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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Bum-Puzzled”

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That was unreal.

Reality television at times feels like the last bastion of the unashamedly horrible person, the place where rude and socially unacceptable behavior is not only allowed but encouraged, then packaged and edited into a product designed to entertain. The debauchery of Jersey Shore, the vapid consumerism of the Kardashian family, the showy schadenfreude of The Real Housewives franchise: all showcase awful people doing awful things for our supposed enjoyment. But despite all of the nastiness out in the landscape of unscripted television, I’m not sure I’ve come across a human being with less actual humanity than Colton.


Survivor has slowly been building Colton as the season’s main villain and tonight we all learned precisely why: He’s a petty, bigoted, small-minded bully with no tolerance for people he deems inferior. Couple this with a smart mouth and a wicked Machiavellian streak and you’ve got the recipe for one of the most easily identifiable villains in Survivor history. Forget about Russell. Russell is a gentle flower in comparison to the evil Colton has up his sleeve, because at least Russell seemed like he knew it was a game. Colton, on the other hand, gives every indication this is how he lives his life. It’s enough to put a chill down your spine.

Before the entire episode began to feel like an episode of The Twilight Zone, it was actually completely normal. The ladies won reward but got obliterated in the immunity challenge, with either Alicia or Christina apparently on the chopping block. The entire thing turned on its axis, though, when things at the guys’ side of the beach start to go a little haywire. It starts with Michael outing a conversation Leif had with Bill about Bill being the next to go, but quickly spirals into an all-out war between a petulant Colton and defensive Bill.  Instead of simply patiently waiting for the right time to eliminate Bill, Colton decides what the men need to do is go to Tribal Council right this very second to get rid of him. Not because Bill is some sort of threat to their safety or well-being. No, because he simply doesn’t like him.

This plan is insane, but the more insane part is how easily the rest of the men decide to go along with it. Yes, the men—who have immunity and currently a numbers advantage in the game—decide to give away their immunity so they can immediately get rid of someone who kind of pisses off one member of the tribe. It’s absolutely the dumbest thing any tribe has ever done in the game, no matter the outcome. You simply don’t give away immunity and a numbers advantage in Survivor.

The craziest part of the proceedings isn’t even that the men are at Tribal at all, but what happens once they get there. Jeff presses Colton to explain why he doesn’t like Bill, and Colton’s reasons basically boil down to “Bill is black and poor!” Apparently, being a struggling stand-up comedian is only a profession worthy of being put in air quotes in Colton’s lofty world of Southern country clubs and cotillions, and all others who don’t conform to his ideas of what constitutes an acceptable life path are simply deemed unworthy of his time. It’s a truly staggering showcase of ignorance, hate, and intolerance, all coming from the mouth of someone who is gay and therefore also part of a persecuted community. But hey, Colton has a black maid and she’s totally a part of his family. So he’s, like, completely cool with black people.


Survivor has dealt with race and racism before (even as recently as the first Redemption Island season) but even Jeff seems completely unprepared to even process what he is hearing. To make matters worse, Tarzan jumps in and practically starts sermonizing about being sick of hearing about race. Tarzan judges people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, you see. As an old, white, probably rich man, I’m sure he is simply so fatigued with dealing with race issues, guys. He can’t even take it anymore. The race wars are over; we have a black president, or didn’t you hear?

In the end, Bill is voted out and the men—most of them completely stunned after witnessing that spectacle—go back to the beach even with the women in numbers. Bill likely would have been the next person voted out no matter when Manono went to Tribal. It was Colton’s decision to turn the entire thing into spectacle and disgrace, simply because he could. I hate to reward such horrible behavior with praise, but this turn of events was one of the most purely exciting episodes of television I’ve seen so far this year, and with Colton squarely planted as the evil lynchpin this season is going to revolve around, things can only get better. Because let’s face it, after seeing what happened tonight there’s no way anything could ever get worse.


Stray observations:

  • The surprise reveal of the men arriving at Tribal Council was fantastic. What a great example of showing, not telling.
  • Tarzan is a plastic surgeon? How did I miss this?
  • Colton: “That little munchkin is about to get knocked back to Oz.” Then later he calls Leif an Oompa Loompa. Colton is the worst.
  • Sabrina: “Alicia is just dead weight with a mouth.”
  • Jay: “I’ll have you guys know, I’m completely bum-puzzled right now.”
  • Jeff: “What are the chances that this will go down as the single dumbest move ever in this game?”
  • Tarzan: “We have a black president!”