Infographic of the history of advantages in Survivor

Survivor Advantages: Dataset showcase for {survivoR}

Advantages were introduced to Survivor to give players an edge and to shake up the strategy. A successful play can help advance the player further in the game but can also make the player a target if others know about it. Advantages build uncertainty into the game and prompt players to adapt. Advantages, particularly hidden immunity idols are now integral to the game of Survivor.

I will showcase two of my favourite new datasets in the {survivoR} package:

  • advantage_details
  • advantage_movement

I’ll walk through the history of advantages in Survivor to demonstrate how the datasets can be used and what information they contain. Given the length of the code, I won’t include it here, but everything you need to create the charts is found on Github.

If you haven’t done so you can install the package from CRAN or Github:

  • install.packages('survivoR')
  • devtools::install_github('doehm/survivoR')

More details can be found on Github and to see it in action you can check out Carly’s dashboard.

Hidden immunity idols are 80% of the advantages

In total there have been 169 advantages in play across the 42 seasons. 134 of these are hidden immunity idols. This is excluding the second half of a split idol where they needed to be combined to be activated. Or in other words, split idols are treated as one.

There have been 10 types of advantages introduced to the game.

  • The first advantage was the hidden immunity idol found and played by Gary Hogeboom in season 11, Guatemala. This idol was played prior to the votes taking place, whereas they are now played after the voting but before they are read.
  • The super idol can be played after the votes are read but is seen as too powerful so usually has an early expiry.
  • The modern-day idol was introduced in season 14 and is now hard to imagine a season with a hidden immunity idol
  • The next most common advantage is the extra vote.

Hidden immunity idols are now a staple of the game and it is difficult to imagine a season without one. More information on the advantages and what they do can be found here.

Bar chart of the number of advantages in US Survivor

With the split idols, the second half is identified by the letter b at the end of the advantage_id.

survivoR::advantage_details |> 
  filter(str_detect(advantage_id, "b"))

Advantages have become more frequent over time

Advantages were introduced in season 11 and there were typically 2 or 3 played each season. From season 26, Survivor: Caramoan a few more were introduced, and from season 33, Survivor Gen X vs Millennials it really took off.

  • Season 39, Island of the Idols featured 14 advantages, the most in any given season.
  • Season 41 and 42 have proportionally the most other types of advantages to the classic hidden immunity idols. The producers are shaking up the game and encouraging new styles of gameplay.
  • In season 30, Worlds Apart, we saw the introduction of a new type of advantage, the extra vote.
  • There has been at least 1 advantage of a type other than the hidden immunity idol in every season since season 30.
  • 50% of the advantages in play have been from season 35 onwards.
Column chart of the number of advantages in play by season for US Survivor

Most advantages are now found without clues

In earlier seasons hidden immunity idols were hidden around camp. Clues were often gained that hinted at where the idols could be found. In season 19, Samoa, Russell Hantz changed the game by finding the first hidden immunity idol without a clue, even though one existed. Now it’s commonplace for most advantages to be found without clues.

There have been

  • 100 out of the 169 advantages found without a clue, keeping in mind some of these were more or less handed to the player.
  • The majority, 119 out of 169 were found around camp.
Stacked bar chart of the location advantages in Survivor were found and how many were found with or without a clue

A third of the advantages are not played

Not every advantage in play gets played. Out of the 169 advantages that have been in play

  • 120 have been played
  • 49 have not been played

For those that have not been played

  • 35 advantages left the game with the player that was voted out, including the 2 that James was holding when voted out in Season 15, China.
  • 14 expired and could not be played.

