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

Survivor: “Total Dysfunction”

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Sometimes, like in last week’s premiere, Survivor is fun and exciting and justifies its now 24 seasons. Other times, it’s so utterly boring it becomes difficult to see how it got to 24 at all. Tonight? Tonight was one of those other times. I guess you can’t win ‘em all.

From the promos for the episode, it was easy to see this one was going to be all about the girls and their inability to do even one damn thing right. Women! Am I right? The promos were definitely not misleading, as this one was almost entirely based in and around all of Salani’s failings. It all feels like a continuation of the contentious Tribal last week, even starting out with Alicia and Christina rehashing everything that went down between them. Although they play nice with each other to their faces, the lines in this tribe have already been drawn; Alicia is sitting pretty with Chelsea, Kim, Sabrina, and Kat on her side, while Christina is on the outs, along with older tribe members Nina and Monica. Nina targets Kat as being essentially immature and useless, telegraphing the main arc for the episode fairly early on and making the proceedings decidedly less than thrilling throughout.

Between the obvious promos and the early focus on Salani, it was easy to see the men were going to dominate this one (taking both reward and immunity) but it was actually impressive how poorly the women did at the balance beam immunity challenge. This was mostly due to the aforementioned immature Kat, who just couldn’t wrap her head around how to complete the task and burned a ton of valuable time. This leads to the inevitable—and extremely tired, if unavoidable—argument between young, incompetent players and older, competent ones. Nina made a few valid points but she was always working against a stacked deck; it is far too early in the game for Kat’s alliance to implode simply to get out someone they are kind of miffed at, and they all know it.

The only interesting thing about Nina’s inevitable torch-snuffing was Tribal Council, where Jeff somehow managed to outdo his own storied history with epic amounts of condescension. Yes, the ladies aren’t doing well, but losing two challenges in a row is hardly unprecedented (especially since the first one was a technical loss by default), let alone “absolute and total dysfunction.” Jeff was in immediate attack mode the second the women sat down, and while I usually like his shtick, this had a mean, paternalistic tone that I frankly found offensive. There were far more dysfunctional things happening last season with Brandon and his creepy issues with women and his own self-worth, so Jeff just needs to back up a bit with his attitude, especially because of the tone it takes with this being a gender-separated season. This is a long game; anything can happen.

As for the men, they were firmly in the background here, except for Colton. Colton might be one of the more quickly annoying contestants in recent history, whining about not fitting in with the men (even though it seems he isn’t really trying) and annoying the women so much they have to ask him to go back to his own camp. Just when it appears he is playing the worst game in Survivor history, however, he suddenly whips out his hidden immunity idol and shows it to Jonas and Leif, forming an instant maybe-alliance. It’s not as big in numbers as Matt’s bro-liance of abs and hair products, but it could definitely turn into something interesting. If only Colton could be less annoying while doing it.

I’m giving Survivor a hard time for this episode, but honestly, there wasn’t much the producers could do with it given the circumstances. Whenever one team is so clearly ahead of another, there is always less intrigue, especially so early in the game when maneuvering is at its most tentative. At least we got the entire cast in bathing suits groping each other, right?


Stray observations:

  • Reward challenges are back! I know many of you are going to be very pleased by this.
  • I definitely could have lived my whole life without seeing Tarzan dancing in his underwear.
  • Those bats they keep showing are freaky. And also awesome.
  • Alicia: “If I saw her swimming in an ocean and she was drowning, I’d probably look the other way.”
  • Alicia: “Nina looks like a bag of rocks and I don’t even know what that analogy means.”
  • Jeff: “It’s almost like talking to sixth graders.”