Hey Probst. It’s me, John. We need to talk.
You may not know me, but we have a lot of things in common. We both love Survivor. We both enjoy wearing shirts that span the color spectrum from blue to black. And we both have fucking great abs.
What’s your routine, by the way? What kind of macros are you hitting? Wait, I’m getting off track.
The reason I’m writing to you today is that there’s a rumor that you’re currently casting for Survivor season 40. First of all, sincere congratulations on that. That is a fucking amazing achievement, and you’re a huge part of that- both as host and EP. By season 40, this show will have been on the air for twenty years! That’s not just some run-of-the-mill bullshit achievement; it’s nearly as long as Letterman hosted The Late Show, and it deserves to be recognized. (Just please don’t follow Letterman’s lead and grow a disgusting beard.)
Obviously, you’ve had some bad seasons in that run, but Survivor recovers and thrives because you aren’t afraid to try new things and see if they improve the game and the show. You’ve also listened to the criticism- both constructive and not– and the feedback from the loyal fans of this show, because you actually care about making the show the best it can be. Oh, that’s another thing we have in common: We both want Survivor to be really good. And that’s why we need to talk about season 40.
You see, 40 seasons is an amazing feat for you and all of the other talented people that make the show, but it’s also an amazing feat for us loyal Survivor fans. By season 40, we will have watched over 600 hours of your show. And my investment is even higher; I made an entire fucking website and podcast just because I enjoy Survivor so much. So really, as much as I’m thanking you, you should be thanking me. Here are two options for how you can do just that:
Option 1: An all-winners season
I know you’ve come out very publicly against the concept of an all-winner season, and your reasoning is that there just aren’t enough dynamic winners to make that season great. A lot of fans heard you say that and were outraged- how dare you suggest that Survivor might have had some less-than-stellar winners during its incredibly long run! Meanwhile, I read your reasoning and said,
But let’s talk through the logistics here, because I agree with you completely that there are some problems that would need to be resolved to make this happen. Luckily for you, I’m an ideas man. (And spoilers for anyone else reading: you’re going to see the name of every Survivor winner if you keep reading.)
Problem #1: Schedules
Casting a season requires you to get 18-20 people to drop whatever is going on in their lives and agree to travel to Fiji for 45 days or so. Survivor fans like to assume any former player is available at any given time to come back and play Survivor, and that any player that has said otherwise is lying. Those fans are right. Almost anyone you have ever cast on this show is self-absorbed to think that if they’re getting called for season 40, it’s because they’re really important and the season would be a failure without them. Problem solved!
Problem #2: Sex appeal
Television is a visual medium. You’ve got a tropical location. Seeing attractive people isn’t reason 1A why people tune into the show, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Casting nothing but winners might seem restrictive if you’re trying to add sex appeal. But don’t worry, you’ve got Brian Heidik. Problem solved!
Problem #3: The Romber of it all
Remember Survivor: All-Stars? That season was utterly dominated by two players that a lot of fans at the time thought were marginal additions to the cast at best. And their fellow all-stars did not take their resounding beating very well. In fact, they took it so poorly that we Photoshopped this hilarious picture to commemorate how badly the rest of that cast got played.
But Amber won that season. And she married the runner-up of that season. This would be fine, except that Amber’s Husband came back again later and won a season of his own. And this creates a problem, because Amber’s Husband is a very popular and recognizable Survivor player, with his “little B hat” and all. Can you cast them both? Doesn’t that give them an unfair advantage? (Don’t worry about the fact that they have like 17 children; those girls can be raised by television for a few months. They’ll be fine.)
What if only one of them is available, though? You take Amber’s Husband first, right? Well, that bring us to…
Problem #4: Dynamism
This one is a bit more complicated. There are only 14 women that have won Survivor, so you might actually need Amber more than Boston Amber’s Husband. Here’s the list of women that have won:
- Natalie Anderson
- Natalie White
- Survivor Goddess Kim Spradlin
If more than four of them aren’t available, your season is screwed- or has to go with an imbalance of men and women. So you can’t just immediately rule Amber out. I know you love Amber’s Husband- and that’s ok, we’ve all got our favs. So if you need Amber to make this thing happen, I’m giving you the go-ahead to have season 40 include the Full Romber again. Is it unfair? Yes. But so are a lot of other things you’ve tried with the show in the past. The Outcasts twist was horribly unfair- and Pearl Islands remains one of the best seasons the show has ever done.
Just make sure you get Survivor Goddess Kim Spradlin; she’ll solve the Romber problem by outwitting them both.
Now let’s take a look at the men who have won this game:
- Rob (Amber’s Husband)
Even if you take the ten best, most entertaining/interesting winners from both the men and the women, you’re going to have some duds. And the lesser winners might get suspicious if they were getting calls to return, so they’d reach out to the other lesser winners and form a pregame alliance. Can you imagine a world in which Adam, Michele, Ben, Fabio, and Natalie White form an alliance and end up running the game? That’s a nightmare (and I’d definitely call that alliance Dull Division or Bland Battalion or Michele and the Somehow Lesser Micheles).
Basically, you’d run into the same problem you had in Game Changers: the mediocre can overwhelm the interesting by forming a larger voting bloc. You once called Aras the most boring winner Survivor ever had. You were right, but only because a lot of these winners hadn’t won yet. So any way you slice it, the duds in this cast will probably outnumber the players we’re all hoping to see.
But here’s the thing: You’ve tried crazy solutions to these sorts of problems before, and you can do it again. I believe in you! Maybe people who try to vote out someone like Tony, Parvati, Cochran, Sandra, or Rob could get sent to How Dare You Island with no food or shelter and be forced think about what they’ve done. Or maybe you have Contingency Plan Island, and all the pre-merge boots go there. If it turns out that the premerge votes were all the stars, you switch the game up so that all the Contingency Plan Island players rejoin the game at the merge and everyone that voted them out gets a one-way trip to Ponderosa.
