What has Survivor been missing for 40 seasons? Turning the game into a game of random chance! And not a new game, but one from a very old game show: Let’s Make a Deal.
As the first person out of the immunity challenge, Deshawn had to play Let’s Make a Deal, choosing one of three curtains—okay, boxes—two of which would send him home, and one of which would give him immunity.
This literally became the exact scenario described in the Monty Hall problem, which is named for the original host of Let’s Make a Deal, and which Xander mentioned during Tribal Council, impressing everyone who thought Gen Z doesn’t pay attention to anything that happened before the year 2021.
After Deshawn chose a box, host Jeff Probst opened one of the other two, and then offered Deshawn the option to switch the box he chose with the other remaining box.
Fascinatingly, the correct solution to the Monty Hall problem is actually to switch at this moment. Because the host knows what’s in all three boxes, the odds actually improve if you switch. However, Deshawn chose not to switch his choice—and that was the right call: he’d picked the box with immunity.
Do or Die = leave Survivor without a vote or get immunity for losing
Let’s just back up and summarize this twist: The players had to choose whether or not to compete for immunity, knowing that the person to drop out of an endurance challenge would then have a 33 percent chance of being immune, and a 66 percent chance of being eliminated without a vote.
This was introduced to us as, of course, “dangerous”:
“Today they’re going to face another very dangerous twist, and it’s going to force them to make a big decision based on where they think they stand in the game, because even choosing to participate in today’s immunity challenge comes with potentially deadly risk.”
Only Heather and Liana opted out. If you think there’s a decent chance that you’d drop out first, I think that’s the rational choice: Even if you feel vulnerable in the game, like Liana did, those are still better odds than a two-thirds chance you’ll join the jury.
Later, at Tribal Council, Probst said “today’s twist was all about relationships.”
Xander actually contradicted him somewhat, and said a version of what I was thinking: “it’s not only relationships you’re worrying about now, but about this advantage and this twist.”
Alas, Xander and I are not completely on the same page about this, because he praised this: “I like that this season kind of throws out all of the expectations we have of Survivor. Now it’s high risk, high reward; you have to gamble a little bit.”
Jeff Probst did say something I agreed with: He said the personal dynamics were occurring “inside a game that’s impossible to play.” That’s become clear this season, because playing a game that randomly discards its own rules for a roll of the dice—or the selection of a box—is not a game.
I really am curious who thought that what Survivor really needed was more random chance. I’m curious if, during those conversations, anyone said: Do we really want to have a twist that potentially renders both the immunity challenge and Tribal Council completely meaningless? Is orchestrating a dramatic moment really worth nullifying large parts of the game?
I didn’t fall in love with Survivor as a game and TV show 21 years ago because it was about gambling.
I did fall in love with Survivor for the kinds of character arcs we saw last week. This episode brought us a mini-arc, with Danny talking about his complicated relationship with his father.
He was talking on the 25th anniversary of his father’s death—a day he usually avoids by doing other things, but in Fiji, was unable to do that, so he was processing his anger toward his dad.
While this was a lot of exposition, and perhaps it would have been nice to learn something about Danny in a previous episode, it was very moving—and so was his win at the immunity challenge the next day.
Back at camp, multiple people were taking credit for sending Shan home, including Xander, who told the camera, “all of a sudden, I’m in charge.” That may have been an overstatement, but Ricard, Erika, Xander, and Heather are now acting as a majority alliance.
Liana was understandably annoyed with Deshawn and Danny for turning on their alliance of four without even telling her. “We cannibalized ourselves, ya’ll,” she said, and also called it “fucking stupid.” Considering they had a 4-4 split and now were down 3-4, she was exactly right.
And it was Liana paid the price: She was voted out at Tribal Council after Deshawn chose the box that made him immune.
The highlight of the episode for me was Liana’s Tribal Council speech, which presciently responded to the criticism this season of Survivor is getting from its racist fans. And naturally, those racist fans are even mad about the speech.
“When people look at me, they see a Black woman,” Liana said at the start of her speech.
“People are just now becoming conscious of the fact being Black actually means something; it has this kind of currency that can kill you, literally kill you,” she said at one point. “And looking at Black death like this new thing: Emmet Till happened so many years ago, and nobody really seemed to care then.” (Emmett Till was brutally murdered in 1955, at age 14, for a perceived slight against a white woman.)
Liana explained that both their presence on the show and alliance was about “giving Black people something to root for, besides everything else that’s out there that’s killing us.” While the Shan/Liana/Danny/Deshawn alliance is no more, I think they’ve definitely succeeded in that.