“We made enemies with everybody.” Survivor: Ghost Island March 14, 2018 recap

14 Mar

Domenick and Wendell had a rough tribal council. Their ally Morgan is gone, Chris and Angela are not happy about the coup attempt against them, and everyone else is an ex-member of the orange tribe. But there is one bright spot: Domenick reveals to Wendell that he has a real idol.

And another morale boost comes when Domenick checks his bag to find the legacy advantage that Morgan willed to him. He can’t use it until the round of 13 which is four votes from now, but it’s something. Maybe he can “reverse the curse,” though given that the two players from this season who have touched the advantage so far are Jacob and Morgan, the curse is obviously still going strong as of now!

The reward challenge is a perennial winner: a team of two tries to transport an inner tube to their goal while the other team does its best to tackle them and wrest it away. Jeff Probst reveals that in addition to the food reward, the winning tribe gets to send one of their opposite numbers to Ghost Island, and unlike in prior episodes, the person will be back for tribal council.

One person on the Orange tribe has to sit out, and we hear Chelsea say “I’m sitting,” marking the first words she’s been heard to say this entire season!

The purple tribe wins the reward challenge fairly easily: Chris and Wendell use a give-and-go to get the first point, and a couple of the others are won thanks to Laurel who we see is very athletic.

With no group consensus among Purple as to who should go to Ghost Island (we might not see a consensus the rest of the season), there is a rock draw and Kellyn is the lucky one.

You might recall that the last two Ghost Island visitors, Donathan and Chris, did not get the chance to play a game to win an advantage. Kellyn does, but the stakes would be the same as the ones Jacob faced: if you win the game of chance you get an advantage, but if you lose, you don’t have a vote at the next tribal council. As discussed a couple of posts ago, Jacob wasn’t risking too much since the first couple of votes of the season are rarely close. But for Kellyn it’s a different story: her group has a 5-4 majority so losing one vote would be critical. She decides she can’t risk it.

On the purple tribe, Chris and Angela want to join the ex-orangers to take out Domenick or Wendell. However, Laurel and Donathan like Wendell, and come to the same conclusion others on this season have come to: they don’t want Chris calling the shots. By the way, Laurel tells us that she went to Yale and played Division I sports (a web search reveals she was a volleyball player). It’s not too surprising given her challenge performance.

Also, Domenick reveals to Laurel that he has an idol. “You did lie to us,” she says good-naturedly. And he has the perfect response: hey, “it’s an idol.” Any true gamer has to understand that.

It’s Day 12, and time for a challenge that ends with having to toss volleyballs up onto a sort of gutter (a final phase that was also used in Millennials vs. Gen X). Desiree announces she’s the one to sit out this challenge. Which reminds me: I’ve joked about Chelsea being invisible, but Desiree pretty much has been as well ever since she did the puzzle in the first 10 minutes of the first episode.

Orange has a huge lead, and all Sebastian and Brendan have to do is lay up their balls and it’s an easy win. But this is obviously harder than it looks. The purple tribe comes from way behind to catch up and win, with Chris and Wendell doing the shooting. When Probst declares the win, everyone piles on top of Chris like a national championship has just been won.

So the orange tribe needs to figure out whom to vote out. There’s a 5-4 majority of the old purple tribe, and Kellyn is very glad she didn’t risk losing her vote earlier.

We see Bradley leading the discussions. All we knew about him before was that he complains a lot, now we see that he’s also arrogant and could well be the season’s villain. We also actually hear multiple consecutive sentences from Chelsea, at the 40 minute mark of the fourth hour. And I’m starting to see why we never hear from Chelsea, Bradley, and Desiree: they’re a bit boring and a bit annoying!

Brendan and Michael at least have the idol that Michael found. And it’s lucky it was Michael, because he’s the only guy big enough to wear such a huge idol on his person unobtrusively! It’s in his back waistband under his sportcoat. They let Stephanie and Jenna know about the idol, and they resolve to put all four of their votes on Bradley.

We go to tribal council, and now everyone has been to one except Chris. Michael says someone has to be on the bottom of the 5-person alliance, and Sebastian and Chelsea are those two, with Bradley the ringleader according to Michael.

And then Michael smoothy delivers his prepared announcement. He shows James’ idol from Survivor: China and announces that since James was voted out with two idols, this one has the power to keep two people safe (apparently nobody questions that assertion). He also announces that his alliance’s four votes will all be on Bradley. Michael is amazingly eloquent. If he really is a real estate agent I’m sure he’s great at it.

It’s time to vote, and Stephanie writes Bradley’s name, whispering “I have never in my life heard a grown man who whines and complains as much as you.”

Michael whispers to Brendan that he’s getting the vibe that the vote is for Stephanie. When it’s time to play idols, Michael walks up to Probst and while reading everyone’s expressions, announces he’s playing his idol for himself and Brendan. We have seen these reads work before, most recently for Joe last season. But Michael doesn’t notice what we are shown: Bradley looking very worried at that announcement. That should have been a sign to stand pat with protecting one of the guys. But Michael says no, he’ll play it for Stephanie instead.

We see four votes for Bradley right off the bat, but alas all the rest are for Brendan.

Brendan’s parting words show us he’s a very good sport. I thought he might get further in the game but I didn’t think he’d win — the athletic-looking obvious leader types never seem to win anymore like they did in the early seasons.

