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.
Last week we talked about our disappointment in the casting of Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit to Quit, as the producers seemed to have emphasized loud, dramatic, troublemakers over solid, interesting, sane players. We drew attention back to Survivor: Palau, which featured none of those emotionally unstable, wildcard types and, yet, proved to be perhaps the show’s finest season. Why? Because this show is so good, because it puts ordinary people in such incredible, extraordinary situations, that you don’t need to manufacture drama. If you just let the game play out, let the interpersonal dynamics take over, then you have magical theater. The kind that we actually do get at the end of last episode of Caramoan. However, while the denouement was a pleasant surprise, what the episode mostly did was grant attention to the two most volatile personalities out there, Brandon and Shamar, validating their petulant and borderline-psychotic behavior.
Russell Hantz, for the record, was a fascinating, nuanced character (at least at first). Brandon Hantz, on the other hand, is all the worst parts of his uncle, all id, no strategy. He may have his uncle’s blood, but that doesn’t mean he got his gift for the game, or even his flair for havoc.
Actually , Brandon that’s literally how genetics works. DNA is passed down through generations. Although, what you might be feeling is those leeches sucking out your blood. You should probably get a medic to look at you.
Aaaaaaaanaaaaaaand we’re back! For Survivor’s 26th season they’ve returned to the Philippines and revisited a familiar format with Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites 2 Legit to Quit. Except, this time around, the “Favorites” aren’t necessarily favorites, or heroes, or even skilled players. They are, for the most part, memorable personalities, some remembered for as much bad as good. Whether that was a wise casting decision will be borne out over the next few months. However, before we dive into the new season, let’s take a brief look back, way back, to Survivor: Palau.
Why return to the 10th season of this long-running series, which premiered in early 2005? Because, after recently completing our second viewing of the season, we feel confident in asserting that Palau is the strongest and most entertaining entry in the Survivor pantheon. And why do we say that? Well, let us tell you, in list format:
There’s a tale we like to tell to novice or late-to-the-party Survivor fans. It’s a story – feels more like myth now – about a tribe called Kucha in a harsh landscape called the Outback. This is pre-Russell Hantz, pre-Boston Rob, even pre-Tom Westman. This is back in the second season of Survivor, when they had no idea that their initial success would continue nearly unabated for twenty-four seasons, that Richard Hatch and his flabby, hairy, naked figure strolling the beach in Borneo had changed the face of television forever. In season two the show was still in unknown territory, not yet a cultural institution with enough memorable moments to fill a double DVD and enough beloved (and reviled) players to field a competitive softball league. This was a long time ago. But all that time we’ve never forgotten about Michael Skupin. And never gave up hope – despite how unlikely it seemed – that he would return.
We often relate how this season featured a tribe that we found to be as formidable and as likable (save for Kimmi) as any tribe in Survivor’s prodigious history. It featured a pretty young face that we’d come to later know as Elisabeth Hasslebeck, football wife and The View co-host/conservative punching bag, then going by the surname Filarski. And while Kucha lacked the statistical dominance of Tom Westman’s Koror tribe in Palau, the team felt as strong and cohesive as any tribe, and it was getting stronger and more cohesive after each challenge and Tribal Council. There was Jeff Varner, the good-looking, drawling Tar Heel, and his partner-in-crime Alicia Calaway, who could have easily parlayed her Survivor appearance into a berth in the WWE. There was Old Man Rodger, who had formed such a sweet, good-natured, grandfather-granddaughter relationship with Elisabeth. And there was Nick Brown, the bright, young Harvard Law student. And they were all led by Michael Skupin, a midwest father whose receding hairline was more Bruce Willis than Ron Howard. Skupin served as heart and soul of the team, his intelligence and survival skills keeping Kucha focused and united at camp, his athletic ability pacing them in challenges, and his hunting prowess keeping them energized. With his guidance Kucha was poised to decimate the Ogakor Tribe, which featured such bickering, unlikable players as Jerri “the Black Widow” Manthey, arrogant chef Keith Famie, mama’s boy himbo Colby Donaldson, mama surrogate Tina Wesson, and another pretty face named Amber (yep, that Amber); it was a tribe that fell out of favor with us the moment they voted out Maralyn “Mad Dog” Hershey. Ogakor featured several future All-Stars and a couple million dollar winners, but after five tribal councils they were faltering, fractured and frustrated (Colby dousing Jerri with a bucket of water following a Reward Challenge loss, for example), and with one more Immunity Challenge defeat they were in danger of going into the merge down 6-4 to a Kucha Tribe operating with extreme confidence and bellies full of chickens and popcorn and, thanks to Mike, a pig.
And then, in the blink of an eye, it all came crashing down.
So this week we entered the post-Russell Hantz era. And for those of you who complained that Russell was a sneaky, nefarious player who only made it to the finals because he had no chance to win, and that his dominance was a product of editing, and that he was a bore and boorish, well, do you miss him now? Because, say what you want about the guy, there’s no denying that he made things interesting. Which is perhaps something you can’t say about last night’s Survivor
Imagine waking up in a beautiful seaside location, the crashing waves slowly lulling you out of your slumber, the faraway echoes of exotic birds gently coaxing you out of dreamland, a warm, refreshing breeze serving as nature’s alarm clock. And then imagine waking up after nine hungry days in a hot, humid, bug-infested jungle and the first thing you see is Phillip’s nasty, tattered, ill-fitting, sun-faded red underwear. Because that’s exactly the waking nightmare for the members of the Ometepe tribe as we begin this week’s Survivor: Redemption Island. Any momentum they had after defeating Zapatera last week is immediately erased by the actual sight of Phillip’s junk escaping from his delicates, forcing the Survivor editing team to employ their best blurring skills. But, to Phillip’s credit, he seems entirely comfortable just flapping in the wind. And completely oblivious. But since we’re watching this from the safety of our couch (and, thankfully, with the strategically placed blurs intact) we’re not complaining, because, besides Russell, Phillip is the most entertaining player on the show.
No change in terms from yesterday, as we guess people are snowed in from the Internet. So, as we’ll no doubt do from time to time, we’re going to revisit “tom westman.”
While we were in Survivor withdrawal we came across a collection of all-time favorite challenges as decided by Survivor Challenges Producer John Kirhoffer. It was, of course, no surprise to us to discover that top five included a challenge from Palau, the tenth season of the game, and the one absolutely dominated by Tom Westman. In this Immunity Challenge from #pisode 4, “Sumo at Sea,” Westman proves what a force he is, taking on and defeating the younger Bobby Jon. In his commentary Kirhoffer recognizes Tom’s legendary status, calling him a “true American hero.” If you’ve been reading this blog and have yet to comprehend the greatness of Tom Westman, watch this video and you’ll understand.
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It was also fascinating to learn that these kinds of challenges are always a best of three. Which means that Tom actually had to vanquish Bobby Jon four times. No sweat.