One of the most important features in the game of Survivor are the challenges. Whether for immunity, reward or as part of a duel, winning challenges can give tribes and/or individuals a huge advantage in the game and be vital to a castaway’s survival. Over 30 seasons we’ve seen challenges that have tested strength, endurance, logic, patience, balance, memory, aim and a whole range of other characteristics. In today’s feature article Ozlet Jarrod Loobeek looks at a couple of challenges that have been used across multiple seasons and gives his thoughts on what happened each time around. Click for more!
As a fan of the show, one of the main elements I love about Survivor are the reward and immunity challenges. While 30 seasons into the show it’s always nice to see the production team create brand new challenges that test the physical and mental ability of the castaways, it’s also interesting to see classic challenges return every so often. As part of a recurring feature article, I’ll compare challenges used in multiple seasons and look at what worked, what didn’t and what could be improved in the future. In Part 1 I looked at two pre-merge tribal challenges, for this addition I’ll look at two individual challenges that test the castaway’s endurance.
Get A Grip
One of Survivor’s many go to endurance challenges, Get A Grip has appeared in seven different seasons as either an individual immunity challenge or redemption island duel. In this challenge castaways simply hold onto a pole for as long as possible without falling, with the last player standing being declared the winner.
Vanuatu is a season that gave us many new and interesting challenges with Get A Grip making its debut as the third individual immunity challenge post merge. For the first version of this challenge each pole had grooves equally spaced along its length alternating between empty cut-outs and those filled with a ring of rope. Unfortunately we get no mentions of the time that has elapsed during this challenge and Jeff offers no bribes to the contestants to get them to consider dropping out. Julie is the first to drop out, followed by Chris and then Scout. After some time passes Eliza, Ami and Leann fall narrowing it down to a battle between Twila and Chad. Chad gradually slips down the pole trying to hold on with his thighs while Twila is able to stay steady in more of a standing position and win individual immunity.
Challenge Highlight: Eliza’s exit from the challenge and Jeff’s reaction are pretty epic. I’ll let the footage do the talking.
Shoes or Barefoot: Everybody except for Twila wears shoes. Barefoot wins this round.
In the second running of Get A Grip, not a whole lot changes from its first appearance except for the addition of multiple layers of rope every second section instead of the single rings used on the Vanuatu poles. This time around the editors are nice enough to give us captions of the time each person fell off their pole. The three larger guys are the first to drop out, all failing to last half an hour (Adam – 9 mins, Jonathan – 12 mins, Nate – 23 mins). Sundra and Yul are the next to go (34 and 51 mins) before Parvati and Becky fall within minutes of one another at the one and a half hour mark. After this the heavens open and the remaining two of Candice and Ozzy are soaked in rain making the challenge that much more difficult. Candice slowly edges her way down the pole before dropping out at the 2 hours and 15 minute mark, giving Ozzy his first individual immunity win of the season.
Challenge Highlight: The entire sequence of banter between Penner and Probst, followed by Yul’s explanation of surface area and mass that concludes in why elephants can’t run up trees provides plenty of laughs.
Shoes or Barefoot: While shoes were the majority in Vanuatu, this time around everyone chooses to go barefoot.
Tocantins follows in Cook Islands footsteps by putting this as the first individual immunity challenge but that’s where the similarities end. The Tocantins poles are square in shape and thinner and less sturdy than previous versions, constantly shaking when the castaways adjust. Another key difference is that there are more grooves down the length of the pole than previous versions, providing more hand and foot holds but less space for the contestant’s to wrap their arms and legs around the pole. In less than 20 minutes five players are out of the challenge with Stephen out first followed by Joe and then Brendan, Taj and Erinn minutes later in quick succession. After J.T. drops out it’s down to all old Timbira, which Coach notes with pride before working his way down the pole and out of the challenge. The next to go is Sierra who loses her grip and takes a painful slide down the pole leaving just Tyson and Debbie left in the challenge only 30 minutes in. Despite Debbie looking the stronger of the two early on, she isn’t able to maintain that strength, falling out of the challenge and leaving Tyson as the winner.
Challenge Highlight: Erinn warning Tyson about falling only for him to tell her not to boss him around before it’s all turned around into a light-hearted joke about wanting to protect Tyson’s “pretty little face”.
Shoes or Barefoot: Tyson and Coach are the only two to go barefoot, everybody else wears shoes.
