Survivor should get rid of the marooning more often after Island of the Idols

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

After seeing the effects of a long premiere without a marooning, I think we could do with a lot fewer maroonings in seasons after Island of the Idols.

Though we have trepidations about the effectiveness of Island of the Idols as a season-long theme with Boston Rob and Sandra potentially stealing screentime from the main players down the line, we were swooned immediately after seeing the premiere in action. Though David vs. Goliath also had a 90-minute premiere a year prior, it had a completely different feeling with a similarly-sized 20-person cast.

One big reason, I feel, like the Island of the Idols premiere flowed more naturally was because of the lack of a marooning. In past modern seasons, we’d start out with the 18-20 players on a boat with a few select individuals introducing themselves before everyone either goes on a mad scramble or takes part in a miniature Reward Challenge.

While this often drove home the idea of a season’s theme off the bat, I would argue the point would be made a bit too bluntly. Who could forget the whole setting up David to conquer Goliath immediately with a marooning challenge that let Lyrsa and Christian choose the kinds of obstacles to overcome for both tribes?

By the time tribes arrived on their islands, 17 out of 63 minutes of the premiere runtime (commercials removed) had elapsed. We effectively completed more than a quarter of the episode focusing solely on a select number of characters in a realized gameplay scenario, pushing story development to the wayside in favor of big movez and star players.

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In stark contrast, Lairo was strolling up to the beach within minute 3 out of 63, learning about the Island of the Idols season theme and forming their tribe identity as a group. Seconds after Jeff Probst announced, “39 days, 20 people, one Survivor,” we were immediately seeing how 10 of these 20 individuals molded into their roles at camp.

To compare minute 17 of David vs. Goliath to minute 17 of Island of the Idols, the Lairo story had seen Elaine establish herself as a social butterfly, Elizabeth and Missy bond over their athleticism, the women keep a muddled secret over Elizabeth’s Olympic occupation, Tom, Vince, and Elaine forming a tight trio worthy of becoming a threat, and a secret women’s alliance begin, with Missy letting Elaine know she’s become a target. That all happened in one day on the island.

Thanks to skipping the marooning, we can see the effectiveness of Survivor telling a story of its individuals immediately without having to rely on artificial game mechanics and confessionals in reaction to the introduction. It feels a lot more natural, as social bonds are both key to great Survivor storytelling but necessary to establishing a winner’s arc throughout the game.

Should it be skipped entirely going forward? Considering Fiji looks to be the final location for Survivor, even if it makes it past season 50, I don’t think so. There will be some season twists, themes or gameplay suggestions that may require a marooning. Anything that sees players engage in schoolyard picks or balancing out pros and cons off the bat makes sense, depending what the season needs of its castaways.

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However, much like the Rites of Passage (and, apparently, the cast intro, even being removed from the internet), I could do with an evolution of the standard Day 1 marooning. Give us more time with individuals we know nothing about, and we’ll have a better understanding of the 19 castaways introduced to us (and Dean).