Confessions of a Survivor Addict

Ever since Survivor’s first season, I have been hooked. It’s difficult to say why. While the idea of seeing a diverse group of individuals trying to build a community on very little common ground is certainly fascinating, this alone isn’t enough to warrant all the attention the show is receiving. Is it because the contestants  are competing for a one million dollar prize? Or is it seeing what they are prepared to do for the money? For me, the latter is actually a deterrent. But for some reason, season after season, where possible, I follow the show. Season 24, however, may change this…

Perhaps why viewers tune in each season is to see what change has been made to the classic Survivor formula. What makes this season unique is the “One World” concept. Both tribes are living on one beach. But this idea is not entirely original (see Survivor: Thailand). With this twist, the teams are able to interact for, I don’t know, perhaps some post-merge strategy planning. Thus far, it seems that only one contestant has taken advantage of this: Colton.

Colton, apparently this season’s villain, has an immunity idol which was given to him by the all-women Salani tribe. Despite possessing this all-important token, Colton did have a rocky start to the game, at one point alienating himself from both tribes. But, as of episode 4, he regained composure and even gained some influence over his tribe. Perhaps seeing the players develop makes watching the show worthwhile.

But what I find hard to watch is how many players mindlessly follow a self-appointed leader. Colton himself admitted that he has a gift for manipulation. So great is his ability to sway his tribe-mates that he was able to convince them to voluntarily go to tribal council, despite the fact that they decimated the Salani tribe at an immunity challenge. Given Colton’s relationship with the women of the Salani tribe, he may have secured himself a solid position post-merge. For Colton, and only for Colton, this move made sense. But why on earth did the other Manono members agree to this? In episode 1, they weren’t even willing to redo a challenge after Kourtney was injured.

This season so far has been unimpressive, but in the show’s defence, it did warn us. In its premier episode – the episode to set the tone for the season – Chelsea blurted out that her tribe has the potential to be “one huge ball of badassness”. What was said was not as shocking as the fact that this actually made the premier’s final cut. The camera crew had three days of footage, and “ball of badassness” was deemed worthy to be shown to the masses? This in itself is a message: “viewers, you are in for a rough ride”.

Of course, playing arm-chair Survivor is easy. Picking apart the show, its cast and concepts is one thing; actually being involved in production or playing is another matter entirely. But with aging ideas, offensive cast members, and the repeated theme that it is a “game” and that manipulation is acceptable if a million dollars is at stake, even I am losing patience with this show.

‘Survivor’ is a Mark Burnett production.

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