Love Letter: Tallying The Votes

Why I Love Survivor

It's the Summer of Love—and we're loving these TV favorites. Read up on why our contributors picked these shows as their favorites in our series of love letters—an ode to the best of the best on Paramount+.

Survivoris like watching a game show, a professional sport, a cat fight–driven reality show, and a screensaver of the most inviting beach with the most breathtakingly saccharine-bordering-on-imaginary blue ocean. (If you’ve watched the show and not casually price-checked flights and/or all-inclusive vacations to Fiji, where the show has filmed since 2017, you’re not doing it right.) Given all these elements, the show is incontestably the best summer binge.

My childhood in exurban New England predated so many things, but primarily I missed out on basic cable and the concept of the overscheduled child. Or any kind of schedule, for that matter: If it required my mother getting out her car keys and/or her checkbook, my sisters and I simply did not participate. Every yawning day of summer vacation, there was a sweet spot—that golden hour before my mom got sick of our very breath in her house and flicked off the TV and kicked us out into the backyard. During that sweet spot, my sisters and I gorged greedily on The Price Is Right. We all had our favorite games. Plinko, obviously, but also the Shell Game and Squeeze Play and Cliff Hangers. (To this day, I can’t take so much as a single step uphill without playing an internal yodeling soundtrack.)

And here’s the thing about Survivor—it’s just like TPIR in its crowd-pleasing set pieces. As fans, my daughter and I have watched players balance on ever-tapering beams while methodically flicking a ball around a round wooden frame, or spell a phrase with a stack of blocks on a wobbling platform attached, so cruelly yet thrillingly, to a rope in the players’ hands! We’ve seen it before but it feels new with every player. How long will someone balance on their toes while also balancing blocks on their head before it all tumbles ... like that TPIR mountain climber right off the cliff?

Buffs are the uniforms of Survivor. They’re the team (or tribe) colors. They’re symbolic of huge milestones. (“Drop your Buffs” is Probstese for “You’ve made it to the semifinals.”) But Buffs are also the fuel of so much fashion on Survivor: Imagine if Giannis Antetokounmpo took a quick sec while running up court to style his Bucks jersey into a miniskirt. Or a jaunty stocking cap. Or an armband. Or, most thrillingly, a sexy little tube top (all part of his game-play, of course, to seduce and beguile and ultimately trick his opponents into humiliating defeat). Sure, a Buff serves some practical purposes—as an insect repellent over the face, or a smokescreen when the campfire is sputtering during a rainstorm, or just an eye shade during a much-needed (thanks to the bug bites and dying fire) nap. But a Buff also lets you take all that depravity, deprivation, and desperation, the hunger and exhaustion ... and make it fashun.

Last but never least, Jeff Probst alone is worthy of a nonstop summer binge. He has said that he plays three roles during the show: the producer, the host, and, most crucially, the first fan and audience member. Not only does he clearly love all three jobs (if only everyone had a passion for their career the way he does!), he’s done the work of adapting, updating, and changing the game. Gone is his iconic “Come on in, guys!” at the start of every challenge, replaced with the more gender-inclusive “Come on in!” But the underlying constant is his enthusiasm for the game, his thrill at watching a grand social experiment play out at Tribal Council. And that is extremely contagious.

— Rory Evans

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