Netflix’s rule-free survival show spawns a brilliant, despicable strategy — blurring reality

Netflix’s latest reality competition is a survival series with a prize of $1 million. The name is one third of it Survivor‘s “Outsmart. Outlast. Outlast” tagline, but it’s taken from so many survival shows I’m surprised it’s not mentioned Only survive scared Outlast XL.

to survive very happy to start Survivor: people divided into teams, provided with basic supplies and sent to a designated area to build their own camp. Some appoint themselves leaders, others secede, and many are annoyed by each other’s mere presence.

So far this is pretty familiar, to the point of boredom. What to survive to add to the genre is actually a subtraction: rules. The result is ultimately fascinating and horrifying, shocking but predictable. (This review discusses events from all eight episodes.)

People in waterproof jackets stand in a field sailing around
Outlast cast: Lee Ettinger, Paul Preece, Justin Court, Amber Asay, Dawn Nelson, Jordan Williams, Jill Ashock, Joel Hungate, Corey Johnson, Timothy Spears, Javier Colon, Seth Lueker, Angie Esparza. Andrea Hilderbrand and Seth Radner (Image via Netflix)

Like other survival shows, there is no host, but unlike those, there is no structure or rules. Well, there’s a general, overarching guideline: to win the “potential” $1 million, players must be part of a team.

“The only way out is to give up in person,” the very limited rules say, adding that “you must remain part of a team” and “you can change teams at any time.”

With no host or structure, there’s no real action for several episodes either. These episodes can scratch you Only itch, featuring survival scenes in the Alaskan wilderness and some beautiful drone photography of the area near Juneau.

Yet you feel the producers at work. The narration, with its bizarre pauses (“While most of the players. Don’t know who. Or from which camp. The flares have been fired. One team. In particular. Know.”) offers Probstian levels of unnecessary exposition. “A helicopter hovers over Team Delta’s camp,” the narrator says, as a helicopter hovers over Team Delta’s camp.

And the cast is generally not equipped for such a survival challenge. Players drop out quickly, for various reasons.

Javier is amazed at how little survival experience humans have, and he solves that by micromanaging his teammates. It’s hard to blame him though; one actually says that his survival knowledge comes from watching survival reality TV shows.

A silhouette of a person shooting a flare gun into the air with tall trees in the background
Outlast’s first outburst as (Image via Netflix)

The producers – excuse me, “game masters” – introduce a few challenges, including the final run to the prize.

The first challenge gives teams materials for building rafts and a map that says there are crab pots on a small island. They have to navigate the tides and then, if they make it, decide how many crab pots to take.

It’s a great open-ended challenge, and Angie’s successful journey is the highlight of the first part of the series, as she makes her way into the current and flies past the arrogant man, who misses the island completely.

In these early episodes to surviveThe players of ‘s do not immediately accept the offer of the producers to make their own game.

A first attempt comes from 25-year-old Jordan, who says “follow me or go against me”. He goes to another camp with an even emptier threat, pretending his team is eating well, and they immediately see through his lies.

The narrator – who, like another host, just won’t shut up and even interrupts people’s sentences – highlights the first real offense: using a cotton ball from a medical kit to start a fire.

The previews, at the beginning and end of the first episode, make it seem like this is all quickly fading into lord of the flieswith a camp on fire and things being stolen.

But it’s not until the third episode that some heat emerges, with the idea of ​​alliances between camps. Dawn says, “It’s a game, Paul, we have to play the game.” But Dawn is the one about to be played first.

A person in a raincoat and winter hat looks at a lake with a rainbow and mountains in the distance
Outlast’s Justin Court in Episode 1 (Image via Netflix)

The first big step comes in two weeks – and it really feels like two weeks of TV – when Paul leaves Delta. He allies himself with Charlie, who embraces this defection and the supplies he brings.

Joel says it was “cowardly [to] pack his things and walk away,” while Dawn calls it a “chicken shit way to leave,” calling him a “dirty, despicable son of a bitch.”

Joel tells us “you could really see very quickly how easily the wheels came off the bus.” Oh, he has no idea.

Team Alpha, consisting of Jill, Amber, and Justin, senses an opening and decides to use dynamite to get through it.

While they’re conflicted among themselves (Jill: “Jesus Christ, Justin!” Justin: “You might want to check your tone.”). But Jill says, “I’ve had so many traumatic experiences in my life that I distrust people in general,” but she has “1,000 percent of my trust in” Justin.

Jill declares “it’s time to get some people out.” Justin says, “Let’s speed up the process.” Amber adds, “Now it’s time to start playing the game.”

Their first idea is to convince Bravo to reject Charlie and Delta to reject new team members. “Let’s cut their heads off,” Jill says, presumably speaking metaphorically, though the narrator doesn’t intervene to tell us whether or not beheadings are allowed.

