Archive | December, 2012

Wrap-ups for Survivor: Philippines

18 Dec

A few loose ends should be tied up here.

Firsts this season: It was the first time one tribe made it to a merge intact, namely the yellow tribe of Lisa, Mike Skupin, RC, Artis, Pete, and Abi-Maria. It was also the first time one person, namely Denise, participated in every single tribal council for a whole season. (And I think Malcolm only missed one.)

Down on Penner: As noted in my last post, I was outraged by the way Penner “outed” Lisa at the final tribal council. But as I review the season, I’m also struck by how Penner really didn’t play that great a game even though he had a couple of moments. He committed three major blunders: wasting a vote in a tribal council where his group could have voted out Pete, not trying to get the challenge bonus in the food auction, and not committing to an alliance with Lisa when she gave him the chance.

Good things about the season:

– The cast was very likable overall.

– Everyone played hard and was trying to win. If you think that’s a given, go watch Nicaragua, One World and South Pacific again and I think you’ll change your mind! There was no player who did nothing but ride people’s coattails this season, either.

– The period following the merge was wild and exciting, particularly in one incredible episode. Lots of players had secrets, whether immunity idols or their celebrity status.

Bad things about the season:

– There was no all-time-great player or character.

– No big moves or blindsides really took place. There were no jaw-dropping twists.

– The challenges were not memorable at all. In fact the only ones that stick out at all were the stalemate where the teams made a deal instead of finishing, and the one where Penner who was sure to go home pulled out a victory (but even for that one I can’t really recall what he did).

– None of the final three were the movers and shakers of the season, and the best player in Malcolm did not win.

Where it ranks: At times this seemed like a top-ten season with a shot at top five. It’s hard to assess it this soon after the fact, but right now I have it just outside the top ten. I have updated my ranking of best alliances (adding Malcolm and Denise) as well as my ranking of the seasons.

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“Don’t nod”: Survivor Philippines Finale

16 Dec

Denise took home the million dollars, which was not that surprising (it had to be her or Malcolm), but there were certainly some unexpected twists along the way.

The episode begins with Skupin and Malcolm having a conversation that for whatever reason is shown in a very art-house black-and-white. It turns out Mike and Malcolm have had a final-three alliance for two weeks (?). And equally surprisingly we find out that Malcolm and Denise had never expressly said they’d go together to the final three. She suggests the idea but he doesn’t want to commit… I have no idea why he didn’t just lie (and neither did Jeff Probst, as we find out at the reunion show).

This gets Denise and Lisa to talking. Lisa says: “Malcolm is the kind of guy that will put his arm around you, stab you, then visit you at the hospital the next day.” He’s also the kind of guy who wins challenges, and his prize for the reward challenge is an unspecified advantage at the immunity challenge. Before we get to that though, it’s time for the fallen comrades tribute. We see long-forgotten contestants like Angie, whose quote “I’m kind of well-rounded” accompanies a shot of her fake boobs. Russell reminds us that his group was the “worst tribe in Survivor history”… hmm, since it ended up contributing two people to the final four, maybe more of the badness came from Russell than he thinks. And Dawson lets us know “I’ll never be the same”… referring not to living in the jungle but to kissing Jeff Probst!

On to the challenge, which takes place on a clearing at the top of a hill with a spectacular vista in the background (I half expected to see Ben and Courtney from The Bachelor having a picnic up there). Now, I do miss the days when the final challenge was a test of nothing but pure endurance. Why did they ever get away from that, since many of those were absolute classics? This one involved holding a wooden rod with a tiny groove in it in which you have to balance a metal ball without having it fall off (it’s mentioned at the reunion show that this was used in Micronesia previously). The setup didn’t look that interesting but there were some very tense sequences when we saw tight closeups of the ball as the players would have it slide a little bit to one side.

It turns out Malcolm’s reward advantage was that he got one do-over at this challenge, i.e. could have his ball fall off once without immediately losing. For one of the season’s top challenge aces to have this in his pocket to boot meant he had the challenge in the bag right? One problem: when it comes to hand-steadiness, he’s right there with the Waco Kid from “Blazing Saddles.” He quickly becomes the first out, even with his advantage, and Denise soon follows. Skupin wins, and Lisa quickly says “We made it together,” just so Mike doesn’t get any odd ideas. Also, we soon hear that this is the third immunity Skupin has won.

Malcolm is ousted at tribal council and becomes the last member of an eight-person jury (I didn’t recall that there had been an even-numbered jury before, but apparently there is a precedent). So it’s on to the final tribal council. As usual based on the speeches you’d think you had three masterminds in front of the jury. Skupin talks about how hard he played from day one when it seemed to me he was low-keying it from day one. Lisa says she “threw a punch that knocked out the heavyweight champion of this season.” But what did she do to knock Malcolm out? It was more his twitchy hand at the challenge along with his failure to fib to Denise than anything Lisa did. In general, Lisa was heard from a lot, both in this episode and the reunion show, and it was the same stuff we’ve heard from her all season. Groan.

