In Fight To Survive, 17 contestants spend 25 days on Taveuni Island in Fiji, literally fighting for the resources and tools they need to survive. The contestants have already proven their survival bona fides on reality shows like Survivor, Naked And Afraid, Alone, Called To The Wild, American Ninja Warrior, and others. Some have extensive off-camera survival training.
Opening Shot: As the camera pans towards a remote island, host Akbar Gbajabiamila says, “Deep in the Pacific lies a primitive island of legend and lore.” Then we see Fiji’s Taveuni Island on a map.
The Gist: As the contestants get off the boats taking them to the island, Gbajabiamila tells them the rules. There are four resource areas that can be claimed by the first contestant to reach them: Water, Food, Shelter, and Firewood. Each contestant will also get a specific tool, like a fire starter or fishing spear. Someone can challenge the owner of the resource or tool by banging a drum at a specified location. They will then battle in an arena that night. If the challenger wins, the owner of the resource or tool gives it up, but remains on the island, but if the owner wins, the challenger is banished. There are no vote-offs; the only ways out of the contest are to be banished, to voluntarily tap out, or being medically evacuated.
At the end of the 25 days, the remaining contestants will split $100,000; however, if only one person is standing at the end, that person wins $250,000 all by themselves.
After the contestants gather their tools and the four resource owners are determined, the teams seem to immediately split into two factions: 12 people on “Team Friendship” and 5 on “Team Fight.” Amal from Team Fight barrels her way into the firewood area and takes what her team needs, over the mild objections of the resource owner, Sarah. It feels like Amal, J, and Missy are all itching for a challenge, but decide to hold back at the shelter resource for the time being.
But when Day 2 dawns, Team Friendship has the upper hand, as Keali’i shares his spear with the rest of the team, and they start catching fish. Problem is, they don’t offer any to Missy or anyone on Team Fight. So Missy bangs the drum to challenge Keali’i for the spear. Because they are opposite sexes, two male-female teams will fight in the arena for the spear. The results of that battle informs just how Team Friendship is going to regard Team Fight as the contest goes forward.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Fight To Survive is Survivor crossed with The Challenge crossed with Outlast.
Our Take: Despite not being all that different than most survival reality series, there’s a nastiness to Fight To Survive that’s off-putting. It’s not like other series of this type don’t have contestants forming alliances and being cutthroat, but for some reason or another, this show wants to show everyone’s cutthroat tendencies off the bat rather than show actual survival skills.
We get that 24 hours in that kind of environment can feel like a week. But it seems that by the end of the first day, we have people badmouthing each other during confessional interviews and to people they think are allies. Amal comes under fire almost immediately, with people saying she’s bossy and aggressive — something that not one of the men in the competition is criticized about during the first episode.
It could be because most of the contestants came from lone-wolf shows like Naked And Afraid, but it seems like the most alpha among the very-alpha group in Team Fight is Missy, who had to learn teamwork on Survivor. Sure, she was pretty dominant on that show, as well, but there feels like some real anger comes from her almost right away, and that feeds J and other members of Team Fight, which is where the whole feeling of nastiness we perceived comes from.
Then again, that might be the point of the show. The prize structure is confusing at first, but it’s actually crystal clear: If you are the last one standing, you win far more than you would if you’re among a number of people who make it through the 25 days. So at a certain point, individual greed is going to kick in and everyone who is left will be in it for themselves. So perhaps the nastiness we saw in the first episode will serve people like Missy, J or Amal well. Or they’ll flame out early. Remember, there are no vote-offs, so people can piss off others without much consequence, but only if they can get through all the challenges.
Sex and Skin: Besides the fact that the contestants are often in swimwear during the hot daylight hours, there isn’t anything in the way of sex or skin.
Parting Shot: The drum is pounded for another challenge, this time for one of the major resources.
Sleeper Star: Two people ended up leaving due to medical reasons before Day 2 is out. We think they might have been the lucky ones.
Most Pilot-y Line: Sarah and Amal argue about which one was a bitch to the other, which lasts way too long and gets absolutely nowhere.
Our Call: SKIP IT. We were just put off by how quickly the contestants on Fight To Survive got nasty and dark. And while that may be the point of the show, it’s not a show that we want to invest the time in because of that nastiness.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.