Over 15 years of Survivor, each season we’ve seen some impressive tribal council sets, marking a point of difference for viewers to appreciate. While many follow a similar theme, and many sets have repeated certain elements, the skills of the Survivor art department have been at their best when it comes to 30 different set designs we have seen over the show’s history. This week Ozlet Julian Groneberg runs through the top 10 tribal council sets we’ve seen since Survivor’s inception. Did your favourite make the list? Read on and find out!
Set amidst the grassland savannah, Survivor Africa’s tribal council that is akin to an African tribal village may just be one the tribal council sets that blends best with the natural environment. From the use of completely natural materials in the set including the tiered thatched huts spaced well apart to allow the surrounding landscape to show through. It might not be as flashy as some of the others on the list, but it captured the feel of everything you would expect a tribal council held in the remote Kenyan landscape.
9. Worlds Apart
30 seasons in and its heartening to see that there are still new ideas being brought to life in Survivor’s tribal council sets, especially after seeing so many filming locations being recycled. Survivor Worlds Apart tribal council set has to take the cake for one of the most detailed sets we’ve seen. Not only was the 30th season’s tribal council set incredibly detailed with timber crates, a tree house, and a solid timber floor with planks criss-crossing in different directions, the exploring and navigation theme was captured through twisting rope around the fire pit which was bordered by a freaking giant ship wheel! Take a look back and appreciate season 30 again, if for nothing else but the amazingly cool tribal council set.
As the first aerial shots of Survivor Micronesia’s tribal council showed the impressive scope of building a makeshift village of pointy huts over the water, with little existing infrastructure to create such a set but just a pier. As well as being set over-water, there’s something particularly impressive about the symmetrically arranged huts. It’s hard to know exactly why tribal council looks so massive when they cut to aerial shots at sundown and as the closing credits begin to roll, as they only seem to use one room. Anyways, it’s a visually impressive set.
Building a tribal council in the treetops perched literally up in the air is a sight to behold. Set among a palm tree forest, the set manages to sell a feeling of complete remoteness, and looks like it’s rickety enough to sway in the wind. Huts that manage to stay secure built 30 feet in the air on stilts, connected by shifty looking bridges is an accomplishment in itself. The Heroes vs. Villains tribal council set would only be made cooler if only Jeff would push snuffed contestants off the edge into the abyss.
Some criticise Thailand’s tribal council for being ‘too pretty.’ While it’s a valid observation to make with the gold trim, glittering curtains and plush interior, it’s a style of tribal set that we haven’t seen since, nor a likely to see ever again, which in my opinion well and truly justifies it’s spot on the list. The traditional Thai temple was including a giant golden bell that the contestants walked past after being snuffed. The over-water setting also adds a picturesque feel, added by the towering rock edifice rising up from the water.
Sure, the set might be man made and not the real life Mayan ruins like we had seen earlier in the show’s history, but San Juan Del Sur’s tribal council was an impressively constructed jungle ruins that looks like they’d been there for several hundred years, complete with twisted vines, leaf litter, crumbling rock archways and a stone slab floor. These rocks were authentically engraved with Mayan symbology including tribal faces carved into the stone. While it was noticeably smaller than other sets, it was refreshing to see Central America’s Mayan heritage being payed homage to throughout season 29. Also, how can you forget the howler monkeys with their creepy roaring making themselves heard during tribal council in San Juan Del Sur?
China’s tribal council set was built from the ground up, an impressive feat considering it looks like an ancient Chinese pagoda that’s been there since bygone dynasties. The entire theme of the 15th season was executed and paid tribute the Chinese culture, with the tribal council being one of the most impressive and ambitious pieces of work Survivor’s art department had ever attempted. No expense or detail was spared and the set was so impressive it also served as the location for a couple of night-time reward challenges. From the Chinese characters, dragons, bamboo and much more, when it came to the theme they went all out, and given China’s unique location, Survivor’s art department well and truly did it justice.
3. Cook Islands
While Pearl Islands captured the pirate theme perfectly, perhaps a missed opportunity was with their tribal council set, still impressive, but not as amazing as Cook Island’s giant pirate ship replica. A shipwreck with towering masts beached along a palm fringed cove acted as the perfect metaphor for the marooned castaways, in what was arguably one of the most picturesque island settings we had ever seen.
Back in the days where contestants had to hike to Tribal Council, season 2 included a trek along the Herbert River and up a massive gorge to the top of Blencoe Falls, a picturesque waterfall falling over a flat rock slab. While simple compared to some of the more elaborate sets, the contestants sat in an encircling of tall balancing rocks, with the fire pit surrounded by ochre paint reminiscent of traditional Aboriginal artwork. When the camera panned out at the end of each episode to reveal a dramatic thundering waterfall, it further cemented the deal of Australia’s tribal council set being one of the most visually impressive ever.
The most powerful and memorable tribal council set of all, wasn’t really a set at all. Filmed among ancient Mayan pyramids, the strength of the Tribal Council location was especially compelling as contestants in 2005 gathered in their respective tribes just as the Mesoamericans had done centuries before. Some of the appeal in Guatemala’s beautiful tribal council set is in its absolute simplicity. No bells or whistles were added to the set, allowing the history and cultural value of the location to truly speak for itself. The fact that this living museum visitors pay money to go to was allowed to be used the site of a reality show for several weeks is a testament to how amazing Guatemala’s tribal council set – and the filming location in general – really was.
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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