Will 'Survivor's new era be able to deliver thrills for the fanbase the show has built for over 20 years?
Throughout the season, Survivor alum and Rob Has a Podcast host Rob Cesternino will be guest blogging for ET about the biggest season 41 moments. This week, he recaps the premiere, and shares how it sets up the rest of the season.
After almost 500 days since the last new episode of Survivor, the reality competition OG came back rested with plenty of new changes in store. Despite not being on the air since May 2020, Survivor found many new fans over the last year and a half because of people that discovered the show through a lockdown binge and due to having two seasons pop up on Netflix.
COME ON IN WITH THE NEW
This premiere of Survivor promises to usher in a “new era” for the show. No, you weren’t hallucinating, Jeff Probst was talking to you, the viewers at home. It’s one of the many tweaks that the show is making to try to make the season fresh and fun.
Gone are the all-encompassing themes for each season that have been a signature for the show over the last few years. Don’t expect to identify a group of people simply as Millennials, Healers, Beauties or “No collar” workers like we used to.
Most importantly, Survivor 41 features the most diverse cast of Survivors to ever play the game. The Black Survivor alumni worked together with CBS to create a diversity casting pledge to ensure that 50% of the participants in CBS reality shows would be BIPOC. This also applies to the crew behind the cameras working on the show to help be able to better tell the stories of this diverse cast.
This season is also the shortest in the history of the show clocking in at a breezy 26 days (39 days had been the Survivor staple since experimenting with 42 days in season 2). To make up for the shorter schedule, Probst and the producers vowed to make this Survivor’s most punishing season and have referred to this season’s game as "The Monster."
We saw in the premiere episode how little these Survivor players were given in terms of supplies to start the game. In past seasons the players were given a supply of rice to start the game and this season they’ll only get the meager food rations when they win a challenge. Additionally, Jeff Probst took away the flints required to build a fire from the teams that lost the opening challenge.
YASE IN THE HOLE
To showcase just how fast-paced this season’s version of Survivor will be, two tribes were headed to tribal council after the first immunity challenge. Typically in a season with three tribes, the top two finishing tribes are safe from the vote. In Survivor 41, only the tribe that wins the challenge gets a night off from tribal council.
The Yase tribe got off to a less than ideal start in this episode when they couldn’t even find the oars required to get off the boat to begin the game. Their struggles continued into the first immunity challenge causing them to have to send home one of the six members of their tribe.
Eric Abraham is a 50-year-old cyber security analyst who felt like his tribemate Tiffany was the one who couldn’t hack it. Eric targeted Tiffany due to him believing that her lack of athletic prowess was holding back the Yase tribe in the challenges.
As Eric attempted to rally members of the Yase tribe to his cause, his plan ended up meeting some resistance. Liana Wallace, a 20-year-old student, reported back to Tiffany that Eric was throwing her name out there. Evvie, a 28-year-old PhD student, was not thrilled with the idea of voting out Tiffany simply due to challenge performance. For Evvie and Liana, this makes a lot of sense because they have to wonder who Eric’s next target could be if they lost another challenge. Evvie pivoted and brought in the tribe’s resident bucket fillers, Xander and David, to make it a unanimous first vote against Eric.
Eric seemed like he would have been a solid member of the tribe and I hate to see him and his energy gone from the show. His only mistake seemed to be to push too hard in the beginning to get out his target and have that pendulum swing back too hard in his own direction.
NO DICE FOR SARA WILSON
The more intriguing tribal council of the night came when the green buff wearing UA tribe attended the second tribal council of the season. While the show teased us that the 20-year-old JD Robinson could be in trouble, his name didn’t end up materializing at tribal.
While JD was talking, we started to see a side conversation develop between the 31-year-old flight attendant, Ricard, the 34-year-old pastor Shan and the 23-year-old healthcare consultant, Sara. It seemed like the vote was pivoting to vote out Brad, the 49-year-old rancher, but often there is more than meets the eye in these tribal council discussions.
In the immunity challenge, it was Shan and Sara that struggled with the puzzle causing Ua to go to this tribal council. After the challenge, Brad was so bold as to tell Shan and Sara to their faces that they were on the chopping block for struggling with the puzzle. Sara had seemed especially concerned, crying to camera because of how nervous she was heading to tribal.
Sara’s uneasiness about the vote was a problem for the people trying to vote her out because of a twist called the Shot in the Dark Die. This new wrinkle in the game allows a player to get a 1-6 shot (some say 17% while others say 16.7%) to get immunity at the vote. Sara told us that she was considering using her die at the first vote. If the other players thought she might use this emergency lifeline, it could have complicated the plan.
I suspect that when Sara was starting to scramble, Ricard and Shan tried to give Sara enough false hope to prevent her from playing the Shot in the Dark. However, this may have gotten more complicated when JD was made aware of this conversation. Shan was the last one to whisper in JD’s ear and told him how to vote. Did she in essence tell him to “stick to the plan”?
Will Survivor’s new era be able to deliver thrills for the fanbase that Survivor has built for over 20 years? With a wonderful cast, an enthused Jeff Probst and a game that is sure to be action-packed, I think they have more than just a shot in the dark to continue the legacy.
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.