Survivor 45 will have 90 minutes to fill every episode this fall, as it will be paired with 90-minute episodes of The Amazing Race to fill CBS’s Wednesday nights.
The big question for me is about what will fill that extra time. Will it be character development? A more nuanced and complex look at interpersonal dynamics and strategy? Or a bunch of shitty twists?
Now we have a sense of how at least part of that might be filled: a new twist at Tribal Council.
And this week, there’s been minor buzz on Survivor social media this week with a tidbit Martin Holmes dropped to his Inside Survivor community: winning tribes will be able to send an observer to the other tribe’s Tribal Council.
How will this affect Tribal Council?
There’s not a lot that we know about the twist, but the core of it is not new for Survivor. In the past, though, it’s only been a one-off reward or one-episode thing—or a Rob-and-Sandra thing during season 39.
During Survivor Heroes vs. Villains, for example, the immunity challenge winners won food that they ate at Tribal Council, while watching the other tribe. Just like being at home watching Survivor! That reward was so notable that I did not even mention it in my recap of that episode.
In the time since, the Tribal Council segments have tended to take one of four directions, in order of how frequently they appear:
- Non-answers from players to Jeff Probst’s game play questions
- Jeff Probst reviving his talk show to give ham-fisted exposition about something we’ve already seen
- Whispering chaos that may or may not change things
- Rarely, but wonderfully, actual drama or genuinely shocking moments
Thinking about this new twist, the big quesiton is whether having a person from the other tribe present at Tribal Council keeps things more in #1.
“How do we make tribal councils worse and a bigger waste of airtime than they already have become?”
“I got it! Put a member of the winning tribe there so the losing tribe is encouraged to be even MORE cagey and vague about their dynamics.”
On the most basic level, I don’t think this is a horrible idea. The jury watches the post-merge Tribal Councils, and while they are out of the game, they use that information—and their off-camera discussions about it—to choose a winner, which is a huge part of the game.
And considering how bland Tribal Council can be these days, with players smartly avoiding questions so as to not tip their hands, I’m not sure how valuable that intel would be for another tribe.
What scares me, though, is that this won’t be merely about observation, but will come with more power, or will allow the player to use other twists or advantages while at Tribal Council.
If Jeff Probst’s insightful and insufferable podcast made anything clear, it’s that we’re going to keep going down the path of the producers injecting more into the game.
What if the observer was allowed to vote, or nullify someone’s vote? I’m having flashbacks to Survivor 44’s mess of a post-merge episode when the producers created fake tribes and let the immune ones attend Tribal Council and affect the outcome.
Although this new twist seems like it’ll be contained to the pre-merge, it seems somewhat like an offshoot of that idea: bring other people to Tribal, see what chaos ensues.
Perhaps there will be no chaos and I’ll have overreacted; it won’t be the first time! But I also imagine this isn’t the only meddling Survivor’s producers have in store for its 45th group of players.