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Early Installment Weirdness / Survivor

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Much has changed on Survivor since its debut in 2000, especially within the first few seasons of the show.


General

  • The contestants in the first few seasons took things very personal - Richard Hatch and Kelly Wigglesworth were painted as villains for, respectively, forming an alliance/using strategy and winning a string of challenges to save herself after being seen as useless by her tribe.
  • Nearly every challenge features non-stop play-by-play narration by Jeff Probst. In the early seasons, this was edited out, and all we heard from Jeff during challenges was occasional words of encouragement to the players.
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  • The shooting style changed greatly from the first two seasons. The production crew seemed particularly apt in Borneo and Australia to focus on "slice-of-life" scenes instead of predominantly focusing on the strategy or tribe politics. In addition, scenes shot during natural disasters and accidents (see Michael Skupin's burn wounds or the camp flooding in Australia) seem much more unfocused and panicked, with included interviews by the medical staff.
  • There was no tribal switch, Exile Island or Hidden Immunity Idols in the early games, meaning they were played slower and more methodically, where survivors didn't have the luxury of finding a "free pass" to the next round.

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Survivor: Borneo

  • The cast of Borneo made numerous mentions of the fact that they were playing a game, and discussed how their actions would be judged by the "audience" watching at home (noted in Colleen's "We are on a game show!" quote). This was rarely, if ever, brought up again in later seasons.
  • Contestants in early Borneo were voted off for making alliances instead of voting emotionally - you'd be hard-pressed to find an instance in the later seasons where the contestants didn't forge alliances in the first few days of the game.
  • Jeff Probst didn't have the show's terminology down correctly, and would often mix up the names of the various challenges and ceremonies. The contestants were also confused about the name of the different gameplay elements (for instance, B.B. referred to the Immunity Challenge as the "Indemnity Challenge"), and sometimes made no effort to complete the challenge (like Rudy's infamous "I don't know" responses during one memory challenge).
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  • Several of the challenges were based off popular works like the then-recently released The Blair Witch Project. Later seasons had little, if any, reference to any piece of popular media.
  • The merge was instead called a "merger" only in the first season, and the players knew in advance when it would occur. It happened at the same time in the next few seasons, allowing the show to do a twist in Thailand where the tribes were brought together on one beach and incorrectly assumed they had merged, when in fact they had not. In more recent seasons, the merge time has varied in order to keep the players guessing about when it will happen.
  • In the first season, Jeff actually announced the winner on the night of the final votes, rather than a live segment. In the second season, instead of announcing the winner, Jeff, to the shock of the players, announced that the winner will be announced at Los Angeles in a live segment after the show's finale is broadcasted on television, then promptly left the island via helicopter (the live segment of the final episode opened with the players at Los Angeles, waiting for Jeff's helicopter to arrive). Each subsequent season's live segment presents Jeff's announcement of the winner to seemingly take place on the island, until a Studio Audience is suddenly heard cheering at the reveal of the winner, cuing a Reveal Shot showing that the players are actually at a studio.
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