Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Then There Were Five”

Illustration for article titled Survivor: “Then There Were Five”

Whether atheist, agnostic, believer, or something in between, I think most people can agree on one thing: God does not give a shit about who wins Survivor. The five people remaining in the game apparently have different feelings, though, as every move they make seems to be based on the premise of God’s ultimate investment in televised game shows.

Present and future Survivor contestants, hear my simple plea: Stop it, because you’re ruining everything.

Survivor isn’t supposed to be a game of honor and valor. It isn’t about piety, or loyalty, or rewarding people for doing the right thing. It’s about finding the best way to get people to ultimately want to give you a million dollars. You can do that by being straightforward or by being sneaky. All that matters is finding a way to get to the final three and then convincing a jury of your peers you deserve the cash. But honestly? Just leave God out of it, because God surely has better things to do.

I’m not saying if God is an everyday part of your life you should abandon that part of yourself while you play Survivor. But using Him as a tool and guide of how to play a game feels morally uncomfortable at the least and downright blasphemous at most. The funniest part of the whole thing is how God always seems to decide to do what’s best for the individual player, no matter what it means for the game as a whole. It seems oddly convenient.

The only person who seems to be immune to this phenomenon is Brandon, who gives up everything in the service of his loyalty (which he directly ascribes to his belief in God) and ends up paying the ultimate price. Brandon has this strange pathological need to take every emotion to its extreme; he’s not just loyal, but the most loyal, and once he makes a decision to be loyal it must be followed through to its most loyal endpoint, lest he be considered a liar for not doing so. This ultimate loyalty led him to give Albert his immunity necklace, which is when he learned the very important lesson that not everyone is going to be as loyal when given the opportunity. Albert refuses to give back the necklace, stating that he doesn’t think Brandon will need it (but really just wanting to save his own skin), and Coach doesn’t do what Albert and Brandon believe he will do and is the deciding vote to send Brandon to Redemption Island.

It’s what Coach said to Brandon as he was leaving, though, that really rubbed me the wrong way: “It’s God’s will. Go win Redemption.” It’s one thing to use God as a tool for soul searching to decide how to play your game, as Coach did earlier in the episode. It’s quite another to make a decision and then attempt to cover your ass by removing your own agency in that decision and laying it all on “God’s will.” Unless God filled out Coach’s vote, it was Coach’s will, and to claim otherwise is simply weak-willed. If Coach did believe it was God’s will at the time, does he think the same when watching it now? Does he feel like a hypocrite? Because he certainly looks like one. Also, all of the God talk at Tribal council doesn’t appear to be sitting well with the jury, who can barely stop their eyes from rolling out of their heads whenever the subject comes up.

It’s distressing that the first episode of the season where strategy was such an important factor was basically one long prayer discussion, because the strategy bit was kind of fun. The original five alliance is a mess, with final three deals building up and breaking down left and right and distrust running rampant. What became completely clear was just how much the rest of the alliance doesn’t trust or respect Albert, a fact that has stayed fairly hidden up until the last few weeks. With Brandon now gone and Albert on the outside, the core alliance for final three appears to be Coach, Sophie, and Rick, with Redemption Island as the only wild card. With the way the people still in the game are playing, it would kind of serve them right for Ozzy to make it back into the game and sweep the floor with them all.
The finale airs on Sunday. God is certainly too busy to be involved on a Sunday, right?


Stray observations:

  • Ozzy and Edna’s duel was so close I honestly believed she had a shot. Edna taking out Ozzy would have been a perfect metaphor for this backwards season.
  • Brandon’s story about people taking advantage of his loyalty growing up was pretty sad, especially because he obviously hasn’t learned any sort of lesson from his past.
  • “Come on, man. Don’t sound like Russell.”
  • “Cheer up, man, God’s got everything under control.”
  • “It’s God’s will. Go win Redemption.”