My Survivor Rewind series continues on as I take a look at the next season of Survivor on my re-watch list, Survivor: Fiji. This was a very strange season of the show, the second season I actually watched live. It featured a very mundane setting that harkened back to the lackluster Marquesas beaches, and featured some of the more obnoxious and ill-fated twists Survivor has tried, coming off the helm of another season featuring ill-fated twists. Still, Fiji was interesting enough to keep me entertained and featured some dramatic moments that make up for a less than stellar overall cast. This re-watch was very enlightening for me because I was able to change a lot of opinions on players in the game compared to when I first watched it almost a decade ago, and being able to see the whole thing from the perspective of knowing what’s going to happen made it far more interesting of a watch the second time through. Here are some of my thoughts on season 14 of Survivor, Survivor: Fiji:
- The game started out in complete chaos as one cast member quit before the show even began, leaving an odd number of contestants (19) to compete. It also really threw off the producers’ plans, which have never truly been revealed. The 19 players were left alone on the Moto tribe beach without any real direction. They were, however, given the supplies and tools to build the most lavish shelter the game has ever seen, and the entire cast, lead by designer Sylvia, built the shelter on day 1. The scene was very similar to Palau, taped a few years before this season, which featured an entire cast living on the same beach for the first day before two people were removed from the game after not being selected to a tribe. It would’ve been easy to see them going that route again, but instead they decided to throw a different twist in. The cast was divided by a school yard pick, but the twist was that one tribe would get the lavish beach with all of its amenities and the other would be sent to a new beach with basically no supplies. This season has been deemed the ‘Haves vs. ‘Have Nots’ because of this twist, and while it looked like a very interesting idea on paper, it proved to be a competition crusher. The Ravu tribe, with a severe supplies disadvantage, fell behind in all of the challenges, winning none throughout the entire pre-merge game. Even with a tribe swap, Ravu could not get going at any point, making the twist a huge failure. The best seasons of Survivor are those when there’s a significant amount of competition both strategically and physically, and thanks to the crucial twist in the game, the competition was essentially eliminated, and the season kind of fell into a weird groove. As a whole, the season fell flat because the early part of the game was so uneven, and while it did eventually get interesting, it never fully recovered from its poor start.
- The tribe swap on this season lead to a peculiar shake-up in the tribal alliances, which actually ended up making the show even more awkward than it already was. It was another school yard pick for tribes, but this time, based on how the players picked, one tribe ended up being all men while the other one was a normal mix. The all-male tribe, featuring day 1 allies Alex, Edgardo, and Mookie drew the short straw so to speak and ended up on the Ravu beach. While they had a size advantage, this tribe still couldn’t manage to win immunity challenges, and were forced to go to Tribal Council a couple of times, each time dealing with some awkward personal conflict. Rocky and Anthony got in a relatively heated argument about Anthony not being vocal or masculine enough to fit in with the tribe, a moment that would’ve been met with a good deal of ire if it aired in 2016, and the next episode featured a good deal of back and forth about whether rocky was too obnoxious and boisterous to trust going forward. Both Anthony and Rocky were eliminated after being singled out, and a new power alliance was forming, titled ‘The Four Horsemen’ and consisting of Alex, Edgardo, Mookie, and Dreamz. On the Moto tribe, an alliance was starting to take shape, lead by former Ravu members Earl, Yau-man, and Michelle, who sought control of the game, being some of the only cast members who seemed to be playing smart, well-rounded games. While their tribe was deadlocked at a 3-3 split, they luckily never had to turn on each other because of Ravu’s inability to win challenges. The tribe split really seemed to help organize what was a very disorganized game to begin with, mostly thanks to the day 1 debacle. Going into the merge at ten, it seemed pretty clear what the alliance showdown would be; now it was just a matter of who was going to get the upper hand on who?
