Survivor seasons: How Philippines changed the game of Survivor


Survivor: Philippines is the first and only season to bring three returning players back in the game, and it proved to be an exciting cast.

The seasons following Heroes vs. Villains are informally known as the dark ages of Survivor. Philippines was a highlight in this era and helped turn things around for the show. It introduced some memorable characters and featured strong gameplay from several castaways.

Although Philippines isn’t known as a season that dramatically revolutionized the game of Survivor, there are a few ways season 25 left its mark. Here are three of them.

1) Understanding the need to vote out returnees

Before Philippines, there were four seasons that pinned newbies up against returnees. Besides Russell getting taken out early for obvious reasons, the returning players found a ton of success in these seasons.

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It wasn’t easy sledding when Philippines came along though. Right out of the gate Jeff Kent was determined to blindside Jonathan Penner, even convincing his tribe that the veterans had to go.

It’s true that Penner did outlast Jeff Kent, but he was constantly targeted and by no means did he have an easy post-merge game. This change in thinking for first-time players set the stage for Edge of Extinction where the newbies took Jeff Kent’s advice to the next level and dominated the returnees.

2) Malcolm Freberg changed Final Four history

In Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, production implemented the controversial Final Four fire-making twist. Now that it’s a known part of the game, this twist is more palpable since castaways can plan for it. Before this new format, if you lost the last challenge, you had no extra lives.

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That was Malcolm’s situation in Philippines. He played a strong social, strategic and physical game only to lose the Final Immunity Challenge even with an extra advantage. The fact that this fan favorite lost so close to the end might just be what motivated production to implement the fire-making twist when the opportunity arose.

3) Always say yes to alliances

Philippines presented a blend of old school and new school gameplay. For example, Penner made some brilliant strategic decisions leveraging his idol, but he also took the time to genuinely connect with players on a human level, especially with Lisa.

Unfortunately for Penner, he strived to be so honest with her that he committed a serious blunder. As the endgame was approaching, Lisa and Skupin were undecided on who to align with. When Lisa asked Penner about making a Final Four deal, he responded in a way that he still regrets today: that he doesn’t want to commit to anything too far in advance.

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That set off alarm bells in Lisa’s head, as she chose to align with Malcolm and Denise instead. This situation shows the utmost importance in saying yes when someone wants to form a pact. It doesn’t mean you have to commit right there and then, but it allows the castaway to keep their options open.