In Survivor we often think of how demanding the physical challenges can be on the castaways living on limited food with the stresses of the game but the mental challenges can prove to be just as if not more difficult in the taxing conditions. Memory challenges have made a resurgence in recent years testing the castaways' mental prowess and allowing the audience to play along from home. In today's top 10 Ozlet Jarrod Loobeek takes a look at 10 of the best memory challenges to have featured on the show. Read on to see if you recall these challenges.
10. Concentration – Australian Outback, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa & Redemption Island
Concentration is one of the simplest memory challenges used in Survivor, taking the age old card game and making it look a whole lot more television friendly. At its core this challenge simply involves castaways matching up pairs whether it be by flipping over a tile or lifting a cover off an obscured item. This challenge is versatile in that it can be run as either an individual or team challenge and while it can provide some suspense during the closing stages (like in Fiji), it’s a fairly bland challenge overall.
9. River Rats/Bai Bai – Fiji and Micronesia
The team version of the classic complete an obstacles and memorise the symbols challenge is definitely weaker than the individual edition of the same challenge. Indeed, River Rats is mostly remembered for the horrible twist attached to it in Fiji rather than the actual running of the challenge itself. While it’s definitely good to see more mental team based challenges, the memory component of these challenges becomes far less impressive when four or more players are working together to recollect a series of symbols and place them in order.
Put simply Total Recall tests the players’ memories of an event or visit as part of the game. In the Amazon tribes were given time to explore a local village, trying to retain as much detail as possible for the upcoming quiz. In Survivor China the contestants were surprised with a quiz based on the Chinese performances and decorations that they observed during the merge feast. While an interesting challenge, particularly when only cryptically alluded to beforehand by Probst like in China, Total Recall lacks the fun and intrigue of the entries higher on this list and has only featured twice throughout Survivor’s history.
7. Mask Match – Gabon, Nicaragua & San Juan del Sur
Debuting in Gabon, Mask Match tests each player’s memory and sense of touch in feeling a mask and putting it back together at the end of an obstacle course; all while blindfolded. Simply reconstructing a mask from memory would prove tough for some but doing so in a completely disorientated state with similarly shaped yet incorrect objects thrown in by production just adds to the difficulty. With plenty of hilarious moments brought about by the blindfolded nature of the challenge, Mask Match is a nifty challenge with a high level of difficulty throughout.
6. Box Your Mind – Africa
Box Your Mind tests the castaways’ photographic memory as they forage for items and try to place them in the correct compartments of a barrel based on the example briefly shown to them. The great component of this challenge is that instead of selecting from a group of symbols like in other memory challenges, the players have to physically collect the correct items from the natural environment surrounding them, making it harder for them to luck into the correct answer. Box Your Mind is a really solid old school memory challenge that readily accommodates various difficulty levels and would be a welcome addition to any modern Survivor season.
Most recently contested under the name Running The Numbers, this memory challenge involves individuals memorising animal, survival or mathematical symbols while traversing an obstacle course and later using these symbols to complete an equation or solve a puzzle. The strength of Running The Numbers is in the way it can vary from season to season regarding the number of symbols required to be memorised, the type of obstacle course and the way the symbols will be used in the final stage of the challenge. As true a test of information recall as they come, this challenge is great at showing off the mental prowess of individual contestants and is always a pleasant break from the trend of static test of will challenges. The contestants always bring unique and interesting ways of memorising the symbols to the table and never cease to amaze with their ability to remember so clearly so late in the game.
One of the most light-hearted challenges in Survivor history, Matchmaker worked perfectly with the male vs. female dynamic in Amazon and again in All-Stars where it shone due to the familiarity between the contestants. In a similar vein to Go Fish, Matchmaker features the players asking one another for specific items hidden inside a wooden box in front of them. With plenty of playful banter flying back and forth, this game of remembering what’s already been asked and claimed is a great way for the tribes to interact with one another in a less serious manner. With the right cast, this challenge is a real treat.
3. Shut Your Trap – One World & Worlds Apart
First appearing in One World, Shut Your Trap is a great memory challenge with contestants competing in one on one battles in order to score points for tribal immunity. In this challenge players have to memorise a sequence of items before running to their stations and recreating that sequence. One of the hallmarks of a good challenge is the ability for different strategies to take place and Shut Your Trap allows just that with the simple lever tool that allows the competitors to drop the curtain and obscure the sequence. Do you in Troyzan fashion immediately pull the lever to try and throw off the opposition? Do you stay longer and try to memorise the sequence or do you pull the lever instantaneously and try to do it in stages? Or perhaps you forget about the lever and quickly run back to your station, all the while getting a longer glimpse at the items and a crucial head start on your opponent? Both iterations of this challenge have been memorable for different reasons. In One World the females were able to earn a clean sweep of the points much to upset of the men while in Worlds Apart Escameca threw the challenge leading to the end of the beloved Rodney/Joaquin bromance. A great tribal challenge with a good balance of difficulty and fun.
2. Flash Back – China, Nicaragua, Redemption Island, Blood vs. Water, Cagayan & San Juan del Sur
First breaking onto the scene in Survivor China, Flash Back involves the contestants mimicking an increasingly complex pattern revealed to them by Jeff. At its most basic form this challenge utilises cubes with different symbols on each face however China and Cagayan employed more interesting methods using a knife to stab symbols and dropping coloured tiles respectively. While Flash Back has a fairly basic premise, it provides a lot more suspense and is able to better hold the viewers’ attention than other simple memory challenges featured in this list. Fun to play along with at home with some great battles contested and many a clutch victory for players in the minority.
1. Survivor Folklore – Borneo, Australian Outback, Africa, Marquesas, Vanuatu, Guatemala, Cook Islands & Cambodia
One of Survivor’s classic challenges it was great to see Survivor Folklore make a triumphant return in Cambodia after after a seventeen season absence. In this challenge Probst tells the castaways a story after which they must collect tokens by correctly answering questions based on the tale they’ve just been told. This challenge has provided plenty of drama during its many runs with ample room for the lead to change throughout and players to make mistakes along the way. Survivor Folklore is plenty of fun to play along with at home and it provides unique insights into the culture of the location where the season is being filmed. While this is far from the toughest memory competition in Survivor, in my opinion it’s a really strong challenge that opens the door for all types of players to win. I truly hope we see a resurgence of this challenge given its positive reception in Cambodia and we see it added back into the rotation of recurring challenges.
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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