Archive | December, 2014

Final thoughts about Survivor San Juan Del Sur aka Blood vs. Water II

20 Dec

Good things about this season:

– There were quite a few blindsides.

– Natalie was a deserving winner.

– Natalie made a sequence of big moves in the last few episodes (whether she even needed to is a different question).

Bad things about this season:

– The vast majority of the camera time went to four players: Missy and Baylor and Jon and Jaclyn. None of whom were particularly interesting.

– There wasn’t really a second strong player in the season, except possibly Josh. Jeremy got a lot of credit for being a good player and a big strategist, but I don’t see that he really did very much.

– Some of the players did not know the game of Survivor that well, and it showed. Wes and Keith are exhibit A.

– The cast was unlikable as a whole.

– There were a lot of boring stretches.

Big picture:

I won’t make you look at my updated rankings to find out where I rank this past-season, all-time. The answer is …


I can imagine your reaction: “You ranked this below Nica-freaking-ragua?”

I guess I should detail why this ranked below other dishonorable-mention seasons.

South Pacific was no classic, but it had two great players and great characters in Ozzy and Coach, plus two other memorable characters in Brandon Hantz and Cochran.

Nicaragua, while it had its faults, also had six or seven really good characters, as discussed here.

The Amazon had a fascinating setting that was also fresh, where San Juan Del Sur just reused the setting from Nicaragua.

Heck, I even had to wonder if I should rank this below Survivor: One World. I can’t believe I just said that, but consider that that season had a stronger winner in Kim. But that would have been going too far. San Juan Del Sur had some people playing badly, but at least they were all playing the game. In One World that was not so.

Does anyone from this season make my all-time top ten players list? Get real. Natalie was a deserving winner, but didn’t dominate the season like a Kim, Tony, or Rob. Not even close.



“The quintessential wicked stepmother”: Survivor San Juan Del Sur December 17 2014 Finale recap

20 Dec

Jaclyn is stunned at Jon having been voted out, and she’s in no mood to hear Missy say of herself that outside the game “I’m loyal to a fault.” “So is he!” she snaps, referring to Jon.

The reward challenge is won by Keith, and the prize is an advantage in the next immunity challenge. In previous seasons, this advantage has essentially handed the immunity win to that person … will that be the case here? Jaclyn is sent to Exile Island. Yes there is a clue to an immunity idol there, but the same clue others have already read, which led to the idol that Jon found.

Keith’s reward instructions specified that he could only read them by himself and not share the information with anyone. The reward turns out to be a “challenge table” (the regular challenge, but set up for one person) in a private spot at camp. The note says the person can practice as long as he wants, but if he walks away he cannot go back. Keith takes this very seriously and practices the challenge until he can’t think straight. It involves transporting ping pong balls across a tabletop obstacle course at the end of tiny paddles.

On the strategy front, Natalie tells the camera she is considering allying with Keith and Jaclyn rather than Missy and Baylor. Natalie has an idol, don’t forget.

In the challenge, we find out how critical practice was. Keith transfers all three of his balls to the other end of the table before anyone else has done a single one … though it still takes him a long time. He wins his third immunity of the season.

Unfortunately the show handled the finale the same way they did last year — by starting with Jeff Probst and the live studio audience and going back to this several times during the broadcast so he can chat with some fan or other in the stands. I can’t fast-forward through this fast enough.

Before tribal, Jaclyn makes her pitch to Natalie, while Baylor tells Natalie that since she has an idol she should play it for Missy just in case. Not that this really makes sense.

At tribal council Jeff asks Missy what she thinks about the possibility of idols, and Missy says she knows who has one, which is news to at least one of the other contestants. Also, it is pointed out a couple of times in the course of the show that there is only one pair of loved ones left in the game, Missy and Baylor.

After the voting, Natalie takes out her idol (this is the last round an idol can be used, remember). The walks up to Probst and asks, “Jaclyn, did you vote for who I told you to vote for?” Jacyln nods. Natalie: “I’m playing this for Jac.” Shocker: Baylor is voted out! A really good blindside!

