Survivor: Blood vs. Water Preview
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
Premieres September 18
Long-time Survivor fans yearn for the days when a fresh group of new castaways arrived each season to play the game. Those days are over. Only two of the last seven seasons (Nicaragua and One World) have not included returning players, and they weren’t very successful. The producers will continue to find new gimmicks to bring back former contestants. This fall’s choice has the ridiculous title of Blood vs. Water and includes pairs connected by blood or romance. Ten familiar faces are back alongside 10 first-time players. They’ll be split into two tribes in a set-up that mirrors the “Fans vs. Favorites” model that’s been used twice. It’s an intriguing concept with the potential to fall flat or deliver great drama. When the tribes merge, will anyone betray a family member? That prospect seems unlikely, but this formula depends on it. The premise is solid, but there are so many twists dropped on top of it. The risk is a messy season where fans grow exasperated with the drastic changes to the original game.
The returning players include the expected mix of exciting and questionable returns. It’s great to see Gervase from way back in the first season. The game has changed so much, so it will be interesting to see if he’ll be able to adjust. Australia winner Tina is back for the third time and should improve on her early exit in Survivor All-Stars. The other champion is Aras from Exile Island, who flew under the radar in a season dominated by bigger personalities. His chances are good because he doesn’t have the reputation of being a huge threat. In the opposite sphere is Tyson, who’s great TV yet not a very wise player. The notorious Colton is also back after offending many with his rants during his first appearance. He’ll probably look to redeem his name and could make waves if he survives the early boots. He may be an easy target because of his sour reputation. A less-inspiring pick is Candice, who returns for a third attempt. It’s baffling to see another shot for such a bland player. There’s also the fourth trip for Rupert, who recently failed in his bid for governor of Indiana. His stock has dropped considerably with fans because of his tired shtick. The remaining choices include Monica and Kat from One World and Laura, who was an irritating presence on Samoa while battling Russell Hantz.
It’s trickier to judge the “significant castaway” group (the awkward term used on the CBS website), and the bios say little. Tina’s daughter Katie and Laura’s daughter Ciera both look strong yet must avoid the unfortunate early fate of many young female players. Ciera seems ready to betray her mom if it gets her closer to the end. Monica’s husband Brad Culpepper was an NFL player, so he shouldn’t have an issue with the physical side. He seems intent on helping his wife make up for her early loss, which could put his own game in jeopardy. This group also includes the first Big Brother contestant to compete on Survivor. Hayden is Kat’s boyfriend and was the winner of Big Brother 12, so he knows how to play a strategic game. There’s less potential in Candice’s husband John, who lists one of his pet peeves as “people who eat paper”. He appears to have physical strength but doesn’t stand out as a possible winner. The most likely first exit is Rupert’s wife Laura, who also wears tie dye and may be hurt by his negative reputation. She’s also the only woman over 40 on that tribe. It will be interesting to see how Colton’s finance Caleb does given the feelings about his partner. He seems much different and could surprise with his friendly personality. Aras’ brother Vytas, Gervase’s niece Marissa, and Tyson’s girlfriend Rachel round out the cast and seem like solid contestants with good potential.
Now let’s get to the twists. First of all, there’s another silly title with “Day Zero”, which maroons the pairs together on the island for a night before the game. It’s designed to fool them into thinking they’re competing together, so it’s mostly a one-note tactic. On the official first day, the tribes will immediately vote out one member. But wait! That duo still has a chance; Redemption Island is back. This twist failed miserably in two seasons, so it’s a surprise to see it again. This time, there are more variations to this gimmick, though. If a family member wants to sub in for their partner, they compete in the challenge and risk leaving the game. The person that’s replaced then goes to the other tribe. In a sense, there could be a shift in the power dynamics every week. The question is how often this moment will actually happen. If that wasn’t enough, the winner of the three-person duel gets a clue to the immunity idol. That victor must pass it to any person on either tribe. This seems overly complicated and introduces too many twists into the mix. The basic Survivor formula is intriguing and doesn’t need so much tinkering. Has anyone been complaining that the game is too simple?
Despite the concerns with all the twists, there is potential for excitement within this group. The location is again The Philippines, which allows for swimming challenges and grand scenery. Even the mediocre Survivor seasons have their moments, and the many options should keep players on their toes. The question is whether this game has strayed too much from the original model that drew such large crowds. Jeff Probst is doing his best to sell this game, yet it’s not that convincing. There may be little time for the social dynamics that can be so compelling. Luck is a factor in any season, but it’s pushed to an exponential degree because of all the twists. Will it deliver the jaw-dropping moments that made the Philippines and Caramoan installments so memorable? Anything is possible. No matter what happens, I’ll be recapping the chaos every week and hope you’ll join me for this bumpy ride.
Immediate boots: Laura Boneham and Colton
Early surprise blindside: Rupert
Redemption Island superstar: Brad
Most irritating player: Laura Morett
Prime contenders: Gervase, Rachel, Hayden
Sole Survivor: Aras (Sandra did it; why not him?)