It’s a tale that, at this point, feels old as time: a quarantine-weary television viewer settles in with a bowl of ice cream to avoid the mundanity that has pervaded daily life since the beginning of the pandemic, and finds escape in reality TV shows.
One show in particular, “Survivor,” is set to have an especially thrilling return this fall. Hosted by Emmy-award winning Jeff Probst, “Survivor” has been on air since 2000 and is about to embark on its 41st season, with plans to revamp the series.
The show takes a group of 16 to 20 strangers from various backgrounds, stranding them in a remote area or island for 39 days. While secluded on this remote location, these strangers are divided into teams known as tribes, and they compete for rewards and immunity from being voted off the island. While this is all going on, a strategic game is also being played to crown a winner of a one-million-dollar prize.
The show has taken place in various locations across the world including Australia, Brazil, China, Gabon, Samoa and Vanuatu with the last several seasons taking place in Fiji. “Survivor” best achieves a sense of adventure through its detailed depictions of camp life, such as building a shelter out of bamboo and palm fronds, starting a fire or hunting and gathering food. When watching the contestants persevere through these trials I always feel a thrill and wonder to myself — could I ever do this?
This show has not only been a form of escapism for many viewers and fans, but it also highlights the culture and history of the filming country and includes meaningful conversations dealing with familial, social and political issues. The show even touches on more serious topics, like in “Survivor: Island of the Idols” in which issues of sexual assault arose. This depth attracts audiences from various ages and backgrounds through its balance of the frivolous, adventurous and serious issues that are discussed.
Moreover, I have always been fascinated with the interactions between the diverse contestants from various backgrounds. Some entertaining highlights include a nurse and yoga teacher working together on Season 12, a physics teacher and pin-up model on Season 17, a bartender and sex therapist on Season 25 and a gardener and social media marketer on Season 32.
The show has covered serious issues on air, ranging from mental health to harassment. In the beginning, many contestants may be wary about opening up on camera; however, by the time they have “survived,” they are able to reflect on their personal lives with more ease. One example of this is David Wright from “Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X,” an initially anxious and borderline paranoid contestant who eventually won fans over.
For new viewers, “Survivor 41”, taking place in Fiji, would be a great first season to watch. In July, Probst tweeted that this season would be a rebrand, noting that the game would be more dangerous and for the first time in the show’s history, the season would have no subtitle, simply being called “Survivor 41.” This is also the first season of “Survivor” to feature a cast that is made up of at least 50% of contestants who identify as BIPOC, in accordance with a new CBS initiative for reality TV shows.
Season 41 will feature 18 contestants including college students, a neurosurgeon, rancher, pastor, grocery store clerk and ex-NFL player, with ages ranging from 20 to 52. The contestants will be divided into three tribes of six called Luvu, Yase and Ua— Fijian words meaning flood, lightning and wave, respectively. Two members of the “Survivor 41” cast, Shantel Smith and Liana Wallace (MSB ’23), currently reside in the District. Wallace is also a current student at Georgetown.
The combination of increased diversity, a massive rebrand and higher stakes should vault this upcoming season of “Survivor” to the top of all to-watch lists for fans of reality television. “Survivor 41” premieres on September 22nd at 8 p.m. EST with a two-hour premiere on CBS and Paramount+.