Survivor Island of the Idols: Why a tribe swap is better than an expansion

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

Instead of the typical expansion to three tribes, Survivor: Island of the Idols altered their pattern and simply had a swap. We explain why that’s a smarter course of action.

The production team is not afraid to break the mold for Survivor: Island of the Idols. From the unorthodox mentor twist to no marooning, this season is developing its own unique feel. Not only did last episode’s tribe swap prove to be the latest since Kaoh Rong, but it also featured another little surprise.

Instead of a tribe switch that expands the two existing tribes into three, there was simply a two tribe swap. Island of the Idols is shaping up to be the first season in over three years to not have a three tribe format at some point in the season. Why does that matter?

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Besides keeping the viewers and castaways guessing, a two tribe format keeps the game a little more balanced. All it takes in a three tribe format is to end up with three people that weren’t in your original alliance, and you’re screwed. Although the castaways you end up with are still random in a two tribe swap, there’s more of a cushion with a bigger group of people.

Bigger tribes also allow for a greater variety of outcomes, whereas a three tribe format can lead to some predictable Tribal Councils. With more people around camp to talk with, it’s easier to build on relationships and stimulate a stronger social game. Strategy on a whole opens up since there are more options available.

Unfortunately for Island of the Idols, it does feel like the Vokai tribe is more physically talented than Lairo, but hopefully they can prove us wrong. One of the most irritating situations in Survivor is when the same tribe keeps on losing. It was fun to watch in Palau, but since then it just makes it harder for viewers to get to know the other castaways.

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This trend tends to happen more often in three tribe formats, as the last two seasons alone have featured tribes that perpetually go to Tribal Council. Let’s hope that same, lopsided situation doesn’t arise in Island of the Idols, so we can enjoy this unexpected little twist of a tribe swap instead of an expansion.