Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

Show Me Your Leader (Survivor – S19:E1)

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 17, 2009

“Taking on a leadership role in a game like Survivor is a death wish” – Monica, law student

***WARNING: This post will include spoilers***

After 19 seasons, there aren’t many twists you can still bring to the game. Selecting a leader purely on first impressions is a great one. It takes away the inevitable rise of someone to leader, and creates some initial tension. Of course, the basic model for picking someone is a) strong, b) handsome, c) male. The only woman who got more than one vote from her tribe members was an ex-marine, “Shambo.” Attitude didn’t matter as much as I thought it would, though. The two chosen were somewhat reserved, which helped leadership challenges arise already in both camps.

But the game of outward impressions continued. The leaders got to peg certain teammates as best in four categories: best swimmer, strongest, most agile, and smartest. Those four would then represent the tribe in the first challenge. Clearly one leader, Mick for Foa Foa, established himself in this part of the challenge. He selected a national water polo player (Jaison) for best swimmer and an Asian urban planner (Liz) for smartest (in these early stages, no one can really keep their names straight. descriptions often work best). Each leg for Tribe Foa Foa worked perfectly and they won the first challenge.

The initial problem with this season of Survivor is the same one plaguing most of the other reality shows. Overcrowding. Twenty contestants is just too many. No way I can keep straight of all of them, let alone remember their names. Plus, in an hour, they only can really focus on about 8 contestants. So you know one of those eight will be voted off. And they can’t all even participate in challenges. For instance, one tribe member called “Ashley” the weakest link at Tribal Council. I had no idea who Ashley was and didn’t even remember her in the challenge. Maybe that’s why she’s weakest?

Evilest Ever?

Evilest Ever?

I love the wheeling and dealing in Survivor. And the oil man delivered right out of the gate, forming secret alliances with four separate women (which he plainly called the “dumb woman alliance”). And kudos to the editing that showed Russell repeating the same path and discussion with each woman. He was billed as this season’s great villain, one of the best in series history. I can see that already. I thought he reached the peak when he invented an elaborate lie about his dog dying. But then he emptied their water canteens and burnt their socks in the middle of the night! Because he wanted to “weed out the weak.” Luckily, he’s not fooling anyone after one day there. They can tell he’s slimy. How appropriate that he’s an oil man. Perhaps a snake oil salesman?

The immunity challenge was pretty basic and boring. But it showed that the two tribes seem relatively even, in both strength and smarts. I doubt either tribe will make a long run of victories. Tribe Galu won sending Foa Foa back to decide the unlucky first out. Russell picked his target, the unthreatening Marisa, and felt highly confident that everyone would follow his lead. The only reason, though, was because she offended him. No real strategy employed, such as getting rid of the weakest, which Marisa didn’t seem to be. At an entertaining tribal council, Russell unwisely showed all his cards and accidentally revealed that he made alliances with others. But he didn’t have any votes against him and he got his wish, as Marisa left for seemingly no reason (though another tribemate also started a feud with her, though I didn’t understand why).

Other random observations:

  • I love the purple buffs this season. But, that should be obvious. Also that they were told their color so they could coordinate their only outfit beforehand.
  • After a couple seasons returning to the desert (always my favorite locale), it’s kind of nice to see a beach atmosphere again.
  • Some people should not wear just a bathing suit. Slimy Russell: that means you. You might be a snake but you look like a slug. (Don’t confuse Slimy Russell with Leader Russell. Separate tribes)
  • In another post, I’ll talk about how much Jeff Probst has changed his style over the years. He’s the most honest reality host out there. Definitely deserved last year’s first Emmy for that category.
  • The best way to get to know these contestants is by reading their sizable biographies on CBS’s website.

And a few predictions:

  • Upcoming Big Twist — When 15 people are left, the two tribes will split into three. They have to whittle the numbers down somehow, though, so expect a tribal council or two where both tribes eliminate members.
  • Next Flame Extinguished — Harder to predict than Top Chef since you need that tribe to lose, but in the early going, it’s usually the weak ones. So I’ll go with Ashley, who already received four votes and will probably be next on Russell’s warpath.
  • Season Favorite — My favorite’s won the last two times. But with 20 contestants, I had a very difficult time picking that. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say Jaison, the University of Chicago everyman will get the prize. After picking him, I checked CBS’s website, and he’s currently leading in their poll.

Episode Grade: B+


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