Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

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

Posts Tagged ‘Survivor’

The Sole Survivor

Posted by Mr. Feeny on May 17, 2010

“Do you have what it takes to be the sole Survivor?”

That’s what Jeff Probst asks four times every year. Twice at the beginning of the season and twice at the end of the reunion show. But — as we learned for the second straight season — it doesn’t matter if you have what it takes. What actually matters being likeable. Survivor is actually nothing but a popularity contest.

I mean, we should have seen this coming. It shouldn’t take 20 seasons to come to this realization. After all, Season 2 winner Tina was no where near as deserving of the title as Colby was. He won 7 out of 9 fricking immunity challenges. After three all-star seasons and multiple 3-time contestants, still no one has matched him in his one season performance. Yet he went home empty-handed (well, with 100 grand, but still, not the title)

I haven’t watched that season since it aired, so I don’t remember why Colby lost. He was a good guy, too. So it’s not like he lost votes for being a complete jerk. But many others have. Boston Rob in the original All-Stars. Knife-wielding Matt from Amazon. Every now and then a jerk does win. The original, Richard Hatch. Brian, the porn star from Thailand (although his was a lesser of two evils choice).

Point is, it’s become abundantly clear that the best way to win Survivor is to be a good person. I don’t really buy the “coattails” argument. That’s a strategic play. It’s valid. I don’t want to take that away from any winner. To last 39 days and not get blindsided or betrayed or tempted to leave your alliance, etc. That takes a sound strategy.

But, it’s not the impressive strategy. It’s not the hardest. The hardest is what Russell Hantz did…TWICE. And, not only two seasons. Back-to-back seasons. I still can’t believe he got to the finals of both seasons lying, cheating, bad-mouthing…just being a slimey, miserable human being. How do you not vote that guy out? He was the target multiple times, especially last season. He needed to find the immunity idols to stay in the game. And he did. With ZERO clues. THREE times. He played the game perfectly. And was denied his rightful award both times.

To be fair to Parvati, she was very smart to bring that hated person with her, knowing he wouldn’t get votes. But Russell’s right. In a just world, he would. There are no rules to Survivor. You don’t have to be nice and decent and honorable. All you have to do is survive. Survive the elements, survive the votes. The jury that once again gave Russell no votes at all for the million dollars failed to look beyond their prejudices. Even if they didn’t respect the way Russell played, they should have opened their eyes and seen how incredibly masterful he was.

Jeff Probst, the fantastic host of the show after all these years, says Russell needed to play the social aspect of the game more. And it’s true that that’s a part of the game. Probst also scoffed at Russell’s suggestion that America’s vote should be factored in (Russell won the fan’s player of the season both times). But Probst is right there, too. That’s not what the game is. It also, wouldn’t be fair. The people on the show see the candidates nonstop for 39 days. The viewers at home only see what the producers what them too.

But, it’s also not fair that Russell lost because he’s a jerk. Being a jerk is the only way to dominate this game. Russell was always in control. Very few others were from start to finish like Russell. Maybe JT, maybe Tom. It’s not impossible to win as a nice guy. But it shouldn’t disqualify you for being a jerk. If you dominated the game, you should win the million dollars.

Of course, Russell also has a bit of the Amanda-final-tribal-failure in him. He didn’t even mention that he was the only one up there who hadn’t won a million dollars. That’s enough reason to vote for him. Why should Parvati or Sandra (who did win, by the way) get a second prize? Also, another great strategy that should of worked. Bringing two previous winners to the end instead of voting them all out immediately like the first All-Stars.

This shouldn’t take away from what was the best season of Survivor. Wildly entertaining from start to finish. These normal everyday people have become stars, enough to drive up Survivor‘s ratings so that they won their time slot this season. Twists and turns, but also great characters with memorable moments. I can’t wait for Nicaragua.

Some time in the future, I will do a list of the greatest survivors. But it will be incomplete, since I missed about 8 seasons while I was in college. Thanks to this season, though, I’ve gotten to know most of those greats.

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Following a long hiatus…some random musings…

Posted by Mr. Feeny on February 1, 2010

Wow, I’ve been gone so long that I’ve been replaced by a mysterious Asian doctor. From the 1970s no less. Wait a minute…have I flashed forward or backward on this blog?

