A Journey Through “New School” Survivor — Season 24, Survivor: One World
While there is no “official” start to the New School era, I consider its beginning to be after Heroes vs. Villains, the twentieth season of Survivor; often considered one of the best, if not the best season in Survivor history. This season has always seemed to be the “opening of the gates” to how everyone could play things strategically, even when odds are against you and numbers aren’t on your side. Nobody was simply “happy to be here” or “just wanted the experience”, everyone wanted to win and do it in a way that could put them in the pantheon of Survivor legend status. And with that, the old school survival and social experiences of the show took a back seat to hardcore and fast paced strategy that defines the new school era.
And with that, I continue my journey with Survivor: One World. Since I took a break from watching Survivor when it aired pretty much after HvV, I’m coming into most of the seasons completely fresh without knowledge of what happens (with a few exceptions of one or two seasons I have watched before and a couple more seasons where I have knowledge of who the winner is already). I will start each article with a spoiler-free review of the season for people who stumble upon my little write-up here and haven’t seen the season yet and want to watch still. After that, I will go into an in-depth analysis of the season’s strategy and entertainment through the vessel of awards and superlatives.
Survivor: One World — The Spoiler Free Review
Season 24 gives us an all new cast with a fresh twist on the Survivor format. On Survivor: One World, both tribes spend the beginning of the game on the same beach, instead of on separate islands. While it’s not completely new for all the contestants to live together for a short time (I recall similar things happening on seasons like Thailand and Palau), this season is focused around it, as the tribes spend multiple days and multiple tribal councils living just a few yards away from each other. On top of that, tribes are also separated by gender, which given the already big format theme of One World, seems a little bit extra. The twist of the tribes living on the beach together could’ve gone two ways. One way is the tribes mesh together well, and the strategy of cross-tribe friendships, alliances, and rivalries play a factor into voting and numbers at the merge. The other way is the tribes stay separate, and they give each other dirty looks from across the beach. Unfortunately, the tribes follow the latter, and while there is a dramatic tension between the tribes as they barter and negotiate for supplies, fire, and food, there isn’t really anything interesting past that from the twist. On top of that, the gender seperated tribes furthered the divide between the tribes in an anti-climatic way, and sometimes left you feeling a bit awkward and uncomfortable early on, most notable as the women beg for the men to help them as the struggles with camp life early and the guys refused.
Another thing that bothered me was how quickly the whole “One World” concept gets abandoned. If the tribes get separated at some point, what’s really the point of marketing it as One World? So overall, I think the single camp twist was a missed opportunity, as splitting the tribes by gender encouraged a natural division and the whole concept got scrapped in the show too early.
A big factor in your enjoyment of this season will be if you can handle the Colton experience. The first third of the season is defined by Colton, the flamboyant college student from the south who plays Survivor very hard, but also actively bullies other tribemates and says some wildly inappropriate and offensive things to castmates, some of it racially charged and probably cancelable in 2021. His awful behavior and bull-in-a-china-shop social game was often rewarded in this season. As a viewer you will have to toe the line between loving to hate a villain or simply hating a villain so much that you struggle to watch the episode. For me, I felt like I was able to consume the product without condoning the behavior because while Colton is an awful person on the show, he did bring a lot of drama and entertainment that kept me watching. I’m sure that’s gonna be different for every person.
Most of this season gives off the vibe of strategic survivor without having the moments where when you go back and look over the season you can pick them out quickly (like when I write my top ten moments of the season LOL). So while in retrospect this season lacks exciting game moves, it didn’t feel slow or boring to watch while in the moment. There are some good players this season, though some of them lack the personality to match. If you like watching good female players, then this season is one for you as it features an impactful all female alliance.
RATING: 2 OUT OF 5 STARS
Simply a mediocre season of Survivor, has some moments but nothing that stands out and the format falls flat. Your enjoyment early on will often depend on if you can handle Colton.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
AWARDS AND SUPERLATIVES
(Here on out it’s spoilers)
Ten Best Moments from the Season
10. Alicia and Christina Fight at the First Tribal Council
Christina yelling at Alicia to shut up in this fight must have scarred her social game as she refused to do anything proactive or assertive for the rest of her time on the show.
9. Tarzan Gets to See his Wife
Good for Tarzan. I’m glad that he has his soulmate. I’ll just keep waiting for mine over here I guess.
8. Kat Forgives the Final Three for Blindsiding Her
It was touching to see Kat reveal that she has had open heart surgeries in her past and one in her future, and then make an impassioned speech to the jury on forgiveness and shortness of life. It helped flesh out Kat as a character who seemed like the naïve little girl all season, but then we learn why she acts so carefree at the very end.
