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The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

The Student News Site of High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering

The Echo

Why Survivor 46 is the Best New Era Survivor Season

Survivor’s New Era has been known for toned-down characters and twist-based mechanics, but its newest season is one that changes all that up.
Image by Robert Voets / CBS

Imagine 18 people get dropped onto an island in the middle of Fiji, split into three teams of six with little to no food and limited resources to build a shelter. Despite coming from all different walks of life — from a millionaire who started four companies to a chemistry teacher who dropped out of medical school — they all have the same goals: win challenges, build relationships, and don’t get voted off. This is the plot of the reality TV show Survivor, and ever since it started in the early 2000s, it’s been heralded as an amazing show due to its social strategy and interesting cast. Yet, ever since its return in late 2021 after COVID hit, the seasons have been less acclaimed than their predecessors. These “New Era” seasons have been criticized for being heavy on the twists, too long with not as much substance, and, most importantly, containing a strategy-focused cast with no villains at all. However, the latest season, Survivor 46, seems to contradict these observations. Emotion, chaos, and drama run rampant on the island. It may not reach the same level as seasons like Borneo and Pearl Islands, but the high points of Survivor 46 are definitely higher than the rest of the New Era. 

The main thing that makes this season the best in recent years is the amount of running jokes that have stayed strong throughout the season. During the very first episode, an ambitious yet quick-to-quit slot machine salesman named David Jelinsky incorrectly assumes that several means seven, and is so adamant about this that it causes a huge deal of laughter at the challenge. Jelinsky was voted out in the same episode, but “several” lasted for a long time past his elimination. Both the contestants and the host kept on referencing it for all the challenges after that (e.g. “In honor of Jelinsky, you have lasted… several minutes.” — Host Jeff Probst), and the CBS team even named the seventh episode of the season “Episode Several.”

But some of these jokes become so widespread that they quickly spread beyond the game and into real life. This is exemplified by Jelinsky’s teammate Quintavius “Q” Burdette, whose numerous shenanigans have gone viral on social media among the Survivor community, the most notable being him saying “BIG MISTAKE!” Originally in response to fellow contestant Hunter McKnight winning a game of Hide and Seek in the tribe’s downtime, which Q claimed revealed Hunter’s strategy, this spread as quickly as “several” did. Eventually, when Q was voted out, Twitter was flooded with “BIG MISTAKE!”s. Additionally, the Q-Skirt, a gag product that Q pioneered during the season (basically just a hoodie tied around the waist with the hood flipped over the pocket), has been really well received, and Q even expressed plans to start putting it out on the market after the season finished. 

The New Era contestants had previously been stereotyped as superfans who cared about social strategy the most, with absolutely no villainous qualities. However, even though there were a few superfan-types and quite a bit of social strategy, that doesn’t mean that we don’t see that much negativity. Two people stand out as old-school antagonists. Venus Vafa’s abrasive nature rubbed her allies the wrong way, but she helped orchestrate several vote-outs to keep her in the game. Meanwhile, the aforementioned Q Burdette was considered a liability due to his erratic behaviors, and unconsciously “blew up others’ games” (Liz Wilcox). From the way the story is told, these two do seem to be obstacles in the path of the protagonists, and even if they’re not hardcore villains like Russell Hantz or Jonny Fairplay from earlier seasons, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a plethora of personalities in a New Era season.

In past seasons of the New Era, from 41 to 45, many fans have criticized the amount of twists added into the game. But 46 features surprisingly few New Era Twists, with only four of them actually being kept in. What’s even more hilarious is that every single of those twists fail. The contestants all fail the Journey challenges — where a contestant from each of the three tribes goes to a remote island and participates in a challenge in order to either win an advantage or lose a vote — (with the exception of the first Journey challenge, and all fans can agree that Jelinsky gave up on that challenge and handed his opponents the win anyway), as well as the Day One Sweat vs. Savvy challenges — where the two tribes who lost the previous Reward Challenge do a physical or mental challenge to earn their tribe supplies — (yup, Jelinsky gave up on that as well). Both of these challenges were introduced in Season 41, and seeing a New Era Season where they don’t really make as much of a difference is a turn for the better for fans. 


However, perhaps the most surprising failure has been the seemingly-trustworthy Immunity Idol, a life-saving object where, before the votes are read, a contestant can use it to negate all votes for them. Since its introduction in season 11 of Survivor, the Idol has been a crucial part of gameplay, and, when played, it causes upsets that can change the course of the season itself. Yet in Survivor 46, every single person who obtained an idol was voted out without playing it — a rookie mistake on Survivor. While this might not seem like an anomaly to new Survivor fans, it is the first time that every single idol has been taken out in someone’s pocket in over 30 seasons, ever since Season 15’s James Clement was infamously blindsided with both idols unplayed. To make this even more wild, there were only two idols in James’ season. In this season, there were five. In this New Era, the majority of the contestants are superfans who have been watching since the 2000s. They should know that when your name has been thrown around, you’re likely at risk of getting voted out, and you should definitely try to save yourself, yet they just… don’t. 

Overall, Survivor 46 has definitely been one of the best seasons since COVID, and may remain one of critics’s top seasons for quite some time. It’s already been compared to classics such as Gabon and Panama: Exile Island, and its contestants have seemingly made a long lasting impression on the Survivor fanbase and community. As Q once said, “Pressure will either bust a pipe, or make a diamond,” and I definitely feel that this season has turned out to be quite a gem of a season. So please, go watch Survivor 46, as the rest of the fans wait to see if Survivor 47 Forty-Several can top it.

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