Time for my first full ranking of the year.

contenders: 1. Stephanie, 2. Laurel, 3. Domenick, 4. Michael, 5. Wendell, 6. Chris, 7. Libby

not sure: Desiree, Kellyn, Jenna, Bradley, James, Sebastian, Angela, Chelsea

no chance: Donathan


“Don’t trust the cute blonde.” Survivor: Ghost Island March 7, 2018 recap

9 Mar

It’s Day 7, and Jeff Probst asks the two tribes if they have a good feeling about their respective groups. Of course, the only time he ever asks such a thing is when he’s about to announce a tribe swap, which he does now. The new lineups are as follows:

Purple still: Dominick, Chris, Angela, Wendell, Morgan

Purple, used to be orange: Donathan, Libby, Laurel, James

Orange still: Jenna, Stephanie, Brendan, Michael

Orange, used to be purple: Desiree, Sebastian, Kellyn, Bradley, and someone named Chelsea who I would swear was not there in the first episode.

Some of these players had no significant role last week, so we get to know them for the first time here (other than the aforementioned Chelsea who is as invisible for the rest of this episode as she was in the prior episode, assuming she was on that first show at all). Angela is a woman in her thirties (or forties?) who tells us she served two tours in the military. Kellyn was seen briefly in the prior episode but not in my recap — she told us that she didn’t like the way her life was going so she got divorced and went on Survivor, among other things.

Lastly, dark-haired Bradley has been on screen a few times but hasn’t shown us much to date. Now we do hear from him once he arrives at his new tribe’s beach, but the only thing he says is that their beach sucks, and he says it a couple of times.

Cut to Chris, who is worried. True, his old tribe is in the majority in his new group, but three of those people are Domenick, Wendell, and Morgan, none of whom he had a great connection with. Chris tells Angela that Domenick has an immunity idol and that they need to blindside him, though Angela bristles at being given orders. Then Chris goes on to tell James and Libby about the idol too!

On the orange tribe, Jenna, Stephanie, Brendan, and Michael are all panicking to varying degrees about being in the minority. They all go looking for an idol, and Michael finds one.

In keeping with the season’s theme, the idol Michael finds is one of James’ two idols that he had when it was voted out of Survivor: China. This might be the most distinctive idol in Survivor history, it’s the square logo that was on the arch leading into his tribe’s camp. We see a flashback to him popping it off, with glimpses of other memorable cast members from that great season: Todd, Courtney, Denise the (putative) lunch lady, and (sigh) Amanda. But let’s stay on topic here.

Back on the purple tribe, Morgan and Domenick are getting a bad vibe from Chris, but Morgan gets great vibes from her new tribemate Libby, and the girls bond over both being Catholic.

The challenge is fairly standard Survivor fare, ending with a puzzle which Bradley and Kellyn do much faster for the orange tribe than Wendell and Laurel do for purple. So purple is going to tribe council, and we see Stephanie looking super-relieved as she could well have been the one to go home.

We’re only at the 31-minute mark of the episode, so obviously much more is due to happen, right? First up is the Ghost Island selection by Orange. There will certainly be junctures in this game when people will vie to send an ally to Ghost Island to keep him safe and allow him to potentially gain an advantage, but at this juncture every person’s vote at Tribal Council is critical, so each group wants to have someone from the rival group be prevented from participating. By the way, Probst reveals new information he didn’t mention last week: the choice of whom to send to Ghost Island must be unanimous, or the person is determined by random rock draw. Orange is understandably not unanimous, so rocks are drawn and Chris is the one to go. We see a shot of Angela, as this is bad for her. But it should make for an interesting vote, since the numbers will be 4-4 going into that vote.

Chris smashes the appropriate urn at Ghost Island to find out he won’t have a chance to win an advantage. Soon he breaks down and cries on camera, and tells us he wants to win for his mother, who has had multiple sclerosis since before he was born.

At camp, Angela tells Wendell she just can’t vote for an original purple tribe member, and will go to a rock draw for a tie vote if need be. Wendell has no such reservations, and in fact he wants to vote out Angela.

Domenick isn’t done maneuvering. To recap: he has a real idol, he made a fake, he told Chris he didn‘t have an idol, then he told Chris he did have one but showed him the fake. Now, Domenick shows James, Libby, and Laurel the fake idol and tells them it’s fake, to show his sincerity. James has the same reaction Chris did last week: something’s fishy here. James, Libby, and Laurel are skeptical of Domenick, so they lean more toward siding with Chris and Angela. If Domenick is voting for Angela as he says, that means James, Libby, and Laurel can decide who goes home: either Domenick or his two allies Wendell and Morgan. Since Domenick maybe/probably has a real idol, it should be Wendell or Morgan, says James. But Laurel says they need Wendell (presumably for strength in challenges) and as noted earlier, Libby trusts Morgan. What to do?

By the way: James compares Domenick to Russell Hantz. Not that I find that comparison all that apt, but since it used to be that every season had someone be compared to Russell, it’s nice to see that mini-tradition revived.

Let’s be honest, nothing too exciting happened this episode. And there was definitely nothing exciting at Tribal Council. Except perhaps the vote result itself. It seems to be clear that Angela is on her way out, and gets 3 of the first 4 votes, but then we hear four votes for Morgan and Morgan is out!

In retrospect it makes sense, but the move was not telegraphed by featuring Morgan heavily in the episode.

Now, the camera lingers on Libby like she’s Benedict Arnold and Judas rolled into one, but really it makes more sense that she stuck with James and Laurel for now. Morgan is a good sport, but she does say “Don’t trust the cute blonde” on the way out.

