Combining all the terrible parts of Redemption Island with the unfairness of South Pacific, the reported 38th season of Survivor is … odd.
There’s been something a bit uneven with the editing of Survivor the past year. It took until the final third of Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers for the action to really heat up and produce a compelling ending, and after the Ghost Island merge it just felt like a slow crawl to the inevitable ending (with a crazy twist at the end).
For me, it’s not that the themes are outright bad, as the majority of these casts (with a few exceptions) are fairly interesting in their own right. It’s the gameplay twists (forced Final Four fire-making challenge, random selection of time-based advantages) that make for the disappointing, railroaded, gameplay-oriented stories that leave character development by the wayside.
Though Survivor: David vs. Goliath may return to character-driven storytelling with its heavy-handed theme, the latest report about Survivor season 38 from Martin Holmes at Inside Survivor suggests things will be decidedly driven towards players who can compete in a certain structure the game hasn’t seen before.
At this point (the season is currently filming), it’s unclear the extent of how long the theme of the season will last, but it puts the theme at a risk of irrelevancy if you don’t go strong enough with the theme. You keep the name as a location up until the merge, and the season’s theme becomes pointless in the second half. You keep it through Day 37, and you risk dragging the focus of the season away from the core of the characters still in the game.
Again, this speculation is based on the old idea for Ghost Island, and we don’t know the extent players eliminated from the game will have the chance to come back. However, the inherent nature of a season with the tribe of players suggested presents a dissonant story structure where you care more for certain players over others.