Jeff Probst’s sweet voice, saying “Come on in!” was the best thing I heard all afternoon. (He has since dropped the word “guys.”
It was like I felt serotonin running through my body. Survivor is back. In May 2020, the show that saw a group of people willingly submit to paranoia or bugs in exchange for $1 million aired. It has been 16 months since it was last aired.
Survivor did some work in the off-season, true to reality TV fashion. The 41st season is the first to be aired under CBS’s new diversity goal. It requires that at least 50% of the cast must be made up of people of color. They have also reduced the time spent on the island from 39 days to 26.
The show is enjoying a revival thanks to binge watching in the pandemic. The show is loved by celebrities such as actress Rachel Brosnahan. Additionally, Season 37 David Vs. Goliath contestant Mike White has created HBO’s hit series The White Lotus.
This is all to say that a lot depends on the return. It mostly delivered, thankfully.
Probst and I start on a forest path through Fiji with Probst. It’s great to see Probst again in his Survivor-branded father cap and cargo shirt! He gave us Vogue73 questions walking and talking energy. He just wants to have some fun. His definition of fun is a new way to have fun. This is not how Survivor should be played. These two changes are a sort of “Be Aware”, advantage for players, and a Game Within the Game to fans to enjoy at home.
Let’s not get into Probst. It’s great to see him so happy to be back. Let’s get to know the new players.
It was quite chilling to see the contestants. Many of us spent over a year in quarantine, watching the same few star players return season after season. It is a joy to see a new group of faces, and not just one returning player.
Among our regular cohort of beautiful people, ex-athletes, and college students, there are some standouts. JD is an Oklahoma college student. We meet him on the Ua tribe. He is charming and talkative and grew up watching Survivor. Ricard is a Washington flight attendant who quickly recognizes that he’s a threat.
Luvu has Naseer who is a California sales manager and claims Survivor helped him learn English. Sydney is a New York Law Student. Heather is a South Carolina stay-at-home mother who claims she has been watching the show for many years.
Yase is the last tribe. David from Chicago, a neurosurgeon, proves that he can do percentages better then Probst. Liana, an undergraduate student in Washington, D.C., is also featured. Evvie, Ph.D. student from Massachusetts, was the last tribe to be mentioned in her CBS Q&A. She stated that men are her biggest pet peeve.
The contestants are met on a barge during their first team challenge. The contestants must collect six colored paddles hidden in the water, swim to a rowboat and paddle around a buoy to retrieve flint. Ua wins because Luvu didn’t unclip their rowboat and Yase couldn’t find all six paddles. After a year of the pandemic, everyone is still struggling to learn the basics. I feel a little empathy for the teams that lose.
Ua arrives at the campsites and sets up. We meet Brad from Wyoming, who sounds and looks like Ted Danson. Genie is a Los Angeles grocery clerk who shares the touching story of her mother accepting her as gay.
The other tribes are quickly tackling their loser’s challenge to get tribe supplies. They must choose between a savvy task or a sweat task. Guess how many triangles there are in a drawing, or have two tribemates fill large barrels full of seawater. Both teams decided to work hard and finish their task in the four-hour time limit.
The two tribemates are also being agitated as they head to their base. It doesn’t seem to be that important. Alliances on Survivor are constantly changing, and it’s important not to get too involved in the details of tribe bonds.
A boat suddenly arrives carrying a note to the tribes. Each player must send a player to an undisclosed destination. Each must send a player on an undisclosed trip. Ua is a rock star, while JD is the odd one out. Danny is an ex-NFL player from Texas who now wants to be Luvu.
They must all go on a trip together and meet on a new island. This is mandatory summer camp bonding. They must decide whether to protect or risk their vote after reaching the summit. Each decision has its own benefits and drawbacks, which can be difficult to remember. It’s starting to feel like there are too many twists to a single episode. And we haven’t even reached the immunity challenge yet.
What do you know? Let’s go! This is a standard obstacle course that involves climbing up and crawling under logs and solving wooden puzzles. Amazingly, Luvu rose from last to win due to the puzzle-solving skills Deshawn (a Florida medical student) and Erika (a communications manager from Ontario).
Ricard, who is more interesting, speaks up to Probst and tells him that he doesn’t like the word “guys”, in Probst’s catchphrase “Come on in guys!” Prior to the challenge, Probst had asked for group feedback, but the castaways were not concerned at the time. Probst is proud that Ricard said something. He admitted he wanted to delete the word, and will now say “Come on in!”
Probst seems more energetic than he has been in years. It’s encouraging that the show ( , which has a large queer following), responds to the environment in which it airs. Probst admitted his gender biases in the last season. This also follows a controversial handling of a #MeToo moment. Survivor is a 20-year-old show. It’s good that they have shed some of their more outdated leanings.
The remainder of the episode follows a fairly standard format. The tribal council is formed by the two losing tribes. Abraham from Texas is the Yase tribe’s cyber security analyst. Tiffany is a Queens teacher. Naturally, Tiffany is a gun for Abraham. Tiffany wins the duel and Abraham is the first to return home.
Ua however offers the first live tribe of the season, spark by Sara a Massachusetts-based healthcare consultant. She feels like she’s returning home after a bad performance in the puzzle. But wait! But wait! Sara was correct, and she was voted out. Even though the show is working to modernize, some players still believe in the old-fashioned concept of keeping the tribe’s “physical power.”
Wow! Wow! It’s a bit worrying. This is supposedly a new era in Survivor. However, it seems like the show has accelerated the fast-paced and advantage-heavy gameplay. The episode was a bit too packed, from meeting the players to keeping track new advantages to watching double tribal council meetings.
The castaways decide whether Survivor will live or die. The episodes are dramatic because of them and not the twists and turns. There are a lot of promising plays in this season’s episode, including Shan from Washington D.C., who calls herself the “Mafia Minister.” A good season allows the castaways to create the drama, and not to conform to arbitrary rules.
It was still a pleasant feeling to see Survivor again on the screen. Probst is correct. Probst is right.