The Morgan votes were: James, Laurel, Libby, and Donathan, whom both I and the show had completely forgotten about.

The Angela votes were Wendell, Domenick, and Morgan, and the Libby vote was by Angela.

The players are done, but there’s one thing left for us viewers: to see who Morgan is going to will her Legacy Advantage to. It’s Domenick, who Morgan says was always honest with her. Domenick can’t use it until the round of 13 and there are 17 players left right now, so we’ll see if he lasts long enough to make it an issue.



“It’s a fugazi.” Survivor: Ghost Island February 28, 2018 Season Premiere Recap

3 Mar

We begin with flashbacks to mistakes from prior seasons. Erik giving up his immunity to Natalie in Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites. From Millennials vs. Gen X, Jay playing an idol not knowing it was a fake made by David. James being voted out despite having two idols  in Survivor: China. From Survivor: Game Changers, Sierra telling Sarah about her legacy advantage.

The location of this new season is Fiji (again), and the season is Survivor: Ghost Island. But wait, there’s one more flashback: to Eliza telling Jason that his idol is “a (bleeping) stick” and therefore fake, also from the aforementioned Fans vs. Favorites.

As for the current players, this time we don’t hear any pregame bragging while the camera shows them riding in a truck or boat in silence. Instead, there are no such close-ups and nobody is heard from until their feet hit the beach, everyone already wearing tribe colors. Probst wastes no time asking them to pick captains for their first challenge. The orange tribe picks Brendan, a lean and muscular PE teacher who surely must be ex-military. The purple tribe picks tall, blonde Chris, who we later find out is a male model.

Probst tells them that both tribes will get much less rice to start out than was the case in any previous season. The winners get a shelter building kit, the losers don’t, nor do the losers get fishing gear. However there’s a twist: if one captain thinks his tribe will not win, he can forfeit in the middle of the challenge and keep the fishing gear, but he can only do so before the sand in an hourglass runs out.

The captains choose one teammate each for the physical portion and the puzzle. On the physical part, orange is represented by Michael, a beefy, bearded young guy sort of like the actor Chris Pratt. Purple is represented by the shorter, leaner Sebastian. Soon both are exhausted, especially Michael.

The puzzle pits Laurel, a young black woman who we later hear is a financial consultant, against Desiree, a somewhat older black woman with short blonde hair who tells us viewers that despite appearances, she’s actually not good at puzzles. There are some tense moments as the captains look back and forth to the two puzzles as the hourglass sand runs down. At the last second Chris forfeits, surprisingly. It didn’t look like Desiree was that far behind, or if she was the producers did a poor job of showing it.

Probst asks if anyone questions Chris’ decision and understandably, nobody wants to make waves just minutes into the game … except Domenick, a loudmouth type from somewhere in the Northeast.

The tribes go to their camps and the orange tribe has a meet-and-greet. Michael tells his tribemates that he’s 23 and a real estate agent in LA. Then he tells us viewers that he’s really 18. He doesn’t want to say his real age “because it just kills credibility right off the bat.”

There’s another fellow who earlier was heard speaking some language vaguely resembling English. Turns out his name is Donathan, he and his thick accent are from Eastern Kentucky, and he tells us he’s never had the chance to be around a diverse group of people before. Mind you, he’s gay, but he indicates that that’s a moot point since Eastern Kentucky has no other gay men. I wonder if he was cast as a designated “Lauren from Heroes/Healers/Hustlers type.”

On the purple tribe, Domenick is acting domineering and looking like a candidate to be the first voted out. And Chris and Sebastian bond immediately over their shared knowledge of the Florida Keys (odd, but whatever). They are both already talking about targeting Domenick.

Then we meet Jacob who looks like a nerdier version of a young Jerry Garcia. He puts his shoes down at the edge of the water and they’re immediately washed away into the ocean. He figures he and Donathan, as the least athletic guys, will be targeted right away. Jacob muses aloud to the others whether an idol might already be in the game. Then moments later (or at least it’s edited that way) he announces that he’s “going exploring” and heads off into the woods! And this despite supposedly being a student of the game who has watched every season! Somehow 35 seasons were not enough for him to pick up that you don’t draw attention to yourself early on if at all possible. Later, he’s alone at camp and decides to check the rice for a clue by pouring it into his dirty sock and back again. Yuck.

Back on the purple tribe Domenick bonds with Wendell, a young black man who’s an Ivy league law student turned furniture designer. Sebastian tells Wendell that Domenick is who he’s targeting, and Wendell passes the news on to Domenick.

It’s immunity challenge time (this is the first half of a two-hour episode) and Probst announces that someone from the losing tribe has to go to … Ghost Island. The challenge involves each group joining together to tug wheelbarrows filled with blocks that look tremendously heavy, then arranging the blocks into a puzzle. The purple tribe wins.

Now we learn more about Ghost Island. Unlike the Exile Island of years past, whoever goes to Ghost Island stays past tribal council, and therefore cannot be voted out. The purple tribe chooses Jacob, who moments earlier was voicing some blustery bravado.

Ghost Island has an interesting feature: what amounts to a museum exhibit of all of Probst’s torch-snuffers from prior seasons. Jacob sees a row of small urns and a sign “smash the urn.” The note tells him he can choose to play a game of chance. If he wins, he gets an advantage in the game. If he loses, he doesn’t get a vote at the next tribal council.

To me, this is a clear-cut choice, at least in week one. If someone’s in danger of being voted out in the first couple of weeks, it’s very seldom by a one-vote margin, and the upside of an advantage could be tremendous.

