Thursday, March 17, 2011

Survivor: Redemption Island

I have to say that as Survivor: Nicaragua closed and they announced the changes coming for Survivor: Redemption Island, I was skeptical. Messing with formulas can be tricky, especially for a show that has been successful for over 10 years. Would changing the game herald a new era for the competition or would it crash and burn as badly as American Idol adding a fourth judge?

Well, we're five weeks into the new season and three where the "Redemption Island" has been a factor in the game, and I am loving it! I like how the last three weeks have opened with the arena challenge between the current "survivor" of Redemption Island and the newly voted-out challenger. The competitions have been interesting and suspenseful. The story-line of Matt (who was ousted by Rob for becoming too close to another person in their allaince of six, and then having bested the other three - including mega-villain Russell) has been a compelling one. Add too the "spectators", two people from each tribe to view the competition each time - and to interact among themselves and with those on Redemption Island - well that's just icing on the cake. We don't know when this last-person-standing will return back to the main game, but they will and it should be a big factor in the fight for the final prize. I hope this change to the game is permanent for future seasons.

But the other parts of the season have also re-ignited my torch for this show.

We have the return of Boston Rob and Russell, two immensely popular former players from a number of previous seasons. Putting them on opposite tribes right from the get-go made for an interesting study in human behavior (the main reason I watch shows like Survivor, to see how people interact and react to one another based on situations). Rob's tribe has embraced him (mostly). Russell's tribe had scorned him (mostly) - so much so that they'd throw a key challenge to vote him out! Rob continues each week to show why he's a master-player at this game, influencing votes and working behind their backs to insure he's handling his solo play (for after the merger hits) as well as the important team play needed early on.

But there are also the interesting new players. Stephanie, a Russell follower, is finding she needs to scramble now that her main supports are both voted out. Can she make it to the merge? I hope so. Ralph is proving to show that there is more to him than a hayseed-stereotype but will his ego be his downfall? I think so. Then there is Phillip, the questionable former federal agent. He is all sorts of entertaining on so many levels. I'm glad Rob is keeping him around - just for the sheer unpredictability that could come from him when/if he makes a move. Is Phillip crazy like a fox or just plain crazy?

Last, but not least, is Jeff Probst and his unique contributions to this season. Yes, he's doing his regular hosting job which he has done so well these many seasons. All good there. What Jeff is doing this season though is taking it to another level - with his new website for weekly episode commentary blog and other interesting bonus features (like a Skype interview with Russell after his final-eviction episode aired). Jeff has also started live Tweeting for the East coast and West coast broadcasts (follow him @JeffProbst if you want to get in on the fun). He does Q&A, commentary, polls, etc. during the broadcast. It is like watching a TV season with commentary, from a person who is there in the mix for some of it and is also seeing a lot of the footage at the same time as the rest of us viewers. Jeff thinks that TV viewing should be a communal experience, and these offerings help take advantage of 21st century technology to do just that.

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