of the blue collars ‘was winning the game.’ it felt like a fitting conclusion that Mike’s intensity and energy resulted in a million dollar win. As much as I love Natalie and feel her win was definitely deserved, she flew under the radar for the first half of the game – at least from an editing perspective.
Some may argue that Mike’s win felt predictable, but the fact that he pulled out back-to-back-to-back-to-back immunity wins and kept himself safe made his the ultimate underdog storyline that is always compelling. It may have seemed possible that he could win all the way to the end, but the fact that it ACTUALLY happened was far less probable and made for a special end game in a way that that we hadn’t seen before.
7. Drama and Controversy
Say what you will about the whole Shirin/Dan/Will fiasco and the negativity that surrounded the season, but as uncomfortable as it was to watch at the time, at least it got us talking. Good luck finding something from San Juan Del Sur that provided a water cooler conversation quite like the in-fighting of Worlds Apart. Despite the fact the whole sexism and misogyny conversation that surrounded Worlds Apart was discussed to the point where we were blue in the face (the reunion was an absolute abomination) the controversy at least goes down as a major point of difference to the season.
Because of the attention that was shined onto the bullying and sexism we saw in Worlds Apart, its highlighted the dark side of the social game of Survivor that we hadn’t seen quite like it before. The ‘Bring the Popcorn’ episode and the fireworks that ensued after the auction, set the stage for one of the most dramatic episodes in recent Survivor history, which was like watching a train wreck of personalities collide.
The opportunity for Shirin to explain the abuse she suffered and speak out against the verbal abuse and misogyny was a memorable point of difference that really made us think about the nastiness and sexism that is often on display in the game.
6. More Interesting Camp Life
Because of the three-tribe format, the first half of Worlds Apart was far more interesting and enjoyable to watch as we learned about the different collars and watched whether castaways would live up to their respective stereotypes. With a solid scene each week from each of the three tribes during the pre-merge, it felt like we really got to know what was going down on each beach. This provided a great insight into the different characters, including the free spirited skinny dipping Jenn and Hali relationship, the dysfunctional style family of the blue collars, and the white collar factions of Shirin and Max and Carolyn and Tyler.
When contrasted with to San Juan Del Sur and the time spent on challenges and Exile Island scenes, the tribe dynamics seemed less important than talking about their loved ones on the other tribe and what to do when you lose flint. The more evenly matched tribes on Worlds Apart compared to the Coyopa thrashing also ensured there was a greater balance of scenes form all tribes in Worlds Apart.
5. A More Coherent Theme
Seeing the Blood versus Water theme again just 12 months after the first airing of the format really didn’t offer the same level of excitement. It was difficult to ever really care about the relationships between the loved ones compared to the first Blood Vs Water season, and with so much time focusing on the relationships between the couples, much of the other relationships between tribe members was left on the cutting room floor. Having loved ones playing ‘against each other’ never really mattered since realistically they were never going to vote against one another and were always destined to team up as a couple in the merge.
Contrast this with the White Collar, Blue Collar and No Collar ‘class warfare’ theme, which ran the course of the season, and offered more dramatic tension with different collars pitted against one another. This three collar format also ran the entire way through the season with representatives from each collar in the final three. Seeing the hard working ability of the Blue Collar tribe being able to stick together despite their dysfunction made for great TV. In true white collar style, the duo of Tyler and Carolyn had the strategic side of the game very well figured out, as did, the did Max and Shirin, who knew the theory of the game, but failed in the execution. True to form for a no collar tribe, the free spirited no collars were synonymous with decision making on a whim and cruised along in the game without much of a plan, especially come the merge.