Jacob does indeed decide to try the game and chooses correctly in the game to win … not just a legacy advantage, but the legacy advantage from Game Changers mentioned above, complete with Sierra’s and Sarah’s signatures on it! Hardcore fan Jacob knows all about that advantage, but an accompanying note tells the whole Sierra/Sarah story just in case, and we see a flashback. Has Survivor ever used flashbacks to prior seasons before? They’re par for the course in, say, Real Housewives, but not in this game.

The bad news is, to “restore the power” of the legacy advantage, Jacob must will it to someone on the other tribe. He picks Morgan, a chatty young woman who we’ve only seen glimpses of thus far.

Jacob being gone, the orange tribe has to pick someone to vote out. Donathan understandably wants to make someone else a target, so he campaigns against one Stephanie Gonzalez, a hard-charging type who announced earlier in the show that one could simply call her Gonzalez. Perhaps this was at the producers’ urging since there is another Stephanie on the season.

The second Stephanie is a brunette who looks like the actress Robin Tunney who was on The Mentalist and Prison Break. She gets together with a couple of other women to debate whether to vote for Donathan or Gonzalez. Donathan’s campaign centered on the accusation that Gonzalez didn’t let others speak while the team did the puzzle. I doubt that the ladies are using that as one of their main criteria — more likely they are considering voting Gonzalez out because she’s a threat to them.

I, the viewer, am already pretty sick of Gonzalez by this point. She boasts nonstop and trashes others. At tribal council when it’s time to vote, Gonzalez announces she needs another minute, stands up, and goes around whispering in people’s ears asking who they’re going to vote for! And it looks like she asks everyone but Donathan. Probst loves this move, which is incredibly aggressive for the very first tribal council.

When the votes are read, all the votes but one are for … Gonzalez! And if she has parting thoughts, the producers don’t share them with us, which is fine with me.

We cut to the other tribe. While everyone sleeps in the middle of the night, Domenick stands over them, Tony-like. He knows that Chris and Sebastian are gunning for him, so he goes to search for a hidden immunity idol. Despite it being pitch dark, he somehow finds one, though it’s so dark he can’t even read the note!

Like the advantage Jacob found earlier, this is a piece of Survivor memorabilia, namely the idol Andrea had in her pocket when she was voted out of Caramoan aka Fans vs. Favorites II. Flashbacks are shown. And by the way, though that was a gaffe, the scene begins with a much bigger gaffe, as it was Erik who found the idol yet inexplicably just handed it to Andrea! Poor Erik is looking stupid for the second time in just over an hour.

Shortly thereafter, Morgan looks in her bag and is surprised to find the advantage willed to her by Jacob. The same rule is attached that applied to Sierra: the advantage can only be used at the round of 13 or the round of 6.

Jacob has to head back to camp shortly, so he has to decide if he’s going to tell his teammates about the advantage. The answer is no. But he is going to tell them that … he has an idol! And to back this up, he’s going to make a fake one! This has got to be the first fake idol ever made on the first episode of a season.

When Jacob gets back to camp he tells his story, but Brendan immediately asks if there was a note with it. Jacob has an excuse for it being missing, and soon Brendan tells the others he thinks the idol’s fake.

Back on the purple tribe, Domenick wants to get out of Chris’ crosshairs so he tries to bury the hatchet and suggests they form an alliance. Chris asks him if he has an idol, and Domenick scoffs at the idea. But soon thereafter Domenick wanders off to make … a fake idol! I kid you not. He then goes and gets Chris, to whom he just swore he had no idol, and shows it to him, along with the real note from his real idol. That part is genius, because Chris is so intent on reading the note he doesn’t inspect the “idol” very closely. Domenick tells us, “It’s a fugazi.”

Now, this is season 36, and I’m pretty sure it has not yet happened one single time that a Survivor has used a word I’d never heard before. But by golly it happened here: fugazi. I scurried to my unabridged Webster’s Third only to find no sign of this word, but online sources tell me a fugazi is a fake.

But we next see Chris using a different f-word, namely fishy. He doesn’t know quite what Domenick is pulling, but he knows he’s pulling something.

Back to Domenick’s maneuver: I think this might be the first time someone who has a real idol has ever then announced he or she has an idol and used a fake. After all, a fake has the same downside as a real idol, namely that people who think you have it will perceive you as a threat. Ben from last season may not have been an all-time great Survivor player, but the simple understanding that idols should be kept secret served him very, very well.

One of the phases of the immunity challenge involves two players swimming a few feet and diving to release some volleyballs from an underground cage. Handling this phase for orange are Donathan as well as James, a fit-looking Asian who we haven’t seen much of yet. They’re not exactly a dream team: Donathan flounders and swims to the opposite platform, while James tries a few times but can’t get close, whether from exhaustion or from lack of swimming ability. So he treads water helplessly. Their teammates can’t substitute, and they see that James isn’t going anywhere, so all they can do is beg Donathan, who barely tried it before, to at least give it a shot. He just says he can’t do it. They keep imploring him over and over and over, for what seems like a solid five minutes of the show. So finally he is shamed into giving it a try, and guess what, he accomplishes the task right away. However, while all that went on, Purple was building a big lead, and they win easily.

The purple team had discussed previously that the best Ghost Island strategy would seem to be sending the weakest performer possible from the other team. After all, that ensures that whoever is voted out will be someone other than the weakest, which is always good. They quickly choose Donathan and Jacob is crushed that it wasn’t him! However Jacob, not short on bluster, tells us that he will soon use his fake idol “to try to take control of the game.”

