With America’s 33rd season of Survivor in full swing and Australia’s Samoa season just ended its a good time to look at what each could learn from the other. There is no doubt that the original American version is the gold standard to all international counterparts. But is there anything Australia’s Survivor can impart to the American original? First off let it be said that the failings of the Australian season were clear to any Survivor fan. The moral thread of mateship that runs deep in Australian culture was a hindrance to its version. Survivor is not real life and you are not going to be a representation of your true character. And that is ok. The Australian cast were typical looking of Survivor characters – athletic males and females, beautiful young people, bossy or wise older people, bookish types and quintessential new age yogi lovers. But the vital missing aspect was the whole cast was not aware of Survivor lore and history. And it impacted the game negatively.
One does not need to be a super fan who has watched all 33 seasons of Survivor to be eligible and acceptable to go on Survivor. But producers and casting should look for people who have some concept of what Survivor is. And if a person is cast who does not have any knowledge that fine, but the Australian version had almost half a cast that seemed clueless to Survivor. This impacted those that did have great game play strategies. They were seen as betraying the integrity of friendship and somehow not holding true to the mateship code. Any players who made bug moves or tried to talk strategies got the boot. This really made for some boring people sticking around for far to long.
The other clear mistake Australia Survivor made was not the right twists at the right times. America’s Survivor always keeps its players uncomfortable and on their toes with twists mostly presented at the right times. Tribe swaps, exile island, idol switch ups – the list is long. The Australian version started off fantastic with twist and could actually be something the American original could learn from. But a mid season twist that resulted on one clearly stronger and superior tribe meant that a ‘Pagonging’ took place. For those unaware of this term it simply references a season in which the Pagong tribe were able to vote out the other tribe one by one after the merge. It makes for predictable and boring episodes. A twist or tribe shake up was needed to break up the powerful tribe and help out the game players left on the other tribe.
But one clear stand out from the Australian version of Survivor that The Americans should take notice of was the finale. It was true raw emotion on display during a classic challenge, a challenge that was the same as the first season of Survivors finale. And proved to engage viewers of both Survivor fandom and the irregular viewers. The finale was a master-class in finale Survivor juries that sits with the best of the American finales. The winner Kristy executed her speech and answered questions with a verbal tenacity that clearly explained her subtle game and the clear reasons she should win. It even won over all the Survivor newbies on the jury that seemed to hold disdain for the game play aspects of Survivor. The runner up Lee who was the embodiment of trying to play Survivor wit real life integrity was left speechless and in the dust.
Sometimes the smugness of players in the American finales outweighs the humility of what it took them to get there. A subtle game played by somebody on Survivor can result in a win. As long as they can articulate how they used subtlety to rule the game. America’s next season should look to the ability the Australian finale players were stripped of facades and truly displayed raw emotion. It is ok to be stripped of your shiny outer layer and only your true emotions on display. Its ok to show weakness because that shows the strength when you don’t give up. And it makes for compelling viewing.
For next years Australian Survivor a wider and more diverse cast needs to be chosen. And they really need to have some knowledge and willingness to understand and play strategies. And for goodness sake make sure they know how to look for idols!