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Survivor: "Too Close For Comfort"

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That was sure, um, another episode of Survivor. We’re at the point – and honestly have been at the point for weeks – where there is nothing driving the season beyond Rob’s domination, Phillip’s instability and everyone else’s lack of, well, everything. Redemption Island is a genuine bust, none of the other players could ever figure out a way to release the stranglehold Rob has on the game (and, honestly, no one seemed to try very hard, either) and we’re heading into Sunday’s finale with far too many things up in the air and far too many damn people left in the game. It’s not that this season has been a bust. It’s actually been quietly entertaining, with a few truly great moments. It’s just that this death march we’ve been subjected to for the last few weeks has been nothing short of boring. Is it Sunday yet?

Once again, the show starts with a chunk of our time spent on Redemption Island and the petty drama between Matt and Andrea, which is less and less compelling considering their drama has no impact on really anything left in the game. They can’t both make it back as players, so if they hate each other over some “dirty looks” or slight betrayals? We have no use for this knowledge. Can you tell I’m very, very sick of Redemption Island? In the end, they have a duel and although Ralph is leading going into the puzzle portion, he just can’t make it work and is eliminated.

The main narrative of the episode has to do with how Murlonio is going to continue to cannibalize itself. For most of the hour, Ashley is the main target, with Rob even convincing Ashley’s main ally Natalie she needs to go. Rob’s work on Natalie in this game, by the way, is pretty masterful. He promises to take care of her, to take her to the end, and to be her main protector. It’s just what a young girl like Natalie needs to feel safe, and Rob does it with ease. No matter whether or not he ever wins the game, Survivor is Rob Mariano’s calling. It sounds pretty sad all typed out like that, but I don’t mean it as an insult. I’m just saying, if you Google Survivor, Rob’s face should be the only thing that comes up. He’s that good.

The hitch in the plan comes when Ashley, who suspects she might need the help, wins the immunity challenge. Rob then has to work three times as hard in order to keep everyone placated, make sure he is controlling all of the votes, and not tipping the vote’s hand at any time lest someone get ideas to change it. This is difficult to do on only one cup of rice a day. Scheming requires more carbs than that. While doing this, Rob makes promises to every single remaining player (except Ashley) about going with them to the end. He and his tribemates see the writing on the wall, though, and Grant, his amazing ability to win challenges and general likable demeanor are just too big of a threat to keep around and he is voted off in another blindside.

As the numbers dwindle, it becomes easier and easier to see why Rob is not going to win this game. (Everyone, feel free to use this statement against me come Sunday when I’m completely wrong.) He’s in the very precarious situation of being in an alliance with every single player remaining, and as the leader of this alliance seems unwilling to risk alienating one of them so thoroughly they begin to worry and plot against him. This leads to every vote being a complete blindside, and as Rob has learned in the past promising someone you’re on their side and then immediately voting them out is a pretty good way to engender a lot of bitterness. Bitterness fuels juries like no other emotion, so it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a scenario where Rob makes it to the end and simply can’t get the votes he needs because everyone is so angry at him for lying to them about being his number one ally in the game. Also, Rob even getting to the finals seems certain only if he wins the immunity necklace to put him there, because anyone who takes him would have to be at least slightly insane. Who would you rather go up against at the end: Rob, or Phillip?

One final note: Sunday is the finale, and there are technically still 8 people in the game, four on Murlonio and four on Redemption Island. I’m not sure when they’ll bring the Redemption Island winner back into the game, but if they inject them directly into the final three I’m calling this the worst season of Survivor ever, no matter who wins. That would be a travesty. Until then!

Stray observations:

  • Andrea’s tears at the duel really annoyed me, for some reason. Here’s what I don’t understand: this is the 22nd season. Do people not understand how the game works? Lying and backstabbing are BUILT INTO THE FORMAT.
  • I’ve given this season a hard time these past few weeks, but in comparison to last season this is season one-level good. Last season was so, so awful.
  • “Rob was using you like toilet paper. He wiped his ass, and now he’s through with you.”
  • “I want Redemption Island to be over and done with, so it’s not a factor anymore.” Don’t we all, Rob. Don’t we all.
  • “He’s crazy. Not the N word crazy, just crazy.”
  • “Natalie, out of this challenge. You might as well sit down and watch.” Harsh, Probst.
  • “One man should not have this much power in the game. Luckily I’m not an ordinary man.”