Survivor 39: Island of the Idols

Reminder: Survivor starts tonight with the new season in about, hmmm, 30 minutes or so in Eastern and Central time zones.

I watched for about 45 minutes. When it got to the island part, it just seemed cheesy and I turned it of. I haven’t been able to get into the last couple of seasons either. I think I am done, especially since I can only watch on live tv.

Might want to give it one more shot next season, if you’re bailing on this one, as next season will be a special 40th season with the castmates comprised solely of previous winners, which could be fun (or at least the opportunity to see a lot of familiar characters)

Also, to be fair, I was also bored by the concept of the island part as described in the beginning of the episode, but it turned out to have a twist. Yes, Rob and Sandra taught the castaway how to make fire, but then she got the choice to go up against Rob in a fire making challenge for a reward vs a risk. It made the whole island sequence much more interesting than just “Survivor Boot Camp” the way they described it at the beginning of the episode.

Ok, so I didn’t actually watch this previous season after the opening episode. But hey, if I’m going to get CBS All Access, it might still be available, so maybe I’ll try watching it again.

Anyway, the preview for Season 40 look really interesting in that they’re bring back 20 previous Survivor winners? Include Boston Rob, his wife Amber, Sandra, and obviously 17 other winners. That’s pretty crazy.

I’m almost done watching all of Survivor in order, and wow, this season was awful.

Plenty of ink was spilled elsewhere on the internet about the whole Dan Spilo problem and Survivor/CBS’s awful handling of it, but it was a little surprising to come here after I finished the season (as I always do) and see this was a season no one talked about.

The episode after the merge where things appear to come to a head around Dan’s behavior, and then the producers don’t meaningfully intervene, was so hard to watch. First it’s just sort of a mild shock to see no action stronger than a warning taken, and to be honest at that point I should’ve been even more angry than I was for Kellee’s sake. Sadly I’ll admit it was the aftermath of CBS’s inaction that really got my blood boiling, when a “real world” issue is attempted to be dealt with through gameplay by the contestants, and the outcome was just awful in both contexts.

I was upset for the whole night after watching that episode, and it still makes me angry. I’ve been frustrated with Survivor players and the show’s producer’s for stuff before, but it’s always been in the context of “I wish they didn’t do this or that thing that happened within the context of the game”; as far as I’m concerned this broke the game by leaving players to deal with an incident that should’ve been unequivocally dealt with outside of the social dynamics of a competition. It still would’ve had ramifications within the game going forward in the season, it was too big not to, but to leave the players to work through it completely was just gross. I can’t even imagine what else to compare it too—it would be like if there was a hurricane heading for the shooting location and they decided evacuation would be limited to winners of a reward challenge.

I feel a little gross continuing with the show after this. I’ve always had huge respect for Probst as a host, and I felt like his handling of the discussion and apology during the reunion show with Kellee was appropriate and again showed his strengths, but I don’t know where he was in the decisions being made during the incident unfolding. Was he advocating for a better response but lost the fight with CBS, or was he just as complicit in damaging the show and hurting Kellee? Ultimately whether I can still personally tell myself Probst is as great a guy as I imagine he is or not, it doesn’t change what the result was. I’d still be writing this post, I’d still be trying to decide if this was a show I could justify giving any more of my attention.

If I had been watching live all of these years, I might have quit with this season. But I’ve been watching for the past 3+ years, binging along with an eye toward the evolution of the show itself in that compressed timeframe as much as anything else, and I’ve known about the “Winners at War” season coming up next almost the whole time—it’s been a milestone I’ve literally been looking forward to for a couple years. It helps to know that immediately following this season means it probably wasn’t a reactionary gimmick designed specifically to distract from this low point for the show, but I still feel a little conflicted about it now, and who knows if I’ll stick with it from there.

You made me happy that I missed this season! Yay for blind luck!

It’s been a while so I’m sure that I am not remembering it perfectly, but it was additionally gross at the time because a few players also commented in interviews that they totally did amp up their in-game comments to make it an additional wedge with issue with some comments that they didn’t actually believe along the lines of saying that he made them feel unsafe when actually they had a really good relationship ahead of time. Lying has always been a part of Survivor and I didn’t hold it personally against them but it really added to the gross feeling of the season where Production totally mishandled the situation by not having a hard intervention at the start and tried to cynically incorporate it into the narrative and both broke the gameplay and made everyone have to deal with an awful situation.

I have no way how to transition this post to say that you absolutely need to watch Season 40 because it’s just amazing. The quality of the players is just amazing.
However I haven’t watched season 41&42 because I have started to sour on the recent crazy twist idiocy.