Of all the times this challenge appears this is arguably the least dramatic potentially due to their being no clear minority with 5 players from each original tribe left in the game. The poles are set up basically identical to how they were in Tocantins except this time they are rounded instead of square in shape. As soon as the challenge begins lots of players make a move down the poles, apparently concerned by how high up they are. Colby and Sandra drop within the first minute of the challenge starting, closely followed by Russell and then Rupert. At the 20 minute mark Amanda steps down, while everybody else continues onto the 40 minute mark when J.T. drops out. The remaining four continue on until the 1 hour and 30 minute mark when Jerri steps down after starting to feel dehydrated. She’s closely followed by Candice but not before a grilling by Jeff on why she’s giving up. With all the former heroes out of the challenge, Danielle and Parvati discuss which one of them should win immunity, with Danielle bringing up that Parvati is already safe due to possessing an idol. Parvati quickly concedes, stepping down to give the win to Danielle.
Challenge Highlight: Probably Jeff’s visible disdain at all the players giving up and voluntarily stepping out of the challenge.
Shoes or Barefoot: Barefoot across the board.
The first time this challenge isn’t used for immunity, this duel is arguably the most dramatic version of Get A Grip. The poles return to a structure close to Get A Grip’s original appearance except there’s no rope used in the grooves. As the challenge begins Jeff proudly notes that the foot and handholds are the narrowest they’ve ever been, making this challenge even more difficult. While using this challenge in a duel format really removes the fun banter between the players, it does up the stakes by making it a do or die challenge and in this case a chance to get back into the game. For 40 minutes both contestants sit fairly comfortably like in the picture above before the pain begins and they start to readjust. To start off it’s Ozzy who looks like he’s in trouble, losing his footing and moving around the top part of the pole, however, no sooner does he start to struggle than Brandon is in strife sliding down the pole and gripping on with only his thighs. It’s not long before Brandon is down to the last foothold where after a short fight he is out of the challenge.
Challenge Highlight: Everything past the 40 minute mark is pretty impressive.
Shoes or Barefoot: Both Ozzy and Brandon compete barefoot.
For the second time Get A Grip is used as a Redemption Island Duel but this time between three players to re-enter the game at the merge. The poles in Blood vs. Water are pretty much identical to those used in South Pacific. Initially Laura B. struggles to find her footing but she is able to steady herself by wrapping around the pole without using the foot or handholds and that’s the only real movement for the first 20 minutes. After that, John finds himself fighting to stay in the duel, kicking off his shoes in an attempt to gain a better footing. While he’s initially able to achieve this, it’s not long before his socks cause him to slide bit by bit down the pole until he’s out of the challenge. Without using the grooves Laura B is solely relying on the strength of her legs to grip the pole but it proves to be a risky strategy as she can’t maintain her ground and gradually moves lower down the pole. Just as Laura M looks like she might be starting to struggle, Laura B’s feet hit the ground and she’s out of the challenge.
Challenge Highlight: Jeff verbally laying into poor Laura Boneham once again. Clearly he never got over Rupert switching with her at the start of the game.
Shoes or Barefoot: Everybody elects to compete in shoes until John kicks his off partway through the challenge and continues in his socks.
Get A Grip in Worlds Apart is designed similar to Blood vs. Water though this time it’s back to being the first immunity challenge post-merge. True to form, just moments into the challenge the bigger guys start to struggle and Dan and Will slide out of the challenge. Next Tyler jumps out of the challenge followed by Sierra, Shirin and Kelly in quick succession. The remaining six last 25 minutes before they all begin to struggle and readjust. Mike slips off the pole and falls in Elizaesque style, then after some words with Carolyn Rodney drops out of the challenge. In some unintentional comedic relief, Jenn is stung by a bug on her upper leg before moments later Hali drops out. The last 3 make it to the 50 minute mark where they are pelted with rain in a heavy downpour. Jenn is the next casualty as he legs slip beneath the final foothold and she has nowhere left to hang on. It all comes down to a final battle between Joe and Carolyn and while Joe is at the top of the pole Carolyn is gradually moving down from foothold to foothold. She’s able to dig her toes into the final foothold but not for long as her foot slips out of the groove and she falls, granting Joe the first individual immunity of the season.
Challenge Highlight: Jenn getting stung is such an unexpected moment of comedy gold and in that moment she can’t decide whether to cry from pain or laughter.
Shoes or Barefoot: Its about a 50/50 split but notably the final four in the challenge all compete barefoot.