My point here is simple: Fuck fairness. I’m not watching season 40 to be bored; Survivor is a game, but it’s also an entertainment program. Let the idiots on Twitter and the pretentious fools at Survivor Reddit rage at you for violating the “sanctity of the game”. I’ll be your loudest and proudest defender if you rig the game in a way that gets me a Tony/Parvati/Kim alliance going up against a Sandra/Rob/Cochran trio.
Still, I understand that the all-winners thing does have a lot of hurdles to overcome. It’s the path of most resistance. So if you’d rather just put in less effort- hey, you really are like me!- you could go with…
Option 2: A Legends season
You probably know that Heroes vs. Villains is almost universally viewed as the best season Survivor has ever made. The most authoritative Survivor season rankings on the internet says it’s the best, and they’re never wrong. Heroes vs. Villains took 16 of the most dynamic, interesting people to play the game- and had them play with Sugar, Randy, Candice, and Danielle. It was magical. A legends season could potentially recapture that magic. But as with an all-winners season, there are some requirements if you’re going to attempt a legends-type season.
Requirement #1: MOAR RUPPURT!
I’m kidding. Please do not call Rupert.
Actually, there are even worse options than Rupert. So if you have to bring back Rupert to reward the millions of casual fans who helped keep this show on the air for twenty years, I’ll deal. But like I said, I’m an ideas man. So how about this: Bring back someone else, put them in a tie-dyed tank top, and force that person to play their entire game responding to the name Rupert. The casual fans probably won’t even notice the difference, and it would be a way to bring back someone that the more devoted Survivor fans would want to see again.
Requirement #2: An overwhelming number of legends
As I mentioned earlier, the problem with Game Changers- which had an otherwise great cast- was that it had at least seven people that kinda sucked. And we knew they sucked before the season started. I’m pretty sure even they knew they sucked, which gave them something to bond over. Heroes vs. Villains had a few duds, but it had one crucial thing happen: the strong targeted the weak very early on. After the first three votes you had a pretty stellar cast remaining, so almost any outcome was likely to be enjoyable.
The lesson to take away from that is that if you’re going to do a season of legends, you need an overwhelming number of them to be legends. Don’t give us six real legends and then a bunch of scrubs from One World, Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, and Nicaragua. You need to give the legends room to operate, and the scrubs might not realize they’re supposed to be pawns for the better players. Not everyone is willing to be the Joe to a superstar’s Aubry.
Just to play it safe, I feel like it’s important that I clarify exactly what makes a Survivor legend. Some people might say it’s subjective. Those people are wrong. I have developed a handy tool to help you determine how much of a legend someone is, utilizing your well-known love of profanity: it’s The Oh Shit Scale.
The scale measures what my reaction would be to hearing a player was coming back for season 40. If I’m excitedly yelling, “Oh shit!”, you’ve found yourself a keeper. If I look at you as though you were a dog that just pooped on my rug and give a resigned, “Oh. Shit,” toss that person aside and move on.
If you need another mnemonic device for this, just use the Tyson/Tyler scale: Tyson is an indisputable legend. But Tyler?
If we’ve learned anything from all these years watching Survivor, it’s that casting matters more than anything else. Great casting can overcome a bad gimmick, but no amount of cool twists or innovations can save a season from a bad cast.
Requirement #3: Fan service
Remember, season 40 is for the die-hards. You’re rewarding those of us that were with you through good times and bad. We’ve stuck this thing out, and we’re all going to celebrate the show’s success together. But because we’re die-hards, you don’t need to focus on bringing back recent players just because they’re recent. The more casual fans can be reminded of when these players previously appeared with a quick five minute segment in the season premiere- and honestly the casual fans won’t care that much about the players’ histories anyway.
Just as importantly, remember that there is no maximum number of times for a person to play, despite what the dummies on the internet will yell at you. Any fan who says, “I’m tired of seeing Cirie on this show,” is a fucking idiot and should be ignored.
If it helps, I’ll make another post that gives you an approved list of players based on the various archetypes you might need to fill. I’m here for you.
Requirement #4: No one from Guatemala
It’s just funny how that season gets completely ignored when it comes to returnees. Keep that joke alive.
Oh, and one last thing that needs to happen if you’re doing a Legends season:
Requirement #5: Make me media
This website went from an expression of my fandom for the show into a fan community that has drawn over two million visits. There are thousands- thousands!- of people that tune in each week to hear us podcast about Survivor. It’s mind-blowing.
Normally, I’m actively disinterested in becoming official media for the show, mostly because I don’t have any interest in doing exit interviews for someone like Sebastian from Ghost Island. But if you’re getting actual legends, I’m down to fly out to Fiji, destroy Dalton Ross, Gordon Holmes, and Josh Wigler in a test run of a challenge, and then interview some players. And what if, say, you brought back someone that has a very successful Survivor podcast of his own?
Rob being unavailable would leave a massive void in the podcasting community. You’d need someone to step in and fill that vacancy- and it’s not Jonny fucking Fairplay.
So if the Legends season happens, hit me up. Like I said, I’m here for you. Maybe I’ll even do some side planks with you while I’m out there and really work those obliques. And hey, thanks again for (nearly) 40 seasons. Even the ones with Rupert.
John is the co-host of the Purple Rock Survivor Podcast. He can get loud too, what the fuck!
Favorite seasons: Heroes vs. Villains, Cagayan, Pearl Islands, Tocantins, Cambodia