30 from 30: The Thirty Moments That Shaped Survivor

When CBS debuted Survivor thirty seasons ago, it was not the show it is today. It has evolved over time; the show itself innovated, and occasionally the players themselves would change the game for them. That history inspired this series, where we’ll examine the thirty moments that shaped Survivor from Borneo to Worlds Apart.

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Purple Rock Survivor podcast presents 30 from 30: The thirty moments that shaped Survivor in the first 30 seasons

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In this podcast, Andy and John debate which moments are important enough to make the list. Part one of the podcast covers the first ten seasons of the show, from Borneo to Palau.

The list is not yet set in stone, and we welcome suggestions from all of you as to what moments are most worthy. But first, our guidelines:

  • Anything we’re calling a “moment” had to occur on the actual CBS broadcast version of Survivor (CBS or whichever station airs it in your country; we know we have international listeners)
  • These are not the biggest strategic moments, or the funniest moments, or the most amazing moments; it can be any of those, but it must also have had some sort of lasting impact on the game or the show itself
  • Very recent seasons (particularly San Juan del Sur and Worlds Apart) will have an uphill battle making the list, since it’s hard to evaluate their impact
  • That time Leif slept in a box does not count

We always welcome your comments, but this time we’re actively soliciting them. You can leave a comment here, tweet us @purplerockpod, or email us at purplerockpodcast on gmail. As always, thanks for listening!

Go here to listen to part two.

20 thoughts on “30 from 30: The Thirty Moments That Shaped Survivor

  1. One thing I’ve thought about since we recorded: it’s harder to prove the influence of something that STOPPED things from happening than something that influences similar things from happening again. So we can’t know the full impact of Skupin’s hunt or Jenna’s win because it’s proving a negative.

    1. This also comes up with the Tom/Ian challenge discussion and a later one that will appear in part two.

      1. I really don’t see the Tom/Ian thing as having much impact. It hasn’t really happened since, but is that because people have learned a lesson, or because it was so phenomenally stupid in the first place? I’m about 99% sure it’s mostly the latter.

        1. I think when they say the Tom/Ian think, he doesn’t mean Ian quitting, he means a challenge that went on for 12 hours. Production basically stopped doing those endurance challenges that could last any more than a couple of hours after that.

          1. Yes, this is what I mean. But in fairness to DrVanNostrand, he may no have listened to part two yet.

  2. What about Gretchen getting voted off at the Borneo merge? She was reportedly the production fave due to her survival background and was the leader of the Pagong tribe. Her vote out had three ripple effects: it was the first #blindside, likable leaders can be voted out at any time and it proved that the game wasn’t all about surviving the natural environment. It was and is all about surviving the people around you.

    1. That’s a good thought. At the very least, it warrants mentioning when we write up the impact of forming the first alliance.

    2. We just used the generic “forming an alliance” for Borneo, but the Gretchen vote would be the representative moment for that one. And it’s for all of the reasons that you mentioned and more.

  3. What about Ian giving up that Final Immunity? It influenced how people played the game in the future by showing that some people would rather be honorable than win the game. I think you see it plenty of times throughout the show, for example when Russell makes it to the end in Samoa and HvV, people did not vote for him because he did not play an honorable or social game. I think Ian stepping down is the first time that you see someone waver and not be sure about their own gameplay and their own perception of who they are. It sets up the idea of going to the end with who deserves to be there as well, Ian thought he didn’t deserve to be in the end even though he knew he could have beaten Katie so he gave it up for the more deserving character in Tom. I don’t know if we’d have winners like Tony if Ian hadn’t stepped down because he was undeserving. But that might also be attributed to Colby voting out Keith instead of Tina which is another overlooked moment.

    1. As Andy noted, it’s hard to attribute much influence to Ian giving up that immunity. It may be that it’s influential, but it’s hard to know for sure.

      Colby choosing Tina over Keith is another one that was pitched to me elsewhere, and I kind of like it.

  4. Chris’ FTC in Vanuatu along with his prompting of Twila’s FTC performance? I would say it’s the first time someone’s win was almost entirely swayed by FTC performance.

    1. It’s difficult to prove that his final tribal performance is what swayed the jury; it’s too subjective. You could make an argument that Spencer’s speech in Cagayan is what persuaded everyone to vote for Tony, since we saw Spencer give the speech and then Tony won. But in reality, everyone was voting for Tony anyway.

      I’m also having trouble thinking of examples off the top of my head of future seasons that were influenced by Chris’ FTC performance. Maybe China?

  5. Great job overall. I was picking a lot of the same ones playing along at home. One that I think was over looked was the Hunter vote. The idea that you could target threats that early as even an option was a huge game changer.

    1. The most amazing part of that is that Andy didn’t nominate it despite being a huge Boston Rob fanboy.

      I liked that move, because Rob understood early on that it’s not about tribal numbers, it’s about *your* numbers.

      1. I think Hunter’s vote out is a huge moment but I think that Rob’s confessional beforehand is the more influential moment. Fear keeping people loyal is a strategy that people use to this day (Rob used it to great success in Redemption island, for example). I know that it is a bit of a long shot, but that confessional is a bit of a strategic milestone.

        1. If the moment is Hunter getting voted out, the discussion of why Rob did it would probably be a part of that. I recently re-watched Marquesas because I remembered it being a relatively lackluster season, but I was really impressed by Rob. I remember at the time thinking that he was just a pompous ass. He is that, but he also had a handle on how to play the strategic portion of the game already.

  6. I don’t know if these were “moments”, but they came to mind while I was listening to the podcast.

    1. Borneo – Richard stepping down at the final immunity challenge. Not just the first person to throw a challenge, but it showed that a player could get to the end by forcing someone else to make the decision of who to bring with them to the end. Was it on the show where Richard explained his reason for doing that, that if he had won that challenge and voted out Kelly he knew he would have lost to Rudy, and if he had voted out Rudy everyone on the jury would hate him for that and he would have lost to Rudy? Or was that in interviews?

    2. Borneo – I thought I had one about Sean’s alphabet strategy, but that’s more of a continuing saga instead of a moment. Maybe the alliance realizing that they could use Sean’s alphabet strategy to piggy-back onto his vote? A warning to future players that they better belong to an alliance, that just voting by themselves would get them ostracized and could make them unwilling/unknowing members of an alliance?

    3. Thailand – the Attack Zone. All previous tribal challenges had the “No touching!” rule. This was the first challenge that allowed (and encouraged) the tribes to physically attack each other. In future seasons this led to injuries, strategy of who to participate in these types of challenges, and increased the idea that you needed to keep the strong players in the pre-merge game because you needed them for these types of challenges.

    1. I like both of your Borneo moments, especially since Sean’s strategy came to mind when listening. I think if the alphabet strategy was chosen, the big moment of it is the “J for Jenna” moment. The whole episode hinged on the Pagongs attempting to get Sean on their side and with that vote, Gervase and Colleen were doomed. Sean is also a great prototype for the wildcard that the majority alliance will use until he is not useful anymore.

  7. I think that Rob voting out Lex in All-Stars is worth including. I think that really triggered the whole discussion of “is it just a game or is this still real life? Can you be friends with someone you backstabbed within the confines of Survivor?”

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