After some pointless crowd interviews at the live show by Probst, we find out Natalie’s thinking: “Trusting two family members in a situation where I could be the outsider just seemed like a really dangerous thing.” She adds “I can get rid of a couple but not be the main threat.” She also says Missy’s case in final three would be much better if Baylor were there, I don’t understand that part. By the way, the same Missy who goes into hysterics if her daughter gets a hangnail seems surprisingly calm about her daughter being voted out of the game.

Alas, for at least the second year in a row there is no fallen comrades tribute. I always enjoyed it, but apparently many didn’t, and we may never see it again. Anyway, time for the final immunity challenge.

What seems to be standard stuff, ending with solving a puzzle at the top of a tower, includes a new twist: the final puzzle includes a few empty shapes, and contestants need to run back down one more time, memorize numbers that go with those shapes, and go back up to solve a combination. The injured Missy sits out, so only three participate. Jaclyn is so far behind that Probst declares she’s out of it, but Keith and Natalie both have so much trouble with the puzzle that Jaclyn not only catches up, but beats Natalie, with the puzzle knocking Keith from first to third. It’s Jaclyn’s only individual challenge win of the season.

Time for everyone to campaign, right? And presumably everyone should be convincing Jaclyn to help knock out the obvious threat to win, Natalie? Actually the only lukewarm effort from Keith we see is to convince her to vote out Missy — Keith thinks Missy would get the sympathy vote in addition to an automatic vote from Baylor. Meanwhile, Missy just advises Jaclyn to go with her gut feeling.This sequence is disappointing, is this all the other players are going to do at this critical moment?

Well, come tribal council it seems Jaclyn is more worried about Keith and his friends on the jury … though as I discussed in my previous post, I’m not sure who all of these friends are supposed to be. Keith is voted out, and we see Jon on the jury grimacing — he knows Jaclyn made a big mistake.

Keith, however, tells the camera “No hard feelings, I love ’em all.”

Nothing interesting ever happens between this last regular vote and the final tribal council, so let’s get right to it. But I should note that the final tribal does not start until the 1 hour 51 minute mark of a 2 hour show! So that’s quite a giveaway that not a lot of interesting content is forthcoming.

Indeed, the jury is lofting up plenty of softballs. Jon, astutely recognizing his girlfriend’s perceived weakness, asks Jaclyn to name a big move or decision that she is solely responsible for. She says the Josh vote. Then Alec asks Natalie what her biggest move was and she says … getting Alec out. That strokes his ego big-time. Then it’s time for Josh’s question and he asks Jaclyn… what one big move is that she was solely responsible for. C’mon man, we covered that! And Wes asks each contestant what it was like to play with their respective loved one. Groan! What’s next, asking “if you were a tree, what tree would you be?” Jeremy doesn’t ask questions but just makes a statement, namely that Natalie “balled out.” Yawn.

Ah, but then it’s time for Reed as the last juror, and he puts his focus squarely on Missy. He tells Missy she is a stock character in fiction, the wicked stepmother. “She spoils her children by giving them more rice at dinner… she takes things she’s either not entitled to or didn’t earn herself … You got more gimmes in this game than anyone and performed the worst than anyone (sic) at challenges… You made the quintessential wicked stepmother move by abusing the help” (by making sure everyone in minority alliances felt inferior). And Reed notes with satisfaction “The people you were so rude and terrible to are going to decide your fate this evening.” BOOM! Just what I thought about Missy all season! Reed saved a lame tribal council with a moment that has to be one of the all-time top five for this season-ending event.

No big surprise when the votes are read: Natalie wins. At the aftershow, Jaclyn’s move to vote out Keith is discussed, and she says she misread the situation: Probst then asks for a show of hands: what would the vote have been with a final three of Jaclyn, Missy, and Keith? Probst obviously thinks the result will be that Jaclyn would have won, but no: it actually turns out that that trio would have resulted in Keith winning. So Jaclyn didn’t have a chance no matter what. Nor do I think she deserved to win over Natalie … and perhaps not over Keith either.

Probst announces that the following season will be entitled “Survivor: Worlds Apart” and the concept will be “white collar vs. blue collar vs. no collar” (the latter meaning  free-spirit types).

I’ll be back soon with final thoughts to wrap up the season.