7. Colton Unites the Misfits and Votes off Matt
This was the move that rewarded him with all the power in the Manono tribe. At this point Colton was being portrayed as the spoiled brat and clear outcast, but building the misfit alliance with Tarzan, Jonas, Leif, and Troyzan revealed that he was actively strategizing and thinking about his game.
6. Troyzan Makes the Game Him vs. Everybody
I’m including the entire two episode stretch where after losing his main alliance in Jay, Troyzan threw one giant calculated tantrum, antagonizing the all-women’s alliance and hyping himself up to try to sweep all the immunity challenges left as a lone wolf. He happily played the villain (though I’m sure he perceived himself as the hero), and it’s always fun to see someone go out with a bang rather than with a whimper.
5. Colton Leaves the Game
The most famous appendix in Survivor history? It was a case of what goes around comes around, as Colton is medically unable to continue, leaving the game and taking his idol with him.
4. The Tribes Discover They Will Live on the Same Beach
I’m a sucker for a good twist reveal, and both tribes reaching their camp and realizing the other tribe was there too led to some good, albeit temporary, tension.
3. Kat is Blindsided
What can I say, blindsides are fun.
2. Kim Takes Control of the Game, Votes off Michael
While voting off Jonas in the previous tribal council was the strategic turning point, Kim being able to take advantage of Troyzan’s dislike for Michael, while also preventing Jay from sniffing out the deception was the dramatic turning point of the post-merge game. It completely solidified the power of the girls, while also making for entertaining mastermind gameplay.
1. The Guys Willingly Go to Tribal Council, Insanity Ensues
This must be up there as one of the messiest episodes in Survivor history. Colton had already built up a healthy dislike for Bill for reasons that were portrayed as having racist undertones to them. Leif then lets it spill to Bill that he was being targeted by the majority alliance. This leads later on to an explosive fight where Bill tries to clear the air and Colton further disrespects and antagonizes Bill. At this point the men had won immunity, but Colton leads a plan where they give immunity to the women and they go vote off “a traitor”. The Manono tribe goes through with the plan, being the first tribe ever to willingly give up an immunity they won to vote someone off. At tribal council more unsettling opinions from Colton come out (the only black person in his life is his housemaid, a truly cringe moment), along with Jeff Probst moderated discussion about race and backgrounds. There’s also some random ass Tarzan rant smushed right in the middle of the discussions too, out of nowhere. It’s equally captivating and mind-boggling. It’s a trainwreck you can’t take your eyes off of.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
All-Survivor Teams: Outwit and Outplay
Similar to the All-NBA teams, the section awards five contestants who did the best in the season, separated by Outwit (for best strategic play) and Outplay (most entertaining to watch)
2 men, 2 women, and a wildcard spot for each team
Kim — There’s little debate; she was the best player on the season. She put herself in a position consistently where at different points in the game, two big alliances were looking at her to make the big decisions (once at the merge with the girls and with post-swap Salani, once with her alliance with Chelsea and Sabrina and her alliance with Alicia). She was a smart and calculated thinker who knew how to connect with others in order to gain their trust, without seeming too shiesty. On top of that she dominated individual immunity and had a hidden idol in her pocket, so her place in the game was never really threatened.
Sabrina — She went for the low-key and under the radar game and it suited her well. Throughout the season she felt to me like a social rock, where she used her personality, likability, and savviness to build her in-game reputation. Maybe in a game with different, more controversial people sitting next to her she could’ve won but her inability to lead a big game move didn’t allow her to shine above Kim’s dominance.
Jay — Maybe it’s his accent or his looks or something but I think that of the guys, he had the most complete Survivor skill set. He turned his participation in a failed alliance at the start of the game into sneaking into the voting pack led by Colton, then he moved his way into the majority alliance at the tribe-swapped Salani. Post merge he was shown to have the most suspicion about the all-women’s alliance, but he trusted in bonds he made with Kim and Chelsea that weren’t reciprocated and that ended his game.
Chelsea — She played the role of Kim’s right hand woman to near-perfection and had a hand in many of those moves, but she wasn’t able to separate herself from Kim at the end, which was the one thing she had to do to have a real chance of winning.
Colton — Behind all that controversy, hate, bigotry, and ignorance was a player who used his connections with the girls to get his hands on an idol early, then used the idol to build the majority alliance in both versions of Manono and control the game in his tribe. He literally got his tribe to go to tribal council after winning immunity so he could vote for the person he wanted gone off! It’s undeniable that the game would’ve been more interesting if Colton wasn’t medically disqualified and he went to the merge.
