There have been many changes to Survivor since the start of the “new era” in 2021, but the most harmful may be the new format of the reunion show. From season 1 through season 40, Survivor had a live reunion that would follow the airing of the Final Tribal Council. After season 1, which revealed the winner on location before the reunion, every season’s winner was revealed live in Los Angeles or New York City right before the reunion show, months after the season was filmed.
Starting in Survivor season 41, however, the show changed the reunion format. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, Survivor began revealing the winner on location immediately after the Final Tribal Council, with an after-show taking place immediately thereafter. Even though those restrictions no longer apply, the show has stuck to the changes, meaning contestants no longer have the ability to decompress from the game or watch the season before reuniting with the jury to discuss the big events of the game.
The Survivor After Show Is Emotionally Brutal
On the surface, the Survivor after-show may seem to be a light-hearted and fun way to end a season. Unfortunately, the change has been a controversial one due to the effect it has on the losing finalists. In the previous format, the finalists had months to reflect on their experience and come to terms with their failure to win the million-dollar prize. With the new format, they are forced to participate in a jovial celebration of the season mere minutes after missing out on a life-changing amount of money, being physically and emotionally exhausted and without the ability to shower or change into clean clothes.
Several of the new era contestants have expressed their distaste for the format, including season 43’s Owen Knight, and most recently, season 44’s third-place finalist Carolyn Wiger. When asked about her thoughts on the after-show in an interview with EW, Carolyn wasn’t shy about her hatred for the experience: “It’s horrible. It felt like crap. I hated it. Mentally, I was just like, get me out of here. It’s horrible.“
Survivor Should Consider Alternatives For The Reunion
It’s clear that there are changes Survivor could make to the after-show to better protect the mental health of its contestants. There are some understandable reasons why the show is resistant to returning to a traditional live reunion, most of them budgetary. It’s expensive to stage a live event with an audience, in addition to appearance fees and travel costs for the contestants. Host and showrunner Jeff Probst also enjoys sharing the contestants’ reactions to the season before they can watch it on television and be influenced by the social media response to their games.
However, there’s a happy medium to be found with the after-show. Jeff should strongly consider allowing the finalists a day or two to process their experience before participating in an after-show. It’s unreasonable and cruel to force them to engage in the festivities of the after-show just moments after experiencing the brutal interrogation of Final Tribal Council and, for the majority of them, losing a game for a million dollars. There’s no reason why the after-show can’t be filmed a day or two after Final Tribal to let the contestants rest and decompress after their exhausting Survivor experience.
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