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Survivor 45 is making an old reward a permanent feature

Survivor 45 is making an old reward a permanent feature
Hai Giang, Daniel Strunk, Jenny Kim, Mike Turner, Lydia Meredith, and Chanelle Howell during the wild Survivor 42 episode 3 Tribal Council. (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment)

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.

Jeff Probst at Tribal Council during Survivor 43
Jeff Probst at Tribal Council during Survivor 43 (Photo by Robert Voets/CBS)

Inside Survivor has been revealing Survivor 46 cast members, and previously revealed the cast and tribe divisions for Survivor 45, which will once again begin with three tribes.

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?

Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine, whose Tribal Council commentary was one of the highlights of Island of the Idols, will return to play the game on Survivor season 40: Winners at War
Rob Mariano and Sandra Diaz-Twine, whose Tribal Council commentary was one of the highlights of Island of the Idols, will return to play the game on Survivor season 40: Winners at War (Image from Survivor via CBS)

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:

  1. Non-answers from players to Jeff Probst’s game play questions
  2. Jeff Probst reviving his talk show to give ham-fisted exposition about something we’ve already seen
  3. Whispering chaos that may or may not change things
  4. 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.

As Ryan Kaiser wrote on Twitter (I am not calling Twitter “X,” as that letter will always just be an owl to me):

“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.

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Thursday 27th of July 2023

As always, looking forward to the mix of insightful analysis and sour, disgusted, this-is-wrong-and-that-would-be-wrong-too MMQB-ing that this site provides as the last reality TV reviews locale that genuinely covers the show.


Wednesday 26th of July 2023

Starting with three tribes sucks.


Wednesday 26th of July 2023

you are right.. the person wont be there to just "observe".. there will be twists and I am okay with twists as long as it keeps gameplay interesting.

For example, what if the observer has the chance to recruit someone from losing tribe to the winning tribe saving them for their team. Or vice versa, the observer is forced to join the losing tribe after the vote out. until the next tribal council. That player will be forced to either sabotage the new tribe so they lose again, or play with them and put their old loyalties tot he test for helping the new tribe win...

You can give the player the option to mutiny and switch or stay themself.. also speaks volumes about loyalty and alliances. The observer can actually just observe and then decide how to relay that informtion to their tribe when they go back. Truth or protect the alliance of the losing tribe for merge alliances.

Personally, i think there should be an immunity idol in the observer's bench area .lol they can find it and keep for themself or use it before the vote is read on someone from the losing tribe.

There are possibilities, but im sure survivor will find a way to mess it up.