Time for questions from the jury. For weeks, one had the feeling that RC and Jeff Kent were working up some doozies, unfortunately the people they would’ve wanted to unload on did not make the finals. Carter looked more stoned than Fabio Birza at a Willie Nelson concert, and Malcolm earned cheers from me by telling Denise “don’t nod!” before asking her a question (the 888,888 times she nodded this season will have to do). I figured Abi Maria would be accorded the final question, but instead it was Penner, who had zingers on tap for each contestant. To Denise: “You shared with me once that the one thing you were sort of afraid of being seen as was a bitch. You can rest assured that you have now shown the world that side.”  (Not sure where that came from, though her speech was perhaps a bit cockier than what I expected). Penner tells Skupin that Mike has not had his name written down once in this game and in that regard “you may find that you have a perfect record even after tonight.”

And now we come to the moment Penner goes too far: he outs Lisa to the jury as a former “Facts of Life” TV star, though not without patting himself on the back for keeping the secret up to that point! To say that was a jerky thing to do was an understatement, and it really casts Penner in a negative light for me. Particularly because I don’t think he even believed his other zingers anyway, but just wanted something to maximize his camera time.

It appears that Denise got six of the eight votes, with Skupin only getting the nod from Carter and RC being the only one to vote for Lisa (no love for her ex-buddy Skupin?). Before the jury vote began I thought Skupin could also get the votes of Penner and RC, and perhaps have a chance with Abi, but it wasn’t to be.

This was the best season we’ve had in a while, but it sort of crawled to the finish line after some slam-bang episodes in the middle part. I’ll be back with some final thoughts soon.

Next “All-Star” group has been revealed… why didn’t they listen to me?

15 Dec

Just last week I put forward my choices for who I’d like to see again if there were another All-Star edition of Survivor.

Now I read that the next season will have a bunch of returnees… and the list does contain a spoiler of sorts, so stop reading now if you wish.

Alas it’s not quite the group I was hoping for. Only one of my suggestions, Brenda, made the cast, yet three people who I dubbed “fun to watch once, but I wouldn’t want to see them again” are back, namely Cochran, Brandon, and Phillip.

Here’s my analysis of the returnees:

Thumbs up:

Brenda, Survivor Nicaragua. For reasons discussed previously.

Corinne from Survivor Gabon. I despised her but this self-described bitch does make a great villain. In fact I had considered her for my list for that reason.

Andrea Boehlke, Survivor Redemption Island. Another one I had considered for my list. She made it almost to the end of her season and was a good character with an expressive face.

Could be OK:

Francesca Hogi, Survivor Redemption Island. Crew-cut black woman who if memory serves was ousted the very first week, but is obviously very smart and has potential.

Malcolm, Survivor Philippines. If he made a second season, does that mean Denise won this season? A very good player, just not a great character, but I admit it could be interesting to see how he does with different tribal chemistry than he had before.

Thumbs down:

Erik Reichenbach, Survivor Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites. This was the ice-cream scooper who made the dumbest move in the history of the game by giving up his immunity to his enemies for reasons hard to fathom to this day. While that was a memorable moment to be sure, I’m not sure he’s a compelling character.

Phillip Sheppard, Survivor Redemption Island. Boston Rob was smart enough to keep Phillip around since it served his purposes to do so. But the fact that Phillip is always in danger of blabbing out some secret strategy at unpredictable times means I doubt anyone else will trust him, and he’s likely to be ousted quickly.

John Cochran, Survivor South Pacific. Overthinks everything and gets credit for being a good player when he really wasn’t. I’m not looking forward to more of his “superfan” shtick.

Brandon Hantz, Survivor South Pacific. Didn’t really play the game per se but just sort of used it as his forum for crises of conscience. The one bright spot would be if he made it to the “loved ones” episode and either his dad or his uncle Russell was the loved one.

Dawn Meehan, Survivor South Pacific. As Barack Obama said to Hillary Clinton, “You’re likable enough.”  Dawn was plucky but that’s all I really remember about her.

 

Survivor vs. Bachelorette Sunday Showdown!

15 Dec

Yes, this Sunday night the finale of Survivor will be on at the same time as the televised wedding of Ashley and J.P.

Sorry, I can’t say I’m torn as to which one to watch. In the slightest. For one thing, I know how the wedding ends already, since it happened last week.

I read that “The guest list included Emily Maynard, Ali Fedotowsky, Michelle Money and Michael Stagliano.” Wow, just what every bride wants, a coterie of attention addicts who will do everything in their power to steal the spotlight. And no, I don‘t just mean the women, Stagliano.

