Survivor history: Green expansion tribes have been on a tear

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

Tribal expansions can be tricky territory for the newly-formed third tribe, but the green tribes in recent Survivor seasons have proven there’s still hope.

Fans of Survivor were introduced to a brand-new twist on Second Chances when the first tribe swap of the season saw a tribal expansion, increasing the number of tribes from two to three. The new tribe, Angkor, was left to build a new camp and start from scratch. Unfortunately, the members of the newly-anointed gold tribe struggled to get along and failed to find their footing, losing two out of the three immunity challenges they competed in.

Luckily, the next three iterations of the tribal expansion twist were much more successful. Millennials vs. Gen X, Game Changers, and Ghost Island have all utilized the same format at Second Chances, introducing a third tribe during the pre-merge phase of the game. Much like the Angkor tribe, the newly-formed third tribes were forced to hit the reset button and rebuild their Survivor worlds. However, where the Angkor tribe fell flat, the Ikabula, Tavua, and Yanuya tribes have succeeded in dominating the game post-swap. So, what do these tribes have in common that propel them to victory?

Well, for starters, all three of these tribes have donned green buffs. While a tribe’s color has less to do with their success than their teamwork, strategy, and strength, it’s certainly an interesting coincidence the successful third tribes have all worn the color associated with luck. Since Millennials vs. Gen X, the green tribes have gone 11-2 in challenges and have gone to Tribal Council just once, overcoming the struggles associated with starting over to come out on top.

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Superstitions aside, why do the new third tribes have a history of doing well in Survivor? For me, the secret seems to lie in the rebuilding process. Following a tribe swap, the newly-formed tribes are often faced with intertribal conflict as castaways who were previously on a tribe together band together to take out players who started on another tribe. What results is tension between the new tribemates that can make it difficult to work together during challenges requiring lots of teamwork.

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On the flip side, the newly-formed third tribe must forego the initial competition between new tribemates in order to rebuild a new camp. During this rebuilding process, the castaways get a chance to know each other and evaluate each other’s strengths without being completely clouded by previous tribal affiliations. In turn, a stronger bond is formed between the new tribemates which allow them to excel in the challenges.

Of course, the cohesion and success of a third tribe always depend on the personalities present and the contexts of the season. Future tribal expansions could see a return to the trials and tribulations of the Angkor tribe or new twists that increase the stress on the new tribe. However, the process of rebuilding a new camp and starting from the bottom has a way of bringing people together and building a bond that is hard to break.

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If you find yourself on Survivor facing a tribal expansion, just remember, the grass is always greener on the other side.