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S37 E3
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October 10, 2018 at 09:00 PM EDT

Survivor is the best. It just is. I mean, you know this, or you wouldn’t be wasting your time reading a recap of something you just saw. But you are reading it. And I take it about 10 steps further by spending all this precious time that I could be using to, I don’t know, go scroll through Instagram or something for the 518th time today to write about it. And I do it. Why? Because Survivor is the best.

I was reminded of that during this latest episode, and it had nothing to do with any blindsides. It had nothing to do with the Natalie–Jeremy feud. It had nothing to do with the color of Jeff Probst’s hat. In fact, nobody even had to say anything to make this moment so special. But as I sat there on my couch wondering why Milwaukee’s Best is so damn impossible to find these days, I looked up at my TV screen. And there were people being told to “Come on in, guys!” by a dude looking at his feet. And it was POURING!

It wasn’t just raining, it was raining cats and dogs. Actually, someone call the Weather Girls because we appeared about two degrees away from it raining men. (Halleluiah, it’s raining men, amen!) So these poor saps did what they were told by the host and “came on in.” But you could barely even see them due to the torrent of water coming down. To quote my good friend LL Cool J — I actually did sleep in his hotel suite once; long story — it was destruction, terror, and mayhem out there. And as I watched these contestants stand around with their goofy sometimes-all-you-can-do-is-laugh smiles plastered across their faces while they watched their reward blankets and pillows gets absolutely drenched, all I could think to myself was… seriously, why can’t I find Milwaukee’s Best anywhere anymore?

But then I thought something else: Where else on network television can you see something like this? Everything else seems to be either stuffed with laugh tracks or people solving procedural crime cases. I mean, last time I checked there were approximately 8 billion shows with the word “Chicago” in the title. And then there is Survivor. No sound stages. No studio audiences. No craft service tables filled with bags of Cheetos that you know you shouldn’t eat because your breath will be terrible and your hands will be covered in orange dust but THEY ARE JUST SO DAMN GOOD!

None of that stuff. Instead, we have 18 people just getting brutalized by Mother Nature while a host stands there and openly laughs at them. Once again, to all those viewers who think Survivor is fake — and I still meet these people on a semi-regular basis — this is the real deal. And in an odd way, this show is at its most beautiful when it is this miserable. I’m not sure it was challenges in rainstorms that producers had it mind when they first made the move to HD in season 17 (Survivor: Gabon), but it is in scenes like that where the high definition of the location and the trials and tribulations of the contestants really comes into literal and metaphorical focus. Put more simply, it just looks badass.

That’s why even if you have an episode or a season that may not be firing on all cylinders (and thankfully this season has been firing so far), Survivor still brings you an experience you can’t find anywhere else. And, for me, the real emotions you see on the faces of the contestants as they are put through the ringer out there far surpasses any fancy acting mumbo-jumbo you may see on scripted shows.

Again, people walking into a challenge. It’s nothing! It’s a throw-away moment. It’s just so they can get to a mat — that’s literally the only reason they bother to show it. Nothing interesting is supposed to happen there. It’s just people getting from point A to point B. But in those precious few seconds here — as these poor, miserable saps made their way through a torrential downpour — those seconds reminded me of why I fell in love with this show in the first place. And it had nothing to do with knee socks.

Okay, let’s round up what else went down this week.

Things start over on the David beach in the aftermath of the Jessica blindside, and everyone wants to put the heat on Gabby. Bi wants her out because she feels betrayed by the person that she assumed would do whatever she told her to do. Nick wants her out because he is insistent on making this Mason Dixon alliance name happen at all costs. Seriously, I think the guy is still reeling from the Thoroughbreds alliance name not really taking off so he’s going to make sure Mason Dixon happens no matter what.

At least Christian still likes Gabby. And Gabby likes Christian. The two have an in-depth discussion comparing and contrasting Slamtown and Whimpville. We don’t get to hear all the pros and cons of each society, but personally, I would prefer the latter over the former. Frankly, Slamtown seems like something of a nightmare. For one thing, I have no desire to get slammed. Secondly, I can only assume that Slamtown is filled with aggressive Alphas all doing aggressive things. (You know, the “Slamtonians”.) Whimpville sounds far more chill. Plus, it would most likely be a lot easier to run things in Whimpville than Slamtown. You could be like Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles: the self-proclaimed “King of the Dips—s.”

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