I apologize to all those many (read: three) followers of my posts. I just underwent a major relocation and have been getting used to a new job. Plus, no internet or TV for a span there. As such, I’m woefully behind on several of my second tier shows: House, Brothers & Sisters, Amazing Race (I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to finish that one). But my top tier is still alive and kicking (until my satellite started giving me choppy reception [first week I’ve had it] and forced me to stop watching HIMYM and 24 and turn instead to the blog).

To get back into the flow of things, I just thought I’d put a few thoughts that have been swimming in my head down on paper. A little something for everyone.

  • Easy prediction for this year in television: 24 will have  a poor season. I thought this before the premiere two weeks ago, and nothing has convinced me otherwise. My rationale is purely unscientific. 24‘s even-numbered seasons are always a disappointment. Season 2 was the best of them, but compared to any of the odd-numbered ones, it was cluttered, dull and lacked story. Season 4 was convoluted and required more leaps in logic than normal. Season 6 was a disaster. So clearly Season 8 will be bad. So far, it’s been lackluster. Some good things, but nothing that wows me. I wouldn’t be terribly sad if this were its last year. I feel like 24 has run its course and deserves an ending now. As long as Logan and Tony make a return.
  • Dana Delany deserves an Emmy nomination. She has been fantastic as Katherine on Desperate Housewives. She has perfectly hit every note in her jilted lover/delusional/psychopath/depressed character arc. Her last two episodes were especially sensational, as her lies became public knowledge, and then weeks later, when she opened up to a psychologist. Felicity Huffman is always the Emmy voters’ default Housewife nomination. But her time has past. It’s Delany’s turn to be recognized (though Huffman’s scene in “If…” while dealing with her would-be disabled child in the future was simply astounding. Her best performance yet).
  • Another not-so-bold prediction: NO ONE will be satisfied when LOST ends. There is simply no way. They have opened up too many questions for someone after the finale to say “hmm, now it all makes sense.” Doors will be left hanging open. And all those viewers who aren’t as obsessed with the mythology will still not be happy because of whatever explanation is provided. They’ll find it too preposterous, or a cop-out. The talk the next day will be nothing but “Really!?! That’s it!?!” That’s not to say it won’t be received well. It will have the most split fan reaction since The Sopranos ended. But still, no one will be completely O.K with it.
  • ShamIdol. Only about 5% probably got to the judges.

    American Idol‘s sham production just continues to infuriate me. Yet I still watch. Because I want to see what the next big thing will be. What millions of Americans will be talking about. But I can not express to you in words how infuriated my logical persona gets when Ryan Seacrest and the editors/producers just straight up lie to the “stupid” audience at home. Take the Chicago auditions. They say that 12,000 people tried out. And they show them at the United Center. So tell me, why is it the judges are all in front of a window looking out on Michigan Avenue??? No where near the UC. Do they ever mention that? No. They imply that all 12,000 get to see the judges. When in fact, the producers screen the masses, then pick who they want to go to the actual auditions. If that’s the way they do it, fine. I understand. It’s a huge amount of people. But don’t lie about it.

  • HOWEVER, American Idol, there are tons of great singers in that line. And only a limited number of people can see the judges in two days. So, since you saw everyone, why waste half of the audition slots with people who don’t stand a chance? That’s not fair. It’s just not fair!! For a few weeks of entertainment, you trot out these jokes, instead of giving great singers a chance. You pick the best and the worst and let the judges see them. But what if the second-best would have been well-received by the judges. Kris Allen might not have made the cut. How many Kris Allens and Jordin Sparks are out in that crowd that you turn away because you have to give William Hung his 15 minutes?
  • GRRRRRRR
  • Rant over.
  • Survivor‘s twentieth season is going to be fantastic. Heroes vs. Villains from past seasons. Going all the way back to Colby and Jerri from Season 2: Outback. Don’t miss it!
  • Better Off Ted has quickly risen to be one of my favorite comedies on the air right now. So witty and casual with jokes, that you might almost miss them. Love it. Watch it on Hulu.
  • I had a great insightful column that I half-wrote about the Conan-Leno debate. But…..it’s kind of old news now. So no need. The general point: I love Conan, but he was wrong to refuse a slightly later timeslot. He’ll never be as big as he could have been in the Tonight Show chair for decades. But NBC is the one to blame for everything.
  • I finished Season 1 of The Wire. My friends were right. Fantastic show. Not ready to call it one of the best ever, but it was incredibly entertaining after a mercilessly slow beginning. Moltisanti is correct: the character investment is superb. Not in terms of where people came from, but what they’re about. We don’t know their history, but we know their emotions.
  • I’m hoping Damages has a good rebound season. I’ll do a review on it after a few more episodes. But Martin Short, Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Len Cariou (of Broadway fame)…all fantastic supporting characters this season. And I’m very intrigued by this year’s flash forward scenario……..SPOILER………..death becomes Tom Shays.
  • I just want to mention how good a year I had in reality predictions. My Dancing with the Stars selection won it. My Top Chef pick finished in the Top 3. My Survivor pick finished in the Top 4. And my three picks to be the last three standing in The Amazing Race finished 1, 2, and 4. Not too shabby.

