SURVIVOR Recap: It Was Like Christmas Morning - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

SURVIVOR Recap: It Was Like Christmas Morning

October 10, 2008 by  

We start with the obvious Survivor-related news of the week: Last Saturday’s shocking loss by Mixed Martial Arts star Kimbo Slice. With 8,000 hometown fans cheering him on, the YouTube sensation was knocked out in 14 seconds by a guy with pink hair who pours smoothies to pay the rent. Just 24 hours after Slice’s defeat, fans of pro wrestling plunked down $39.95 to watch their WWE favorites battle in their slightly cartoonish, predetermined “No Mercy” extravaganza. But Erik, what does this have to do with Jeff Probst and the 15 people left in West Africa?

Here’s the link. As a childhood wrestling fan, I never had to worry that Hulk Hogan would lose in 14 seconds to Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania. The “fake” nature of the wrestling business guaranteed that big story arcs would come to logical and satisfying conclusions. On the other end of the spectrum, reality producers are confronted with a Kimbo Slice sized challenge each season: When you do not control the results, how do you guarantee that the product will be compelling?

Survivor Gabon proved to be a worthy competitor to its scripted rivals this week, in an episode filled with character development and fresh tweaks to the game’s format.

The big news? With 15 of the 18 original contestants remaining, the tribes were completely reshuffled. The buildup to the surprising reset was an interesting psychological exercise. The Survivors were asked to privately rank their tribemates by level of importance. If you are having flashbacks to grade school and kickball, then you can picture the faces of the contestants. After revealing the results, Jeff announced the relaunch and the new Kota and Fang tribes were selected. After each group selected 7 people, the last competitor standing, Sugar, was sent back to Exile Island until the next Tribal Council elimination.

The division of new tribes also highlighted the biggest source of unintentional comedy this season: the unlikely coupling of Charlie and Marcus As a very loud and very proud gay man, Charlie appears unwilling to consider Marcus’ heterosexuality an impediment to their future. In fact, Charlie’s tearful testimonial about wanting to be with Marcus throughout the game was simultaneously sweet and bizarre. I am reserving judgment on this storyline, because the producers must tread very lightly on how to present Marcus’ inevitable turn on Charlie.

Due to her return visit to Exile Island, Sugar’s screen time was limited in this installment. However, America’s favorite pin up girl since Bettie Page took advantage of the “comfort” option after finding the Immunity Idol last week. By doing so, she earned the right to christen the “Sugar Shack”, fully outfitted with fruits, blankets, and cool shade. Sugar reiterated her allegiance to Ace, which may foreshadow a “Beauty and the Beast” final two if they are successful.

The decision to shake things up heightened the drama at both camps, with old alliances cracking and new partnerships being negotiated. Following an impressive win by Kota at the Immunity challenge, where the Survivors competed in a hybrid of Bumper Boats and Water Lacrosse, the Fang members raced to determine the best approach at Tribal Council. Fang’s power base of Matty, G.C., Ken, and Crystal appeared to struggle with which new tribemater to vote out. Should it be Kelly, the loner who had performed poorly in challenges, or Jacquie, a supposed ally of Ace and Sugar who offered more physical strength for future contests?

After three predictable eliminations in a row, the producers and editors did a great job in presenting the Kelly/Jacquie decision. First, we witnessed an unusually lengthy conversation between Kota members about the virtues of both competitors. Second, we were a fly on the wall to Jacquie’s personal appeals to Ken & Crystal regarding her work ethic and future value. For the first time this season, I could not predict who was going home until Jeff Probst read the votes.

At their best, our favorite TV shows help us escape from the monotony of everyday life. They invite a homemaker in Topeka, Kansas behind the scenes at Seattle Grace Hospital. They give a line cook in Albuquerque, New Mexico some on the job training as a Crime Scene Investigator. They even allow a guy like me to dream about finding my Pam Beesly someday.

Because of the Survivor crew, I was given the chance to suspend disbelief for a few minutes tonight. Don’t you wish that you could do that with your 401(K) statement right now?

What do you guys think? Were you surprised by how the new tribes were selected? Are you sad that Charlie will never get to marry Marcus? Were you grateful that you weren’t competing in that exhausting immunity challenge? Post your comments early and often!

— 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.

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