As even novice Survivor fans know, challenges are a big part of each season. Usually the effect they have on the game is temporary but sometimes it could be the difference between which player ends up winning the season. Also, a lot of screentime in nearly every episode is devoted to challenges, which tests the contestants after enduring days, and later on in the game weeks as castaways not only compete in a difficult strategic game but also deal with the tolls of living on very few supplies and resources. This week our northern Californian Ozlet Ivan takes a look at 10 challenges that despite how entertaining and interesting they were, we sadly have not seen in any of the last 10 seasons (Nicaragua through Worlds Apart).
10. Schmergen Brawl (Samoa, Heroes vs Villains)
This is the first and to my knowledge only challenge that Jeff Probst has officially blacklisted from use in future seasons, and because of its notoriety, I had to put this on the list. Seriously though, both times this challenge was used it was pretty exciting to watch because physical challenges are definitely fun. Yes it was unfortunate that Mike Borassi and James Clement’s injuries in this challenge cost them the game, but aside from hotly contested battles this challenge had moments such as Ben Browning being disqualified and the Heroes rejecting the chocolate samples Jeff Probst offered. If only there was a way to guarantee an injury would not happen next time. Sadly there won’t be a next time.
9. Fire Making and Survival Challenges (Borneo, Africa, Marquesas, Amazon, All Stars, Palau & Gabon)
This entry includes shelter building and SOS challenges. They do not always make the most interesting TV (although like 90% of his confessionals, Paschal English’s confessional praising the American Flag was cool) but I definitely feel some of these recent tribes were not tested (and as a result punished) enough on their skills or lack of skills in these areas. I definitely feel like Rupert’s shelter and James Miller’s bathrooms would look like a 4 star restaurant compared to what the likes of Luzon could come up with. These challenges would give newer seasons a bit of a link to the survival focused roots this show started on.
8. Lock, Load, and Light (Cook Islands & Heroes vs. Villains)
It many have only been used twice and one of those times on a very forgettable season, but this challenge interested me for some reason. The first immunity challenge of many seasons tends to be a multi parter but this one has puzzles, rowing, and teamwork along with a few other elements that could definitely be overwhelming if you fall into a hole early. I would not be opposed to seeing it again.
7. Witch Hunt (Borneo, Australia, Africa, Marquesas, Vanuatu, Guatemala & Cook Islands)
This challenge tested the contestants in a way that is seldom seen in Survivor these days. Yes there are memory challenges but remembering an entire story at the beginning of a challenge and needing to retain those facts to hopefully win the challenge is definitely hard, especially when it occurs later in the game when your brain is very exhausted from 20-30 something days of a difficult game. The format is good as well, where if you get it wrong you simply lose time. Elimination challenges are ok but in a memory based challenge if after a few rounds half the contestants are already out some people lose interest. I am a bit shocked it’s been 17 seasons since we’ve last seen it.
6. Great Balls of Fire (China)
Who doesn’t like fireworks? And for Survivor fans, nothing pleases them more than seeing challenges that tie in with the culture. You can’t have a season in China without doing something related to fireworks, and this definitely was an interesting one. This files under the category of cool Survivor challenges I would have never imagined even in my craziest dreams. And challenges like these are a reason why I love this show. Shame it hasn’t been used again but it probably is due to because it tied in so well with China.
5. Know Your Loved One (Africa & Pearl Islands)
This appeals to me for similar reasons as touchy subjects. Such simple questions can lead to funny moments or even some drama. You can’t help but laugh when certain couples (such as Darrah and her fiance) do horribly in this challenge. This challenge is also infamous because of the grandmother lie that Jonny Fairplay used to help him win the reward challenge. That might be why this challenge hasn’t been used since but few players would dare try a similar move that Fairplay did.
4. Quest for Fire (Borneo, Australia, Africa, Marquesas, All Stars)
The very first challenge of the series, and it was definitely popular in the early years of the series as it reappeared in the following three seasons and was brought back for All Stars (it would have been a travesty if it hadn’t been). We did see it in Cambodia, but with the puzzle challenge, and what seemed like a shorter course, it wasn’t the classic version we may have hoped. Still, this challenge never gets old, so lets hope its one we continue to see.
3. Rock n Roll (Africa, Guatemala & Gabon)
I don’t have to write a speech for this one. Two tribes rolling gigantic heavy boulders across tough terrain and obstacles in a race to the finish. What is not to love? Sure it’s far off from the most complex challenge in Survivor history, but this is an example of something that seems simple that can be very enjoyable. Oh, and it’s rolling a gigantic heavy boulder. Don’t try telling the contestants that it’s simple.
2. The Mixer (Amazon & All-Stars)
It might have been particularly funny because this challenge was used in a gender war season and in an All Star season full of players who knew each other or knew about each other, but both times this challenge was used it was probably the most fun I’ve seen contestants have in a challenge throughout the show. And even though Survivor is a tough game full of tense situations, moments like these are priceless. Like every challenge, a reward or immunity may be on the line but this challenge serves as a chance to act a little silly and have some fun. I could go on and on listing parts of the challenge I liked such as the girls apparently saying good things about Rob Cesternino at their camp, Daniel Lue slipping up in his efforts to have a conversation with Heidi, Rob and Kathy’s conversation, Ethan suggesting to Jenna Lewis “just leave your box open”, and so on but whenever I rewatch those seasons they’re among my favorite challenges. Along with the above reasons, it’s a golden opportunity to allow players from different tribes to get to know each other and learn names as well (because unlike for Survivor super fans, learning 8-10 or more names in a new season of Survivor doesn’t happen automatically).
1.Hand on a Hard Idol (Borneo, Africa, Marquesas, All-Stars)
This had to be in the number one spot, and for many of the same reasons as Quest For Fire. Simple concept? Yes. But easy? No. Seeing Richard, Rudy, and Kelly stand there is an iconic part of the series and although using it too often could probably spoil the significance, it would have been great to see this in a few more seasons. If I was in charge of scheduling challenges for a season of Survivor, this one would be one of my go to’s for the final immunity challenge, if not my absolute first choice.
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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