That should tide you over for now…I wonder if my satellite’s back. I could watch Damages

By the way, thanks to CJ for keeping this thing going. It would have died had it not been for her. I’d compare her to a TV character or actor who did that with a show…but I can’t think of one. Suggestions?

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The Top Ten TV Shows of the Decade

Posted by Mr. Feeny on January 6, 2010

The best television shows of the decade. Of the 2000s. Of the aughts. Of the Ks. The best TV shows from 2000-2009.

I’m just trying to cover everything for google searches. As you can see, I wrote a ton. And I want the world to read it.

Before Moltisanti jumps on me, I just want to clarify my rationales. As I have with all my lists, I created this one not solely based on my personal feelings. If it were just up to me, The West Wing would be the best show of the decade. But it’s not the “top” show. Not the one that had the biggest impact and will be the most remembered. That’s the decider for me. These aren’t the best shows. They’re the decade’s shows. If the decade were a person, the shows he/she would pick. I recognize there are some very well written and acted shows out there that lasted only a short time, or were off network TV. But that limited reach affects their standing in the decade.  Also, some shows suffer from just having begun. Modern Family might end up being one of the top shows of the 2010s. But it’s not one of the best this decade.

My list was a lot more clever and insightful before CJ posted hers. Now it just looks tired and repetitive. But I already had my list made when she put hers up, so it’s a testament to how sure-fire these picks are. If I were rating on quality, though, like Moltisanti, The West Wing, The Sopranos, and Arrested Development would be my top three.

He redefined disdain.

1) American Idol (FOX) – No television show garnered more attention all decade than FOX’s hit singing competition. Consistently the highest-rated program on television, American Idol became a cultural pillar. You can’t help but know something about it. Whether it’s the theme song, Simon Cowell, or one of the successful winners, everyone has an understanding of what this show is. If not Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (which is how most people would know the show without watching it), they’re at least familiar with the premise. Why? Because it’s been repeated now over and over in other shows and live events. Local idol competitions sprung up like wildfires (including one that my sister won). The show has countless problems and can be very frustrating. And its popularity will certainly drop without Paula or Simon next year. But for the 2000s, nothing holds a bigger place in the pop culture landscape.

CSI makes science fun.

2) CSI (CBS) – Why when you flip on one of the four main networks at night are you more than likely going too see a crime procedural? And why will you see reruns of all those shows on the big cable networks, like USA, TNT and TBS? Why were there 3 million crime procedurals that aired — and lasted — in this decade? Because CSI worked. It did more than work; it kicked butt. Year after year, what was basically a modern Quincy, M.E. dominated the ratings. But even though the mystery format was similar to a new show every season, the details were not. What were Crime Scene Investigators? The general public didn’t know. They watch cops, doctors and lawyers. Never the scientists. Before CSI, detectives just handed baggies to nerds and 15 minutes later we had a fingerprint match. The public was (and still is) intrigued by the process. And seeing as half of network programming can be attributed to this genre, I think its trailblazer deserves a high spot on this list.

