30 from 30: The Thirty Moments That Shaped Survivor, part 2

In part one of this podcast, we discussed the moments that shaped Survivor from Borneo to Palau. In part two, we cover everything that has happened in the twenty seasons that followed- from Guatemala (the forgotten season) to Worlds Apart.

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Purple Rock Survivor podcast presents 30 from 30: The thirty moments that shaped Survivor, part 2

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Andy and John continue the debate about which moments are important enough to make the list. Part two covers twenty seasons, from Guatemala to Worlds Apart. It features fewer “locks” to make the list than the earlier seasons, partly because some seasons are too recent for us to fully appreciate their impact on the show and its players.

Click here to listen to part one.

Again, this list is not yet set in stone, and we welcome suggestions from all of you as to what moments are most worthy. But first, a reminder of 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
  • If you’re proposing something that should make the list, don’t just name the moment- tell us what impact it has had in shaping the show we love
  • That one time J’Tia dumped the rice 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!

  • Other Scott

    A few suggestions, and a comment on one that were brought up (two of them involve Boston Rob, and I’m not even a Rob fan):
    1. The Hunter Vote (Marquesas) – I did see this brought up on the other thread, but it really influenced the tribal stage of the game. Before the tribal stage was all about being part of the team and power struggles were fought over which weaker player to vote off (Mitchell vs. Keith in Australia for instance). This changed things so that a tribe may work as a team for the challenges, but often was very much divided into two factions practice.

    2. Rob losing to Amber (All Stars) – If the first few seasons showed that good gameplay was going to be rewarded over other things like challenge prowess, this vote was sort of the antithesis to that. This taught that good gameplay was only going to be rewarded up to a point, if you cut the throat of every jury member along the way, they aren’t going to reward you. This is the first time that showed jury management is crucial even if you play a pretty air tight game. Russell obviously never learned this lesson, but a lot of other players did, like Todd, Yul, Earl, etc.

    3. Danni winning (Guatamala) – OK, here me out on this one. This is the second time in three seasons that someone attempted to use the last person in the minority alliance as a swing vote (actually the third straight time if you count Jenn and Katie recruiting Stephanie into a woman’s alliance in Palau that never quite got the numbers). Both those times, that swing vote went on to win. From this point on, people basically stop doing that. If you are the last person in your alliance, they are going to get rid of you as soon as possible. From this point on people who won from minority alliances either a) went on an immunity run, or b) Were able to leverage an immunity idol (or JTs charm) in some way to rescue their alliance.

    4. Todd’s final tribal – Despite many people asking for it on the jury, this is the first time I can think of someone really stepping up and owning what they did. And the jury reacted really positively to it. For those paying attention, this became the model for how to conduct a FTC.

    One comment:
    I can’t see what influence the China thrown challenge had. Is it the most memorable example of a thrown challenge? Yes. But people were trying to throw challenges at some rate before that. There’s the obvious one in Africa, there’s one in Pearl Islands that was actually a pretty big part of the plot, because it started the Morgan comeback to be even at the merge after losing every challenge to that point, and there’s Bubba trying to get Chris and company to throw a challenge after the swap in Vanuatu. It was a thing before, and it was a thing after.

    • andythesaint

      RE: challenge throwing happened in Cook Islands too.

    • purplerockpodcast

      I like the argument for the Hunter vote. As our resident Rob fan, Andy should’ve made that one. That’s getting added to the nomination list.

      Rob losing to Amber, however, shows that bad gameplay gets punished. Rob played a strong strategic game, but his social game wasn’t strong enough to convince jurors not to hate him for it.

      I’m iffy on the Danni one, but I don’t think Todd’s final tribal belongs. This came up when someone suggested Chris’ final tribal elsewhere, but it’s too hard to say that someone’s final tribal performance actually changed votes (unless we had confessionals or even reunion reactions where players said that the winner’s final tribal swayed them).

      • Other Scott

        But the final tribal doesn’t have to change votes to be influential, it just has to change how other people state their final tribal arguments in the future.

        • andythesaint

          Good argument. We must remember our own criteria: these aren’t being judged on their influence on the games they happened in, but rather how they, as moments, influenced the show as a whole.

          Johnny Fairplay’s dead grandma might not have influenced Pearl Islands beyond him getting a reward. But it influenced the show.

      • Other Scott

        Yes, bad jury management is bad gameplay, I’m not arguing there. My phrasing was perhaps poor. This is the first time that jury management was brought front and centre though, and like Russell, a bad example of how to do this can be just as influential as a good one.

        • purplerockpodcast

          I see your point now. But I think Russell’s back-to-back losses are more influential in that regard. This is one of those cases where the first time something happens isn’t necessarily the most important time.

          • andythesaint

            I think that’s largely true is because it took us years to realize that All-Stars was more Rob’s fault than the jury’s.