4. Stronger and More Unpredictable Pre-Merge
Because we had three tribes in Worlds Apart, the inevitable tribe swap was far more exciting than that of San Juan Del Sur with many more ways the vote could go. During San Juan Del Sur’s pre merge, the tribe swap couldn’t resurrect the snore-fest of the early episodes, as reunited couples made for obvious voting blocks. One of the other bright points of the pre merge phase of Worlds Apart is the fact that we had a representative from each collar being voted out before the tribe swap. This prevented the pre merge being too heavily focused on the ‘losing’ tribe and made for plenty of screen time to assess the dynamics on display in each tribe.
Contrast this to the pre-merge of San Juan Del Sur and you had an almost invisible Hunaphu tribe and some slow and at times clueless strategy, the pre merge phase of the Game in Worlds Apart definitely comes out on top by a long shot.
3. More Even and Consistent Editing
The Worlds Apart cast never really got the editing shaft like many of the contestants in San Juan Del Sur did. Alec, Wes, Dale, Val, Kelley and Julie and Reed in the early part of the game were almost invisible, whereas in Worlds Apart only Kelly and Sierra got overlooked. Even Nina, So and Vince were given good treatment in their boot episodes and it felt like we got to know each and everyone of the contestants characters on a much deeper level than the contestants in season 29.
Despite Mike being a major character who had potential to win throughout the season, there were still points up until the final 5 where it seemed possible that other players including Carolyn and even Rodney could take home the million. The post merge of San Juan Del Sur definitely had some twists and turns, and while this made for a refreshing change and some unpredictable blindsides, the downside of having a dark horse winner made it harder for casual viewers to appreciate in the same way of Mike’s story of adversity. Additionally, a more even spread of confessionals among all the players in Worlds Apart made it one of the more evenly edited seasons in recent memory and that’s always a good thing.
2. People who were there to play
San Juan Del Sur was a cluster of people who were weren’t as clued-in to the intricacies of the playing Survivor as they should have been by season 29. This meant a lot of decisions that didn’t make good strategic sense and a cast of contestants who weren’t very game aware. This was especially noticeable after the strategic gameplay of the fans and returning players we had seen in season 27 and 28.
Nadiya got voted out being on a reality show previously, and with Keith, Julie, Wes and Alec and even Baylor to a lessor extent, you had people that weren’t as willing to make big moves. Worlds Apart contestants were willing to scramble to the end if they knew they were on the chopping block, and sometimes it paid off. With Jenn and Carolyn playing their idols perfectly, we saw some good old fashioned players, including Rodney who may have sucked in challenges but definitely knew how to hustle – and hustle he did.
1. An Exceptional Cast
The biggest reason why Worlds Apart trumps San Juan Del Sur is the stellar casting mix of memorable characters, gamers, heroes and villains. While the season may not have lived up to expectations, the cast is hands down one of the best in recent memory.
Almost all contestants elicited some kind of reaction from the viewer. From the quirkiness of Vince, Max, Shirin, and Hali and the likeableness of So, Joe and Joaquin, to the villains of Will and Dan, to the complex character edits of Jenn, Mike and Rodney, we really did have a bunch of Americans from all walks of life and from all outlooks that were just waiting to collide. Never before have I shouted at the TV so much with some of Dan’s commentary, and screamed at the screen as Mike won another immunity challenge.
Even the bigger characters of Jeremy and Josh in San Juan Del Sur just weren’t as enjoyable to watch and as unique as the cast of Worlds Apart, including the early boots in season 30. Almost all of the Worlds Apart cast I would like to see return, which is a great deal more than what can be said for San Juan Del Sur. There’s a reason why San Juan Del Sur was panned by entertainment writers and by Jeff Probst himself, and much of it came down to the largely dull casting for the 29th season. There just wasn’t that explosive mix of characters and personalities that makes the social game of Survivor so great to watch.
When compared against the cast of Worlds Apart the difference is stark, and since casting is one of the biggest factors that makes a successful season, the cast alone is enough to make Worlds Apart the superior of the two, even if the season may not have met the high expectations fans had.
What do you think of the top 10? Do you agree? Disagree? Is it in the wrong order or are there ones 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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