3) The Sopranos* (HBO) – As I mentioned in my characters list, The Sopranos really ushered in a new type of drama (much like CSI…but a very different genre). It’s characteristics: non-network, dark themes and filming, gritty language and situations, and a central anti-hero. Try to count all the programs that have basically been made only because of the success of The Sopranos. The Shield, Rescue Me, Saving Grace, Deadwood, The Wire, Damages…etc, etc, etc. I know there were other shows that were like this first, for instance Oz, also on HBO. But The Sopranos made it to the mainstream. They entered into pop culture. Even people who didn’t watch knew who Tony Soprano was. Of course, it was successful because of its entertaining and exciting plots and excellent acting. But again, that’s secondary on this list.

Great Flashback

4) LOST* (ABC) – This show created the most ravenous fan base I’ve ever seen, other than Star Trek. Spoilers and theories flooded the internet. Every little piece of the canon was perfectly (or accidentally) created, ripe for analysis. But unlike other shows that have tried to copy it, you cared about the characters. The brilliant concept of a different set of flashbacks each episode forced viewers to invest in the show. That’s part of the reason its ratings declined in the later seasons; rarely were there true flashbacks (or flashforwards). Just a hodgepodge, mixed in with too much science fiction. It became more than many viewers bargained for, but it will still be on the best shows of the decade…until they completely screw up the finale.

5) 24* (FOX) – I read an interesting comment from a critic recently. He said that before 24, killing off a main character, especially in the first season, was taboo. Now, it’s old-hat. I’m not sure if that first part is true, but the second certainly is. It doesn’t seem like a show can last without some character getting written out permanently. And you have to credit 24 for that. A show that continues to reinvent itself to avoid getting tired. With the exception of Jack and Aaron Pierce, no character has appeared in every season. And other than Tony and Chloe, no one else has been a starring character for more than 4 of 7 seasons. That is risky. Imagine if the bar patrons at Cheers kept changing. Yet each season was riveting because you knew no one was safe. Anyone could die at any moment, except for Jack. It keeps you guessing and keeps viewers coming back.

6) The West Wing* (NBC) – It says a lot about the quality of The West Wing that they routinely dove into complex political theories and dilemmas, used big words, talked a mile a minute and still garnered high viewership from the American public. As CJ put it, this show was about more than politics. It was about relationships: between the president and his wife, him and his best friend, a boss and his assistant, the press secretary and a reporter, friends and coworkers in the office, a speechwriter and a call girl…well, maybe that one didn’t matter as much. Don’t get me wrong. The politics were superb. I disagreed with most of their conclusions, but I never felt like Aaron Sorkin wasn’t presenting both sides. Liberals and conservatives could appreciate it all the same. But, the point is, even if you’re not all that into politics, the character studies that exist in this masterpiece of a show make it a must-watch for any serious television fan.

Not just a clown

7) The Daily Show (COM) – I’m going to cheat a little here,  but I’ll explain why. The Daily Show technically premiered in 1996, giving it four years in the other decade. BUT, I still say it was one of the biggest shows of this decade. If The Simpsons or ER were as big a player in the 2000s as they were in the 1990s, I’d include them here too. (FYI, that list would go Seinfeld, The Simpsons, ER). Consider these facts. Every award The Daily Show has won came in the past ten years. The show really jumped into the spotlight during “Indecision 2000.” And its insanely popular spin-off, The Colbert Report (2005), might be one of the best shows of the decade just on its own merits. So, I rest my case. As to why the show belongs on this list (instead of just why it qualifies), Jon Stewart has become this generation’s Walter Cronkite…as terrifying as that is. The youth of America turn to him for their news. And although it’s incredibly biased, I can’t argue with the fact that kids and young adults are at least learning something about current events and deeper thought…hidden in humor and gags. The Daily Show’s interviews all decade made more news than anyone appearing on a network show or even late night TV. This really was a blend of both genres, and beat them both in the ratings and public attention.

8 ) The Office* (BBC/NBC) – I’ll include the British one here, although I haven’t seen it. But you can’t give credit to the cleverness of the American version without the original. So many comedies these days seem to miss the boat when it comes to characters. They either focus on one or two and leave the rest as decorations, or they flood the set with stereotypes. I’ll mention Cheers again. There was an ensemble show. You, the viewer, felt like you really knew each character. Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart Show (with all his patients), Taxi. Just other examples of how this used to be done. The Office brought that back, with a huge cast, yet each character has a unique personality. Everyone can be counted on for a laugh. The fact that a show like that was able to become so popular, and with their sometime dizzying filming style, shows a new wave of sitcoms on the way.