Donathan will have no such luck, at least for now. He smashes an urn on Ghost Island but the note says “Nope. Not today. No game for you.” (Don’t quit your day job to become a copywriter, Probst.) He burns the note. Donathan is mighty proud of his challenge performance. He’s a likable dude who must have had some traumatic event in his childhood, I’m guessing.

There is much strategizing back at camp, and by this point in the episode, nothing can be shown without also showing Stephanie’s reaction. We soon see her conferring with Brendan and Michael. Brendan wants to vote out Jacob, but still put some votes on James to allow for the possibility that Jacob’s idol is real. But their plan would of course have an even better chance if Jacob could be made comfortable and tricked into not playing an idol.

So Stephanie takes him on a walk, butters him up, and gives him attention. We superfans have to stick together, she says. So he immediately thinks he’s got an alliance, which I guess isn’t bad. But then we get to the part that is really bad: he tells her the idol isn’t real. And if that’s not enough, he tells her that Morgan now has a legacy advantage. Oh, Jacob. This is straight out of a high school movie in which the nerd lets the cheerleader copy his answers to the test. So painful to watch.

However, Stephanie has something new to think about now. Is someone who blindly trusts you someone you can afford to get rid of, or is it better to keep him around? She talks it through with Jenna, a tall blonde who says she and Stephanie hit it off from the start. Jacob had said he could get James and Laurel to vote with him, so do we have a coalition forming here?

The guess I wrote down before tribal council was: this is a fake-out (a fugazi?) and Jacob is going home.

At tribal council, the focus is squarely on Jacob. By the way, I have mentioned every member of the tribe up to now except for a pretty blonde named Libby, whose name I had to look up since it isn’t mentioned on the whole show, nor do I recall her saying one thing over the course of these two hours. And she keeps that streak intact at this tribal council.

As the first person gets up to vote, we see Brendan, whose intuition has been incredible so far, whisper to Michael, “I think we’re getting set up.”

When Probst asks if anyone wants to play an idol, Jacob sits tight, despite having mentioned to his tribemates that he was going to play it no matter what. The neurotic fellow is voted out, with some votes going to James as originally planned.

So we’ve seen the last of Jacob … unless we see him joining my ranking of the worst Survivor players of all time. But that call will be made after the season.

For now, tradition dictates that I need to name an early favorite. Based on sheer camera time, as well as more than a little skill shown, I’m going with Stephanie.




Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers Final Thoughts

27 Dec

This will not go down in history as one of the great Survivor seasons, though it had its moments in the latter portion. Ben was certainly a worthy winner, but it’s a shame that his keys to victory and most memorable moments all involved idols or twists. He was neither a great challenge competitor nor did he have a great social game, but he outworked anyone else and was the only one able to keep a secret.

Good things about the season:

1) Some of the new twists livened up the game, like the clue hidden under the spaghetti or the ability to save a vote for a later tribal council.

2) Everyone who got close to the end was there to play hard and try to win the game. Nobody was riding anyone else’s coattails this season.

Bad things about the season:

1) Most of the idols and advantages were misplayed, and a couple of players misplayed more than one! Lauren managed to get herself voted out despite having an idol and an extra vote. Mike squandered a secret idol he could have used to deadly effect late in the game, and threw a half-idol in the fire for no other reason than to try to create a memorable TV moment.

2) Four of the first five episodes were pretty dull.

Feel free to follow this link to see if Ben cracked my best players of all time list.

Sorry, this year’s most successful alliance, Chrissy and Ryan, did not make my best alliances of all time list.

And while Alan was crazy and Mike made horrendous moves, those two were superstars compared to the players who made my list of the worst of all time.

You can check out my full rankings of the seasons here.

“To give you something to sleep on, there’s a twist.” Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers December 20 2017 Season Finale recap

26 Dec

Immediately after everyone gets back from tribal council, Ben heads off into the night to look for another hidden immunity idol. Since idols can be played until the final five, he’s banking that one is being put back in the game. Everyone else goes  to bed shortly, but not Ben, who tells us, “This is a mission … this is a job.” At daybreak he can’t stay awake anymore, but just when he starts to lie down to sleep, he sees a sign that says “dig,” and within moments he has found his third idol of the season.

In the morning Chrissy asks Ben “can we be friends again?” I figure this is a calculated move to try and get his jury vote, since she no doubt assumes Ben will be voted out next. I was right about the calculated move part, but Chrissy tells us it’s to get Ben to take her to the final four in case he wins immunity. But Ben tells us “it ain’t gonna work at all.”

At the challenge Jeff Probst hypes a brand-new puzzle, involving up lining balls with matching colors, as if it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but there’s little drama in what turns into a Chrissy win, and we’re reminded that Ben, Devon, Mike, and Ryan have zero individual immunity wins between them (Chrissy won two previous ones, and the others were won by now-jury members Desi, Cole, and Lauren).

The challenge also comes with a reward, and Chrissy chooses Mike and Devon to join her on the feast. Mike gets the idea that an idol could be hidden at the feast (good thought) but then insists that the three of them jointly search for it (bad thought).

Chrissy has an idea: they can take her necklace from way back in the first episode, which lost its power after that episode, and tell Ben it’s an idol that they’ve just found. Ryan still has the instruction sheet from the idol he used to have in his pants, lending credence to the story.

