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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Survivor: “Thanks For The Souvenir”

Illustration for article titled Survivor: “Thanks For The Souvenir”
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This season has certainly been eventful, hasn’t it? In just six episodes, the narrative has shifted from men vs. women on a shared beach, to a reign of terror by one of the biggest villains this show has ever seen, to a shuffling of the tribes, and to the arrival tonight of a merge. This is a tremendous amount of story for a show that usually doesn’t usually get much more from the first third of a season than the emergence of a few loudmouths and lingering shots of scantily dressed twentysomethings.

This newly merged, extra-large tribe of 12 came together because of circumstances that surely drove every producer to drink in order to dull the pain unbelievable bad luck brings: Colton develops acute appendicitis and is forced to leave the game for emergency surgery. Colton was so obviously this season’s cash cow, a brash, horrible, elitist, racist, piece-of-shit human being who also just so happened to be flamboyantly gay. It was the perfect storm of personality traits, both difficult to watch and immensely entertaining at the same time, especially because of how bafflingly in control of the game he seemed to be, despite all of his horrible qualities.

This watchability factor is a large reason why this season has been so entertaining so far and perhaps why Colton’s involuntary ouster from the game wasn’t as deliciously cathartic as I was expecting it to be. There’s no doubt seeing that slimy little weasel writhing in pain was fun—I may or may not be a horrible person, but I’ll admit I certainly giggled a little bit—but Colton is the type of villain you want to see go down in a hail of bullets fired by the hero of the story, not the person who you want to see accidentally trip and impale himself on an upturned rake.

Still, he’s gone, and now all of the power dynamics are up for grabs again. You can call what happened to Colton karma, but Alicia’s new position seems far more celestially-influenced than his ever was. After immediately latching on to Colton as the new power player in her tribe—and then joining him in mercilessly badgering the power-starved Christina—Alicia is left holding the bag for all of Colton’s misdeeds when he leaves, and for once, she seems to have the self-awareness to know it. The final twist of the knife is when Colton refuses to give away his immunity idol and takes it home “as a souvenir,” effectively ruining Alicia’s hopes of getting out of this situation alive. Now that she’s back with the members of her original alliance she may have some leeway, but it was glorious to see the “oh shit” look on her face when she realized all of her plans were foiled.

In a much better position than she was before Colton’s sickness is Christina, who basically went from tribe pariah to not necessarily sitting pretty but at least sitting more comfortably. The most interesting thing is how quickly Jonas seems to have shifted from weak follower to a maybe-player, as he recognizes not only the horrible content of Colton and Alicia’s character but the potential benefit in playing the game with Christina, at least in the short run. It’s impossible to know how he will react to things now that he’s not in Colton’s shadow, but the previews at least hint at him being more likely to make his own decisions and stand his ground. Now that Colton is gone, someone is going to need to step up. Will it be Jonas?

Yeah, probably not. But still, suddenly this feels like a new game, a wide-open one whose narrative could twist and turn in many different ways. For a game that felt almost paint-by-numbers at the end of the last episode (albeit a potentially engaging and enraging one), this is kind of exciting. All we have to do is wait and see who steps into the giant, vacuous, whiny hole Colton left in his wake.


Stray observations:

  • Most pointless tribal council ever?
  • I’d like to think Probst (or the editors) hate Alicia as much as I do and therefore are only left in his horrible comments about her during the reward challenge. He was brutal.
  • Leif is always in that box!
  • Kat not having a clue what acute appendicitis is was pretty much the best thing ever.
  • Jeff: “Do you still have the idol? What are you going to do with it?” (Decide quickly, before your appendix bursts and you die!)
  • Thanks to Phil Dyess-Nugent for filling in last week, and especially for pointing out how out of control Probst has been this season. Dude needs a vacation.