Rival Survival

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Rival Survival TV Poster Image
Democrat and Republican on a desert island = boring.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Shows how people with very different belief systems can find ways to work together and resolve problems. It also underscores the need to be resourceful when faced with unexpected challenges. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

They may have different political views, but on the island the senators rely on each other to make it through, and they respect each other during the process. 


The senators must deal with violent storms, angry crabs, and hungry sharks, but no one gets hurt. A serrated knife is used to hunt and cut. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rival Survival is a mild, politically themed survivalist documentary. It sends obvious positive messages about cross-partisan cooperation and being resourceful, but the focus really is on how two rival senators are able to manage a whole week on a remote Pacific island despite their lack of survival experience. A knife is visibly used to fish and cut, and there are concerns about sharks and getting hurt, but there's no real violence. Older tweens will understand the lessons being taught here, but younger kids probably won't be interested. 

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What's the story?

RIVAL SURVIVAL is a documentary that follows two U.S. Senate rivals as they live and work together to survive a week on a remote island in the South Pacific. Senator Jeff Flake, a staunch Arizona Republican, and Senator Martin Heinrich, an outspoken progressive Democrat from New Mexico, are marooned on a remote, uninhabited island among the Marshall Islands for a week. The inexperienced survivalists must find fresh water, build shelter, make fire, and hunt for food to stay alive. With only three items brought from home, they must work together and be resourceful to make it through the week. Adding to the challenge are shark-infested waters, stormy weather, and extremely hot temperatures. It isn't easy, and they quickly learn that when it comes to living in the wild, political party labels just don't matter. 

Is it any good?

The Survivor-like docuseries seeks to answer the age-old question: if you drop a Republican and a Democrat onto a deserted island, who will live? Luckily, this unlikely political duo is able to push these partisan thoughts aside and work together to find water, food, and build an exit raft that will survive massive waves and coral atolls. 

Despite some bland political jokes and the obvious attempt to highlight the need for Washington, D.C. policymakers to find ways to successfully work together, the show's entertainment value comes from watching the two self-taught survivalists politely work together while coming up with creative ways to meet their basic needs. Nonetheless, regardless of what your political views are, it's easy to appreciate the positive, if pretty dull, messages being presented here. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the themes. What messages is it sending to politicians? To American citizens? Is it really possible for politicians with extremely opposing viewpoints to resolve issues together?  

  • Is it reasonable to think that a reality show like this one can actually make a difference in Washington?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love reality shows

Themes & Topics

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