"Survivor" Now vs. Then

**Spoiler alert**

A few weeks ago, I found myself needing something new to watch. I opened Netflix, and much to my surprise, the popular streaming platform had recently released two random seasons of the CBS hit reality show, "Survivor." Although I had heard of “Survivor” before, I had never seen it myself. At first, I was very confused, but after a few episodes, I was hooked.

“Survivor” is a reality show that follows contestants, called “castaways,” as they are left on an island in varying countries for 39 days to… well, survive. While on the island, these castaways must play the game of “Survivor” by competing in physical, mental and social challenges in order to avoid being sent home. One by one, they are voted off by each other until one person is deemed the winner of $1 million dollars (and more importantly, the title of “lone survivor"— can’t forget about that). 

It’s safe to say I blew through what was on Netflix pretty quickly. The two seasons posted there are season 20 (aired in 2010) and season 28 (aired in 2014), and just in the short 4 years between them, albeit eight seasons, there were so many differences. This had me wondering, what did the show look like when it first started in 2000? 

So, I started to look into what else streams “Survivor,” and I turned my attention to a different platform: Hulu. Hulu has seasons 1-34 of “Survivor,” and I took the liberty of watching both one (2000) and 34 (2017) in order to best compare what has changed over time (other than the age of the host, Jeff Probst).

The first difference that caught my eye was the demographic. In season one, there were a lot more older castaways, the oldest being 72 years old. However, in the newer seasons, like 28 and 34, the oldest contestants were around 50. This is interesting to me because another change is that, at least from what they show, season one involved a lot more surviving.

In season one, before they even got to the island, they were marooned with their supplies on a raft and had to paddle for hours just to get there. Once there, they were left with a few cans of food and some building supplies, and the rest they had to figure out for themselves. You see them discussing where they are going to use the bathroom, how they are going to wash their clothes in the ocean and how they are starving because they haven’t eaten in a couple of days. You even see them get so desperate that they eat rats and bug-infested fruit. Colorado travel hiking mountains trees nature backpack trail high Cameron Smith / Her Campus

In the more recent seasons, though, at the start of their journey, the castaways are brought right to the island and provided with food, like sometimes a bag of rice and sometimes fresh fruit and meat. They are also given supplies and even nets and tarps for their shelters.

Along with that, us viewers never hear them talk about having to use the bathroom in the wilderness or how their clothes are dirty. This makes me wonder if the producers just don’t feel the need to include those things in the final cut anymore (maybe it no longer makes good TV), or if they have more luxuries off-camera, like latrines and washing machines. 

Another pretty huge difference is the game side of “Survivor” in general. In the first season, though alliances were formed, it wasn’t the main focus of the show. But now, the game is all about social connections and alliances as it is literally what will send them home or help them succeed.

The challenges have also changed. In the earlier seasons, the challenges seem to be longer, more spread out over a piece of land. They were also more violent, with many involving basically wrestling your opponents. But now, they are more compact and intricate and include more mind games than actual physicality. 

Lastly, “Survivor” kind of just seems easier to win than it used to be. I’m not saying that being on the show is easy by any means, but the more recent seasons have thrown in a lot of favors to help players succeed. For example, there are hidden “immunity idols” that the castaways can be given clues for, and whoever finds one now has the ability to prevent being sent home.

There are several of those each season. Another thing added only between seasons 28 and 34 (only a four-year difference) is “advantages.” These advantages are found on a little piece of paper and can range from being able to choose if they want an extra vote all the way to gaining immunity. None of this was available for the contestants on season one. I’m sure it’s still very difficult, but there are definitely more things to help them get to the end.

Although there are plenty of other changes that “Survivor” has made over time, I have to leave some things to be a surprise. If you are curious to learn more, though, I know there are two seasons on Netflix and quite a few on Hulu, all of which I highly recommend checking out.