''Survivor: Cook Islands'' takes a turn for the better

By Dalton Ross
December 27, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

”Survivor: Cook Islands” takes a turn for the better

When Survivor announced its gimmicky battle-of-the-races theme for the new Cook Islands season, producers promised they would be addressing the issues of ethnicity and the bonds that can unite or divide us. And they did…for two weeks, anyway. Then the Great Social Experiment was called off, the teams were realigned for no apparent reason, and we were treated to a month and a half of boring, drama-free beach living. Fans fled, leaving the show with its lowest ratings ever (15.7 million to date). But then a funny thing happened on the road to television irrelevance: On the Nov. 9 episode, host Jeff Probst offered contestants the opportunity to switch teams, and the second that Candice and Jonathan mutinied and departed the Aitu tribe for Raro, the show finally had what it had been sorely lacking all season — heroes (the left-for-dead Aitu foursome) and villains (the traitorous Candice and Jonathan). In a perfect dramatic twist, the undermanned and underdog Aitu won four straight challenges. Even that would not have been enough had mastermind Yul not then been able to use his hidden immunity idol to persuade Jonathan to switch his allegiance back to Aitu. Yul’s genius, Jonathan’s treachery, and the nonstop power plays and bruised egos that have resulted from both have suddenly made this the most engaging Survivor season in years. And thankfully, the only race we care about now is the one for the million dollars. (Go Yul!)

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