Ask most Americans who they remember from the first season of Survivor, and chances are they’ll say Colleen, Rich, or Rudy—the fresh-faced pixie; the naked, gay villain; or the crotchety, old tough guy. Yet in revisiting the series, I’ve been struck by what non-entities Colleen and Rudy actually are, especially compared to Richard. In “Old And New Bonds,” however, Colleen and Rudy are finally beginning to become real forces on the island.
Let’s start with Colleen. It’s probably a good thing for Colleen that Greg got the boot, and not only because he was planning on (metaphorically) snapping her neck. Until her fair-haired friend left the island, Colleen was a little detached from the game, but now she’s mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore. This is the episode where Colleen became a star. The gamine from Maryland has her dander up (literally—her hair was crazy) over the last tribal council, in which Richard and Susan once again lied about the voting alliance. “Those people flat out lied to a national television audience,” she says in horror, perched, Cheshire Cat-like, in the crook of a tree. (Richard’s take? “Outright lying is essential.”)
But what makes her so great is her willingness to stand up to Richard, a man who weighs at least 2.5 times as much as she does. Yes, she’s adorable, but Colleen’s also got sass, pluck, cheek, moxie—whatever a character in a 1935 screwball comedy would call it. First, she observes (accurately, if you ask me) that Richard is intentionally overreacting to Rudy’s burned fish as a way of exerting control over the other tribe members. “Go home and go get your liposuction,” shedismisses him. Later, she once again stands up to Richard, who decides to spend the day in the nude, spreading his butt germs all over the communal log. This time, at least, he’s got a lame excuse— since it’s his birthday—but Colleen sees right through him (so to speak). She argues that he likes to go naked just for the “shock value,” to intimidate his fellow competitors, and I tend to agree. Richard’s not a hippie—he’s a creep.
Colleen also wins her first challenge this episode, narrowly beating Kelly on a crazy spider web thingamabob that looks pretty fun. As a reward, she is treated to an American-style barbecue, complete with hotdogs, hamburgers, and Bud Lite, and she gets to read a letter from home. When Jeff Probst tells Colleen she also gets to bring a friend along, she instantly chooses Jenna, which is a nice gesture. When it comes to eating animals, Colleen’s a little hypocritical—if she’s grossed out watching a ray killed with a dull knife, then she definitely doesn’t want to see where those hot dogs came from—but hey, she’s also about 15 years old and more or less starving at this point. While gorging, Colleen once again proposes a counter-alliance. “Why are we sitting back and watching it happen?” she asks Jenna. They decide it’s time to fight back by forming a voting bloc with Gervase and, possibly, Sean (more on this later). Their first target? Richard. Sure, he catches fish but, as Gervase aptly puts it, “Get rid of Rich and we all starve together.”
Rudy has maintained a more active presence on the island than Colleen, but in this episode he surges (just like Santorum!), winning his first immunity challenge and leading the charge against Jenna. At this point I’m going to say something controversial: I know Rudy is a beloved character, but I think he’s a dick. Rudy tells Sean, “I sorta liked [Richard] before I knew he was queer,” which is ironic given that Richard’s gayness is probably the least objectionable thing about him. Later on, he expresses concern that Kelly and the other girls have gone sapphic, and says he’ll tell his wife that he was on the island with “a queer that ran around bare-assed half the time.” Maybe I am misremembering the national response to Rudy, but I don’t find him cute, endearing, or charmingly retrograde; I find him nasty and narrow-minded. That said, I can understand why the producers made an effort to keep him around. He does make for good TV.
Now I’d like to conclude by discussing Sean, whose abject stupidity continues to boggle my mind. Somehow, he makes it to the final three in this episode’s immunity challenge, but he makes a huge strategic obvious blunder when he chooses to go after Jenna instead of Rudy. (Side note: Jenna often surprises me with her intelligence.) But even this pales in comparison to the good doctor’s monumentally asinine alphabetical voting strategy. Maybe the dumbest thing about Sean’s strategy—there are many—is how open he is about it. Last episode, the alliance knew Sean would vote for Greg, and this undoubtedly factored into their decision to vote for him. Whether he likes it or not, Sean is a de facto member of the alliance, because they can use his vote to their advantage. The same thing happened this time around: Sean made it clear from the beginning he was voting for Jenna, so all the alliance had to do was sit back and let it happen. Amazingly, Sean somehow remains totally unaware that the alliance is systematically picking off the remaining members of Pagong, insisting that “if I felt [Jenna] was in jeopardy, I would think twice.”
A genius, that one.
- I’ll leave it to you guys to comment on her post-Survivor infamy, but I, for one, will miss Jenna.
- It’s a tough call, but this may be the creepiest thing Richard has said so far: “They’re not voting me off because I’m not letting them.”
- I was kind of surprised by how readily Rudy wore the immunity talisman. I expected some grumbling about the “queer” accessory.
- Susan is a nightmare, but she’s also kind of fascinating. Notice how angry she gets when she sees Kelly hanging out and being girly with the younger women on the island. In a way, it’s a little sad. Initially Kelly and Susan seemed to share a bond because they’re both tough, industrious tomboys, but now Kelly’s broken from the alliance and doing her hair. It’s no wonder Susan felt so betrayed.
- ’Rexie watch: Colleen is really beginning to look skeletal, isn’t she?
- Watch this episode, or most of it, here.