The Survivor 44 premiere is in the books, and it featured a number of notable moments that showcased the good and the bad of the modern era. Survivor season 44 is the latest “new era” installment for the show. Starting with Survivor season 41, the show switched to a 26-day game and introduced a rigid pre-merge format of three starting tribes of six.
The Survivor season 44 premiere introduced 18 new castaways, as well as a number of new advantages and wrinkles in the game. Unfortunately, the episode also had more medical visits than any other season premiere, which culminated in heartbreak for Bruce Perreault, who was medically evacuated on the first night due to a head injury he sustained in the first challenge of the season. The episode also made history when Maddy Pomilla was eliminated at a wildly unconventional first Tribal Council as the result of a successful Idol play by Brandon Cottom.
The Survivor 44 Premiere Had Highs & Lows
The Survivor 44 season premiere epitomized many pros and cons. On the positive side, the cast seems to be full of interesting characters who seem ready and able to play the game. Survivor seems to have stepped away from the “sob story” segments that have populated every new era season so far, and managed to provide nearly every contestant a decent amount of screen time. Each Survivor 44 cast member appears eager to make their mark in the game. That bodes well for the rest of the season, which has been hyped as an all-time great by Jeff Probst.
Survivor Advantages Are A Double-Edged Sword
Though it was dismaying to see Bruce be evacuated from the game and to see the Survivor medical team have to treat two other contestants during the episode, the biggest drawbacks from the premiere centered on advantages. The new game mechanics added a level of intrigue and inspired interpersonal conflict, especially the debut of a locked cage holding a package at each tribe’s camp, which was a real Hidden Immunity Idol and a fake one, as former NFL player Brandon found out.
Unfortunately, the Survivor advantages also occupied an inordinate amount of screen time that could’ve been better spent getting to know the personalities of the contestants. Without any context for their relationships, alliances, or personal sensibilities, the impact of the advantages on the game holds little emotional weight. This was evidenced by the unnecessarily confusing Tribal Council, which featured several players making unexpected moves that hadn’t been seeded earlier in the episode.
The new era of Survivor has struggled mightily to balance its use of new twists and advantages with the human element of the game. Perhaps the show should consider waiting to introduce advantages, idols, and “Risk/Reward” journeys until the second or third episode of the season, and use the two-hour season premiere to get to know the season’s cast and witness their developing relationships with one another. That way, the Survivor players can be invested in to better understand the effects of twists and advantages on the interpersonal dynamics of the cast.
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Survivor 44 airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.