So the twist for this season is that once players are voted out, they will have a chance to get back into the game. After exiting tribal council, they will be confronted with the option of leaving or staying, not knowing how difficult the second chance will be. Jeff Probst is claiming that the second chance will be more difficult than the main game, but who knows? It’s hard to believe that many players will decide to not take a second chance, especially when they don’t know if it will be easy or hard. (They can always leave later if it’s too tough.) Is this the end of Ponderosa videos?
For now, it sounds like second-chancers have to build shelter and collect food by themselves, without a big group to help. At least until other voted-out members join them. Maybe eventually an alternative Survivor world will form that the original Survivor world knows nothing about.
I like this idea, because it reminds me of the need for alternative frames of reference. Karl Popper wrote about how empirical knowledge needs to be falsifiable. There always has to be some way to prove knowledge wrong or else it’s based on faith. An extrapolation is that we should often assume that we don’t know everything about a given situation. Of course, in pragmatic terms, we often need to act as if we definitely know the truth because otherwise we might act too slowly or even be paralyzed. When we do have time to contemplate the truth of our situation, however, we need to be open to the possibility that we are wrong and vigorously test our beliefs.
One of the best ways to discover problems with our systems of belief is by maintaining alternative systems that we can pluck ideas from. The economist Herbert Marcuse wrote about the need for these alternative systems, which he called “counter-cultures”. It’s unfortunate that the word “counter-culture” has taken on so much baggage, because linguistically it captures a lot of this concept. Counter-cultures can develop in communities both large and small. Companies can have counter-cultures of unions or professional associations. Book clubs are counter-cultures to university literature classes. Ultra-marathon runners are a counter-culture to marathon runners. A counter-culture can even be as small as a single person, like when someone is the lone vegetarian or Republican in a household.
In Survivor, different alliances and strategies might form in the second-chance area separate from the main game. At some point, the players in the main game might be confronted by these new ideas, which could change how they view their own alliances and strategies. For example, maybe an alliance votes out a player early in the game, but then the alliance breaks up bitterly. The voted-out player might then return to this new landscape, maybe forging a new alliance with an old enemy or maybe inspiring the old alliance to reunite. Or maybe former enemies will become allies in the second-chance area. Sometimes alliances in the main game become too comfortable and fixed (to the detriment of both players and viewers), so this might be a way to shake that up.
A risk with alternative systems, however, is that they can become the primary system. That can be good or bad, depending on the system and context. A society can be enriched by even unhealthy or violent counter-cultures as long as they stay alternative. For example, as destructive as drug addiction is, it has occasionally produced artists and thinkers whose addictions have led them to interesting points of view. But of course, if the majority of people were addicted to strong drugs (i.e. other than drugs like caffeine or nicotine), the larger community probably couldn’t maintain much cohesion or prosperity.
A similar risk might develop in Survivor if people from the alternative game return to the main game too often. Voting might lose some of the gravitas that makes each tribal council an interesting climax to each episode, because there would be too much possibility that the person could come back regardless. We’ve seen a similar problem happen with hidden immunity idols. A few hidden idols add an interesting wrinkle to strategy, because people are trying to sense who might have one and they create opportunities for blindsides. However, if the game has too many hidden immunity idols, this undermines the usefulness of making alliances or strategies, because plans get blown up by idols (sometimes multiple idols) at every tribal council. It will be interesting to see which way this season’s twist will play out.