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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Keep It Real”

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It’s not usually a good thing to end an episode of Survivor wondering what the hell just happened, but that’s exactly what my reaction was as soon as the votes were read. How did anything during that episode support the ending? Why did the episode focus on so many random things—notably Rodney’s continued discontent that the whole game isn’t bending to his will—when that had literally nothing to do with the actual episode narrative at hand? What is going on?

The buzz around this season before it aired was that it was a great cast and a great season as a whole, but as the season unfolds I am finding this harder and harder to believe. Most of this is due to the fact that the cast—while they seemed like a great mix at first—is becoming increasingly more unpleasant to watch. The rise of Rodney’s storyline is a big part of this, with his obnoxious mixture of arrogance and unearned entitlement putting a damper on basically everything he touches. The gist of Rodney’s beef is that Mike is ruining the game for the Blue Collars, so Rodney wants to secretly take Mike’s power away while still letting him think he is in charge. This is obviously something that is going to pay off at some point, but the fact that it doesn’t pay off at all in this episode becomes concerning because all this can mean is that Rodney is setting a plan in motion, and that plan is potentially important or successful enough to require multiple episodes to fully set up. As someone who finds Rodney completely intolerable, this is dismaying, to say the least.

The other big story of the episode is Joe versus Mike in the battle to find the hidden immunity idol, and this story at least is more pleasant to watch than Rodney’s. When Joe wins the reward he gets the chance to actually show a bit of strategy, selecting all of the potential swing votes to join him. He also shows some smarts when he spies a clue in Carolyn’s drink and basically gets her to hand it over to him without her even knowing it is there. His stealth attempts end when Tyler sees him palm the clue, and Joe is forced to bring Tyler in on the clue as well. This ends up backfiring when Tyler tells Mike everything, and Mike ends up finding the idol all while making the rest of the camp believe Joe is actually the one who found it. It’s some pretty good gameplay from Mike, even if I remain baffled that Joe seemed to stop looking for the idol once everyone believed he already had it.

The whole first half of the episode is essentially set up so Mike can declare his intention to vote out Joe, then Joe can win immunity and foil Mike’s plan. It’s the second half that kind of falls apart. Early on, Mike declares that Hali should be the one voted out in order to break up the remaining No Collars. Dan, however, spends most of his time condescendingly telling Shirin that she’s playing the game all wrong and telling the camera that he’d like someone to slap her right in the face. (Dan seems like such a nice guy.) He’s convinced there’s a White Collar idol floating out there somewhere, but he hasn’t yet figured out who has it.

We leave this conversation of who the Blue Collar alliance is going to vote out completely in the dark as to their actual intentions, with the editing switching over to a plan that actually seems like some fun: the women are all banding together to vote out Dan, simply because they are sick of him being a misogynistic jerk. The wrinkle is they need to pull in one more vote, and that person is Tyler. To say I don’t quite understand what game Tyler is playing right now is an understatement, as Tyler has no obvious allegiance to the power Blue Collar alliance and a chance to take out one of their biggest members and flip the game should be something he might consider. Instead, the first question Tyler asks is what happens after Dan is voted out, which is probably the biggest sign that he is playing way too conservative to flip at this moment.

The anti-flipper sentiment is reinforced at Tribal Council, where Dan is very eager to spout his wisdom: “Three magic words, Jeff: Flippers. Never. Win.” This is patently false, and Shirin awesomely uses her game knowledge to tell Dan exactly how wrong he is. It’s at this point I thought that the female alliance might actually have a shot and we were being set up for a great comeuppance edit for Dan, but that was not to be: no one from the bigger Blue Collar alliance flipped and therefore Hali was voted out. This vote might be less annoying if poor Hali got a bit more to do in her final episode (although she did get a great “the colonies were the original flippers” moment at Tribal), but the issue is this: We lost a likeable person and an unlikeable idiot remains in the game. In a season where finding a player to root for gets more and more difficult by the week, this is a tough blow. Hali wasn’t necessarily someone to root for as a player, but at least she was pleasant and somewhat interesting. But hey, at least we still have Dan? Hello? Anyone?


Stray observations:

  • Tell me why I’m an idiot and Tyler made the right call. I need to hear the other side of the coin.
  • Dan being repeatedly wrong on the Immunity Challenge puzzle was so satisfying. Shut up, Dan.
  • Was there a bigger “who gives a shit” moment tonight than Rodney and Shirin’s little dust-up over salami skin? Why was this even included when both Rodney and Shirin had very little to do with the outcome of the episode, and it was so brutally uninteresting?
  • So Joe is gone the second he doesn’t win immunity, yes? I cannot imagine him lasting much longer.
  • “I fucking hate you.” Jenn is all of us.
  • Dan: “Once again, another fan who can’t do basic math.”
  • Hali: “You go misogynistic on the girls, the girls are going to take you out. DAN.”