Whilst on my Spring Break in law school, I figure I’d visit back with my favorite Survivor site. It’s been a while, I miss y’all, and boy oh boy do I have opinions! Let’s get to it .....
My girlfriend, who I’ve slowly corrupted into becoming a true fan of Survivor, turned to me after Rick’s torch was snuffed and said, “I hope they don’t do this twist again. This isn’t a good season.” I merely sighed and tried to explain that they have done this before ... except Redemption Island, somehow, was actually better, but more on that unsettling realization later. My only point with this anecdote is you don’t have to be a life-long Survivor fan to see this season’s sour.
As all fans know, Survivor is nearing two decades of existence. For as consistently fun as it is, that’s a praise-worthy feat. That being said, as many young adults in their late teens do, this season has felt ... sloppy. I’m talking let’s take ten shots in five minutes sloppy. Although many of us have likely been there, we, like Survivor, should know better. All this is going to lead to is a bitter taste in your mouth the next day and the potential loss of respect from those around you, or in this case, viewership. This season feels like Survivor is on Spring Break in Mexico — you’re on a beach, you’re surround by a bunch of people you don’t know, no one has any idea what the shit is going on, and everyone is just going to come back feeling a little worse about themselves. Waste of money and beaches, yanno?
What Characters There Are
Let’s put the twist aside as much as we can, dearest readers, and merely look at the character editing: who the hell are a lot of these people? Julie? Julia? Gavin? Aurora? Even Eric and Victoria who are at least, somewhat, recognizable thanks to their edits (and Victoria’s strange choice to wear a beanie on the beach) ... I don’t know them. I know Reem, Keith, Rick, and even Chris better than most of these people, and at MOST two of them will reenter the game. Hell, look at Joe, who granted, looks like he could become the first person to make it through two seasons’ Pre-Merge phases without ever even needing to light his torch. Jeff loves Joe, and even so, he’s not getting all that much screen time. If not for seeing him twice before, I’d have no real idea who he is.
In contrast, by this point in David v. Goliath, there was only one person I didn’t really know on some level (Natalia), and it didn’t matter because Alec slit her throat in the subsequent Tribal. And before her? I at least had heard from Pat, Jessica, Jeremy, and Bi! And, it should be noted, there were more people last season ....
The two biggest and most obvious problems with poor, negligent editing are: (1) it makes it hard to root for anyone, and (2) if someone aside from a returnee, Wardog, Ron, or Lauren win, editing is gonna have a dickens of a time building up some of these non-entities. “Oh, but Dan, it’s just because Manu/Lesu suck so bad that they have to be the focus!” Fair point, hypothetical nay-sayer, but in Philippines and Palau, two great seasons with probably the two worst tribes ever in Matsing and Ulong (though Manu/Lesu is trying their damnest), we still got emphasis on the other Tribes. Tom, Janu, Ian, Coby, and Katie all had their moments prior to Ulong’s eradication, and who can forget Jeff Kent, RC’s laugh, Lisa, and our introduction to Abi-Maria? My only point is this season has not been consistent with other Survivor precedent, and while I can chalk it up to solely on the editors ... we have to address the elephant in the room.
Extinction v. Redemption
Until proven otherwise, friends, I’m sticking by Redemption Island being a better twist than “The Edge.” Why? Well, for one, the time the twist sucks out of the season felt far more justified. We weren’t seeing people complain about how hard the conditions are — and to be fair, they look brutal. No, instead we were at least invested in seeing if Matt and Ozzy could run the gambit or if Tina Wesson could actually win her way back, and more importantly, we knew that people were losing. Losing, as sad as it can be, is a part of the show, and without it, Survivor feels like it’s just going to give everyone out there a participation trophy in the form of a seat on the Jury. Since Cambodia, I’ve been disenchanted with an expanded Jury — it makes it seem like less of an accomplishment. But hey, why not have the potential for a 15-person Jury, right? Right?!
Losing also narrows our focus as well as allows for editors to weave a better story. Editing a few episodes with a bunch of people inevitably leads to some folks falling to the wayside. That’s all right and understandable ... but if we get to the finale and 18 people are still there? That stacks up to what could be the worst finale the shows ever seen. Redemption Island at least told us who we could no longer root for rather than stringing us along and giving more screen time to “eliminated” players while Julia goes confessional-less. *sigh* Survivor is better than this.
Also, clarifying note here. I am NOT advocating that Redemption Island should come back. It was a horrible twist that should never be brought back. But this ... this is worse. Production is trying to reverse the curse here, when they should’ve just gone out on a win with the OG BvW.
This season, thus far, has been a disappointment, especially on the heels of a truly incredible one. Yes, next episode could turn it all around, but that’s about as likely as Brian Heidik ever playing again. While I know I’m echoing what the other great writers on this site have said, it’s still frustrating to watch. But take heart, dearest readers. Survivor will endure. It survived three of its worst seasons coming within a four season span (Nicaragua, Redemption Island, and One World), and it will weather this storm, too. Let’s just hope production lets this twist die a quiet death on some lonely, uninhabited island. Spring Break can be best left forgotten anyway.
Until next time. Cheers.
- Lack of minority representation this season is astounding. Additionally, one of the minorities is Wendy who is a new generation’s Phillip Sheppard. Where are the Peih-Gees? The Tasha Foxes? The Wendells, Yuls, Natalie Andersons, and Earls?
- David’s number may be up soon, but I’m amazed he’s made it this far without any heat! I really thought he could’ve easily found himself as a first boot.
- I’m not sure there’s ever been a season with two idol holders being women. That’s the season’s lone positive thus far.
- Two drafts in a row, and someone on my team was the first boot — Gonzalez and Reem. But hey, the last time that happened, the others made it to the finale. Go Victoria and Wentworth, go!
- Jeff hates quitters (and rightfully so) ... but the only way to be eliminated this season, until the bitter end, seems to be quitting ... so ... huh?
- It happens every season, but there’s someone I utterly misread and underestimate going into the season. Wardog, while I think booting Chris wasn’t your crowning moment, you’ve really directed the game thus far. Kudos, man. You might screw yourself soon, but kudos for decent start!
- I just rewatched Pearl Islands with my girlfriend, and I thought it would’ve been cool to see what happened to the Outcast tribe in the aftermath of all of them getting booted. Well ... careful what you wish for, I guess.
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