Kat — The free spirit of the season. Her personality was needed to bring some charm to this season that was lacking a lot of fun characters. She got the full story arc, going from goofy tribemate who might be in over her head to important alliance member to disgruntled follower to the unexpected blindside.
Tarzan — I think when Tarzan was allowed to just do his thing, rather than being put on the spot to be Tarzan, he was a better character. His extensive vocabulary was charming, his love for his wife was cute, his need to use the phrase “the game’s afoot” was annoying, seeing him in his thong was slightly disgusting. He also showed off that he was deceptively savvy from a strategy perspective by following whatever the girls were planning to do and by using the Tarzan persona to hide that he was thinking game, in a way that reminded me of Big Tom from Africa and All-Stars.
Troyzan — I was a bit confused by the “strategic mastermind” edit he got after the all-girls alliance voted out Jay, flushed out his idol, and took control of the game. To me he seemed spiteful and butthurt and the whole Troyzan vs the World narrative he tried to push seemed very forced given he was the one Kim played to vote Michael out and solidify her numbers. However, he gets credit for scrambling incredibly hard and bringing some life to a part of the season that could’ve been incredibly stale as the girls voted out all the guys.
Colton — Regardless of how you feel about his antics and awful statements and if he was aware of how offensive he was being in the moment, he was the focal point of the show for the time he was on it so that does count for something.
Kim — She got the mastermind edit, and it was entertaining to see how she processed situations and used her strategic mind and social game in order to win the season.
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — -
The Wallflower Award — Most Forgettable Player: Michael
When the biggest thing you do in a season happens in the first ten minutes (He stole the girls stuff when they did the “grab everything you can from the truck and take it to camp” thing), that makes you a wallflower.
Foulest Move: Colton the Bully
He said very offensive things to and about many of his castmates, most notably Bill, Tarzan, Leif, and Christina. I think if this season had happened a year or two ago he probably would’ve been cancelled for the things he said. There is an interesting discussion to be had about Colton the character vs. Colton in the real world, because I do think he was trying to play a character on the show with the one-liners and his attitude and his strategy. But the most obvious thing about Colton was that he came onto the show very ignorant about other people’s life experiences, and I hope that he had educated himself better and fixed his bigotry after this experience.
The “I Was Actually The Most Smartest Survivor Player” Player of the Season: Matt
This guy strategized like he could mold people’s minds and actions to his will while being so obviously in the minority. Maybe he would’ve done better in a mixed gender tribe, but I still think his pride would’ve been his downfall either way.
The Idiot Award: Christina
She made some head-scratching decisions and had the worst social game of the cast. Her biggest mishaps included not outbidding Troyzan at the Survivor auction when she should have for her alliance, and when she did make the final four she chose to essentially fall over and die instead of try and fight for her spot. No one in the game had much respect for how she played it.
Biggest Unanswerable Question: How Well Would Colton Have Done at the Merge?
He had an idol, connections with the girls, and an alliance with the guys. And one thing is obvious: he would’ve tried to make a big Survivor move.
Most Creative Living Situation: Leif Sleeps in a Box
I love when Survivor shows things about camp life that make you go “What?” and they spend zero time explaining it. Was it more comfortable than the shelter? It must have been, right?
The “Phillip Sheppard Award” for Most Delusional Contestant: Alicia
In honor of the former special agent, I have created this superlative to essentially have a space to talk about Alicia, who was convinced that she was the biggest threat in the entire game, with her perceived bond with Kim, and her alliance of Christina (the least respected player in the game) and Tarzan (the kooky old guy in the underwear). She felt so confident in the final six, but from the outsider’s perspective there didn’t seem to be a single scenario where she could be in a final three that could win. She probably only beats Christina, but even then I’m not sure the jury would’ve even liked her enough to vote for her, given that she showed a tendency to bully that complimented Colton quite well.
Most Interesting Fashion Decision: Tarzan’s Thong
It was something I didn’t need to see.
On a scale of one to ten, how much did the winner deserve the win?
Kim got a pretty clear winner’s edit so it’s hard for me to say that someone else had the pedigree and the likability to win. I think the only way she doesn’t win is if someone hit her with the blindside before the final three, but everyone seemed to trust her too much and she was winning individual immunity consistently.
Who Should be Invited Back Again for a….
Heroes vs Villains Season
Heroes: Kim — Got the main character edit and led a successful all women’s alliance.
Villains: Colton — All the controversy puts him squarely into villain territory. If he played again would he be reformed? (Spoiler: He was not)
All Stars/Fans vs. Favorites Season
Kat — She felt like the most unique non-Colton player on the season and she seemed really eager to get back on the show.
Next up is Season 25… Survivor: Philippines