In other news, Entertainment Weekly’s hype of the new Bachelor season begins: “‘If you strapped on a cape and a star on his chest, he’d be Captain America.’ It’s hard to argue with host Chris Harrison’s description of Sean Lowe…”

Er, actually it’s not. Captain America doesn’t wear a cape, and never has!

Of course, a certain blogger made this comparison some seven months ago (or rather the comparison to Cap’s alter ego Steve Rogers.)

Swimming with whale sharks: Survivor Philippines Episode 13

13 Dec

At tribal council this week, Abi started to make an excellent case for why she should be kept around: she can’t win at the finals but Denise can. However, in true Abi fashion she goes a bit too far. “You’re an idiot [for keeping Denise around], that’s why you’re going to lose a million dollars,” she tells Skupin, and in case he missed it the first time she adds, “You’re a moron.”

Undiplomatic as all of that is, she’s right! Skupin and Lisa passed up one great chance to take out Denise the week Penner was voted out and now they do so again as Abi is ousted. Earlier in the episode Malcolm told Skupin and Lisa “nobody beats Denise,” and he might be right (with the possible exception of himself). The one rationale Lisa offers for keeping Denise is that Malcolm is so good at challenges that, she says, only Denise could potentially beat him. Of course, that wouldn’t help Lisa, it would only help Denise! Alas, Lisa’s bright younger brother is not in camp anymore to explain what a smart move would be.

As entertaining as this season has been, I’m ready for it to end now (which it will, next episode) as there are only really two contenders left and the most interesting personalities are gone. A few quick hits:

– Denise on spending a day alone with Abi (as those were the only two who didn’t get the reward): “It’s like the first date with the kid who … spit in your lunch.” Maybe Denise the therapist has some deep-seated issues from her own past that she needs to talk about? I think there are self-help books for women who go on those kinds of dates.

– The three on the reward challenge get to swim with whale sharks. Scary!

– The day of the immunity challenge Denise wakes up with a strange pain and notices she has bite marks, which leads to a quick montage of all of the insects and animals you see in the Philippines, including snakes and scorpions. I don’t plan to go there and if I do, I will make it a point not to sleep on the beach.

– While Abi and Skupin talked strategy in camp, Skupin was spooning a blue substance into his mouth that looked like something out of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There aren’t that many blue foods, period, let alone on a beach…?

– During tribal council jury member Penner is seen “giving the finger” to someone, and we’re made to think it’s Malcolm. It’s not clear what Jonathan’s beef with him might be.

There are now seven jury members, and I assume they wouldn’t even have an even number on the jury to preclude a possible tie, so that means we will have a final two. So I will quickly predict who I think would win in each possible final two:

Malcolm/Denise: Denise

Malcolm/Skupin: Malcolm

Malcolm/Lisa: Malcolm

Denise/Skupin: Denise

Denise/Lisa: Denise

Skupin/Lisa: Lisa

So why am I not taking Skupin out of my contender list entirely, with no scenario that has him winning? He could have a shot against Malcolm if there are some sore losers on the jury (and there often are).

Contender rankings: 1. Malcolm, 2. Denise, 3. Skupin

No-chance list: Lisa

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: R.C. (Skupin), Jeff (?), Artis (?), Pete (?), Penner (Skupin), Carter (?), Abi-Maria (Malcolm)

Suggestions for cast of the next Survivor all-star season

6 Dec

Presumably there will be another full or partial all-star season at some point, so I thought I’d beat Mark Burnett & Co. to the punch with some casting ideas.

I expected to spend a few minutes pondering and then quickly put together a list of 18 former players I’d love to see again, in a handy 9-on-9 “heroes and villains” format.

Guess what: it’s a tougher task than I first thought. Especially if you rule out anyone who has already been brought back once. I know that some decry the fact that certain players have come back for a third or even a fourth time, but you know what, Russells, Amandas and Robs don’t grow on trees. It’s easier to think of good players than it is to think of memorable and entertaining players.

Also, some characters who more or less dominated their seasons were fun to watch, but I wouldn’t want to watch them again: Philip (whack job from Redemption Island), Brandon Hantz (who has three crises of faith before breakfast), Cochran (paranoid overanalyzer), and Colton (don’t get me started) to name four.

I also ruled out any celebrities, even ones I loved like Gary Hogeboom and Jimmy Johnson.

So the best I could do was come up with five heroes and five villains to bring back. Here they are.

Villains

Shane (Exile Island). Some villains are just misunderstood more than anything. Not Shane. This guy is just a prick. I absolutely hated him, so he’s perfect to head up the villains’ team.

Brenda (Nicaragua). Aptly named the Mamba Snake by Marty, she’s a really good player who definitely isn’t above using her amazing looks to get ahead (just ask Chase the ex-football player).

