This is a topic we've touched on before, but so far our polite pleas for relief have gone unanswered. But please, Survivor: Please go back to your previous 21-year-old cutoff for casting. We know you think you've struck TV gold whenever you trot out clueless teenagers or a-few-months-past-teenagers in bikinis, and someone happily drags your barely legal eye candy to the end. But when you let kids who are not even out of college make fools of themselves on national TV, it's just not as much fun to mock them for their foibles and lack of self-awareness. We know, they signed up for it. But that still doesn't make it cool.
And when you highlight a Brandon Hantz, who at least had a bit of life experience before heading out, for making wacky statements, boneheaded moves, and for breaking down repeatedly at tribal council? We get the same icky feeling just pointing it out. We know, you giddily hype it up like it's CBS's answer to Jersey Shore. But please, just stop it. Your own host (and executive producer) freely admitted before this season even started that one of these kids is "a lamb to the slaughter" and that he has no idea why she's even on the show. Then, once the game starts, she's pretty much been a running joke for her physical appearance, and the same host has gone on to gape in amazement at her answers at tribal council. It seems you have a problem.
We don't know who it is that's demanding the retention of this vacuous slot - CBS, Survivor production, or both - but we think it's pretty callous and despicable of you to keep filling it.
Here we are, two episodes (and 2.5 hours) in, and when Katie was briefly shown as Kalabaw left the immunity challenge, we found ourselves wondering: "Who is that?" Much the same feeling as for Carter (on the same tribe) and Artis (on Tandang). We'd show you what they look like, but finding solo shots of them in the show is not unlike the proverbial needle in a haystack. Especially now that the intro has once again vanished. Of the three, we'll toss an ICU! bone to Carter, because at least someone asked Katie about something in the Kalabaw cave.
Despite these obvious omissions, we will admit that the editing hasn't been ridiculously overly focused on the returnees so far, at least not to the extent that it was in South Pacific or Redemption Island. Which is a nice change. Although to be fair, this apparent even-handedness is partially due to the structure of the show this season: there are three returnees instead of just two, not to mention two at-risk celebrities available for hoovering up screen time (as the ads make abundantly clear). Also, Matsing has been monopolizing the booby prize (sorry) of post-immunity-challenge screen time, so it's not surprising there are a few still-anonymous people on the other two tribes.
Even so, though: we will get to see these people eventually, right? It would be a bit deflating if Artis applied 15 times, only to never actually see himself on TV once he finally got on.
This episode's challenge featured not one, but two blown leads. Kalabaw had a healthy headstart on their first puzzle, only to drop all the way into third place as the other two tribes started their third one. But somehow, Matsing then gave up their surprising advantage, and finished third. Which means Tandang, with RC and Pete doing their puzzle, just powered through and crushed the other two tribes. (Even more so, considering.)
It's difficult to assign individual credit for a challenge win in what was clearly a group effort, but in terms of relative value when matching up against the other tribes, RC gives Tandang a pretty strong advantage. Physically, Tandang and Kalabaw both have three strong men, while Matsing has only two, forcing Denise (who is otherwise a good physical/mental match for RC) into the third-strongest slot, unless they inexplicably put her in the non-physical "caller" role, as they did this time. On a challenge such as this one, RC is then matching up against the likes of Roxy or Angie, which appeared to be no competition. Katie was no slouch for Kalabaw, but RC then jumped into her second strength area, and joined Pete on the puzzles. (Admittedly, as an engineer, Pete ought to have pretty good spatial reasoning skills, and should also be good at puzzles. But he has less of an obvious edge over a Malcolm or Jeff Kent.)
Then again, the point of this award is to denote people who create targets on themselves by flaunting their challenge expertise. And that impression probably will be difficult for RC to shake come merge time. Luckily for her, however, she now has an idol clue in her pocket. So there's still hope.
Let there be no doubt: Malcolm is now in control of the Matsing tribe. The Roxy-vs-Angie showdown at tribal council was clearly a proxy battle for control of the tribe, with Malcolm pushing to keep his snuggle buddy, Angie, and Russell hoping to retain the services of his informant, Roxy. But that same tribal council also (potentially) wounded Malcolm, because now Russell is doubly concerned about his own neck, as he explained to the person who we feel is in the strongest position in Matsing: Denise.
Denise truly appears to have close ties with just about everyone left on Matsing (save perhaps Angie), and seemed to be a party to every relevant discussion about its future. Even the ones that didn't ultimately matter: when a sodden Roxy was tearfully starting to break down, she tried to stiff-upper-lip withstand Russell's attempts to get her to talk about it, but then wandered off to actually do so with Denise.
In recent seasons, there have been a lot of medical professionals/students sprinkled throughout the tribes, and they've had perceived value, since they can help their tribemates sort through (and even treat) various minor injuries, without having to call in the actual medical team, and risk a medevac. Ironically, there are none (!) on this season, of all seasons, which is odd, considering how much Skupin might have benefited from one. Nonetheless, Denise is making a great case for the social utility of a tribe therapist. So far this hasn't translated into challenge wins, but she seems to be pretty indispensible to Malcolm and Russell whenever they need to talk to an adult. Great for them, and great for her, despite her worries that she might have been the odd one out in a five-person tribe with two power couples. And for that, Denise deserves a Slitty.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Roxy Morris