Winners at War? More like Whiners at War. Or Winners at Warm Fuzzy Feelings. Or Winners on the Survivor Celebrity Cruise. [takes a bow]
These are all alternate subtitles for this past “greatest of all-time” season of Survivor (these are also names I flirted with for the headline of this post, and I just couldn’t bear to part with them. So, bonus titles! You’re welcome).
Without doing the arithmetic, I’ve probably posted more about Survivor than any other subject on this blog (are we still saying “blog?” Pop culture review? Internet phenomenon? Literary TikTok?). Certainly I’ve written more words about it than any other show, if the memory of my epic poem-length recaps serves correctly. So there ever was a time to dip my toes back into that clear blue Fijian water, it certainly seems like that time is now. With Season 40 just barely in our rear view, here are my thoughts:
I hated it.
Okay, that is not entirely true or accurate. But it was a letdown, peaking mid-season with the back-to-back-to-back eliminations of Boston Rob, Parvati and Sandra, and then not quite reaching that gear again. All things considered it will probably end up near the bottom of my top 10, or maybe even in the top 15 (I need to do a proper ranking, but perhaps that’s a post for another day). However, this season – as has been the trend in recent Survivor times – succeeded in spite of itself. And I shall endeavor to tell you why (buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy, scattered ride).
First, an apology: I was derelict in my responsibilities during this last season of Survivor, posting only a single recap in spite of yet another strong entry into the series. I can offer neither excuses nor reparations, just the promise that I will try not to be so negligent again. Trust me, I missed the recaps more than you, so it’s something I really hope to get back to. I can’t promise that this won’t happen again. But I promise I’ll try.
Now that my mea culpa is out-of-the-way, let us go ahead and – despite the season ending weeks ago – discuss the Survivor: Cagayan finale, as I finally got to the last few episodes this week and it’s still fresh in my mind. Cagayan continued what has been a string terrific, engaging, surprising Survivor seasons, a red-hot streak that has been the show’s renaissance, proving the series to be just as entertaining and relevant in its 28th season as it was in its first. And this season featured, if not one of its best players, one of its boldest, not-cop cop Tony, the Sole Survivor and winner of the million. To use a phrase that I really don’t care for, Tony played balls-out from day one, making alliances, immediately breaking them, swearing on his dead father’s grave like it had the weight of a Facebook RVSP, digging up Immunity Idols, lying about Immunity Idols, creating paranoia, letting his own paranoia persuade him to blindside players in his alliance, building #SpyShacks, and totally vexing his fellow Survivors and, often, himself in the process. It wasn’t the cleanest Survivor game ever, quite the opposite, but it was effective. Tony played big, was never out of the spotlight, but always managed to hang onto control of the game, partly because of his “bag of tricks,” but partly because no one else wanted to sport his bullseye. But being so omnipresent, so visible, often seemed to take Tony out of the discussion for elimination. Like the purloined letter, he was hidden in plain sight, deftly (sometimes) keeping his alliance committed and loyal and keeping himself safe. In the end, especially in a final two against Woo(!), Tony deserved to win the million. However, while Tony did the most to earn the victory, I was surprised at the lack of respect for Kass’s game, who likewise played a bold, unpredictable, cutthroat and successful (but just not successful enough) game.
Survivor is back! And, from the looks of it, Jeff Probst is in no mood. It’s been quite some time since we were offered an all-rookie season of Survivor, and after three great seasons back-to-back-to-back, it would not have been surprising to see the show go to the returning player-well once again (indeed, ever since the fireworks of Russell vs. Boston Rob: Round 1 in Heroes vs. Villains, it seemed like all-newbie seasons might be few and far between). But, perhaps in an effort not to exhaust Survivor of its most precious Cochran and Reynolds and Aras natural resources, the show is going au naturale in its twenty-eighth(!) season.
Which isn’t to say that there are no unique wrinkles this time around. As the show has been teasing since the Blood vs. Water reunion, Survivor: Cagayanandonandon separates the players into the three tribes: Beauty, Brawn, and Brians (a group which, surprisingly, features not a single Brian). And Jeff gets things going right away, asking each tribe to quickly and essentially without deliberation pick a team leader, and then Jeff directs that specified leader to immediately identify his or her tribe’s weakest link. So, for the newly anointed team captains, this is (seemingly) a big opportunity to shed either the tribe’s weakest player or the group’s biggest threat. Sarah, on the Lloyd Braun tribe decides to single out Skeletor Trish, reasoning by her emaciated looks that she’s just finished up playing at least two Survivor games back-to-back and probably is just a tad fatigued from 78 straight days without proper nourishment. Over on the We’re Also Beautiful on the Inside Tribe, LL Cool LJ tabs human floatation device former NFL Cheerleader Morgan, labeling her as “hot,” which makes her more dangerous than her “cute” tribemates. Dude’s got a good system. Watch out for that guy. Not-Brian leader of the Brians David wastes no time in selecting Garrett, the marble statue to his left. David clearly saw some muscles on Garrett that he didn’t know even existed, and deduced that he’s too serious of a threat to help the tribe win a challenge and must go. These three players, YOU ARE THE WEAKEST LINK, GOODBYE!
We thought we’d take a few moments to discuss the recent competition final that has legions of fans around the world crying foul. No, not the Ice Dancing Gold in Sochi, although that outcome has not surprisingly raised some eyebrows (to the novice judges viewing from our living room, we had the Canadians at least even with the Americans). No, we’re not talking about the world of sports here, but the culinary world, and, more specifically, the results of the Top Chef:New Orleanstravesty finale.
After a long, Probst-free summer, Survivor is finally back, and the man in denim is ready to preside over the case of Blood v. Water. With only a few hours until court is back in session, let’s get right to it.