Back at camp this is shown to Ben and he checks the necklace and the instructions. He plays along, but as he walks away he has a good chuckle — he knows the idol can’t be real since he just found the real one (and of course, any idol Chrissy would have had in prior weeks would have been played by now). Also, this has done Ben a favor — now he doesn’t have to put up a pretense of going out to search for an idol. By the way, Ben does a hilarious Chrissy impersonation as he recounts their conversation to us viewers.

So whom is Ben going to target? Chrissy is immune, and Ben dismisses Ryan as a threat. So is it Devon or Mike? Mike has been decent at challenges and puzzles so far.

Speaking of Devon, he’s suspicious that Ben isn’t trying harder at the moment for someone who is doomed to be voted out. Surely Ben can’t have an idol, but Devon contemplates casting his vote for Mike just in case. The downside could be that Mike could become mad at Devon and not  want to take him to the final three.

Tribal council is pretty straightforward, but we do see a shot of Devon with a suspicious look in his eye.

The votes are cast, and Jeff asks if anyone wants to play an immunity idol. Chrissy arrogantly asks if anyone wants the one she’s holding. And then Ben pulls out his boot and whips out the real idol, making the same “explosion” noise he made last episode. And for good measure, he pulls out the fake idol he made previously and puts it around his neck, just to match Chrissy as it were.

The votes are read, and we see the expected votes for Ben that now do not count. There is a vote for Devon … and a vote for Mike! So we have a 1-1 tie. Mike asks Devon if he wrote his name down, and Devon says yes.

There’s a re-vote and Devon and Mike cannot vote. Surprisingly, the vote is 2-1 for Mike, who leaves the game. Before the remaining players file out, Probst tells them “Just to give you something to sleep on, there’s a twist.”

In Mike’s parting words he tells us he would have won if he’d been at the finals. Chrissy and Ryan, the two who voted for him, obviously agree. I will take their word for that obviously since they’re the ones playing the game, but I will say that a Mike win would have been a complete travesty. He’s a likeable fellow but he made some horrible game decisions.

We then cut to the CBS studio where Probst interviews Mike in front of a live audience. I hate it when they this cut back and forth to live content, but won’t belabor the point here!

When the remaining four players return to camp, Devon tells Ben that Ben’s vote was the first one Devon has received all game, which is impressive.

Time for the climactic final immunity challenge. Probst announces that whoever wins the challenge will also get the final secret advantage of the game.

The challenge is to set up blocks spelling out HEROES HEALERS HUSTLERS on a very wobbly platform. The platform can be locked in place using a foot pedal when it’s time to run back to get more puzzle pieces, but even the act of locking can make the platform wobble a tiny bit.

By the way, I find that all of a sudden I’m cheering for Ben to win the game. Up to now I haven’t been a fan at all, mainly because the producers are such obvious fans and can’t lay on his “American hero” storyline thick enough. I guess my sudden rooting interest comes from Ben having been everyone’s prime target for weeks on end, combined with Devon showing  a somewhat more villainous side over the last couple of weeks.

Ben has all three of the puzzle words in place. Can he lock the platform without them falling over? Yes! But as we viewers were shown a few moments previously in a closeup, the U in HUSTLERS is upside-down. Probst takes a look and says the challenge isn’t over. Ben just has to unlock and flip one letter, but he panics a bit and almost all of his letters come crashing to the ground!

Then the other three players lose all or almost all of their respective blocks. Then Ben has all three words again and drops them. Finally Chrissy gets them right and wins her fourth individual immunity.

In private, Chrissy reads the secret advantage. It says she will be casting the only vote at tribal council, and that will be a vote to choose which of the other three joins her in the final three. Then the other two players have to compete in a fire-making challenge, with the winner getting the third and last spot in the finals.

Of course Chrissy wants someone to beat Ben, and she quickly tells us she doesn’t think Ryan has ever made a fire in his life. That means Devon is the obvious choice to compete against Ben. She tells Devon about the twist so he can practice before tribal council, and she also tells Ryan. Devon goes off to practice but soon his flint breaks, so much for that!

When we get to the actual challenge, alas Devon never gets any kind of flame going and Ben has a raging fire before too long, keeping him in the game (which he certainly would have left without this twist).

So the final three has Ben going against Chrissy and Ryan, whom I identified in my last post at the two biggest goats. Surely this is going to be a blowout win for Ben?

Before the players leave for the final council, Ryan lets us know he wants to persuade everyone that he was controlling the whole game, though he admits “that’s a complete lie.”

The final episode is a two-hour show as usual, and final tribal council starts at the 1:51 mark, then after Probst’s preamble and a commercial we’re at the 1:57 mark! So anyone who set the DVR to only record the episode and not the one-hour reunion show was in for an unpleasant surprise.

Tribal council has the same roundtable-type format as the prior season did. One interesting result of this comes when Ryan makes some claims that involve him and Devon and the jury asks fellow juror Devon if he can confirm them, which he does.

Early on, Joe says Ryan is the only one of the three who had a social game. Ryan is surprisingly impressive at tribal council. He points out that he was at 13 of the 15 tribal councils, yet was never on the chopping block. I think if he steals a vote it will be from Chrissy rather than Ben.

Meanwhile, Ashley is heaping praise on Chrissy. Desi not so much, she asks the same question we viewers have been asking for weeks: why did nobody shadow Ben when he went off to search for idols?

20 minutes into the “reunion show,” we get to the vote. Lauren votes for Ben. Devon votes for Ryan. Ashley votes for Chrissy. Surely the latter two are the only votes for Ryan and Chrissy?

