Last week, we bid farewell to Dirk the proselytizing virgin from Wisconsin, the most obviously stock character on this season of Survivor. He’s an archetype that, by the year 2000, was already familiar to reality-TV viewers, mostly thanks to the mini culture wars played out in season after season of The Real World.
Funny, then, that even without Dirk, “Udder Revenge” plays so much like a desert-island version of that other groundbreaking reality show. This week we’ve got the usual assortment of physically demanding challenges and gross-food consumption, but if you ask me, what makes this such an entertaining episode is the growing tension between the
roommates castaways—the petty bickering, the constant shit-talking, the blatant provocation. Whether it’s set in a loft in Soho or a remote island in the South China Sea, a reality show is only as good as its casting, and this season of Survivor is superb.
Admittedly, though, Greg does have a bit of a “lone wolf” vibe going on:
Little do the Tagi cynics know about the mass slaughter taking place on the other side of the island, where the Pagong team members decide they’re going to go on a protein binge, eating their three chickens before the tribes merge. Of course, this means they’ll have to kill them first. Sounding a little too much like the cute girl she is, Colleen says, “I like to ignore that whole aspect of the food chain, the whole death part.” Gretchen, ever the sensible one, leads the charge, and thinks anybody who can’t handle killing a chicken should be a vegetarian. I confess I have deeply mixed feelings about Gretchen. On the one hand, she’s pragmatic, level-headed, and totally right about the vegetarian thing. On the other hand, I feel like Gretchen would be annoying to live with for days on end. She’s extremely self-righteous, especially at the end of the episode when they return to camp to find that a lizard has devoured their last chicken, leaving only half-eaten scraps behind. She insists that the remaining carcass is still edible (all I could think about was the disgusting germs that must live in the mouth of a lizard, and I say that as a firm believer in the 10-second rule). We get it, Gretchen: you come from hardy stock. You’ve got mad survival skills. You could teach Laura Ingalls Wilder a thing or two about living off the land. Blah blah blah. Little does she know that’s not what Survivor is really about. Plus, barbecued rats are one thing, but pre-chewed chicken carcass covered in reptile saliva? Shit’s nasty:
We’ve experienced a lot of firsts so far in our walk down memory lane, and this episode brings us one of the most iconic images from the inaugural season of Survivor: Richard Hatch’s jiggly naked flesh. It’s unclear when Richard began walking around in the buff, but it’s obvious that his nudity has more to do with strategy than self-expression. “Naked isn’t sexual to me,” he claims, which might be plausible were Richard not being totally disingenuous. Whether or not he fesses up to it, the sole purpose of going nekkid is to intimidate his team members. It’s brilliant, I guess, but also deeply creepy. Richard might be gay, but that doesn’t give him license to show his wang anytime or to anyone he wants. He’s still a big, aggressive male, and as a woman I’d find his constant nudity unsettling (especially to my stomach at meal times). I suppose you could argue that Richard is using his nudity to challenge Rudy and Sean’s homophobia, but that’s not really the point, is it? Rather than confronting their prejudices, he’s actually playing right into them for his own benefit. Not cool, bro.
In the queasy hours before tribal council, the Pagong tribe members discuss their pending votes, and it’s a toss-up between Gervase and Joel. As clouds roll in over the island, Jenna predicts that it’s going to rain. Naturally, Joel disagrees, saying that it looks like the storm will pass. (It pours.) Given the editorial emphasis on Joel’s know-it-all tendencies, it’s not super surprising when he’s eliminated with four votes against him. Joel’s parting words pretty much sum up his obliviousness. Once again denying the allegations of chauvinism, he proposes another theory: “I think the girls on the team had a little inferiority complex.” Exactly, Joel. Exactly.
- I'm really looking forward to the upcoming merger of the tribes. Things are about to get awesome.
- Kelly might have lost to Gervase last week in the rowing challenge, but she’s still a serious athlete. See her performance in the obstacle course as evidence.
- While I understand why the ladies sent Joel home, Gervase would have gotten my vote. At tribal council, he’s still (!) totally confident that he won’t be eliminated—this after sitting out the elimination challenge and blithely admitting that he does fuck-all for the tribe.
- Conspiracy-theory alert! Gretchen votes for Joel, but her “J” is written backwards, making it look like she’s written in Hebrew or something. I went back to re-watch the segment of the episode where she’s casting her ballot, and she actually writes the name backwards, starting on the right side of the paper. Either she’s sending a coded message to the viewers back at home, or she’s not so smart after all. Any theories?
- When she’s casting her vote, Gretchen says that Joel seems to have the most money of anybody. And here I thought “health-club consultant” was a fake job.
- I love that the Survivor producers went to the trouble of tracking down two Green Berets, flying them to the ass end of the globe (probably paying them an appearance fee) all for the totally unnecessary purpose of introducing a single challenge. Did the US Army underwrite this episode or something?
- The fiddle music that’s played during the rainstorm is hilariously Ken Burns-esque.
- Greg votes with the women. Make of that what you will.
- Watch this episode here.