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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Blood Is Blood”

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After the fun walloping of Drew last week, this more typical episode couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a letdown. Despite a tribe shuffle that sufficiently shakes up what was becoming a fairly stale status quo, “Blood Is Blood” never really rises above the level of “serviceable.” Why? Rice. Damn rice.

The tribal shuffle is an interesting one, at least, changing the makeup of each tribe drastically and setting up an entirely different dynamic than before. Hunahpu is now mostly solo players, other than Reed and Josh, and Jeremy immediately starts scrambling to ensure his solid place in the game isn’t affected by this shift. Coyopa, on the other hand, ends up as all loved one pairs except for Keith as the lone man out who now must make sure they don’t pick him off first as an easy vote. It’s good stuff and good fodder for decent drama, but main issue here is that the tribal shuffle, while setting up some potentially interesting dynamics for the future, is completely overshadowed here by the Great Rice Wars of 2014. Spoiler alert: watching people worry about rice for 45 minutes isn’t very exciting.

Here’s the thing: Apparently the old Hunahpu tribe wasn’t rationing their rice, so they’re almost completely out. Coyopa, on the other hand, was stingy with their rice but is now facing Hunahpu transplants who don’t share their spartan views. That’s it. That’s the whole conflict, over and over again, for a significant portion of the episode. The producers try their best to steer the rice debates into something more meaningful when it comes to the eventual voting strategy at Tribal, but in the end it’s just a bunch of people bitching a lot about rice. The one good thing to come out of Hunahpu’s rice situation is that after they win the Immunity Challenge they ask Jeff, yet again, if they can trade something for a bag of rice so they don’t all starve. Just what Jeff ends up asking for in trade won’t be revealed until the next episode, but the idea that Hunahpu remains a completely dysfunctional tribe that repeatedly has to ask Jeff for favors is at least consistently amusing.

As for Coyopa, the newly formed tribe of Keith, Jon, Jaclyn, Baylor, Missy, Kelley, and Dale somehow seems even more inept at challenges than the tribe’s first incarnation. Once they lose the Immunity Challenge it becomes all about the three couples deciding which other couples they can trust, while Keith just sits back and goes fishing or something. Due to Baylor and Dale’s early animosity during the first vote, it essentially comes down to Baylor and Missy versus Dale and Kelley in a fight for Jon and Jaclyn’s love, and none of it ends up being too terribly interesting. There just aren’t enough stakes or background to make the fact that Jon and Jaclyn pick Baylor and Missy and vote out Kelley feel all that exciting, except for my vague disappointment that Kelley won’t be sticking around to get a chance to play a little while longer.

If the shuffle did one thing interesting for the game, though, it is how much it helped both Jon and Jaclyn’s game. Jaclyn is not a great game player and was floundering at Coyopa, while Jon just had his biggest ally blindsided right before his eyes. Them coming together on Coyopa to play as a pair—not just a pair, a golden pair—significantly altered both of their games for the better. How it affected everyone else’s game still remains to be seen.

Stray observations:

  • What do you think Jeff is going to request in exchange for rice? Hunahpu forfeiting the next competition win to Coyopa, maybe?
  • I wish I could have been in the production meeting when that “shaking the pole” challenge was pitched. “Yeah, and then you shake a really big pole and stuff falls out. I swear it will look good on TV.” (It did not.)
  • Jon and Jaclyn sure are touchy-feely. Seems…smelly.
  • Josh and Reed are much more fun to watch on a tribe together than Jon and Jaclyn. Josh continues to get a very, very good edit. He’s going far.
  • Alec might be just as annoying as Drew. It’s fun to watch Jeremy recognize this and get to work on psychologically moving him towards being in an alliance.