Recapping Survivor San Juan Del Sur November 19 + 26 and December 3 + 10

13 Dec

As we begin the November 19 show, Jon said that what tipped the scales to make him vote against Josh was Jaclyn’s complaints that the guys were acting like boors.

The reward challenge is a balance-beam duel over mud. Natalie and Jeremy are among the winners, and they give up their spots to Jon and Jaclyn. Also, Jeremy is sent to Exile Island (his alliance-mates want to send one of their own, to prevent anyone from the other alliance from finding an idol). Reed tells the camera “It makes you want to hurl.” Also, at this point the season is getting pretty boring, and the cast is not likable.

The “exiled” Jeremy uses the clue, but finds no idol. Therefore he comes to the conclusion that Jon found it on his prior trip, though Jon mentioned no such thing to Jeremy. Meanwhile back at camp, it suddenly dawns on Jon that Jeremy will figure this out and Jon’s cover will be blown.

The immunity challenge involves stacking blocks, but the twist is that all of the stacking has to be done with the feet. So many challenges on this show favor people with small feet, do we finally have an exception here? By the way, we see that Missy’s feet are hideous, for some reason this causes much schadenfreude in me. Baylor wins the challenge.

At camp, Reed decides to search Keith’s bag, and while he doesn’t find the idol, he finds the clue which Keith kept for some reason. Meanwhile, Jeremy tells Natalie that Jon must have an idol. He decides to ask Jon about it and try and catch him in a lie. And when that happens, Jon does indeed lie. However Jon goes and tells Missy that he has an idol, and that he wants to vote Jeremy out. That would really be rocking the boat.

At tribal council Josh files in, confirming he’s the first jury member. Probst points out that incredibly, no idol has been played so far this season (and we’re on episode 9). It’s pretty clear that Reed or Keith will be voted out. And the second member of our jury is … Jeremy? What a blindside! And Natalie is aghast. Wow, a really boring episode for 59 minutes, but lots of excitement for one!

The votes went as follows:

voted for Reed: Keith, Wes, Alec

voted for Keith: Jeremy, Natalie

voted for Jeremy: Reed, Missy, Baylor, Jon, Jaclyn

I bet Jeremy regrets giving up his reward spot now!

Also, two weeks ago this season was shaping up as a Josh vs. Jeremy showdown, now both of them are on the jury.

As the November 26 show begins, Jon admits to Natalie that he has an idol. But soon Natalie goes hunting for an idol of her own, she had seen a clue when she was on Exile Island after all.

Reed is one of the winners of the reward challenge and says he’ll give up his spot on the reward (bringing local Nicaraguan kids some baseball equipment) to Missy. This is the same Reed who pointed out at the last tribal council how transparent it was that other players had given up their reward spots. Gag! Meanwhile Wes is sent to Exile, and not one second of his time there is shown on TV.

Reed tells the viewers that with the reward participants gone, he can start on his plan to take out Jon, and he starts by approaching Keith. His idea is to have four people vote for Jon (Reed, Keith, Wes, and Alec) on the assumption that the others will split their votes between Wes and Keith.

Natalie and Baylor are idol-hunting, and Natalie finds it. The show has become pretty predictable on this score, now almost every time they show someone searching for an idol the person finds it. Also, we find out that Natalie also wants to take out Jon.

The immunity challenge involves standing on a perch while holding handles overhead. Probst makes a big deal of the fact that each setup is a different height to make it fair … but he doesn’t say if the ledges are different widths. And soon, our congenial host starts whipping out food items to try and tempt people into quitting. Jon quits to take candy, and of course he’s pretty secure. But who else quits to have some chicken wings? Wes! And he’s anything but secure! What is this guy thinking?

To Tribal we go … will Reed’s audacious plan work? Well, for one thing everyone has to play their roles perfectly, and Reed gamely plays the part of a man who’s going to vote Wes or Keith out. But Keith, in an incredibly misguided attempt at being subtle, makes a reply containing the words “stick to the plan.” This is quite possibly one of the dumbest things that have ever been done on Survivor. It’s news to everyone else that Keith is part of any sort of plan, and everyone starts whispering to each other, including Reed who tries to do damage control. When it’s time to vote, Natalie whispers to Jon, “Dude, play your idol.” He does. And Keith takes his out too, not to give to Wes who actually might have some slight chance to win, but to use on himself. Most of the votes do indeed go to Jon, but of course do not count. This means Wes is out of the game, and we’re down to eight players.