- The merge really crept up on the cast quickly and was shrouded under a little bit of secrecy. Initially they made everyone meet on Exile Island, making it seem like they may very well merge and live on the more barren Exile Island. Of course later on it was apparent they were sent there so that the producers could pull the rug out from under the merged tribe, taking all the amenities away from the Moto tribe they were excited to get back to. It was a pretty boss move by the producers, who had to realize by that point how terrible it was giving those castaways so much to work with, and it allowed everyone to suffer ideally down the stretch. The first immunity challenge after the merger is usually an individual challenge, but yet another twist was thrown in where they would be randomly split in groups of 5 and compete for safety from tribal council. Again, another interesting twist to keep the game fluid, and Earl’s alliance ended up losing out big because of the twist when Michelle was voted out in a 3-2 split decision. While Mookie hated the move, in reality it set his alliance up with a chance going forward, down 4-5 in numbers to the second Moto tribe, but with an idol in hand to use to shake the game up. This was where the game finally got really exciting and really strategic as the two alliances got down to a real showdown. The four horsemen seemed pretty confident even though they were down in numbers, but they began to unravel when Mookie told Dreamz they found the idol days ago, acknowledging that they kept the information from him. Edgardo was about to lose his mind when he heard what Mookie had done, and rightfully so, because it gave Dreamz enough reason to doubt his alliance and waver on his loyalties. Dreamz spent a lot of time playing both sides this season, but when it came down to loyalty, he never strayed too far from Cassandra. Cassandra, who was basically playing just to get to the end, had thrown her hand in with Earl and Yau-Man, and convinced Dreamz to join their alliance, and reveal the information that Mookie had the idol. It was all setting up wonderfully for the smug threesome of Alex, Mookie, and Edgardo to get their comeuppance when the others decided to switch their votes to Edgardo, the one person who felt safe going in to Tribal. Alex played the idol at Tribal Council, assuming the votes would be in for him, but instead all four of the horsemen were blindsided by the Edgardo vote, including Dreamz who had been told to vote for Mookie. It was a game-changing move that decimated any chances that the Four Horsemen had to win the game, and it was honestly a very nice moment on the re-watch. I originally routed for their alliance the first time I watched this season, but watching it again after really studying the game over the years, I began to realize just how bad guys like Mookie and Alex were at playing the game. They didn’t anticipate problems well; they didn’t earn the trust of their cast mates, and just generally didn’t understand the nuances of a good Survivor game. They deserved to go down in flames, and I’m glad that it went down in a blindside. Edgardo’s boot episode was by far the pinnacle of the season on the re-watch, the rest of the show was just an elongated coronation for the inevitable winner.
- Earl Cole played a brilliant game of Survivor on this season and it started very early on in the game. It was clear that he knew the game pretty well compared to some of the other recruits on his season, and he was able to adapt very well to the twists of the season. While the Ravu tribe struggled for survival, Earl stayed calm and lucid throughout the game, doing everything he could to locate the immunity idol when given a clue during his time at Exile Island. His hunt for the idol is what allowed him to solidify his alliance with Yau-Man, and he devised a brilliant idea to draw everyone but Yau away from camp so that he could have the time to find the idol buried underneath their base camp. Earl had developed an ideal alliance built on loyalty with Yau-Man, Cassandra, and Michelle and was able to get everyone invested on sticking together until the end. Everything worked out well for Earl, he was able to get Dreamz to flip to his side and give him crucial information, he was able to keep Stacy and Boo on his side even without making solid plans with them, and he was able to do it all without having a target on his back. He played low key and let Yau-Man be the guy people feared getting to the end with and Dreamz be the guy everyone loathed. He played everyone against each other in a way so sly that no one could’ve seen it coming until it was way too late. It wasn’t much of a shock at the final three when Earl won the game unanimously, becoming the first Sole survivor to ever do this. Earl was a great winner for this season, an excellent export from a season that didn’t give us much more than a famous broken promise.
Survivor: Fiji is, in a lot of ways, good TV but bad Survivor play. We got to see a lot of bickering and drama throughout the show, we got to see the arrogant players fall in a moment of poetic justice, and we got to witness one of the most memorable back-stabbings the show has ever seen when Yau-Man promised Dreamz a car if he would give him immunity at Final Four, which he reneged on. All of that is great for reality TV, but for some reason it didn’t feel like a classic season of Survivor. Fiji felt like a season where very few people either knew how to play strategy successfully or cared enough to do so. Luckily, we got to see a great game rewarded in the end, with Earl being crowned the Sole survivor in a well-earned unanimous decision. Earl was able to build a strong alliance with people who understood the game and a couple who were more than happy to let him win, which is always a nice combination for an alliance. Re-watching the show was a good experience though, because I was able to watch the show with a better critical vision. Originally, I liked the Four Horsemen alliance and was really angered by Dreamz and his flip on them, but watching again with the knowledge of what’s going to happen, I was really able to see and appreciate the mistakes that players like Mookie and Alex made that destroyed their games, and respect the moves of Earl and Yau-man (not their alliance though). So, unlike my re-watch of Cook Islands, this particular viewing gave me a different perspective and greater understanding of this particular game than I got the first go around. Overall, I’ll call my Rewind to Fiji a pleasant experience, but I can’t say I’d highly recommend a viewing of this season, it’s just not the game at its best or it’s most exciting.