February 16th is finally here and tonight is closing in fast. Which means that, after literally weeks of anticipation, Survivor: Redemption Island premieres this evening. But, more importantly, that means the epic, long-awaited, dream come true, clash of the titans showdown between Russell Hantz and Boston Rob is nearly upon us.
When their return was announced a few weeks back we quickly voiced our initial skepticism. And in the intervening time our feelings haven’t really changed. We’re still extremely hesitant about this twist, bringing Rob back for his fourth go ’round and Russell for his third attempt in four seasons, because their personal battle genuinely threatens to be bigger than the game, and we’re nervous about what it means for future seasons. The initial returns could be astronomical, but we could be trading long-term satisfaction for immediate gratification.
But it’s hard to watch this and not get excited. We’re excited.
More: Early predictions that may surprise you. And Jeff Probst teases the future!
We did it guys! We made it to the end of another season of Survivor. And we’ll tell you what, despite what the general consensus seems to be, we found this to be a thoroughly entertaining season. Filled with a disconcerting number of weak, unlikable players, yes. Lacking a truly great storyline, showdown or blindside, perhaps. Nearly ruined with the loss of Jimmy Johnson, you bet. A total failure in attempting to change the game with the Medallion of Power, for sure. An all-time great Sole Survivor, not likely. But coming on the heels of All-Stars, we feared the worst. And, thanks in part to one of the more gratifying wins in recent memory (it certainly helps make up for giving the million to Sandra), Survivor: Nicaragua restored our faith in the franchise, proving it could still entertain and astonish, even without Russell Hantz, Tom Westman, or water-based challenges.
But before we get to the finale, we need to first revisit the trend that has dominated the most recent episodes.
Read on: The creepiness continues. And we have a winner! And we’re happy! Plus, Jimmy Johnson!
First off, if there’s one thing that Jeff Probst hates, it’s quitters. The man just has no tolerance for Survivor competitors who travel all the way to a remote island or exotic locale, endure the worst possible conditions they will ever experience, and then quit when the end is in sight. Especially when those spineless deserters take away a perfectly good shot at a million dollars from hungrier, more deserving players on the jury (or armchair survivors at home). Jeff HATES that.
Which is why it was so surprising, and so frustrating, that Probst gave NaOnka and Purple Kelly multiple chances to reconsider and stay in the game. Jeff, if they want to go, let them walk. Benry and Fabio understood; if NaOnka and Kelly want to get up and walk out and in turn improve that male twosome’s chances then so be it. Don’t stand in the girls’ way, Jeff. As far as we were considered, when Purple Kelly and NaOnka announced their intentions to leave following the Reward Challenge Jeff should have stripped them of their buffs right then and there. But that didn’t happen. And to instead allow NaOnka to not only stay in the game but also attend the reward was just insulting, infuriating.
Keep Reading: We get a couple things off our chest. And did you know that Dan was on Laugh-In?
For a while there it looked as if, for the fourth week straight, we’d lose one of the older males from Survivor: Nicaragua. All signs pointed to Marty joining the parade out into the graveyard, following in succession former Espada tribemates Jimmy Johnson, Jimmy T and Tyrone. Traded two episodes ago to the La Flor tribe, Marty had only his Immunity Idol (and Fabio, for some reason) to protect him. And when, at Tribal Council, he elected not to use it, he had nothing to left. He was a goner.
Read on: What? Why? STUPID.
Marty started off last week’s episode of Survivor: Nicaragua telling us how he’s got it all figured out. The game is going exactly as he planned it, he’s completely masterminding the Espada tribe, and he can see two or three tribal councils ahead, so they might as well just give him the million dollars now.
Unfortunately, Marty failed to realize that this strategy doesn’t work when you systematically vote off the alpha males in your tribe, leaving your team of geezers severely weakened to the point that the producers have two choices a) take the Espada tribe behind the barn and put them out of their misery or b) mix up the tribes. Not surprisingly, they chose option B. Should have seen that one coming Marty. We take back the million dollars.
