The Russell Hantz Memorial Troll of the Week award (the "Trolly")
Winner: Lil Hantz
Honorable mention: Cochran
Since the entire episode, from the title to pretty much every single scene, was all about Brandon "Lil" Hantz, we're pleased to announce that Brandon has successfully wrenched the Trolly prize from its previous recipient, Cochran. This is something of a crowning achievement, since this was the episode in which Cochran both danced around a maypole and deliberately rent asunder his mom's machete-related wishes. Not to mention that it was about the only endeavor in which Brandon was successful this episode, apart from getting Coach's attention ... but that's what Trolls do, right?
The lingering question here, one that gives us pause, is: how much of Brandon's "demons" here are real, and how much are conjured up for the benefit of the cameras? From the looks of it, Brandon is just as he appears — a confused, hormonally saturated 19-year-old, struggling to spackle a host of poor previous life choices with a generous slathering of religious dogma and self-flagellation. It's not unlike last season when (at least until it became clear he was acting) Phillip's odd behavior was a bit off-putting, and uncomfortable to laugh at, since it appeared he might actually be mentally unstable.
Here, Brandon's utterly lacking in wisdom, self-awareness, and self-control, as most 19-year-old guys are, not unlike a puppy who knows that sitting and staying requires focus and lack of movement, but... that treat owner-person is holding is sooooo delicious, maybe I should inch a little closer to it, to get a better whiff? No! That's wrong! Bad puppy, bad puppy. But why do you have that treat there then, right where I can smell it? Are you nuts? Okay, sure, I can smell the entire bag in the cupboard, but you have one RIGHT THERE BEHIND YOUR BACK! I CAN SENSE IT! Just a little wiggle closer, maybe I can lick it... Argh! I know, I know! Bad puppy! I swear I won't do it again! I swear! I swear! No! Don't move further away! I'm wagging my tail like a maniac, that'll make up for it, right?
So while we get the lingering sense that mocking "Lil Hantz" is tantamount to kicking a puppy, he did choose to make a fool of himself on national TV ... although CBS/SEG did also go out of their way to give him the opportunity to do so, dipping into the below-21 pool for no apparent reason. The less-than-a-handful of 19-year-olds Survivor has sported have hardly been great characters. Natalie (Redemption Island) was barely there, Purple Kelly (Nicaragua) was there even less, then quit, Spencer (Tocantins) at least had a story, but was hardly a major character.
None were sufficiently compelling that they couldn't have been held back for a couple of years and put on the show when they crossed the previous minimum age threshold of 21, especially considering that players like Jill (Nicaragua), Kristina (Redemption Island), Dawn and Rick were left dangling for close to a decade, allowing them to age out of the median contestant age demographic. Jeff Probst can claim all he wants that Brandon would have been cast even if his last name wasn't Hantz, but what would be the fun of mocking some random hormonal stereotype-dodging/-perpetuating 19-year-old? This isn't Jersey Shore. No, this is Survivor we're talking about. Because of that, we've learned long ago that every decision Jeff Probst (Redemption Island! Yeah!) and Lynne Spillman (Purple Kelly! Yeah!) make always works out perfectly. So rest assured, this was another great choice, because they made it. Q.E.D. You are now free to mock about the cabin.
So here you go, Brandon "Lil" Hantz. Step forward and take your Trolly Award with honor and integrity. No, over here. Good boy. Come. Aw, screw it.
The Purple Kelly Memorial Invisibility Cloakee Unmasked! award ("ICU!")
Honorable mention: Rick, Papa Bear, Whitney, Elyse, Sophie
We've been bamboozled! Just last week, we interpreted the even-handed distribution of all 18 contestants across the 90 minutes of Survivor: South Pacific's debut as some sort of editing rebirth for the series. This week the same 18 contestants were now crammed into a 60-minute space, five or so of which were wasted on Semhar re-presenting the Redemption Island rules that were already painfully well-established last season. So there was bound to be some lost opportunity here and there. But were Ozzy, Coach and Brandon (and Christine, who was booted) really the only people who said or did anything interesting?
True, we did get introduced to Keith, who was largely silent in the premiere (*ahem* We'll remind you that Keith is tall and quiet). But apart from a dash of Jim and Cochran, more than half the Savaii tribe was invisible this episode. Dawn fell in Ep1 while swinging on a vine, and confided her early-game jitters to Ozzy. This week? Shown only in passing reference as an imminent boot. Papa Bear gained popularity last week for his openness, sincerity, and having Cochran's back. This week? Sleeping on the beach, also shown only to remind you who Jim and Keith were planning to boot. We still have no idea who Whitney is, despite her pre-Ep1 ad saturation. Or, for that matter, Elyse.
But to be fair, they were all on the safe tribe this week. Rick and Sophie were both members of Coach's alliance on Upolu, and they ... were also missing in action. Sophie got a reaction shot or two. Rick actually observed Brandon telling Christine and Stacey to vote out Mikayla, but he didn't get asked anything at Tribal Council, so the secret was safe with him! So we could give this award to almost half the cast this week, but we'll go with Dawn. She seems nice.
The Colby Donaldson Memorial Challenge Beast award (The "Beasty")
Honorable mention: Mikayla
It's not clear who was in charge of deciding which of Savaii's pieces to move in the sliding puzzle used in the RC/IC, but whoever it was, they seemingly made no mistakes, and slid the giant boxes around quickly. The latter seemed to be largely (there we go again) due to the efforts of Keith, whose largeness made the task seem effortless. For this titanic achievement, Keith easily wins this week's Beasty.
Yet a special mention should also be made of Mikayla, who continued to do well in challenges, after sinking the winning shot in last week's IC. This week, she (along with Sophie, Christine and Stacey) got Upolu out to a big lead over Savaii, one which Coach and the boys promptly squandered. Mikayla's reward? Getting targeted by Brandon. And later saved by Coach and Sophie.
Demons or no, we think Brandon's jumping the gun just a tad here. You target the challenge threats circa merge, dude, not in Episode 2! Honestly, you could have figured that out just by following this award last season. At least until it turned into the Sitty, which is far (okay, at best "slightly") more interesting. Which should happen again in a few weeks, or sooner if we continue to be bored. To be honest, it's a miracle we managed to squeeze three paragraphs out of this. Sorry.
The Cirie Fields Memorial Smiling Backstabber award ("Slitty")
Winner: SEG idol-hiders
Honorable mention: Not Christine, Coach, Edna, Mikayla or Brandon
Come on, people. It's too early for us to start passing out sarcastic strategy awards. Or at least it should be. Honestly, what do you expect us to do, when faced with these options?
Bah. Instead, this week we'll honor those craftiest of competitors, the SEG crew tasked with "hiding" immunity idols. Indeed, when Jeff Probst announced that Survivor's stunning new twist this season would be that idol clues would also be hidden, we openly questioned the point of that, since the idols themselves were only marginally concealed in trees the last time around. We're glad to see our concerns were completely unfounded. Not as unfounded as the Savaii idol, mind you.
Does anyone associated with this show remember when idols were actually hard to find, and were in camp, or required remedial digging? We know, it's heresy to ask such questions during a season with a Hantz on it. But, you know, Yau Man at least made digging up an idol look a little bit tricky. Now the tricks are entirely on your end, idol hiders. So continue sitting back, and enjoy your Slitty.
Other recaps and commentary
Jeff Pitman is the founder of the True Dork Times, and probably should find better things to write about than Survivor. So far he hasn't, though. He's also responsible for the Survivometer, calendar, boxscores, and contestant pages, so if you want to complain about those, do so in the comments, or on twitter: @truedorktimes