"Outwit. Outlast. Outplay." That's been Survivor's tagline since the TV phenomenon's debut 15 years and 31 TV seasons ago. The slogan is about how to win the million-dollar prize, but the show could be talking about itself, enduring while numerous competitors disappeared.
Survivor may not be as culturally ubiquitous anymore, but it's still on the air (can Jersey Shore say the same?) with a loyal contingent of more than 10 million weekly viewers. The most recent season is not just as good as the show ever was, but better.
It survived by evolving: Gimmicky concepts that didn't work were jettisoned, and the show expanded its strategic landscape until it was more like a popular sporting event than a reality show. Survivor isn't about surviving in the wild; it's about convincing other people you're not a threat while simultaneously constructing a narrative that persuades your rivals you deserve to win.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Survivor Survives".