The harsh truth for Survivor writers: no one ever reads post-finale columns. Okay, so maybe not no one – you’re here, right? – but for the most part, no one cares about a strategy blog when there’s no more strategy to discuss. I’m the proverbial tree falling in the forest; will anyone hear what I have to say?
My solution: Empty the cupboards.
What follows, then, are my unvarnished, unexplored, and largely unexplained thoughts – on the finale and the season entire.
Tony is a worthy winner.
(I wonder if he’ll send me another #TeamTV membership card?)
• I have one overriding opinion about Tony’s win*:
• That asterisk is for two reasons:
1) The T.P. Idol: how Tony found it and what it allowed him to do
2) It required the monumental idiocy of Woo
• Credit where it’s due, though: Tony’s campaign to convince Woo to take him to the end was a million dollar con job. (Still shouldn’t have worked.)
• If this was an odd-numbered season, Tony would be playing back-to-back.
Woo is now on the Mount Rushmore of Survivor stupid:
Colby, Erik, James, and Woo. (Tyson and J.T. are exempt because they have a million dollars and I don’t.)
• If honor is so important to Woo, what he needed to realize was that Tony was playing him, manipulating his emotions; someone who does that is – in the context of life – DISHONORABLE. Understanding this about Tony would have absolved Woo of having to take Tony to the end.
All of that hostility and bitterness at the Final Tribal Council?
Completely manufactured. I’m not saying that it didn’t come from an authentic place – Trish and others were genuinely hurt – but the vote was going to be a landslide and everyone knew it.
• That “everyone” included the producers, who – as they do, season after season – undoubtedly encouraged the players at Ponderosa to amp up their questions (if they can rightly be called that; “soapbox grandstanding” might be a more accurate phrase).
• Take the bitterness out of Trish’s voice, and she’s right: she was the Parvati to Tony’s Russell.
• Speaking of unnecessary drama, no need to play the role of David Murphy Redux, Spencer. Entertaining, I guess, but you and I both know that the jury didn’t need any convincing. All of your foreman work had been done back at Ponderosa (and for that, I thank you).
Loved that Spencer figured out it was a Final 2 at least in part from Probst’s catchphrases.
Would be funny to see someone call out Probst in the moment, though, wouldn’t it? “Hey, Jeff, isn’t this when you say that we’re playing for a guaranteed spot at the Final Tribal Council and a chance to make our case to the jury? Why didn’t you say that? Is it because there’s a final two? IT’S A FINAL TWO, ISN’T IT? ADMIT IT!” Would love to see the look on Probst’s face.
• More on Spencer: his logic was completely on point throughout the finale. If Tony had kept Spencer instead of Woo, Tony isn’t the target at F3. The argument was never going to work, though – Spencer was too much of a challenge and jury threat – but his rhetoric was impressive.
• And finally: Spencer’s sales job was almost too good. If he didn’t take Tony to the end, he would tell the jury not to vote for him? No chance Spencer doesn’t go back on that deal (and it would have been a GREAT moment when he did). And even if Spencer DID tell the jury to give their votes to Kass, he’d STILL win; no way they listen.
It must be really, really, REALLY hard to live with Kass for 39 days.
It’s difficult to be THAT hated in just over a month.
• Speaking of Kass, she has a point that there’s gender bias in Survivor. But that isn’t why she would have been crushed by anyone she sat next to at the Final Tribal Council. That brutal reality is due to her catastrophically awful social game.
• Can you imagine a tribe – on Heroes vs. Villains 2, say – with Kass, Abi-Maria, and Alicia all in the mix? Holy hell.
Players I think we’ll see again:
1) Tony: A mortal lock. Only question: use him soon or save him for Survivor: Legends? Ah, who are we kidding; it’ll probably be both.
2) Spencer: Would be fun to see him play from a position of power.
3) Tasha: Casting has admitted that it’s hard to find strong women of color; Tasha is a true triple threat, and I’d be shocked if she never returns.
4) Kass: Would have to be a specific season format (HvV 2).
5) Sarah: Another powerful woman who understands the game.
6) LJ: I was higher on him as a returnee early in the season; personally, I’d like to see him get another shot, but his skill set might be readily replaceable.
I, for one, don’t mind much when Probst ignores players at the reunion.
The message to people like Jefra, Jeremiah, Brice, and Alexis: do more on the show, and Probst HAS to talk to you.
• I left Lindsey off that list intentionally. She shouldn’t have even been on the stage. The moment she quit was the moment she should have been dead to the show.
Was that the most underwhelming Loved Ones Visit ever?
A husband, a sister, a cousin, and a friend; hardly high-octane relationships. When Kass is the emotional center of a Loved Ones Visit, something has gone horribly awry.
Kudos to Kirhoffer: when that Final 3 immunity challenge appeared on my television, I had to pause the TiVo and process the scope and grandeur. My reaction now, as it was then: Holy crap.
I’m stunned that Probst had the audacity to throw Tyler Perry under the bus on live television.
Blame the Madea guy even though you just admitted that you’ve used the same overpowered idol before? Shameless.
• Hey Jeff, the T.P. Idol sucks because it warps the game, not because of who found it (and how). A studio audience is going to tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to know. Retire it.
• Edited Probst is much better than live TV Probst.
My final thoughts on the cast, in order of elimination:
David: Anyone who takes pride in extorting money from taxpayers doesn’t deserve to play this game.
Brice: A shame it ended so early.
J’Tia: Because casting unstable people is so entertaining.
Cliff: Thought he might quit; more proof I’m an idiot.
Lindsey: I think I might say something I’ll regret, so instead I’ll quit.
Alexis: Too much head, not enough heart (couldn’t trust her).
Sarah: Good cop. Play again, please.
Morgan: There wasn’t much beautiful about her personality or her game.
LJ: More beta than alpha; only way to explain his loyalty and deference to Tony.
Jeremiah: Nice guy; no game.
Jefra: Nice girl; no game.
Tasha: That smile, man. That smile.
Trish: She was both better – and meaner – than we saw.
Spencer: Poster boy for the power of humility.
Kass: Thought she would go out first, should have come in second. (Clearly, I know nothing about Survivor.)
Woo: By honoring a misplaced sense of honor, he dishonored the game.
Tony: Gamed everything and never stopped playing, even for a second. Well done, sir. Well done.
That’s it – the Dozen is done. Been fun. Peace.
Andy Baker is a Survivor blogger who wants nothing more than to get a back rub from Jeff Probst the next time he's thinking about quitting his column. Follow Andy on twitter: @SurvivorGenius