Survivor glossary: What classifies as old school Survivor


38 seasons of Survivor and counting has made for a ton of gameplay evolution. At what point in its history can you call the gameplay old school?

As great as a regular season of Survivor is, the idea of bringing back an entire cast of quality castaways is something many super fans look forward to. Expectations are already rising for season 40. One of the most popular ideas for a theme with all returnees is Old School vs. New School.

“Old school Survivor” is an expression that comes up quite often. In fact, just a little while ago we posted an article on old school twists that we would love to see return. That raises the question, what exactly is Old School Survivor?

Characteristics of old school Survivor

Older seasons of the show tend to have a completely different feel and focus compared to newer seasons. If you haven’t seen an older season in a while, go back and watch an episode and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Key characteristics include:

  • A major focus on the survival aspect of the game
  • Constant connections to the culture of the filming location
  • Imposing living conditions, pushing castaways to their limit
  • Late merges and fewer production twists
  • Loyalty and respect are winning standards
  • Flipping on an alliance is viewed as pure villainy
  • Few to no Hidden Immunity Idols
  • Sticking to original tribal lines, Pagongings are fairly common

In this era of Survivor, production has stripped the edit to do all they can to focus on gameplay. In David vs. Goliath, there was a short scene of Davie catching an octopus for food. In old school seasons, that 30 seconds or less would have been a two to three-minute scene.

More. Survivor fans in Canada can now apply and compete on the show. light

When did old school end?

There’s no clear-cut rule, as many fans point to different seasons as the turning point to new school play. Based on the criteria above, old school Survivor starts from season 1: Borneo, and continues to season 18: Tocantins, with Samoa and Heroes vs. Villains as the transition to new school.

There are some seasons including Cook Islands, China, and Micronesia that feature revolutionary strategic gameplay. That said, the source of this masterful gameplay is from a small group of people as opposed to the majority of the cast.

It’s true that the overall level of play is much higher today than in the past, but there’s a reason why so many iconic moments happened within the first twenty seasons. The edit gave us time to know players outside of strategic gameplay. Plus, a simpler format with a balanced number of twists allowed personalities and social gameplay to stand out.

Next. Survivor: Ranking 36 Survivor seasons of the show. dark

We are roughly twenty seasons beyond old school Survivor, but that does not mean we can’t still get a taste of it. Every once in a while we’re treated to an episode or scene where the edit takes a break from the fast pace of the game to actually develop the character of a castaway. Let’s hope there are many more of those classic old school moments to come.