If you were making a checklist of things you’d like to see in a Survivor episode, this one pretty much had them all:
1. A water challenge. (Check)
2. An endurance immunity challenge with people being successfully tempted out of it by food. (Check)
3. A player making a big move with an elaborate scheme that requires getting every single member of BOTH alliances to do exactly what he says. (Check)
4. Last second whispering and confusion at Tribal Council. (Check)
5. Multiple hidden immunity idols being used to save multiple people that would have otherwise been voted out. (Check)
6. A contestant talking to Jeff Probst about the time the host got naked on national television. (Check)
All the ingredients were there. Except one. But it’s a big one—the fact that it is nearly impossible at this point to really care all that much about the outcome. I loved watching all the shuffling and shifting and last second idol playing. It was fantastic! But I didn’t really give a hoot about the result because I’m not all that invested in the remaining players. So when Wes got voted out, I just kinda shrugged my shoulders and said, “Okay. So less farting on the show now, I guess.”
Folks, what we are seeing this season on San Juan del Sur is the simple law of averages. We have had four stellar seasons of Survivor in a row. (I know many will dispute my assessment of Caramoan as stellar, and I agree that the early action—waaaaay too much Shamar, Brandon, and Phillip—was a debacle, but feel it was lights-out after the merge.) Let’s face it: We were due for a bit of a dud. But I will say the exact same thing I said when Survivor: Fiji or Nicaragua or One World rolled around: It’s gonna happen. Doesn’t mean Survivor has lost its mojo. Doesn’t mean the franchise is fading. Just means this particular group didn’t work out.
But here’s the curious thing about San Juan del Sur and something to keep in mind next time you want to complain about how the network and producers are ruining your favorite reality show. They did almost everything right in putting together this season—at least in terms of listening to the fans. They brought back all new players. They got rid of Redemption Island. They brought back the Blood vs. Water twist, which most of us agreed worked really well last time. THEY DID EXACTLY WHAT WE ASKED! And they deserve a lot of credit for that.
Does that mean we were wrong in asking for these things only to watch them blow up in our collective face? Hardly. It just means this particular group of contestants did not work on either an individual or collective level. Again, it happens. (It’s easy to say, “They should stop taking recruits who don’t know or watch the show,” and lord knows I have said that myself plenty of times. But trust me, many of your favorite players from seasons past were not fans of the show before they appeared.)
Now, I could certainly quibble with the location of Nicaragua, which I am not a huge fan of because it severely limits water challenges and the water itself lacks that clear blue look that pops like crazy on my oversize HD TV set, but other than that, I don’t blame production for this lackluster installment. Sure, the casting didn’t pop this time, but look how amazing the casting was for last season. Hey, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
All of this is a longwinded way of saying I will spend my Thanksgiving Thursday not only eating copious amounts of stuffing—because Thanksgiving is all about the stuffing—and watching even more copious amounts of football, but I will be thankful for Survivor. Because even a sub-par season of Survivor beats anything else, and the longevity of the franchise and the fact that it just had its best four-season run in the show’s history keeps me confident we’re in for plenty of great stuff going forward. Okay, speech over! I know we’re supposed to spend today with family, so let’s jam through some of the noteworthy stuff from this latest episode as quickly as possible, which, knowing me, will not be that quick at all. But I’ll try.
• Keith pretty much summed up his entire game with his first line of the episode: “Reed’s a gamer. He knows how to talk to folks and figure stuff out—mathematics, numbers, and all that mess, which is way above me.” Yes it is, Keith. Yes, it is.
• This was a cool reward challenge, and yes, I was ecstatic they were back in the water. The players had to dive into the ocean, climb up on a platform, jump off said platform and grab a key in midair, and then swim over to collect puzzle pieces that would be used to build a statue. After another mysterious, unseen schoolyard pick ’em, teams were drawn, with Keith going unpicked and therefore having to sit by himself and spit into the water every 10 seconds. Seriously, why is that guy always spitting? Does he have a secret stash of chewing tobacco or sunflower seeds I don’t know about? I can’t imagine why someone would possibly need to spit that much. On the plus side, when he does hawk loogies, at least he does not do it all over himself.
The yellow team of Reed, Alec, Jaclyn, and Jon won, but then Reed did something very interesting. He gave up his spot on the reward to Missy (which involved handing out baseball equipment to Nicaraguan youth and then eating ballpark food while taking in a game). “It’s about doing good for other people, and I feel this would do good for Missy,” said Reed. That’s a curious comment considering what Reed said last week when Natalie and Jeremy did the exact same thing: “It makes you want to hurl because it’s so transparent,” he said then. Who’s hurling now, Reed? Still, he did cop to wanting to get the ball rolling on taking out Jon while back at camp with Keith and Wes, and that was a smart enough move.
• Okay, this is a minor point, but how great was it when Probst gave Wes a map to Exile (non) Island… and then a boat picked up him up to take him there? I’ve always wondered what is actually on that “map” because the reality is that contestants are transported by boat/van or both off camera to their locations.
NEXT: Probst has his own personal feast