They talk to the remaining Bravo team members, Brian and Javier. “If they mistreat you first, you’re done,” Jill says, proposing to have Charlie and Delta’s teammates quit the game by making their lives miserable and then refusing them to join their teams. Close. “Put your integrity on hold until we get home,” says Jill.

This is a really brilliant strategy, because they’re not on, say, Only where the game is to survive each other. Why sit and suffer?

“There’s nothing wrong with playing dirty,” says Justin. He then suggests stealing their sleeping bags, though he initially dismisses it as “just a thought.” Jill says “I like the thought, I just think it’s dangerous”; Justin says it would be “catastrophic” for that team.

Maybe I’m insensitive after 20 years of watching competitive reality TV, but while it’s a way to deceive a team’s ability to stay warm at night is devious and will almost certainly spell the end of those players’ games, it’s it’s also perfectly acceptable and smart play.

Of course, there is no real risk to humans. Surfing social media, you’d think Alpha wrote death warrants for Delta – even though in the same episode, after Jordan passes out, we hear a radio call from “Safety Four” saying, “We need a medic on the scene Delta” , and we see crew members assisting in the evacuation of Jordan.

Speaking of social media, consider whose idea this is (Justin) and who is stealing (Justin), then scan Twitter to see which two players are called the c-word. Netflix really makes couch-firing misogynists on social media, doesn’t it?

The strategy works. Joel is ready to leave and Dawn wants to fire someone’s ass. Dawn eventually finds the raft Justin was trying to camouflage, inserts the inner tubes into the raft and tries to find it.

The narrator then tells us that “Delta players are requisitioning the production’s equipment in a desperate attempt to find answers.”

This is also great: they’re on a reality show, so of course everything will be recorded! Dawn eventually finds footage of Justin stealing their sleeping bags. (Of course, the production ultimately made the decision to let them look at the footage.)

Javier watches from across the river: “It is lord of the flies here.” Then, despite encouraging his teammate to join this game, he decides to distance himself from everything: “You’re crazy; we don’t have an alliance.”

His teammate, Brian, is the one who actually quits because he doesn’t want to be associated with this, leaving Javier alone.

And then the fan really goes crazy: Jill and Amber prevent him from joining another team by destroying both his shelter and raft. Then Justin leaves Jill and Amber and destroys Alpha’s tarpaulin, eventually leading to Team Charlie – who’s known what’s going on all along – rejecting him as a teammate.

All of this is steeped in hypocrisy and sexist condemnations from Jill and Amber, with players rejecting each other’s behavior while justifying their own. I’m not going to defend any of the players, but I’m also not going to attack them for playing the game they’ve been given.

Whatever you think about what’s happening, it’s permissible, smart, and just the thing to survive is designed to create. If Netflix wanted a show where survivalists hang around and wait for the other to outlive, they would have cast real survivalists and then just ripped them off Only‘s format.

They also wouldn’t have ended the show with a walk to the award, they would have just waited for people to really, you know, outlast each other.

While to survive‘s format resulted in exactly the kind of drama you’d expect from a no-rules game for $1 million, the producers distance themselves from it.

“We didn’t want to handcuff people in any way,” executive producer Grant Kahler told Rob Owen. “I told them I wouldn’t give them any rules. Did I think there would be foul play or foul play? Yes, because we gave them the chance. But I didn’t expect it the way it happened.”

What kind of foul play would one expect? Poisoning? Knife wounds?

The only rules are that players must 1) choose to drop out themselves and 2) be part of a team to win, so it’s a logical, foreseeable outcome for players to try and stop others from doing these two things.

Kahler did tell EW, “I’m not a completely innocent bystander here.” It would have been very easy to make rules to prevent things like stealing from each other or burning down your shelter, swinging knives at whatever…but as long as someone didn’t feel like they were going to be physically threatened, it was I okay with that. If only everyone was safe.”

Even when nothing was written or staged, the producers and Netflix created exactly what they wanted: behavior that sparked outrage.

And by devoting several elongated episodes to the survival part alone, to survive pretends to turn into lord of the flies is kind of a surprise.

In the end, Alpha’s Jill and Amber lost the game to Charlie’s Nick, Seth and Paul, meaning their behavior didn’t pay off.

Is there anything to learn from this? Is there a moral to this story? To me, it’s that you can hate the players’ game, but you hate them for playing the game they’ve been given.

to survive

that of Netflix to survive is an average survival show with shocking but predictable behavior to get the $1 million prize. C

What works for me:

  • The cinematography
  • However, the creative gameplay is terrible

What could be better:

  • The Exposition. Narration. And his. Unnatural pauses.
  • Don’t pretend this isn’t exactly what the producers wanted

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