Revisiting Survivor Themes: What worked and what didn’t for Survivor China

Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Robert Voets/CBS Entertainment ©2020 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved /

Survivor 41 is reportedly set to be the dawn of a new era. Not only is the show seemingly running with a shorter game on the island, but production is also doing away with season themes.

Since the show’s sixth season, several seasons have used a central theme to help set the stage for the game. With that about to go away, we wanted to take a look back at the many themes that Survivor has used over the years and see what worked, what didn’t, and how it helped shape the franchise.

What worked for Survivor China’s location-based theme?

Up until this point, we’ve skipped over several seasons that don’t have a theme that really stands out. As mentioned above, the only change the show’s first few seasons had was the change in location. While that’s obviously a big production hurdle, it doesn’t really affect the gameplay. However, it feels odd to completely skip them altogether. So, we’ve decided to use Survivor China as our catch-all for seasons that changed things up by moving to somewhere new.

You might be wondering why we went with China. That’s simple. It’s the season that’s the best example of the show incorporating the location into the game. From where the Survivors are living to the challenges, you can feel the location in nearly every facet of the game. Where the beaches of Borneo could’ve just as easily been the beaches of Fiji, China feels like something completely its own.

That isn’t to say other seasons haven’t separated themselves at all. Other standouts include Africa, Guatemala, and Gabon, among others. However, we felt Survivor China did the most work to bring the theme into the game.

Of course, a location theme can’t really influence the game in any meaningful way while it’s being played. However, it has certainly influenced production. Just look at how Survivor has slowly moved from constantly changing things up to now only filming in Fiji. Remember, outside of Pearl Islands and All-Stars the show changed location after every season until Samoa.

There is a litany of reasons Survivor has decided to stop moving around so much, but a big part of that has to be the insane logistics of putting together a new season of television in a new place around the world. There’s so much that goes into finding a location, getting crew together, and making sure all of your materials are together. Simply put, it’s nearly impossible to imagine production taking the Survivor show on the road again.

That’s what makes a season like China stick out so much. Sure, it had a fun cast and one of the all-time great winner performances. However, the way the entire show built itself around the location is stunning. It’s hard to remember a more cohesive, successful theme than Survivor China.

Next. What worked and what didn’t for Survivor: Guatemala. dark