My fellow Survivor fans, I am here to invite you to take a leap into the unknown with me. It's a leap that entails some risks but the rewards are thrilling. I'm urging you to watch Survivor on a delay — either a DVR delay or streaming on Paramount+ the next day — and traverse the risky road of social media spoilers in order to make it possible to be truly surprised by big moments on the show. The payoff is really worth it.
First of all, I realize why you like to watch Survivor live; until recently, that's what I'd been doing. The benefits are pretty obvious. For starters, you get to watch the show and see who’s voted out without getting spoiled on the results. And if you're watching live — particularly on the East Coast — you can take part in the robust social-media conversation that's happening. Any given week on Twitter, my timeline is a mix of friends and members of the robust Survivor alumni community live watching the latest episode.
But even if you commit to this approach, you're not actually immune to spoilers. The biggest spoiler of all is the clock on your phone. Watching live means any glance at the time lets you know how much show is left, and subsequently how much time there is to carry out the vote and elimination.
This becomes a problem when the show is trying to convince viewers that the vote might end in a tie. After all, a tied vote leads to a re-vote, at which point if the votes are again tied, there's deliberation and haggling, and then at last, drawing rocks. A rock draw is exceedingly rare, having only happened a handful of times. But the Survivor producers tease the idea of a tie a lot — a red herring for how the tribal vote will turn out. The problem when you're watching live is that it's very easy to tell whether or not this is a fakeout just by glancing at the clock. Are we within five minutes from the end of the episode? There's no time for a re-vote. That vote is not ending in a tie. On the flip side, if there's a lot of episode still to go, the surprise of a tied vote is dulled somewhat, since you're expecting it.
In the two most recent episodes of Survivor 45, the clock has served as a big-time spoiler. Or it would have for me, if I'd have been watching live. But circumstances prevented me from doing that, which was, as it turns out, a good thing. When you watch on DVR delay or streaming, you're not fixed to a regular time slot, and commercials are a non-issue, so you’re not nearly as aware of how much time is left. And so I was genuinely surprised two weeks ago when Kaleb successfully played his shot-in-the-dark and caused a re-vote. And last week, since I didn't know there wasn't time for a re-vote, I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see which way Katurah was going to vote.
It helped that I was out of the house when the episodes aired, though I still had to studiously avoid social media, an online party that was just waiting to spoil me. But the thrill of seeing that Kaleb idol play and being legit surprised by it? I wouldn't trade that for anything. (That said, if I'd have gotten spoiled on that Kaleb advantage play before I had a chance to watch? Ultimate blindside.)
So, Survivor fans, I urge you: Bring some suspense back into your reality TV viewing and liberate yourself from the tyranny of the clock. Risk the spoilers. Whistle past the graveyard. Live. At long last, truly live.
Survivor airs Wednesday nights at 8:00 PM ET on CBS. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.