Survivor Seasons: How Marquesas changed the game of Survivor

John F. Carroll on Twitter
John F. Carroll on Twitter /

The fourth season of Survivor gave birth to a future legend and saw the rise of one of the most surprising power shifts the game has ever seen.

Although it’s not among the worst seasons, Survivor: Marquesas did suffer from predictable and basic gameplay towards the end. Thankfully there were enough dramatics pre-merge and early post-merge that made this season memorable. We’ll consider three of them and how they changed the game of Survivor.

Alliances aren’t about strength, they are about control.

Although Boston Rob was a merge boot, he still had more than enough time to leave his mark on the game. After Boston Rob’s tribe lost their third straight Immunity Challenge, most members thought it was time for Sarah Jones to go. She was weak in challenges, did nothing around camp, and she also got on everyone’s nerves.

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But Boston Rob didn’t like that idea. He grew close to Sarah and knew that she would vote the way he wanted her to. So he decided to attempt a major move to blindside Hunter Ellis; an alpha male who appeared to be the leader of the tribe. Boston Rob knew there was no way he could control Hunter’s vote, so he made his move and got the numbers to blindside him.

This bold move gave Boston Rob complete control over his tribe… and then a swap messed everything up. Although it didn’t end well for him in Marquesas, he established a strategy that many future Sole Survivors used to dominate their season, including himself!

The first successful power shift.

One trend that usually leads to a boring Survivor season is a Pagonging. Although the idea of joining a minority to take out a huge threat on the dominant tribe was first attempted by Kelly Goldsmith in Survivor: Africa, it was Marquesas that brought us the first successful plan to defeat a majority alliance. Led by Sean Rector and Kathy O’Brien, the outsiders banded together and convinced Paschal and Neleh that they would go farther in the game if they betrayed their original Rotu tribe members.

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The plan worked, as Rotu member after Rotu member was sent packing until this five-person outsiders alliance made it to the Final Five. This is a move that made players realize that they shouldn’t be satisfied with being number six in a six-person alliance. As a result, Neleh who was not in the core Rotu group fought her way to Final Tribal because of this risky gamble that many castaways have attempted since.

Purple Rock!

For the first three seasons of Survivor, when there was a tie vote, the person who had the most votes against them in the past Tribal Councils would get their torch snuffed. If they were tied again, they would faceoff in trivia based on their Survivor guide-book. Thankfully, it didn’t take production long to figure out that these tiebreaker rules ruined all anticipation and excitement during Tribal Council.

The Final Four of Marquesas saw a deadlock between Kathy and Neleh, and they couldn’t come to a consensus even after knowing what the tiebreak was. Even though he wasn’t on the chopping block, Paschal drew the purple rock and joined the jury. Good thing it was him because he fainted not too long after he was out of the game!

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Upon rewatching this moment, it’s far less dramatic and thrilling as it’s claimed to be. That being said, the idea of leaving your fate up to complete chance is still one of the scariest positions in Survivor. As a result, in the next 33 seasons after Marquesas, only twice have we seen a tie go all the way to rocks. This production twist was absolutely brilliant as it has motivated castaways to make a big move instead of allowing a colored rock to determine their fate.