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!
More: David & Goliath, Samson & J’Tia
Maybe we were spoiled by the last season of All-Stars. Not just that it offered unmatched drama, familiar characters, surprise twists, but also that those guys knew how to play the game. Granted, that’s a benefit of playing the game for the second, and in some cases, third time, and there were still plenty of dummies out there (Tyson and JT committing two of the all-time unforgivable blunders in Survivor history), but the people running the game, at the top of the food chain – Russell, Parvati, Boston Rob, even Rupert – did so with intelligence and cunning. It truly was a game managed by all-stars. Heck, even Sandra knew how to play game. And she also knew to save the vindictive vandalism for the last day, and when Russell steals other player’s shoes he doesn’t tearfully confess an hour later (lessons to be learned, NaOnka, Holly). But over here on Nicaragua, even though there are clearly leaders on each tribe, they’re not nearly as crafty and clever as they think they are. And, now, you can’t even blame it on youth, because Marty, self-proclaimed master of the game, is racking up the mistakes along with the kids. Who among the tribes is truly grasping this game, making smart, logical moves, not just tricky, creative ones? Right now, it’s hard to say.
More: Hey, Marty, stop listening to your gut! And we say goodbye to Jill the proper way. Plus: Let’s milk some milk!
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”
About 3/4 of the way through the Survivor finale I turned to my viewing companion and said “If Sandra wins it might just ruin the whole season for me.” A season, that up to that point, had been arguably the greatest in Survivor history. But he calmed my fears, assuring me she wouldn’t win, and I thought “yeah, you’re right she’s not winning.” It was just a moment of weakness where I let a worst-case impossible scenario appear to be a viable outcome. But I quickly blocked out that preposterous notion.
Well, the good news is that, three nights after the finale aired, I do not feel that the season was ruined by virtue of its final vote. However, the bad news is my nightmare came true. Sandra won. For the 2nd time. The castaway who has never won a single challenge won a second time.
NEVER WON A SINGLE CHALLENGE. IN TWO SEASONS. And this time around she didn’t win by being slightly less worthless than a glorified girl scout. No, this time she beat out Russell and Parvati, arguably the greatest strategist and greatest social player of all time, respectively. So what gives? How could this possibly happen?
Read on: The jury needs to grow up. Plus, our hero returns!
It’s been a busy few weeks in the outside world for Jumped The Snark, so there’s been nary a few minutes for updates, much do our dismay. But before we return to Survivor: All-Stars tonight we wanted to chime in with an A-B-C phrase that works for both of the last episodes. It’s a saying that covers JT’s schoolgirl note to Parvati, Parvati and Russel’s mean girl reaction to the note (see below), and Parvati’s tween brat explantation to Russel upon unveiling her hidden immunity idol (grinning and whispering “secrets”).
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With all this in mind, our overarching theme for the last two episodes is:
Always Be Children
Between the secrets, the cackling, the spiral notebook paper and the naiveté there sure has been some juvenile behavior out there. But, to be fair, between Russell in the former episode and Parvati in the latter, there’s been some brilliant gameplay as well. Tonight, we see if the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader turn their sights on each other or continue to rule the school together.
Or maybe it’s Sadie Hawkins Dance time (not sure how that applies).
Before we get into this past week’s Tribal Council, let’s hear from Amanda (I think it’s Amanda. Eight weeks in and I’m just now able to keep Amanda and Danielle straight. And Candace and Courtney).
Insightful stuff there, Amanda; really eye-opening.
So Coach claims to have survived an a choose your own adventure of dangerous predicaments in exotic locations, facing down vicious natives and brutal conditions with only his cunning (and tai chi) to protect him. Unfortunately, for Coach, here on Survivor: All-Stars he encountered the ultimate threat in the form of Russell Hantz. And no amount of tall tales of enduring against insurmountable odds could save Coach this time. And, really, he can boast all he wants about loyalty and cowardice, but he has no one to blame but himself. He refused to vote for Russell two weeks ago and then decried the result when Boston Rob was eliminated. And with his mancrush out of the picture he decided to take on the leadership role, and in doing so sent up the “varsity” team in the bowling reward challenge, because he so desperately wanted to win the bounty of a smorgasbord of (cold) pizzas.
More: Goodbye, Coach. And a new Survivor cookie???
Last night’s Survivor felt more like a blooper reel clip show that should air as filler before the final episode, because it was teeming with just sloppy, weak, almost buffoonish play, both physically and strategically. Don’t have much time today, so we’re going to make our thoughts quick.
If the high school where Coach heads up the girls soccer team ever needs someone to helm the basketball squad, they would probably be better off looking in another direction.
Colby, stirred on by James’ “Superman in a girdle” comment last week, really turned it on. And wouldn’t let anything (or any middle aged woman) get in his way.
So how to sum up the week?
Well, a strong, strong contender was “Always Be Copping a feel” (Colby, looking in your direction).
Or it could be “Always Be Calling out,” for the awesome way Russell recommended to Rob that they vote out Sandra or Courtney (pointing to the two of them, no more than 3 feet away, and stating “one of these.” Brilliant.)
But no, our A-B-C phrase of the week is brought to us by Coach, who was torn between his mancrush Rob and his commitment to Russell and in the end didn’t choose either side. That’s not being loyal or honorable, not in this game. It’s being meek and afraid. So, for this week, it’s:
Always Be Cowardly
We we came home to an unexpected treat last night. No, not the Rangers-Islanders game broadcast in 3D (because who besides Future Marty McFly owns a 3D TV? (although, I guess future Marty McFly would now be Present Marty McFly, but that’s there not here)). We’re talking about a special Wednesday episode of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains (moved up a night, as is the yearly tradition, to accommodate March Madness, or, as I think of it, Annual Exploitation of College Kids in Order to Line the Already Deep Pockets of Television Networks and Elite Universities While at the Same Time Deferring Attention From the Start of the Baseball Season Madness. Wow, two sports references in the first paragraph. We’ll stop, promise). And boy, was it ever special.
After our hero Lt. Tom Westman was voted out two weeks ago we* were glad that the show had a mini-hiatus last week. We needed the time to mourn, to come to terms, to learn to love again. And honestly, when the show started last night we didn’t know if we still had the desire. Perhaps the spark was gone. And when it soon became clear that Colby, Tom’s deputy and the last remaining true hero, and Russell, the most entertaining and devious competitor, were on the chopping block our excitement for the rest of the season was diminished even further. A show with no Tom, no Colby, no Russell (and no curmudgeonly Randy)? Would that even be a show worth watching? Why continue tuning in to see Rupert sacrifice his integrity for a weak alliance, to see James hobble his way through challenges and jackass his way through Tribal Councils, to see Courtney literally waste away, to see Sandra make it to the final three by doing absolutely nothing (and to begrudgingly see Boston Rob dominate physically and mentally). I’m just not sure that’s a show I want to watch.
And after the combination reward/immunity challenge, and the promise of both tribes going to Council, the show tried to tease us into thinking that Russell would maybe outsmart Boston Rob, and that perhaps the Heroes tribe would (a week too late) vote out James if he couldn’t beat JT in a footrace. But we knew better than that. They were just trying to create false drama, a faint, feigned glimmer of hope that our white knight and our red devil wouldn’t be going home. Sorry, Survivor, you can’t fool us that easily.
No, not this way…