Some of the most impressive builds when it comes to Survivor challenges are those which form a maze. Not only do these provide a difficult task for the competitors to naviage through, they also showcase the skills and vision of the Survivor challenge and art department. This week Jarrod Loobeek recaps the 10 best labyrinths we've seen in the show's history. Which one was your favourite?
10. Gabon – Final Five Immunity Challenge
Double the maze double the fun right? That’s obviously what the producers behind the final five challenge in Gabon thought, designing two mazes for the one challenge. Although this challenge fails to live up to its potential it was nice to see multiple components testing various skills throughout. The balance beam maze was an interesting idea even if it came across as fairly straightforward and having players search 25 huts for just 3 puzzle bags in the next section was a difficult task. Ending with four players working side by side on the final puzzle should have made for a very exciting finish but in my opinion the challenge lacked drama and does not compare with the fun and suspense of the other mazes higher on this list.
9. The Australian Outback – Tribal Immunity Challenge
One of only two maze challenges used for tribal immunity, this maze set the standard for all future mazes to follow and was a major build for its time. As Jeff proudly notes before the challenge begins “46 tons of lumber, three miles of burlap, two weeks to build.” Despite its size, of all the mazes this is probably the least visually interesting, but its plain aesthetic fits well with the season and location. The great thing about this challenge are the aerial shots which with the aid of the tribe flags give the viewer a clear picture of which tribe is leading the challenge and where they need to head next. Although Ogakor eventually won the challenge quite convincingly, it’s the first major use of a maze in Survivor so it deserves a spot in the top 10.
8. The Amazon – Final Four Immunity Challenge
It would be a crime not to have the first iteration of the blind maze challenge in the top 10. This challenge had some great changes in momentum throughout with basically everybody apart from Butch vying for the lead at some point in time. The location of the maze in the middle of a swamp added to the excitement with players battling the rain and mud as they attempt to collect one necklace from each of the four stations. To me this challenge is a shining moment for eventual winner Jenna who manages to stay calm under pressure even when Butch and Matthew begin to work together to navigate the maze. While not the most exciting maze challenge, it’s definitely a fun one to watch with a lot riding on the outcome.
7. Redemption Island – Final Four Immunity Challenge
Despite being an almost universally despised season, Redemption Island has some great challenges sprinkled throughout the season. While falling into the trap of being a maze challenge with a weak final puzzle, the maze itself is a well-designed component of the final immunity challenge. The maze in Redemption Island does the small things well, namely: being built to a reasonable scale, being tough to navigate, and containing interesting features like the walkways under the stairs and flags that raised once somebody retrieved a bag of puzzle pieces. Despite this challenge quickly becoming a two-person game of follow the leader between Boston Rob and Ashley, it still has enough enjoyable moments like Natalie’s complete confusion and a close finish to secure its place firmly inside the top 10.
6. All-Stars – Final Four Immunity Challenge
Another entry used as the final four immunity challenge, the All-Star maze introduced obstacles intended to slow down the castaways and make it harder for them to keep track of which paths they’d already taken. The short routes to each puzzle piece manage to create a lot of tension early in the challenge, helping the castaways stay neck and neck with one another and contributing to the lead changing multiple times. The four-way entry/exit point to the middle of the maze adds to the tension, providing great visuals of the contestants crossing over each others paths throughout the challenge. Although the rung puzzle at the end is definitely one of the weakest “ladder puzzles” Survivor has ever used, this design flaw is more than made up for by the maze’s drama inducing layout.
5. Vanuatu – Final Four Immunity Challenge
Surely one of the greatest challenge builds in the history of the show, the Vanuatu vertical maze is a thing of beauty. Given a face on view of the maze you could mistakenly think that this challenge would be quite simple to navigate but the arduous climbing, descending and manoeuvring around the other contestants really heightened the difficulty for the final four. Even if the maze itself hadn’t have been spectacular, this challenge is great because everybody bar Scout (understandable given the state of her knee) is really in with a shot of winning immunity. Twila gets off to an early lead, before Chris overtakes her with Eliza trailing the pair by only a piece or two throughout the entire challenge. Although like many of the challenges already listed the final puzzle is fairly weak, the maze itself more than makes up for the lack lustre finish and is definitely worthy of a top 5 spot.
4. Guatemala – Final Four Immunity Challenge
Another maze that shows the incredible vision of the challenge production team, the bird maze in Guatemala is a sight to behold. The maze was tough to navigate and physically demanding with ladders to climb, a rope bridge and a central pool of floating square pontoons. If the maze itself wasn’t challenging enough, we finally have an entry featuring a difficult puzzle element, with three possible solutions of a crocodile, jaguar or monkey in Mayan art form. As with any challenge this maze benefited from a down to the wire finish with Stephenie, Rafe and Danni all working on the final puzzle at the same time with only a handful of pieces separating Danni, the eventual winner, from the others. To me this maze is the perfect balance of art design and difficulty in the one challenge!
3. Fiji – Final Five Immunity Challenge
The final five immunity challenge in Fiji took the blind maze to a whole new level of difficulty. As if simply navigating a maze blindfolded wasn’t hard enough, this time players had to retrieve keys, open locks and lower and cross drawbridges to reach the finish and win immunity. The great thing about this maze was the amount of places where the castaways could potentially either lose or make up ground on the other competitors. It’s due to this that although Yau-Man really looks like he’s in the driving seat from the halfway point onwards, there’s still a sense of doubt and suspense as the challenge progresses. Far from only being tension there are some great lighthearted moments too, with Boo and Dreamz falling in the water multiple times and Cassandra struggling to even find the start of the first section of the course. I think the blind maze is a great challenge and I’m all for it continuing to comeback every couple of seasons but in the future I hope the challenge producers take a leaf from Fiji and add in some much needed variation to the standard four quadrant version.
2. Cagayan – Final Three Immunity Challenge
Maze challenges have provided some of the largest scale builds in Survivor history and while the Cagayan final immunity challenge doesn’t rival the size of some of the other mazes in this list, it’s definitely grand by modern standards. To me the best thing about this challenge is the innovation of the turnstile feature that prevents players from scoping out dead ends in advance. Given that some turnstiles would spin while others were locked in place, the final three had to try multiple paths to get to each station and could easily make the same mistake twice. Adding an interesting cog and wheel puzzle to the end of the challenge helped to ensure things remained exciting from start to finish and that whoever finished the maze portion of the challenge first wasn’t guaranteed an easy win. Similar to many of the other entries in this list, the Cagayan maze challenge is so memorable because it has multiple momentum changes and ends in a close finish with Kass losing to Woo by a matter of seconds!
1. Heroes vs. Villains – Final Four Immunity Challenge
Of all the challenges on this list the maze in Heroes vs. Villains had a whole lot to live up to being the final challenge of Survivor’s massive twentieth season and boy did it deliver. While many people would have been expecting an endurance challenge for final immunity and perhaps a return to an old classic like hand on a hard idol, production took a risk selecting the blind maze in its original format used in The Amazon. While there have been blowouts in this particular challenge (like Mike’s win in Worlds Apart) the challenge in Heroes vs. Villains was incredibly close from start to finish with Russell, Jerri and Parvati finishing within metres of one another and the lead changing right up until Russell grabbed the immunity necklace. The maze itself was a fair size and we also got some great collisions and a couple of funny interactions between the blindfolded players throughout the challenge. I think it’s safe to say I’ll always be a major advocate for endurance challenges for final immunity but this maze challenge was able to rival the tension of the great endurance challenges of earlier seasons and was a fitting final challenge in a landmark season.
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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