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How Tough Is Too Tough?
Travis Eberle

Ads for the current series of Survivor tout it as "the toughest Survivor yet". They were right on the money: the eleven mile hike that started the game knocked out four of the men out of the starting nine. What happens for Survivor 12? Are the hapless castaways going to spin a Wheel of Torture and whatever body part the pointer lands on is beaten on by a hired tough? Will the starting 16 be forced to strip down to nothing, using leaves for clothes? Maybe they have to wear blindfolds, earplugs or boxing gloves the whole time. That would be extreme, sure, but no worse than having to hike 11 miles into a rainforest, with no promise of water or food.

The slope seems to be less and less 'outside assistance' each time there is a new Survivor. The original group got rice, a pot, and other essentials. In Australia, the group ran out of food and had to give up shelter. In the Marquesas Islands, the teams started with only a pot and machete, and had to catch all of their food. After "Pearl Islands," the theme is to start the players with nothing but a map to their campsite. I don't get it. Sure, the theme is survival, but it isn't fun watching all of the castaways getting sick after every challenge.

The "survival" theme is worn out. I'm not watching for that element. I'm watching for the challenges and the votes. Everything else is background. Obviously, it does make a difference to see who can survive in the outdoors the best, and that manifests itself in the challenges (no food means your team is going down hard, whether it's mental or physical in nature).

Give the group an amount of food to start with, and let that be it. Or give the team a choice between food, various tools and blankets and whatnot. The winners of the Quest for Fire get to keep everything that they managed to take with them on the trek. Or have a draft lottery, where the tribes can pick various baskets, filled with various provisions. Give us more game.

"But Travis!" I can hear you whine already, "They're competing for a million dollars! It should be hard!" Sure, I buy that. But there's a line between hard and physically exhausting. Survivor has already crossed that line, and I hope they don't go careening over it in the future.

Travis Eberle is the original survivor... E-mail him at

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