SURVIVOR: GABON – Earth’s Last Eden
September 26, 2008 by Kath Skerry
I have a confession to make. Despite being a loyal viewer during Survivor’s record breaking first run in the Summer of 2000, I have not watched a single episode since Richard Hatch became reality television’s first millionaire. Though I found the concept fascinating, I assumed that the concept could not hold up over time, and that Jeff Probst would become the answer to a $1000 Jeopardy question about TV trivia. As penance for my horrible psychic skills, I have assumed the role of Explorer Erik for the seventeenth season of Survivor. Pack your bags for West Africa, as we follow eighteen contestants to Gabon, “Earth’s Last Eden.”
Survivor Gabon: The Good, The Bad, & The Underwhelming
Audiences will be delighted by CBS’ decision to broadcast Survivor in High Definition this season. Mark Burnett and his team took full advantage of the upgraded technology by providing breathtaking views of the lush Gabon landscape. From the opening sequence featuring hippos, elephants, and wild hogs to the desolate shots of Exile Island, one could easily mistake this mass marketed reality program with a lost episode of Planet Earth. In addition, viewers with HDTVs will feel heightened tension during Immunity & Reward Challenges, as the blood, sweat, and tears of the participants radiate onscreen.
The tribe selection process created a competitive mismatch. The Fang tribe was populated with older, out of shape contestants. The Kota tribe, significantly younger and more athletic, seized the opportunity to dominate in early challenges. Though the Fang members were at fault for choosing an unbalanced team, the producers had difficulty editing any of the three challenges (all won by Kota) for dramatic effect. As a result, the premiere left little doubt in viewers’ minds how the critical team competitions would swing. During the two visits by Fang to Tribal Council, it was impossible to predict anyone other than the two contestants sacrificed would be headed home.
This week’s castoffs were Jillian, a chatty grandmother described by a tribe mate as “a slow-moving human being,” and Michelle, an insufferable whiner whose story arc revolved around the inability for her bikini top to remain in place. I am concerned that the Kota tribe will become the Survivor version of the 2007 New England Patriots, leaving us with little dramatic tension until the tribes are merged.
Through the first two hours of the Gabon experience, I expected to learn more about the individual competitors. After a short series of introductory videos in Hour One, the personal stories quickly took a backseat to a gay Kota member (Charlie) and his unrequited love for his playboy teammate (Marcus). After the Fang tribe suffered three consecutive losses in challenges, we saw extended clips of that group in disarray, without a single competitor willing to take on a leadership role. At this point, I am rooting for the hippos.
A Footnote for Viewers who appreciate Good Looking Men:
While the casting process unearthed several attractive women, the Gabon season really is all about the eye candy for you. Apparently, the only thing more common in West Africa than Wild Boars are boxer briefs that are two sizes too small. One could easily confuse the season premiere with the deleted scenes from David Beckham’s recent underwear shoot. Have fun with that!
What do you think? Have you already chosen your Fantasy Survivor winner? Will Kota lose a challenge before the merge? Can you think of another use for elephant dung? These questions need answers, folks, and I am counting on the GMMR faithful to set me straight…
— posted by Erik
How does Erik stay grounded from his luxurious life as a substitute teacher? He keeps it real with ALF DVDs & Fantasy Football. On weekends, the GMMR HOUSE & SURVIVOR guru spends quiet time imploring the TV gods to bring back Sports Night & Ed. Erik resides in South Florida and spends his summers following Dave Matthews Band.