The December 3 episode begins with Alec and Reed telling Keith they’re mad at him. Understandably so, considering he just ruined both of their games with one sentence! Alec had done a pretty good acting job of convincing Jon he was with him, but of course now Jon no longer trusts him. And Alec tells the camera that he doesn’t trust Reed as an ally either.

Time for a time-honored Survivor challenge. The players have to answer trivia questions about one another, and each time a person gets a correct answer they get to hack at a rope with the names of one of the other players. When the rope is hacked through enough times it crushes the fake skull with the person’s name on it, knocking them out of the challenge. Of course the point of this challenge on the part of the producers is to shake things up by getting players mad at each other based on who hacks which rope. Then the winner of the challenge gets to pick others to go on a reward, there’s another opportunity to make people mad.

Being in the minority, Alec, Reed, and Keith are quickly knocked out. Then after the next question the remaining players all exchange glances to try and arrange who will be cutting whose rope. Probst has no patience for this and says something to the effect of, “If this is just a charade and you guys are throwing the rest of the challenge to hand the victory to one person, just get it over with and tell me who it’s going to be.” Thank you Probst!

So Missy is handed the victory and gets to choose two people to join her on the reward (Jon goes to Exile Island). Missy chooses Baylor as the first and picks Natalie over Jaclyn as the second. Reed and Keith immediately point out that maybe Missy isn’t Jaclyn’s friend after all, and Jaclyn is clearly miffed. At Exile Island, Jon finds a new immunity idol to replace the one he played.

At camp, Jaclyn is alone with Reed, Keith, and Alec, and the latter talks to her most of the time, or flirts with her as the case may be. There is an immunity challenge, won by Keith.

When Jon is reunited with Jaclyn she starts to explain her strategic insights but Jon says none of this is new. That infuriates Jaclyn. Reed intrudes on their tiff to make a case for why the couple should vote with him. Jon is considering it, but just then Natalie walks up, so Jon tells Reed he can’t trust him, but while winking hard with the eye that’s out of Natalie’s sight.

Jon then spends half an hour talking to Missy, which makes Jaclyn gets even more furious, and now she doesn’t want to speak to Jon at all (much time is devoted to this lovers’ quarrel). Reed is quite alarmed at this silent treatment and frankly tells Jaclyn “this may be a fatal fight for my game.” And at Tribal Council the argument gets discussed even further … yawn! And Reed is voted out.

Time for the second part of the two-hour December 3 episode. Have I mentioned that I find Missy really annoying? Especially her habit of biting her lower lip which I’m sure she thinks is adorable.

Natalie wins the reward challenge, which involves keeping a ball pressed against a post using something that looks like a bowling pin. She picks Alec to go to Exile Island … apparently they assume there is no immunity idol there, but I don’t know how they can assume that. Two idols were played recently and only one found since then, so wouldn’t that usually mean there is another idol in the game? This is not explained.

The reward is a feast plus the opportunity to spend the night in a comfy bed … but all of this will be at camp in full view of the other players. Natalie chooses Jaclyn and Jon to join her, but soon tells the camera and her allies that this is just to lull the two into a false sense of security, as she wants to try and vote Jon out in the very next Tribal. As they enjoy the reward, Jon tells Natalie that he found another idol at Exile Island.

Natalie goes to Baylor and suggests voting Jon out, but without telling Baylor’s mother Missy. They think Missy has a soft spot for Jon and wouldn’t go along with it, and think they wouldn’t need her vote since Keith and Alec would be game to join in. Jon tells Jaclyn he’s suddenly picking up a weird vibe around camp.

