Back to Basics
Back in 2000, Survivor
touched off a nation. The simple format, beautiful
scenic backdrops, interesting people and visually
pleasing challenges became water cooler talk all over.
"The tribe has spoken" became a catch phrase in an
instant, and Richard Hatch a national celebrity. Twelve
series later, the show has relied on twists, new game
play and other changes meant to keep the show at the
forefront of the nation's consciousness. Instead, the
show has become over reliant on the "next new twist" or
the "most shocking surprise this year!" and the show
suffers for it. What made the original so great was that
everything was the bare minimum: you had a reward
challenge, an immunity challenge, an elimination,
eventually a merge, and someone at the end would win a
million dollars. Imagine that Survivor is the goose that
lays golden eggs. Instead of keeping the goose around
for a while, Mark Burnett decided to turn the poor fella
into foie gras.
The first issue became a non-starter fairly soon into
the run. Sure, everyone was talking about the tribes
being separated by race, but midway through the third
episode, the twist was moot, as everyone was integrated.
Exile Island is only interesting when the pocket
immunity idol is still out there. Since it didn't come
into play last time, the producers made the clues much
easier, in order to get the idol into someone's hands
and into the game sooner. That's all fine and good, but
watching someone sit cold and starving next to a
shipwreck isn't good television, no matter what the
producers want you to think. Then there's the execution
of the pocket immunity. Once again, it didn't come into
play, even though the bearer openly declared his
possession of the coveted talisman. We now have two "big
twists" that have gone over like wearing a plaid shirt
with striped slacks.
Perhaps the biggest travesty came on the final episode.
When it was revealed that the last tribal council would
be contested among the final three players instead of
just two, I felt cheated. There are some things that you
don't change, and especially don't spring on players at
the last minute. Never mind the possibility of a
three-way tie, having three people at the end creates
dynamics much different than having two spots at the
final vote. The thing of it is that the players never
got a chance to adjust their strategies: Jeff said, "Oh,
by the by, three of you make it to the end." It's
totally bush league, and unfair to the players who have
come to rely on certain aspects of the game.
I hope that the next edition of the game goes back to
basics, but it sounds like that's not going to happen.
Nineteen players will play the game, some living in
luxury, and others in squalor. Exile Island will be
back, this time hiding two personal immunity idols. It's
still Survivor, and I'm happy for that, but a small part
of me wishes for the good old days.
Travis Eberle hopes the new personal immunity idols
are an onion on a string. Send him an e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org if you want him to explain the
joke to you.