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).
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!
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.
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.
In any season of Survivor capitalizing on the moment to strike is of paramount importance, and this has been especially relevant on Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit. Ages from now, when Survivor is long gone and young scholars pore over old texts written about a forgotten television program hosted by former President of Earth Jeff Probst, they will read the story of Caramoan, and it will be the story of Stealth ‘R’ Us, and of those who tried to fight back against the ruling alliance. For that has been the theme of the season, not so much if, but when, a group of insurgents will break apart the dominating force. As a result of poor timing, Corinne failed in her attempt at a coup, and, likewise, Malcolm overplayed his hand and tried to strike too quickly. He was successful in deposing Former Federal Agent Fillip, but, perhaps, FFAF wasn’t the head of the snake after all. He was the outspoken face of Stealth ‘R’ Us, but, in the end, he might have just been a figurehead, the Mandarin, a red herring dangled out as bait. And with Fillip gone, and the corporation starting to fray, it’s only a matter of time before someone makes a move. Could be someone outside the controlling alliance, or could be someone from within. It doesn’t really matter who it is. What matters is when.
But even though there’s a storm coming, and they’re now down to just two amigos, Reynold and Eddie are in good spirits. They won’t let the loss of Malcolm stop them from a good high five fist bump.
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…
On the last Survivor: Caramaon – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit we were privy to one of the greatest, most unexpected Tribal Councils of all-time, with confusion going into the vote causing to Malcolm flip his vote to Reynold and then subsequently persuade Reynold to gift his own Immunity to Malcolm. That series of events we knew would be hard to beat, even to approximate. To think so, to hope so, would be reckless and negligent, and truly unfair to the institution known as Survivor.
But this show is predicated on surprising you. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, there might just be another shocking, breathtaking turn of events right around the corner.
First, these kids are creepy. An unwelcome visit from Kid Sister and My Buddy. Can’t tell if they’re expressing joy or crying for help, like Hasidic children on a school bus.
One of the great paradoxes in Survivor – an element of the game that makes this show truly fantastic and always enjoyable – is that to make it far you must build a strong alliance with a numbers advantage, but a strong alliance that has the numbers almost always means that the alliance will need to turn on itself at some point, often times the weaker members taking out the strong. In many ways, you’re penalized for playing the game too well. If you form an alliance that is too strong, too large, you may wind up eating you own tail. And frequently, this happens just after the merge, which is why this junction in the Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit is so critical. It could be the last chance to dump some dead weight – or a significant threat – before getting too deep. With some players on the outs looking to get back in and other Survivors feeling vulnerable in their alliance, this is the time when loyalties shift, and when the permutations sometimes feel endless. This is why you can watch this show for twenty-three seasons and still see something new.
However, before we get to a merge the BeKool tribe, still not sure if actually voted out some person named Julia or just busted the myth of her existence, returns to camp from Tribal Council and Stealth ‘R’ Us CEO Former Federal Agent(?) Fillip immediately calls a board meeting. “Conference room, now!” Stepping into his executive chambers (a completely visible space four feet from the shelter), Fill clings to the tall tale he spun to Cochran last week, explaining to S’R’U Senior VPs Dawn and Corinne that he deliberately threw the Immunity Challenge in order to vote off that person who may or may not have existed (Gulia was it?). Of course, Dawn and Corinne know this is an absolute lie that Fillip absolutely believes, and, through some feat of herculean strength, play along with FFAF’s delusion. But they know that he’s living in a fantasy world, and Corinne is starting to find it really embarrassing.
Previously on Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit 2 Quit we found out that Corinne has a truly curious and rather unsettling affection (affectation?) for gays. Well, it seems that everyone is letting all their skeletons out of the closet now, as this person who is apparently named Julia has decided she wants to pretend she has some semblance of a personality and reveal something very private and kind of gross.
TMI, Ju…damn, forgot her name.
Michael is taking the loss of his partner in crime (the crime being losing every Immunity Challenge) BMX Bike Sales Matt surprisingly well. In fact, he’s single and ready to mingle. And he’s in luck! Corinne is more than eager to envelop Michael and keep him close to her bosom, Mama Corinne keeping him safe in this game as long as she can. Good thing she’s been quiet about her love of gays or else someone in her alliance might start to grow suspicious. Way to play it close to the blue bikini top!
In case you’ve missed every episode so far, Former Federal Agent(?) Fillip is in phenomenal shape. The guy is a freak of nature. Unbeatable in anything that emphasizes upper body strength, which, as we know, is every Survivor challenge ever. He’s so strong that he can even beat a physical specimen like John Cochran at arm wrestling. JOHN COCHRAN! A pasty yet sunburnt indoor kid who could serve as Captain America’s “before” photo; someone who is probably half Fillip’s size (which means that if Cochran played basketball at Fill’s gym then he’d be balling against guys four times his size. Wow!). So how could FFAF defeat the Hulk-like Cochran (Hulk-like in so far as he’s probably really good at physics)? Well, he’s got a can’t-lose technique.