'Survivor: Tocantins' Aftergasm: He's Just a Love Machine
I always think it’s a shame when the people who are evacuated from Survivor are ones who we never grew to care about. I don’t mean to be insensitive. I feel bad for Joe, but not that much worse than if he’d been voted out for any of a dozen other reasons.

Mike Skupin, on the other hand? Everybody remembers him. Sure, part of that is because it was from the classic Survivor. And granted, he could have gone six episodes without a confessional and when he fell into the fire we still would have been horrified. But he wasn’t a background character. He was the spear making, pig hunting, blessing giving ‘idiot’ Mike - Captain Ahab in a canoe. I was almost as upset when Penner left Survivor: Micronesia - Fans vs. Favorites because darn it, he was so smart and human and he should have won.

But does anybody really remember feeling that upset for Bruce Kenegai, Exile Island’s karate sensei who left with a blocked digestive system? Sure, it was a downer but so are bank commercials. I’m not being rude but it summed up his character that he went down with something as uninteresting as a stomach ache. It was just sort of icky.

When Kathy Sleckman quit Survivor: Micronesia at the advice of the series’ psychologist it was just uncomfortable. If you heard someone went completely insane on Survivor you would have thought, in some subversive and guilty way, that it would have at least been incredible television. But I just felt embarrassed for her and relieved when it was over.

Joe seemed like nice enough guy. He made a decision before the game that he was going to step back and avoid taking a leadership position, and from what we saw he came closer to pulling that self restraint off than nine out of ten people who make the same promise. JT’s leadership worked out better than I would have expected because he’s so naturally likable and everybody seems to care what he has to say. But Joe has a confidence and maturity that conveys authority, and the challenge skills to be looked at as invaluable. He was smart to realize his position was secure and not to push his luck on the small stuff.

When someone gets airlifted out of the game I want to feel thunderstruck. But because of Joe’s reluctance to speak up I never bonded with him or felt like I knew him. Part of the problem is that I can’t think of a character left in the series who’s more expandable and whose exit changes less. So I just thought it was funny that first he hit up Sydney for some love’n, then he was mack’n on Erinn and in the helicopter he reached out and touched the hot doctor. Joe’s just a love machine. Cowboy, baby!

Really, last night’s episode worked as Part 1 of a two-parter, and it all came down to the fact that Joe’s departure worked better as a complication of other people’s story arcs than it did as the end of his own.

Could Tyson end up going home because he put himself so far out there this week, winning immunity and spearheading the plan to get rid of another strong player? His immunity ended up being useless because there was no Tribal Council and Brendan now has three days to fire back.

Will Stephen end up getting blindsided because he agreed to betray Taj and Brendan only to get stuck in midstream too?

Is Erinn’s position helped by the fact that previously she wasn’t in an alliance but with the dynamics becoming so combustible she’s the ideal extra partner?

Maybe it’s enough that I care about something coming out of this week’s episode. But there have been plenty of episodes in the past that I’ve watched and said “That was the episode of the season. That one can’t be topped.” The episode in Survivor: Gabon where Randy went on a rampage because he mistakenly believed he had the Hidden Immunity Idol, for example. The lack of emotional resonance behind Joe being forced from the game kept “The Dragon Slayer” from being one of those episodes.

-Henry Jenkins, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of CBS)