Switch Hitter: Survivor


Phil Keoghan: I’m sorry to tell you that you have been eliminated from the race

Julie Chen: You have been evicted from the Big Brother House.

Jeff Probst: The Tribe Has Spoken.

As long as those people are on the air saying those phrases, I feel good about things, if only for an hour(or in Big Brother’s case, hundreds of hours.  Big Brother is my secret shame.).  They bring me comfort and have for over a decade.  For all of CBS’s paint by numbers crime proceduarals and dumbass lowest common denominator comedies, they’ve always been the king when it comes to reality shows.  My analysts will tell you I have a huge spot in my heart for reality shows, and while true, I must specify: reality COMPETITION shows.  If someone isn’t going home at the end of the episode, I really don’t care.  And specific reality competition shows.  Ones that I could win if I applied myself.  i.e I’m never going to be Top Chef.  I’m never going to be American Idol and I’m never going to dance with stars.  But for a while, I envisioned myself winning Big Brother.  I could do it!  Until I realized that I don’t think I could.

I’m far too nice to win these games.  For every memorable nice guy on these shows, there are five much more memorable villains.  Dr. Will Kirby, Boston Rob, Evel Dick, Dan Gheesling, Russell Hantz to name a few.  I’d get eaten alive.  But I’ll be damned if I don’t love to watch it play out every single season.  The alliances, the paranoia, the backstabbing, and my personal favorites, the endurance competitions, one of which was in this episode, so that was nice.  When I drew Jam and Rob from the hat, This was my immediate choice, because I love it, yet it is so far outside their comfort zones.  Rob has never seen one episode and Jam quit watching like 11 years ago.

And this season’s gimmick of Blood vs. Water has been great, so for two total tourists to the Survivor world, of course I’m going to dump them smack dab in the middle of an awesome season with returning players, loved ones, Redemption Island, hidden immunity idols and best of all, the best host in reality television, Jeff Probst.  Will they enjoy the way he extracts information from the castaways as masterfully as ever?  I fucking hope so.  Let’s dig in!



I will begin by stating that this is the first episode of Survivor that I have ever watched. Despite having never seen an episode of this show, the culture of it has so pervaded American pop culture that it was easy to dive right into.

Survivor first aired in 2000. It was one of the first competitive reality shows to air on network TV and revolutionized the medium in the process, for better or worse. I will admit that I have something against reality TV in general. When I was in college in the mid-90s, I was addicted to MTV programming like most college kids were. I would watch just about anything that aired on MTV, EXCEPT for two of its most popular shows, “The Real World” and “Road Rules”. There is something about these types of shows that just does not appeal to me. It may be the constant bickering between the contestants that gets on my nerves. Perhaps it’s the poor acting by amateurs who want to be celebrities. Regardless, the only reality show I watch on any sort of regular basis is “Top Chef”, and it requires true talent to succeed on that show. I suppose talent is needed to win Survivor, but it is more of the backstabby, underhanded, malicious talent that is needed.

With that said, I jumped into this episode and was immediately faced with the theme of the season, which is “Blood and Water” (pairs of contestants are either related or dating/married). This is an interesting element to add to the game as you are not only working with a blood teammate, but then you have to decide whether you want to use or discard this natural alliance (as Tina and her daughter Katie have to face during this episode).

The episode begins with the aftermath of the previous episode where Vytas’ brother Aras was voted off. Vytas is clearly not happy with this and ends up voicing his frustrations, then begging the contestants to keep him on. The first contest is the sort of the thing you’d see on “Fear Factor”, with all of the contestants having to eat disgusting items. Last one standing gets immunity from being voted off. First the contestants have to eat a shot glass of live worms. The first four people to finish off their worms move to the next round. After various shots of spit-up worms and vomit, the four people finish and move to round 2, which consists of a plate of pig intestines. Only two people manage to even finish their plate, to which they enter the final round of the challenge: two live grubs. One of the contestants, Gervase, had the same challenge in the initial 2000 season. Will he redeem himself? No, Monica ended up beating him. You have to feel for all the people who competed in this disgusting challenge and failed. Gervase conquered his fear of the grub and still lost. This kind of challenge does not appeal to me at all…I don’t understand the sick perversion of seeing people eat disgusting items.

After the first contest, then we are shown various nitpicking scenes where the contestants talk to each other and form their voting alliances. I felt like these scenes needed to be expanded upon as I don’t really see why people vote the way they vote.

