Survivor 44 recap: Why all old puzzles need to go
- TV Show
A lot has changed on Survivor over 44 seasons. There's no longer a hilarious trunk of fake money sitting at Tribal Council. Jeff Probst ditched the cowboy hat. Players don't randomly sport sunglasses. Frankly, they should bring all of these things back tout de suite, but that's not the point. The point is, when you're a show that has been on for over 20 years and 40 seasons, you need to mix things up a bit.
The trunk of cash is gone. As is the cowboy hat. And the shades. Now it's time to get rid of something else. The puzzles. All of them. To be clear, I don't mean to just stop doing puzzles. The last time I bitched about too many puzzles — Puzzlepalooza, I believe I dubbed it — producers called my bluff and did an entire season without them because of all my complaining, only to have me then realize I actually kind of missed them. (These poor producers can't win. Like a perpetually ungrateful teenager, I even complain when they do what I ask.)
This time, I'm not complaining about there being too many puzzles. That's because… I've found something completely new to complain about! What John Kirhoffer and his crack team of challenge producers (shout out to Milhouse and A.B.) need to do is immediately retire every Survivor puzzle and start from scratch.
I know. It sucks. Some of these puzzles are super, duper cool! They're epic and look neat and come in weird shapes and sizes — including vaguely threatening animals like bats and snakes. They are works of art! And they also need to go. Why? Because of folks like Carson. And Evvie. And that master of the dark arts, David Wright.
No disrespect to that power trio. They did what any smart player with resources, chutzpah, and way too much time on their hands would do. They practiced classic Survivor puzzles over and over again to the point where, when they got out on the island, there was no puzzle to solve. Well, that's not entirely true. Practice certainly did not make perfect — or even perfunctory — for David after he 3D-printed a bunch of Survivor puzzles before returning to play for Edge of Extinction. But perhaps he merely got distracted by the looming presence of Reem Daly.
The point is, while I applaud folks like Carson and many, many others who have practiced Survivor puzzles in preparation for the game, is that really what we want to watch as viewers — someone just putting together a puzzle they already learned how to solve before they even stepped on the beach? And should someone with the resources and know-how to buy and operate a 3D printer have that advantage over all the other players?
Not that I'm all that hung up on the "fairness" angle. Contestants have prepared more or less than others since the very beginning of this show. But this does seem a bit different. However, I keep going back to something that pretty much every Survivor producer has told me over the years — that half of their job is staying one step ahead of contestants.
The game of cat and mouse between producers and players is often even more interesting than the one between contestants. Producers will add a new twist or wrinkle, then players will start to adapt to it, and then producers will have to tweak it once again to keep the players on their toes so they never get too comfortable. Well, guess what? Players have gotten too comfortable on the puzzles. At least some of them have. And now when all the future season 45 and 46 contestants see what Carson did in 3D-printing that tree puzzle and solving it in roughly the same amount of time it's taking me to type this sentence — granted, long sentence — some of them are going to go and do the exact same thing. I would. (If I knew how to operate a 3D printer, that is.)
My solution? No more old puzzles. Throw them in a big pile in the challenge graveyard and light the match. From now on, all-new puzzles every two seasons. No more trees. No more bats. No more pyramids. No more no-repeating-colors. No more puzzles built to look like Zane Knight (although, to be fair, no Zane Knight puzzles have yet to actually appear on the show). But no matter! It's too late now! Zane Knight's time has come and gone!
The point is… ALL NEW PUZZLES! And they can start by finally staging my long-suggested underwater puzzle idea. Doing a puzzle underwater! C'mon, that's pretty cool, right? Players can only work on it while they're holding their breath underwater with a mask on and then must raise it up when they're done so Jeff can tell them if it's right or not. Now, am I going on this semi-random new-puzzles-only rant for the sole purpose of finally getting my oft-pitched underwater puzzle idea onto the show because they will be so desperate for new ideas that they will have no choice BUT to finally take my half-baked suggestion? I mean… maybe? But I do think, irrespective of that, it would behoove the producers to stop making it so easy for contestants to memorize puzzles before they hit the island. Just my two cents. Which is probably all it's worth.
Okay, I'm actually out of the country right now (but not where you think), so this will be quick, but let's hit on some the big stuff that happened on this week's mergatory episode before I go score some fish and chips. (That was a hint!)
* I love how the show continues to clown on Jaime for being so delusional and off-base with her assessment of her place in the game. "I'm the most valuable player, the MVP!" she told us again this week, insisting that because she's met the most people that she's running the game. "And if anybody doesn't see that, they are blind." The funny thing is, the more the show makes like Mac McClung and dunks viciously all over poor Jaime, the more endearing I find her to be. She just seems so happy in her delusion that I don't want her to ever wake up from this dream. WE MUST PROTECT JAIME AT ALL COSTS!
* Josh's game was messy like Marvin. His "I'm not a doctor" lie a few weeks back was a chef's kiss of unnecessary and poorly-executed deception, but at least I understood why he felt the need to lie about that. However, telling some folks this week that he had a real idol, while informing others it was fake, was a strategy so amazingly poor… that it actually almost worked! I am relatively confident that creating mass confusion was not his goal here, but damn if that's not what ended up happening. And it almost saved him.
* I already went on for way too long about the puzzle aspect of it, but the rest of the mergatory challenge was pretty cool — or, in the words of Jeff Probst, "full tilt boogie." Of course, none of it really mattered because whoever won the puzzle would win the challenge, but it still looked super cool, and you know I love a challenge in which multiple people end up crying afterwards.
* If the purple team had lost the challenge, it would have been interesting to see who was targeted. My best guess is it could have been Carolyn. Which actually would have been kind of fabulous as long as she played her idol because then things might have gotten bonkers. By the way, did you read my mid-game interview with Carolyn? Because you definitely should. Peak Carolyn, there.
* Wow, Josh and Yam Yam really did not get along out on the island. Much like Hai and Romeo, who had an emotional moment in Survivor 42 about coming out but otherwise couldn't stand each other, Josh and Yam Yam were immediately gunning for each other at mergatory to anyone that would listen. Josh even told us straight up that he has "a personal vendetta against him." While the show tried to focus on the similarities between the two due to their sexuality, you could tell their differences were simply too great to overcome.
* As for Josh, he leaves on day 13. Which, in the new era of Survivor, is actually half the season. It's also two days later than he would have gone had Matthew's shoulder not given out, and maybe four days later had he not been given an immunity idol. So while Josh was "devastated" to be voted out, which I totally get, he was also kind of lucky. He got some extra time, and, though he was a little all over the place on those days, he at least got to make more of a mark on the season. Unfortunately, he'll never get to wear one of those super-dope block merge buffs. And he'll never get to name his tribe Tubuli. Bummer.
Before you get bummed out because I actually kept this recap to a manageable length (perhaps I should travel internationally more often), allow me to brighten your spirits by reminding you about all the goodies we have for you. Goodies like the entire cast revealing what they want to name the merge tribe. Goodies like my mid-game interview with Carolyn. Goodies like an exclusive deleted scene. And goodies like our exit interview with Josh, which will be done by EWs Sydney Bucksbaum while I'm off galivanting in international waters (again, not where you think).
Go feast on those goodies and I'll be back next week with another scoop of the crispy!
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