At the 24 minute mark of the reunion show, the votes are read. The winner is … Ben! He got five votes from the eight-person jury. Ryan got Devon’s vote as noted above, and Chrissy got two (in addition to Ashley’s, it’s later revealed that her second vote came from Mike).

Ben hugs his family as you’d expect, but there’s another emotional moment soon after as a few of Ben’s old Marine buddies take the stage. They haven’t seen Ben in twelve years.

Probst jokes that this was intended to be the “season of secrets” with all the many idols and advantages strewn in, but in the actual game everyone kept blabbing out the secrets, except for Ben!

We see a preview of the next season,”Survivor: Ghost Island,” that will have new players somehow reliving bad decisions made in past seasons.

And not too much else happens since the reunion is half the usual length, with hardly anyone outside of the final five heard from at all.  Not that I’m bemoaning that development, as not much of substance ever happens at these reunions anyway. Jeff Probst somehow even resisted the temptation to ask if Cole and Jessica were still a couple.

That end my recap, but I’ll be back with final thoughts on the season.









“Secret, secret, secret!” Survivor Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers December 13, 2017 recap

16 Dec

After everyone gets back from Tribal Council, Ben goes to fetch water, and the other five players are quick to say Ben has to go next. Come daybreak, Ben is up before anyone and goes looking for a hidden immunity idol, to no avail.

The reward challenge is played by teams of two, randomly chosen. The team of Devon and Chrissy wins, and they are allowed to choose one person to join them. They choose Ryan, and Chrissy is quite outraged, and when the others get back to camp we see Mike’s outraged too. And Ben tells us that Mike is his next target, which is strange since Mike seems like a good person to go to the finals with. And Mike is not worried about Ben finding an idol, since Mike has scoured both the beach and the woods and not found it.

At the reward, an overnight stay at a resort, Chrissy proposes a final three alliance between the three of them (herself, Ryan, and Devon) and Devon says he would love it. And why wouldn’t he, since sitting next to those two at the finals seems a best case scenario? More discussion on that at the end of this recap.

Time for the immunity challenge (this is day 36 by the way). The final stage of the puzzle is fitting cogs together to form a machine that will unfurl a flag. Chrissy is the winner.

When everyone gets back to camp, Ben goes to “get water.” The obvious move for the others is to shadow him everywhere to prevent his finding an idol, but oddly nobody does that. Ben tells us “these people are crazy for not followin’ me.”

Ashley suggests the vote be split between Ben and Mike. But when Ashley is gone (but Mike is around), Chrissy tells everyone else to vote Ashley, and says they can take out Ben at a later time. Mike warns that Ben “has a ferocity that transcends this game.” Surprisingly, Devon is one of the people Chrissy is talking to when she proposes ousting Ashley. Chrissy must be really confident in that final three deal they made earlier.

Ben continues to look for the idol, and finally he does find a clue. It says the idol is tied to the underside of the tribe’s shelter! So Ben has to find a way too grab it discreetly while pretty much in plain sight. While everyone else chats about their favorite kinds of bagels, Ben lies on the shelter floor and discreetly gropes around underneath. And all of this very shortly before Tribal Council. We don’t find out whether he has found it.

At tribal council, Devon antagonizes Ben a bit for the second time this episode. Devon has come across as pretty villainous lately!

Then well before it’s time to vote, Ben pulls out his newfound idol and hangs it around his neck. “Secret, secret, secret!” he says in a singsong voice, then makes an “explosion” sound and accompanying hand gesture. Devon expresses doubt that Ben will play the idol, so Ben hands it to Jeff Probst then and there, before the vote. That may be a first in Survivor history!

Ben tells everyone they should vote Mike, but when the votes are read, there is just one vote for Mike and all the rest are for … Ashley. She accepts a hug from Ben on her way out, but declines one from Devon.

Frankly I think this was a good move by everyone — see my last post where I ranked Ashley as the player with the best chance to win the game!

Normally I would say Ben’s early idol hand-in was a bad move since there is no downside to playing the idol after the vote, with the potential upside of getting a vibe that all the votes are going elsewhere in which case one can hold onto one’s idol. But in this case it probably wasn’t a bad move since Ben was the #1 target no matter what. But unanswered is the question of why Ben voted for Ashley after telling everyone he was voting for Mike.

So who should each player be trying to go to the final three with? I would think Devon, Ben, and Mike should all want to go with Chrissy and Ryan. I just can’t envision any of the six already-seated jury members with the exception of J.P. voting for Chrissy — she sparred with Joe and Ashley, she voted to oust Desi, was on the other side of the votes from Lauren, and just doesn’t seem like the type Cole would favor. And I can’t see anyone on the jury being a Ryan fan. Not that Mike has made any effective moves, but he does have three of his former Healers mates on the jury at least. Chrissy‘s path to winning is tough to find — perhaps if she does something amazing between now and the final council and then goes to the end with Ben and Ryan? She could argue that Ryan did the same things as she did but fewer of them, and hope that enough people are mad at Ben. I know I’m reaching a bit here. I guess Ryan‘s best shot would be that same trio and hoping that enough people dislike Chrissy and are mad at Ben. Very long odds.

Contenders: 1. Devon, 2. Ben, 3. Mike, 4. Chrissy, 5. Ryan

No chance: All remaining players have a chance this time.

