In “new era” of Survivor, since Survivor 41, the losing tribe gets their flint taken away from them, so they cannot make fire, unless they’re able to do it with friction or some other method. And a visit to Tribal Council does not include returning to camp with lit torches.
On Survivor 45, the Lulu tribe has lost all three immunity challenges so far. That means they’ve never had fire. And not having fire also means not having water—right? Without it, players are unable to boil water they get from their well.
Survivor players are living outside in warm weather, participating in physically demanding challenges, and searching the jungle for Jeff Probst’s packages.
This season’s first three episodes were filmed over seven days, according to True Dork Times’ calendar.
So how exactly has the tribe’s players survived—literally? After all, most people will die without drinking water after about three days. (Of course, Survivor players are monitored by a medical team, and would be hydrated and/or hospitalized if it ever came to that.)
But Lulu is not dying. There they are, drinking water from their canteens. Where is it coming from?
Do Survivor contestants now get drinkable water? Do they need to boil their water? If not, do they even need fire anymore? The answers are surprising.
On Survivor, players may boil their water, but in recent seasons, it turns out that’s unnecessary.
While the players are not walking around drinking bottles of actual Fiji water, they do have drinkable water in the wells installed by the production at each tribe’s beach.
That’s a significant change from early seasons of Survivor.
You may recall how, during Survivor: Africa, contestants scooped water from a muddy puddle with elephant poop in it.
Survivor: Africa juror Teresa Cooper told EW, “Our water source (or lack of it) made it rather grueling. We walked quite a distance every day to bring it back, boil it and then drink the warm, nasty stuff. Quite a few of the players got sick from the conditions.”
In Survivor: All Stars, Sue Hawk drank cloudy water out of the in-ground well—and annoyed her fellow players, including Rob Mariano, who were frustrated with the risk she took. “My body can handle whatever might be growing in there,” she said.
At some unclear point in the show’s life, the producers and/or network decided that it didn’t make sense to put the cast at risk from parasites and/or dehydration.
Now, their wells are full of drinkable water. That explains why Lulu has had full canteens and have not all keeled over from dehydration.
Survivor players being provided with fresh, drinkable water has been happening for well over a decade now. In 2011, a camera operator for the show did a Reddit AMA and wrote that water “is put in the well straight out of a water cooler bottle,” and while “maybe a little dirt or bugs may have got in the well, but I would drink it no question.”
Compared to the in-ground well in Survivor: All Stars, recent-season wells look to me to be more-obviously fake, just that trash can concealed with some set dressing.
Is fire or flint necessary on Survivor?
Survivor Worlds Apart cast member Max Dawson said his tribe drank the water without boiling it first, and “none of us suffered gastrointestinal distress as a result of drinking the untreated water. The moral: drink water until you get fire.”
While during Max’s season, they were still being encouraged to boil water, just drinking from the well appears to be common knowledge among Survivor players now.
Survivor 42’s Chanelle Howell acknowledged that they just drank water from the well during her season.
She told Tyson Apostol that as part of a fascinating “hot take: In the new era, I don’t think fire is that necessary,” Chanelle said. “You don’t have rice, so there’s no food to boil. You don’t need to boil your water, because you can drink it straight from the well.”
Tyson agreed with that, noting that the only thing fire may be necessary for is staying warm at night—though the cast now gets long sleeves and pants, so they can stay warm without it.
Chanelle’s argument makes sense to me, and also makes the whole new-era flint punishment completely pointless. The most-critical role of fire was to boil water and stave off dehydration and death.
That’s not to say the survival element of Survivor is easy. After all, Lulu lost its first player because they couldn’t handle the conditions. But clearly, it’s easier than it once was. Fresh, drinkable water > elephant poop water.