The Hunger Games—Why Survivor's Classic Auction Disappeared and How It's Making a Return

The ‘Survivor’ auction is finally returning in Season 45, but many fans of the reality series want to know why producers stopped doing it.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Nov. 9 2023, Published 1:20 p.m. ET

'Survivor 45' auction preview
Source: CBS

The Gist:

  • We dive into the disappearance of the Survivor auction, a long-standing tradition since Season 2, addressing fan inquiries about its recent absence.
  • The auction halted as the strategic importance of advantages overshadowed the traditional joy of bidding on rewards, causing a decline in viewer interest.
  • Jeff Probst, wanting to revive the auction, struggled to find a solution until Season 45, where a potential fix involves adding a new twist by hiding advantages within food items.
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There have been plenty of Survivor traditions and twists to come and go, such as hidden immunity idols, beware advantages, letters from home, the car reward, and of course, the auction. Since Season 2, Survivor: The Australian Outback, the auction has been a mainstay for the series. But in the new era, the auction is nowhere to be seen… until Season 45.

The preview for the Nov. 15, 2023, episode of Survivor 45 hints at the return of the Survivor auction, and viewers couldn’t be more thrilled. Host Jeff Probst has spoken about the auction throughout the years and how it could possibly return, but now it’s finally happening! So why did they stop the Survivor auction in the first place?

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Jeff Probst at the 'Survivor' auction
Source: CBS

The producers stopped doing the ‘Survivor’ auction for several reasons, mainly because it became less compelling with advantages.

The famous Survivor auction was founded in the game’s old school days, which were focused more on the survival aspect of the game than the strategic. It was all about physically lasting in harsh conditions with little food and hard-to-get water. Now, water is readily available at the well, and it’s clear that producers won’t let anyone die from starvation. But in old school Survivor, a hearty meal was worth an arm and a leg.

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Producers gifted the players with a set amount of cash to bid on various rewards (some were revealed, others hidden). The only bit of strategy was if contestants decided to pool their cash or if they angered others by their bids. Later on, letters from home were brought into the auction as a reward, and after that, advantages were added in.

Erik Reichenbach at the 'Survivor' auction
Source: CBS
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However, once advantages were at play in the auction, players often held onto their cash and turned down the food rewards so that they could win an advantage in the game, which was more valuable. Plus, in Survivor: Worlds Apart, Shirin convinced the entire tribe to keep the price for letters from home at $20 so that everyone could get their letter, which also minimized that bit of the auction. Both these acts essentially “broke” the Survivor auction.

Viewers loved watching the Survivor auction before it fell apart—there’s something so joyous about watching characters we’ve come to know and love relish in winning a reward. Plus, watching them share with one another or lust at another player’s food just provides some sense of enjoyment ourselves.

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Jeff Probst at the 'Survivor' auction
Source: CBS

Jeff Probst has said that he wanted the auction to return, but he couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.

In Season 1, Episode 2 of On Fire: The Official Survivor Podcast, Jeff discusses the auction with his co-hosts. “If you have an idea for how to resuscitate the auction, bring it to us,” he said. “My issue with the auction is the minute we introduced advantages, people just sat on their money and they wait for the advantage. And now it’s not interesting anymore. So that’s where we’re at. But we would love to bring the auction back, so hit us up with ideas!”

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In Season 44, Carson Garrett actually pitched some ideas to Jeff during the Last Gasp challenge. He suggested production should, “Sparingly hide advantages and disadvantages in the food items and let the players know that they can bid on food but that it could come with an advantage or disadvantage. Hence, it was a matter of weighing whether the temporary sustenance was worth the risk of getting a disadvantage in the game.”

Whether or not Jeff took Carson or a fan’s suggestion, someone must have given him a good enough way to fix the auction since it’s finally back in the New Era!

New episodes of Survivor air every Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

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