As for my favorite moments from the family reunions, I’d have to start with Ryan and his dad Steve. I know from background that Ryan and his dad are both huge Survivor fans and as he said on the show, they would watch and dissect episodes each week. So for them to both be appearing together on the beach and on the show is pretty awesome. “This is my dream,” said Ryan. “Sharing this moment with my dad, it’s the best moment of my life.” Let me tell you, as a fellow dad from New Jersey who loves Survivor, that struck me as particularly great. (See, even I can get a bit sappy!)
But the true champion relative has to be none other than Lauren’s sister Sunny. First off, she refused to run around the corner to greet her sister, instead proclaiming, “I’m walking!” I can’t tell you how much I love that. Clearly the well of emotion runs pretty deep in this family. Then, rather than going to embrace her sibling, Sunny channeled the Survivor ghost of Dawson’s past and hugged Probst instead. Such a baller move. Although I couldn’t help but feel a bit bad for Sunny upon hearing that she is the super-fan who begged Lauren to go to an open casting with her — only to watch her sister get cast on the show instead. (Talk about Blood vs. Water!)
But really, all the reunions were nice to see. I wish I could say the same about what the loved ones did once they were all out there. Now, in the past the loved ones challenge has gone one of two ways. Usually the players compete while the loved ones watch, but sometimes the loved ones compete with the contestants. I never understand why they don’t do this every time because it almost always leads to absolute gold. (I think somewhere out there Colby is still yelling at his brother Reed for his lack of water bucket-throwing prowess in Heroes vs. Villains.)
So I was pretty excited when Probst said that the players would be “running in pairs, but not with each other — with your loved ones.” Finally, we’re back to the good stuff! Only we weren’t. Instead of putting the loved ones through a rigorous physical competition certain to lead to instant hilarity, the challenge consisted simply of each person pulling a marble out of a bag. If a player and loved one pulled the same color, they stayed alive. If not, they were out. It was a game based entirely, 100 percent on luck, with no skill involved. And, as a result, it was also pretty damn boring to watch. The challenges this season have for the most part been excellent so I can only complain so much, but this was a big bummer. (Don’t ask me why I love pulling rocks as a tiebreaker but hate it as a challenge. I just do!)
I don’t know what happened here. Maybe there was a water challenge that at the last minute had to be canceled due to swells (it happens out there in Fiji). Or maybe they just decided that minimalist was the way to go. The thing is, I like minimalist! I’ve been lobbying for years for them to bring back that last Hands on a Hardbody-inspired immunity competition from Borneo. Simple is often super dramatic — but not when it is just based on luck. There is enough luck running around this game these days with all the advantages; let’s get back to rewarding skill and effort. Also, let’s get back to watching relatives have to get down and dirty and see how they react in a dogfight (and how the players react to them if they disappoint). Just a missed opportunity here, I would say.
Anyway, Chrissy wins a Survivor BBQ and has to pick three folks and their loved ones to join her and her hubby. Whom she selects — Ryan, Mike, and Ashley — is pretty unremarkable, but what is fascinating is the way she makes her choices, without a moment’s hesitation. No hemming. Ho hawing. No “Oooooh, this is really difficult decision.” No “Gee whiz, can’t I bring everyone?” Chrissy doesn’t even pretend to make a show of feeling bad for the people she does not pick. In fact, she tells us, she reveled in it. “Poor Ben picked the wrong time to pick a fight with me because he did not get to see his sweet Kelly. And now I’m going to make sure that he regrets that he ever crossed me.” DA-YUM! Hell hath no fury like a Survivor scorned.
A lot of people who have come out of the game have had pretty harsh words about Chrissy, and you may be seeing why here. There’s no softness around the edges with her. As a viewer, I kind of like it because she has a singular purpose and is following that full-steam ahead, but it does pretty clearly speak to a blind spot in her social game if people are feeling that negatively about her. Even if you’re not the soft and cuddly type, sometimes you have to fake it if you want to make it. (Recap continues on next page)