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Desi (Mike), Cole (Devon), J.P. (Chrissy), Joe (Mike), Lauren (Devon), Ashley (Ben)

“We don’t want idols, we don’t want advantages.” Survivor: Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers December 6, 2017 recap

6 Dec

Ryan now knows Ben is not really with him and Chrissy, by virtue of how the votes turned out. Chrissy tells her former ally Ben he’s “extremely dishonorable … you’re such a jerk, Ben.”

The players’ loved ones are introduced, including Lauren’s sister who — before running over to hug Lauren — runs over to hug Jeff Probst! The loved ones’ introductions go on for so long I figured this must be a slow episode. Boy, was I wrong about that!

Determining who gets to spend time with their loved ones is done by drawing rocks, not particularly exciting. I wonder if they had a whole challenge set up that fell through for some reason?

Since Ryan played an idol last Tribal Council, Ben figures a new one must have been placed in the game. He makes a fake idol to plant somewhere, figuring Chrissy or Ryan will find it and stop looking for the real one. But not long thereafter, Lauren finds an idol clue and alerts Ben. The clue actually has a strap that’s half of an idol, with a note that the shell making up the other half of that idol is going to be at the next immunity challenge!

The challenge is one we’ve seen before, involving pressing two discs at arm’s length against some blocks. Each player has a custom-made station to fit his or her maximum wingspan. “This will hurt,” Probst announces more than once. The shell that’s half of an immunity idol is half-buried in the sand in front of Lauren’s station.

A couple of players’ discs fall to the ground, knocking them out, then Lauren gingerly places her discs on the ground, withdrawing from the competition. “My shoulders are done,” she lies, unable to suppress a smile that nobody seems to see. Then she just picks up the shell. The producers missed an opportunity here, that was way too easy!

It comes down to Devon and Ashley, and Devon negotiates a neck massage in return for dropping out of the challenge.

Ashley has immunity, but she continues to worry about not having big moves to her credit, so she revives the plan to oust Ben that was discussed but not implemented last time. Devon isn’t totally against it but says Chrissy should go before Ben. The two of them and Lauren carelessly discuss it by the well, not noticing that Ben is coming. I have decided I need to tally the dumb moves in this episode so I will call this Ashley, Lauren, and Devon Dumb Move #1. They also compound it by falling completely silent when Ben comes around the corner. Sloppy!

Ben is very suspicious. Soon, he asks Mike if he’d like to make a big move, and he tells Mike about Lauren’s idol. The problem is, to get enough votes against Lauren they need Chrissy, who hates Ben right now. Ben tells Chrissy about both Lauren’s idol and Lauren’s extra vote advantage, saying Lauren has too much power. “We’re back in this together,” he tells Chrissy.

However, Chrissy tells Mike she is still leaning toward voting for Ben. So Mike says he needs a Plan B. So Mike tells Ashley that Ben told Chrissy everything.

Ashley: “What did he tell her?”

Mike: “Things you haven’t told me! Idols, advantages …”

Mike goes on to tell Ashley and Devon that Lauren is the target. Then Lauren gives Mike half of her idol as a sign of trust. Yes, you read that right. I am going to call this Lauren Dumb Move #2. Mike immediately tells us it’s the stupidest move in Survivor history.

At Tribal Council, Devon lists his allies without mentioning Ben, and Ashley and Lauren waste no time attacking Ben. Wow, this went sour quick!

And then, for whatever reason, Lauren reveals that she needs to have the extra vote advantage with her to use it, and she intentionally left it back at camp (Lauren Dumb Move #3)! “Do whatever y’all feel the need to do,” she says. And she tells about Ben’s fake idol plan. Ben takes the fake idol out of his pocket and hangs it around his neck.

The Mike says, “I’ve wanted to do this for, like, 15 years,” and throws the half-idol shell Lauren gave him into the fire (Mike Dumb Move #1, at least). He has a dopey grin on his face afterwards. Mike isn’t reluctant to make splashy moves but all of them are horrible splashy moves!

Probst observes, “It’s interesting that you guys have decided ‘I don’t want idols, I don’t want advantages.'”

Regarding the extra vote advantage, Lauren tells Chrissy “Do you want it? You can have it.” Oo-kay. Looks like everyone except Chrissy and Ryan is flat-out self-destructing today.

The conversation comes around to Ben who has revealed everyone else’s secrets consistently. “Who trusts you? No one.” Devon says. Meanwhile Ryan whispers to Mike “We have to keep the vote Lauren.”

More conversations ensue. Some of them are: Devon tells Mike they should get rid of Ben and don’t need the votes of Ryan or Chrissy to do it. And Mike tells Chrissy she should vote Ben, and she says no.

After the votes, Probst says this would be the time to play an idol. Ben says that in addition to his fake one he has a real one, and he plays it.

As it turns out, every vote was for Ben, except of course for Ben’s vote, and he votes Lauren. So none of the Ben votes count, and Lauren is out of the game on the strength of just one vote. Lauren giggles and wears an insipid smile.

I’ve had Lauren on my “no chance to win” list since very early on since I figured she was just too unsophisticated to win. There were times in between when she looked like a mastermind, but ultimately I seem to have been proven right. This episode is one of the worst cases of Survivor self-destruction ever.

And not only did she torpedo her own chances, she could have torpedoed those of Ashley and Devon too. There seems to be a pretty good chance that the other four will now turn against the two of them.

Contenders: 1. Ashley, 2. Devon, 3. Chrissy, 4. Ryan, 5. Ben, 6. Mike

No chance: none

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: Desi (Mike), Cole (Devon), J.P. (Ashley), Joe (Mike), Lauren (Ashley)