Survivor, I think we need a time out
With ten returning cast members toting along 10 loved ones, the return of Redemption Island and a labyrinthine set of twists that could ensure no one ever leaves the game after they’re voted out, I think it’s finally time to put my ‘Survivor’ love to rest.
Dear Survivor. We’ve been together now for 26 seasons but I think you’ve finally tested my limits with season 27, Blood vs Water. First of all, the title is just ridiculous. Blood versus water? What in the heck does that even mean? I know, I know, it’s supposed to be a reference to “blood is thicker than water,” but blood versus water doesn’t make a lick of sense. Besides the title, I’m just not happy at all with, yet again, bringing back a slew of former contestants … one in particular for the fourth time, and another whom Jeff Probst proclaimed would never be asked to return because of his vile behavior. I guess the only thing to be thankful for is that there are no Hantzes in sight.
But come on, Rupert again? He was great the first time and endearing the second, but he wore out his welcome the third time. And three returnees from One World, which was the least favorite show among fans (and Probst) and the lowest rated, and one of those happens to be the “he’ll never be asked back” Colton Cumbie! The guy whose one black friend is his maid! Colton would have been right at home on this season’s Big Brother, but I can’t think of anyone who really wants to see him back on Survivor. It is nice to see Gervase back, and as much as I like Tina Wesson, this is her third time back. The only seasons accounted for here, besides One World and didn’t include returning cast members, are Tocantins, Panama, Pearl Islands, Cook Islands, Samoa, Borneo and Australia. Five of the returnees appeared on either Heroes vs Villains or All-Stars … or both! If we’ve really scraped so far below the bottom of the casting barrel that only past contestants can be brought back, perhaps it’s really time to give the show a rest.
But there is a twist (actually many): each returnee is bringing along a family member or significant other, a la The Amazing Race, and they will be competing against each other. So I would assume then that the returnees are the “blood” and the newbies are the “water.” But you have to wonder how hard they’ll really be competing against their loved ones. Don’t you think that they’ll end up splitting the prize money after the show … unless they really, really hate each other by the time it’s over. In the commercials, Rupert’s wife says she’d screw her husband over to win, but isn’t a win for her a win for him as well?
So now we’ve got ten returnees and ten loved ones (not all are family members) and the return of Redemption Island to boot! Not a lot of people like the concept of Redemption Island since it almost defeats the purpose of Tribal Council, but I don’t mind giving someone a second chance to get back in the game. What I do have a problem with are all the new twists that come with it this season. A tribe member who is voted out will go to Redemption Island … or not if the loved one decides to take the bullet for them. Which seems to me like trying to give the stronger of the pair a chance to come back so they can win and split the money. Duels to get back in the game will actually have three people playing after the first week, and then partners have the opportunity to swap after they’ve seen what the challenge is, giving each pair a chance to put in the more skilled player. Then the winner of the challenge is able to give any player a clue to a hidden immunity idol. You need a scorecard to keep track of all this, and it sounds utterly, overly complicated and detrimental to the game.
Probst says they will also screw with the players’ heads at the beginning by letting the pairs all spend the night alone in the jungle so they will think they’re playing as a pair and then will split them up on the first official day of the game, creating the Blood versus Water tribes … or whatever silly names they give them. It all just sounds like they’ve run out of ideas and contestants, but on the plus side they didn’t just cast a bunch of pretty waiters and wanna-be actors off of Hollywood Boulevard like they have in the past. But I am just tired of seeing the same people coming back time and time again. The pairs idea could have been a good one with completely new people, but with the likes of Colton and Rupert in the mix, I just have no desire to schedule this season on my DVR. Heck, even The Amazing Race is going with all-new teams this season, and Big Brother didn’t have any returning cast members this summer either.
Why does Survivor — and showrunner Jeff Probst — feel the need to keep going back to that well? Do they not trust the strength of the game any more? Are familiar faces now more important than the game? It’s no longer a real social experiment when you have a group of people who have done this before. All it is now is a competition to win money amongst people who pretty much know each other either through personal relationships or from seeing them play the game on TV. I enjoy watching the tribe members try to feel each other out, form alliances, screw over their alliances, and play physically and strategically to get to the end. But you don’t really get all that with seasoned players. Survivor has come a long way in 13 years, with some changes for the good and some for the worst. Season 27 is about as far away from season 1 as you can possibly get, and for the first time I am going to have to say goodbye to a show that has, in hindsight, been pushing me away now for several seasons. Maybe we just need a little time away from each other and season 28 will get back to basics. One can only hope, right?