After a long day of relaxation after completing my first year in law school, I’ll say it, I was excited for the finale. No, there had been loads of problems and I didn’t like the twist in general, but Devens ... well Devens had me curious about if he could separate himself enough from Ben in HvHvH.
I had accepted the season as solidly in the bottom half of Survivor’s 19-year run, but I was okay with that to just watch it for what it was. To be honest, the person returning from the Edge substantially impacting the game wasn’t something I really considered. And someone coming back and actually winning? Never crossed my mind.
The season couldn't end that terribly, right?
For as much as I want to be mad at Chris, I can’t be. He did the only things he possibly could to get to the end and win, and as sad as I am that someone who played 12 or 13 days is the “Sole Survivor,” that’s not his fault. He played to the twist as well as he could. I’m upset you won, but per the twist, you did earn it, however technically. And if nothing else, your gambit at the Final 4 was ballsy and I have to respect that.
It wasn’t the perfect game you wanted, but I think you’ll take it.
While Probst will almost certainly never publicly denounce this twist, can he and production really be so tone deaf to the droves of hardcore fans at this season? Perhaps the thing I took away from this episode was Wardog's statement: the theme is not on trial. Friends, it damn well should be, and I think it was.
The twist was not a good one. It sucked away screen time and it made episodes, boots, and characters seem just plain confusing. Further, having a jury of that size, beyond trying to follow everyone’s questions or input, just made things too messy and unpredictable. It was a mass of people, several of whom had no right to vote on the game’s winner (sorry, Reem).
I don’t care how big of an underdog win this may be, having someone like Chris win is a huge flip of the bird to fans of the show and to people like Gavin. His dream was to play this game, and while I may not really have an understanding of who he was (thanks, Edit), I do know he survived 39 days without having his name written down. By playing a good game, one which kept his torch lit, he put himself at what proved to be an insurmountable disadvantage. And if Gavin feels he got a win stolen out from underneath him, well, I think he should. How could he compete with a man who’d been put on the Edge for the vast majority of the game and who had a low stress (from a social manipulation standpoint) place to get to know the people who would ultimately vote for a winner? That’s a MASSIVE advantage, one that I pray production sees as fundamentally unfair. Yes, Final Four Fire was interesting, but it proved the winner was destined to be a player from the Edge, and that should set off alarms.
Wardog was wrong. The theme was on trial, just not explicitly. The trial was if the theme was fair enough to justify Chris winning. It turned out to be, and I felt like I wasted a season of television. I could’ve just watched the first 3 episodes of the season and the finale and understood everything I’d need to for the season’s champ. That’s wrong.
That’s not the game I grew up with.
All right, man. You were funny. You played well, and between fake idols, actually having a social game, and winning 4 individual immunities ... I would’ve been happy with a win (especially compared to the actual result). I remain philosophically against someone who lost wining that same game, but, Rick, you played your heart out and you did do more than idol-find your way forward with challenge wins and some (albeit limited) social bonds. If nothing else, you deviated enough from Ben to be your own, more entertaining one. Happy to have you on this one.
Quick shoutout to the other Finale-ists
Gavin was robbed. No, he didn’t play a masterful game, but he’s on par with Wendell (a worse Wendell, mind you) and I do love a slow and steady approach winning when #BigMoves are so glorified. But Julie, Vic, and Lauren should feel frustrated as well. Vic never had her name brought up really (so far as the Edit tells). Julie effectively had no shot once Chris came back. And Lauren had Final 4 taken from her, not merely because of her mistake, but because if someone doesn’t come back from the Edge, she’s in the final five with an idol already. I’m sorry to the four of you. Each and every one of y’all deserved the win more than someone who plays a third of a season and is overwhelmingly rewarded for that.
So ... Sandra and Boston Rob are coming back? That’s cool(ish)... but they’re not competing...? And there are giant wooden structures of their heads? That looks ... well, it sure looks, I’ll tell ya that. Also, Island of the Idols might as well be the new name for the show these days. So they’re just easing fans into that. I’ll keep further judgment until the season airs, but wow this one looks bad (but hey, I’ve thought that about every theme since OG Brain, Beauty, Brawn, and we’ve had Cagayan, Cambodia, MvGX, and DvG since ... so who knows?)
This wasn’t a long post, but I just wanted to get my thoughts out there while I had time. A final takeaway is this: the season, and even Chris, isn’t the worst season. Nicaragua was painful to watch, and Redemption Island was just plain boring. This season had fun moments and some solid characters (if only, largely, due to returnees and Devens), but it felt pointless and a waste of time given the winner. That’s not good.
Hope you, dearest reader, are well, and I’m sorry this season, and especially the result, wasn’t better.
Dan Otsuki has been watching Survivor religiously since season two, and is a recent graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he double majored in English and Religious Studies. He's also applied to play on the show every time he's been able to do so.
Follow him on twitter: @DanOtsuki