Deal or No Deal Island: It’s Basically Watching People Play The Deal Or No Deal Board Game… On An Island.

By | February 28, 2024

On Monday on NBC/Peacock the first episode of Deal or No Deal Island dropped, the show that asks the question “what if Deal Or No Deal, but you made people wade through mud for fifteen minutes first?” Well we finally have an answer and that answer is: duller than you’d hope.

12 people (including Boston Rob from back when Survivor was good and one of the original case openers from the US show) go to The Banker’s private island to compete for up to $200m in cash, a figure we suspect comes about by adding all the possible cases from every single episode. Here they meet Joe Manganiello off of Spiderman who is “the Banker’s game liason” whilst the Banker’s two assistants throw suitcases from a helicopter into the jungle. The Banker sits in a private yacht with a helipad off the island and is “always watching”.

The contestants compete in “excursions” (i.e. challenges) where they will each earn a briefcase, hoping to be the person who collects the briefcase of the highest value – not only giving immunity, but also choosing which of the two people with the lowest briefcase will face elimination in The Banker’s Temple. On episode one, this was just collecting briefcases stuck in deep mud, for about ten minutes. It looks like the briefcases all had money amounts stuck to the outside for basic strategy reasons, which got removed when it became time to reveal the contents, for tension reasons. Also in the mix were two red cases, one with a low of amount of money, one with a “Steal” option to let you steal someone else’s case before the reveal. Interestingly nobody went for them, so the Banker phoned up and offered $10,000 to anyone who went back in and got one. There’s no time limit or any real sense of strategy or jeopardy here, it’s an idea that’s fine for about two minutes and then goes on ten minutes longer.

Reveal reveal reveal blah blah blah, it turns out they’re very much glamping with nice tents, proper showers and whatever, there’s a bit of strategy chat, whoever goes into elimination, if they survive they can choose anyone they like except the person who won immunity to go home in their stead.

In The Banker’s Temple the person the excursion winner has selected must play Deal or No Deal… FOR THEIR LIFE. 20 cases, featuring the 10 biggest cases bought in from the earlier challenge – all six figure numbers and a million, and “the Banker’s ten” (a cent through to $750) are in play, contestant picks a case, they play DOND – 8 cases in the first round, 7, 2, 1. The object is to “make a good deal” i.e. deal for a value higher than what’s in your case, or that your case is the higher of the final two amounts. That’s a win. Take a deal that’s lower than the value of your case, then you lose and go home. The amount “won” is added to a final case which will be played for at the end of the series and could be eight-figures (and eliminated immediately).

Deal or No Deal works because it’s real people making real decisions regarding real money and living with those consequences good or bad. What doesn’t require 40 minutes of television is a game of Deal or No Deal played almost entirely in the abstract – the money at this stage is largely irrelevant, so you’re basically playing a game of “is the number bigger or smaller” without much meaning to that number and this is about as exciting as that sounds. Whatsmore in a game of trying to make a good deal, the optimum strategy is to disappear whenever you get an above median offer regardless of whether it’s an offer you’d think about taking if you were playing in real life where the cases and odds carry different weight. You’re effectively watching someone play the board game version of Deal or No Deal. In the first ep the Banker made an above-median offer first off but for not great money (as more of the big amounts were wiped out so it only had to be five-figures) and below median offers later on, presumably to encourage the player to play on. I suspect this will be the behaviour going forward. Basically until the player takes a deal, what’s in the cases is completely irrelevant.

Joe Manganiello’s good. It’s fun watching Boston Rob trying to work his magic, there’s a nerd and a sexy nan but nobody else really stood out in the first episode. I can’t say it was massively compelling and I can’t say it’s an improvement on the format, but I also can’t rule out watching more to see if and how it develops.

2 thoughts on “Deal or No Deal Island: It’s Basically Watching People Play The Deal Or No Deal Board Game… On An Island.

  1. Aaron

    I sat through the entire hour-and-a-half premiere of this. One thing you left out: they’re teasing that at the end of the season, they will reveal the identity of the Banker. My guess: this is Howie Mandel’s cameo.

    Apart of that, you basically wrote my review better than I ever could.

  2. Andrew Sullivan

    Synopsis of Episode 2

    This week’s Excursion had the islanders pairing off by pulling coloured armbands from a podium. Each team then had to decide which was a Hunter and which was a Gatherer. The Gatherers’ job was to climb trees with arrows stuck in them using ascenders and collect as many arrows as they think they needed but could only collect arrows once. Also, at the top of each stack of 10 arrows was a white flag with ‘Personal Offer’ on them. Anyone who collected one got $20,000 for themselves. The Hunters used those arrows on a line of crossbows to shoot at circular yellow targets holding the briefcases. The higher the amount, the smaller the target was. Anyone who used all their arrows but did not shoot down a case was automatically given the lowest value and were up for picking to play DOND.

    At The Banker’s Temple, the chosen player played DOND with 12 cases this time, but the same rules applied, a Good Deal meant eliminating someone, a Bad Deal meant they were eliminated. 6 cases in the first round, then 2, 1 and 1.


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