Editor's note: As mentioned elsewhere, this one was a bit much. "Creative" production decisions piled on top of each other, haphazardly, all in service of wrenching a few more tears out of the cast. A "reward" challenge in which Brenda and her dad are punished for winning ("Screw over these three people plus yourself, or those eight! You pick!"). Eddie continuing to vote the wrong way at Tribal Council. But whatever. This flawed-flawed-horrific-flawed-good-great-great-eh season is almost over. All over but the crying, anyway. To bring a sense of finality to it, here's a behind-the-scenes perspective from...
This week's guest voice: Producer J.
Some of you may already know this, but I feel it's time to come clean: I am immortal. I am ageless. Where some of you petty mortals must sustain yourself on cookie cakes and beer, or Cheetos, or piles of McDonald's cheeseburgers, I require more natural fare: the precious, pure, salty bodily fluid you people call tears. That's right, I'm a lachrymophage. Does that make me a monster? I think not. There are tens of people like me! Maybe more!
But it is what makes me a reality TV producer.
An unexpected source of nourishment
If it were up to me, we would cast only emotionally fragile people on this show. People with families back home, who feel guilt over leaving for weeks on end, just to film a TV show. People who will weep openly at the mention of children. Or bugs. Or rain. People who will break down every time I badger them about holding their team back in a challenge. But alas, the network seems to think people like this Erik kid, who's generally happy-go-lucky and quiet, will pull in ratings.
Thankfully, however, there's a little tool I have called starvation, and another called paranoia, which together can work like a pump handle on even these, the driest of wells. All it took was not having a reward challenge on a day when one would normally happen. Well, that and "talking" coconuts, courtesy of the mini loudspeakers we hid in the trees. Good call, crew! Let me tell you: the rarer the shed tears, and the more effort required to wring them from the source, the more delicious they taste.
Whatever you do, don't get that phone wet!
One of our time-honored traditions here is messages from home, be they written or video. So time-honored in fact, that we can induce some bawling just from leaving a smartphone in the camp. Okay, maybe they're just upset that it's not a decent phone, or that we didn't put any fun apps on it, or that there's no service out here, so they can't access the app store. But still: One look at a phone, and those delectable saline streams start flowing, at least for some. (The downside is that often, some of the less-aware people who haven't seen the show before just look it at as a beveled hunk of glass and aluminum.)
But this time, we were wildly successful. Is it wrong that I've taken so much from Dawn this season? I think not, but just to be fair about it, this little viewing party brought me contributions Brenda, Sherri, and even Cochran. All that remained was that impenetrable Eddie.
The Great Flood
As our network often complains, it's tremendously expensive to fly these "loved ones" halfway around the world, and house them for days on end, when their time on the actual show only amounts to a few minutes of one episode. But I can assure you, it's always worth it. Always. The howls and sobs alone from this brief familial reunion could satisfy my nutritional needs for days, perhaps even weeks. Honestly, we should do a whole season with "loved ones," I relish their blubbering so much. But we'd never get that past the network execs. Surely they'd suspect some ulterior motive on my part. Sadly (but not tearfully, obviously), it shall remain but a beautiful, tantalizing dream.
But back to the task at hand: we wrung every ounce of moisture possible out of the initial meet-and-greet. Then proceeded, as usual to the challenge, which would have caused much lamentation and howls of protest had Reynold still been in this game (we had hoped he would win easily), but alas, it was actually close. I was pleased that Brenda won, though, because she had provided the most pleasing reaction in the initial meeting. One that surprised me so much, I briefly lost track of which direction the tears are supposed to travel. It won't happen again.
But the coup de grace was still to be sprung. Well, coups. Double my pleasure! Double my food source! First, per tradition, we allowed Brenda to choose a companion for the reward, which evoked some bonus bawling as the choice was made. Then we sprung our two-tiered trap. First, we showed Brenda... MORE loved ones! Twice the sobbing opportunities! Twice the soddenness! To make sure I massaged each life-giving drop from this trick, I went around the contestants, asking each who was there, off-camera, waiting for them. And man, did Sherri deliver. Still no payoff from Eddie, though. I'll get you yet, "fire"man.
Then, just as that effect began to wear off: a choice. A wrenching, pumping, bring-out-bowls-so-that-I-may-capture-every-drop-of-your-liquid-deliciousness choice: pick one more person to accompany her, or give up hers and Dawn's rewards, and instead allow all the others to indulge. It was a masterpiece of design: no matter what she chose, either way, I'm feasting tonight! Sadly, she chose to give up her reward, meaning I was left with another flood of common Dawn-cry, instead of the elusive Eddie drops. Some day, they will be mine. Some day.
Ask not for whom the contestants bawl, they bawl for me
All the same, I really must pat myself on the back for the anchoring of the reward dock at exactly the right distance from the camp to elicit maximum anguish in the non-rewardees. Just close enough to be tantalizingly palpable, sufficiently distant to allow a good, refreshing breakdown. And don't forget the bonus tears as the contestants saw their other loved ones! (Although those would obviously have been retrieved no matter where we plunked the loved ones.)
Really, this whole reward/punishment challenge was a master stroke, from start to finish. The only thing I'd change the next time around would be to force the "winner" to pick BOTH people they want to bring, so that one more person suffers when they give away their reward. Or maybe allow the non-rewarded set of second loved ones to write sad notes back to the contestants, lamenting their inability to actually see each other. To be honest, it seems to take an ever-increasing quantity of crying to sate my appetites with each passing season. So I must always be thinking of new and more efficient ways to quench my thirst. Not a drop wasted!
Blindside? Tastes like dessert!
Speaking of wasted, we really need to recalculate this whole immunity challenge thing. About all we ever get is a few drops of joy from the winner. There are just not enough opportunities for pathos in these physical tests of endurance. Maybe I should hector them in a more personal manner, while they're competing? I dunno. I'm open to suggestions.
But all is not lost, because after immunity comes the always-welcome closing note of Tribal Council. That's good for a weep or two, every time. And this time around, the chances seemed spectacularly high that I was finally going to taste the rare, sweet effusion from Eddie's blue eyes. This was my time!
But no. Those evil, scheming "strategists," Cochran and Dawn, had to go and switch things up on me, targeting Brenda instead. Not that I don't enjoy Brenda's output, of course. She responded dutifully. But still, I feel a bit cheated. I may immortal, but my patience is not infinite. Come on!
Maybe I should put him on my talk show? Somehow, some way, I will get you, Eddie Fox. I will.
Recaps and commentary
Exit interviews - Brenda Lowe