Jane (Nicaragua). Country-strong and really pretty frightening. If they find bodies buried in Jane’s backyard one day I would not be shocked.

Kristina (Redemption Island). Breezed into that season with her type-A power game, but ran afoul of Boston Rob who quickly disposed of her. I saw enough villain potential to advocate her return.

Matt (One World). This was the stud (in his own mind) who stuck around long enough to espouse his Darwinian philosophies about life. His tribe promptly voted him out, but I think he could be a good and entertaining player.

Heroes

Ace (Gabon). Athletic enough and always quick with a quip, plus you never quite knew whether his British accent was fake or not.

Monica (One World). The wife of ex-NFL player Brad Culpepper and quite the athlete in her own right. A good, energetic player.

Chelsea (One World). Cute, athletic, and had an interesting face that showed whatever inner conflict she was wrestling with (rather than vocalizing it ad nauseam like Lisa Whelchel).

R. C. (Philippines). Great personality , and we know Survivor’s cameramen loved her body. Showed ultra-bad judgment in casting her lot with Abi-Maria and never recovered, but seemed like she could be a really good player.

Marty (Nicaragua). An excellent player as long as he’s not around Jimmy Johnson, who he was obsessed with voting out for no reason. A quotable type sort of like Jonathan Penner. You might think it odd that I’ve picked three players from Nicaragua, that stinker of a season, but as discussed previously, that dud season actually had great characters.

So given those ten returnees, are you ready to tune in yet? Pretty underwhelming, huh? Well, I’m sure Parvati, Ozzy, Coach, and Russell would be available…

Justice wasn’t served: Survivor Philippines Episode 12

5 Dec

OK, guess who am I imitating: “I’m not sure I’m cut out for this game, it’s too tough for me because I’m just too virtuous, trust trust trust, blah blah blah, and I’ll repeat that 10 times a day every day.”

That’s right, it’s Lisa Whelchel (though nobody’s forcing the producers to keep using her stock lines over and over). All of this is really getting annoying, and her gameplay has not been great. She even starts this episode by admitting “Going to the end with Malcolm and Denise is not a great strategy,” though that true statement should have kept her from voting Penner out the week before.

Cue a visit from the loved ones, an annual segment I dislike. And I think the main reason I dislike it is because we viewers spend an entire season getting to know a cast of characters (who are chosen for their entertainment value) and yet for one episode a year they have to share the stage with some unfamiliar and invariably less interesting people.

One of the rare exceptions was the notorious and ridiculous “She died, dude” from Survivor: Pearl Islands. Now, last week’s “coming soon” previews hinted that Malcolm’s brother might provide that kind of entertainment value, which was not the case. However, Lisa’s much younger brother, whose name is Justice, did have an impact. Upon being briefed on the situation he asks Lisa and Skupin “Why don’t you guys vote out Malcolm then?” Lisa finds the idea genius (though that light didn’t go on when Penner was saying the same thing) and decides then and there that yes, she and Skupin will blindside Malcolm, knowing that Abi and Carter will surely join in.

Unfortunately for that plan, Malcolm wins immunity. So not only is he assured of making the final five, next week he can play his idol (that being the last week he can do so) and is therefore sure of making the final four.

Back at camp, Skupin tells Lisa (I’m paraphrasing) “Malcolm’s out so who should we vote for, Abi or Carter?” Hmm, what about Denise? Her name does not even come up, which makes me question Skupin and Lisa’s gameplaying acumen even more than before. Meanwhile, Carter politely points out to everyone that since lots of lip service has been paid to taking the best players to the end,  he should stick around instead of Abi-Maria. Abi probably should be saying “keep me for another round, Carter is a threat,” but instead she makes a strong case for letting her go by being her usual abrasive self …or as Denise describes her, a “histrionic, dramatic, passive-aggressive martyr.”

The tribe goes to tribal council, the most entertaining moment of which is Penner’s entrance: far from being clean shaven and sporting new clothes as jury members are wont to do, he has neither shaved nor removed the scuzzy t-shirt and hat he wore during the game. After some uneventful discussion, Carter is voted out. Then we come to a commercial break featuring Natalie Portman looking absolutely smokin’ in a Dior ad. An ad that gives her no dialogue… if only George Lucas had done the same in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

I have had Malcolm #2 behind Denise in my rankings for many weeks because I thought other players would think Malcolm too formidable (especially since he has the idol) and find a way to blindside him by now. That did not happen, and since he has done more in the game than Denise I’m putting him back at #1.

Contender rankings: 1. Malcolm, 2. Denise, 3. Skupin

No-chance list: Abi-Maria, Lisa

Jury and who I think they’ll vote for: R.C. (Skupin), Jeff (?), Artis (?), Pete (?), Penner (Skupin), Carter (?)