So with Marty shifting over to La Flor, along with Jill and Jane (whose unabashed glee at the swap was the first annoying thing she’s done all season), Tyrone took up the mantle of chief of Espada, giving the new arrivals the lowdown on camp protocol. While Tyrone was clearly the premier physical player for Espada, Marty was the bigger vocal presence, so it was interesting to see Tyrone step into the breach, especially after he seemed content to let Jimmy J, Jimmy T and Marty fight amongst themselves. But Tyrone, perhaps feeling a bit paternal, decided to be the silverback, and tell the new guys how things are done. Honestly, the rules and regulations for Espada camp didn’t sound all that outrageous, pretty practical really, and Tyrone didn’t deliver the orientation with a condescending or hostile tone. But the younglings, led by Benry and Chase, were going to take any excuse to vote off their biggest male competitor, and when Tyrone appeared to overindulge on the chicken he initially protested killing and cooking, he put the final nail in his own coffin. Always remember, Tyrone: LOOSE TYRONES SINK SHIPS.
Read on: The Sky Is Falling!!!
Well, Jimmy T, you got what you wanted last week, ousting TWO TIME SUPER BOWL WINNING NFL COACH Jimmy Johnson, because he was, in your own words “not a Jimmy T fan.” Well, be careful what you wish for Jimmy T, because with Jimmy Johnson out of the picture you sealed your own fate by NOT shutting up about how all you wanted was “one shot” and you just wanted “to be put in there” and see “some game time” and other things you say when you’re 6 years-old and terrible and your t-ball coach rightfully puts you in the outfield. The sports analogies sort of made sense when Jimmy Johnson was still around, but now that he’s gone they’re just plain grating, and pretty much illogical. As was Jimmy T as a whole in this episode, as he failed to grasp that he was digging his own grave, and followed Jimmy J right into the, well, graveyard.
So, Jimmy T, we hardly knew ye. Let’s look back at some of your finer moments:
Well, Survivor: Nicaragua just became a little tougher to watch every week. While we were initially skeptical of the inclusion of former NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson’s in the cast, we were quickly won over by his charm and gung-ho attitude. We still think it was a questionable decision by the producers, big picture-wise, but it enabled us to enjoy his positivity, humor and variety of faces every week. That is, until the Espada tribe made the curious (aka egregious, outrageous) decision to cut Coach Johnson, engineered by Jimmy T and Marty’s testosterone-driven need to prove that they can be a better leader (than a Super Bowl winning NFL head coach). Why Jimmy T felt threatened by Jimmy Johnson, or why he desired to usurp the leadership role when it makes more sense to let Jimmy J maintain the mantle and thus the pressure, is beyond us. And why Marty feels compelled to “accelerate” the game is even more baffling. Now they’ve put themselves both in the cross-hairs, while they could have let the bullseye rest on Coach Johnson. It was way to early for a power grab, and completely unnecessary, and they’ll likely realize this sooner rather than later. At least vote out the dude who can’t even walk (Danny).
But, for now, the damage is done and Jimmy J is gone. In his honor, our (perhaps) final Faces of Jimmy Johnson:
Continue: The sad final Faces of Jimmy Johnson. Then we rundown who’s left!
Well, Survivor: Nicaragua certainly has its work cut out for itself, following arguably the greatest season in the series’ illustrious history. Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, AKA Buried Knives and Burnt Hats: Boston Rob vs. Russell, brought us back from several seasons of indifference. Really, our interest in the show had waned years ago, and we really only returned to see Tom Westman defend his title. But we found ourselves sucked back in, charmed by Russell, strangely tolerant of Boston Rob, amused by Coach, infuriated by Sandra, disappointed by Colby, baffled by JT, and it ended up being one of the strongest, and probably most enjoyable, season in memory. But how will Survivor: Nicaragua stack up? Without the familiarity of the castaways, the pang of nostalgia and the promise of alpha male vs. alpha male vs. alpha male vs. alpha male fireworks, will this new season hold our attention?
Well, the show is not All-Stars, but it does have one star, that being perpetually erect Super Bowl Champion coach Jimmy Johnson (not to be confused with his former boss, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, or 90s talk show host Jenny Jones, or top race car driver Jimmie Johnson or former wrestler and member of the Fabulous Freebirds Jimmy Garvin). Turns out that Jimmy Johnson (or “Jimmy J”) is kind of a bizarro Tom Westman. They’re both silver-topped elder statesman, but where Westman excelled in physical prowess and strong morals, Johnson oozes charm and good ol’ boy wit, matching his elite leadership skills with just enough self-deprecation and humor (although, no indication yet of how Johnson’s beard is going to fill in). Turns out that this season might be worth watching just for Jimmy Johnson alone.
Read on: Goodbye, Chatterbox! And “The Faces of Jimmy Johnson”