Last season, Survivor managed to do something narratively interesting with the decimation of Matsing tribe, turning the whole affair into part horror story, part underdog story for fan favorites Malcolm and Denise. They’re having much less success with a similar situation this year, as the Favorites slowly dismantle the Fans week-to-week, with the resulting episodes turning out to be a far less interesting affair.
Most of this simply comes down to personality. It was easy to root for Malcolm and Denise’s unlikely alliance, as two sensible, likeable people stuck in the midst of a whole lot of failure. It’s not nearly as fun to deal with a tribe where the dynamic is dominated by an unhappy, antagonistic bully and an alliance that banded together in celebration of its own supposed genetic superiority. This is what we have in the Fans, though, and finally, tonight, that dynamic reached its breaking point.
It’s time to just come out and say it now that he’s gone: Shamar was a complete bust of a character, a player who brought both his whole tribe and the entire game down as long as he was on the show. It’s the classic case of the producers casting someone who was likely very interesting in casting sessions—Iraq vet, athletic, funny guy—but who simply couldn’t handle the conditions of the game. It happens. But the unpleasant thing about Shamar was how his dissatisfaction with the game infected everything else around him and potentially hindered his own tribe’s success. In the end, although he discussed quitting the game more than once, it was a corneal abrasion that ended his time on the island.
The thing is, as soon as he was gone, the game picked up a bit, or at least the scheming did. His absence didn’t help the Fans in their immunity challenge—they still can’t compete with the Favorites, physically—but it at least made the post-challenge scheming and Tribal council about more than the debate about voting him out. Instead, it becomes more about what kind of tribe the Fans want to be: loyal, or strong?
For the past two weeks, it’s increasingly become clear that Laura is by far the weak link, physically. The issue is that Laura is solidly a part of the majority alliance for the Fans, a majority alliance that is dead set on getting rid of the Cool Kids first. But every alliance has a breaking point, and this is exactly what happens to Matt. Matt is sick of losing and is ready to do something about it, approaching Reynold and telling him he is voting out Laura. To Reynold’s credit, he is rightfully skeptical about Matt’s intentions. The editors work extra hard to throw doubt about what the alliance is going to do, focusing on Sherri’s reluctance to turn on one of her own already, but once Jeff starts reading the votes at Tribal and Laura’s is the first Reynold vote to pop up, it’s obvious that the fear of losing trumped alliance loyalty this time.
Is this a smart move for Matt and his alliance in the long run? Probably not, but it at least was something marginally interesting in what threatened to be an unimpeded death march to obsolescence by the Fans tribe. The best thing for the alliance is that it forced Reynold’s hand in playing the idol, flushing it out and giving them the opportunity to vote him out next if their losing streak continues. If there’s a tribe shuffle next week, well, some of them might be regretting not getting one of the stronger males out of the game.
As for the Favorites, they get so little time this week that it’s impossible to even really tell what is going on in that tribe beyond “Phillip is pleasantly insane.” It’s just a result of the Fans being so incompetent that as a result, the show is forced to be in their camp more, but I’m pretty sure Erik and Brenda haven’t said more than two sentences this entire season so far. It would be nice if they would start losing soon, so at least we could find out if something, anything is happening in that tribe beyond Phillip's ridiculous Stealth ‘R Us plan. From the previews for next week, though, it looks like spending time with the Fans might not necessarily be a better alternative.
- Where are all the puzzles? I’m getting sick of watching people throw things at other things, no matter how impressively good Reynold is at it.
- Phillip has basically invited everyone in the entire Favorites tribe to be in his alliance (naming Brandon the Conqueror, Erik the Silent One, and Brenda Serenity) even if some of them are “fake” members. Phillip seems really bad at this game.
- Eddie: “It’s mind boggling to me that we got rid of Hope last night, because she was the prettiest one here, and she was a threat to everyone because of that.”