We’re less than a month away from the start of Survivor 45, and longtime host Jeff Probst is starting to tease fans and get them excited on social media. As part of that push, he asked everyone what they were looking forward to seeing, but not surprisingly, instead of choosing amongst things they’ll actually see, fans took it as an opportunity to talk about changes to the game they want to see. From producers meddling less to music/ score critiques, the comments touched on a variety of things, but there was one request that was louder and more consistent than any other: 39 days.
For those of you who might be casual fans or haven’t watched in a few seasons, Survivor made several changes during Covid and introduced some stricter safety protocols, starting with Season 41. The most important of those changes was reducing the game from 39 days to 26 days. That accelerated schedule supposedly makes the reality competition less intense and less dangerous (and probably makes it less expensive to film), but it also has some unintended side effects.
Jeff Probst’s Instagram post got more than 25,000 likes and hundreds of comments. Those comments include a ton that are some version of the following “39 days, less advantages, more tribal talk.” That one has more than 250 likes. Other comments include “Missing The 39 Days!” “Is it back to 39 days?” And “We just want 39 days to come back.” That last one includes a crying emoji and is just one of the dozens on his post that reference fan frustration over the new length.
The change (which will be in effect again this season) might not be immediately noticeable to fans who haven’t watched the show for the entirety of its run, but to those who are more familiar with the natural rhythms of the game, the tweak is incredibly important. During the first forty seasons of Survivor, the strategy is typically a lot slower and often more subtle. A vote only occurs every three days; so, even if a competitor is seemingly on the bottom, there is a lot of time to win other players over to their side. There’s also a lot of time to really talk out the pros and cons of various strategies and get feedback from many different castaways. Now, with a third of the game chopped off but just as many eliminations happening, it’s become way more chaotic and players more overtly jostle to not be the one voted out.
There’s also a whole lot less surviving going on. I’m not saying being on Survivor doesn't still suck. It clearly does, but there was a certain endurance to the original schedule that rewarded people who could keep a clear head and continue performing in challenges those last 13 days. Now, that element has almost been completely lost, as contestants are able to really see the end of the game just a few votes into the merge.
I’m not saying I don’t still love Survivor. I do. I can’t wait for the new season to premiere. But there is a growing sense among fans that Survivor, especially since Covid, has made way too many changes simply for the sake of making changes. Last season, there was so many advantages and fake advantages that it was almost impossible to keep track of. The disastrous hourglass twist in Season 41 and Season 42 made no sense and had a profound impact on the game, and I’m not sure I’ve ever met a single fan who is happy about the abbreviated shooting schedule.
Ultimately, people are watching Survivor because they want to watch people play Survivor, the classic version of Survivor, and while it’s fun to see a new wrinkle thrown in every few seasons (and change is sometimes needed), it’s not fun to see constant wrinkles thrown into a shorter game to the point where it feels like the players can’t even strategize and think multiple moves ahead.
We’ll see if Survivor ever listens to fans and goes back to 39 days at some point in the future. Regardless, you can check out all 26 days of Season 45 when it premieres on CBS on Wednesday September 27th.