We get to the first tribal council of the episode and like Festivus, grievances are aired. Monica has immunity so she can complain about Vytas, and like a fool, Vytas reveals his disgust over his brother’s dismissal. This ends up leading to his vote out, though he is not finished on the show as this season has a “Redemption Island” round that allows contestants to return to the game (Top Chef has a similar feature).

After this council, the next challenge consists of a reverse-Jenga game where the contestants have to stack coins on top of a sword handle without allowing the coins to fall off. Admittedly, this was a tense contest despite the utter childish nature of the challenge (didn’t we play these sorts of games in elementary school?). Perhaps that is the nature of the popularity of Survivor? It combines some characteristics of different genres that can offer feelings of nostalgia: (a) challenges for immunity which feel like an adult version of Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare”, (b) the overall sociological nature of the show and the show locale that is reminiscent of “Lord of the Flies”, (c) people love to see someone get voted off. The voting off aspect is utilized in all reality competition shows. Top Chef. American Idol. Dancing With The Stars. And so on and so forth.

Katie ends up being the last one standing and wins immunity. She is then faced with the choice of sticking up for her mom or letting her hang out to dry. As I haven’t seen any other episodes, I don’t quite understand what’s going on in regards to alliances and tribes. I’m not sure why Tina has to go, but she is “on the bottom” and spends a few minutes of the show trying to find the hidden immunity idol. Unbeknownst to her or anyone else, Tyson found it previous to this episode.

Eventually we get to the final tribal council and there appears to be a rift between voting for Tina and Monica. Monica is portrayed as a paranoid player and Tina tries to turn the votes onto her, bluffing about having the immunity idol, but the bluff does not work. Tina ends up getting voted off.

All in all, I must admit that this episode was enjoyable. I would not want to watch Survivor regularly as I mainly watch comedy and drama shows, but if I had to watch Survivor while stuck at my parents house for Thanksgiving, I would not complain. I totally understand why this show is popular. It has that nostalgia challenge feeling from shows we watched as kids. It is fun (for some people) to watch other people fight and bicker. It is just not my cup of tea.



Our editor Joel loves him some reality TV. I’ll spare everyone my dime-store psychoanalysis as to why a man with a degree in the written word devotes so much time to a medium that ignores it, but hey, everyone needs an escape right?

This week Joel has asked me to review Survivor and report back my findings. I was a senior in high school the last time I watched an episode of Survivor and for the sake of reality TV fans I hope this season has come full circle because not much seams to have changed in those twelve years.

The episode I reviewed started off in familiar flash back fashion – previously on Survivor – recapping the dramatic dismissal of one of the island castaways from the previous week. The gimmick this time around is that cast members are paired up with family members, and the brother of last week’s castoff is not pleased with his kin’s extinguishing. Spoiler alert! Alliances were formed and alliances were broken, and people are pissed off! Drama has ensued.

The first half of the episode revolves around the alienated castaways begging and jockeying for the all-important alliance, followed by an immunity challenge of eating disgusting shit until everyone else gives up. Predictably the next segment revolves around people talking shit about the winner of immunity while the camera shows her lounging around and acting like her shit doesn’t stink.

After that nonsense is over with we finally get to see the anti climactic vote off of the guy who doesn’t help his own cause by talking his way off the island.

It is right around this point that I instinctually started searching my guide for something much better to watch. As if unbeknownst to me my remote control hand was cashing in a favor to my brain. I had to remind myself that I needed to keep watching.

Despite that momentary resolve, my brain must have staged a revolt on its own because next thing I knew I was waking up from an epic blackout.

I assume that while I was going for a ride on the Slumber Express I missed out on a riveting second immunity challenge. I could check the DVR, but who am I kidding here, it doesn’t matter.

When my brain checked back in I picked up on one half of a mother daughter duo having just won immunity. And what are the chances that the entire episode previous to this point was setting up this very scenario? The daughter now immune must struggle with forging ahead with new ties while throwing her mother under the bus, or sticking with the old hag and tying her anchor to a sinking ship (castaway humor).

Things don’t work out well for mom in the end.

After being forced to watch this show again after a very long time away, I am reminded why it is popular. However, I don’t have the desire or patience to follow this kind of television. The novelty has worn off over a decade ago and I have to assume that most people who watch Survivor have not been faithfully following this show for the 27 seasons since its debut during the Clinton administration (at least for their sake I hope not.) Who knows, maybe I will check in again in another 10 years.