Like all reality TV shows, Survivor doesn’t have time to show us everything that happened in real life—every conversation, every option discussed, every funny moment. There are hundreds of hours of footage, and mere minutes to tell us the story of those days.
Even Big Brother’s allegedly 24/7 live feeds, which are the closest thing we have to seeing an unedited reality show, are frequently turned off, and do not include what happens in the Diary Room.
Even with Survivor 45’s expanded 90-minute episodes, there’s not enough time to show everything. Without commercials included, they’ve added about 21 minutes of content each week.
The story producers and editors have used that time to bring back the Survivor theme song and title sequence.
We’ve also been treated to more of camp life this season, from bonding to just the downtime that the players have. Even with the shortened, 26-day season, there’s still a lot of time they spend doing nothing on their beaches.
By the way, that downtime is actually typical; players have talked for years—decades!—about how much they lie around and chat, often about food. I think those scenes on Survivor 45 have fed into some fans’ perception/stereotype that Survivor is just a bunch of all lazy Gen Zers now. Of course, the two quits didn’t help!
Sometimes, though, deleted scenes actually affect the game—and sometimes things are just taken from players so not even they know what’s happening.
One example: In its premiere episode, Survivor 45 did not show a reward Belo received for its immunity challenge win. The tribe was able to send someone to the loser’s camp and Tribal Council.
They chose Kendra, who visited Lulu’s beach and attended Tribal Council, yet we never saw that. (A part of her was briefly visible as the players entered Tribal Council.)
Jeff Probst said on the Survivor podcast that “when it came time to cut scenes, we decided this had to go because it didn’t have the kind of impact we intended.”
But it did affect the game! At least, it affected Brando, who was voted out in episode 5. He told EW’s Dalton Ross that Kendra said she “spent a lot of time with Emily” during that visit.
As a result, Brando said, “going into the swap, we were under the perception that we already kind of had [Emily] in our three. And so I think there were some missing pieces there that had I picked up on that I might’ve done a better job swaying Emily towards us.”
In other words: Because of Kendra’s beach visit, Brando didn’t work harder to try to get Emily as an ally. But that wasn’t the only part of Brando’s game that was edited out.
In his exit interviews, Brando revealed that, at the tribe swap in episode four, he received some kind of note or advantage, but the producers took it away from him.
First, when Dalton Ross asked what didn’t make it on TV, Brando said:
I think something that we didn’t get to see — and also that I didn’t get to see — was at the swap when we get our buffs and we have our new fresh buffs in our hand, mine felt a little bit weird. And so I’m unwrapping it, and there’s a note inside of my buff stitched into the buff. So I rip it out, I shove it in my pocket, and I’m like, “Alright, I’m going to look at this when I get back to camp.”
That’s effectively the same story Brando also told Parade’s Mike Bloom:
But something that we didn’t get to see was, at the swap, I get my buff, I’m opening it. And I’m like, “This feels a little weird. It feels like there’s something inside of this.” And I look. There’s a note with the Survivor writing inside of my buff, stitched into the buff. And so I didn’t read what it said. I ripped it out. I shoved it in my pocket. So I was like, “Okay, on Belo, I don’t know where the idol is. Maybe this is a clue. Maybe the idols were just hidden at the swap.”
Brando says he went back to camp, and a producer on the beach took the note from him before he could read it. He told Parade:
I put it in my pocket without reading it, don’t want anyone to see it. We get back to camp, and almost immediately, I get pulled for a walk. So I’m like, “Okay, this is gonna be so I can read this note that I just shoved in my pocket.” And so I’m like, “Oh, is this when I can read whatever advantage I just got?” They’re like, “Oh, can we see that?” So I take it out of my pocket. I hand it over. I don’t get it back. I don’t know what it said. I don’t know what it was. My gut instinct is that I could have swapped either my tribe with somebody else’s camp or maybe I could have swapped my buff with somebody. Maybe I could have swapped two people on the other tribes. We’ll never know unless it comes up again in the future. But there’s a nonzero chance that I had my fate in my pocket when I went back at the swap. And I didn’t get to know because I didn’t read it on that mat.
To EW, Brando said he wished he would have read it first:
My only regret from my 11 days out there is not at least reading what it said before I handed the note over and knowing at least if I had a chance to save myself. I would at least like to know that. So that’s been on my mind. Also, what could it be? Maybe we could have swapped beaches. Maybe I could have swapped with somebody. Maybe I could have swapped people on the other tribes, in which case it would’ve been basically useless for me. I guess we’ll never know.
That Brando repeated this more than twice, in on-the-record interviews that have CBS publicists listening in, means that they were okay with him sharing this piece of information.
I can understand why this whole thing wouldn’t have been included in the episode, if nothing came of it. For me, though, the real scandal here is that Brando wasn’t even told what the note said.
At merge feasts or other moments when a note or advantage is hidden to be discovered by a random player, we’ve seen players conceal it and read it later, when they’re by themselves, or perhaps with other players they trust.
Let’s imagine that whatever the note said, its contents were to be read and used at a specific time. Perhaps it said that it must be read or used at a certain place or time, e.g. in public, at the tribe swap.
Why not let Brando read it back at camp before handing it over? This had to be played at the tribe swap; sorry! Or why not just tell him that: That had to be played at the tribe swap.
Such a limitation might have been frustrating or even ill-conceived. But taking it from him and not revealing its contents makes the whole thing seem sketchy and invites conspiracy theories, like the producers only wanting certain players to get that advantage or opportunity.
And now we have yet another example of how the deluge of advantages on Survivor weakens the game and its integrity, even if, in this case, even the players don’t even know what was going to happen.