This weekend, a friend asked if I had to watch crappy reality shows as a part of my job, and I explained that I only watch one reality show: Survivor, and it is completely by choice. I STAND UNASHAMED. Because the sociological aspects of this show are fascinating, and after 30 seasons, the politics of the show still remains compelling. It’s real(ish) world Game of Thrones, and it remains as engrossing as ever watching different and returning tribe members form alliances, break those alliances, and knock each other off in order to win $1 million.
You’d think that after 30 seasons, the format would be exhausted, but it’s the opposite: Tribe members now work not only with and against each other, but with and against the history of Survivor. Those 30 seasons inform how the tribe members play: Do you try what’s worked in the past, or do you do the opposite because everyone else knows what’s worked in the past, too. It’s a new Battle of Wits every season.
There’ll be a new wrinkle in the 31st season, however, and it’s not just that the tribes have been chosen by the audience from among previous seasons’ fan favorites. This year, a new approach will be taken with the immunity idol. First off, all the immunity idols will look different, which means that some may look like a toddler made them while others will be very intricate. What that means is that it will be easier for tribe members to fashion their own: The key will always be trying to convince other tribe members that your immunity idol is genuine.
But that, it turns out, may be mostly moot because of the other wrinkle: Immunity idols will now be hidden in the middle of challenges. Here’s Jeff Probst explaining it to EW:
�So here�s how it will work: Day 1, they start building their shelter, you know people are going to start looking for an idol. They�re going to find it in a tree or under a trunk � whatever. But it will be a clue and the clue will say, �Good news, the idol is within reach. You just have to be daring enough to grab it.� And we�re going to have a drawing [of the challenge]. You will know exactly where it is. There is no search. The only question is, can you do it in front of your tribe in the middle of a challenge and get away with it?�
You see how f**ked up that is, right? To get the immunity idol, you’ll have to do it in front of everyone, so everyone will know you have it. But, more interesting from a sociological standpoint is the fact that you will have to essentially risk your team’s efforts in immunity challenges in order to get the idol for yourself. In other words, you have to sacrifice your team for yourself, and while having the idol might buy you an extra few days on the island, it will also earn you a lot of ill will from your tribemates.
That beats the hell out of Exile Island.