Now that Survivor is done with the silliness of establishing the premise, we can fully appreciate this season for what it is: An extremely well-cast, promising season of reality television. The Beauty vs. Brains vs. Brawn thing was hit so hard in the première that I didn’t even notice how this gimmick replaced all of the much more annoying gimmicks, like returning players and Redemption Island. How refreshing is it to have an all-new cast of characters playing a “pure” version of the game again?
It helps that this all-new cast is so strong so early. Each of the three tribes—and splitting the contestants into three tribes is turning out to be one of the better changes the show has made as its went along—has a distinct personality and within that personality, a good amount of personality diversity and a few people who are already playing the game hard. It’s turning out to be a great mix, and it’s never disappointing to switch to another tribe simply because each tribe is interesting in its own right. From the dysfunction of the Brains, to the manic intensity of Tony’s insanity at the Brawn, to the emergence of LJ as someone who might have a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to game strategy, spending time with each tribe here was enlightening and a lot of fun.
The most interesting tribe so far has to be the Brawn, simply because of the mix of people they have. Tony is a classic over-player, constantly strategizing and telling lies he doesn’t need to tell just because it seems like feels like if he’s doing something, he’s playing the game. Granted, Sarah completely buys everything he tells her once he reveals that her suspicions were right; yes, he’s a cop and he wants to work together with her as a powerful all-cop alliance dubiously named “Cops R Us.” He follows up this truth by immediately lying to her about the other tribemates plotting behind her back, which seems like a lie that could easily come back to bite him, but what do I know? Sarah eats it up and revels in her firm belief that she and Tony can cop their way right to the end. Or at least until Tony does something reckless—it’s coming the second the Brawn tribe loses immunity, you can just tell—and he tanks their alliance.
Spending time with the Brains tribe was interesting because although everything about them was still pitched as dysfunctional and messy, it turned out that the perceived dysfunction was only a sneaky underdog story the show was playing to make the challenge all that more interesting. In fact, this turned out to be one of the better immunity challenges in memory, a well-conceived, multi-part challenge involving water, bucket throwing, bucket filling, and ultimately a really cool vertical maze that had to be operated by two people simultaneously. The Brains were absolutely horrible with the more physical portion of the challenge, but made up a lot of ground once they got to the maze, ultimately edging out the Beauty tribe and managing to escape Tribal council for the first time. No one was more excited about this than J’Tia, who completely bungled the challenge and knew she was a goner if they lost. It was as cathartic a win as the show has seen in a while, and plenty fun to watch.
Heading to Tribal, the dominant alliance in the Beauty tribe seems pretty set on sending Brice home (with Jeremiah stuck in the middle as someone in two alliances) until something amazing happens, when Alexis—the person who is being targeted by the minority alliance—decides that splitting the vote to flush the idol, forcing a tie and a revote, is the best way to go. This is either a really confident move by Alexis or a really dumb one, or probably both, but it puts Jeremiah into a true swing vote position. If he changes his mind at the last minute and votes Alexis along with Brice and Morgan, Alexis goes home and he’s in a majority alliance with Morgan and Brice. If he votes to keep the three-way tie and eventually votes out Brice, he’s in a supermajority alliance with LJ, Jefra, and Alexis. Tribal Council is short but sweet, with Brice taking up all the time talking very candidly about the dynamics of the tribe, right before he gets voted out because Jeremiah decided not to flip.
It’s a shame Brice had to go simply because of his very forthcoming Tribal strategy and sense of humor, and because of the show wanting to keep the vote a secret it’s impossible to know exactly why Jeremiah made that decision. Was it a desire to align with LJ’s crew or more a desire not to be targeted by them? It seems like a pretty decent move in the end, with the majority happy and only Morgan upset by the decision. Either way, a split vote and revote in the second episode of the season isn’t too shabby, Survivor, even if it is kind of a bummer Brice is gone.
- The magic of editing, part one: The sequence of the Brains practicing the challenge set to “The Blue Danube” was hilarious and fantastic. Like the Bellagio fountains, if the fountains were drunk.
- The magic of editing, part two: In a completely opposite tone, the verite-esque sequence of the Brawn tribe battling the storm—mostly silent, except for the pounding of the elements—very effectively conveyed the horror of the storm. Smart and subtle.
- The magic of editing, part three: Crab dancing!
- Don’t tell lies about Cliff, Tony. I need this Cliff and Woo relationship to have a chance to develop.
- LJ found the idol simply by thinking Morgan couldn’t be trusted. This is smart, because no one can be trusted.
- Sarah: “You know how people say they have a gaydar, well, I have a copdar.”