Survivor: Are joint Tribal Councils an effective production twist?

Survivor: Edge of Extinction was the second season to feature the joint Tribal Council twist. Should this new format return in future seasons?

In this modern era of Survivor, production constantly tries to find new ways to change the flow of the game. In an attempt to shake up the Tribal Council format, both Game Changers and Edge of Extinction presented a unique twist.

After two tribes expanded to three, one of the challenges permitted only one tribe to win Immunity, meaning the other two will both head to Tribal Council. The joint Tribal Council twist meant that two tribes will vote together, with only one player getting the boot.

The biggest problem with this twist is the negative impact it has on smart gameplay. Often times the vote is determined before Tribal Council begins. That’s the time for strategizing and manipulating votes. When you have a joint Tribal Council, it takes those dynamics away.

The Game Changers joint Tribal is infamous for beginning the “live tribal” trend, and the one in Edge of Extinction continued the pattern. There’s a reason why this phenomenon occurred. When you don’t have the chance to speak with half of the castaways before Tribal Council begins, you’re bound to have side conversations.

This twist almost feels like a cheap way for manufacturing chaos. Don’t get me wrong, these joint Tribal Councils are entertaining, but not because of good quality gameplay. It’s the scrambling and unpredictability that makes these moments fun for the viewers, but not for the players.

Tribal Council is the place to prove how your social and strategic relationships pan out. This twist takes that away, relying more on conversations and comments that are made on a whim. So although joint Tribals are entertaining to watch, this format prevents good gameplay from shining through.

Can this twist be improved?

The idea of having two tribes attending the same Tribal Council is a brilliant one, it’s just a matter of allowing quality gameplay to still flourish. One way production could improve this twist, is by having the two losing tribes go back to the same beach together

That way they have the entire day to strategize with players from the other tribe. Imagine the crazy implications this would have! The vote would probably be more complex and still be as entertaining, but with the addition of watching castaways step up their game and make moves across tribal lines.

We’ll have to see if production will bring back this twist, but my guess is that it will return in season 40, which has long been pegged as potential all returnee season.