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

"Survivor: Cagayan" final four contestant Kassandra "Kass" McQuillen (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images)
"Survivor: Cagayan" final four contestant Kassandra "Kass" McQuillen (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images) /

Survivor 41 is 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 Cagayan?

Survivor Cagayan is one of the more popular all-newbie seasons the show has ever done. For many fans, it was the return to form after what they viewed as the dark ages of Survivor. Models and actors were replaced with the enigma that is Tony Vlachos.

The theme doesn’t really have too much to do with Tony’s winning game. In fact, the Brains vs. Brawn v.s Beauty of it all doesn’t have much of an impact on anything outside of the Brains tribe being one of the worst tribes ever at the start of the game.

However, Survivor production struct gold with the format. To that end, we’d not only see a sequel to BvBvB format, but several other seasons trying to recapture that magic. Kaoh Rong obviously doesn’t exist without Cagayan, but we don’t know if Millenials vs Gen X, Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers, or David vs. Goliath exist without Cagayan either. Those four seasons have been a mixed bag in terms of reception, but Cagayan’s influence cannot be denied.

Of course, this brings us to Season 41, which gets rid of a theme altogether. In many ways, that makes perfect sense. For years, the casting department could’ve felt hamstrung by all of these themes. And even if they didn’t, forcing players into groups has always felt weird. With that gone the way of the dodo, Survivor production has to be feeling free. Hopefully, that leads to better casting. Now, they can look for several Tonys instead of hoping to find one while building up another Brawn tribe.

In short, Cagayan’s impact was felt long after the season aired, but the divisions never really mattered on the season. In some ways, that’s perfect. Survivor production knows what makes a great season and continues to look for it. However, it’s also easy to make the case that they missed what made people love Cagayan. By trying to find that special sauce with all kinds of ridiculous themes, they might’ve missed some all-time players that could get on the show now that things have changed.

Next. Survivor Season 41 pre-season power rankings. dark