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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Honey Badger”

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Some of my favorite episodes of Survivor are the ones that manage to take a foregone conclusion and make it lively and entertaining. This is exactly what happens in “Honey Badger,” where for the last 30 minutes, it’s clear exactly who will be voted out, and yet the episode still manages to be absolutely delightful to watch.

Those first 30 minutes, though, those were pure “exploit the crazies.” It’s clear now that Survivor was less concerned with capital F Favorites and more concerned with choosing the people who would bring the most drama, and so far, both Brandon and Phillip are delivering on that promise. Brandon kicks off the insanity by taking Francesca’s eviction far too personally, first berating Dawn (of all people!) enough to make her cry, then immediately apologizing for his rant the next morning. Cochran rightly points out that Brandon’s instability is exactly his liability in the game, considering it’s pertinent that anyone you trust on the island be calm and consistent.

But Brandon’s shenanigans have nothing on the growing ego that is Phillip. Without Boston Rob to keep him in check (and him knowing just enough of Rob’s strategy to make him dangerous), Phillip is attempting to turn the Favorites tribe into some sort of bizarro Boston Rob homage tribe, except with him in charge. He’s even gone so far as to fully employ his secret agent gimmick, calling their tribe the Stealth R Us, Inc. (is their mascot a tiny, stealth giraffe?) and giving each member of his alliance a silly nickname. Everyone reluctantly goes along with the insanity because they understand it’s not smart to poke the crazy, at least until you know you can safely vote the crazy off to go be far, far away from you. Brandon vocally tells everyone he wants Phillip gone because he’s attempting to control the tribe, but no one really responds, because Phillip’s brand of crazy is far preferable to Brandon’s.

The real meat of the episode, however, happens over on the Fans' side. After a stupendously poor showing at the Immunity Challenge, it’s clear the Fans have deep, deep problems as a tribe, and a large part of those problems revolve around Shamar. Shamar certainly seems like a difficult person to be stuck on an island with, as he’s supremely interested in himself and not so concerned with the well-being of anyone else. This manifests as him sitting around all day while everyone else keeps the camp running, which is never looked kindly upon. Shamar’s one saving grace is that the group has sussed out the Cool Kids Table alliance and is interested in breaking that up immediately. Sherri, who appears to be one of the ringleaders of the other six, rallies her side to save Shamar until the Cool Kids four are gone, starting with Allie.

Here’s where things get interesting. Reynold finds an idol but doesn’t have anywhere to keep it but in his hip skinny chinos, and eagle-eyed Laura spots it as he’s dressing for Tribal Council. This turns out to be the best thing possible for the episode, as Laura’s mention of this fact turns Tribal from a boring breakdown of everything that’s wrong with their tribe and Shamar and turns it into a much more interesting study on what happens when all of a player’s plans blow up in his face. You see, the Cool Kids just didn’t plan on anyone being against them with a big, loud target like Shamar in the game. The reveal of Reynold’s idol brings the six versus four advantage into sharp focus, which plays across all four of their faces as they realize they aren’t sitting at the Cool Kids Table, so much as the Dead Kids Table. (Except for Eddie; he just seems mostly confused.)

To Reynold’s credit, he immediately owns up to his idol. Less to his credit, he practically blames Laura for bringing it up, saying now he has to play it, resulting in the Fans losing their idol advantage in the merge. This, of course, assumes he’ll even make the merge, which doesn’t really seem like a slam dunk at this point. In the end, Reynold keeps his idol in his pocket, and the tribe votes out Allie as promised, with a vote of six to four. The shock and sadness on Reynold’s face makes it clear he never considered his young, strong, good-looking alliance even had a chance of losing to a bunch of misfit, less attractive people.


This was an incredibly dynamic end to what honestly should have been a predictable slog, and I enjoyed every second of it. What’s clear is that the Fans need to get their house in order, lest they be completely wiped out by the Favorites.

Stray observations:

  • I just can’t deal with these idols that are basically out in the open for anyone to find. Either get rid of the idols or make it more interesting. I say this every season, so obviously, these pleas are working.
  • Phillip’s nicknames are as follows: Malcolm, The Enforcer; Cochran, The Intelligence Attaché; Phillip, The Specialist; Andrea, The Eliminator; Corrin, The Dominatrix; Dawn, True Grit. I feel like Dawn got the raw deal, here.
  • I heard an interview with Malcolm on KROQ’s Kevin and Bean show where he was very charming but repeatedly called the 40-year-old female contestants “old.” That was less charming. (You can download it here.)
  • “These things are pocketfuls of kryptonite.” Reynold, pulling out the perfectly appropriate yet random Spin Doctors reference.