Survivor should return to this classic format staple

Survivor is always changing and working to keep the game fresh and exciting. One recent change may need to be jettisoned in favor of an old standard.
SURVIVOR host Jeff Probst (CBS)
SURVIVOR host Jeff Probst (CBS) /

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Survivor decided to make some changes to the game. Some, like more diversity in casting, were long overdue. Some of the changes may have been made because of uncertainty in the world, in general, or to cut production costs.

One big change, while seeming to work out fine initially, may have run its course in the game. It might be time to ditch it for the older, more familiar format that was so successful for so long.

Survivor should return to the 39-day format after season 48

It's somewhat understandable why Survivor changed from the 39-day format to the 26-day format considering the uncertain state of the world. The producers made the decision to usher in the new era of the game by making a gigantic change to the format, one upon which the game's very foundations were built.

Recently, Jeff Probst addressed this issue of the number of days on the podcast On Fire with Jeff Probst, via Entertainment Weekly.

"How we landed at 26 days to begin with was Covid…. The requirements of starting with a 14-day quarantine and then doing two 39-day seasons back-to-back and not being able to ever leave the island for anything once we started — we just couldn't do it. So we had to get creative. We landed at 26 days"

Jeff Probst

Okay, fine! Probst and company did a good job of trying to eliminate concerns among fans by quickening the pace of the shorter game, making the challenges even harder, adding numerous new twists, and handing out less food than ever before. Great.

At first, the game didn't seem to suffer much. The first three or four seasons under the new format seemed to adjust and remain fluid with the new twists. The game still seemed to be what fans have always loved.

Now, that may not be the case. The game is still at a faster pace, but after below-average gameplay in the last two seasons, maybe the pace is too quick for players. Maybe they do not have enough time to develop strategies and alliances, and to execute well-thought-out plans. During Survivor 46, only two players were able to play at the faster pace effectively.

Probst also explained there are no plans to return to the longer format any time soon, if ever.

"The looming question is, 'Would you ever go back to 39 days?' We'll never say never. And I mean that we're always open to where the game takes us as much as where we take the game, but for the time being, 26 days is the game. And I get it: If somebody else were sitting in this seat, they might make a very different decision. Even people on our own team, I think there's some of them that kind of wish we were at 39 days. So it's not a right or wrong, it's just, this is what we're doing."

Jeff Probst

While he is leaving the door open slightly, he doesn't show much enthusiasm for a return to the good old days. Probst might be short-sighted on this point. If the gameplay in upcoming season 47 and 48 is as bad as in recent seasons, he will need to reconsider his point of view.

Arguments can be made that the game might be harder than it was before. Certainly, the amount of food provided is less, especially if you look at the last dozen or so seasons prior to COVID-19. One might even argue the players are given too little sustenance, but that is another conversation.

They could go back to 39 days, keep the challenges on a difficult level, and adjust food levels to account for the increased time on the island. They could add all the twists they want. What is imperative, though, is that gameplay needs to be improved. If 26 days isn't enough for that to happen, Survivor might need to go back to the 39-day format to survive. The 90-minute episode format would be even better suited for the longer game too.

Probst is going to do what he wants with formatting. That is pretty well-established. For the most part, he's made good decisions, but when changes don't work, he also hasn't stuck with them. This may be a change that has run its course and it's time to get back to the 39-day adventure for which Survivor is best known.

Survivor 47 premieres on CBS later this year. Stay tuned for more information about the new season.