S36 E12
TV Show
S36 E12
May 09, 2018 at 09:01 PM EDT

Man, getting old blows. Your hair starts to turn grey. Some hair starts to disappear in places where there used to be hair while other hair starts to appear in places where there used to be no hair. It’s all very confusing. I can’t quite make heads or tails of it. But other things change as well. You start saying weird stuff like “Ow, my back!” and “Why is this font size so small?” Teenagers all of a sudden start snickering for no apparent reason when they look at you.

But there is an emotional change as well to aging. You start reacting to things in a much different, almost unrecognizable way. Which brings us to Survivor and the Loved Ones visit. I was in my twenties when this show started and I never understood why people collapsed into puddles of tears when they saw a brother, a mother, a husband, or a daughter. Hell, I didn’t see my parents or siblings more than a few times a year anyway so what was all the fuss about? Sure I understood that emotions are amplified anytime you put someone in a super-stressful environment including lack of sleep, lack of food, and lack of climate-controlled comfort combined with the fact that everyone else there is trying to get rid of you, but still, PULL IT TOGETHER, PEOPLE!

Suffice it to say, I am no longer in my twenties. My son (who was born the same day as the season 1 merge episode) will be graduating high school in a month. I have a teenage daughter who still on occasion allows me to talk to her in public. My wife and I have formed a bond so strong that she even allows me to watch Big Brother three times a week while only mildly considering divorce proceedings. I’m a different guy, and that means I think and feel differently as well.

In the early days of the show, my strategic gamebot brain simply cold not compute the #SurvivorBreakdowns that would accompany every Loved Ones visit. Not only could I not understand why people were losing their proverbial doo-doo, but I remember writing on at least a few occasions how I wouldn’t even want my wife to come out there if I was playing because it would simply distract me from the task at hand.

But then something happened. I can’t pinpoint the exact season or contestant, but some idiot was most likely sprinting and crying into another idiot’s arms while Jeff Probst said something goofy like “Here comes some love in the form of your mom” — which, incidentally, is not the type of thing one should ever say unless you are referring to a Survivor Loved Ones reward. Just want to clear that up before someone gets in trouble.

Anyway, as this was happening, I involuntarily took a long, hard gulp. It was imperceptible to the naked eye, but I felt it. Then, the next season, I noticed a slight eye flutter on my part. Again, it was barely noticeable, but it was there. I tried to ignore the warning signs, but the floodgates opened when, a few seasons back, the word “Awwwwww…” actually came out of my mouth. Awwwwww! From me! I said, “Awwwww!” I remember thinking, WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?!?? I have become the very thing I used to mock! (Which is not to say I became the Medallion of Power…or the Rites of Passage…or that time Probst wrote sunglasses in the rain…or the fact that Dreamz ended his name in a Z…or Gervase barely making it through a challenge alive and then smack-talking the other tribe afterwards…or, well, you get the point.)

And I’m not the only one either. Probst has been getting downright mushy of late as well. We’ve seen him dab at his eyes in recent seasons, and this week his voice broke like he was in puberty as the host talked about the sacrifices Angela made in terms of missing time with her family to serve our country. What’s wrong with him? And, more importantly, what’s wrong with me?!?

 I don’t want to make it seem like I was a blubbering mess during this episode. I mean, it’s not like I am Stephen Fishbach suffering from #SevereGastrointestinalDistress, but in the past this stuff would not have even registered with me. However, now I kinda get caught up in it. Look at Wendell taking about his dad and how “This guy’s everything to me, man. This is me.” Hey, maybe my son will one day say that about me! Check out Kellyn and her brother Clay staging their own Goofball Convention and talking about how they don’t have a lot in common but are able to bond through Survivor. How awesome is that?! And Aunt Patty! Can we talk about Aunt Patty? I need to get me an Aunt Patty. Not unlike Donathan, I felt a sudden need to be enveloped in an Aunt Patty hug. And I still kinda feel it. Aunt Patty is the anti-Aunt Lydia.

But for me, the best was saved for last, when Domenick’s wife Kristen came out. “I love you and hate you so much,” she told her husband, a feeling that many viewers may also share when it comes to Domenick. “It’s been such agony,” she explained, adding that she had never gone a day without talking to him for 20 years. Younger me probably would have rolled my eyes at that in a too-cool-for-school way, but as someone who will be celebrating a 19th wedding anniversary next week, I totally get it. Hey, what can I say, I guess I now love love! I’ve grown soft with age.

Soft, but still longwinded. Anyway, let’s get to the other big moments from this week’s episode before it hits curfew and they have to roll me back to the Survivor Old Age Home.

Loved Ones on the Side
So, here’s the good news. The loved ones challenge this season did not consist of people pulling rocks out of a bag. In fact, the challenge was perfectly fine — a contest in which the players had to race over (and under) obstacles to retrieve a sand bag and then land said bag on a very small table. It’s always fun when people get trapped digging themselves under a log, and nerve-wracking watching a bag try to land steady on a table that appears to have been covered in grease. So I’m not going to complain about the challenge as it was designed.

But I do wish we could go back to having the loved ones involved in the challenge itself rather than just being spectators. I get that such an arrangement offers some potential competitive advantages and disadvantages in terms of whom those Loved Ones are, meaning Aunt Patty — God bless her and everything about her — is going to have a hard time keeping up with, say, Chelsea’s sister Sydney. To that I say…SO THE HELL WHAT?!? It’s a freakin’ reward challenge, not a fast pass to the final 3. Much bigger rewards in the form of advantages and idols are offered on a seemingly every day basis, often due to pure luck. Let the loved ones compete! #FreeTheLovedOnes!

And if you don’t want to have them actually compete, at least make them part of the challenge. Force the players to unlock them from a cage, like we saw a few weeks ago. Or make them fill something up that then dumps a bucket of colored water over their loved ones head to win. I don’t care, just make them part of the action instead of sticking them on the sidelines. This is my plea to you, Survivor producers. Hear my plea! It is a loud plea. Almost as loud as Colby Donaldson repeatedly yelling at his brother. “REEEEEEEEEEEEEEED!!!!” (Recap continues on next page)

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