Survivor Outback: The Best Season

9) Survivor (CBS) – This basically completes the list of “Decade Trendsetters.” You had CSI for crime procedurals, The Sopranos for gritty dramas, and Survivor for reality TV. None of them were the first, but they all got the most attention and made future endeavors acceptable. And when you consider those three categories, that pretty much defined the decade (that and the apparent death of comedy). In Survivor’s case, it was an instant hit. It seemed scripted, the way alliances formed and disputes unraveled. But because they weren’t actors, it also had that real quality perfect for summer entertainment. The name Richard Hatch is still universally known, long after his million dollars have been spent. I personally preferred the next two seasons, in the Outback and African deserts (remember, Outback launched the career of Elisabeth Hasslebeck…hmm, The View is probably one of the Top 20 shows of the decade). Survivor continued to pull big ratings, and still is one of CBS’s top ten shows, now in its 19th season. Despite its formulaic nature, the characters constantly change, adding new excitement. And without Mark Burnett’s creation, there might have been far less reality TV for the past ten years. Since 90% of those shows were horrible, I kind of wish Survivor had failed.

10) Family Guy (FOX) – Easily the best cartoon of the decade, Family Guy still can’t compare with The Simpsons in its heyday. There, that’s my disclaimer. So Simpsons fans won’t jump on me like they usually do when I praise Family Guy. But the fact of the matter is that Family Guy will be remembered as being one of the best shows of this decade. Not as much for quality as for pure entertainment. I enjoy the show for its witty references. Most people just like the crass humor. But either way, decades from now, middle-aged men (let’s face it, girls just don’t like the show as much) will fondly watch reruns on their cereal box TVs and laugh like they did as twenty-somethings. As for its place in the decade, the show definitely helped branch into more risque and raunchy comedy on television…which I’m not sure I like.

*As an addendum, shows with astericks would be on my “Favorite TV Shows of the Decade” list, which would also include Monk, Curb Your Enthusiasm, How I Met Your Mother, Arrested Development, and Dexter.

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CJ’s Best TV Shows of the Decade

Posted by CJ Cregg on January 5, 2010

OK, friends.  Time for the big one.  Which TV shows will we remember many years from now as some of the best of the decade?  Which ones truly captured the American public?  Here are my humble musings.  This is, of course, not the same as my personal list of favorite shows, but unsurprisingly, colored by the shows I like the best.

The very first American Idol

1) American Idol-I don’t know if anyone really watches American Idol anymore, but chats with some of my family members suggest that they do.  I clearly remember the beginning of my college career, though, when it was all anyone talked about.  Much like Survivor is to the “extreme reality TV” genre, American Idol is the decade trendsetter of the “reality competition” genre.  A mix of drama, talent, and kicking people off of things are the trademarks of this genre, and American Idol started it all with Kelly Clarkson.

2) Survivor-I readily admit to never having actually watched this show (and I call myself a TV blogger), but Survivor kicked off the “extreme reality TV” craze with a bang.  And what could be more 2000s than extreme reality TV?  (I say extreme because MTV’s the Real World premiered in the early 1990s as what is undoubtedly reality TV, but I think Survivor is a different genre.)  Survivor inspired numerous spinoffs (like I’m a Celebrity Get me Out of Here or the Amazing Race), and I distinctly remember it being the most talked-about show in the beginning of my high school career.

3) CSI-I must have bad taste, because my top three shows of the decade are all shows I never really watch, but CSI in all of its various iterations are constantly at the top of the ratings charts.  This is THE crime procedural.  Mr. Feeny explains it more eloquently than I can, perhaps because he’s actually watched the show, but people love this stuff.  And this is the trendsetter.

4) Lost-Few shows have taken the American public on such a thrill ride as Lost.  Moreover, no one I know just casually watches the show.  The people that do watch are hooked.  And the show is designed so that you can’t watch just one episode.  In fact, Lost may be the winner in the contest of ‘shows I picked up on DVD and watched all the seasons in a ridiculously short time.’  You can’t do it otherwise.  And though I could whine about how the show has gotten too confusing, and what the heck is the smoke monster anyway, I’m anxiously awaiting the final season to see how the writers will wrap it up.