Best Use: We’ve seen many great battles in this challenge and many different techniques of hanging onto the pole. Despite it not being the longest of the challenges, the duel between Ozzy and Brandon is pretty epic with lots of good recoveries throughout its duration. It’s clear to see just how badly they both wanted to get back into the game and it was good to see somebody give Ozzy a little bit of a run for his money on Redemption Island.
Suggested Improvements: My one pet peeve with Survivor challenges is when they overly favour one particular body type over another and this is one of those challenges. I’m not sure much could be done to make this challenge suit the heavier players more and I’d hate to lose it altogether even if it isn’t particularly fair in its current form. Perhaps the grooves in the pole could correlate to each player’s individual foot size, though that would take a lot of planning beforehand. I think it’d be good to see production vary the pole shape every now and then and change things up with the grooves, using elements like the rope rings from past versions of the challenge.
When It Rains It Pours
Another one of Survivor’s staple endurance challenges, When It Rains It Pours has appeared in five seasons as an individual immunity challenge. In this challenge castaways stand on a wooden platform with their arm above their head. A strap on their wrist is chained to a bucket above them which will tip and drench them with water if they move their arm. The last player standing wins immunity.
The first individual immunity challenge in Africa, When It Rains It Pours is always an interesting one to watch. As the challenge begins Jeff starts some banter with the players with Kelly joking that she does this challenge at home for fun. Ironically she’s the first person out after 14 minutes followed seconds later by Kim J, who joins Kelly on the bench and compares notes on what went on at Boran and Samburu. After 18 minutes Brandon steps out of the challenge with Kim Powers joining him on the losers bench at the 36 minute mark. The next casualty is Big Tom after 44 minutes and then Frank 55 minutes into the challenge. As the 1 hour mark passes and with only 4 players left in the challenge, T-Bird breaks into song, much to the delight of her fellow castaways. One hour later and Jeff brings out a cheese burger as the first temptation, this is followed by a pizza at the 3 hour mark. Both these items are refused by the remaining players and instead are sent to be shared amongst the eliminated contestants. At 3 hours and 18 minutes, Lex loses his concentration and is drenched, followed by Ethan 20 minutes later. As the challenge ticks over to 6 hours (crazy right?) T-Bird and Clarence agree to a game of rock paper scissors to decide who will take immunity and who will step down for the final temptation. Teresa wins the duel and true to his word Clarence steps down giving T-Bird individual immunity.
Challenge Highlight: T-Bird’s rendition of Tomorrow from Annie is spectacular and is one of the many examples of why she should have been cast on Survivor Cambodia!
Best Drenching: Plenty of good dousing but given how cocky she was just moments before, the best would probably be Kelly’s.
Throughout its history this challenge has played a big part in changing up the game with clutch wins and crucial defeats. The All-Stars edition of this challenge is made all the more memorable because the stakes are so obvious; Shii Ann is the clear target of the majority whose goal is to stop her winning immunity. Structurally the challenge is pretty similar to its inception in Africa, except a metal chain with almost no slack connects the player’s wrist to the bucket instead of the more forgiving rope used previously. The challenge is riveting from the outset, with Amber and Jenna being eliminated within the first 10 minutes. At the 18 minute mark Tom can’t hold his arm up any longer and he’s drenched before Jenna starts offering words of encouragement to the others and openly expresses to Jeff that Shii Ann is the next to go. After 38 minutes Alicia’s arm tires and her bucket tips, wetting Jeff in the process. As the challenge hits the hour mark the rains starts to fall and everybody looks truly miserable. 24 minutes later, Boston Rob is distracted by an insect and as he attempts to remove it he upturns his bucket and is out of the challenge. Two hours into the challenge and both Rupert and Shii Ann still look strong with neither showing any signs of giving up. However, Rupert begins to move his arm ever so slightly and despite a warning from Jenna he isn’t able to stop his bucket from tipping and handing Shii Ann one of the great underdog immunity wins.
Challenge Highlight: Shii Ann’s victory and the subsequent over the top celebration that whether intention or not rubs it into the other player’s faces is great.
Best Drenching: Given that it completely soaks Jeff as well, it’d have to be Alicia’s.