    • DrVanNostrand

      #2: I like this one. This is in my mind the first example of the “bitter jury”. I put that in quotes because I consider jury management the responsibility of every finalist. If a jury is bitter, it’s because someone made them that way. Anyway, this is the first huge example that I remember. The two seasons Russell desperately needed to watch before HvV were Pearl Islands and All Stars.

      • andythesaint

        The Marquesas jury was also very “bitter”. They tried to cast Neleh as manipulative and treacherous.

      • Andy

        If Russell had watched Pearl Islands, he wouldn’t have dismissed Sandra so casually.

    • sharculese

      The other thing about the Hunter vote is that if you had to point to one thing that justifies bringing Boston Rob back and giving him the hance to become a presence that looms so large over the show, that’s probably it.

    • andythesaint

      I think one of the reasons we may have bypassed this is that Marquesas already had two locks, so we mentally moved on. But I do think this is a contender.

  • sharculese

    I’m actually shocked that there’s so few Jeff Probst moments under discussion, given that he’s the only consistent presence from season to season and he’s become such a big part of what the show is. I get that it’s probably hard to come up with individual moments, but I wanted to throw out a couple that I think could be contenders.

    1. Borneo – Pagong’s first tribal council. It may actually be their second tribal, I need to double check, but basically, Jeff, who seems to have come into the show thinking council is going to be more of an open forum for the tribes to work out how they operate, gets completely steamrolled when Pagong displays the same level of organization they bring to every other thing they do. It takes him a little while after that to figure out exactly how to navigate things, but I think that’s the moment where the idea of Jeff as observer and narrator starts to die and Jeff as interlocutor/mediator/audiene surrogate is born.

    2. Australia – the rice exchange – First time Jeff realizes how much of a dick he can get away with being to the players.

    3. Marquesas – final five tribal – There may be an earlier example, but I’m talking about the moment where Kathy tries to sidebar with Vecepia and Jeff shuts her down. This to me is sort of the other end of the first moment – the most definitive early point I can think of where Jeff establishes that tribal council has rules and that he enforces to those rules. The only other contender I can think of is the Lindsey vote-off in Africa, where he makes her sit through the formality of the re-vote and past-vote count even though everyone knows she’s going home, and I don’t think that counts just because it didn’t have any effect on how the game was played.

    • purplerockpodcast

      I sort of wanted to get a Probst moment in. Andy and I both discussed trying to locate the moment where Probst switches from impartial observer to fanboy/audience surrogate, but couldn’t think of the specific turning point.

      • andythesaint

        It was probably a gradual change, with fits and starts.

      • gouis

        You should include the time he grilled kebabs for Colleen and Jenna on a reward challenge. Bizarre.

  • manisnotabird

    I’m surprised you attributed the split vote creation to Boston Rob in HvV, rather than in Cooks when Cao Boi originally came up with the idea (when he tried to get the tribe to split votes between Penner and Candice, thinking Penner had the idol). Sure it didn’t work and Cao Boi ended up getting voted out, but it also didn’t work when Boston Rob tried it. And sure it wasn’t as high profile as Rob’s attempt, but it was still a big part of the episode during Cooks to the point that they even gave the strategy a name (“Plan Voodoo”), and gave Cao Boi a hilariously long confessional where he describes the dream he had that gave him the idea. Plus, the strategy went on from here to be used in various seasons before HvV (Fiji, Micronesia, Gabon, Tocantins). If you are talking about actual “moments” big and small that have shaped Survivor, even thought HvV gave us a more dramatic iteration and was overall a better season, wouldn’t this be the best moment to attribute the creation of the split vote to?

    • andythesaint

      I’m starting to think that there isn’t one big moment that brought it mainstream. Cao Boi describes it first in Cook Islands, it’s actually done a couple of times in Fiji, again in Micronesia, Gabon, Tocantins. Hell, in HvV, it was done BEFORE the Tyson vote with the Heroes tribe (where JT flips and Cirie is ousted). So we basically just screwed that up. I think the Tyson one is the most memorable, but it can’t be the most influential.

  • BenjaminNushmutt

    I’d propose Gretchen getting voted out as the exact moment in Borneo when the Tagi alliance came together and truly reshaped the game. People were absolutely shocked by that vote, because she was well liked and good at the survivalist aspects of the show and until that point, we kind of thought that would be enough to win. That was the first purely strategic vote out, I think, and certainly was the first one that made it clear that an alliance could and would stomp all over a group that wasn’t organized, and nobody ever again goes into the merge, or even just any tribal council without trying to make some sort of plan. Compare the merge episode of Australia, the very next year. Both sides learned the lesson of this tribal council and had to go to a tie breaker because they all knew they need to have their votes in order.

    • purplerockpodcast

      Not to spoil anything, but voting out Gretchen will be the representative moment for the formation of the Tagi alliance. And mostly for the reasons you mentioned.

      • andythesaint

        You spoiled our very first post!

        • purplerockpodcast

          I said “not to spoil anything”, so it doesn’t count.