5) The West Wing-I think people will remember this show.  I really do.  It was (for the most part) fantastically well done, and a balance of relationships and politics gave it a wider appeal than it otherwise might have.  It’s also my favorite show ever.  I’ve raved about it other places, so I’ll spare you, loyal readers, here.

6) Desperate Housewives-This is one of the most watched TV shows in the world, according to economist Charles

Desperate AND juicy

Kenney.  Premiering in 2004 and currently airing season 6, Desperate Housewives was a real crowd pleaser.  I remember the race to the TV room on Sunday nights my freshman year of college to watch the first season.  Kind of like a modern-day “Feminine Mystique,” shows that explore the secret lives of housewives are now commonplace.  Do you think Bravo’s multi-locale and extremely popular The Real Housewives of… would even exist if not for ABC’s Desperate Housewives?

7) The Sopranos-Yah.  Never watched this show.  But lots of people did.  And talked about it a lot.  And loved it.

8 ) Sex and the City-I have to admit, this show kind of uncomfortably straddles the decade divide.  But I think the SATC movie will help this show be remembered in this decade.  What else can we say about SATC other than it made 30 the new 20?

9) The Office-A show that is still going strong and shows no signs of quitting.  It has a very loyal fanbase and the dialogue and shot style has taken hold in other shows as well (see The Modern Family).

10) 24-Everyone knows who Jack Bauer is.  Even if you never watch the show.

Honorable Mention

Scrubs

House

How I Met your Mother

Friday Night Lights

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Survivor: The Nasty Season (S19: E2)

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 29, 2009

I wasn’t sure if Survivor would be one of those shows I’d review every week. But after this week’s second episode, I pretty much had to.

First, to set the record straight. I HATE inaccuracies. If a fan at home knows more about a show’s history than the actual people behind it, that’s a problem. I pointed this out in a post about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It now applies to Survivor.

All of last week, the promoted this episode as one full of Survivor firsts. That’s true. For the first time, someone found the hidden immunity idol without a clue (Slimy Russell) and someone went home because of medical reasons, but his team still went to Tribal Council (Old chef Mike). But the one Jeff Probst and everyone in charge of promos and internet content focused on was Ben being kicked out of a challenge for improper behavior. Probst immediately declared “For the first time in the history of Survivor.”

Remember Clay?

Remember Clay?

That’s just not true. Because it’s Season 19, do they just assume no one will remember when it happened in Season 5, Survivor: Thailand? Tattooed Robb was in a balance contest with short little Clay. And he choked him. Took him by the throat and threw him off the beam. Robb was immediately kicked out. FAIL for Jeff Probst and the whole Survivor team.

The rest of the episode was marked by incredible nastiness. Ben, of course, tripped someone in the immunity challenge. Then he got in a fight with Jasmin from the other team, who came over to observe Tribal Council. She’s a despicable character. Crass and loud-mouthed. She showed up at Foa Foa’s camp and pretty much took charge because her team would soon be up 10-7. So presumptuous. No actual attempt at being nice. Just a nasty season.

And that’s without even mentioning Russell, the big villain, who once again maneuvered to get one of his “dumb girls” voted out, because she didn’t trust him. And with good reason. So Betsy, the New England cop, got voted out. Unfairly, I thought.

Next to go: Ben. I expect Foa Foa to lose again down this many people. And they won’t be able to stand Ben’s attitude any more.

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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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A Survivor Plea

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 17, 2009

I’m going to say it one more time. If you ever used to watch Survivor, give it another chance tonight. It’s most fun when you can start at the beginning and watch players get voted off. Not to mention picking your favorite early and sticking with them.

Like many of you readers, I went on a hiatus. I stopped watching Survivor after the All-Star season. I was amazed when I came back to it last year and it was just as good, if not better. It became must-watch for me both in the Fall and Spring. Plus, it didn’t hurt that I picked both winners as my favorites from the first episode. I’d say Survivor and The Amazing Race are still the best reality shows on TV.

What else are you going to watch at 7? Seth Myers doing Weekend Update? Yuch. The Vampire Diaries? Pass. Bones? I’ve never seen it, but it’s just a normal serial. You can watch it on Hulu. Check out tonight’s Survivor: Samoa, come back here to get a review, and enjoy. You won’t regret it!

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