Of the 120 that were played

  • 47 were played successfully and changed the course of the game. To be played successfully means without playing the idol or other advantage the result of tribal council would have been different.
  • 64 advantages were played but they were not needed to achieve the outcome. The result of many successful idol flushes.
  • 9 were not played successfully. For example, both Knowlege is Power advantages in 41 and 42 were played but not played successfully. Or in season 37, David vs Goliath, Dan played a hidden immunity idol but it was nullified by an idol nullifier so considered an unsuccessful play
  • The most idols played at a single tribal was during season 34, Game Changers episode 12. There were 6 castaways, 4 idols played and Brad had individual immunity. Cirie was the only castaway that didn’t have immunity and therefore was eliminated without a vote.
Column chart showing the outcome of each played advantage and advantage not played

As before this excludes the second half of the split idols that need to be combined before they can be played.

Players with an advantage are often blindsided in episode 11

Most of the advantages are played (or not played if they are voted out with the advantage) post-merge.

  • Most advantages are played or eliminated in episode 13, including those that expired which is often the case at this stage of the game.
  • Most players have been voted out with an advantage in episode 11. Near the end-game, players tend to get very worried about someone holding a hidden immunity idol. Either they are played, flushed, or blindsided and voted out with it still in their pocket. This has happened 7 times in episode 11.
  • Most successful plays have been in episode 10.
  • There has never been an advantage played in episode 5. Weird.
  • 142 (84%) advantages were played, expired, or voted out with the castaway post-merge.
  • 104 (61%) were found pre-merge.
Bar chart of the episode which the advantage was played, expired or voted out with castaway

Advantages that change hands are tracked in advantage_movement

Every now and then there is enough trust within alliances that the original finder gives their advantage to another player.

Out of the 169 advantages in the game, 26 have changed hands at some stage. It might be expected, that if the advantage changes hands the receiver may be more likely to be voted out with it in their pocket but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Chart showing the outcome of the advantages that changed hands compared to those that didn't change hands at some point

The most times an advantage has changed hands is 5 in season 38 Edge of Extinction. Aubry found it on EoE, gave it to Aurora who gave it to Jon. Jon gave it back to Aurora and Aurora gave it to Gavin. Gavin eventually used it to vote out Ron however it wasn’t needed in the end.

Perhaps more infamously in season 41 JD gave his extra vote to Shan in good faith. Shan then voted JD out and claimed the extra vote for herself. She then gave it to Ricard who eventually gave it back and finally Shan used it to vote out Naseer, however, it wasn’t needed in this case either.

> survivoR::advantage_movement |> 
+   filter(advantage_id == "USEV4102")
# A tibble: 5 × 15
  version version_season season_name  season castaway castaway_id advantage_id sequence_id   day episode event   played_for
  <chr>   <chr>          <chr>         <dbl> <chr>    <chr>       <chr>              <dbl> <dbl>   <dbl> <chr>   <chr>     
1 US      US41           Survivor: 41     41 JD       US0603      USEV4102               1     2       1 Found   NA        
2 US      US41           Survivor: 41     41 Shan     US0606      USEV4102               2     9       4 Receiv… NA        
3 US      US41           Survivor: 41     41 Ricard   US0596      USEV4102               3     9       4 Receiv… NA        
4 US      US41           Survivor: 41     41 Shan     US0606      USEV4102               4    11       5 Receiv… NA        
5 US      US41           Survivor: 41     41 Shan     US0606      USEV4102               5    17       9 Played  Naseer    
# … with 3 more variables: played_for_id <chr>, success <chr>, votes_nullified <dbl>

All of this history is tracked. Each row in advantage_movement is an event and the sequence_id tracks the order of events.

Closing thoughts

Advantages have changed the way the game is played. They have created a dynamic game by introducing a level of uncertainty and an opportunity to make big plays. Simply their presence in the game means players have to rely on their social game even more than they did before and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

As per usual, if you find any issues with the data please log an issue on Github and save me from rewatching all 42 seasons.

If you like this sort of post feel free to throw me a follow on Twitter.

Putting this together

Using patchwork pull all this together into one infographic. Click to expand.

Infographic of the history of advantages in Survivor
Infographic of the history of advantages in Survivor

Code bits

As mentioned above, the code for these charts is fairly long and detailed so won’t share here but you can find it on Github.

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