The immunity challenge involves collecting blocks and standing them on end on a wobbly table while holding a rope attached to that table. Jon wins immunity, so the obvious choices to be voted out are Alec or Keith. Since Keith has been a strong competitor in challenges, so they focus on him. The plan is to split the vote between the two (just in case there’s been a new idol in the meantime), but with the most votes going to Keith. However, Natalie thinks that Keith would be more likely to win immunity in the next round than Alec would, and prevent Jon from winning that immunity. So she unbalances the split and casts her vote for Alec instead of Keith. Alec is out of the game, and Jon and Jaclyn are shocked.

The December 10 episode begins with just six people left in the game. Based on how she read everyone at tribal council, Natalie decided that her best chance was to claim that she thought she was supposed to vote Alec as part of her alliance’s arrangement. She says it was only discussed very briefly and she obviously misunderstood the plan. This claim is fairly preposterous, but by golly everyone else seems to buy it! That doesn’t count Baylor who knows very well what just happened.

The reward challenge is won by Keith, Jon, and Missy, though Missy injures her ankle early on. Jon says he’ll give up his spot on the “spa day” reward to Baylor (though see above for how well giving up reward spots worked out for Jeremy and Reed … they were both voted out the next day!). Natalie and Jon both volunteer to go to Exile island, and Natalie is chosen.

When the group files in for the immunity challenge, Missy is walking with a crutch. Probst brings in the doctor (or to use Survivor parlance, he brings in “medical”). The doc says that the ankle is sprained at least, and it’s possible something is broken. But somehow this doctor is way less cautious than any other one we’ve seen to date. He says that since there are only a few days left in the game, they could just immobilize the ankle for now. Missy says she doesn’t want to quit, so they work on her ankle while the others participate in the immunity challenge, which is won by Natalie.

Natalie is back on her “vote out Jon” plan, but Missy says she isn’t on board, as she has given her word to go to the end with Jon and she would get no jury votes if she turned on him.

A couple of times during the episode Jon remarks that Natalie’s error could be a significant one. Jaclyn wonders if it was intentional, but Jon says his gut tells him it wasn’t, and they’re just being paranoid.

Still, the vote is 2 each for Keith, Jon, and Jaclyn. Meaning on the re-vote the only ones who can participate are Missy, Baylor, and Natalie. That means Jon is voted out.


Frankly it looks like Natalie has this one in the bag if she makes it from the final five to the final three.

The jury members as of now are Josh, Jeremy, Wes, Reed, Alec, and Jon. The players left are Missy, Baylor, Jaclyn, Keith, and Natalie.

None of the jurors have any strong bond to Missy and Baylor, nor did those two do much in terms of making noteworthy moves. Jaclyn has Jon’s vote sewn up but probably no others. Keith has Wes’s vote sewn up, but I doubt anyone else will respect his gameplay, certainly not Reed (and Josh) or Alec after the “stick to the plan” fiasco.

So I think this is a lock, but what if Natalie gets voted out before the final three? Here’s what the others should do to try to win, in order of how I rank their chances:

#2 Baylor: The combination she wants is to go to the finals with Jaclyn and Keith. If her mother Missy and Natalie are both on the jury, she’d likely get the votes of both, and I could see Alec voting for her as well. Then she’d have to bank on someone else considering her the lesser of three evils.

#3 Missy: First and foremost, get out Natalie. She can’t win against her, and could possibly get a vote from her. Also, she’s better off getting a vote from her daughter Baylor instead of taking her to the final three! I could see Jeremy throwing a vote her way too.

#4 Jaclyn: No way she takes any votes away from Natalie. If Natalie’s gone, I could actually see Josh and Reed respecting her gameplay enough to vote for her — they don’t care for Missy and Baylor, and Keith has no gameplay. And Alec has already said he’d party with her, so maybe he’ll vote for her too. Counting Jon, that’s four votes.

#5 Keith: It’s been said that he has “friends on the jury,” but is that really the case? Yes, he’ll get the vote of his son Wes. But Keith torpedoed Reed’s game with his “stick to the plan” blunder, and Reed and his boyfriend Josh won’t forget that. Keith was in Josh’s alliance, not Jeremy’s, so Jeremy owes him nothing. And Jon has pointed out on-camera that Keith seems kind of clueless about the game. I suppose Alec could vote for Keith, but somehow I think he would vote for one of the cute girls instead. I just don’t see a jury combination that leads to a Keith victory.