Survivor Seasons: How Borneo changed the game of Survivor

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Survivor: Borneo is an iconic season that changed reality TV forever! Even though the game has changed since 2000, several key strategies from this season are still used today.

It’s hard to do a series of articles about Survivor seasons that revolutionized the game and not include Borneo. Now that over 35 seasons have passed, Borneo isn’t at the top of many people’s lists for best Survivor seasons. In fact, this premiere season barely cracked our top 10!

It’s true that nowadays the game is more strategically minded and faster paced, but we all know that Survivor would look a lot different today if Borneo didn’t exist. Here are three ways how the very first season forever affected the game of Survivor.

A strong alliance can bring you to the end.

It’s hard to imagine a game of Survivor where most of the castaways are strongly opposed to forming alliances. The first season saw an incredible lack of strategy, and Richard Hatch took advantage of that. He logically reasoned that if he got a group of people together who would agree to vote the same way, then he could advance through the game. Richard aligned with Rudy Boesch,  Sue Hawk and Kelly Wiglesworth to form the infamous Tagi 4 that took over Borneo.

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Nothing was more dramatic than the first vote after the merge. Out of the ten people left, seven different castaways received votes in that one Tribal Council! You just saw one random vote after another… and then Jeff read four straight votes for Gretchen, stunning the rest of the players. The fact that this revolutionary Tagi 4 all made it to the Final Four proved the value of forming an alliance. Thanks to Borneo, alliances are now a necessary element of Survivor.

Final Tribal speeches can be more impactful than 39 days of gameplay.

Another unforgettable moment of Borneo was Sue’s legendary Snake and Rat speech. While most the of jury’s comments were fairly random and not really related to earning the Title of Sole Survivor, Sue put everything into perspective. Not only did she show her frustration with Kelly, but Sue also proved that Richard took control over the game.

This Final Tribal Council showcased the power that the jury possesses, and how one speech can swing the votes. Ever since Borneo, jury management has been a key facet of the game to focus on, and those who disrespect the jury end up paying the price.

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You don’t have to be nice to win.

Richard’s personality and gameplay developed his reputation as a rude villain. If you give Borneo another look, it might surprise you how different those times were, as Hatch actually seemed far from a typical Survivor villain. What made him look like a ruthless player was the fact that he was at the helm of an alliance that was picking off every castaway one by one. He knew that was the key to self-preservation, so he didn’t care how the others felt when their torch got snuffed.

Richard Hatch proved that you can control the game, blindside people, and still get enough appreciation to receive jury votes. You don’t have to be the nicest and most polite person to win Survivor. If you can control the game without losing the respect of the majority of the castaways, then the title of Sole Survivor is yours to lose.

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Even though this season has aged and it has gameplay that we will hopefully never see again (ugh that Alphabet Strategy!), Richard Hatch single-handedly changed Survivor in a way few people could even dream of.