An exceptional number of online fans are vowing they're going to stop
watching this season. Judging from the ratings, maybe some have. A
little 'Big Oil' king who makes a mockery of Hurricane Katrina? A
violent, sexist country boy who thinks he's an "outlaw"? Fans of
quality television are outraged by this muckraking and they're going to
turn on The Vampire Diaries
Don't expect me to join you. This season is one of the best of all
time. Normally you'd expect to see a guild of LA bartenders and models
complaining about how hard it rained last night. The guys would be
scratching their butts and struggling to make a shelter. Somebody would
solve a puzzle very slowly and after some blah blah strategy talk a
couple of very serious TV game show strategists would vote a
forgettable bikini model off the island.
Last night somebody got taken out on a stretcher and it wasn't the guy who got clipped from behind during the mud pit brawl. Russell found the Hidden Immunity Idol before he had been told there was one and he smuggled it away in plain sight of the whole tribe. Yasmin nobly tried to teach Foa Foa how to strategize and Ben informed Jeff Probst he didn't realize the castaways were competing under the host's "sissy rules."
Ben is a horrible human being. Normally I would couch that with some sort of disclaimer about editing sometimes being misleading, and starvation being a very trying situation for anyone. Normally doesn't apply to Ben. He's my least favorite kind of human being, and he's one of the only people in Survivor history who could make Russell look clever and reasonable by comparison. But as outrageous and over the top as this season is, it's very compelling.
Sadly, we're quickly burning through the best lineup of female contestants the show has had in years. Based on the pre-show profiles Betsy the friendly cop, Shambo the Rambo, Marisa the scrappy idealist and Yasmin the loose cannon promised to leave their mark on the series. And that mark was going to look nothing like a bathing suit tan line. It's the best kind of burden when you have so many good characters you've got to start losing them right off the bat. But I wish there was more of a gender split. Survivor could really use some more great female All Stars.
I was also sorry to see Mike Borassi go. You know you've got a cushy relationship with Jeff Probst when he starts calling you by a nickname. 'Borassi' was obviously a favorite of his. We didn't get to see much of the hefty personal chef with the Captain Lou Albano beard. But the "mean motor scooter and bad go-getter" was always good for a quote, and he obviously gave it all he had in the Schmergenbrawl challenge. It's sad to see someone go out because of their age rather than their ability.
A couple of side notes. I was offended that Marisa got left off of the opening credits. Yes, I admit, I'm her big defender now, standing up for her like a protective sixth grader with a crush. "Don't mess with her PB&J sandwich!" But that was just wrong. The Survivor theme is always so beautifully put together that appearing on it is a rite of passage. Featuring just 19 contestants is like inviting everyone at school to a birthday party except for the weird kid who writes the Survivor columns. That's just cold.
Also, one of my personal favorite moments of the episode was a single shot most people probably missed. "Pretty Boy" John Fincher came to the challenge wearing mighty war paint worthy of a Star Trek villain. He carried the Immunity Idol, a giant spear decorated with the skeleton of its prey. He pointedly stood up as tall as he could and threw his head back.
This is the guy who lay on his back for most of the first reward challenge because he was too tired to stand up. He competes in a baby blue Speedo. John is great looking and he has abs of steel. As a rocket scientist he probably makes good money and impresses everyone he meets. But when he puffed out his chest and tried to look like a gladiator I almost couldn't contain my laughter. He has a lot going for him but he's not a warrior. The fact that he's still the most insecure guy there is just hilariously awkward.
Did Chief Russell Swan send Yasmin to Foa Foa because he respected her opinion or because he wanted a few hours without her? Is she charmingly candid or nuttier than a Pay Day bar? And with so much happening at Foa Foa, will we ever see or hear from the Lost Tribe of Galu again?
-Henry Jenkins, Guest Columnist (Image courtesy of CBS)