The burning question for this season, as we noted in our pseudo-primer/preview, is “has Gervase, after thirteen years, learned to swim?”
Well, from the looks of his very tentative entry into the water, it seems unlikely.
But it was more of an encouraging start than that of Tyson’s girlfriend Rachel, who apparently agreed to sleep in the jungle for 39 days on the one condition that she can never get wet.
When the Survivors and their loved ones arrive on dry land (including Kat and her boyfriend/big brother Hayden), they learn that they’ll be spending their first night alone, and while the game is afoot, the formation of the tribes will wait. Colton, of course, is back, because no ruptured appendix can deter a monster that terrible. He’s returned with his boyfriend Caleb, which serves to make him more sympathetic terrible. And even though he has his southern boytoy to take care of him, he’s still livid about having to spend a night in the elements.
Earlier this month, after weeks of cook-offs and focus groups and pilot pitches, the finale of Food Network Star came down to two fledgling cheftestants. One was lucky to be there, having managed to survive the competition despite flashing questionable culinary skills and failing to demonstrate adequate food authority, presenting repetitive dishes that had more style than substance, lasting from week after week almost entirely due to their charming, fun, magnetic personality, despite a marked absence of ability, professionalism and on-camera talent. And the other finalist was pie-man Rodney Henry.
Well, folks, with less than month to go until Survivor: Blood vs. Water premieres (assuming that CBS and Time Warner resolve their who-is-more-horrible-and-greedy-and-out-of-touch-and-only-serving-to-destroy-their-own industry-off), the much-anticipated cast list, featuring returning favorites with their loved ones, has been revealed! And we have to say, as opposed to last season’s casting missteps (The Devil’s Brandon Hantz, Shamar, Sandra Bullock), this is a pretty solid roster with only a few complaints. If Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit was successful despite its bevy of either unbearable or barely there players, then we have high hopes for Blood vs. Water: No Matter Who Wins, We Also Win. Let’s dig a little deeper (in bullet form!)
When Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit began just three months ago we bemoaned the ubiquity of loud, boisterous, attention-grabbing personalities like Shamar, Brandon Hantz and Former Federal Agent(?) Fillip. It felt like a season plotted by casting – and by casting just a few controversial, polarizing figures, stunt casting essentially – than a season anchored by appealing, charismatic, engaging characters who we would want to root for, and a season that might rely on shock value and stock reality show antics than good stories, solid gameplay and jaw-dropping twists. Well, we are happy to say that we were wrong. While the pre-merge game was dominated by those big names and big bodies, and while some of our favorite players were eliminated earlier than we would have preferred, after the merge Survivor: Caramoan has delivered great Tribal Council after great Tribal Council, offering some landmark series moments. It was like viewing a Sandra Bullock film back to back to back. Blind Side after Blind Side after Blind Side. And it’s left us with five somewhat unlikely players, none of whom are physically dominant or socially controlling or remarkably devious. Just five players who’ve managed to get to the end, through considerable disadvantages and obstacles, each carving a somewhat different path. It wasn’t what we foresaw for Caramoan, but we’re not complaining.
Cochran, for sure, is the front-runner, having played a smart, strategic, clean game. But Dawn has been right there with Cochran, and she’s made stronger personal bonds, which could play in her favor. Don’t discount Sherri though, who took an entry-level position with Stealth ‘R’ Us when the fans’ alliance fell apart, came in everyday on time, punched her card, worked hard, and is one of the few employees still with the company. Then there’s Eddie, who’s been on the outs from day one, has been to nearly every Tribal Council and was always at risk of going home, and who has made no enemies. Finally, you have Erik, who’s ruffled very few feathers, managed to flip and flop without seeming untrustworthy, and has an excellent chance to sweep the remaining challenges. Really, out of these five, you could make a case that all of them can win the million and it’s going to be interesting…
It’s our first week of the No Reynold Club on Survivor: Caramoan – 2 Legit 2 Quit, and the remaining members of the Edamame tribe are really starting to show the strain of the game. Eddie sees the writing on the wall, as the last remaining male fan and Uno Amigo he’s likely the next to go. Unless, of course, he can hook up with another girl, expose her to the Curse of Donkeylips, and watch her be sent off to Ponderosa. But would he hook up with an old chick like Sherri or a mom with a bottom retainer like Dawn? “Gross” he no doubt says to himself upon considering his options. Brenda? “Too into pig brains,” he likely reasons. So a reunion with Team Bro – Spring Break in Caramoan, y’all – is what Eddie expects to come shortly.
Cochran is also beginning to see the writing on the wall. Except this scribbling says that he now might be the biggest threat to win, that despite Erik’s abs and Eddie’s lisp lips he’s the alpha male on the island, and as such the bullseye might now be on his back. Dawn, to her credit, hasn’t cried in a…oh, no, wait, here come the waterworks, never mind.
Erik, on the other hand, clearly hasn’t recovered from the diabetic shock he experienced after devouring those chocolate glaze donuts last week, and he’s beginning to hallucinate, stuck in some kind of vivid fever dream, a mysterious voyage. Or perhaps, to teach Erik a lesson about voluntarily bowing out of challenges, Jeff Probst laced the pastries with some peyote. Either way, he’s seeing things.
After the stunning, shocking, game-changing Tribal Council that saw Team Bro play three Immunities and send Former Federal Agent(?) Fillip packing on the previous Survivor: Caramoan, Eddie thought that before everyone started strategizing and scrambling he’d just deliver one of his classic zingers to lighten the mood.
That Eddie. 2 much. And 2 Legit 2 Quit.
But the good vibes don’t last too long. The next morning Brenda wakes up just super cranky. Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed! Or maybe she saw something that freaked her out. Wonder what that could have been…