The Micronesia version of When It Rains It Pours, builds on the challenge structure from All-Stars by adding coloured water to the buckets. In addition after taking a hiatus in All-Stars, temptations are back and they provide the majority of the highlights this challenge. 20 minutes into the challenge Jeff emerges with the first temptation and Cirie and Erik drop out to share a bowl of candy. After 45 minutes Jeff reappears with a chocolate chip cookie and milk but before he can properly reveal it Alexis gets overexcited and drops out without claiming the temptation. Just as Jeff starts to make a point about the castaways properly accepting temptations Natalie loses focus and drops out empty handed. James is so amused by the others misfortune that he too moves his arm and upturns his bucket. 1 hour into the challenge Jeff brings along 3 chocolate glazed doughnuts and that’s enough to get Ozzy to drop out. The remaining three make it to the 5 hour mark by which time everyone is drenched by rain and the eliminated contestants are incredibly bored. Then bizarrely Amanda has to drop out of the challenge to take a bathroom break leaving just Parvati and Jason left in the challenge. The 6 hour mark brings along a new food temptation that can be shared with the eliminated contestants. This is the turning point as all the eliminated players give Jason their word that they wont vote him out if he steps down so they can all eat. After giving it some thought Jason pulls his chain and drenches himself leaving Parvati individual immunity.
Challenge Highlight: There are so many to mention here but the whole Jason situation is really interesting to watch, plus it’s funny to watch the castaways cross their fingers behind their back as they make their promise not to vote him out.
Best Drenching: James’s by far is the most hilarious. Given that he’s just finished laughing at Alexis and Natalie accidentally being eliminated, his exit is instant karma.
This running of the challenge is practically identical to the one in Micronesia with the temptations working their magic once again. The only major difference is instead of standing on a log like in all previous versions, this time the castaways stood on a narrow wooden perch adding an element of balance to the challenge. Just 1 minute into the challenge Jeff brings out the first temptation and both Sandra and Russell agree to step down before it’s even reveal what the temptation is. Like clockwork 20 minutes in Jeff arrives with a plate of donuts and an iced coffee, which is enough to get Colby to drop out of the challenge. At the 35 minute mark more victims are seduced by a temptation when Candice, Danielle and Parvati step down for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, a bowl and candy and some glasses of milk. 1 hour and 10 minutes in and only Parvati and Rupert remain. Unfortunately for Rupert history repeats itself as he loses his balance and slips off the perch finishing second once again while Parvati becomes a two time winner of When It Rains It Pours.
Challenge Highlight: The challenge coming down to the only two players who had competed in it before was really fitting.
Best Drenching: Lots of players trying to avoid the water this time around, Rupert’s slip is crucial but purely based on the drenching it’d have to be Sandra.
The One World set up is very similar to Heroes vs. Villains except this time the perch is thinner and lower to the ground. Unfortunately for some reason we don’t get many time indicators this time around but they aren’t needed for the first two drop outs with Tarzan dropping out within seconds of the challenge starting followed by Christina less than a minute later. The temptations are huge again this time around with Sabrina stepping down for milk and cookies, Kat and Kim stepping down for cupcakes and Alicia stepping down for a bowl of candy. After 45 minutes Troyzan loses his balance and tips his bucket, shortly after he’s joined on the bench by Jay who drops out for beer and chicken wings. With just Chelsea and Leif left the conversation turns to them both wanting to prove themselves with Chelsea trying to convince Leif to drop so he’s not viewed as so much of a threat. With the added incentive of some burgers and chips Leif accepts Chelsea’s argument and exits the challenge leaving her with individual immunity.
Challenge Highlight: Alicia trying to justify her exit as being selfless and purely to let Chelsea win the challenge is hilarious.
Best Drenching: Tarzan, he’s absolutely soaked and it’s less than a second in. What could top that?
Best Use: Like Get a Grip, there’s no clear standout here and while I do love Shii Ann’s clutch immunity win in All-Stars I’d have to say Micronesia because it has some great moments surrounding the food bribes and we get some game strategy throughout the challenge too with the whole Jason situation. Add in the players getting soaked by their buckets and the rain as well as the length of time the challenge lasts and you have an instant classic.
Suggested Improvements: I think this is an example of a challenge where production has really ironed out the kinks and improved each version moving forward. I for one wouldn’t be opposed to getting rid of the perch and replacing it with a flat log once more to ensure we still have some really long battles. I think the frequency of temptations needs to be stepped down too so that they seem more appealing and are more hard fought for. Throwing in some covered bribes that are complete duds could provide some great entertainment too and make the contestants think twice about stepping down. Overall this is one of the better Survivor endurance challenges that I hope we see return very soon.
What’s your favourite version of each of these challenges? What do you consider to be the highlights? What other classic challenges would you like to see compared? Let us know your thoughts below!
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